As part of our podcast series of information writing a children’s picture book we devised a Question and Answer session which covers some of the more common subjects often asked by new and developing PB writers. The questions are not in any particular order and you can obtain a copy of the script by registering your email with us. Let’s begin:
Q: Do I need illustrations before sending my book to editors, publishers, and/or agents?
A: NO, you don’t. Many editors prefer to work with just the language, so unless your book requires the illustrations to make sense, you don’t need to send them. You could, of course, put an illustration explanation in brackets, for example: [the scene will require and then explain your vision in descriptive words].
Traditional publishers generally, and I mean always, hire their own illustrators, saving yourself money. Therefore, you might as well submit only the text. The reason is, that choosing an illustrator is a marketing decision they need to make, not you. Besides, a good illustrator may cost a lot, and you might not have that kind of money lying around.
But, what if you are also the illustrator? In that case then DO send the illustrations. However, if you get a rejection, it will be because of the story, or your illustrations, but sometimes you won’t know what the weak link is.
In general, agents do tend to look to representing illustrator/writers more often than they do writers alone. That’s because children’s book illustrators earn A LOT more money than children’s book writers (sorry, but that’s just the way it is).
Q: Should I copyright my book?
A: Let’s clarify this question. Are you asking about registering your manuscript for copyright? Or just placing a copyright page within your book? These are two different things.
As regards registering your copyright you already took ownership of the material the instant you wrote it. There are places you can register the manuscript. In the UK this is The UK Copyright Service Agency. However, it does cost but usually lasts for about 5 years. A traditional publisher will not register your manuscript for you as they are in effect your guarantee that you wrote the work anyway.
An alternate method to registering with an agency what you can do is print a copy of your manuscript, date and sign it, and leave it with your solicitor. Should you then ever need to prove your ownership, then you have it. Do this with the completed version.
When it comes to placing a copyright page in your book that is different matter. There are differing opinions on whether you should do this. In general, I would say YES, definitely do it. Unfortunately, in this day and age, you cannot stop anyone from stealing your book. After all we live in the big bad world of the internet, which is wide open to all. If you go down the traditional publishing route, then the publisher will place the copyright page in the book for you.
When it comes to the self-
We have a sample Copyright page available for download upon request by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
However, if you live in America, go to the U.S. Copyright Office website where you can register for under a hundred bucks.
Q: Should I ask for a non-
A: This is usually used when dealing with illustrators, agents etc. If you want to you can, but you have a better chance of being eaten by a lion than from someone stealing your book. Plus, if they do steal it, you can easily sue them and take all the profits plus more, so there isn’t much motivation for someone to steal. However, having said that, I am aware of an agent who read the first 6 chapters of a story recently, then took the idea and gave it to another writer to produce a very similar story. It left a very unpleasant taste in the original authors mouth. It was quite unethical by the agent.
Something though writers worry about this far more often than it actually happens. My advice would be to put all your energy toward creating the best children’s book you can. Having a great book, means those genuine agents/publishers/editors are more likely to want to work with, not steal from you.
Q: Should I self-
A: I suppose it’s a question of whether or not you have a sweet or savoury tooth? Only you can decide. When it comes to self-
However, you will have to do all the marketing yourself, without having anyone to guide you through the process. Plus, you won’t have the reputation of being published by a traditional publisher. You should do self-
For traditional publishing, there are also many upsides. You would get an advance (money is nice!), they would handle all the proofreading, ISBN, illustrations, cover art, etc, and they would give you some guidance with how to do the marketing and promotion.
But… it can still be very, very hard to get an acceptance from an agent or from a publisher. Sometimes you have to send the story out for a year or two, submitting to a hundred outlets or more. Only go down this route if you have a lot of patience, and you want the book to reach a wider audience. Also, despite the guidance offered with marketing you will still have to work hard at promoting yourself. Gone are the days when a publisher did everything as they no longer have the budgets.
That’s it for today. We hope we have answered some of your questions and we will look to providing some more Q & A’s in the near future.