If you've written a children's/teen book and want to submit it to me, here are some things you need to know.
First of all, you need to finish your book and make it the best it can be. You need to be both satisfied with it and humbled by the work you've had to do. Only then can you even think of submitting it to anyone. Writing is not primarily about publication; it is about storytelling and craft. I have no respect for someone with a single half-finished manuscript who asks me about lucrative deals, getting an agent, or what you need to do to win the Newbery.
Second of all, show your work to other people first. Join a critique group; take a workshop; share your manuscript with people whose opinions you trust. This is the only way you are going to get an objective opinion. Then grit your teeth and listen. One thing is for certain, no matter how good you are: you are going to have to revise. Compare it to baking bread. Would you eat a bowl of unrisen dough? Getting outside opinions (not from an editor!) is comparable to letting the dough rise, punching it down, letting it rise again. This is a crucial part of the whole process.
Finally, assuming you've finished, shown, revised and revised and revised your manuscript and are ready to send it out, do your research. Don't just randomly mail off your work. Go to the library and/or the bookstore and see what's out there, which recent books you've really enjoyed -- if they're mostly from the same publisher, that's where you submit. When in doubt, go straight to SCBWI. They can help you better than anyone else.
One more thing: The list below applies to everyone. No exceptions. No kidding. (I've had to amend it at least ten times thanks to various special snowflakes.)
0. Almost all of the manuscripts I consider are either solicited or agented.*
1. I do not edit picture books.
2. I do not edit Easy-to-Reads, chapter books, nor young middle-grade novels.
3. I edit (genre and non-genre) fiction and nonfiction for ages ten and up -- but not paperback series.
4. My Firebird anthologies are all solicited.
5. I do not work with teen writers. (If you are a teen writer, don't take this personally; publishing young is not necessarily the best thing for you and/or your work. To put it another way: You will always be a writer; you will not always be a teenager. Take this time to work on your craft. Some specifically teen-oriented places where you can submit are linked here.)
6. I do not accept emailed queries nor submissions.**
7. However, if I actually know you, or we have someone in common (who has cleared it with me first), feel free to check if you can submit your manuscript.***
8. But only a synopsis and three sample chapters.****
9. And if you've sent me a hard copy, make sure to enclose a self-addressed stamped envelope large enough to return the manuscript.*****
10. Finally, please be patient, because I am always drowning in submissions. Expect to wait at least three months. (This is standard at most houses.) After that, you have permission to pester me.******
I am being forthright here because it's important -- I truly don't want to waste your time, and the more you know, the better.
* Please do not ask me how to get an agent.
** Apologizing in your emailed query for breaking this rule isn't going to help. Just so you know.
*** Except if you are a member of my family, immediate or otherwise. Looking at a manuscript is not like making a medical diagnosis or doing someone's taxes -- it's very subjective, based upon personal taste and opinion. Please don't put us both in a potentially awkward position.
**** A little aside about cover letters: There is no known combination of words that will send an editor into a hypnotic trance and make him or her offer you a deal. It all depends upon the manuscript itself. (And don't waste your time telling an editor how wonderful s/he is, and/or how much you admire what s/he has done. This is a submission. You want something. We're not going to believe you.)
***** If you don't enclose a SASE, your manuscript goes right into the garbage. No fooling.
****** Please do not call me to see if you can get around these rules. You can't.
One last note: I do not answer email from people -- especially people from my past -- who are trying to initiate "friendly" contact as the first step toward pitching me a manuscript. If you want to actually be my friend, however, that's entirely different.
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