Writing children’s books, and getting published, can be tricky.
Here are 10 tips to help you maximize your writing, and the subsequent publishing process:
- Consider Why You Want to Write Children’s Books
Think about why you want to write a children’s book. Perhaps you have kid’s and have found a need in the world of children’s literature that needs to be met. Whatever it is you have to be prepared to put a ton of time, effort, and money into it.
- Don’t Expect to Make Big Money or Make It Quickly
Writing books for children is like starting a business. You must invest both time and money. It’s the rare children’s book that hits the bestseller list or wins a Newbery Award, and the rare full-time children’s writer who makes a living.
- Read Children’s Books
It’s amazing what you can learn by reading the books you want to write – be they board books for infants and toddlers, picture books, early readers, middle-grade novels or young adult nonfiction. Read the best authors – over and over. If you can, take a class in children’s literature or writing for children.
- Learn Everything You Can About Writing for Children
Read articles, visit websites, join writers’ organizations, and buy a few all-important books. Join the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCWI). Belonging to this society gives you an edge when you query a publisher, and they hold useful conferences and workshops. All this will cost some money, but it’s a worthwhile investment in future success.
- Find Out Which Publishers Are Interested in the Kind of Books You Want to Write
Do your research. Books in Print is a good resource. It’s available through libraries in database and book form. Literary Marketplace, Writer’s Market and Writer’s & Illustrator’s Guide to Children’s Book Publishers and Agents have detailed information about the types of manuscripts publishers seek, and how to submit them.
- Follow Publishers’ Guidelines
Once you’ve identified potential publishers, read their submission guidelines – carefully. Then obey them – religiously. Some publishers want submissions to be exclusive; others accept simultaneous submissions (multiple submissions at the same time). Some publishers want to see the entire manuscript, others want an outline, and others want sample chapters. Call editors only if the submission guidelines specify that you may do so. It is a good idea to call different publishing houses to make sure that the editors listed are still there; while you’re at it, you might double-check the spelling of names as well.
- Be a Pro
Submissions should be error-free-and gimmick-free. Double space and use page numbers. Use paper clips and/or rubber bands, not staples. Don’t use colored paper or fancy binders. Entire books have been written about properly formatting your document; if you are unsure how to proceed, read one.
- Include a Dynamite Query Letter
A query letter is a pithy, enticing pitch about the book and about you, the author. Books about writing and getting published usually feature query letters. Read them for ideas, but don’t imitate. Be yourself – your very best self. Write, revise and proofread as many times as it takes to make your letter shine.
- Be Prepared to Wait
Some publishers can take a year to send acceptance letters, or three to six months to send rejections. While you wait you can always get busy writing proposals for other books.
- Join a Writers Group, or Start One
Without the support of fellow writers, you will never become a published children’s book author. Writing is solitary, and everyone needs encouragement and feedback. Local groups can provide insightful feedback. Do yourself a favor: join a group – or better yet, start one!
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