Picture Book (Part 2): Submitting the MS or I think it’s done, I think it’s done!

Submitting the manuscript is always a big step in the publication journey. It’s as true for submitting picture book manuscripts as anything else.

After two years of writing, revising, re-visioning, asking for feedback from other picture book authors, and more rewriting, I finally had a PB ms (Picture Book manuscript) I was proud of. I envisioned having my picture book appear on in book stores and libraries and being read to smiling children, everywhere. Of course, to accomplish this, I needed to take the next big step and submit my PB ms to agents and/or editors.

Picture Book Cover: The little Engine that Could
A Classic Picture Book: The little Engine that Could by Watty Piper

 In anticipation of the submission process, I had already made a list of my top ten agents. I’d made another list of my top ten editors. Following directions and providing exactly what is specified is rule number one of querying/submitting. So, with hope in my heart, I went online to pull up each agent’s and editor’s submission requirements. Sadly, I discovered that my number one agent was closed to submissions.

Picture Book Cover: Best Frints in the Whole Universe
Best Frints in the Whole Universe by Antoinette Portis

For some reason, this gave me pause. Normally, I would have simply moved on to the next agent on the list, but I found that I had really had my heart set on this agent. After some consideration, I realized that this agency felt also right for me. So, I looked to see what other agents might be taking clients. Sadly, the answer was, none. One ray of hope peeked out at me, though, as the website stated that one of the agents (also someone I knew I could work with) would be open to submissions in January. It was late in the year and I thought, why not wait and submit to the agency I really wanted to work with. So, I waited.

Picture Book Cover: Blue on Blue
Blue on Blue Beautifully written by Dianne White and Illustrated by Beth Krommes

On January 1, 2015, I mailed off my PB ms. Then, I went back to working on revisions for the novel I was writing. (I am always working on the next project.) After six weeks with no word, I went back online, only to discover the agent’s list had not opened in January, after all. With some embarrassment, I emailed the agent to explain what had happened. I apologize for having jumped the gun. She was very kind and stated that, while she had not received the submission for some reason, she would be willing to take a look at the ms if I wished to send it via email.

No brainer for me. I sent it in. And, again, I waited.

Picture Book Cover: Found
Found by Salina Yoon

I didn’t have to wait long. However, her response was a very kind rejection in which she stated it wasn’t really for her. She suggested I look at my work in dummy format to ensure the structure was solid and would fit one of the standard layouts.

Picture Book Cover: Peter Rabbit
Another Classic Picture Book and One of my Favorites Growing up: The Tale of Peter Rabbit, Written by Beatrix Potter, Illustration by Cyndy Szekeres

I thanked her and did as she suggested. I toyed with both the 32- and 40-page layouts. I had done this before, but not with as much attention on structure and page placement. Suddenly, the relationship between the story structure and page layout started to click in ways it hadn’t before. I also sought and received additional feedback from a friend, who is an amazing PB mentor. By now, I was feeling pretty good about the book, but it was already late spring. Things were gearing up for the SCBWI LA conference.

I decided it would be worth the wait to submit the ms for a critique in LA where I knew I would get valuable feedback on the project. This would help me to polish my story and ensure I would be submitting the best possible work when I began targeting the rest of the agents and editors on my list.

Picture Book Cover: Waiting
Waiting by Kevin Henkes

So, I shipped my fledgling picture book manuscript off to be critiqued. And, once more, I waited.

(To be continued in a future blog, tentatively titled, Conference Critiques and the Cinderella Dream.)