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Four tips for aspiring picture book authors

The picture book market is competitive and, increasingly over-saturated. So, if you're an aspiring author, what can you do to help your work stand out?

Do your research

Remember that knowledge is power! Building an awareness of the picture book market is essential in helping you to know where your writing fits within it. It's also extremely useful to see what books are already out there. In my day job as an editor, there have been times when people have pitched ideas to me that are very similar to books I've already published. Obviously it's impossible for you to be aware of every book out there, but making a conscious effort to keep an eye on new publications (even if it's just by following publishers on social media) will help you save time and also make sure your ideas stand out.

How do you feel about trends? Because some publishers love them! A trend-led book can be a great thing, if it's done right, and keeping an eye on trend animals or themes, for example, would be no bad thing. Some authors love writing trend-led books. Some don't. Some like to write a variety - and each to their own, eh?

If trends aren't for you, think about every day life - what you're experiencing, what you're feeling, what's important to you - and how that could translate into a children's book.

Know your publishers

I said this in the "Four tips for aspiring illustrators" post, but different publishers have different personalities, and that is reflected in the books they publish. They're all looking for slightly different things to begin with, and what they're looking for can also change from one year to the next. So it pays to pay attention. When you do your market research, are there certain books that you particularly like? Have a look at who published them - you'll see the publisher logo on the spine, cover or on the imprint page (a couple of pages in). Maybe your writing would work for that publisher too? The main thing I'm trying to get across here is that if you have a wonderful, lyrical story about, say, the beauty of a flower, then a publisher that often publishes very obvious, commercial books may not see the value in that particular idea. So, again, pay attention to what publishers are doing and consider what that means about the books they commission.

That said, it's always worth trying some wildcard submissions. But publishing as a business is probably a lot more focussed than you might think - and if the industry is that way, then why not be that way too?

Make it obvious

Whether you write about poops and parps (in my day-to-day, I use that phrase way more than you might think), the soft and sentimental, or something completely different, remember these three things: clear message; obvious title; an idea that can be summed up in one line. Bish, bash, bosh.

Get an agent I know this is easier said than done, but if you want to get commissioned then one of the best ways to make that happen is to get an agent. It's not the only way. But it is one way. Good agents have contacts galore and it's their job to spot talent and know which publisher would be the perfect pairing for it.


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