Posted by: nancyisanders | June 23, 2008

ABC Adventure: Investigate

Step 2

Now that you’ve got a list of publishers who publish alphabet books, it’s time to investigate each one. For this step, I like to make a chart to organize all my notes so that I can compare my findings at a glance.

Either use a chart-making program like Excel or make a handmade chart if that suits your fancy instead. Use this chart to jot down information about each publisher you investigate from the lists you gathered.

Post a simple title on your chart such as ABC Publishers Chart and label a corresponding file folder to store it in.

On the chart have columns for the following information that you gather from reading current market guides or exploring publishers’ websites or both:

Publisher: Write the full name of the publisher in this column.

Website: Write the URL here.

Editor’s Name: List the acquisition editor’s name here or the picture book editor or whichever name you find that looks like she oversees the alphabet book submissions.

Agent: In this column, make a note if they only take agented submissions or if they accept unsolicited manuscripts or queries. If they require agented submissions only and you have an agent, you can target this publisher, too. If not, you can’t target this publisher unless you meet the editor at a conference where she invites you to submit your manuscript to her.

E-mail Queries: Take a look at each publisher’s submissions policy and note if they take queries and submissions by e-mail or not. Not only does it save you lots of cash by taking advantage of a publisher’s offer to accept via e-mail, but it can also lead to establishing a relationship with an editor who might be open to working over e-mail rather than the tedious and lengthy process of snail mail.

First-time Authors: Note whether they are open to working with first-time authors or not. If you’re a beginning author, it’s a definite plus in your favor if a publisher works with 25% or more first-time authors each year. Make a note of it on your chart.

Titles per Year: Make a column for jotting down the number of new titles a publisher does each year. One publisher might only publish three new titles each year while another one publishes 110. This gives you a ball-park figure of what your chances are of being accepted at one publisher compared with the other publishers.

Terms: Mark in the column whether the publisher offers royalty-based contracts or only work-for-hire. Usually, royalty-based contracts mean you keep the rights to your manuscript. Work-for-hire means that you’ll probably have to sell all rights to your manuscript, no negotiations considered. While both contracts have their merits, they also each have their shortcomings, so just be aware of the publisher’s policy from the get-go. If you don’t want a work-for-hire contract because you want to keep the rights to your work, you can put the publishers at the bottom of your list who only offer these terms. However, if you’re eager for quick cash and a fast turnaround for publication of your book, a royalty-based contract may not be your first choice since it can take years for you to see either cash or the published book. Make a note now and you’ll have this information at your fingertips.

You can also add other columns for information that interests you such as general notes, standard picture book word count each publisher prefers, or whether or not they offer an advance. If you know a specific alphabet book title they just published, write it down on this chart to help jog your memory later. Prepare your chart now and you’ll be ready to start the investigation of the various publishers you’ve discovered.


  1. Jacketflap may be a good place to look up some of that information. CWIM is another, but Jacketflap has some cool graphs and sometimes more info than CWIM.

  2. Thanks Stephanie! I use CWIM (Children’s Writer’s and Illustrator’s Market guide) all the time. Plus, I just got a copy of the Book Markets for Childrens Writers 2008 market guide, so I’m excited to dig into that, too. I’m a member of, but haven’t discovered those cool graphs yet, so this is a great tip to explore!

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