Children’s books? Sooo hard to get a publisher. But wait – there’s hope

Hundreds if not thousands of people have great ideas for children’s books and many of them are absolutely brilliant.

Trouble is, there is so much good stuff around that in the first instance, children’s book publishers AND relevant literary agents have the pick of crop dropped into their laps and can afford only to take on what they think will be not just good, but utterly sensational.

Children's books? Sooo hard to get a publisher. But wait - there's hope

The books are all based on the adventures of her dogs

Plus, these publishers think, at least, that they know what’s fashionable where in the children’s books market and to an extent can influence that according to their own whims. It’s a tough, tough market to crack.

However in this exchange between me and a friend whose friend has written some amazing stories for 7-10 year-olds, there may be light at the end of the tunnel…

How can my friend get her superb children’s books published?

Hi Suze

A very good friend of mine has written a series of books aimed at seven to ten year-olds. The books are all based on the adventures of her two dogs, and most are based on actual events and they are in part educational. The aim is really to teach kids about the responsibility (and hopefully the many adults that need it too) of dog ownership and life in the country.

I have to say, as chief proofreader they really are very good. I’m wondering if you could recommend a literary agent? Any pointers in the right direction would be hugely appreciated.

Getting a literary agent can be harder than getting blood out of a stone

Arrrggghhhh!!! The children’s book market, sadly, is probably the most difficult to penetrate because there are so many people producing good material that publishers and agents have a plethora of choice. And they have become supremely picky. Not a good way to start off.

And because literary agents have a very close relationship with publishers – they act as filters of manuscript submissions, so saving the publisher from having to do it – agents are often harder to get than publishers.

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With nonfiction and some other genres often you can submit book proposals directly to publishers, but in fiction and children’s books – probably because there are so many people writing for those markets – the more serious publishers will only accept submissions made via an agent.

Dead end again.

Self-publishing: a long way away from the old “vanity publishing” and well worth considering

Now that self-publishing has become respectable, however, your friend might like to try that route – especially as more and more kids’ books are being published as eBooks as well as print. In your friend’s age range, kids probably are more likely to read stuff off an IPad than in books, anyway.

Don’t let her be persuaded to part with hundreds of pounds with one of these “publishing services companies” that basically use Amazon’s CreateSpace (its own publishing platform) but tell you some long bullsh*t story about their being a discrete publisher. 9 times out of 10 they are not: they just use CreateSpace but charge the client silly money in the guise of being some spurious “publishing house.”

Trust me: I now have two clients who have been down that one and come out with burnt fingers.

Should your friend want to go the proper self-publishing route, I can put her in touch with the person who set up my last book which I self-published, for about £200. There are plenty of other honest people like that too, whom we could access if that’s the pathway your friend chooses.

Conventional publishers often take on successful self-published books, too

Interestingly enough while I was in Canada recently I sold my last book to a conventional US/Hong Kong trade publisher even though I had already self-published it. Conventional publishers look out for good, well-selling self-published books and make offers to take them on, largely because you as the self-publisher have done all the groundwork and they can just take it up from there.

Well worth your friend considering, especially if the book is to go into print.

With print books, trying to get them distributed to all markets is a nightmare, so it can be worthwhile taking a publisher’s royalties and letting them get your titles into bookshops all over the world, as well as into all the online booksellers’ websites. 

Children's books? Sooo hard to get a publisher. But wait - there's hopeMy recommendation would be for her to think hard about self-publishing the book, with the above potential in mind. In today’s very crowded children’s books market that, rather than trying to find an agent etc., is probably her quickest route to market – if there is one for the books.

Assuming self-publishing to begin with, anyway, your friend would need to set up a marketing program for her books. I could help her here as, er, that’s what I do for the day job, but if funds are slight there is a lot of free help available online to which I could point her.

And finally, children’s books need first-class images

One of the most important criteria for children’s books, especially for very young kids although it’s relevant for this age group too – is the quality of images. Your friend really does need to source some fab images of the dog characters in her books.

Anyway, I hope the above may be helpful – and please share my fondest wishes to your friend especially because as you know, I am a prize doggie aficionada …!

Don’t forget – if you’d like some expert tips on getting books published, just click here.

For more on getting children’s books, specifically, published, you might like these articles (click on the green words):

Advice on getting published as a children’s writer

How do I get published?

Dangerous Myths and Terrible Truths: A Quick Intro to Writing Children’s Books and Publishing Them

What are your favourite children’s books? And why? Please share!

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  1. Floyd Rodgers says:

    Suze, how are you doing. Thanks for your friendship and support. can you please let me know what I should do to have you represent me. Can you act as my literary agent. I will compensate you for your help. Please help me Suze.

    • Hi Floyd – sadly I am not a literary agent so can’t oblige you. However if you let me know where you are in the world and what sort of book you are writing, I may be able to come up with some suggestions. Send me that information on suze at suzanstmaur dot com if you’d like to.

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