[UPDATE 12/10/2012: Also see How to Become a Children’s Book Author and New to Children’s Writing? A To-Do List. ]

A few weeks ago, I blogged about common mistakes new children’s writers make.

What makes me so knowledgeable? Not decades of experience, I admit. I’m new to the market myself (or I was in 2008 when I first wrote this), but I have spent this year immersed in the industry—reading books, attending conferences, participating in a critique group, and writing daily.

Yeah, I remember what it’s like to be brand-spanking new and more bubbly than a Kindergarten teacher on the first day of school. It wasn’t that long ago. I know you’re anxious to get published. I am, too. So let’s get started…

  • You’ve got a great idea for a picture book.

Terrific! Congratulations! Take some time to develop that idea. What makes it unique and appealing to children?

  • You sit down and write it out.

You are on your way! Keep writing. Like any discipline, you get better with regular practice.

  • You give it to your children to read. They love it.

You mean you haven’t edited it yet? Put the story aside and give it some time. You’ll probably think of new ideas and different, clever ways to express your story.  And honestly, your children are going to love everything you create. Well, except that experimental limburger and asparagus casserole.

  • You give it to your mother. She corrects a grammar mistake but otherwise dubs it “perfect.”

Aww, you gotta love mothers. Unconditional love ’tis a beautiful thing.

  • You give it to your neighbor. She thinks it’s wonderful and offers to illustrate it for you.

Unless she’s a professional illustrator, tell her thank you, but a publisher will match your manuscript with an illustrator. Finding an illustrator for your book is your editor’s responsibility, not yours. Your words should sell the story, and it’s possible that any illustrations you send could make a bad impression.

However, if either you or your friend have a professional art background, you should read up on how to submit a picture book dummy.

It’s true that CWIM is an amazing resource, but trust me, you’re not ready for it quite yet. And keep in mind that many smaller publishers, some of the most approachable markets for new writers, are not even listed in CWIM. (They may get overwhelmed by the volume of submissions a listing in CWIM creates.)

  • You print out a copy of your story, attach your neighbor’s illustrations to each page and mail it out to every publisher in CWIM.

Every publisher? Phew, that’s a lot. They each have their niche. Are you sure that your manuscript fits with their current list of titles? And have you reviewed each publisher’s submission guidelines? Some have very specific procedures. Don’t get rejected for not following directions.

Successful authors not only write well, they match their manuscript with the right publisher. It’s a little like finding your soulmate—you have to click on a variety of different levels. Some publishers like rhyming stories, some do not. Some enjoy quirky tales, others will cringe at a farting character. Do your research first.

Want to learn more about writing for children? I can’t cover it all here. I’m just one woman. With a husband and two kids who want me to fix lunch. So I’ll just turn you onto these great resources and wish you all the best!