Children’s Writing Weblog

How to Analyze a Children?s Book Publisher’s Catalog for Submission Opportunities

Posted on: October 27, 2009

Before sending off your manuscript, it’s essential that you dig deep into children’s book publishers‘ lists to find the best fit for your manuscript. Your first stop is Children’s Writer’s & Illustrator’s Market published by Writer’s Digest Books. Note which publishers do the type of book you’ve written, and are also taking submissions from new writers. Then send for a current catalog.

Let’s look at the picture books from two hypothetical publishers:

Publisher A:

Total picture books: 26.
Picture books by type: 8 talking animal stories; 4 concept books; 2 realistic stories; 2 humorous stories; 2 fantasy; 1 holiday book (Easter); 3 nonfiction (2 animal/nature, 1 religion); 4 poetry collections.
Age range of books: 6 for ages 2-5, 12 for ages 4-7, 6 for ages 6-10.
Types of authors: Established authors (two or more books published)–5; famous authors (significant name recognition/ awards)–11; reissues of classic books–5 (3 poetry collections); new authors–5.
Percent of list from new authors: just over 19%.

Publisher B:

Total picture books:14
By type: 4 talking animals; 1 concept book; 2 realistic stories; 3 humorous stories; 4 nonfiction (history, biography).
Age range of books: 3 for ages 3-6; 11 for ages 4-8 or 4-9.
Types of authors: Established authors– 7; famous authors–3; new authors– 4.
Percent of list from new authors: 28.5%

Suppose you have a picture book featuring talking animal characters. Even though Publisher A has fewer new authors, it produces a greater percentage of talking animal stories. And you really want Publisher A to do your book. Should you submit? First, look at the authors in Publisher A’s stable. More than half are famous or authors of classic books (which means instant sales for the reissued editions). Plus, after studying the bios of the authors in the catalog, you discover that 3 out of the 5 new authors are either celebrities or well-known illustrators writing their first books. Clearly, this publisher prefers authors with some name-recognition. Does this mean you shouldn’t submit here?

Not necessarily, but slide it down your list. Publisher B has a higher percentage of new authors (no celebrities and only one known illustrator), a fair number of animal stories, and a greater number of humorous books. Since your talking animal story has ironic humor that will appeal to older picture book readers (who make up the majority of this publisher’s audience), Publisher B looks like a good fit.

Other things we’ve learned: Publisher B favors books about history and real people, as indicated by the nonfiction titles and the fact that both realistic fiction books are based on public figures (you’ll learn this by reading the plot descriptions). So your picture book fiction incorporating real events set at the turn of the century might be of interest to these editors.

On the other hand, Publisher A has published a holiday book and a religious book, whereas Publisher B has neither. So a religious picture book might work best with Publisher A, unless the book is a biography of a religious leader.

Clearly, analyzing publishers’ catalogs isn’t an exact science, but it can help improve your chances of finding a good match with an editor down the road.

Interested in learning how to write a book and send it to children’s book publishers? Come on over to The CBI Clubhouse for audios, videos, insider writing tips and much, much more!

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