June 6, 2020: Trying to Find a Children’s Picture Book Publisher

Phil Slattery portrait
Phil Slattery
March, 2015

As you may already know, I have written the manuscript for a children’s picture book entitled Bobby the Brave Brown Pelican. This morning I have been trying to find a publisher for it. This is considerably harder than finding a short story publisher. I did submit my work to a few publishers a few weeks ago, but I have had to date only negative or no responses. In short, I am having little success in finding just a possible publisher for my manuscript.

Nonetheless, I shall press on.

The two submissions engines I have for short stories, Duotrope and The Submissions Grinder, list very few publishers for children’s books. Consequently, I must resort to doing an internet search. Fortunately, there are few articles which list children’s book publishers. This morning, I have been working my way through a list of thirty publishers that can be found on johnfox.com. After I finish this list, I have another of 75, but this will no doubt include many on the first list.

I have had to develop an Excel spreadsheet to track my submissions. In this spreadsheet I am including the publishers I considered but decided not to submit to for one reason or another. This is to ensure that at a later date, I don’t go forget that I decided not to submit them and don’t go through the effort of researching them again.

Some accept manuscripts by mail, whereas I prefer to submit electronically. This does not mean I won’t submit to them, just that I won’t submit to them right away. I an trying to submit to as many as I can as soon as I can and submitting by mail slows this process considerably. Luckily, it seems only a few won’t accept simultaneous submissions, or at least they don’t state so on their website. Given that, I am submitting to as many as possible and will probably accept the first decent proposal that pops up.

Another stumbling block I am encountering is that, as with many publishers, many do not accept unsolicited manuscripts either throughout the year or during a good portion of the year.

Of course, there is the obvious matter that my subject matter is not to the taste of all publishers. Some have narrow requirements.  For example, Arbordale Publishing accepts only manuscripts that are math or science related. Kids Can Press accepts manuscripts only from Canadian authors.

One big stumbling block is that it seems most children’s book publishers won’t send a message or letter declining a work. They state that if the author doesn’t hear from them in a certain amount of time, he/she should consider the work not accepted. Unfortunately, this time period is usually in terms of months. Three to four months is not unusual. So far I have found one that says 6-9 months.

Some publishers don’t go into detail about what they would like to see and basically say to just to submit the manuscript while others go into excruciating and exacting detail.

Another big stumbling block for my particular work is that most publishers want a picture book to be under a 1,000 words. My manuscript is 1,388 words and it is as concise as I want to or can make it and still get my message across.

I know that these obstacles are common to just about all genres, but, at least compared to the short story market with which I am most familiar, they seem more numerous and frequent with children’s books. Children’s book publishers also seem less organized. There doesn’t seem to be a standard or preferred way of submitting manuscripts whereas publishers of short fiction seem more consistent in detailing what they accepts. Of course, that is only a subjective observation.

I feel like I am taking pot shots in the dark.

Anyway, I will keep plugging on even if I have to go through hundreds of publishers. This is not unusual for novelists or short story writers and, as I am learning, it is apparently not unusual for children’s book authors either.

Stay woke.



Update: November 12, 2019, Busy Weekend and Veteran’s Day

Writing at IHOP, 2019. Photo by Fran.
Working late at night at an IHOP in Midland, TX, May, 2019

Saturday and Sunday,  I spent a lot of time organizing my house after the recent move. I wanted to write, but as my wife notes, I feel more like writing in a clean environment. I had never noticed this until she mentioned it sometime back, but she is absolutely right.  I spent two days cleaning and organizing and come Monday evening, I really felt the drive to write.

During most of the day on Monday, however, I spent exploring the local area up to Stuttgart looking for places to hold writer circles meetings for the Arkansas Writers Circle that I am trying to establish. Not much luck on that front. No Starbuck’s in this area and the one coffee shop I found in DeWitt (420 and Turnrow is the name of the shop) closes at 7:00. It is a very nice place though and I hope to go there when I can. It is a nice, clean environment for relaxing and writing.  The arts center in Stuttgart was closed when I arrived. I will try contacting them later.

I did visit the Stuttgart and DeWitt campuses of the Philips Community College in DeWitt and Stuttgart. I hoped to contact their English professors, who I thought might know of any writers groups locally, if any one does. No one from the English department at either was there when I arrived, but I left a card. This afternoon Professor Liddell (of both campuses) called and left a message saying that there are no writers groups in the area to his knowledge. He also said that he would help spread the word about mine and that I could call him with questions. That is a big step for this project. Thanks, Professor Liddell.

I ran a couple of errands and ended up in Dumas. There I went to El Toro Mexican restaurant to write up some notes and get some delicious tortilla soup (the weather here was cold and rainy all day). I spent a couple of hours there and then went home. At home, I spent quite a few hours, typing up the new material I had concocted at El Toro into Shadows and Stars. I ended the night’s writing about 2:00 a.m., but still have a little to do when I go home tonight. My original goal was to make Shadows and Stars reach between 80,000 to 100,000 words. I am now over 91,000. I am trying to wrap this up. I will probably have between 100,000 to 110,000 by the time I finish. This will be the first draft. Then I polish the first draft until I am satisfied, which may be a while.

Also, yesterday I received an email from Austin Macauley publishers saying they had received Bobby the Brown Pelican.  It should be about three weeks before I hear something.

This morning as I was prepping for work, I came up with a few more ideas for children’s picture books. I remembered that I had started another call Alison the Odd Little Alien about a little girl named Alison, who travels to another planet, where she learns what it’s like to be the foreigner/alien in another land. I got the idea from one of my wife’s pupils, who suggested I write a story about aliens after I read Bobby the Brown Pelican to them. It shouldn’t take long to finish it. Probably less than three weeks. If Austin Macauley accepts my work, maybe I will submit Alison… next.

Update: Bobby the Brown Pelican, November 8, 2019

Tonight, I submitted my children’s book, Bobby the Brown Pelican, to Austin Macauley Publishers. This is a big publishing company. Their website says to expect a response in three weeks, which will be November 29. Wish me luck.

Bobby has previously been rejected by Shadow Mountain Publishing. However, it is uncommon to have a work accepted on the first attempt. I consider myself doing well if one of my manuscripts is accepted on the fifth or sixth attempt.  In the past, when all rejections were sent by US mail, some writers proudly papered their walls with rejection slips. I am surprised that I have received as few as I have. I would love to be published by Austin Macauley, but if not, c’est la vie.

Bobby is a young brown pelican who is afraid to fly and to dive into the sea, which is the way brown pelicans hunt. His parents, particularly his dad, give him positive reinforcement and teach him to have confidence and to do what he needs to in spite of his fear. He follows his dad, who teaches him to fly, and then he teaches him to dive and catch fish. In critical points in the action, the narrator asks the reader what he is thinking and feeling in order to establish a connection between the reader and Bobby and to give any parent reading this to a child a chance to discuss how the child would feel and what he would do if he were in Bobby’s place. This book also helps parents talk with their children and help them overcome the fear children have of disappointing their parents. This books promotes interaction and discussion between children and parents on very basic fears common to children, such as of disappointing their parents, fear of being hurt, etc.

I will post updates as they occur.

Hasta luego.


Update: April 29, 2019 11:00 p.m.

I just finished typing up the first draft of Bobby the Brown Pelican. Word count: 1,168. I don’t even know if that’s the right length for a children’s (around 5-6) book, or if it’s too long or too short. I will do a little research and read a few children’s books.  I am somewhat familiar with them, but I need to study them more intensely. I will also try to find a few beta readers, who have experience in this field. I believe the simplicity of the language is at the right level. I have taught children of this age, so I think I have a feel for the way they talk.

I have been thinking of publishing it myself on Amazon or Smashwords, but now I am leaning toward a traditional publisher.  I have found lots of royalty-free photographs of pelicans on Pixabay and Pexels.  The trick will be to find the ones that match up with what is happening in the story.

Now it’s on to writing a sci-fi horror story about an American colonel torturing an alien armada commander in an apocalyptic future. This is more my style.