What are the steps to publish a children's book?
September 14, 2010 6:12 PM   Subscribe

My (now deceased) grandmother wrote me a book, and I think it would appeal to parents and other children. What do I need to do to see if I can get it published?

When I was very little and my parents divorced, my mom and I moved in with my grandparents. My grandmother, who had an advanced degree in early childhood education, wrote me a book, on notebook paper, about it. She went over the standard things about parents divorcing, both loving me, and the extra stuff about moving in with grandparents. The language and the simplicity of the message has been with me my entire life.

Recently, we found the old book in storage. It's just handwritten, on notebook paper, with stick-figure pictures, in a binder. My first thought upon rereading it all these years later is that there is a kid out there who could benefit from the same story - with names changed, of course. It's about five notebook pages long, so definitely the right length for a bedtime story.

I could easily rewrite the story to anonymize it, or create a fictional little girl (or boy) to be the main character. How would I go about seeing who might want to publish the story? What are the steps involved? Do I need to find someone to illustrate it? For the record, I'd want to publish it under my grandmother's name, as she's the one who wrote it. I'd just be her agent-on-earth.
posted by juniperesque to Writing & Language (6 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I am not a lawyer, but I believe as an unpublished work, the copyright would belong to the estate of your grandmother for 70 years following her death. You would need to get the permission of her estate to publish a work based on hers.
posted by fings at 6:23 PM on September 14, 2010

You should also get an agent-in-reality, to make sure the copyright situation referenced above is handled correctly, and to put you in touch with the correct publishers.

Disclaimer: I work in publishing, but not children's publishing. Twice in the last year my imprint has done something like this, and both times the agent was invaluable.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 7:03 PM on September 14, 2010

Assuming we can gloss over the ownership of the IP -- probably murky at best, and maybe nobody knows she even wrote it other than you -- you could self-publish it via something like lulu.com. That would make printed copies available (through Amazon too and with ISBN if you pay up for the service) and you could promote at your opportunity/leisure.

If you try to get it published professionally the provenance of the copyright ownership will surely come up before it goes to press, and that after a bunch of hurdles that have become all but insurmountable for first-time authors with no introductions or history.
posted by localroger at 7:12 PM on September 14, 2010

I just got an email about a contest starting tomorrow which is running in conjunction with National Literacy Month and goes through October 31st, for first-time aspiring children's book writers. You could try entering the story there to see if it gets the attention of the judges and publishers, without having to spend any money (provided you have the rights to the story). It could be published and I think you can win an iPad, too. Details on entering are here.

Disclaimer: I may write about the contest on my blog tomorrow.
posted by misha at 7:14 PM on September 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'm not sure about the legal issues, but to be perfectly honest, it is very, very, very hard to get a children's book published, and that is probably the bigger barrier.

No harm in trying, though. As a short answer to your questions:
-To get a book published, research publishing houses and/or agents dealing in your type of book. Query or submit according to their guidelines. Then...be patient and realistic in your expectations.
-You should not find someone to illustrate it. If a publisher wants the book, they will want to find the illustrator themselves. I cannot repeat this one enough times.

This type of book might be of greatest interest to a smaller or specialty publisher. I don't know much about them, but Magination Press comes to mind. But really...research, research, research is your first step. Here are some good places to start:
Blue boards
Purple Crayon
Children's Writer's and Illustrator's Market
Editorial Anonymous
Mary Kole

It's a difficult business. Feel free to MeMail me with questions.
posted by the_blizz at 7:20 PM on September 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

For whatever record exists, I am her estate, executor, the whole kit n' kaboodle.
posted by juniperesque at 8:50 AM on September 15, 2010

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