How to publish a children’s science book?
Now that I send off my story to a few kids to read it and hopefully give me feedback about it, it is time for me to ‘move on’ so to speak.
Ultimately, I want this story to be read by many kids.
And I would like this story to inspire children to think about their immune cells- how they try to keep them healthy every day and what it means when they are sick.
Maybe also to inspire some to learn a bit more about the fascinating world of immune cells.
But how can I achieve this?
Well, people should enjoy the story – the text and the illustrations that come along with it.
For that I need to publish it one way or the other.
But how? And what options are out there?
First of all, there is traditional publishing. If you find a publisher who’s interested in your story a whole team of professionals- ranging from editing, to layouting, book cover design to marketing and sales- will help you to publish your book.
But that’s easier said than done.
If you enjoy books and check out the publishers of these books, you probably know the big names of publishing houses.
If you think you can send your manuscript to any of these big publishers, think again.
You’ll get disappointed pretty fast that none of these publishers accept your manuscript.
The first hurdle: you can’t even send them your manuscript.They simply won’t accept any.
They only work with literacy agents. More about them in a bit.
Some smaller publishers however do accept manuscripts. And most importantly, some publishers also accept a writer/illustrator duo submission.
As my friend from ‘Het Fabel Atelier’ will do the illustrations (more on this soon), we really want to submit the manuscript and some sample illustrations together.
This is also a bit unique in the publishing field. As most writers submit a manuscript only and then the publishers will look for suitable illustrators.
Here I want to share some research on publishers who I found to accept open manuscripts (for writer-illustrator duos) and who also publish books about science for kids.
I will focus on English speaking (Canada, UK and USA) publishers here but I will do the same research for German-speaking ones too. After all, I am German and have ‘translated’ my own story into German as well. I might consider this option at one point.
Like I mentioned earlier, another way to get a foothold into the traditional publishing business is through a literacy agent. These are professionals who will help you with editing and preparing the manuscript and then ‘pitching’ it to larger publishing houses. Obviously, they have a foot in the door of larger publishers and, like real estate agents, take a percentage of the contracts you make with the publishers or a fee for their work.
Finding agents who are interested in your work and want to represent you is a totally different ballgame and one that I haven’t even started to do my research on.
After all, you can’t randomly approach 100+ agents with your story- you need to know if they might be interested in your work. If you actually have a chance to stand out.
For the niche I’m writing in- informational fiction- I find this tremendously challenging.
I am undecided to look for agents who represent authors from non-fiction genres- say science books that explain science to young readers- to fiction genres, ‘real stories’ so to speak. After all, as the word informational fiction implies- this genre lays at the intersection of both.
I need to get a better overview over which agents would be suitable to approach.
The last option is to self-publish. There are advantages and disadvantages to it too.
Hopefully I get to cover these last two (literacy agents and self-publishing) in another blog at one point.
It also depends on how things will develop once I send my manuscript off to some publishers.
My own traditional publishers shortlist
So, here’s my English-speaking publisher’s short list of the ones who publish science children's books (and have open submission criteria).
1. Charlesbrige, USA
Why? This publisher publishes high-quality books for young people. Their non-fiction books tend to focus on nature, science, math, social studies, biography, history, and the arts.
Check out these books:
The circulatory story: A book about the human body, to be precise the circulatory system
Belle's Journey: A refreshing new perspective of science through a bird’s eye. “Based on information garnered through twenty years of research by the author, Belle's Journey will soar into reader's hearts.”
The Quest to Digest: A magical journey through the digestive system “Follow an apple's journey through the human digestive system.”
How to submit? You can send a book dummy or a manuscript and sample illustrations by email.
2. Chronicle Books, USA
Why? The children’s books they publish cover lots of science topics.
Check out these books:
The Brilliant Deep: A book about the coral reef
Most of the Better Natural Things in the World. A narrative non-fiction about geography (again a refreshing new perspective for a science topic).
The Fox and the Forest Fire. Written by a fire fighter. Nice to see that the author is an expert in the matter.
How to submit? Submit a query letter, synopsis, and three (3) sample chapters.
3. Kids Can Press, Canada
Why? Nonfiction for ages 7–10; also welcomes submissions by authors, illustrators and agents from around the world. They have a life sciences section.
Check out these books:
Inside your insides. A guide to microbes that call you home.
Germy Science. "Children get up close and personal with germs (ew!) in this entertaining, thoroughly researched exploration of the science and history of these tiny, ubiquitous creatures. Heavy on the gross factor to keep readers engaged.."
How to submit? Include a cover letter. Tell us what you’re submitting, for what age range, and a bit about yourself, including expertise in the subject (as applicable) and any writing experience.
4. Quarto (kids), UK
Why? They have kids’ section for Health & Nature. They have a lot of science (non-fiction) books.
Check out these books:
Human Body: Your Digestive System. The title says it all :)
Sydney the Seal Saves the Sea. Science explained through narratives of a seal.
Little Turtle Turns the Tide. Again a nice perspective of science explained through the eye’s of a turtle.
Winter Sleep: A Hibernation Story. "A book to learn about hibernation with extra information pages at the end." I like this setup as I envision my book to be structured similarly.
How to submit? A very thorough book proposal including author/designer introduction with qualifications, outlining the author/designer’s networks (social media), an overview of the proposed idea/concept, visual materials (artwork) that communicate the tone and concept, market information (including targeted audience), an overview over the competition and a proposed plan for promotion.
(This submission sounds like a project in itself.)
5. Flying Eye Books, UK
Why? Children’s storytelling and non-fiction
Check out these books:
Professor Astro Cat’s Human Body Odyssey A whole series of books about different topics.
They have a lot of non-fiction with beautiful illustrations (non-fiction might not be the right category for me, but let’s see).
How to submit? A brief summary and overview of your project and a minimum of two finished double page spreads (incl. artwork).
6. Holiday House, USA
Why? Children’s books with science focus.
Check out this book:
Nine Months: Before a Baby Is Born. A book about the 9 months journey of a fetus in the mother’s womb. A completely different perspective at this topic.
How to submit? Query letter in the email and attached your manuscript including illustrations
Science books with a new perspective
Lots of these listed publishers now have ‘sciency’ books that show us a new perspective of the topics they cover. As I’ve written before I was really missing this in children’s science books, or science books for adults for that matter.
By putting Didi, the immune cell into the spotlight and letting her tell you the story, I want to change your own perspective: what you think and feel about your own immune cells.
I think that it can be a very powerful tool to choose the perspective of the subject itself.
What do you think?
Do you know of science books that do that?
Do you want to see Didi being published?
So, no matter the route I chose to publish, two things are certain.
I. It takes time to orientate yourself in this ‘new world’, to learn all about it.
II. In all of these scenarios the writer/illustrator needs a community of people who support their work.
In our times this means I and my friend need to fall back on our own own network, on our followers on social media. For the publishers (but also if we decide to self-publish) this indicates them the potential reach we can have with our work.
Come to think of it, the marketing department of a traditional publishing house has a lot of power. If they think nobody is interested in this particular book, they won’t sell it. This makes a lot of sense.
If you like to see the story of Didi, the immune cell being published, for it to make it into the hands of kids and their parents, please support us.
You can do this by subscribing to the blog (use the sign up bottom on the top), by following me on LinkedIn or twitter (if you don’t do that already) and by telling your friends and family about this project :)