Literally hundreds, if not thousands of children’s picture books and other books get churned out every year by aspiring authors all over the world. With high numbers like this, sadly the reality is there aren’t enough publishers for everyone to get chosen. It’s a very competitive world out there when it comes to publishing and it is getting tougher each year. That’s the bleak news. However, if you look hard and do your research, you will find a small handful of publishers who will accept unsolicited manuscripts, but these generally start their life on the slush pile and take many, many months to get read, if at all.

So, what can you do to make your story stand out from the dreaded crowded slush pile?

Creating a picture book is not child’s play. It’s a very serious business! That said, the best thing you can do is join professional organisations like SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators), ASA (Australian Society of Authors), State writing centres like QWC (Qld Writers Centre), BookLinks-Write Links and get involved in your local writing centres, groups and your local library. Some of these organisations do have a joining/annual fee, but it is well worth the money invested. Once you become a member, you become part of a large network of creatives all throughout Australia and internationally.

The other thing you can do once you have a completed manuscript in hand; one that has been worked through many drafts—is to polish it. The next piece of advice is one that many writers don’t enjoy hearing but it is a VERY NECESSARY stage. PUT YOUR DRAFT AWAY IN A DRAWER for several weeks or longer. There is a chance that after many rewrites your work may become difficult to see with fresh eyes. Putting it away helps with this problem. Then once you have left your work for a while, it is time to reread it and note any ways you can improve it. Once you have done this it is ready to engage a second set of eyes & ears, even more sets of eyes & ears, on your work. Fresh eyes and ears are an important part of the editing process.

There are several ways you can do this, but you need to be careful during this stage. It is advisable to only share your manuscript with a couple of well-trusted friends, or colleagues who can try to give you some unbiased feedback. This sounds easy, but sometimes it is hard to find someone you know, who knows and understands the process behind creating a picture book. Friends can give you their opinion based on how the book sounded and the merits of the book with regard to how they view children may respond. But there are no guarantees and there is always the concern someone inexperienced may read your story and make changes that don’t necessarily improve the story, but can in fact change the way you want your story to be told. So, consider whom you ask to help you very carefully.

Sometimes friends are more important to us being, well … friends.

Another thing you can do is again, do your research and find a professional editor and proofreader who can help you polish your manuscript until it shines. Again, just because you hire an editor and proofreader to help you through this stage of the process, there are still NO GUARANTEES your story is going to be selected by publishers. Finding the right publisher requires much more research and sometimes, even though your story is super special, it just may not be what the publisher is looking for at the time you submit it. This requires market research. So much research…

So, to cut a long story short, how can Shadytree Books help you navigate this process?

Our in-house creative director, Debbie, is a qualified proofreader and editor. She is passionate about children’s picture books, children’s chapter books and MG (Middle Grade) novels. In fact she loves all types of books, including YA (Young Adult) and big people books. She has helped a number of authors on their journey to publication as well as having some of her children’s short stories and poetry published in anthologies. Her first children’s picture book is on the road to publication and is COMING SOON. Debbie has also free-lanced as an editor and proofreader with Inspire Publishing, a small publishing house in Brisbane.

Shadytree Books offers the following services:

The Mini Assessment for Children’s Picture Books

The word mini is by no means reflective in the way a mini assessment is performed. Choosing a mini assessment is smart when you have hit a roadblock in your work-in-progress (WIP) or you have finished the manuscript and you aren’t one-hundred per cent sure your idea is working. This mini assessment IS NOT for the polished final draft stage. Debbie will edit your Word document using tracked changes with accompanying explanations in the comment bubbles. A brief overview is offered as part of this assessment. After this assessment, the author reviews and makes decisions based on suggestions and proceeds to draft further rewrites. This service is offered to word counts of up to 500 words.

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Children’s Picture Book Text

This package is suitable for multi-rewritten draft manuscripts, for example: you feel you can think of anything more to add to the manuscript to improve it and you feel satisfied it is ‘ready’ to be published. This assessment strives to help the author polish their work. This assessment is very thorough and Debbie will edit your Word document using tracked changes with accompanying explanations in the comment bubbles. A more detailed report will be offered as part of this assessment. Most picture books have only a few hundred words and this service allows for up to 800 words.

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Disclaimer: These services are provided in good faith and endeavour to assist aspiring and emerging creators polish their work and in no way can guarantee this will lead to a promise of publication.