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  • Writer's pictureTERRY ANN MARSH


I was online last week researching agents and publishers so I could start sending out my latest picture book manuscript. One small publishing house had this in their instructions:

Do NOT send your manuscript unless you have:

1. Revised it at least 10 times.

2. Had it reviewed at least 3 times by an author with publishing experience.

3. Had it looked at by someone with in-depth grammar skills.

Several other websites recommend you share your manuscript with different critique groups and beta readers, making sure you understand that Aunt Harriet, Uncle Bob, and Bunny, your college roommate, should not be the ones you go to for approval.

I actually appreciate the cautions and warnings that spring from these websites – even if they are a little snarky at times. I look at it like someone has my back, and they are trying to save me from wasting their time, and, just as importantly, mine.

I mentally went through the edits I had done on the manuscript I was submitting. It has been rewritten at least 10 times, maybe more. It has been critiqued several times through SCBWI, along with the query letter. Somewhere in this process, I learned that there is something called a picture storybook, which allows for more words than the standard 1000 or less for a PB. Which is good news, as it has 1800 words, and that’s a bit of a risk. But I love the story.

Then it occurred to me, like a lightning bolt from above – early chapter reading book! This required all sorts of editing. I needed chapter headings, places to stop the action appropriately, and the right amount of words in each chapter. Truth be told, it was great fun. I added a “Teacher Page” at the end, because, although it was fiction, there was enough natural science in the story to warrant it. Now, I have two versions of the same story, both of which I love.

It should be clear, though, that I have these two versions because I took the free advice of publishers and editors that was offered on their websites, and I went back again and again and again to edit the edits, so to speak. I submitted it to four publishers last week and will do a few more this week. YAY!!

So … thank you publishers and agents who make submission guidelines available. We are not just wandering and wondering around in a publishing maze, hoping to stumble through the right door. There are road signs (children – this way, romance – that way …), road closures (no unsolicited manuscripts – agents only), and warnings (do not send originals – you will never see them again!)

I have found people in the book making business to be very generous with their knowledge and expertise. It brings to mind the adage – a rising tide floats all boats. Thanks for your help!

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