Here’s what I tell aspiring writers:
– don’t quit your day job!!
– read hundreds of books within the genre you are writing – award winners and well-reviewed books, especially by new writers (check Publishers Weekly, School Library Journal, Kirkus Reviews, Junior Library Guild selections, Horn Book Reviews). Don’t bother with celebrity books or media tie-in books.
– read books about writing, as well as, writing for children specifically
– join SCBWI (www.scbwi.org)
– after you are an SCBWI member find a critique group in your area, which you might be able to do via their website.
– subscribe to children’s writing newsletters such as Children’s Book Insider and The Institute of Children’s Literature’s newsletter. You will get newletters from SCBWI and your regional chapter of SCBWI automatically, once you’ve joined SCBWI – but there are other newsletters to consider as well.
– check out some of the many good websites for children’s writers
https://www.instituteforwriters.com/about/institute-of-childrens-literature/ (I took their children’s writing course almost 30 years ago and it was really worthwhile. Can’t offer opinion on what it’s like now.)
Don’t worry about getting an agent. It’s actually harder to get an agent
than it is to get published. And a bad agent is worse than no agent – take
it from me. So, I can’t recommend anyone. I’m just glad I don’t have my old agent anymore!!
My recommendation is to follow the advice from above. Get familiar with
children’s books of the type you are writing. Read endlessly. Join SCBWI and
a critique group. Write the very best manuscript you can. Research
publishers and see who publishes books like the one you are writing. Go to
their websites or the SCBWI market guide to see if they accept unsolicited
manuscripts and how they want to see them (full manuscript or outline or
whatever). Unless you are a professional illustrator, never submit
illustrations. Ever! Then keep at it. It may take years. It usually does.
But if you keep at it, you’ll get better and understand the business more