The other big project I did last week was submit my book to ALL THE PUBLISHERS! Well, you know, maybe not ALL of them because most publishers don’t even take unsolicited submissions in the first place and I definitely still don’t have an agent yet…but I did submit my book to twenty publishers in total, and that is a lot!
That’s what the living room table looked like for a good week as I scrambled to put together the best-looking submission packages that I could come up with. I got info on about probably two-thirds of the publishing houses from The Book, the official guide to children’s book publishing that the SCBWI puts out every year. For the other third I just did some research on my own and Google searched the names of the publishers that I found on the dust jackets of the children’s books that I’ve bought recently (and yes, I am a childless adult that has regularly purchased children’s books my entire life, because this has always been the sort of thing that I am into!)
I mostly submitted to publishing houses in the USA, but I also submitted to a couple of UK publishers that I really admire. Every publisher has their own set of rules and preferences for how they would like their materials submitted. Luckily all of the UK houses that I submitted to were ok with email submissions, so I didn’t have to worry about figuring out international postage. As for the US publishers that required a physical submission in regular snail mail post, which were eight in total, I made sure to send them a couple of copies of my cards:
Also a printed dummy book, as pictured below with my first run of five submissions:
The first round looked similar to my initial test print copy that I made for the SCBWI Spring Conference, except the colors have since been tweaked a little by my editor, graphic designer, and husband Martyn Cooper to print brighter and truer to my original artwork. We also decided to opt for a clear covering on the back of the book that was just like the covering on the front, instead of just sticking to the default black back cover of the original print. It seems as though every time I get this dummy book reprinted it evolves in some positive way, because for the print round after this one I discovered that you can even get a clear plastic spiral binding instead of what I had thought to be the default black. The clear cover and clear spiral bound books looked so excellent that I still wish I had kept a copy for myself, especially since I don’t even have a picture of them because I had to mail them out while they were literally still hot off the press! Anyway, here’s that super exciting, shining moment when I was done packaging up that first round of five submissions at Office Depot:
Of course I remembered to include in every submission the full printed manuscript of my story and a personalized query or cover letter. Apparently query letters are meant to be really difficult and intimidating to write. Almost like you’re supposed to feel so threatened by this theoretical publisher that you are just crouched down in the fetal position, fearfully handing them this impossibly formal and clean document with a trembling hand while you defensively hold your other arm over your eyes. I dunno…although I do definitely understand wanting to follow certain guidelines to not come off as an ignorant tool and sabotage your chances, I also think that with such a wealth of completely contradicting information about “how to write the most perfect query letter” that can be found on the internet or otherwise, you probably gotta take all of this hullabaloo with a grain of salt. I did a lot of research on the subject, figured that I’m at least pretty ok at communicating with people in words, and that, come on, THEY’RE JUST PEOPLE…it’s not exactly like we’re dealing with those Sphinxes from The NeverEnding Story here! Life is too short for that level of anxiety. I just picked out what parts made the most sense to me out of a mountain of other example queries that I found online and came up with this basic format for my own query letter:
(Name and address of publisher.) (My name, address, contact info, portfolio website, and this blog.)
Proposal for Picture Book:
KRIS & KRAMPUS KRINGLE
Please find enclosed the complete manuscript and illustrated dummy for my children’s picture book entitled, “Kris & Krampus Kringle,” which I would like you to consider for publication.
Kris Kringle just wanted a normal little brother. Instead he ended up with the hairiest, smelliest, messiest, clumsiest, weirdest, rudest, and worst little brother in the whole wide world! If all of those things weren’t bad enough, Kris’s brother doesn’t even understand the most wonderful time of the year. Will Kris be able to stop him from ruining Christmas, or will his favorite holiday be wrecked forever?
“Kris & Krampus Kringle” is a 32 pages, 829 words, winter holiday tale about sibling relationships and tolerance. It is also a unique spin on age-old Christmas mythology from around the world. The character of Krampus was inspired by the yuletide monster from Alpine folklore, however my story is a re-imagining of both Krampus and Kris Kringle as brothers. The majority of the story takes place when Kris Kringle is about eight years old and Krampus Kringle is about five years old. Kris and Krampus Kringle’s mother, Mama Kringle, is the third and final character in the book and is also the only parent figure who is present in the story. “Kris & Krampus Kringle” was written to appeal to children of all ages as well as adults who may have a special affinity for Kris Kringle, Krampus, and stories about familial love and diversity.
I am both the author and the illustrator of “Kris & Krampus Kringle.” This is a simultaneous submission to see if this story garners any interest from traditional publishers, but if not I plan to move forward with a self-publishing company in the late Fall/Winter of 2016. I even have some ideas for a future sequel story, which would take place about three years after the first book and include some other characters based on Christmas folklore from Alpine and Nordic mythology. I am an active member of the SCBWI and I also enjoy illustrating other stories besides my own. I am submitting to you as an author/illustrator for this book in particular, but also as just an illustrator for future projects. Thank you so much for your time and consideration!
Sincerely, Bailey Quillin Cooper (Except this was my actual signature signed in black ink.)
I customized this basic query letter format for each publisher that I wrote to, because odds are, the reason that I chose to submit my book to them in the first place was because I liked how they were doing things. I made sure to mention if they had published a specific book that I liked, or if they had ever published any books that contained similar general themes to mine: non-religious Christmas holiday, monsters and mythology, family, new sibling or sibling relationships, unusual friendships, diversity, tolerance, and acceptance. I know that it might be kind of a long shot to imagine that my very “out there” story might fit in enough with the subject matter in most traditional publishing houses that they would be interested in picking it up, but why not give it my best try anyway? At the very least, the publishers will hopefully see my book and remember my artwork and maybe, just maybe, even decide that they want me to illustrate for them on another project someday down the line. We can only hope!
So now that I’ve submitted my book to enough publishers that I can legitimately cause a flood of rejection letters (even though most people don’t even send those anymore), you might want to know what’s next on the agenda for Kris & Krampus Kringle. Well, I’m totally stoked to report that a couple of days ago we placed an order for the first hardcover proof of my book from the self-publishing company, bookbaby! Let’s just say that I’ve been waiting for this moment for…quite a while!
It was such a good feeling to finally get the ball rolling on after nearly a year and a half of working on this! Once I receive and approve of the hardback copy from bookbaby in two weeks, I will be setting up a Kickstarter page to fund the publication, ISBN number and print on demand/online distribution service, and printing of the first run of 100 books! I’m going to have to raise a lot of money to fund this…maybe something in the neighborhood of $2,500 to start with, but fingers crossed everything will continue to run smoothly and my book will be ready to purchase by November-something of this year! I will continue to keep all of you guys posted on the fundraising and publishing process on this blog, so be sure to check back in every week or so!
And they even match her nails…CUTE!