Step Six – Find an Editor

If you want to find editors, the process is similar to finding an agent. You’ll want to look for editors who will most likely fit your work…Just like agents, there are some editors who don’t work with novels and some who don’t work with picture books. You’ll also find there are editors who prefer contemporary works over historical fiction, fantasy over chick lit, etc., The tastes out there are wide and varied, and that makes sense. Editors are as human as you are.

Books with Publisher Listings

Here are the publications that will help you get started:

  • Children’s Book Council (CBC) Member List (includes editor names and titles)
  • SCBWI publications * (includes names and titles)
  • Children’s Writers & Illustrators Market (CWIM)


Beware of companies that prey on newbies’ desires to see their words in print (author mills). Typically these publishers do not appear in my recommended resources. The Internet, however, is chocked-full with scams. There are publishers who’ll pay you to exploit you (sounds odd, but exploit they will-they’ll get you to sign your rights away and pay you a pittance in exchange. Or worse, they’ll coax money out of you). If you find yourself uploading your manuscript to a website, hold off. Do some more digging. Check Preditors and Editors. Ask the dear members of Blue Board or CW List. Do not give in to temptation.

Now we return to regularly scheduled programming

Within my recommended publications, you’ll see publisher submission guidelines. But let’s not be concerned about that right now. You’re learning about the different publishers. You want to understand who prints what kinds of books, so you don’t goof and send your picture book to a house that only does Christian novels. Once you figure this out, you’ll want to go and check out the actual books put out by these publishers. See if you can get a feel for what they print. Once you’ve got a handle on the publishers – the ones who might like your book – it’s time to look up the editors there. (This is where the CBC Member List and the SCBWI Market Survey publication come in handy).

Your objective – targeted submissions

With editor names in hand, you further your research by cruising the Internet. You stop by

You read every post and interview about an editor. You keep track of everything somehow (making notes of editors who might fit your work). And then you ask yourself why am I working this hard? I’ll tell you why. If you address your letter: Dear Editor – you may end up in the company’s ginormous slush pile. For many publishers, this isn’t the best place for your manuscript. At the very least, an individual’s slush pile is where you will hope your submission will go. Notice, I said the word TARGET. Target means you have some concrete information that leads you to believe an editor might like your stuff (e.g., you know he prefers humorous, contemporary stories). An untargeted submission would be one where you pick someone’s name out of a hat and send it off. Unbeknownst to you that editor doesn’t do fantasy at all. In fact, she hates it. So guess what kind of response you’re going to get? A rejection. Guess how long you’ll wait to get that rejection? However long she wants you to. If you still don’t get why you’ll want to target, [read post, why should I target my submission to a specific editor?->why should I target my submission to a specific editor].

So let’s do our best to save ourselves some time by doing the research upfront. If you can’t find an editor to TARGET at a particular publisher, then bite your lip and send it off to whomever the guidelines list (like Dear Editor, or Manuscript Coordinator, or whomever).

Breaking The Rules

Isn’t that breaking the rules though? Sending a submission directly to an editor when guidelines say otherwise? Hmmm…if a publisher penalizes you for trying NOT to dump random mail on them, I’d like to know who they are and I’ll list them here. There are some houses that are complete sticklers to the rules (but not many). If you do this right, an editor will appreciate you took the time to find them. If you do this wrong, the editor won’t like you very much. So again, play it smart. Don’t mail stuff to just any editor if you can control yourself. Don’t send them terrible writing [(read post, get a second opinion)->get a second opinion – critique partners, book doctors, editors, and more] if you’ve forgotten what this means. Also, do not send editors chocolates, toys, coupons to Dominos, etc., You want the editor looking at your writing. Not your gift-giving abilities. Also mailing anything other than a professional submission sends up red flags all over the place. (Of course there are always exceptions to the rules. BUT if you think about those exceptions, those authors who broke the rules didn’t have to bribe editors to sell their work anyway. So keep your coupons, your toys, your chocolates and be a professional).

The list

You’ve done your research. You’ve found a healthy list of editors who might like your work.

Now pick a limited number of editors per round from different publishers

Say you’ve determined you only want to do simultaneous submissions first. Read post, what’s the difference between simultaneous and exclusive submissions? I suggest you pick only three to five houses maximum per round, beginning with your top editors first. Make sure the editors don’t require exclusives. And keep in mind, you can’t just pick any three editors. Why not? Because some of these editors work for the same company. You should know large publishers are made up of many imprints. Penguin Group is one such company (Dial, Dutton, Viking and so on are all part of Penguin). Depending on the publisher, the imprints within a publisher might have “synergy”, meaning the higher-ups have an interest in what all the different imprints are doing. They make sure the imprints aren’t stepping on each other’s toes (in theory). Only one imprint can buy your book, so don’t end up in a situation where two editors from the same company have to duke it out to win your manuscript. If one editor finds out his fellow employee is working on your text, you’re toast. So again, don’t send a manuscript to two imprints within a publisher at the same time (unless you know for certain the imprints operate completely independently).

Why 3-5 editors per round? This will give you a chance to take stock of your manuscript should you receive rejections across the board. It will save you from burning every opportunity at once. Also, given how long it takes to hear from editors, there’s a pretty good chance you’ll discover ways to improve the manuscript during the time you wait. You’ll wish you hadn’t mailed the thing out to so many people at one time.

Now proceed to Step Seven – Send Out Your Work.


2 thoughts on “Step Six – Find an Editor

  1. To whom it may concern, I have over a hundred children’s stories, and over a hundred love poems. In the last six years two of my poems were selected in a contest, and are now in the Public Library in some poem book. In the year 2008 I was in an accident. I’m now retired and somewhat disabled. Living on Social Security that just pays my monthly bills. Laid up from accident I started to write stories, and found it hard to stop. I would be happy to sign them all over to someone who can get them edited illustrations and published. Of course I will like a little royalty of at least 25% given you 75% ownership. If you can help me with my stories please let me know. I have a very, very wild imagination for coming Up with stories. Several publishers all liked my stories and said they would sell , but they wanted money. Remember I’m poor from accident, I only have stories and poems to offer. Leonard r Griffin, 636-734-7441.

    1. Thanks for writing. I feel for your situation. What I would suggest is, instead of giving your stories away at a 75% royalty, consider self-publishing so you can keep it all.
      Self-publishing costs little since you only pay when you sell a book, and hopefully you are selling your book at a profit!
      To do something simple could cost you very little upfront, if you are really motivated to do a lot of the work on your own.

      All my best,

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