Originally Answered: Want to publish a childrens book story?
I know this isn't what you want to hear, but unfortunately the odds are heavily stacked against you. You have chosen the most difficult thing in the publishing business - getting a children's book published.
Let me describe for you the current nature of the children's book market. I just finished ghostwriting five children's books for a very major sports figure - already sold to a very major NY publisher. The first is due out in Spring. I am currently working on my 7th one for him with others to follow. This information was given to me by a Senior Editor at the publisher I write for (one of the top 2 publishers in the country) ...
This is how the children's market breaks down.
40% of children's books published today are by celebs like Madonna, Jamie Lee Curtis etc. Celebs can get anything they want published. Their names sell.
40% are written by existing, established children's authors like Eric Carle.
15-20% are reprints of children's classics like Curious George.
That leaves at best 5% for new authors.
And that percentage is being cut into by adult authors like Carl Hiaasen and Mary Higgins Clark entering the childrens' market recently.
To that, add the fact that most of the large publishing companies are backlogged with children's books they have under contract but havent gotten out yet. It takes about a year for a children's book to make it out. It usually takes an artist about a month a page to illustrate. So most publishers have their production schedules for children's books filled out for the next few years.
As a result, most A list publishers aren't even reading childrens' books right now, which means agents arent either. Agents only read what they can sell.
There is very little room to break into the children's market. Only books that are extremely exceptional and have huge appeal stand a chance. Forget any holiday related books - the selling season is too short to make money.
Take a walk through any major childrens' book department and you will confirm what I am telling you. Getting a childrens' book done is almost impossible - and getting an advance for it is virtually out of the question anymore. Unless you fall into one of those categories above. I am fortunate to have the backing of a very major sports star to get me in the door with kids books. I write adult novels, but believe me I have tried with kids books before and failed for exactly the reasons I list here.
Ghostwriting has gotten me in through the back door, and now I will be able to sell some of the children's books that have my name on them. For now, someone else's name is on the cover. Someone whose name sells books - big time. Don't ask me how you can get a ghostwriting deal for a major sports star ... I really backed into this. It was a gift from Heaven really and it is a blast working with this person too!!! My mantle is now covered with sports memorabilia worth a fortune!! I love presents. It has also led to 3 other ghostwriting jobs.
That is the nature of the beast. You might get a copy of Writers Market and search for some small publishers who are reading childrens' books, but searching through the agents section, you will see that almost NO agents are reading childrens' books. Try for some small publishers that read without going through an agent. Expect a lot of rejection. Develop a really thick skin and learn to advocate for yourself.
There is one shot you have. As you are searching through that book department, look for something that isn't there. Research. Some kind of a topic nobody has written about. It would be something that teaches a lesson to kids in a fictional way, but that hasn't been done before. Believe me - there are topics. I found one recently. I did a teleconference with the publisher I work with and he was thrilled. He wants te book yesterday. No such book exists. If you can find a topic nobody has covered before and write an exceptional book. you have a shot. Jamie Lee Curtis has been very successful with that.
Always remember that before you send anything to anyone, check them out. Preditors and Editors, Absolute Write Water Cooler's Bewares and Background Checks, Writers Weekly.com and Writers Wall are all great sources and totally free - although if they help you, it is nice to contribute a donation. Someone has to pay for running the sites. If you do not see information on the publisher or agent in question, write to Dave K at Preditors and Editors, Victoria Strauss or James Macdonald at Absolute Write or Angela Hoy at Writers Weekly. They are happy to pass along any info they have to help you.
As for self publishing it with someplace like Lulu - it will get you nowhere. Self published books dont make it to bookstores. It is a financial black hole to self publish. I recently read about a woman who refinanced her house and spent over 70 thousand dollars publishing and promoting her children's book. She has recouped less than 10% of her money and is in danger of losing her home.
Childrens' books are impulse buys. What is out on the tables for kids to see is what sells. Kids don't shop at websites for things like books. They have to hold them in their hand and nag Mom to buy it. The only way to achieve that is through a good traditional publisher. Self publishing will do nothing for you but take money.
I have starred a lot of great Q and A regarding writing on my profile. You can access it and print out the pages. Start a notebook you can refer to. There s a lot of good information here and I add more as I see good ones. I am doing it to help others. Feel free to use it. Add me as a fan and get the regular updates. Keep writing. Remember you have to need to grow a hide as thick as a herd of elephants. There will be rejection letters. That is inevitable. But you are only 12. Gone With the Wind was rejected 50 times. Never forget that.
Just keep writing. Be exceptional!!
Good luck. Pax-C