What to Put in Your Package for Agents
What to put in your package may vary from publisher to publisher. Many editors and agents want you to send everything via email, and others want you to send everything via snail mail.
How will you know what each Publisher or Agency wants?
Research Publishers and Agents
You can find a list of Publisher who are accepting unsolicited manuscripts, and Literary Agents in either The Children's Writer's and Illustrator's Market book or in The Book, a publication that is only available to SCBWI members. There are not very many publishers who are accepting unsolicited (unagented) manuscripts anymore, so if you plan to write and illustrate a lot of your own books, it may be better to find an literary agent first.
When looking for a publisher or agent, always go look at their website. Make sure your work will be a good fit with their agency.
I found that many of the agents listed didn't even have a website. A good agency will have a nice website and be involved in social media. It is an essential part of being successful in this business nowadays.
After finding a good list of Publishers or Agents, and you've checked their website to make sure your work is a good fit, find their submission guidelines. They are usually pretty easy to find on each website. Read the submission guidelines carefully. Everyone wants you to send slightly different things in the email or package, and include different things in your cover letter.
Add a Few Extras!
When I am sending a package in the mail, along with a letter and a printed dummy book, I like to include a business card and a couple of nicely printed post cards.
Just make sure everything looks clean and professional. If you send extras, only send a couple. Don't overwhelm the editor!
Research how to write a query or cover letter. There are many online resources available. Here is an article that I found helpful: Writing a Cover Letter.
When you are submitting a picture book that is both written and illustrated by you, the story and pictures can do most of the talking. So in other words, keep your letter brief.
Remember to be courteous and professional. Make sure you proofread your query letter carefully.
Many publishers and agents like to know if you are submitting to other publisher or agencies at the same time, so make sure to tell them if it is a simultaneous submission.
Sending Your Work Out Into the World and Waiting...
Respect the editor's or agent's space. Remember they get hundreds of submissions every month (or maybe even every week), so give them time and space, and don't bother them.
After you hand your package over to the post office worker, or click the send button on the email, you are going to be doing a lot of waiting.
In the mean time, start another personal project. Keep working on your craft and doing what you love to do instead of focusing on the waiting. Sometimes, it may take a long time to hear back from anyone. And sometimes you may never hear back at all. Just keep doing what you love to do and focus on things that are going well.
Dealing with Rejections
When you get a personal reject, remember that is a good sign that your work is getting close to being a success.
There may be a good reason for a rejection. For example, I got a few rejections from agents. In the rejections the agents said I had a good story, and my artwork was great, but the story wasn't right for them. I was happy for their rejections, because I didn't wanted to be agented by someone who wasn't absolutely thrilled by my story, style of writing and artwork.
Rejections are part of the process. Take time to feel sad, but then move on and work on something else. Just remember that if you are working on your craft all the time- learning how to be a better illustrator and a better writer, taking good critiques to heart and improving, if you are persistent and you are working every day for that dream, you will be successful.
Don't forget to celebrate all your successes along the way- big or little, whether it be a break though in your writing or drawing, signing on with a new agent, or having your manuscript accepted by a publisher. Tell a friend, buy yourself an new art book, or go out for ice cream with your family!
Remember to look back at where you were 10 years ago, and see the progress you've made.
The process and the timeframe in the path to publishing is going to be different for every person. So jump in, work hard, be patient, and enjoy the journey!