Jennifer asks:

“Will any agents in the industry look at a picture book that is already illustrated?  I have collaborated with a fantastic illustrator and we’ve self published 3 books in a series of several more, I haven’t had the money to put forth a large marketing campaign but locally we have good reception and have done readings and speaking engagements.”

Thanks for the question, Jennifer!

In thinking about the question, I feel like the discussion is really two-fold. And while we start with a question about illustration, I think the more pertinent information here is that the three books are already self-published. In truth, unless the three that are already published are selling ridiculously well – as in many thousands of copies each – it would be difficult to attract an agent to the project and difficult for them to sell it to a publisher.

When an agent or editor looks at something that was self-published, the assumption is that the author was able to put forth a decent marketing campaign and that the resulting book sales are indicative of general interest. And – of course – while everybody’s marketing capabilities are different (in terms of skill, knowledge, time and budget), it’s hard to make an argument to a publisher that a book is worth relaunching if it’s already been launched and doesn’t seem to be hitting those higher sales numbers. (Because even if the truth is that you don’t have any marketing knowledge and sales are low for that reason, that’s certainly not a selling point to a publisher either!)

So, if the package was already selling extremely well, then sure – an agent would be happy to take a look. But for the majority of self-published authors interested in traditional publishing – whether you write picture books or novels – my suggestion would be to query with a new, unpublished project.

But let’s say you were querying but hadn’t already published the book. In this case, I would advise authors not to submit a package with illustrations. The danger in linking up your text with someone else’s art, is that if an agent or editor dislikes the art they’re more likely to just reject the project as a whole. (More about this in the post “Who chooses the illustrator for picture books?”)

I hope this helps – and best of luck!

Chicken Wants a Nap by Tracy Marchini

"A surprising gem." -- Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

Chicken Wants a Nap is available at Amazon, Barnes & NobleTarget and your favorite independent bookstore!

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