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Writing Books/how to get publisher's attention


Hi Vincent
I'm trying to come up with an idea to make my book proposal "different/unique"; something that publishers would appreciate but seldom see from other would-be authors.  I've written a children's poetry book and I'm in the process of assembling my book proposal. Wrote it primarily for my grandson(3 y/o) and  because I love words and metaphorical descriptions. This will be my first attempt at publication. Written lots of poems but all unpublished.  I feel like my proposal is pretty extensive in regard to its content.  Although children's books don't appear to be your specific field, any advice on the following would be greatly appreciated:
1. any ideas what would "wow" a publisher, something unique that would get their attention
2. generall speaking, how much money can one expect in advance, if any, providing a contract is signed? $2,000-$3,000 range?
3. how many "copies sold" is considered  by a publisher to be a successful book? I presume it depends on the type of book but is 10,000 copies reasonable?
4. is it more difficult to get published if I don't have an agent and would you recommend addressing my proposal simply to "Editor" or should I call the publishers to determine who specifically to send my proposal to?
5. i can't tell from the writer's guidelines I've read if I should find someone who can do the drawings and submit them with my verse or if the publisher will provide an artist. Do you know?
6. if I find an artist, should he/she receive half of any advance payments and royalties, or do I pay them a one-time fee?
Thanks so much for you help, or if you aren't sure, if you can point me in another direction I would appreciate it.


You're quite right... children's books are definitely not my specialty.  And I also confess to being utterly ignorant of children's POETRY books.  I didn't know there were such things.

Essentially, you've got two strikes against you.  The first is that the children's market is fiercely competitive.  The second is that poetry is mostly a dead market to begin with.

But I'll try to answer your questions, in order.

1) Because of my unfamiliarity with this genre, I really can't say what would "wow" a publisher.  But since children's books are short, I don't really recommend you go the proposal route.  Work on a good cover letter, then just send the book (or a large chunk of it).  I'd also recommend picking up a copy of the Writer's Market book.  I think they have one for children's books, but I may be mistaken.

2) Advances on children's books?  Not a clue.  But Writer's Market could give you an idea of that, as well.

3) Yes, the market/genre definitely determines what a "successful" book is.  And again, I have to plead ignorance of the market in this case.

4) You should always carefully select the publisher you're trying to go for.  I wouldn't think an agent would be vital in this field.  Adult novels, yes.  Kid's books... probably not.  Again, Writer's Market.  It'll tell you which publishers are looking for what, and who to contact.  Never assume the information is still current, though.  People do switch jobs, after all.  Always phone the company and ask if Ms. So-and-So is still the editor of such-and-such.

5) Generally speaking, publishers aren't going to provide you with an artist.  I suppose it's possible they might have some waiting in the wings, but I wouldn't count on it.  I'd take a look to see if you could find one on your own.

6) Arrangements for artist's fees are for you and the artist to work out.  It's whatever you guys agree on.

Best of luck!

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Vincent M. Wales


I am a speculative fiction novelist (fantasy, science fiction, and so on). While I may be able to answer questions on non-fiction, my specialty is fiction. Please keep that in mind when asking questions.


For four years, I taught a series of fiction writing classes in Sacramento, CA.

BA in fiction writing.

Awards and Honors
My 2004 novel, ONE NATION UNDER GOD, won BEST FICTION in Fresh Voices 2006, BEST FICTION and BEST YA FICTION in the NCPA Book Awards, and placed as a finalist in BEST BOOKS 2005. In 2002, my novel WISH YOU WERE HERE won awards for Best Fantasy and Best Fiction/Drama in the 8th Annual SPA Awards. My latest work is a trilogy titled THE MANY DEATHS OF DYNAMISTRESS (a superhero memoir). The first book, RECKONING, was released in 2013 and won the SF category in the 2014 San Francisco Book Festival, took second place in the 2013 Royal Dragonfly Book Awards for the SF/Fantasy/Paranormal category, second place in the SF category of the 2013 Reader Views Reviewers Choice Awards, and was finalist in Foreword's 2013 Book of the Year Awards, Fantasy category. The second book, REDEMPTION, will be released in early 2015 and the final book, RENAISSANCE, is scheduled for release in late 2016.

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