I get a lot of questions and requests through this site. Here are the answers to some of the most common…

Can you illustrate my book?

Unfortunately, my schedule (my editor, my family, etc.) just doesn’t allow me to take on any new projects. If you’re looking to illustrate your manuscript before you send it to a publisher, you should understand that most publisher don’t want to receive illustrated submissions. Rather, they decide whether or not to buy a story based strictly on the text; the illustrator comes later, and is usually selected by the publisher. For more information on this process, I recommend this article: http://www.underdown.org/picture-books-illustrations.htm

Can you take a look at my manuscript?

Due to the number of requests I get, I’m afraid this just isn’t possible. I recommend trying to connect with a local group of writers and prospective writers where you can get together to critique and workshop ideas. SCBWI and similar organizations can be a big help in this area, as can local colleges and libraries. Ask around – the odds are there’s a group in your area that would welcome a new voice.

I’ve written a manuscript and want to get it published. What do I do next?

Again, I’m going to pass this over to Harold Underdown. His Purple Crayon website has numerous articles which cover this question much better than I ever could. Here’s a sampling:

I’m a writer, not an illustrator. Do I need pictures when I submit my story to a publisher?

Not at all. In fact, most publishers prefer to receive a manuscript without pictures. (See above)

How do I find a publisher?

A good place to start is The Children’s Writer’s and Illustrator’s Market. This book, updated yearly (the link above is for the 2015 edition, so there may be a newer version), gives the most thorough listing of publishers, what they’re looking for, and were to send it.

Do I need to copyright my work before I send it to a publisher? What if they steal my idea?

First of all, understand that publishing is a buyer’s market. Publishers have no shortage of ideas for books, and they don’t need to steal yours. (One of my editors told me he receives nearly 8,000 submissions every year.) As far as copyright is concerned, here’s what the U.S. Copyright Office has to say:

Your work is under copyright protection the moment it is created and fixed in a tangible form that it is perceptible either directly or with the aid of a machine or device.

In other words, the second you draw that picture or type out that manuscript, it’s legally yours and protected by copyright law.

However – and this is important – registering your work with the copyright office affords you significant additional legal protection.

Here’s a great article from the Graphic Artists Guild:

There’s also much more at the U.S. Copyright Office site.

Do I need an agent?

The problem with agents, as it was once explained to me, is that you may feel like you need an agent to get your first book published, but most agents won’t be interested in you until you have your first book published. It’s a classic Catch-22.

Fortunately, there are plenty of publishers out there who will look at your work if you don’t have an agent. The Children’s Writer’s and Illustrator’s Market identifies all the submission guidelines for each publisher, so it’s easy to target the ones that fit you best.

Can you recommend some good books on writing?

Yes, I can. Here are some of my favorites:

The Elements of Style by William Strunk and E. B. White

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King

Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott

Maps of the Imagination: The Writer as Cartographer by Peter Turchi

The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles by Stephen Pressfield