The slush season

We’ve found this time of year we get more manuscript submissions in our slush pile than usual. We think this might be because 1.) plenty of people—especially teachers and school librarians—are on holiday break in late December and have extra time to stamp all those SASEs and 2.) “Write and publish a children’s book” sounds like a fabulous New Year’s resolution, doesn’t it?

We don’t mind the extra mail—and yes, we do read ALL the submissions, every last one. And with all these new aspiring authors, there are bound to be questions. One we hear a lot is: When’s the best time of year to submit a manuscript? It depends on the publisher: some places receive unsolicited submissions for only a few months out of the year (and some don’t at all). But we’re always open to submissions—for us, the slush season is year-round. We read all the time, and when we’ve found enough book projects to fill our next list, we look for books for the list after that!

We publish books twice a year: our Fall list comes out in September, and it’s when we publish books about fall and winter holidays (Halloween, Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, Groundhog Day, and so on), while books about spring and summer holidays (Easter, Cinco de Mayo, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, etc.) are published in March on our Spring list. Plenty of our other titles have seasonal considerations as well—we make sure we publish our books in time for African-American History Month, the start of the school year, or even the apple harvest. Sometimes, it’s all in the timing.

But if you’re a writer wondering when you should send your holiday or seasonal book manuscript—well, “anytime” still applies. (One thing we editors learn early on is to have flexible imaginations. We’ll read stories about Santa Claus even during a heat wave in August.) Keep in mind that it always takes time to consider a submission, and even longer to publish it—this is especially true of picture books: an illustrator will need several months to produce the artwork. So if you sent us a Christmas story last week, it isn’t likely to be published in time for next Christmas. (Alas, your friends and family won’t get your book in their stockings, and you’ll have to give them all Chia Pets again.) And if you have a picture book idea about, say, the winter Olympics, you’ll need to get it into a publisher’s hands ASAP for it to be out in time for 2010—and at some publishers, you’ll be too late already.

What this all means, of course, is that your New Year’s “publish a children’s book” resolution for 2008 will probably take until at least 2009 to accomplish. So what are you waiting for? Read our guidelines!

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