“I have a book that I'm thinking about publishing. My friends and I worked on the book before I graduated and it's not 100% complete by any means, but I already have a mock up version of the book done and was wondering how I would approach publishers and pitch them the idea. Which publishers should I be looking at? Anybody that I should talk to in particular for something like this?”
This question comes up a lot. Let me offer a few quick answers and some links for more information.
1. I assume you mean an illustrated book. If it’s a short picture book, write the whole manuscript. Prepare a detailed dummy or storyboard, and a half dozen sample pieces of art. If it’s a longer book, like an illustrated novel, you can submit a sample chapter, an outline, and sample artwork. Make sure it’s really good. Join a local writer’s group to get feedback. Also, in your case, before you go any farther, work out on paper your business relationship with your collaborators.
2. Do some research about the publishers who have already published books similar to the one you’re conceiving. Start your approach there. Get the Writer’s Market books and check publisher’s websites for submission guidelines.
3. Usually you should send a very well-written query letter to see if a publisher wants to review your materials. Try to target your query letter to a specific editor, and find out what that editor is likely to buy. You can often find out editor's names in the dedications or acknowledgments of published books.
4. If you get a positive reply, then you can submit your idea. Follow the publisher's guidelines closely. You don’t necessarily need an agent, but you’ll need advice or help on how to negotiate the contract at least.
I recommend joining a local chapter of SCBWI, the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. They’re a helpful group who can answer any question that may come up about the submission process. The Author’s Guild is another helpful professional organization, but they only allow members who have published books or who have a contract in hand.
One other request: please don’t send ideas to me to look at. I honestly don’t have time, nor do I have any connections that can help you. But I wish you good luck! Never give up.
SCBWI website with frequently asked questions about getting a book published.
Another SCBWI page on query letters.
Authors Guild website.