Everyone, everyone, has an idea for a children's book. Lots of people have even written their book, but they have no idea what to do with it. Since I self-published No Buttons For Suzy Cow, hundreds of people have come to me and asked, how do I get my children's book published?
I received just such a query yesterday. Here is how I answered it:
I self-published my children's book over 20 years ago when no one was self-publishing.
I self-published because I was working in publishing at the time and knew that:
Publishers weren't accepting children's books that were supposed to have rhythm and rhyme because so many people did it so badly.
At a time when everyone was looking for better roles for women, no publisher was going to accept a story about a woman who sews a doll for her child.
Publishers weren't looking for "talking animal stories" (even though they publish them constantly). Of course, mine isn't a talking animal story, but I actually got a rejection from one place saying, "We don't take talking animal stories." No animals talked in my story.
I'm not sure how easy it would be to get an agent for a children's book as an unpublished author, but if it's possible, the best way to do it is to go to an event--like a writers' conference--where they offer the opportunity to pitch your work one-on-one to a publisher or agent. Even if you don't get accepted, you can learn a lot through these.
I would begin by going to a bookstore (if you can find one), and looking at the children's books. When you find ones similar to what you want to publish, note the publisher's name.
Google "Children's Book Publishers"--the names of the ones you noted and also "Children's Book Publishers that take unpublished authors." Read their writers' guidelines. See if you qualify for what they take. See if you're a good fit.
Google "Writing Query Letters for Children's Books" and "Pitching Children's Books." Google Children's Writing Conferences, Writing Events, Writing Workshops, Learn as much as you can.
As a rule of thumb, publishers of Children's books don't want the ms and artwork in one package. They like to buy the ms then assign their own artist to it.
If you do look into self-publishing, you don't want a "Vanity Publisher." That's a publisher that offers to print the book for you once you pay them a big price tag. They['re just feeding off people's desire to see their writing in print.
When I self-published, I did a four-color book (full color), chose a non-traditional size, and printed 5000 copies. I should have done a four color cover, black and white inside, traditional size, and kept it to about 100 copies. It would cost more per book, but I could always do a reprint, which makes it sound better--"It's in it's 4th printing!" And I wouldn't have had 50 cartons of books taking up room in the house.