For Those Who Want to Become Published Authors

First of all, my congratulations for having decided you would like to have your writing published and my encouragement to not give up.

Then, some words of caution:
The world of publishing is very demanding and complex, basically because there are many people who would like to have their work published, and publishers publish very limited number of new titles a year, hoping to make the most from larger printings of few titles.

You should also know that the royalty income received by authors is minimum. An author receives usually 10% of non-illustrated books, 8% of books with some illustrations, 5% of picture books.

This percentage is of the net or discounted price. For example: a book with a list price of $15.00 is sold to a distributor usually with a 60% discount, that is for $6.00 or less. The author’s royalties are a percentage of that discounted price. For a book sold to the public at $15.00 the author will receive approximately $0.30 or less.

Obviously authors very seldom can live off their royalties. If they need to earn their living they usually live either of another job or out of speaking engagements.

Every week I receive multiple requests to look at manuscripts. No matter how much I would like to do so, I physically can’t. Furthermore, even if I believe a manuscript to have merit, there is not much I can do about helping to get it publish.

For these reasons I am sharing with you my very candid thoughts and experiences about the process of becoming a published author hoping you will find them useful.

There are multiple ways of publishing, since there are many types of publishers. For simplicity, I will mention:

  • large publishers for the trade [bookstores] market
  • medium/small publishers for the trade market
  • magazines/journals
  • self-publishing

Large publishers

In my experience, in most instances large publishers are not looking simply for a good idea or a good manuscript, they are looking for professional authors that will devote their time to writing and publishing, promoting, and selling their books. They seldom look at a manuscript of an unpublished author unless it is presented by an agent or unless you have managed to make contact with an editor within the publishing house and that editor has agreed to have you send the manuscript.

Medium/Small Publishers

It is generally easier to contact the editors of these publishers in professional conferences:

  • IRA [International Reading Association] and its state chapters
  • NCTE
  • ALA [American Library Association] and its state chapters
  • NABE, CABE, TABE, etc.

In the Bilingual Education Children’s Market it should not be difficult to contact:

  • Lee and Low, NY–they offer an annual contest for unpublished authors. It’s on their website.
  • Children’s Book Press
  • Cinco Punto Press
  • Piñata Publications

But be aware that these publishers publish a limited number of titles, so that creates another difficulty.


Many authors begin their publishing career by publishing in magazines or journals. Each of these publications will offer very specific guidelines as to the type of manuscripts they are willing to receive.


In today technological era this is a possibility to consider. If you follow all the regulations: obtain a copyright from the Library of Congress and an ISBN number, you can later put your book in

You will find that publishing is not that expensive if you do it yourself [not through one of the companies that promote these services, although I would check them out also].

The difficulty you will encounter is selling your book. You will have saved much time and effort in getting the book published, but now need to stand behind your book. Internet will provide many avenues to let others know your book exists, but more than anything you should be willing to bring it with you to meetings and conferences, enlist your colleagues, friends and family to talk to others about it and help you sell it.

Of course the whole proceedings will be yours, so you will be able to offset the printing cost with a smaller number of copies sold.

None of this is easy. If it is any consolation it took me 20 years from 1970 to 1990 (during which I did many translations of books by other authors) to have my first book accepted by a publisher in the United States, the book Amigos / Friends published by Santillana, followed shortly after by The Gold Coin, published by Atheneum. Even though I had already published close to 40 books in Perú before I came to the US it was not easy to have any publisher look at my work. It is a joy to know that now the doors have been cracked open a little for other Latino authors.

Yet, even today I have many unpublished manuscripts waiting for publishers.


Whatever route you may want to follow, here are my best recommendations, after encouraging you to NEVER GIVE UP:

  1. Becoming a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators [SCBWI]. This organization has chapters in every state. They offer workshops as well as book critiques. It is the place where you can meet editors and make connections with other publisher and yet unpublished authors.
  2. Attending the Highlights magazine summer writing course in Chautauqua, NY. Even if you do not feel you need work with your writing in this summer course you can get many ideas about publishing and meet editors.
  3. Subscribe [or read at the library] the monthly newsletters Children’s Writer and Children’s Market Place.
  4. Consult books in the library about Writing and Publishing Books for Children. Initiating a friendship with a children’s librarian is always a good idea.
  5. Contact an agent
  6. And if you are considering making publishing a profession:
    Studying and a MFA Program in Writing.