Showing posts with label manuscript submissions. Show all posts
Showing posts with label manuscript submissions. Show all posts

Children’s Writing and Publishing Process - The Traditional Path



Children’s books fall into one of three categories: picture books, middle grade, and young adult. There are genres, like board books and easy-readers, but I'm sticking to the first three I mentioned.

Along with this, children's writers need to take the necessary steps to achieve success whether aiming at traditional publishing or self-publishing.

In regard to traditional publishing, there are four steps in a writing career: writing, submissions to agents and publishers, book sales, and a writing career.

1. Writing

Actually writing, and all that it entails, is the basis of a career in writing, whether writing books, articles, becoming a ghostwriter, or copywriter. And, each of these career goals takes a number of steps that involve time and effort. But, we’re focusing on writing for children.

A. The first step is to write, but in addition to writing, the new writer will need to learn the craft of writing, along with the particular tricks of writing for children. Children’s writing is more complicated than other forms of writing. The reason is because you’re dealing with children.

Rules, such as age-appropriate words, age-appropriate topics, age-appropriate comprehension, storylines and formatting are all features that need to be tackled when writing for children.

Within the first step rung, you will also need to read, read, and read in the genre you want to write. Pay special attention to recently published books and their publishers. What works in these books? What type of style is the author using? What topics/storylines are publisher’s publishing?

Dissect these books, and you might even write or type them word-for-word to get a feel for writing that works. This is a trick that writers new to copywriting use – you can trick your brain into knowing the right way to write for a particular genre or field. Well, not so much trick your brain as teach it by copying effective writing. Just remember, this is for the learning process only – you cannot use someone else’s work, that’s plagiarism.

If you need extra help writing your story, check out my book on writing for children: How to Write a Children's Fiction Book.

B. The next step, number two, is to become part of a critique group and have your work critiqued. Critiquing is a two-way street; you will critique the work of other member of the critique group and they will critique yours. But, there are advantages to critiquing other writers’ works – you begin to see errors quickly and notice what’s being done right. This all helps you hone your craft.

C. Step three on the writing rung is to revise your manuscript according to your own self-editing and critiques from others. It’s also recommended to put the story away for a couple of weeks and then revisit it. You’ll see a number of areas that may need revising that you hadn’t noticed before.

D. It would also be advisable if you budget for a professional editing of your manuscript before you begin submissions. No matter how careful you and your critique partners are, a working editor will pick up things you missed.

2. Submissions

Before you think about submitting your work anywhere, be sure you’ve completed the necessary steps in number one. You’re manuscript needs to be as polished as you can possibly get it.

Submissions can fall into two categories: those to publishers and those to agents. In regard to submitting to agents, in a Spring 2011 webinar presented by Writer’s Digest, agent Mary Kole advised to “research agents.” This means to find out what type of agent they are in regard to the genre they work with and the agent platform they provide: do they coddle their authors, do they crack the whip, are they aggressive, passive, involved, or complacent. Know what you’re getting into before querying an agent, and especially before signing a contract.

Here are a couple of sites you can visit to learn about agents:

http://agentquery.com
http://www.guidetoliteraryagents.com/blog/

The same advice works for submitting to publishers also. Research publishers before submitting to them. Know which genres of children’s books they handle and the type of storylines they’re looking for.

Whether submitting to a publisher or an agent, always follow the guidelines and always personalize the query. There may be times the guidelines do not provide the name of the editor to send the query to, but if you can find that information, use it.

According to Mary Kole, it’s also important to know how to pitch your story. This entails finding the story’s hook. Agents and publishers also want to know what the book’s selling points will be and what successful books it’s similar to. In addition, they will expect to be told what your marketing strategy will be. It’s a good idea to create an online presence and platform before you begin submissions; let the agents and publishers know you will actively market your book.

Along with the story’s hook, you need to convey: who your main character is and what he/she is about; the action that drives the story; the main character’s obstacle, and if the main character doesn’t overcome the obstacle, what’s at stake.

Kole recommends reading “the back of published books” to see how they briefly and effectively convey the essence of the story. This will give you an idea of how to create your own synopsis.

When querying, keep your pitch short and professional, and keep your bio brief and relevant. You will need to grab the editor or agent and make them want to read your manuscript.


3. A Contract and Book Sales

If you do your homework, your manuscript will eventually find a home. Don’t let initial rejections, if you receive them, deter you. A published writer may not be the best writer, but she is definitely a writer who perseveres.

After you sign a contract, you’ll be ‘put in queue’ and at some point begin editing with the publisher’s editor. From start to actual release, the publishing process can take one to two years.

A couple of months prior to your book’s release, you should begin promotion to help with book sales. After its release, you will want to take part in virtual book tours, do blogtalk radio guest spots, school visits (if available), and all the other standard book promotion strategies.

Be sure to also create your Amazon Author page and fill in everything you can to make readers aware of you and your books.

And, don't forget to get reviews. Book reviews help sell books. You can find out more about getting and using book reviews effectively with  How to Get Great Book Reviews by Carolyn Howard-Johnson.

4. A Writing Career

Now, you’ve got your book and you’re promoting it like crazy (this is an ongoing process). The next and final step is to repeat the process. You don’t want to be a one-hit wonder, so hopefully you’ve been writing other stories. If not, get started now. On average, an author writes a book every one to two years.

Along with keeping up with writing your books, having published books opens other writing opportunities, such as speaking engagements, conducting workshops and/or webinars, and coaching.

There are a number of marketers who say your ‘book’ is your business card; it conveys what you’re capable of and establishes you as an expert in your field or niche. Take advantage of these additional avenues of income.

 Karen Cioffi is an award-winning children’s author. She runs a successful children’s ghostwriting and rewriting business and welcomes working with new clients.

For tips on writing for children OR if you need help with your project, contact her at Writing for Children with Karen Cioffi.

You can follow Karen at:
LinkedIn 
Twitter 

Check out Karen's newly revised How to Write a Children's Fiction Book.


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Writing - Getting Past the Gatekeeper



How Do You Make a Good Story Worthy of Getting Past the Gatekeeper?

Just about every author knows about the "gatekeeper." The dreaded acquisitions editor who decides if your manuscript is worthy of her attention and the publishing house's backing. In other words, the editor who decides if your manuscript is worthy of a publishing contract.

To make sure your ‘good’ story becomes a 'worthy' story, the Writer’s Digest article, "7 Simple Ways to Make a Good Story Great," gives excellent tips on just what it takes to create a 'worthy' story.

The author of the article, Elizabeth Sims, explains that "there are subtle differences between fiction that’s passable and fiction that pops—fiction that shows that you know what you’re doing."

So what are those 7 strategies or tips?

1. Well, the first tip mentioned is the five senses. Sims says writers have to go beyond what is expected. Editors and agents want more. "They want physical business that deepens not just your setting, but your characterizations."

2. Next on the list is the use of idiosyncrasies. Each of us has some idiosyncrasy, some weirdness, some form of irrational behavior that makes us unique and interesting. Using those characteristics deepens and broadens your characters.

3. Third up is realism. Sims says, "Forget about being pretty." Write it as it is. Don't worry about it being raw or dark or unpopular. Don’t go for the popular or expected, make it real.

4. The fourth on the list is to write without 'dumbing' down. Readers are savvy and most are educated. They don't want to be written down to, to be told what to think and when. Let them fill in the empty spaces.

5. Fifth on the list is to keep it focused and moving forward. I've read a number of manuscripts that had 'pausing' information - content that wasn't needed in the story and that would make the reader pause, wondering why it was in there. Causing a reader to pause while reading is never a good thing. Pausing causes distraction, which may keep the reader from turning the next page.

6. Next up is the use of laughter. Wit and understated humor goes a long way in increasing engagement in a story. And, even if your novel is on the serious side, there will be moments in it that you can lighten it up a bit of subtle humor.

7. The final tip is to "make them cry." Sims aptly notes that, "Lots of books make readers laugh and lots make readers cry, but when readers laugh and cry while reading the same book, they remember it."

The gatekeepers have keen eyes, looking for weaknesses in your manuscript. Use these seven tips to help get pass those gatekeepers.

To read the Writer's Digest article, click the link:
7 Simple Ways to Make a Good Story Great

Karen Cioffi is an award-winning children’s author and successful children’s ghostwriter/rewriter. She is also the founder and editor-in-chief of Writers on the Move and as well as an author online platform instructor with WOW! Women on Writing.

If you’d like more writing tips or help with your children’s story, check out: Writing for Children with Karen Cioffi.

You can follow Karen at: LinkedIn and Twitter 

And, be sure to check out Karen's middle-grade fantasy adventure, Walking Through Walls.


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Writing Possibilities Abound - If You Persevere

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A New Tool for Submitting Your Work

For all you writers out there submitting short stories, non-fiction, flash fiction, or poetry to literary magazines, I thought I’d share a new tool I found. It’s a (relatively) new feature on Submittable, and it’s called “Discover.”

What's Submittable?


If you submit your work a lot, you almost certainly already have a Submittable (formerly Submishmash) account. Skip to the next paragraph. For those of you who don’t know about Submittable, it’s a submission platform that many literary magazines use nowadays. On their website they’ll link to their Submittable page, and if you’re already logged in, you just need to fill in some basic information, paste in a cover letter if required, and upload your document. It also gives you a handy dashboard of all your submissions, the dates, results, etc. Accounts are free and some magazines will only accept submissions this way.

The New Tool:


The new Discover feature lists magazines that use Submittable and have open calls for submissions.  The listings don’t have quite enough information for my tastes. For example, they don’t break it down into paying and non-paying markets. You can’t filter by type of submission or other important factors, such “for locals only” restrictions or calls for the visual arts. It also includes opportunities such as writer's residencies. There are quite a few markets that charge reading fees or contest entry fees. So it’s a bit laborious. 

Why it's Cool:


Despite its limitations, the key is that these markets are all currently OPEN, and the listings clearly indicate when they close. Since temporarily closed markets are one of the big obstacles I run into when submitting my work, I think this is useful.

Check it out and see if you like it:



Here's a little screen shot of calls closing today:






Melinda Brasher's fiction appears in Nous Electric SpecIntergalactic Medicine Show, and other magazines  For an e-book collection of some of her favorite published pieces, check out Leaving Home.  

Her newest book, Cruising Alaska on a Budget; a Cruise and Port Guide helps budget travelers plan a trip to majestic Alaska.  Visit her online at http://www.melindabrasher.com.

Literary Magazines with Themes--Spring 2016

Here's my spring 2016 list of upcoming themes or prompts for literary magazines.  They're fun to write to, and you may also find that they match stories you've already written.  As always, read guidelines carefully.

Third Flatiron
Theme:  Keystones
Genres:  Speculative
Reading Period:  April 15-June 15, 2016
Word Count: 1500-3000
Pay: 3 cents / word

Lackington's
Theme:  Animals (see more detailed description in guidelines)
Genres:  Speculative
Dates:  Opens May 10
Word Count:  1500-5000
Pay:  1 cent per word

The First Line
First line must be:  "By the fifteenth month of the drought, the lake no longer held her secrets."
Deadline: May 1, 2016
Word Count:  up to 5000
Pay:  $25-50

THEMA Literary Journal
Theme:  Second Thoughts
Deadline: July 1, 2016
Pay:  $25

Grey Wolfe Publishing
April Prompt:  "Every morning at 9:00 a.m. sharp, you get a call on your cell phone. The speaker says 'I know what you did' and then hangs up. This has been going on for two weeks straight. What did you do and how do you react to these calls?"
Deadline:  April 30, 2016
May Prompt:  You’re sitting at the breakfast table one morning, looking at the top news stories while drinking your coffee. The top story this morning is a crazy fan who was arrested for breaking into a local bookstore and stealing all of YOUR books! He’s quoted as saying “I just want to be their best friend!” Your first crazed fan. What do you do?
Deadline:  May 31, 2016
Word Count:  up to 2000
Pay:  $25 to contest winner

Enchanted Conversation
Theme:  Summer Solstice and Mid-Summer
Genre:  Fairy Tale
Reading Period:  May 1-May 30
Word Count:  700-3000 stories, poems of any length
Pay:  $30

Infective Ink
Themes:  Dear Diary—due April 27, 2016
The End of the World—due May 28, 2016
Pay:  $10 for stories 1500 words and up

On the Premises
Next theme:  TBA
Word Count:  up to 5000
Pay: $60-220 

Timeless Tales
Theme:  The Snow Queen
Genre:  retelling of fairy tales—various styles and genres, poetry
Word Count:  up to 2000, 1500 preferred
Pay:  $20

Story
Theme:  Identity
Genres:  Stories, essays, poems
Word Count: up to 2500 for prose
Pay: Unclear



Melinda Brasher's first fiction sale was in THEMA, one of the magazines above.  She has other stories published in various magazines, including On the Premises.  Visit her online at www.melindabrasher.com

The Submission Grinder--a useful resource


Submitting short stories to magazines takes a lot of time and effort.  I’ve found a resource that’s helped.  It’s the (Submission) Grinder website, a listing of magazines, e-zines, anthologies and contests you can send your fiction to.

I like it because the magazines are searchable by length, payment, genre, whether they accept reprints, and even style of writing.  It also has a good layout for each magazine's main page, clearly showing the most important information and giving fairly reliable links to their website and specific guidelines.    

You can also sign up for an account and track your submissions, helping keep you organized and giving valuable information back to the community about rejection rates and response times.

They plan to add non-fiction and poetry listings in the future (though some of the magazines here accept non-fiction and poetry too, so it can be useful if you have a portfolio of various genres).

Head on over to the Submission Grinder and submit some of your work!  


Melinda Brasher currently teaches English as a second language in the beautiful Czech Republic.  She loves the sound of glaciers calving and the smell of old books.  Her travel articles and short fiction appear in Go NomadInternational LivingElectric SpecIntergalactic Medicine Show, and others.  For an e-book collection of some of her favorite pieces, check out Leaving Home.  Visit her online at http://www.melindabrasher.com.


Submitting to Fiction Magazines with Themes--Spring 2015

From The First Line Magazine
Looking for writing inspiration or a new writing challenge?  Check out these upcoming themes from short story magazines.  Find one that strikes your fancy, write your best story, and send it in.  

Portals--Submissions accepted April 1-30
2065 (the year)--Submissions accepted May 1-31
Sport--Submissions accepted June 1-30
Crossed Genres.  (Science fiction or fantasy only, 1000-6000 words, Pays $.06/wd)
Submission Guidelines.

Lost in the Zoo--Due July 1, 2015
THEMA Literary Journal  (Print, Reprints accepted, Fewer than 20 pages prefered, Pays $25)
Submission guidelines

"Laura liked to think she was honest with herself; it was everyone else she lied to."--Due May 1, 2015
"The old neighborhood was nearly unrecognizable."--Due August 1, 2015
The First Line Literary Magazine.  (Print and PDF, 300-5000 wds, Pays $25-50, stories must start with the given line)
Submission Guidelines.

Nyx (the ancient goddess of night)--Due April 30, 2015
Monsters (dark fantasy and horror)--Due June 31, 2015
Pantheon.  (Mythology, The shorter the better,  Pays $.01/wd)
Submission Guidelines.

Dear Diary--Due March 28, 2015
Telling your kids about 'the birds and the bees' is always a difficult task--Due April 27, 2015
Modern spins on common fairy tales--Due May 28, 2015
Memory Loss--Due June 27, 2015
Infective Ink.  (Pays $10)
Submission Guidelines.

Learning--Due March 6, 2015--THIS FRIDAY
Check the website later for the next theme
On the Premises.  (1000-5000 words, Pays $40-180)
Submission Guidelines.

Perseus and Medusa--Due March 23, 2015
Timeless Tales.  (Fairy tales and myths retold in any genre, 2000 words maximum, Accepts reprints, Pays $15)
Submission Guidelines.

Un/Natural World (exploring natural and built worlds on Earth)--Due July 15, 2015
Story  (Pays $20/pg up to $200)
Submission Guidelines.

Kenya--Due April 7, 2015
The Dominican Republic--May 5, 2015
National Parks around the World--Due June 2, 2015
The Olympics--Due July 7, 2015
Faces (World culture and geography for ages 9-14, 800-word retold legends, folktales, stories, and original plays from around the world, Pays professional rates)
Submission Guidelines

Also consider Cobblestone's other magazines accepting 800-word stories based around themes:  Cobblestone (American history), Dig (archeology and history), Odyssey (science). 
Submission Guidelines


Themed magazines can also be a good way to find homes for your trunk stories, but be sure that the theme is a close fit, or you'll disrespect the magazine.  As always, pay close attention to the writers' guidelines.

And keep on creating!



Melinda Brasher's first fiction sale was in THEMA, one of the magazines above.  She has other stories published in various magazines, including On the Premises.  She also loves to travel and is currently writing a budget traveler's guide to cruising Alaska. Visit her online at http://www.melindabrasher.com/

Finding Appropriate Literary Magazines For Your Stories

If you’re submitting short stories to literary magazines, doubtless you’ve read in submission guidelines things like this:  “To get a feel for our editorial style, read several issues of the magazine before submitting.”

This is excellent advice, not only for finding good fits for your stories.  Reading many good short stories from different literary magazines will also help your craft.  However, it’s extremely time consuming if you do it in a scattershot, luck-be-with-me sort of way, finding a magazine at random, reading back issues, and only then deciding it’s not a great fit.


Instead, narrow your search first.  One way to do this is to buy or check out recent short story collections that pull from various literary magazines.  Two good ones are The Best American Short Stories and The Pushcart Prize; Best of the Small Presses.  If you’re a genre writer, you may find similar anthologies in your field, like The Year’s Best Science Fiction.  These anthologies generally list which magazines the stories first appeared in. When you find a story you like, and feel it might fit with your writing, put that magazine on your short list.  Research your short-list magazines to make sure your first impressions were right.  Then, of course, submit exactly how the magazine wants, according to their guidelines.  Then submit again.  And again.

*     *     *     *     *


Melinda Brasher has sold short stories to several magazines, including Ellipsis Literature and Art and Intergalactic Medicine Show.  You can read her most recently published story, "Passcodes," free at The Future Fire.  She's currently living in the Czech Republic and loving the nature (and the wild blueberries and raspberries for dessert during her hikes).  Visit her online at http://www.melindabrasher.com/

To Increase Your Chances for Publication, Submit Your Manuscript

Guest Post by Joan Y. Edwards

You finished writing your story or article. You revised it 3 times.

How many manuscripts did you send off for critique this year?

You say you’ve done that once a month. I’m proud that you did that. You sent it off for critique. You revised it 4 more times, making a total of 7 revisions. Now that your work is in quality condition, it’s time to market your work. Let's talk submissions.

How many quality manuscripts did you submit this year to a publisher, agent, or contest?

What? You tell me that you have three quality manuscripts at the marketing stage and you only submitted once this year. On the bright side, that’s better than not submitting at all. It probably was the best you could do. However, I want to inspire and motivate you to make at least 4 more submissions this year. That's one for each month: September, October, November, and December.

Do you want to increase your odds and have a better chance at publication? 

Here are three ways to increase your odds:
1.    Submit one quality manuscript to 3 well-matched publishers. (3/12-25% )
2.    Submit three different quality manuscripts to 3 different publishers. (6/12-50%)
3.    Submit one quality manuscript to 6 different agents. (6/12-50%)

If you don’t submit to editors, agents, or contests, perhaps you are not convinced that your story is good enough for publication. You need encouragement. You need confidence. You need a plan. You need Pub Subbers.

Perhaps you’re like Dr. Seuss or Colonel Sanders, you’ve been rejected so many times you’re about to give up. I’m sure there were days when both Dr. Seuss and Colonel Sanders said to themselves, “Nobody is interested in my ideas.”

But somewhere from deep inside, came a little voice that said to them, “It’s a great idea. You have great ideas. You just haven’t met the right person to buy it yet. Keep on trying. Don’t give up.” Dr. Seuss got published after 27 rejections. After 1009 rejections and 2 years of traipsing across America, Colonel Sanders got the first restaurant to purchase a license to use his Kentucky Fried Chicken recipe.

Even if you submit 100 times, I can’t guarantee that a publisher will give you a contract and publish your work. But, I can guarantee that if the rejections you receive stop you in your tracks and if you never submit again, you will never get published.

Keep submitting. If you receive a rejection, hit the reset button on the “Bowling Alley of Submissions.” Brainstorm enthusiasm and change your inner goals. Make changes in your manuscript to make it better and better. Keep submitting no matter how many rejections you get. The more you submit, the better chance you will have to be published.

A publisher is looking for you while you are looking for a publisher. Do not give up. Keep submitting on a regular basis. Submitting is action that shows your faith in yourself and your writing. Believe in yourself and your writing, be a Pub Subber. Submit your quality work often.

Are you a Pub Subber? Pub Subbers have three stages: The Writing Stage; The Revising Stage; The Marketing Stage.

I invite you to follow the Pub Subber plan for writing, revising, and submitting to an editor, agent, or contest.

Here is a short explanation of Pub Subber stages for four weeks of the month.

Pub Subbers believe that submitting quality work on a regular basis leads to publication.

•    Writing Stage - Pub Subbers write new drafts - new stories, poems, songs, etc..
•    Revising Stage - Pub Subbers send their draft manuscripts to a critique person or group 1-3 times and revise manuscripts at least 7 times before submitting to an agent, editor, or contest. This revision process takes a manuscript from a draft in the writing stage to a quality manuscript in the Marketing Stage.
•    Marketing Stage - Pub Subbers submit a quality manuscript at least once a month to an editor, agent, or contest.

Writing Stage and Revising Stage


Live, Read, Write, Revise, Get Critiques, Educate and Motivate the Muse within You. This could be a week, a month, or a year or even longer.

Week 4

Marketing Stage


Begins on a new month after your manuscript is in quality condition and has been critiqued 1-3 times and revised at least 7 times.

Week 1

Find Three Possible Publishers, Agents, or Contests. Choose one. Send manuscript for one last critique.

Week 2

Write draft query, cover letter, and/or proposal. Follow the guidelines of the editor, agent, or contest.

Week 3

Final Edit, Print, Proof. Pub Sub Friday It’s time to submit to an agent, editor, contest of your choice.

Submit your manuscript! You’ll be glad you did.

Pub Subbers Yahoo Group has automated weekly reminders each month to help you get published and won’t let you give up on yourself or your writing goals. To join Pub Subbers, send a blank email to pubsubbers-subscribe@yahoogroups.com.

Joan Y. Edwards
Blog: Never Give Up blog  
Website: Joan Y. Edwards




Flip Flap Floodle, a happy little duck who Never Gives Up
Hear Flip’s Song
Joan's Elder Care Guide 4RV Publishing Coming in June 2014.








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Get Your Fantasy Story Published: Insider Manuscript Submission Tips From an Editor


I was recently contacted by a rep at Writer's Digest Books & Magazine. If you are not familiar with this awesome writer's resource, be sure to check it out after reading this guest post written by Scott Francis, a Content Editor. Then go to my website and check out the page they sent me about writing YA Fantasy.

Ask anyone. The biggest question when you're a writer is likely "how do you get published?" Some writers start thinking about it way before they should—before they've focused their attention on improving their craft and writing a good story. In my opinion that should always come first and if you're serious about getting published, well, then that's your first step, isn't it? Make sure your writing is good and write something worth reading. 

That said, when you are ready to get published, what do you do? There's plenty of advice on how to get published out there—volumes and volumes written on the subject. But within all that wealth of information that's available, how do you know which advice is right for you, especially if you write within a specific genre like fantasy (or an even more specialized niche like fantasy YA or say paranormal YA romance)? The key (aside from having a really great manuscript) is in being detail oriented and communicating well. Sounds easy enough, but if you've been writing for any length of time at all, then you know it can be tricky. Here are a few tips that I hope will help you in your search for publication.

Do Your Research

Before you approach a book publisher with your novel submission make sure you research the kinds of books they publish—you don’t want to send your futuristic cyberpunk novel to publisher looking for dragons and swordplay.

Obviously you should know the subject matter they deal with (and you can often find this out easily enough from their website or a market listing). But beyond that, I recommend dipping into a few of their books. See what the voice of the writers they tend to publish is like. What tone do their books have? It may sound obvious, but if you like what you are reading, then it's more likely that your book will be a good fit. If something about the books turn you off then maybe your writing isn't a good match for what the publisher is looking for. It doesn't mean your writing is bad—only that you're not compatible. As with dating, maybe it's best to just be friends.

This applies to short fiction as well. Before shopping your short story around make sure to read the publications you intend to submit to. Reading other stuff out there will help you zero in on the right publications to target your stuff to, and chances are it will also help your writing. After all, to write well you should read a lot.

Read the Fine Print

I can't stress enough the importance of carefully reading the submission guidelines. Everything you need to know about the way a publisher (or publication) wants to see material submitted will be outlined there. If you don't read them, you're setting yourself up for failure. It's like showing up for a test in school without having studied. Sure, you might skate through somehow, but the odds are definitely not in your favor. Guidelines exist for a reason. Read them. Follow them.

Query Letters

The query letter is your admission ticket. This gets you through the gate, so it's important to do it right. The best way to do that is to keep it short and to the point. The agent or editor who reads your letter wants to know in the fewest words possible what your book is about. Period. My advice is this:

  • address the agent or editor by name
  • deliver a short sentence or two that tells them who the main character is and explains the crux of the plot
  • offer any relevant details about yourself (this should be short and only be included if it seems like something that might be helpful in selling the book)
  • and finally ask them to contact you if they are interested in seeing a submission package

For short fiction you can ignore this last point since for most short stories you'll be submitting the piece itself along with a cover letter. (All of the above info works just as well for a cover letter as it does a query.)

Submission Package

Your submission package is what you send when you get a positive response from your query, asking to see more material. This may vary from publisher to publisher (which is why it's important to read the submission guidelines). Some publishers may want to see a synopsis (a short summary of the entire book's plot), some may want sample chapters, some may want the first 50 pages or so, and some may want the entire manuscript. Their response (or their submission guidelines!) should outline what they'd like to see. Follow those directions as closely as possible.

Submitting Fantasy Stories

So, what is different about submitting a fantasy, science fiction, or paranormal story?

The real answer is “not much.” The process is the same. The kinds of materials, the types of correspondence, the attention to detail—all of these things are pretty much the same no matter what genre you write in.

However, one important thing about fantasy stories is that there is often a great deal of information that needs to be conveyed in order for the story to make sense. After all, in many instances you've built an entire world that is different from our own, or you've invented a system of magic that has an intricate set of rules, or maybe you've created an entire culture or belief system. Such large concepts can be difficult to convey concisely, but that's exactly what you have to do. You need to boil down your fantasy world's setting or the natural rules that govern your characters' supernatural powers to a simple description.

Agents and editors have short attention spans (they have to do a ton of reading). Your fantastic planet filled with seven different warring races that are unlike anything known to mankind may sound amazing to you, but to an agent or editor it can sound like the other 10 projects that crossed their desk just this morning. What makes yours special? What the essential thing about your story that makes you want to tell it? If you can answer that question, then you have what you need to put in your query letter (hint: it usually comes down to your main character and his or her internal or external conflict). The other details are secondary and you should explain them in a way that is short and to the point, leaving out anything that might confuse matters or bog down your pitch.

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Scott Francis is the editor of Novel & Short Story Writer's Market, the premiere resource dedicated to helping writers get published and find a literary agent. He is an editor for Writers Digest's writing books where he works to develop resources to help writers advance their writing careers in numerous ways including: improving writing skills and writing techniques, getting published, building an author platform, and learning to be a better writer. He is also the author of Monster Spotter's Guide to North America and co-author of The Writer's Book of Matches.

Writing for Children: Submissions to Contract to Book Promotion to Career Part 1

The foundation of writing for children, or any genre for that matter, is to learn the craft of writing. In regard to being a children’s author you will need to learn the specific rules and tricks to create appropriate stories with age-appropriate words and storylines.

Once you have taken the time to hone your craft and have critiqued, revised, and edited your manuscript to a polished state, it’s on to the next phases of the traditional children’s writing path: submissions, promotion, and a writing career.

1. Submissions

Before you think about submitting your work anywhere, be sure you’ve completed the necessary steps to learn the craft of writing. You’re manuscript needs to be as polished as you can possibly get it.

Submissions can fall into two categories: those to publishers and those to agents. In regard to submitting to agents, in a Spring 2011 webinar presented by Writer’s Digest, agent Mary Kole advised to “research agents.” This means to find out what type of agent they are in regard to the genre they work with and the agent platform they provide: do they coddle their authors, do they crack the whip, are they aggressive, passive, involved, or complacent. Know what you’re getting into before querying an agent, and especially before signing a contract.

Here are a couple of sites you can visit to learn about agents:

http://agentquery.com
http://www.guidetoliteraryagents.com/blog/

The same advice works for submitting to publishers also; research publishers before submitting to them. Know which genres of children’s books they handle and the type of storylines they’re looking for.

Whether submitting to a publisher or an agent, always follow the guidelines and always personalize the query. There may be times the guidelines do not provide the name of the editor to send the query to, but if you can find that information, use it.

According to Mary Kole, it’s also important to know how to pitch your story. This entails finding the story’s hook. Agents and publishers also want to know what the book’s selling points will be and what successful books it’s similar to. In addition, they will expect to be told what your marketing strategy will be. It’s a good idea to create an online presence and platform before you begin submissions; let the agents and publishers know you will actively market your book.

Along with the story’s hook, you need to convey: who your main character is and what he/she is about; the action that drives the story; the main character’s obstacle, and if the main character doesn’t overcome the obstacle, what’s at stake.

Ms. Kole recommends reading “the back of published books” to see how they briefly and effectively convey the essence of the story. This will give you an idea of how to create your own synopsis.

When querying, keep your pitch short and professional, and keep your bio brief and relevant. You will need to grab the editor or agent and make them want to read your manuscript.

Here are four tools you can use to help find a publisher or agent:

•    Writers Market: Where and How to Sell What You Write
•    Children’s Writer’s & Illustrator’s Market: Over 700 listings for book publisher’s, magazines, agents, art reps, and more
•    Guide to Literary Agents: Where and How to Find the Right Agents to Represent Your Work
•    WritersMarket.com: Online resource to help you sell what you write


Karen Cioffi is an award-winning children's author and children’s ghostwriter as well as the founder and editor-in-chief of Writers on the Move. You can find out more about writing for children and her services at: Karen Cioffi Writing for Children.

Check out the DIY Page and don’t forget to sign up for the Newsletter that has great monthly writing and book marketing tips.

And, get a copy of WALKING THROUGH WALLS (a middle-grade fantasy adventure set in 16th century China. Honored with the Children’s Literary Classics Silver Award.




Build Your Brand

  Contributed by Margot Conor While you are writing your novel, or even when it is just an idea in your head, start to build your brand. Res...