Submitting a Picture Book Manuscript
Q: I write picture books but I am not an illustrator. Should I find someone to illustrate my manuscript before submitting it to a traditional publisher?
A: If you are a writer with a picture book manuscript, the general rule of thumb for a traditional submission is to send the manuscript without any illustrations or art direction. In just about every case, this is what publishers prefer. In fact, picture book manuscripts that are submitted with illustrations may be at more of a disadvantage. Your vision for the art work may not be the publisher's vision; and If a publisher is interested in your story and wants to publish it, they will be in charge of choosing the illustrator and overseeing the art and book design. It is also important to point out that editors are experienced at reading picture book manuscripts without the aid of a writer's art instructions. In the case where the manuscript is very sparse, one or two words strategically placed in parentheses at the end of a line can help to clarify the meaning. If you still think that you need to provide more information, perhaps a briefly worded description in a cover letter could go a long way to express intentions. If an editor sees merit in the work, he or she can always ask for more details. Of course, there are exceptions to these guidelines, particularly if one is a highly skilled, professionally trained or naturally gifted illustrator. In that case, the artist may submit samples of his or her art work or a book dummy.
Getting An Agent
Q: Do I need an agent?
A: Agents and artist's reps are a very important part of today's children's book industry. On behalf of their clients, they submit manuscripts and art work to publishers, negotiate contracts, handle payments, and manage careers. They are particularly important in a marketplace where houses are not accepting submissions directly from writers or illustrators. But just like publishers, editors, and art directors who choose their projects carefully, agents and artist's reps are very selective about who they take on as clients. The audition process is every bit as competitive as the rest of the industry. Therefore, getting an agent or artist's rep these days may be just as difficult as getting a contract from a publishing house on your own. None of this is said to discourage writers from trying. It is simply informational. To learn more, stay active in SCBWI and do your homework. You will know when you are ready and when the time is right.