All publishing requires the highest quality writing and illustrating but children’s and young adult (YA) writing is one of the most competitive markets of all, with some book publishers receiving more than two thousand unsolicited manuscripts each year. Production costs for illustrated children’s books are high and consequently your work must display a fresh voice, original subject matter, well-crafted characterisations, an interesting plot and, of course, ‘child appeal’ in order to be considered. Recycled story lines, derivative plots and narrative styles will be rejected, so a new children’s writer must work hard to avoid clichés.
Writing NSW offers a variety of courses on writing for children and young adults to help you overcome such difficulties, as well as hosting a Kids and YA Festival every second year.
The children’s book publishing sector includes educational books. Educational publishers produce books for the school market, both in Australia and overseas. They must meet the needs of teachers and curriculum content for each state in Australia, so they have very specific requirements. Educational publishers usually commission books from a pool of authors with the requisite expertise. Before submitting material to an educational publisher, check their website for guidelines.
Finding a publisher
The Australian Writer’s Marketplace provides a comprehensive directory of publishers in Australia. The directory also outlines what kind of manuscripts the publisher accepts and how they like to be contacted.
Submitting to a children’s book publisher is much the same as submitting to publishers of books for the adult market. For more information, see our resource sheet Getting Published.
Illustrations for picture books
If you are seeking to write a picture book it is not necessary to have it illustrated before submitting. In fact, unless the illustrations are exceptional, you are better off submitting the text of a picture-book manuscript on its own. If the publisher decides to take on your manuscript, they will organise for an appropriate illustrator to work with you.
If you are a writer/illustrator and your artwork is of a publishable standard, include one or two sample illustrations at most. Do not send original artwork through the post as it may be damaged or lost in transit.
Finding an illustrator
Some writers and illustrators may wish to work together before approaching a publisher together. If you are looking for an illustrator, try the Illustrators Australia member directory or the Style File, a directory developed by the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) and the Australian Society of Authors (ASA).
When working with an illustrator, remember that you will need to consider how much they are going to be paid and/or their percentage of royalties. The Australian Society of Authors publishes a list of standard rates for illustrators on their website.
In our bookshop
The ABC Book of Australian Children’s Illustrators by Margaret Hamilton
Writing Hannah – On Writing for Young People by Libby Gleeson
Australian Society of Authors <www.asauthors.org>
Australian Writers’ Marketplace <www.awmonline.com.au>
Children’s Book Council of Australia <www.cbca.org.au>
Illustrators Australia <www.illustratorsaustralia.com>
Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators <www.scbwiaustralia.org>
The Style File <www.thestylefile.com>