Tips & Tricks for Authors and Illustrators

The Professional Association of Publishers for the German-Language Children’s and Young Adult Literature, Arbeitsgemeinschaft von Jugendbuchverlagen e.V. (avj), would like to provide you with some, "Tips and Tricks", on how to enrich your oppurtunity of making your work surpass the flood of submissions that publishers receive. While providing a tip or two on how you can dazzle the publisher in an interview. Although, avj cannot guarantee your work is to be published, nor can we review or forward your manuscript or personally contact the publisher for you, we are here for you.
If you have questions or need further information, please click the link provided. ( The link will also provide the contact information of our publisher members.

How a manuscript becomes a book

1 The first and foremost important step - inform yourself about the publishing branch and gain knowledge of various publishing houses, as well as, their publication programs. You can do this with the help of our catalogue, or by researching online.
Remember: Focus on a publisher whose program includes the genre that fits your project. Otherwise, there will be no interest. Do not expect to find fruit, while shopping at a shoe store.

2 Your manuscript must leap out from the mass of submissions. You may achieve this by, preparing an exposé of your concept (roughly one A4 page). The key is to - concisely delineate your idea. Which genre does it belong to (fiction or non-fiction, fantasy, a horse book, problem-solving oriented etc.) and for which readership is it intended for (girls and/or boys, aged up to 4, 4 to 6, 6 to 8 etc.)? This has an enormous impact on which publishers will take notice of you - as an author or illustrator - as well as your project.
Remember: Classifying your project is key. Nothing is gained, if it is not classified. Make it your goal to present your project definitively. If the editor cannot, in fact, identify which genre your project belongs to immediately, it more than likely will be rejected.

3 Your exposé should contain text samples and/or illustrations to give the editor an impression of your style of writing/illustration. You may send the complete manuscript, if you are unable to decide which part of your project to submit.
Note: Brevity is usually the soul of wit. An editor who is genuinely interested will contact you to find out more.

4 Don’t send your project by email; send it by post. There is always the risk of emails getting lost in the daily mass of incoming mails or not opened at all, SPAM-Mail. In addition, - it is annoying to receive e-mails with attachments that will not open.
Remember: Those in the publishing arena are generally friends of the printed word, as far as manuscripts are concerned. Printed material is easier to read and saves the editor the trouble of first having to print it out.

5 It is advisable to make several copies of your project, as manuscripts are not always sent back. In addition, if a publisher is interested you can react more quickly by sending them your manuscript immediately.
Remember: It is good to be trusting, but having copies in your drawer is better. If you want to be sure of having your material returned to you, it is best to include return postage as well.

6 Send your manuscript to various publishers if you think they might be interested. It would be a grave mistake on your part, to wait until a publisher returns your manuscript, before offering it to another one.
Remember: There is no importance in staying with only one publisher. Some publishers generally do not accept any manuscripts they have not requested, you will find this information on their homepage.

7 Nevertheless, it makes sense to limit the number of publishers to whom you send your manuscript, even if you think that all German-speaking publishers might be interested.
Remember: Do not operate the sending of your project in an inflationary manner. You probably do not want to hear that your work is accepted by chance. So a reference to the publishing program you are dealing with does not hurt!

8 When submitting your project, make sure you know the relevant contact when addressing; in brief form or otherwise. If you are dealing with a publishing group with different publishing companies or imprints within the same publishing house, contact the editors of each individual division. This will indicate confidence, as to where you want your project to be placed.
Remember: The contact for manuscripts and/or illustrations is always the editorial department. Avoid writing to the publisher or the managing director of the house, unless you are personally acquainted with them. Avoid redundancy and wasted time.

9 Please be patient. As a rule, every unsolicited manuscript a publisher receives must be and will be thoroughly checked. Publishers receive more than 2,500 submissions per year. Hence, each manuscript can take up to six to twelve months before the first review.
Remember: It is not a question of a delay tactic, on the part of the publishers or a lack of interest in your project, if you do not receive a response immediately. Enquire the matter by calling, but you should wait at least six months before doing so.

10 Don’t get lost in the details when you are pitching your project to an editor over the phone or in person. Instead, try to make your presentation as clearly structured as possible.
Remember: Editors have a good eye for topics that will fit into their program – and fare a chance on the market.

11 It is not advisable to offer publishers your manuscript at a book fair. In Leipzig, and even more so in Frankfurt, as most editors usually have so many appointments, that you have little chance of meeting them at their stands. Sales staff of the publishing house are usually in charge of the stand, of which, they will not necessarily be able to provide you any help. Generally, many publishers do not accept manuscripts at book fairs.
Remember: You are more likely to come away with a crooked back, than an accepted manuscript if you take it along to a book fair instead of making an appointment for a quiet, on to one sit down, with the right person. Even if you manage to hand in your manuscript at a stand, the risk is very high, that it will land in the hands of the right person once the fair is over.

12 If a publisher accepts your project, a contract must be signed, setting out the rights and obligations of the contract partners. Most publishers have their own standard contracts. However, authors and illustrators are responsible for negotiating everything else themselves, including their honorarium. You can also hire a literary agent to represent you (addresses and information can be found on the internet), but you will then have to pay them a portion of your fee.
Remember: Reputable publishers share the success of a book with their authors, i.e. the author receives a certain percentage of the net retail price or the publisher’s price received. Under no circumstances should you pay for the production, promotion or marketing costs of your book!

From the Portfolio to a Picture Book

In addition, the statement above also applies to illustrators:

1 The degree of attention your portfolio receives, depends essentially on how visually compelling the material is.

2 When considering your material, the publisher wants to be able to see with one look, whether the illustrations capture the drama of the written text and express through picture more, than described in the text.

3 Your portfolio should include text-based illustrations and storyboards. Brief explanatory notes should indicate the target group for which your work is intended. The illustrations should show the extent of your technical and artistic skills.

4 For a 'classic' portfolio, copies are usually still acceptable (for color prints, 4c; but also black and white drawings). You can show the original work at your personal appointment.

5 It is a good idea to send the publisher your portfolio for keepsake and point this out on your covering letter. The portfolio will then be placed in the publisher’s archives for consultation when demand arises. Your pictures should be suitable for archiving.

6 In contrast to manuscripts, which should not be offered to publishers at the book fairs in Leipzig and Frankfurt but should be sent by post – illustrations are gladly viewed personally by editors, particularly at the Children’s Book Fair in Bologna, Italy.

7 Make sure that your portfolio is well organised, so that you do not waste time trying to find the ›right‹ illustration. The better you know your way around your portfolio, the more confident and productive the conversation will be with the editors.

8 Briefly introduce your main points: the illustrators’ queues at the publishers’ stands in Bologna are long and the time allowed for each presentation relatively short. However, it would be a mistake on your part, if you provide no explanation of your work: this is usually the first time the editor will see your work and will therefore welcome a little more – on point – background information. Short, yet definitive!