Submit Your Children’s Book Without an Agent! *New List of >100 Open Publishers*

100 Publishers accepting children's books
100 Publishers accepting children’s books, no agent needed

No Agent? No Problem!

**Publishers accepting children’s books, updated 8/23/23**

Eager to submit your children’s book but don’t have an agent (yet)? Finding publishers accepting children’s books from unagented writers is no easy task! But not impossible. I know because I’ve been doing it awhile, having authored 16 books so far without an agent. I’m now actively pursuing one, given the tighter and more competitive climate, but am still pitching solo. Many other kidlit authors/illustrators that are staying commando too. Wait, I mean rogue. Agentless? You know what I mean.

image of "closed" sign symbolizing publishers closed to picture book submissions

As I get ready to submit my next round of picture books, I see more and more publishers that USED to be open to submissions are either closed and now agent only, are at capacity and temporarily closed until further notice, or sadly have shuttered down completely. Some have been bought out by larger houses so their policies have changed, some are simply catching up from the constant influx of subs and are temporarily overwhelmed.

What that means to me is that aaalll those great lists of picture book publishers I’ve bookmarked and found sooo helpful are now outdated. It’s frustrating to have to re-research every link. You feel my pain, I know you do.

[click READ MORE to read entire post and get to list]

31 Day Author Platform Challenge Day 1: Cross-Platform Assessment

Let’s assess!

Thanks for joining me on the 31 Day Author Platform Challenge. Have you read yesterday’s “31 Day Author Platform Challenge Prep Day” yet? If not, it’s on this page–hit this repost. The rest of us will wait. We need to be sure you’re set up and ready.

Is your notebook or online list handy? (The one we talked about in the link above?)

As we kick off our author platform growth, we have a choice: breadth or depth. We can go all in on a few, or do your best across many. All have pluses and minuses. For this challenge, we are going for DEPTH. We want to spend as time as we can handle on a few chosen platforms, in order to master what best suits our audience. At the end of the month, we’ll have better data to see if we’re reaching the right audience in the right places.

For Day One, as excited as I am to kick things off and start “doing,” our first task needs to be looking at the big picture. That means we’re not mass-posting yet.

We are going to start by taking an overall assessment of our platform, because, to paraphrase a scene in Alice in Wonderland, “If you don’t know where you are going, how will you know when you get there?”

Photo by Ann H on Pexels.com

Grab that notebook or open your To Do list app. Time to take some notes.

Part 1: Where do you stand today?

  1. Write down every social media platform you have an account for. Create a new page for each, writing the name at the top of the page. Let each one have its own front and back page to itself. Include (if you have them) newsletter, website, blog, FB, Insta, Twitter, YouTube, Mastadon, LinkedIn, True, Post…whatever you have. My LinkedIn account is often ignored and I wonder if I still need it. But I’m including it the list since my name (and brand) is still on it.
    • As an aside, I should point out I use the term “platform” several ways and it might be confusing at first. I talk about our “author platform”–meaning how we are viewed online, and I talk about “social media platforms”–meaning the specific app used, such as FB or Twitter. Sometimes I refer to the latter as social media account, or social media outlet, app, site, etc. I assume you’ll be able to follow along.
  2. Add to the list any account or platform you’ve been thinking about adding. For me, I want to start a newsletter. I also want to work on a YouTube channel waay in the future.
  3. Now go to each of your current accounts. On your newly-written-page-for-each (see #1) write down:
    • a. the number of followers you have for each
    • b. the number of people you follow right now
    • c. the audience you currently talk to and/or the purpose the account serves (you may not have thought of it. OK to write ‘don’t know’)

This is your starting point.

Part 2:  Where do you want to go?

You should have one overarching goal for the 31 days (like consistency in brand or more frequent posts). My goal for your (and my) brand is consistency. Not perfection. Not even X#s of new followers, because unless you buy followers, it’s sorta out of your control. You can do everything right but you can’t make someone hit “like” or “follow.”

  1. In your spiral or virtual notebook, write down one goal for each social media platform for these 31 days. You might have a different goal for each. Maybe it’s up FB followers by 30%, increase Twitter by 20%, etc. For me, I want to interact authentically on FB more. For Insta, I want to spend less time scrolling and more time interacting with the right audience. For Twitter, I want to EVENTUALLY grow to 10K followers, but I’ll settle for growing from almost 3K to 5K for now (which I know will take probably 2+ months if I’m aggressive). For LinkedIn, I want to figure out how to best utilize it. I want to start a newsletter and figure out YouTube.
    • If you want to work towards a certain number of new followers, that’s great! But come up with a goal that’s SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time) or it won’t happen. I mean, wanting to grow from the 300 followers you’ve had for 8 years to a total of 10,000 in a month is unrealistic. But 30% increase? Sure—if you work for it. A study by the Dominican University of CA showed 42% of people that wrote down their goals were more likely to achieve them. Telling people about the goals increases the likelihood even more, as it makes you feel more accountable. But I want you to write them down simply so you know where you’re going. Place it on your vision board, if you have one. Refer back to it often.

Part 3: Pick your top three favorite or most used platforms and look at some of your most recent posts.

What do you see? Use that newly-created standalone notebook page to write down observations. Ask yourself questions like:

  • When people visit my profile page(s), or see my posts, can they instantly tell it’s “sooo me”?
  • When they read my posts, regardless of the topic, do they hear or see a consistent “voice”?
  • Am I welcoming and engaging?
  • Do I come across as consistent, or haphazard?
  • Is the voice, font, colors, content all in line with my brand?

What will it take to get you to a place where you like the answers to these questions in all these places? Make some observations and come up with some ideas in your notebook. DON’T CHANGE ANYTHING YET. Just make note and write down on each page. (See why I said to give each platform its own two-sided page?)

Can you make these changes and create the perfect author brand in a day? No. But you can work on it from here on. (Am I perfect at this? No, but I’m always “me,” so I know that’s consistent!)

Part 4: Let’s look at time spent, and why.

That app you first went to and looked at in Part 3–why do you spend most of your time there? Who are your followers there now, and is the general potential pool of followers the right audience for you? Think about that for a minute before answering. It’s important.

Interestingly, I realized I spend the most amount of time on Insta, which is probably dumb, because I have the fewest number of followers there . . . so branding aside, that was an instant THINK moment for me: Why am I spending the most amount of time in a place that’s giving me the lowest ROI?

I need to ask: even if I had perfect branding, am I reaching (the right) future customers in this space? Am I there because I am interacting there for fun (which is fine! but make a mental note of it), or am I simply losing precious time scrolling and scrolling? Now that I see I’m there A LOT, if I choose to continue spending time there, I need to ask if it’s someplace worth dedicating more branding time, so that time is better spent. Or, I need to choose another outlet.

I also realized that my LinkedIn profile and followers aren’t honestly the best potential buying audience. BUT I’m not ditching it because it’s a GREAT place for potential work-for-hire. I need to make sure any and all content there is directed at a completely different audience, and modify posts accordingly. TBH I’ve made myself feel a little better about how I’ve been ignoring it, as WFH isn’t a huge priority for me right now. So I realize it needs to take a back seat. I can only do so much!

After reviewing and listing all your platforms…

PICK THREE PLATFORMS TO FOCUS ON THIS MONTH.

**Do not work on all of them, it’s just too much. Trust me.**

When I refer to “across all your platforms” from here on. I am referring to these top three.

We have to decide if a platform where we have low reach is where we want to concentrate our efforts, or if we need ditch and go back to a different one and revive those contacts. Maybe our website is where we have the most solid followers? We need to look into what it will take to reach our preferred audience at whichever social media platform we choose to prioritize. The choice should be based on a combination of what makes us happy and where we’re more likely to find our audience. *scribbles new note in To Do List notebook to do the math for each platform*

[As an aside, you’ll notice I never mention the ol’ TiketyTokety by name. That’s because as big as the chances of going viral there are, IMHO that audience, the demographics, ISN’T a picture-book-buying audience. Teens and 20-somethings and influencer wannabes aren’t shopping for baby books. But the mainly 30-to-60+ year old women on FB are! They are a perfect PB audience. And, they are (or can be?) kind and chatty and people I enjoy talking with. We can discuss this all you like; you may have a very different experience or perspective on apps. But that’s my take on why I won’t be mentioning that clock app over the course of the 31 days. If it’s been proven to work for you, feel free to include it in your plan!]

We want to look at AND clean up our branding across every site/app we have or are thinking about. We should start with the one that has the largest or most engaged audience, and work our way down the list.

Bottom line: as far as author branding, we should ultimately spend the most amount of our time where there is the biggest potential payoff.

And we’d never know where if we didn’t just take that assessment.

Now, since I’m an action girl and this feels like groundwork, if you’re like me you probably don’t feel like this is really “getting started” because you haven’t acted on anything yet.

Be careful what you wish for, lol, because I have an ongoing daily task for you. Pick either the platform you like the most (for me, Twitter) or the one you most want to grow your following (for me, toss up btwn FB and Twitter). Right now, open your fave and follow ten new people. Yep 10. Should be super easy. Don’t angst over it, just follow 10 people that you want to engage with. And do it again every day this month.

First action task:

EVERY DAY, when you wake up, before you even get out of bed, follow 10 new people.

I know you have your phone next to your bed, don’t make excuses already, it’s only Day One lol. You have time to do this. If you get stumped on where to find them, scroll for someone you admire, or an influencer in your genre and age range with a huge following, and see who they follow. See who follows them. Befriend those peeps. You already know they are the people you want to connect with!

Recap: Today you made a huge list of assessments in your notebook with one page for each social media site listing current number of followers and SMART goals, and you chose the top three platforms to focus on this month.

And you will follow 10 new people in one of those platforms–every day this month!

Helpful Day One? Too much to do, or read? Leave a comment and let me know.

31 Day Author Platform Challenge Day 3: Quote it

[Before we start, have you followed 10 new people yet?]

We’ve done a ton of thinking and a little bit of grunt work. Let’s take a break and do some fast action. Our Day 3 of the 31 Day Author Platform Challenge is a simple task. Remember those accounts I told you to sign up for and open? Today you’re going to create a gif/png/meme of your favorite writing-related author quote, and post it across all your social media platforms–even the new ones. You can choose a cool quote from a character in your published book if you’d like; the background image could be a page from the book or your book cover (assuming you have rights to do so–check first!). And, you’ll be keeping your author brand in mind as you do so.

Note: a gif is video while a meme (in PDF, JPG, PNG, HTML, XML, etc formats) is a static image. I use the terms interchangeably.

Creating the PNG/PDF

  1. If you don’t have a quote in mind already, do an online search for one. Consider flipping through old conference notes for something a speaker said that resonated with you.
  2. Go to Canva or Book Brush or Imgflip or Insta or whichever you prefer, and check out the (free) quote templates already created. No sense recreating the wheel. They might have actual quotes already waiting for you in the template itself. I got the above wording from Book Brush in the quotes template.
  3. Add the quote to the template as necessary, and who said it. In my example, it’s more a thought so I didn’t worry about an attribution (Book Brush didn’t offer one anyway). From a visual standpoint, I should have moved the quote up over the image of the boy a bit so the PNG isn’t so tall. But I got impatient.
  4. Are those template font and colors “on brand” for you? If not, change them to ones that are. I changed the template’s background color and font.
  5. Add in your website or social media handle, in a subtle 10-point or smaller font, about 50-75% opaque text so it doesn’t jump out, and place it at the very bottom or vertically along the side. In the above example, my URL is too large and too obvious. This way you get credit when it’s copied, RTed, or goes viral. You also get brand recognition. The quote below is more on brand for me, and has softer URL.
  6. Bonus points if in the post caption you add an interaction Q such as “What do you think?” or “What’s your take?”
  7. Post away! Add it to every account you have: FB, Twitter, Insta, etc. If you chose and opened that automation tool like you were supposed yesterday, this will be suuuper easy for you…one and done!
  8. Bonus points if you take the time in each platform to target each different audience with an interactive Q posted in the caption such as “What do you think?” or “What’s your take?” Remember, your FB audience, for example, might need the Q worded differently than your website audience. Yes, it takes more time to do that, but could be worth it.

Note: if adding to your blog or website, and you have the time or desire, add +/- 300 words on why the quote is important and relevant to you. It’s a blog, afterall. But OK if no; it’s fine to simply post the gif/png/pdf.

How long did it take you, start to finish? Leave a note in the comments.

That’s it! Day 3 complete!

31 Day Author Platform Challenge Day 5: Website homey

[Hey there–before we start, have you followed 10 new people yet?]

Bringing it home

Welcome to Day 5! Today we are going to apply your brand to your website. We’ll start with your homepage. Let’s tidy up the house so we are proud when company comes over. We’re first looking at your home page because you only get one chance to make a first impression.

Your homepage:

Open your website. View it with fresh eyes, as if you were someone that doesn’t know you, and is there for the first time. As far as the big picture, do you see an author brand? Would a stranger see it? Is your site a visual mess, or is it a place someone would want to stay and linger? Take notes on what needs to change.

Take closer inventory. What is the first specific thing people see and feel? Take notes on the following:

  • When someone sees it, do they get an immediate sense of who you are—but more importantly, is it welcoming?
  • Does it represent the current you, and your brand?
  • Are the colors right? Is font readable? Is there enough whitespace?
  • Is it current? As in when was your last post or update? How would they know?
  • How old is your bio pic?
  • Is every subheading correct, necessary, and relevant?
  • Do you have clearly marked Contact info and links to social media?

RIGHT AWAY, get working on anything that needs fixing. Make notes in that new notebook or document on any work you still need done. Give yourself a deadline to complete it. Even if you end up needing to push the deadline out, give yourself one. Trust me (and science!), it is more likely to happen when you hold yourself accountable by being SMART (remember–Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound.) If you don’t have time to add the icons and links to all your social media platforms today, write down you’ll figure out how to do it by Friday the 5th and complete it by Saturday May 6th.

If editing a website is above your pay grade and it’s not something you can immediately start on, contact someone today with SPECIFICS on what you would like them to do for you. Not “help me with my homepage” but “change the colors on the homepage, update my contact info, and remove this image.” Give them a (reasonable) deadline too – or at least a timeframe.

I just got done assessing my homepage, and FWIW this is what I realized:

  • My colors were too juvenile so I changed them
  • I hate the random, ugly ads that are generated in the free version of WordPress that I use, so did what I’ve been thinking about doing for years: upgraded to the no-ad version. Not saying you need to! Just something I’ve wanted to do and finally did, whew
  • My “Upcoming Events” list was waaay too long so I shortened it and put stuff from 2020 on a diff page
  • The “long version” of my bio was, well, too long so I pared it down (it’s still too long, but progress…)
  • My tagline, held over from when I spent more time marketing than writing, feels dated, so I edited it
  • My formatting skills are horrendous but I cleaned up a little bit at the bottom (it’s still terrible but it’s good enough for now. I added it to my To Do list to fix later.
  • I added a “subscribe” button in the top right column — please sign up so you get emails on each daily task! (it’s now on the top right of every page)

I was able to handle all of it within about an hour.

Now it’s your turn.

Recap: Take a birds-eye view of your homepage. What needs updating, changing revising? Take note (literally) of larger things To Do and change what you can right now.

Let me know how it shakes out! Leave a comment below.

31 Day Author Platform Challenge Day 6: Bio, Bio Everywhere

[Before we start, have you followed 10 new people yet?]

It’s all about YOU!

Yesterday was a big-picture assessment of your homepage. Day 6 hones in on your Bio, which you need for your website as well as every social media platform you’ve got. Let’s make sure you are presenting the best possible version of yourself (that’s still truthful of course).

I sorta cheated on this task, since my home page right now is my bio page, and I worked on that yesterday. But I do need to revisit the bios I have on Twitter (oh, wow, noticed outdated info right away!) and Insta (how long has that link been broken?! Oh and did you know they now let you add FIVE links on your Insta profile?!). I bet you forgot about those platforms and were only thinking about your website! But they are ALL our brand, and they all have bios–even if just five words. I’ve culled bio tips other professionals (I searched the web so you don’t have to) and blended them with my own advice. For example, Leaders Press lists reasons WHY the bio is so important and offers some tips of their own. You need to have one! So today we create (or enhance) it.

First off, think about your audience. Who is reading this bio? Is it parents, past and potential buyers of your books? Specialists from schools and libraries considering whether to book you for an author signing? Kid fans that read your books? Literally picture them in your mind as you write your bio. As we’ve talked about, different platforms will have slightly different audiences. It’s OK to vary them.

Secondly, write it well! Be engaging! If you can’t write a good bio about yourself, can readers trust you can write a good book? Remember that you are your own brand. Your bio needs to reflect who you are, so that when someone reads it, they “get” you. Some great examples of writing in your own voice are here offered by Rocket Expansion. Granted, those are mainly jacket flap bios, but you get the idea. This bio isn’t for jacket flap, which has an even more centralized audience—potential and current reader/buyer. First work on your webpage since it’ll be the longest. Adapt accordingly for Insta, Twitter, etc.

Third, don’t sweat wordcount. It can be as simple as a paragraph. Don’t bore anyone by cramming in too much information no one needs. (You’ll have stricter parameters on most of the other platforms.)

Lastly, don’t forget a CALL TO ACTION! More on that below.

On websites, I’ve always appreciated the almost-all-encompassing two or three sentence bio, followed by a few paragraphs of more-detail-that-isn’t-crucial-but-is-nice-to-have. That way, if your reader only has a few seconds, they can get enough from those first few sentences. It’s something they can cut and paste if they need to introduce you. To nail down the super short “elevator pitch” of your bio, check out Scribe Media (scroll about halfway down to Template heading). 

OK, let’s get down to it. What should you include on your bio page?

YOUR HISTORY

  • Where you’re from, and where you live now. I like to keep this generic, as in “from NY, now live in CA” as I honestly don’t think it’s anyone’s business what town or exact city I live in. Plus, with cybersecurity issues, you don’t want to give out too much info on yourself. But if you have an unusual city name, like Boring, OR – please keep it! Have some fun with it.
  • Personal info but IMHO only AS IT PERTAINS TO YOUR WRITING such as if you write about the environment and you have a biology degree. Or, say, if you mainly write male characters b/c you are a mom of four boys, talk about how they influence story ideas or creative work hours.
  • Toss in some “PERSONAL TAGS” like something you’d call out on a main character to show their personality or make them memorable. Do you love Orange Crush? Root only for the Mets? Enjoy fly fishing? Hate the Oxford comma? Show readers what makes you uniquely you. Be relatable!
  • Recognition or awards you’ve received. Go ahead and toot your own horn! But no need to be a jerk about it. “I was excited to win the MOMMA 2022 Book of the Year” is different than “I beat out 200 other mostly-lame entries to capture the coveted award that most other authors only dream about” which makes you sound like a poo-poo-head. Be specific, spell out all acronyms, and give dates/years (unless it’s over 8ish years ago as then it’s old news so don’t give the year). Bonus points if you can toss in a few kid-friendly things like “baton champ of 5th grade” or “voted worst penmanship in 12th grade.” Remember that note about being relatable?

YOUR NOW

  • Books published. If none, don’t say you’re unpublished. Consider saying something descriptive like you have “a middle-grade novel for shy girls in the works.” Find tips for unpublished writers from Gatekeeper Press here.
  • Your main age level and genre. For example, although I have CB and MG manuscripts that I’m working on, I am mainly a PB fiction writer, so that’s what I talk about. If I get published in the other age ranges, I’ll talk more about them. If you say you “write for all ages” then it looks like you’re unfocused. It’s more impressive to be specialized.
  • ALL your current social media handles WITH LINKS. (If you haven’t updated Pinterest since 2006, say, don’t include it.)

YOUR PHOTO(S)

  • Headshot that’s within the last 5 years please! NOTE: HEADSHOTS ARE TOMORROWS TOPIC so no excuses for an outdate selfie.
  • People love pets so feel free to also add a few of those.
  • Book covers! Add all of ‘em.  Feel free to have the pic linked to an indy book store where the book can be purchased—but do NOT say anything about buying the books. Simply have the linked book cover images.

YOUR CALL TO ACTION

  • Don’t miss the opportunity to ask people to leave a comment, sign up for your mailing list, click on a link to your blog or recent recorded interview, follow you on social media (with links), etc. Do NOT have the call to action be a sales pitch. No one likes that. It ruins the great impression you’ve just created.

Did we miss anything? Let me know if you have crucial info you think has to be included.

Once you hone your revised bio, make sure you update your bio’s main points on all your social media accounts. They don’t have to be exact; as mentioned, most people have slightly different personalities on each platform. But make sure they sync up and make sure they are all current.

Recap: Update and rework your bio(s!) as needed. Make sure each social media service you use has a bio that fits the audience (adapt your new one accordingly).

Happy multi bio-ing!

31 Day Author Platform Challenge Day 7: Headshots

[Before we start, have you followed 10 new people yet?]

Smile for your close up!

Broadway-like lights surrounding mirror of a makeup table

Day Seven of the 31 Day Author Platform Challenge is upon us. We’ve looked at our home page and bio. Now it’s time for…Headshots! (I bet most of you are clenching. Relax. You look better than you think you do. And today’s filters will ensure it!)

My first question to you how recent is the headshot you have on your website and/or the ones you use for social media platforms?

If it’s more than 10 years old, no matter how good it is, it’s time for a change. You can keep and still post that pic, but today is the day you’re going to add a new one that will be your MAIN headshot.

Since I’m not a photographer, I feel it’s best to let some experts give you advice. Some links are below. Common advice across the board is:

  • Be yourself! Let your “youness” shine through. Readers want to know YOU, not a fake version—and they can tell! Your audience needs to know they can trust you.
  • Don’t wear any busy patterns, or excess make-up or jewelry, as they detract from your sweet face, which is what people want to see.
  • Lighting is more important than you think! (It’s really the shadows that can be unflattering).
  • I have a personal aversion to the stoic arm-crossed and other-hand-on-the-face pose. It’s unnatural. No one walks around like that. I beg you to keep your hands at your side, or be holding a book, pen, etc. Unless it’s candid or silly, please don’t be touching your face.
  • Hairstyles change so fast that a hip cut today can quickly date your pic even before your book comes out. Try to avoid anything overly trendy.
  • Odds are you don’t need to hire a pro; cell phones today do an amazing job and even have good editing tools and filters. But a pro will make you look AMAZING and could be worth every penny. Make sure you get a reliable referral, you get a certain number of chances to get a pose you like, that you own the rights, and do the courtesy of crediting them whenever the photo is used. I once had a photographer who came recommended and showed up with backgrounds and cool equipment. She said the top images would come edited, but at the end of the shoot all she gave me was a file with all the raw shots; none of them were edited, and they were all crap. I didn’t know until I got home and opened the file; no calls were returned from then on. So…make sure there is a clause for what happens when you’re unhappy with the final image(s).

Here are some links to more expert tips:

  • Penguin Random House has suggestions to research what other authors in your genre have done.
  • Scribe Media offers examples of good and bad headshots.
  • Site Arcade has even more examples as well as a discussion on backgrounds.
  • Pinterest shows an array of kidlit author examples.
  • Splento.com discusses different kinds of shots used for different purposes.
  • City Headshots specifically talks to actors but does a great job explaining bad headshots and how to do better.

I suggest you spend part of today trying it out on your own. Modern cell phones take amazing photos. Have a kid, neighbor, or friend help. Consider asking for their help on editing as others will see things you don’t.

If you still aren’t thrilled with the results, try again with different outfit, location, lighting, props, etc.

If after a third time it’s still not working, book an appointment with a professional. I bet your local SCBWI chapter will have some contacts or suggestions for you.

IF YOU HONESTLY DON’T NEED A NEW HEADSHOT then your task today is to clean up another website page, the way we cleaned up your home page on Day 5 (go back and look if you need a refresher).

IF YOU DON’T HAVE A WEBSITE AND YOUR HEADSHOT DOESN’T NEED RETAKING, create a cross-platform post that includes your headshot, describing the time you had it made. What was going thru your mind, who was there, what you’d change, etc. Ask other people to share their experiences. Use this as an opp to open up and engage!

Recap: If your headshot is older than 5 years, or if it looks dated or unprofessional, redo it. Today. If you don’t need a headshot, use yours as a conversation starter.

Smile for the camera, now!