Submitting picture book texts isn’t all that different to submitting other types of manuscripts. You have to do your homework first — ie identify which publishers do *your* kind of picture book, (you can do this by browsing in the children’s section of a large book store). You also want to get the correct address and *current* name of the aquisitions editor at each house. You can begin this process by looking up the publishers in Literary Market Place ( a huge tome available in the reference section of most public libraries). Copy down the name of the editor listed, but don’t assume it’s current — they change with alarming frequency. When I was still submitting unagented material I would always phone the publisher first and just ask the receptionist if Jane Smith was still the aquisitions editor for children’s manuscripts. Also ask how to *spell* the name and ask which salutation to use (ie Ms, Professor, Dr. etc). Little details like this can make all the difference in the world as to whether you letter even gets opened. Now, what to send. Most large and medium sized publishers will not take unsolicited manuscripts, so the key is to become solicited. Your first correspondence with these publishers should be a brief letter (and SASE) requesting a copy of their current catalogue. In return, you’ll get not only a good idea of the kinds of things that they’ve published lately, but you might get another *name* (ie someone may sign the return correspondence) — keep that name on file for future reference.
To these publishers who don’t take unsolicited submissions, you’ll want to write a well crafted query letter that is no longer than one page. In the letter you’ll mention a one line synopsis of your story, who the targeted market is, the length, and why this particular publisher would be interested in it (ie say something like, “In the tradition of your previous picture books, YOUNG MOTHER and THE APPLE, my story ____, appeals to ___). If you’ve published before, mention what and when in your query too. If you’ve published lots, condense (ie hundreds of my children’s stories have appeared in ___ over the years). And of course, along with your one page query, you’ll send a SASE. Queries can be sent out in multiples — aim to send out about a dozen a week for awhile. Most of the publishers you query in this way will send you a form letter stating that they’re not looking at manuscripts for picture books at the present time. This is why you have to send out lots. Hopefully, a few publishers will be intrigued enough with your query to request the manuscript. This is an *awesome* occurance! Make sure that you refer to the fact that they *requested* your manuscript when you reply. You also may wish to give an exclusive for a limited time on said manuscript (this gives you an excuse to *phone* the person when the time limit is up — not a bad thing). The actual manuscript that you send in at this time must be professionally done. DO NOT include pictures or photographs — it’s the mark of an amateur. One of the worst things to do is to go out and hire your sister-in-law to paint some lovely pictures to go with your book ….Your story *must* stand on its own sans pictures. Children’s book editors have good imaginations and will be able to visualize without you supplying anything extra.
The format is regular manuscript format.
Depending on the targeted market, a picture book is generally anywhere between 50 words to 3000 words. My picture book SILVER THREADS was originally submitted at 3000 words. It’s being published at 2000 words — and it’s geared to the upper age of picture book readers — 6 to 9 year olds.
You want to use the simplest word possible that still conveys the proper meaning. The simplest picture books have a controlled vocabulary, but the longer ones have more flexibility. Interestingly, the picture books on the upper end of the age scale can use more difficult words than a chapter book — the rationale being that picture books are often read *to* a child whereas a chapter book is read independently. Also, the pictures themselves act as word cues.
Point of View?
There are no hard-fast rules as to point of view in picture books. It can be told from a child’s POV (and most are) but it’s not necessary. You can tell it from an animal’s POV or an adult’s POV — as long as the story appeals to your audience. My book, SILVER THREADS doesn’t even have a child as a character and the theme is serious (the internment of Ukrainian immigrants in WWI Canada) but it’s made appealing to a child by the blending in of a folktale of a spider and a Christmas tree. Hope this answers your questions. Please feel free to ask more if I didn’t cover all of your concerns.