In your travails to find a publisher, the first decision you need to make is whether or not you want to hire an agent. As glamorous as it sounds, it really isn't necessary for children's book writers to have agents. In fact, it's extraordinarily difficult to find a good agent who will work with you if you haven't already been published. Beware of agents who seem too eager to take you on, especially if they demand money up front. Since there's no special certification required to be an agent, just about anybody can chisel a shingle and hang it on the door. If you decide you need one, be sure to find him/her through a reputable source. Check the Guide to Literary Agents, published by Writer's Digest Books, and Literary Market Place, available in the research section of most libraries. You can also write to the Association of Author's Representatives (AAR) at:

Association of Author's Representatives
10 Astor Place, 3rd Floor
New York, NY 10003

For $7.00 and a self-addressed envelope with $0.55 in postage, you'll receive a list of agents who are AAR members, their code of ethics, and sample questions to ask agents when considering working with them.

What an agent can help you with: read and critique your work, find appropriate publishers and submit your material, get manuscripts on the desks of the right editors, and negotiate your contract. For this, they usually receive a 15% commission on your earnings (advances, royalties, permission fees, etc.).

What an agent can't help you with: writing a better story. In fact, since they only get paid if you get published, there's no way they're going to sign you up unless they're pretty sure your book is marketable. It may be a better use of your time to thoroughly research publishers, find one that is looking for the type of story you've written and cross your fingers. Although a few of the largest publishing houses don't accept manuscripts unless they come from an agent, they are the exception. As long as you have a good story and you do your research, you've got the same chances with or without an agent.

SoYouWanna know more? Check out our full-length article SYW write a children's book?