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Writing for Children
Always wanted to write for children?
Well, there's a lot you should know first. Words of warning: don't do it for the money and don't expect it to happen overnight. It's a very slow process (but fun if you love it), and unless you're the next J.K. Rowling or Margaret Wise Brown, don't expect a huge payday. The pay is the satisfaction of having your work matched with wonderful illustrations that will bring joy to many children and promote literacy for the next generation of readers (and writers).
The great thing about writing for children is the community around it. Authors - published and unpublished, are all rooting for you to get published. And, in general, we're a really nice group of people.
- Don't ever give up. As long as it is something you love doing, keep at it. Once you've sent one ms off to the editors, start writing another. Not only will it keep you from obsessing over the one that is either getting rejected or receiving no response, it will be giving you something else to send and you'll be honing your writing skills. You should have seen my first manuscript - what a mess!
- Don't submit your manuscript and cover letter on fancy, colored paper. It screams amateur.
- Don't tell the editor that 'my son's preschool class all loved it, so your readers will too.' Again, beginner assumption and remark.
- Don't submit your manuscript to more than one imprint at one publishing house at a time. Big no-no. Wait for a rejection, then resubmit to another imprint. :)
- Don't submit a manuscript with a cover letter addressed "Dear Editor". Find a name, spell it correctly, address them with respect. Hint: if you find a book you love that is in the genre in which you're hoping to be published, check the acknowledgements - you may just find an editor's name!
Blogs and Journals
- My site: Sue Fliess
My first picture book, Shoes for Me, will be out in March, 2011. If you want to learn more about it, me and my other forthcoming books, please visit my web site.
- Cynsations - a great blog
interviews, reading recommendations, publishing information, literacy advocacy, writer resources, news in children's and young adult literature
Verla Kay's site
- Verla Kay's website
More great info on children's book writing
Some tips for beginners
I've only been at this for a few years, so I don't claim to be an expert (even if I was published, I would still not consider myself an expert) but I've learned a lot of Do's and Don'ts so far that I was glad someone shared with me. Here are some tips for novices that will put you ahead of the pack.
- Join SCBWI - www.scbwi.org This organization is chock full of information and will connect you into the heart of children's book writing.
- Read as many books as possible in the genre you're looking to break into .
- Get to know your local children's librarians, your local bookstore staff
- Join /form a writing critique group. Even if you are all beginners, they will have valuable insights to share.
- Attend conferences and workshops. This is great for the knowlege you gain, but also the network you build.
- Make friends with published authors
- Buy a copy of the latest Children's Writer's & Illustrator's Market put out by Writer's Digest Books. Or buy a subscription to it online.
- pay for a critique if you have the $. Sometimes it's nice to know you're not a complete idiot by getting valuable feedback from an expert. You can often submit a manuscript for critique through a conference you are attending, or you can find some freelance critiquers as well.
- If you've not heard anything for 3-4 months, follow up. (if that is allowed). Do so by writing a very nice note, letting the editor know when you submitted it, and ask politely for a response in the next 6 weeks. Even if you get a rejection, you've at least been able to rise to the top of the slush pile.
- Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators
If you're serious about writing for children, the first thing you should do is join SCBWI.
Agent or No Agent
This is always a tough question. And the annoying answer is: it depends.
Some agents hesitate to sign on with a first time picture book writer who has only written one pb, simply because the return on their investment will be low. Some don't care about that if the writing is good (they see your potential). Some will sign on if they know of the YA novel you're also writing, or if you've written 4 picture books and they can see you're prolific and a hard worker.
It is sometimes just as easy to shop a picture book around to editors on your own. But if you have written a 200 page YA or middle grade novel, it would probably benefit you to get an agent. They can do the selling for you and have the connections.
Bottom line: it's up to you.