Wednesday, July 22, 2015

8 Tips for Aspiring Children's Book Writers

One of the most common questions we receive at Just Us Books is “how do I get my book published?” We created this tip sheet to provide general guidance to aspiring book creators.

1. Do your research. If you have general questions about the publishing process, submitting artwork or a manuscript, there are a wealth of Internet resources that provide helpful information. Acquaint yourself with the publishing industry before you contact a company.

2. Know the publisher’s market. Study a publisher’s list and be prepared to substantiate the strength of your manuscript in a cover letter. Be able to provide good reasons why children would want to read your book, why teachers would want to use it and why parents would want to buy it. Have you pre-tested the material with children? Is the language fresh, lively, active and non-stereotypical? Is it age appropriate?

3. Get the publisher’s guidelines (typically available on their web site) before you send your query and follow them.   Some publishers do not accept queries via e-mail, and most don’t accept any communication via fax or phone. Some publishers require you have an agent, while others allow aspiring writers to submit to the submissions editor without agent representation.

4. Always include a query letter, which should include a brief summary of your manuscript. Do not send your complete manuscript unsolicited (unless the publisher’s guidelines state you may do so).

5. Include a self-addressed stamped envelope (SASE) for the publisher’s response. Keep in mind that many publishers only reply if they are interested in your manuscript AND/OR if you provide a SASE. Editors may receive dozens and dozens of inquiries on a daily or weekly basis and may not have time to answer queries individually.

6. Edit your work. Although this may seem like an obvious point, many aspiring writers send cover letters and manuscripts that contain typos and other grammatical errors. Such errors will gain you quick rejection.

7. Be patient. Producing a book takes time. If an editor does express interest in your manuscript, the publishing process may take several years from the editor’s initial “yes.” Keep honing your craft and read plenty of books while you wait.

8. Remember publishing is a process, not an event. An average 32-page full color picture book is a financial investment for a publisher. Upfront costs including editing, illustration, design, printing, shipping, author & illustrator advances, and marketing must all be paid before any books actually reach stores or are sold to the public.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Happy Birthday Mari Evans

I first met Mari Evans in the pages of Negro Digest/Black World magazine, published by the Johnson Publishing Company. An aspiring poet myself, I couldn't wait to find another Mari poem to read, to inspire me and to help me further understand myself and the world in which I was trying to find meaning and direction. I wanted so desperately to meet Mari, to get to know her and learn from her through conversations. But I was way south in Louisiana, miles from Johnson Publishing in Chicago and Mari’s hometown of Indianapolis.

I finally met Mari in person in the early 1990s. Cheryl and I attended an African-American Curriculum Infusion conference held in Atlanta that the late brother Asa Hillard helped to organize. Mari did a workshop there. Cheryl and I connected with Mari immediately. We are now very good friends. We have published four of Mari's books, including the soon to be released Continuum: New And Selected Poems, Revised Edition. The three of us chat as often as we can.

Just yesterday, during a telephone conversation, I reminded Mari how she had influenced me during my maturing years. I could sense her smile. Then I told her that I will call her on her birthday. She said, "That's fine. But please don't sing." Fighting through my laughter, I said, "No, I won't sing. I'll just call to say I love you." 

- Wade Hudson

Profile of Mari Evans taken from Poetry from the Masters: The Black Arts Movement, copyright 2009, Just Us Books. All rights reserved.