Ask a Picture Book Editor

How to Submit Your Picture Book Professionally!

Part 1 - Don't languish on the Slushpile . . .

Don't languish on the Slushpile ....
So you’ve chosen your topic, you’ve written your text, now how do you get it noticed?

Don’t just submit to everyone from A-Z in The Children’s Writers’ and Illustrators’ Yearbook! Show that you are professional and do your research so you can personalize your submission. How?


But beware, if your book doesn’t seem to fit anywhere, there may well be a good reason why! Go back and re-think your audience and the market (See previous blogs on picture book topics and craft).

Keep current with what is being published through magazines such as Books for Keeps, Carousel and seasonal book supplements in Review sections of National Newspapers. Read blog posts and Words and Pictures.

Agents and publishers have different submission policies for different materials so it’s important that you do your research and submit accordingly. Sometimes, publishers and agents will have a ‘window’ of open-submissions during certain months of the year.

Also, if you have met an agent or editor or designer at an event, you may request to submit to them personally. 

So, how do you get to meet that agent or designer or editor personally?!

Network at events, masterclasses, conferences run by organizations such as SCBWI, FCBG, CBC and AOI to meet editors and make personal connections. Look at industry news on Words & Pictures and in publications such as The Bookseller for opportunities where publishers are looking to build their lists.

Show editors and designers that you know what books they are publishing. If you have a favourite new picture book, enquire with the publicity department who the editor or designer is.  

Remember, editors, agents and designers are people too, with personal tastes, preferences and lists. Also, be aware that publishing is a business. So, they are looking for commercial projects and authors/illustrators who are professional, have done their homework and who are fun to work with!


Not all agents offer similar services, so it’s important to consider what you are looking for and how you would like to work. This is a two-way relationship so it is important that you are on the same page about your expectations and that you get along on a personal and professional level.

What can an agent offer me?

Agents are in touch daily with editors and designers to find out what they are looking for. They keep up with trends, attend bookfairs and have an extensive knowledge of the industry. Agents can help you to place your manuscript or artwork more quickly as editors and designers will prioritize their submissions. Agents also deal with the business side of working with publishers, negotiating the terms of your book deal, contracts and rights sales. Some agents also offer editorial support and can be the person on the end of the phone when things go wrong for you personally or with your publishers. Literary agents will charge you a commission of approximately 10%, and artists’ agents may charge 15-20% commission.

Do I need an agent?

When submitting picture books, agents often ask authors to have a body of work to make it financially viable for them to take them on. Publishers are also looking to build new voices and will be more interested in you if you have more to offer than just one book. Illustrators will need a polished portfolio and, if they write and illustrate, picture book dummies, characters sketches and story ideas.

Finding an agent can be challenging, though, and so if you have made connections with editors or designers, it is fine to submit to them directly. But be prepared to wait between 3-6 months for your submission to be considered.

Should I multiple-submit my manuscript and if so, how do I do it professionally?

Different publishers and agents have different views on this, so do try to do your research. Because of long waiting times, it can be acceptable to multiple-submit a picture book manuscript or dummy, provided you let the editor know you are doing so and you contact them immediately if you get someone who is interested in your work to withdraw your submission or offer them the opportunity to review it.

Can I chase up editors/designers?

Yes, you absolutely can chase editors and designers, but out of experience, keep chasing emails to a monthly minimal or the occasional professional phone call. Reading submissions and giving feedback is one of the nicest parts of the job, but ultimately, working on books that are getting published has to take priority so getting back to people quickly doesn’t often happen as speedily as publishers would wish. Bear with editors and designers and chase them kindly! The biggest way to ensure a (relatively!) quick response is to get your work in as tip-top condition as possible so it’s going to tick as many boxes as possible for editors when they read it.

We will cover some examples of the do’s and don’t’s of cover letters and what to submit if you’re an illustrator.

Natascha Biebow is editor, mentor and coach at
Check out my new online small group-coaching courses:



  1. Very useful, thank you! W&P is like my best friend, joining me for a coffee and a blether before my writing day begins.

  2. Glad you found it useful, Sarah! Yes, it's nice to have a companion like W & P, isn't it?!

  3. Thank you Natascha this is really useful info - I have been more and more professional with each progression of my own book, to the point where I am about to print the 2nd edition myself! I figure you can't sell something to an agent in a better way than showing the final product! That's not to say it will work, but I think confidence plays a big part in the submission process, and if you wouldn't put the money into it yourself then why would an agent or publisher? Articles like yours and W&P in general makes a big difference for author and illustrators building that confidence. Many thanks :-)

  4. Great advice! For me, attending SCBWI networking events has been really valuable. I am much more comfortable sending a manuscript to a publisher or agent that I have actually met and felt a connection with. Thanks for taking the time to share all your insights with us. Much appreciated!

  5. I'm glad you are planning to do an article on cover letters an illustrators tips. Can't wait to read that, thanks :)

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  7. Thanks Natascha. Very informative post. Like Sarah said, W&P has become a very good friend and I couldn't do without her. :)

  8. Thanks Natascha. Very informative post. Like Sarah said, W&P has become a very good friend and I couldn't do without her. :)

  9. Thanks Natasha. Very informative post. Like Sarah said, W&P is like a good friend. Couldn't do without her. :)

  10. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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