My Adventures with Querying a Picture Book

Apparently, getting a publisher or agent is no problem at all. I have talked to two writers (neither has yet started the querying process) and was informed that getting an agent or publisher is a piece of cake.

#1, a lady I don’t know very well but who is apparently the friend of a published author, told me that all you have to do is decide what company you want to write for and get on their website to read their criteria. Then, write your novel to fit the criteria.

Easier said then done. Here is the guidelines for Harlequin Series Digital First:

Stories can be any word length above 10,000 words.

*Authors have always been the innovators in publishing. Do you have a trilogy that just never fit anywhere? Do you have a burning idea that keeps you up at night, but there has been no market for it? Now is the time to submit as we commit to the freedom to experiment in digital publishing. (

My dream is to write for Harlequin. And I do plan to submit to them in the future (obviously not for the picture book referenced in the title). But, this criteria is vague. Many many many books could fit into these categories. I bet they receive thousands of queries a year. And I bet it is a small percentage that get published.

 So, author # 1, I want to say that things are a bit more complicated than simply deciding who you want to write for and then writing around their criteria.

Author # 2 is my brother. My brother is an all around renaissance man. He has put out a demo CD with music that he wrote and performed. He is a painter. He has a masters degree in math. And he is working on a dystopian novel. 

We have talked at length about all things books. He says that from everything he reads it is fairly easy to find a publisher as long as you have a semi interesting story. Publishers are apparently growing on trees and desperate for any story that they can find that doesn’t totally suck. 

Maybe author 1 and 2 are right. But I can say with confidence that what they have been told is not true in the children’s picture book market.

I have spent over 4 hours with the 2012 Children’s Writers and Illustrators Market.

So far, I have sent only 9 queries (this number is to agents and publishers combined). And believe it or not I am running out of places to send queries. About 70% of the publishers listed are not taking unsolicited queries, unagented, or unpublished authors. Another 5% or so want writer and illustrator teams. 

Of the listed agents, many were not accepting new clients either. A few accept queries but admit that they don’t usually find new authors through that process. One insisted that a writer not query unless they had taken professional classes on writing children’s books and had written at least 3. 

It is a little discouraging that the market I am trying to break into has so few prospects. Especially when I really believe in my stories. 

I am going to press on. In another 2 hours I will have gone through every listing that my books fit into. There will not be anyone else left to query. 

Maybe the right agent/publisher will read my query letter. Maybe they won’t. 

But, I can say with some authority (after already having 5 of the 9 queries rejected) that getting published is not nearly as easy as author 1 and 2 think. At least, not if you are writing children’s picture books.

Any authors out there have any query experiences they would like to share?



About authorjanebnight

Hello. I am Jane B. Night. I am a writer and also one of the owners of BZ Publishing LLC.
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