Many children's writers who are new to the field believe it's normal to pay to have a book published. In reality, the publisher should always pay the writer. If a publisher asks for money to publish a children's book, that is a red flag. The following steps show the proper way to publish a children's book for free, and to get paid for doing so.
Publishing a Childrens' Book
Complete your children's book and polish the manuscript. When you first complete your book, set it aside for a few weeks, or even a month, before going back to it. Proofread and edit it carefully. If you are in a writers' group, ask other members for a critique. Read it to children in your target age range, and make changes based on their reactions.
Write a query that will pique an agent's or editor's interest. Publishing is a very competitive field, so you have to draw in the agent or editor in order to get a request to send your manuscript. If your query is weak or dull, you will get a rejection slip. Make it so attention-grabbing that the agent or editor will be excited about reading the whole story.
Compile a list of potential agents and publishers to whom you will submit your work. If you decide to go with an agent, she will market your children's book to publishers and take a 15 percent commission when she sells it. If you send it directly to publishers, you will have the responsibility of finding your own buyer. You can find potential agents and publishers in the annual Childrens Writer's and Illustrator's Market guidebook. You can also find books that are similar to yours and make a note of their publishers as potential markets.
Submit your query letter. You will need patience for this part of the process because legitimate agents and publishers usually take weeks, and often months, to respond. Research additional markets while you are waiting for responses. Because the field is so competitive, you will probably receive many rejections, even if your children's book is good. Every time you get a rejection slip, send out another query.
Negotiate your contract. Not only should you be publishing your children's book for free, but you should also be receiving pay for it. If you have an agent, he will negotiate your contract. If you do not have an agent and a publisher expresses interest in your book and offers a contract, consult a lawyer with publishing experience for guidance.
The Society of Children's Book Writers & Illustrators is an excellent organization for all children's book authors. It offers information and support, and also holds regional and national conferences. By attending a conference, you may be able to make personal contacts with agents and editors who will agree to consider your work.
Never, ever pay to publish a children's book. Any publisher who expects you to pay is a vanity publisher. The mainstream industry works by paying an advance to the writer and royalties based on book sales. Also never deal with a publisher who recommends a paid editing service. Often the publisher and the service are under the same ownership, which is a breach of ethics.