GET STARTED TODAY -- FREE!
Writing Children's Books: How Do I Get Started?
Here at CBI, we take great pains to read each and every piece of e-mail that arrives. At least three or four times a day, a message shows up that says, in essence, "I dream of writing children's books but I don't know where to start."
Of course, our first answer is "buy all of our stuff!" :)
Then we put aside our greedy capitalist veneer and offer some free straightforward advice to help beginners get started on the right path. Recently, the rusty old light bulb over our heads flickered on -- "hey, why don't we put it on the web site so everyone can access it?"
So, better late than never, here's everything you've ever wanted to know about Getting Started As A Children's Writer.
1. CHECK OUT THE FAQ.
Our list of Frequently Asked Questions should be your first stop. Here, you'll find answers to your questions about agents, whether or not you need illustrations to go with your manuscript, and lots more.
2. DEVOUR THIS WEB SITE
There's a whole lot of stuff jammed into the nooks & crannies of this site that will help you get started. Among some of the best places to start:
Our information-packed WRITING FOR KIDS Columns
Plus be sure to check out our acclaimed newsletter Children's Book Insider, The Newsletter for Children's Writers.
3. LEARN THE RULES
Because of the very high volume of manuscripts they receive, editors are almost certain to reject -- unread -- manuscripts that are improperly formatted, are not targeted for the appropriate age group, are not the correct page length and so on. The "rules" of publishing aren't particularly arcane, but they're not obvious to the beginner either. If you plan on submitting your work, take the time to understand how the game is played.
4. SCOUT OUT THE LANDSCAPE
There are two places that should become especially familiar to you -- your library and a large bookstore. Use the library to check out how the classics were created, and count on the bookstore to clue you in on what's current in children's publishing.
In either place, take the same approach. Try to find books that are in a similar genre, target a similar age group and take a similar approach to the story you're working on. At the library, break down the books you find and attempt to determine what's made them successful. What do these books have that, perhaps, your story doesn't? Take your ego out of this -- admitting that maybe your story isn't perfect is a needed step if you really want to make it. Delude yourself into thinking that everything you've done is beyond the need for tinkering and you'll be on your way to a nice collection of rejection slips.
At the bookstore, search for similar books and make a note of the publisher's name and address. Many publishers prefer to create their lines around common themes, topics and age groups. Discover those who fit your style and you've just increased your odds dramatically!
5. GET THE GUIDELINES
When you've narrowed the search down to those publishers who seem best for your story, start sending off for writer's guidelines from those companies.(Guidelines are increasingly found online at publisher's websites, so check there first.)
Address your letter to the Editorial Department, and enclose a note requesting a copy of their current writer's guidelines. Include a self-addressed letter-sized envelope with first class return postage. You can also ask for a current catalog, which will list all the books the publisher currently offers. If you want this, make your return-envelope larger (at least 9" x 12") and affix more postage.
Follow the guidelines religiously. They're instructions that will tell you exactly what the publisher is looking for and how they like to be contacted. Ignore them at your peril!
6. DON'T GET HUNG UP ON GETTING PUBLISHED
Repeat after us: "I Will Enjoy The Journey. I Will Enjoy The Journey. I Will Enjoy The Journey."
Too many new authors focus entirely on getting published, not on learning the art of writing.
Even if you perfected the craft of submitting a manuscript, your efforts will prove fruitless if your manuscript stinks. Rather than immediately rushing to send off your story, take a step back and learn the ins and outs of writing for children. If you do, two things will happen:
Enjoy the journey. Stop and smell the roses. Make up your own cliche. Just don't fixate on submitting your work -- especially until you've at least partly mastered the incredible craft of writing.
7. DON'T GET TAKEN
Hope is a wonderful thing, but it can also be the lever that con artists can push to separate you from your money. There are some bad guys out there, and they're preying on beginning writers. Usually, the swindle begins with a letter telling you that your work is just wonderful, and that you're well on your way to Dr. Seuss-hood. The final step, send us some money and we'll make it all happen for you.
We've heard about writers who have lost a good deal of money by trusting bogus agents and phony publishers. The bottom line -- be careful when you spend your money. Don't let flattery or the possibility of a publishing contract cloud your judgement. Don't spend money to publish your books (and this includes subsidy, co-op and self-publishing arrangements) until you've exhausted all traditional publishing avenues (and then, only if you've taken the time to educate yourself about the types of books that can succeed when self-published. If 30 publishers have rejected your story, you may be better off putting the manuscript away and starting something new rather than making a sizable investement to have it published. For information about self-publishing the right way, check out Dan Poynter's excellent Self-Publishing Manual). Check out everybody thoroughly. Ask for references and check them.
We've created a special report entitled HOW TO TELL IF A NEW OR SMALL PRESS IS
8. ASK FOR HELP
There are many places to turn for help when you're getting started. Hook up with other writers online and create a virtual writer's group, or join a "real world" writer's group in your community (check with your local children's librarian or post a sign in the library seeking other writers). Take some writer's classes, and attend a writing conference or two. Subscribe to Children's Book Insider, join The CBI Clubhouse, read lots of "how-to" books about writing. E-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org with a question and we'll try to help.
The more you ask, and the more you desire to learn, the easier your transition into a successful children's writer will be!
Would you like to get fresh, exclusive insight like this every month? Click here for a special offer!
Click Here To Return To Our Home Page
Children's Book Writing Supersite Sitemap
Questions & Information: email@example.com
Copyright 2013, Children's Book Insider, LLC