Over **75** publishers accepting unsolicited picture book manuscripts! [updated 11/22/22]

Where Unagented Writers Can Directly Submit Picture Books

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I’ve authored 16 books without an agent. I’m now actively pursuing one, given the tighter and more competitive climate, but am still pitching solo. It’s not impossible, and I know many other kidlit authors/illustrators that are staying commando. Wait, I mean rogue. Agentless? You know what I mean.

But as I get ready to submit my next round of picture books, I see more and more publishers that USED to be open to submissions are either closed and now agent only, are at capacity and temporarily closed until further notice, or sadly have shuttered down completely. Some have been bought out by larger houses so their policies have changed, some are simply catching up from 2020 and are temporarily overwhelmed.

What that means to me is that aaalll those great lists of picture book publishers I’ve bookmarked and found sooo helpful are now outdated, and a bit frustrating since I have to re-research every link.

Since I’ve been living this research for the past six months, I’m sharing with you all the current info on open publishing houses that I have garnered, so you’re not pulling out as much hair as I have (and perhaps spewing fewer bad words). I’ve spent hours/days/weeks on this list, and I hope you find it as helpful a resource as I do. I refer to it constantly. You’ll notice many are small presses–but by no means lesser. (It makes sense, right? Larger houses are more well-known so more people submit to them, almost forcing them to go agent only. There are only so many hours in a day to open pitch emails.)

I found over 60–strike that–now over 75–open presses, listed below. I tried to include a little detail on each, to avoid you getting excited and clicking the link only to find out they don’t want what you’re having. And okay, sure, maybe the detail is there to remind ME all that stuff so I’m not re-clicking every two days…

I’ve only included mainstream traditional houses, mainly based in the U.S., with the thought they offer the greatest chance of acceptance. Niche such as those accept only stories about folklore or agriculture, specific religion or culture, for example, I haven’t included, since you’ll want/need to do your own targeted research on those. (If it was specific-ish yet still wider sweeping, like “science and math” or “the general Southern region” I kept it, since there are plenty of ways that can go.) Any press that felt too small, such as 1-2 book titles a year or only have a handful of books total, or felt too focused on one author/illo, or hasn’t posted a new release in the past few years, or hasn’t recently updated their website, I didn’t include, as I figured odds were suuuper low there. I purposely did not include any hybrid publishers as that’s a whole other kettle o’ fish.

I decided to add a section at the bottom for houses that are open have a specific open window each year; keep your eye on social media for those kinds of opps and by all means let me know if you hear of any.

Please know it is not 100% comprehensive, it’s just my personal research. It’s not a slight to any house not listed; it’s simply ROI/math as I know how hard it is to put yourself out there and I want to give us the best odds. But on the plus side, I found and included some presses that are BRAND NEW, and several that are not found in anyone else’s list.

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Writing Goals vs Writing Skills

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Every writer has a goal, whether it’s yearly, monthly, or “someday.” Goals are used as motivation to get stuff done. Resolutions are made, typically with broad intent.

A goal might be to get on the best seller list.

It might be smaller, like come up with x number of viable book ideas (challenges like Storystorm encourage picture book writers to come up with a 30 new ideas in 30 days).

Or get an agent, find a critique group, nab a pitch party.

Or, finish that darn book (NaNoWriMo is famous for encouraging writers to complete a novel in 30 days).

The problem with those kinds of goals, is that the skills needed to accomplish them are glossed over. Nowhere in the goal setting does it account for HOW it will get done.

Wouldn’t it make more sense to focus on the skills you need to accomplish your goals, instead of the goals themselves?

As performance coach Derek Schenck puts it, “The Good focus on a goal; the Great focus on a skill.”

Maybe, instead of having a goal to finish your book, you can focus on the skill of, say, self discipline. The skill you choose to focus on for the year or month could be limiting social media to x numbers of hours a day/week, or once in the morning after you’ve checked email, and once in the afternoon after lunch. Maybe the skill to focus on is saying no to interruptions, and reminding yourself you are worth alone time. Those skills free up time for you to write…which will help you finish your book.

Maybe, instead of the goal of finding a critique group, your focused skill could be on better communication and social interactions with fellow writers. You could focus on being the best type crit partner one could have–like having tact, kindness, offering direction/suggestions without rewriting, and knowing when to shush. Practice your people skills (introverts prefer online groups for this very reason–avoiding in person convos. But it needs to happen, and practice makes perfect–or at least better). Find ways to interact with people without expecting a return or gain. The better you get, the more you’ll view yourself as a valuable crit partner, and the more confident you’ll be in seeking others out. Get real good and a critique group might even come find you!

Instead of a goal of finding an agent, how about you (re)focus on your writing skills, getting them so fine and tight and absolutely irresistible that no agent could possibly say no? Same goes for getting a best seller. Sure, some of that might be luck and marketing–but it’s nothing without beautiful writing. Quality writing is something you can control. Fame is not.

Wanna nab a pitch party? Focus on research — what EXACTLY is being asked, how can I meet that, who are past winners, how did they format their pitch, who can I bounce revisions off of until I’m ready?

image from heidipozzo

To paraphrase the hilarious Mark Manson, author of The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, to master the skills needed to reach your goals, the question isn’t so much “Who do you want to be?” so much as it’s “What are you doing to make it happen?”

His blunt questions are: What are you improving at? What are you learning and gaining? Instead of thinking about what you want to achieve…ask yourself, “What do I want to be good at that I’m not?” Then he challenges you to get working on it.

Goals are easy to formulate. But when you achieve them, you need new goals. When you don’t achieve them, you feel disappointed if not disillusioned. Repeat ad nauseum. You’re never done; you never close the loop.

Skills? They are harder, for sure.

But they last a lifetime.

Author Platform: Maximizing Social Media

Social Media

slick image from jsums.edu

Last post we defined Author Platforms. So tell me, what is an Author Platform, do you remember? It’s how you show your unique qualities that “brand” you as a writer or artist…with the ultimate goal of leading to book sales. It’s a long term goal, not a RIGHT NOW CLICK HERE goal. No one likes the CLICK HERE RIGHT NOW guy, amiright?

Social media is one of the main ways you create your brand. Since most of your readers will never meet you in person, it’s how most of your readers get to know you. This post is gonna look at ways to maximize social media so you can give yourself the best platform. We’ll talk through some real examples, screenshotted below.

If you need to take a step back and get a basic primer on Twitter, check out https://bitsykemper.wordpress.com/2014/07/15/twitter-101-the-basics-for-writers/

General social media tips to support your Author Platform:

  1. Be you, all the time.
  2. Have fun! Every tweet/post doesn’t have to have something to do with writing or illustrating, but each one should still reflect who you are and what you stand for. Remember the part about the real you needing to shine through?
  3. Sorry to say this, but people are people. And by that, I mean selfish. I’m not judging. It’s fact. We are always asking ourselves WIIFM? As in, What’s In It For Me? No one has time, and we make decisions in a snap. You need to do whatever you can to convince me, quickly, that what you have to say will benefit me. And then come through. So don’t just tell me your book trailer is finished and give me a link. Tell me what the trailer is about, what I’ll see, why it’s worth watching. I need to know WIIFM or I’m not going to click. Even if I like you. I just don’t have time.
  4. Other people are selfish–but you need to be giving. Stop talking about how great your product is. Let us figure that out on our own. Your book really should be able to speak for itself…or at least let others do the talking. A tweet like”Another great review, my work is profiled yet again! Click to see the latest url.2937y5/iji…” gives me no incentive to click. It’s blatant bragging. But what about “What an honor to be included in this roundup, check out the other Best 2016 Reads by Buzzfeed at url.8724r34r/…” or “Thanks for the kind review, Donna, it was nice being your guest blogger this month. I bet no one can guess how many puppies were harmed in the making of that video! [link to Donna’s website].” Do you see the difference? One is “Look at me!!” Another–the preferred method–is “There’s something in this for you, have a look.” You want to be of service. Your book or link or review just happens to be one way to help. [See #6, below.] Continue reading

2016 NY Writers Conference: Who’s With Me?

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I’m headed to one of the largest children’s book writing conferences in the world: the SCBWI Winter Conference (why our annual winter conference is in NY [where it’s supposed to be 8° this weekend] and the summer conference is in LA, I’ll never understand, but that’s another topic.) And OVER A THOUSAND fellow writers and illustrators will be there too. The event boasts many top (dare I say famous) editors, agents, art directors, authors & illustrators in the children’s publishing world. It’s going to be a fantastic few days of learning, inspiration, and friend making.

The large mix of attendees is weighted a little heavily towards the beginner, with many in the intermediate and many many in what I’d call the “seasoned professional” category. The NY conference is a little different from other SCBWI conferences in that, given the proximity to so many publishing houses, it practically rains editors and agents. You’ll see them at conference keynotes, intensives, panels, awards ceremonies, heck, even elevators. Some of them just show for the Art Show or Gala Dinner. Many of them are either new or overworked and don’t travel much, so you won’t see them elsewhere.

If you’ve never been, and have wondered if it’s worth it, I have to give it a hearty YES YES, two cramped writing thumbs up. And not just because I love my NY roots and will find any excuse to go back. But because it’s a writing experience like no other. It’s not a pore-over-your-workshop-notes-and-guarantee-yourself-an-aha-moment. It’s a wow-I’m-really-a-writer-surrounded-by-other-writers-and-this-is-where-I-want-to-be-moment. If you don’t have one of those while you’re there, well, you might not be a writer after all. And that’s OK, too. Isn’t that an important learning moment as well? No matter what you walk away with, I promise you won’t regret your decision to attend. There’s a reason a thousand people from around the world will be at this thing.

Now if you happen to be one of these thousands of fellow conference attendees this week or sometime in the future, and are fearing for your life because you’d rather be in your jammies creating in the privacy of your home and not in the middle of a grand ballroom surrounded by all these cat ladies, here are some conference tips to maximize your trip.

Conference tips:

  1. You’re not going to get a contract (seriously, toss that thought right now), but you WILL make contacts. These connections might lead to a contract some day. But don’t pressure yourself, or others. Listen. Learn. Be present. Follow some new people on Twitter and Facebook (follow this blog!). It’s kind of like college-you aren’t really there to memorize the Periodic Table; you’re Continue reading

Is My Picture Book Ready? A 13-point Checklist

You’ve Written a Picture Book…Now What?

You’re pretty sure you’re finished.

I hate to say it, but you’re just getting started. I’m sure you’ve gone back over it, maybe several times, and made sure each word was just right. Good. Roll up those sleeves because now the fun begins.

Here’s a checklist:

  1. Before you think you’re finished, take a step back. Do a little bit of research into what makes a good picture book, to make sure yours is on par. Actually, do a LOT of research. Think of it as an investment. You wouldn’t start a business without first looking into all aspects of your competition, right? Read 100 picture books. Not classics, current within the past two years. They’re short, it won’t take too long. What’s common? What makes one irresistible? What are the price ranges? What’s out there similar to yours? What shelf does it sit on (Scifi, Mystery, Humour, etc)? Who publishes them? What’s their Amazon ranking/sales? How is yours different/better? Why would a publisher take a chance on yours, and which publisher should that be?
  2. Does your manuscript tell a story with a true beginning, a middle and an end? A descriptively beautiful sunset, lyrical wind chime, and colorful rainbow might make a wonderful poetry collection but it won’t fit well in the children’s book market. (I’m not saying that’s good or bad, I’m telling you what sells. It’s not worth the battle to try to change the industry, so in that case you might consider a different channel/market.)
  3. Speaking of beginning: Do you start off with a bang? Don’t start off slow and grow. Kids today don’t have time Continue reading

Pay to Enter a Writing Contest?

Van-Price-is-Right

There are some sneaky things going on in the writing world that you might not find sneaky. But I do. And I’m calling it out.

Writing contests. Mostly the kinds where you send in unpublished works.

It seems everyone and their mother, literally their mother, has some sort of reader’s or writer’s choice award. All you have to do is pay a small fee, say $19 to enter your manuscript or book into the contest. WHY ARE YOU PAYING MONEY TO ENTER A WRITING CONTEST? At least at the state fair you get a free fair pass in exchange for your peach pie entry fee. If it’s for charity, of course, yes yes pony up. But otherwise NO. As in NO.

What do you win? Let’s dissect a bit.

It might be bragging rights that you won a writing contest. That’s OK. It doesn’t have to be a trip to Sweden to accept the award.

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Maybe it’s simple a ribbon or actual award/plaque. Fine. Still not a reason to cough up dough. Don’t tell me they are charging you to cover the cost of the actual award. Oh please.

Why would you pay money to say someone liked your unpublished story? Will it help you move forward, professionally, in some way? Really? Don’t fork over cash just to have your ego massaged. Volunteer somewhere if you feel the need for that kind of ego boost. Or I can tell you: You are a good person. You have value. Your writing is great. I think you’ll amount to something someday. Really. I believe in you. Please don’t waste your money.

Ask yourself these questions:

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8 Writing Tips in 8 Minutes: Bitsy’s tips for the newbie picture book writer

Are you one of the over 200 peeps headed to the SCBWI CA North/Central 2015 Spring Spirit writer’s conference? (wow, that was a mouthful) Are you looking for some beginner’s tip? Take a look here…”8 Writers Tips for Beginner Picture Book Writers” (uh,yeah, that was a mouthful too…don’t that that sway you on my mad writing skillz)

 

Hope to see you Saturday!

Current Status of Children’s Book Market, according to SCBWI NY 2015

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Ah, so much went on at the international conference that I’m still basking in the fruitfulness. I’m pretty sure that’s not an expression, but you know what I mean. I’ve tweeted out much of the greatness. I’ve culled some more juicy tidbits to share, in random order:

1. Webinars are popular and great for those farther away from the masses. Expect to see more.

2. Webinars are NOT a replacement of in-person conferences, workshops, or gatherings. They are in addition to them. Nothing beats face to face contact.

3. Editors and agents find/book authors and illustrators at conferences, people they wouldn’t otherwise hear from. Repeatedly. Attend roundtables, submit your work for critique. The additional cost is worth it.

4.  With the field so crowded, editors and agents are looking for something that “blows them away.” Really good no longer cuts it.

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5. There’s no award for speed in this industry. Give your work the time it deserves.

6. Hardcovers, after a bit of a slump, are on the rise!

7. Picture books are getting shorter, funnier…”an economy of text.”

and, my favorite takeaway from the enter conference:

8. “The importance of what we’re doing will never go away”

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Thoughts? Comments? Bring ’em.

A book award makes me livid? Disillusioned? Offended? All three maybe

To be recognized for your work feels great, especially when it’s by experts in your field. Right?

Well you’d think it would.

[image from leavinglaw.wordpress.com]

I got a wonderful email from someone representing a (seemingly?) legitimate industry award. They said they found out about me from one of my Twitter posts. When they looked into my books, one stood out among the others, and they felt it was so good it could win one of their awards. They were excited for me to be a part of it all!

Please note they did not actually READ any of my books, just ABOUT them

The emailer stated:

We provide lifetime marketing assistance and low-cost exhibit opportunities among other things. First and foremost, we recognize excellent & positive products.

[image from gametimect.com]

Of course my *WARNING* *WARNING* BEEP BEEP radar went off because the very first thing they mentioned was their marketing assistance (red flag: they want your money). The second thing they referenced was recognition. Shouldn’t it be the other way around? At a minimum add the part about marketing assistance at the very end of the email, as sort of an aside?

But it gets worse.

I had to pay to be considered for this prestigious award from their panel of judges.

As in, pony up $300 per entry. A THREE HUNDRED DOLLAR entry fee. They were happy to tell me they could offer me a discount if I wanted to enter multiple books. !!! I’d eat up a years worth of profit just to enter (mediocre) books that were written in 2006.

[image from lawnchairnaturalist.wordpress.com]

I was and still am LIVID over this.

Is this common? Is this the going rate? Have I been disillusioned by common/standard business practices? I feel like kid that sees Mickey Mouse without his head on and realizes Mickey is just a kid in a costume, that he’s not real and never has been real. (Uh, sorry if that was a spoiler alert to any of you)

Anyone knee deep in the children’s book industry knows how little we authors (and illustrators) make. In fact, I have been paid less than $300 for an entire book/manuscript contract! (No, I don’t say that proudly) If this is what it takes to get a cool WINNER banner or sticker on the cover of my books, well, looks like I’ll stay award-less. I simply cannot afford to win!

Now I have a business degree. I understand operating expenses and all that. But this is like an Over-the-top Elite Country Club fee–overcharging people just so those people can proudly tell others they are members. It’s self serving and offensive.

Another analogy might be a cheezy self-proclaimed agent that has zero contacts and/or real experience that charges you to read your manuscript. This award doesn’t feel as slimy as those dirtbags, but it still feels wrong.

I am purposely not mentioning the name of the award. My goal isn’t to shame them specifically. I just need to hear from others what their experience has been. If you want to name names, please don’t do that here; email me their names and maybe we can start a secret spy detective club uncovering facade book awards. Or maybe we can help each other cry in our soup.

Until then, please be wary of emails out of the blue. Do your research before sending money anywhere (especially foreign kings that need a short term loan).

[image from wikipedia]

Even if Mickey puts his head back on, I’m still scarred.

Presenting at SCBWI Conference, April 2014

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Oh the joys of being part of a tribe. I had a great time presenting “Marketing the @#&! out of Yourself with Twitter” at the Northern CA SCBWI Spring Spirit conference (#SpSp14) on April 5, 2014, held in the Sacramento area. I was surrounded by greatness and the common love of writing children’s books. Being “on faculty” had its privileges too…allow me to show, not tell:

Here I am signing books right next to NYT best-selling YA author Jay Asher (@JayAsherGuy), as he enjoys a laugh with a conference attendee that just bought his book:

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Here I am next to author & illustrator extraordinaire Dan Yaccarino (of Oswald, Backyardigans fame as well as lots and lots of picture books) as he shakes hands with one of his many fans:

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Here I am in front of Chad W. Beckerman (Creative director and cover designer for Abrams Appleseed, Abrams Books for Young Readers and Amulet Books, as well as Mishaps and Adventures blogger) (@chadwbecks and @abramskids) and Louise May (Vice President/Editorial Director of Lee & Low Books) (@LEEandLOW) as they talk shop, with Dan Yaccarino and Northern CA SCBWI Regional Advisor Patti Newman (@PatriciaNewman) recapping conference success in the background:

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Here I am as Tricia Lawrence (@authorblogger), associate agent at the revered Erin Murphy Literary Agency, has a conversation with someone else at the after party:

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Here I am next to with the amazing, multiple award-winning, NYT best-selling author & poet Nikki Grimes (it’s almost like she doesn’t know I’m there):

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Here I am as Deirdre Jones (assistant editor and rising star at Little, Brown Books for Young Readers) (@DeirdreEJones) talks to BMOC Jay Asher (@jasasherguy) about his success with the hot selling Thirteen Reasons Why YA novel:

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As you can see in my rear-view mirror, here are art director Chad Beckerman (@chadwbecks), author Jay Asher (@jayasherguy), and associate editor Deirdre Jones (@DeirdreEJones) as they get ready to head to the airport:

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This may or may not be Chad approaching my car asking me to leave them all alone already:

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Ah, good times.

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