Q: I already had my children’s book illustrated and/or made other products to go with it…What now?

I get this question a lot. And often the person wants to know 1) how the book can be picked up by a major publisher or 2) how to get the book and related products in the traditional bookstores.

This is a very tough question. But here’s the short answer. PREPARE FOR A DIFFICULT ROAD AHEAD. Why?

Recall what the functions of major publishers are–their job is to get your book illustrated (with the illustrator who will do most justice for your book) and into the bookstores. They’re really good at this kind of stuff. Hence, why they have such a hold in the industry. So why are you trying to do their job?

Read article, To draw or not to draw and this one…Should I self-publish my children’s book?

Chances are the quality of your work, no matter how much you love it, won’t match up to what a major publisher can do. And even if your book is as good or even better, do you have the sales force required to get it picked up by stores like Barnes and Noble and Borders? Probably not. Even major publishers can’t get all of their books into bookstores, and this is with a full-time sales force on their payroll! (YES, IT’S TRUE!-there is only so much shelf space in the stores.) So what are the chances little old you can?


So what do you do? Well, you’ve already deviated from standard procedures. The industry is not very equipped to handle that. In fact, deviation from protocol usually labels you as an amateur–someone who didn’t know better. Not good. Already you’re starting off on the wrong foot with publishers.

Here are your options:

A. If you only had the book illustrated then….

1) Drop the illustrations from your book*. Read my crash course and follow standard procedures for submitting a manuscript. Never mention what you already did. *The exception is if you are a professional illustrator yourself. In that case, read B. You’ll want to make a dummy.

B. If you simply must have the illustrations because you agreed you go in on it with someone else…then…either agree to split up OR create a dummy and submit the dummy to publishers.

Read post, How do I make a picture book dummy?

C. If you’re too far into the process and you can’t bear to lose other stuff like the CDs you created, and the audiobooks, and the stuffed animals…

…your best bet is to go the self-publishing route, get some decent sales figures, and either 1) work through organizations designed to assist self-publishers in getting distribution to bookstores. Or 2) hope that you’ve got enough momentum that a big publisher will listen to you and offer to publish for you. (Either option is probably one of the most challenging endeavors you can take on. A and B are a lot easier. C is for the marketing guerilla in you. If you don’t have a marketing bone in your body, forget it.)

D. If you’re okay with having no distribution in the bookstores and no help from a major publisher, AND you have no problems plugging your own book…

…You are an ideal candidate for self-publishing! You understand you will market the book on your own. You realize it’s not as easy as putting something out on Amazon and waiting for the moolah to rule in. And with the right attitude and hard work, you may just get picked up by a major publisher. The savviest of self-publishers who succeed in the marketplace can become exceptions to the rule. But keep in mind, YOU determine the book’s success, not Amazon or anyone else when you choose to self-publish.

3 thoughts on “Q: I already had my children’s book illustrated and/or made other products to go with it…What now?

  1. Hi, I have an idea for a picture book aimed at 2-5 year old’s (my daughters ages,strangely enough!)but instead of illustrations I was thinking of actual photos,possibly of my girls. Would this work do you think? I’m a stay at home mum and iv never written a thing,not major anyway,but I can’t sleep right now and the idea popped into my head! Thanks for any info

    1. By the sound of it, I’d say write the story first if you plan to submit to major publishers, without submitting photos of your children. Let them handle the art-(by art, I mean illustrations, photography, anything designed to help convey the story that the words alone do not do.) If you are a professional photographer and believe your story would only be served by the art you produce, submit a dummy.

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