Wednesday, February 29, 2012

PubSubPackMo 2012: FINALE and BONUS DAY

Past promotional postcards
PubSubPackMo 2012 was an even greater success than last year. My mailing list has nearly doubled, my new postcards have been ordered and my labels are ready to print. I did things a little differently this year and it went pretty smoothly. Along with names I collected throughout the year, I used lists of publisher names I found online and didn't pick up the 2012 Children's Writer's and Illustrator's Market, although I did use past editions. Things are changing way too rapidly to rely on anything other than publisher websites these days, so all I needed were publisher names to get me started.

I know this isn't exactly an exciting topic and I heard a lot of crickets in my blogging audience, but it's important to stay on top of things when you're putting your best work out there. I came up with 26 new publishers to mail postcards to, 6 that want email submissions and 6 that need a separate mailing list. The last 6 look promising, but I don't have the right work to send to them yet. I need to create a new category of work to fit their subject matter. The main type of new work I'm considering is in nature, which I've done for other markets and would love to do for children's books. I will continue to collect publishers in this category throughout the year and create some pieces that could cross over.

Stay tuned. I'll be doing another post in a couple days to announce the details of my March workshop for writers and illustrators embarking on their own journey into children's publishing. Contact me if you'd like information sent directly to you. Until then, it's back to the drawing board for me...

Sunday, February 19, 2012


Stacks of books everywhere...
It's day 19 of PubSubPackMo. Have you discovered any new publishers? Are you feeling disheartened? Have no fear. This kind of research really makes you take a hard look at your work to figure out where it fits best. That's why it's important. As you familiarize yourself with different publishers, prospects might become more difficult to find as you narrow things down. Last year I got stuck about halfway through the month and threw a brief pity party for myself. (Read my post about it for a pep talk - How Do You Find Hope Again?) This is often when breakthroughs happen and new possibilities emerge.

If you're stuck, maybe your thinking isn't broad enough. It's easy to get into the mindset that big, well known publishers are the ONLY ones out there or at least the only publishers that matter. Not true! Setting a goal to work with the big houses is fantastic, but don't overlook independent publishers, small publishing houses, regional, niche, educational, etc. Here are some ideas to keep you going:
  • Do you have specialties or interests in any particular subjects? Some niche publishers and organizations publish quality kids books that might complement an interest of yours. Start with your state and work out from there.
  • Does your work fit the educational market? There are scads of educational publishers that may not already be on your radar.
  • Check out novelty and gift book publishers to see if anything in those areas fits your work.
  • Take a field trip! Research isn't only done in front of the computer. Take a day at the museums and go to museum gift shops to check out the great publishers that specialize in books of all kinds for kids. Jot some down to look into. Go to the zoo and look at their shops. Visitor centers are another great place, as well as independent bookstores and specialty shops of all kinds. Any interesting place that has stuff for kids is a great place to research.
Give it a try. Getting off the beaten path might just lead you to some new inspiration. I'll check in again before the end of the month with more tips on finding the right publishers. Until then, happy researching!

Saturday, February 11, 2012


It's day 11 of PubSubPackMo and whether you're researching publishers to familiarize yourself with the many houses out there or developing a growing mailing list for promotion, it's probably time to think about creating a database. There are many ways to do this. Here's what I do:

Throughout the year I list publishers and notes about publishers in a text file for later research. I come across leads all the time and it's usually when I'm in the middle of a job. If I stopped to research every time I found something, I would never get any work done. This text file serves me well at PubSubPackMo time, but it would be a mess to have as my mailing list. That's where the database comes in.

You can see my column for notes in
this partial view of my database.
(Click for larger view.)
Developing a database allows you to organize your information based on different criteria that you specify. For my databases I have columns for publisher name, contact person, and address, but I also have an unlimited area to keep notes about each publisher. In this spot, I list my impressions, what types of work they publish, guidelines specific to the publisher, what work I have that is a good fit and what I want to send first. I also have categories where I list what I send each time and the date sent.

A big part of setting up the database is using it for mailing labels. When I'm ready, my software - the same software that houses my database - takes me through the set-up where I decide which fields from my database will print. I obviously don't want my notes and some of the other information to print. My software gives me options for which mailing label I want to use and then adjusts the text to fit.

What software to use? I use open source software for Macs called NeoOffice, but there is a lot of software out there to choose from. A great place to start is with the most popular office software recommended for your computer. Read the reviews and technical notes to make sure you know what you're getting into. Many programs give you options and "wizards" to help with your database set-up, but if you're having trouble navigating your database software, there are lots of tutorials and videos online. You can also pay $25 for a month at and take a mini-course to get up to speed really fast.

One caveat about databases - software changes, crashes, becomes obsolete and otherwise useless. I keep my original text only file of all my publisher information as a back-up and I also print it out and keep it on hand - just in case. Over the years I have had several instances where I've been glad I did. Don't let your time and hard work be wasted!

I'll be posting about different types of children's publishers next. In the meantime - keep on researching!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

PubSubPackMo 2012

Last month we had an unexpected death in the family and our lives have been in an upside down state of suspended animation ever since. As all freelancers do when something like this happens, I've modified my workload to fit the circumstances the best I can. Even though I'm getting a slow start, I'm determined to get going on PubSubPackMo and I hope you'll join me. What is it? It's a month of children's publishing research. Researching one publisher a day during the month of February will take you a long way for the rest of the year and beyond...

In 2010, after getting so much accomplished with NaNoWriMo and PiBoIDMo, I decided to create an entire month dedicated to researching and submitting work to publishers. I really like taking a bite out of big goals one day at a time. I call my month Publisher Submission Packet Month or PubSubPackMo and it has made submissions a lot easier.

In the past I found I would submit to 10 publishers at a time and then let the whole thing drop for months because the research was overwhelming, but it's best to keep submissions going out several times a year so you'll stay in front of the publishers you're interested in. If it becomes a part of what you do all the time, the habit should be as easy as brushing your teeth and before long you'll have a good list to send your work to. From there, if you're producing great work, sending it out consistently and continuing to grow your mailing list, your odds of being signed on for a project will go up considerably.

How to start? First take a serious look at your work and think about the type of assignments you want to do. Do you have a strong voice or are you more generic in what you do? Start looking at the books publishers are publishing to get a sense of where you fit in. Look online, in catalogs, at libraries, bookstores, on Amazon, etc. If you are having trouble getting a clear picture of which publishers fit you, your voice may not be strong enough or maybe you have several styles that need to be promoted separately. You might even need someone else to look at our work and give you some feedback.

It's a common notion for newcomers to think they should get the Children's Writer's and Illustrator's Market and send to every publisher in there. How do I know? About 16 years ago, I was illustrating botanicals and thinking about going into children's illustration. Not knowing anything about the children's publishing market, I approached a children's illustrator I knew and told her my plan to blanket the entire industry with my samples. The look on her face was one of amused pity as she patiently explained why this was a bad idea. It was clear that I would need to research each publisher individually to match my work to the right ones. Back then, this generally involved making a lot of phone calls. Horrified, I abandoned the children's publishing idea for quite a few years and stuck with the publishing opportunities I had doing botanicals.

These days it's a lot easier to research publishers. Phone calls to verify addresses are rarely necessary and most submission guidelines are online or in the Children's Writer's and Illustrator's Market. Always make sure to use the most recent information you can find. Even then, information will sometimes be wrong. In my last batch of promotional postcards I had two come back for incorrect addresses, but it could have been much worse had I not been so careful in my research.

I will be posting throughout the month about the submission process and different information I find during my research. Feel free to join me and share what you find or ask a question or two. In the meantime, I'm off to research my publisher for the day!