One of the most difficult things about breaking into children’s writing is finding the right market for your manuscript. Many new writers are in such a hurry to be published they send their manuscript out to as many publishers as they can and often before it has even been edited properly. This is a big mistake.
It has also been recommended that you don’t write a word until you have a firm contract. In practice this often does not work as for educational writing, the deadlines are so tight the contract often does not arrive until halfway through a project or even after you have finished writing the book. Getting a commission before you start to write may be true of educational work but, less true for fiction. Even so, if you are interested in writing for the education market, it is worth writing and asking for any writer’s briefs. That’s information about projects they are developing and not their underwear.
Don’t send picture book manuscripts to publishers that only print educational non-fiction, or primary school educational non-fiction to a publisher that focuses on secondary education. I know this seems obvious, but we hear over and over how writers send their work to inappropriate markets. It’s important to research your markets regularly as sometimes publishers who used to publish picture books may only be concentrating on mid-grade now.
Research the different publishers and what they produce. Look at their catalogues online, or go to book fairs and pick up a copy of their new catalogue, or go to an independent bookstore and browse. Your local library will have books publishers have previously published, which you can browse and get a feel for the publisher’s style.
Make lots of notes. Look at the titles and the title page with current editorial contact information on. Pay close attention to the focus of the books. The more time you spend on this preliminary research, the more likely you’ll be to find the right publisher for your work.