10 Tips for Writing a Solid Children’s Book Proposal

by Meg Bratsch, acquisitions editor at Free Spirit Publishing

10 Tips for Writing a Solid Children’s Book ProposalGreetings, authors and would-be authors! Are you considering submitting a book proposal to us (or to anyone)? If so, as Free Spirit’s acquisitions editor, I’ve put together a few tips to review before you hit “Submit.”

1. Know who you’re submitting to. Research the publisher. Reference our books by title. Butter us up! Which of our books do you love? Which ones do you see your book complementing and why? What makes you an especially good fit with us?

2. Read your manuscript aloud. If you haven’t yet, be sure to read your book out loud several times—to yourself, a friend, a child, your cat, etc. It really helps reveal weak spots.

3. Say you are open to revision. Tell us up front that you will be happy to work with us on revisions to your work, if needed. (Every book needs revisions.)

4. Include illustration ideas. Unless you are one of those unicorn author-illustrators, your publisher will choose the illustrator for your book. But we welcome a few art ideas in your manuscript (just text; don’t try to draw them). We also welcome a short list of your favorite children’s book illustrators—as examples only.

5. Add heart. In your brief cover letter (less than 600 words), tell us why you wrote this book and why the world needs it. Get personal. Show your deep attachment to the subject matter, the characters, and the audience. Confirm your unique approach—tell us why your story is yours to write, and yours alone.

6. List at least five competing titles you envision your book sitting alongside in a bookstore display or online search. Include recent (published within the last five to ten years), well-selling titles and explain precisely how yours is different. Note: Even if you believe your book to be one-of-a-kind, it still has competition. Every book has competition. The Bible has competition.

7. Give details about how you will promote your book. This isn’t Dickensian England. We unfortunately can’t just sign your contract with a quill pen and mail you royalties a year later. We need you to use all your connections and all your social media prowess to help us sell your book. Will you join a debut group? Get an ace endorsement? Hype it to your 5,000 Twitter followers? Spread the word to dozens of relevant organizations you’re affiliated with? Show us you’ll be our partner in getting your book to readers.

8. Provide teasers to your other projects. Publishers love series. Could your book be part of a series? Or maybe a themed collection of other books you’ll write? What ideas do you have? We will be investing a lot of our resources to build you as an author, especially if you’re a novice, and we need to feel assured that you’re not going to be a flash in the pan.

9. Spellcheck. Remember: we are editors.

10. Be very, very patient. We read a lot of proposals, and we likely need to discuss your book with other members of our team—often a few times—before deciding on it. It’s okay to check in with us once if it’s been a while; just know we will eventually respond to you!

As an editor, I’ll always read your story first. That’s the cake; the rest of the proposal is mostly boxing. And the cake/story is my favorite thing. It’s why I go to work. I live for children’s books. And if I like your story, I’ll read the rest of your proposal, which will ideally make me like your story even more. So, make the box pretty. Make it simple. Make it sturdy. And wait.

Happy writing!

For details about how to submit a book proposal to us, check out our Free Spirit Author Submission Guidelines.

Meg Bratsch is the acquisitions editor for Free Spirit Publishing. She’s always looking for new board books, picture books, chapter books, and graphic novels with an SEL focus. Follow her on Twitter @FSPacquisitions.


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