I received a letter from an aspiring writer this week. She had heard me speak about publishers' interest in a writer's "platform" and wondered what I meant by that. She had completed a children's book and in consulting Sally Stuart's Christian Writers' Market Guide, had learned that her targeted publisher first wanted a query, and then a request for the manuscript would follow if their interest was piqued. What was my advice?
Since the purpose of this blog is to assist aspiring writers on their journeys, I some of you might benefit from my answer:
You can Google "Christian Writers Conferences" to find one that emphasizes inspirational childrens publishing.
In your query, Include a short synopsis, marketing plan, and bio paragraph explaining your platform. Your "platform" is how people will know about you and your book - are you a speaker? Expert on some topic related to your book? Do you hold public office? With my first book, The Distant Shore, I really had no platform (except my freelance magazine articles) and my only qualification was that I was a life-long Floridian and the book was set in old Florida. So I played that up. When I began shopping around Mom Needs Chocolate (to be released 3/09), I built my platform around my expertise as a mother (hey, I know whence I speaketh!) and connection with mom's groups.
Build your platform by marketing yourself as a speaker (start locally and then branch out), create a website, join Facebook and Twitter, online writers groups, send out a fun and interesting newsletter (sign up for mine at www.DeboraCoty.com) ...anything and everything to get your name out there. Publishers won't take a chance on you unless they see you're willing to take the reins on marketing your book. All authors, unless your name rhymes with bowling and you write about boy wizards, are out there today marketing their books. It's expected and required.
All the experience you mentioned in your letter to me should be included succinctly and without dates (you don't have to say how many years ago you did something, just say you are qualified to write on this subject because you have xxx degrees and experience in xxxxx. You don't have to include how many years you taught, just that you have extensive experience teaching in public and Christian schools. Don't use the word "several" about your acting experience, just say you have a background in acting, puppetry, writing, directing, and performing dramatic plays. (Don't use the word "skit" - many experienced stage people consider it an amateur stamp because they call them "sketches.")
Publishers often request a query first, then the next step is a proposal, which includes long and short book synopses or chapter-by-chapter outline for non-fiction, proposed market (targeted audience), unique selling porposition (why people will buy your book), your platform, marketing plan, author bio and publishing history, a comparative analysis of your competition (similarities and differences of at least three books), endorsers (committed and potential; you'll need at least two and get the highest-profile names in your genre you can), and sample chapters (their submission guidelines will tell you how many; if they ask for three, don't send ten!) If the proposal flies, the last step is to send the entire manuscript.
Wishing you many happy query returns,