Ask Tania: Sending in Picture Book Submissions

Thursday, 30 October 2014

Dear Tania, 
When sending a kids book submission to a publisher, how much content is best to share? Is half of the book or a couple of spreads (including words and pictures) enough? 

Dear Vanessa,

The best way to prepare any submission is to check the publisher guidelines. Most publishers have specific guidelines on their Submissions page, outlining exactly what they require.

If they don't have guidelines available, you can send as a General Submission (if they allow it), and for general subs, you should always send the full picture book text (as opposed to novels which are usually the first three chapters).

Unless they are high-text for older readers, classic trade picture books for kids aged 3 - 8 should be less than 500 words, as the pictures are the focus and low text allows images to do the talking.

You should never send illustrations unless a publisher says it's okay. I don't know of any publisher who allows this via general submissions, but if you happen to meet a publisher at a conference and you chat about your work and she wants to see both image and text, then absolutely you should send both. Ask them outright what they would specifically like to see/what format they require.

Most publishers like to assess manuscripts before they even think about illustrations, and most also like to appoint illustrators themselves--this is for a variety of reasons. For example, they might have house authors or people they have a relationship with and like to work with. They might feel your illustrations don't fit with their general list, or even benefit your own text. Or they might not think your images are to trade standard.

If your main focus is on pictures, not words, I would forgo sending a manuscript, and instead contact the publisher about sending in an art folio. Many publishers are always looking for new illustration talent, and once you get a dialogue going with them, you could always mention you have text you'd love to send them, too.

Another option is to send a brief query email asking them if they accept both text and image from emerging author/illustrators. You can only ask.

Like any industry, publishing is all about building relationships, showing you can follow direction and showing you would be easy to work with. It's also about showcasing your best talent then revealing the other 'feathers to your bow' as things progress. Bombarding publishers with everything at once is a sure fire way to add your submission to the 'too hard' basket.

I wish you every luck with your submissions!


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