How I present a picture book manuscript to publishers


It wasn’t really much to look at yet — just a few pages of short sentences — but this is what ABC Books first saw of Rudie Nudie. 👇

I’ve received a lot of messages recently, asking for advice on how an author would present an idea for a picture book to an agent or publisher, and in particular whether to include illustration notes. So, (as promised) I thought it might be useful to show how I do it.

It’s the title and the story I want people to focus on, so for these I use clear, black typeface and all the other type is a pale grey or aqua colour. I want to make it easy for a commissioning editor to find my picture book text on the page, and read it. This sounds really obvious, but I make sure I don’t hide my story amongst a jumble of other words.

I tend to divide the text into double-page spreads, so the publisher can see how the book will flow, but not all authors do this. Rudie Nudie is a 24-page picture book, and you can see I’ve set aside the first three pages for the half title and title pages, so the text starts on page 4 (children's picture books are generally 24 or 32 pages long).

If I am intending to illustrate the book myself, I do often write a few illustration notes, using a paler, coloured type so they don’t jump out from the page at first glance. If the text is intended for another illustrator, I am careful not to include too many instructions — in fact only if the illustrative content is not evident in the story, or if the intention is for the illustrations to deliberately contradict the text. As an illustrator myself, I know I prefer to interpret the story myself without too many suggestions from the author at this early stage.

Good luck! Maybe you’ll find a different way to present your ideas, but hopefully seeing how I do it will give you a starting point. I wish you all the best for your adventures in picture books.


Little Gracie enjoying RUDIE NUDIE, a picture book by Emma Quay (ABC Books) - - picture credit:  @our_small_adventures

Little Gracie enjoying RUDIE NUDIE, a picture book by Emma Quay (ABC Books) - - picture credit: @our_small_adventures

You can find more of my thoughts on illustration notes in this interview with Creative Kids Tales, speaking about my experiences as an illustrator of texts by picture book authors Mem Fox and Andrew Daddo.

Jackie Hosking has recently updated her invaluable list of the Australian children’s book publishers currently accepting unsolicited manuscripts, which is available here.

There are lists available for other countries, which can be easily located with an online search — I found resources listing publishers in the USA and UK — and it’s also a good idea to read the submission guidelines on each publisher’s website before sending in your work.

"Rudie Nudie', a picture book by Emma Quay (ABC Books) -

Rudie Nudie, the book

How I present a picture book manuscript to publishers - RUDIE NUDIE by Emma Quay (ABC Books) -
Should I include illustration notes with my picture book manuscript? - RUDIE NUDIE by Emma Quay (ABC Books) -