Thursday, September 23, 2010

When research makes me dizzy

Monday I talked about how researching picture books is a lot of fun.  But book research is only half the battle when you are interested in being published.  You also have to research those people who may publish your work and/or represent you.  In other words, publishing houses (and magazines, in my case) and agents. 

For me, magazines came first.  With the help of my sister-in-law, Sue, I found the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI).  She has been published in a few magazines and told me SCBWI is the place to start.  She was very right.  SCBWI is a wealth of information and support.  Part of what they provide is a listing of children's magazines, their websites, guidelines, etc.  So, with that in hand, I've been able to find how to submit and who to submit to and get an education on the kinds of things they put in their issues.  Not too bad.

Then came picture book publishers.  Again, SCBWI has a handy listing of publishers and what they publish, how to submit to them, if they take manuscripts from unagented writers, if they accept manuscripts sent to more than one publisher at a time, and so on.  This is where is starts to get complicated though.  Because just looking at this list is not enough.  You have to put in the time to research the exact kinds of books each publisher wants.  This involves lengthy trips to their websites, libraries and bookstores.  It is also hard to keep track of all the rules of each publisher.  I'm a very organized person when it comes to this endeavor, but I still get lost and confused from time to time.  To add to my information overload here, I also purchased a copy of the 2011 Children's Writer's & Illustrator's Market, which contains another listing of publishers and their particulars.

Then comes the agent question.  There are quite a few publishers that won't look at unagented materials, including a lot of the "big" houses.  This is quite understandable, but it adds to the research tornado.  Do I want an agent?  Is it worth trying to find one?  Then I could just write and have my agent submit things to publishers.  But, it is difficult to find one (especially for picture book writers) and if I want one, it is time to start a whole new level of research!  There are hundreds of agents looking for different things, with different submission or query requirements, with different personalities and work style.

Oy.  So, in the end, I'm researching on many levels.  I'm not currently going to try to find an agent, but I still keep my ears and eyes open about them because I may pursue that down the road.  This path to publication is not for the faint of heart, or the research-phobic!


  1. This post gave me a good laugh - not for the research-phobic indeed!

    I was feeling exactly this same way a year ago, and I decided to break things down into chunks. First and foremost, I wanted to polish at least one manuscript to the point that it was submission-ready. I'd made the mistake of submitting too soon before, and didn't want to do that again.

    So while I was doing that, I studied as much as I could about the craft, the business, attended workshops, conferences, etc. I also started a spreadsheet of editors and agents. Whenever I saw one mentioned in an article or at a conference, I added them to the spreadsheet, along with contact info, submission requirements, what they are looking for, etc.

    Now that I am looking for an agent, it's easier because 1) I have something specific I'm trying to "sell" to them which narrows the research aspect considerably, and 2) although I need to double and triple-check the information I've gathered, I have it set up in a format that makes sense to me - all in one place.

    In the meantime, we have to keep writing and polishing! Not for the faint of heart...

  2. That is a great suggestion about the spreadsheet, Julie! Not sure why I haven't done that, as I am a total spreadsheet addict! I'm going to get going on that this week to try to get my stuff organized!