Society of
Children's Book Writers
and Illustrators

How to Avoid Submitting Your Children’s Book Manuscript to a Publisher Before It’s Ready with Wendy Wax, Children’s Book Author/Illustrator/SCBWI PAL Member and Free-Lance Editor

How to Avoid Submitting Your Children’s Book Manuscript to a Publisher Before It’s Ready with Wendy Wax, SCBWI PAL member, Children’s Book Author/Illustrator, and Free-Lance Editor. This event was held at the Huntington Library in Huntington New York, on Sunday, November 3, 2019. RM Rivera took the notes.

Wendy Wax is a children’s book author/illustrator, freelance editor, and provides editorial services and consultation for children’s book authors and illustrators wishing to publish their manuscripts. Wendy gave valuable information to help members, both authors, and illustrators, how to polish their manuscripts before sending them out. Wendy’s experiences as both as the former managing editor for Kipling Press and a senior editor for Bryon Press gave members a unique perspective from working both sides of the editorial desk. As an author, Wendy also writes books for Harper Collins. She is traditionally published, too. Wendy also gave out handouts to the members, and a Q&A followed.

How to Avoid Submitting Your Manuscript Before It’s Ready Tips:

  • The Hook: A picture book must have a great hook. Keep your reader engaged and “hook” from the beginning to the end. “I suggest writing several possible first lines and making your final choice later.”

  • The Major Dramatic Question: While the hook draws the reader into the story, the MDQ is where is the character going, and will he or she solved the problem? Example, The Tale of Peter

Rabbit by Beatrix Potter. “Will Peter be able to escape Mr. McGregor’s garden before it’s too late?”

  • Conflict: Every story needs one. It can be anything, “subtle, intense, funny, or whatever you like,” as long as the problem gets resolved.

  • Showing Vs.Telling: Show the parts or the scenes that move the story forward. Tell the rest by using it as a “bridge” by “skipping over” extraneous words that are not important to the story.

  • Climax: When the story rises to the apex of the conflict, carrying with it the emotional weight forces the character to deal with the problem.

  • The Ending: Just like the Hook, write up one than more ending and “choose the best one once everything is finished.”

  • Test Run—Before Sending Out Your Manuscript: Wendy suggested authors read their manuscripts to children. Observe their reactions to the story. Are they enjoying themselves, laughing at the jokes, or are bored because the story is wordy and lengthy? Take notes and revise accordingly.

  • Revisit and revise your story, especially problem areas, and make your manuscript whole and seamless.

  • Don’t Rush. Set the manuscript aside for two or more weeks. Better ideas might pop up. We might only get one chance to submit a story. Be careful and take the time to polish your manuscript.

  • When is the manuscript ready? Wendy suggested, “If you come to the point where you are worried over one word isn’t perfect. It’s time to send it out.”

  • Should Illustrations be Included? Writers don’t need to submit them. But add one or two art notes to point out where an idea might be too abstract for the editor to visualize. Don’t add random illustrations to your story. Publishing houses have a stable of illustrators.

  • Today’s Kids”: Wendy suggested books should reflect “Today’s kids” unless it’s historical. Today’s children’s books must be relatable to children. Example: Their dialogue, the clothes they wore, the games they played, and the food they ate, etc.