I originally wrote the Parable of the Shoemaker eight years ago and posted it here on my blog. I wanted to let you know the lessons I learned about working in the publishing industry and landing contracts.
After I posted it last week here as an Oldie but Goodie, I received an e-mail in my inbox. It’s from an editor I never worked with before. But she requested that I write and submit a potential children’s manuscript to her because she was looking for a specific book.
How did this happen? How have I managed to work with editors like this for over 20 years and engage them in discussion about potential book contracts?
There are several steps I’ve taken.
- One way is to meet editors at conferences. Only instead of just meeting them and showing them what I’ve written, I always try to ask them, “What type of manuscripts are you looking for?” After they answer me, I ask, “Would you be interested in receiving a proposal (for a longer book) or a manuscript (for a shorter book such as a picture book) from me on this?” For my very first editor appointment 25 years ago at a writer’s conference, I did this and landed my very first book contract as a result.
2. Another way is to read editor interviews in writing publications such as the SCBWI Bulletin, SCBWI Insight, Institute of Children’s literature e-news, and the Children’s Book Insider. (Google each of these for their websites to learn more.) One year as a beginning writer I made it my goal to contact one editor a month that I read an interview and saw what kind of manuscripts the editor was looking for. After three months I had to quit doing this, however. I landed so many book contracts (I think 5 or 6) in that short time, I was too busy to do that again for quite awhile! I simply contacted them, said I read their interview, saw that they were looking for a certain kind of manuscript, and asked if they’d be interested in receiving a proposal or sample manuscript to fill that need.
3. Another strategy that works is to join groups where editors hang out such as Kidlit College and 12×12 Challenge (for writing picture books). Watch the webinars where editors speak and listen to what they say. Again, contact them and follow through!
So how did I get this e-mail that just arrived in my inbox? I had been studying a publisher’s catalog for this past year. I noticed that they are pumping out a significant number of new books in a genre I want to get published in. So I submitted my two manuscripts to this editor. (Some publishers only accept one, but this one was okay with submitting two at a time.) But in my cover letter, I also stated that I have been studying their product line, I want to write in this genre, and if these manuscripts don’t meet their current need, is there a manuscript they’d like me to write and submit instead?
Bingo! The editor responded and said that my first manuscript was very similar to a brand new on they’ll be publishing soon so they can’t use it. She said that my second manuscript just wasn’t what they were looking for. But then she handed me the golden ticket. She answered my question by saying that if I were interested in writing a manuscript on such and such a topic, she’d really like to see it.
Again, this ties back to the Parable of the Shoemaker. A certain publisher is looking for a very specific fit and asked me if I’d be willing to send her one.
So that’s what I’m going to do!
I hope you have success doing the same.
Oh, and if you feel frustrated because you don’t know any publishers who accept unsolicited children’s books, CLICK HERE to find a list of those who do.