Tips and FAQS

I’ve written a book. How can I get it published?
Why do some publishers want the author to pay to publish their books?
I’ve published a book with a traditional trade publisher. Do I need to promote it myself?
How do I find places to market my books?
I want to do school visits. Where do I start?
I’m a student and I’ve written a story. Where can I get it published?
Where can I learn more about writing for children?
Isn’t it hard to get published?
Do you have any tips for an aspiring children’s author?
 

I’ve written a book. How can I get it published?
It isn’t that easy. After making sure your story is the best it can be, you’ll need to research publishers. You can find them at the SCBWI site, at Children’s Book Council site, or look in Children’s Writers and Illustrators Market (a book you can buy). Read their guidelines and send it exactly how they say to submit. They’ll contact you if they want to buy it.

Why do some publishers want the author to pay to publish their books?
Self-publishing is different from having a book published by a trade book publisher. It’s gotten easier to self-publish and many companies do it. The author pays the company to make their book and the author must sell it himself/herself to get back the money. Trade publishers pay YOU and advance and you receive royalties as it sells. Often the author finds and pays the illustrator and pays for editing. Trade publishers find and pay the illustrator and do all the editorial work themselves. They want the book to sell well! They take all the risk and responsibility for producing the book and for getting it in the stores, too.

I’ve published a book with a traditional trade publisher. Do I need to promote it myself?
Yes! Books publishers have many authors and the more do to get your book in front of the public, the more copies will sell. Book fairs, book festivals, conferences where books are sold, speaking engagements, and bookstore appearances all help keep your book in print. Large publishers must sell books or they go out our print quickly. You can help.

How do I find places to market my books?
You have to hunt and volunteer. Look at web sites and search for conferences and book festivals. Volunteer to present at them. Contact your local library and offer them a free copy and to do a story time or summer presentation. Mail postcards to school districts letting the librarians know your book is out. Contact district library coordinators. Librarians can’t buy your book if they don’t know about it. Set up your own web site.

I want to do school visits. Where do I start?
Prepare two or three good school programs talking about your books and what it can do to help teacher use it in the classroom. Write a teacher guide to accompany your book. Let your publisher know you do school visits.

I’m a student and I’ve written a story. Where can I get it published?
Check out Anastasia Suen’s site. She has a section that lists places children can send their stories.

Where can I learn more about writing for children?
Join SCBWI. Local chapters are everywhere. The Dallas-Ft.Worth chapter, North Central/Northeast Texas SCBWI, meets in Arlington. Join a critique group. Take a class. Read lots of books. Attend children’s writing conferences.

Isn’t it hard to get published?
Yes. Almost impossible. If you write well and have the tenacity to stay with it, however, you can have a good chance at being an author with a published book. That’s the best feeling in the world!

Do you have any tips for an aspiring children’s author?
Write
I worked on my writing for 9 years before I had this book in hand. I have 3 manuscripts filed away that are early tries. I get better with each story and each attempt. Writing’s not for the thin-skinned, faint of heart, or someone who gives up easily. You must have lots of confidence. But with some talent and much determination, you can do it. Keep writing.

Learn about the business.

  1. Read children’s books. In each class I’ve taken with Anastasia, we’ve had to read 100 books in the sort of writing we are interested in. The librarians always look at me funny when I’m checking them out.

  2. Learn about the publishers. Look at their web sites and get their catalogues. Look at the books you read and see who publishes what.
  3. Attend conferences. You learn about writing, you meet with kindred spirits, and you meet real live editors! Following a conference, you generally can send your manuscript to the editors in attendance.
  4. Look at writing books. I love Robert McKee’s Story, even though it’s a screenwriting book. Another good one is Bird by Bird, Ann LaMott. The Writer’s Journey by Christopher Vogler is another good one. There are lots of them.
  5. Subscribe to Children’s Writer Newsletter and Children’s Book Insider. Check their websites for information and how to join.
  6. Read blogs.

Join SCBWI
You don’t have to be published to join. For $70 a year (after the first year), you get access to valuable information about publishers, editors, and insider information, plus a newsletter. It is the accepted group for children’s writers. It gives the editors reassurance that you are a professional. They have great information.

Join an online children’s group.
Go to Yahoo and join Children’s Writer (CW) and other online groups about writing. Search the archives for previously discussed information.

Take some classes online or in person.

Visit the web sites of some authors you like.
Many of them offer fabulous tips and writing insights. I love Linda Sue Parks’ site.

Look at The Children’s Writers and Illustrators Market.
It’s a book. Go to the bookstore and look at it. Buy it or you can check out older copies at the library. You can also pay for and receive it online.

Look at the publishing guidelines
The guidelines change frequently. At each publisher’s site, you have to dig to unearth writer’s submission guidelines. They want you to buy! They receive tens of thousands of manuscripts each year. And they report that most of the submissions are amateur and poorly written. They say only 5% are done well enough to receive a look longer than 3 seconds! Children’s Book Council site is good.

Learn the proper format for submitting.
Study cover letters, queries, first paragraphs, and the correct form. SCBWI can inform you with their information and there are books. This helps establish you as a writer rather than an amateur.

Find out what editors don’t like.
Many writing sites or blogs have some sort of editor pet peeves. Conferences are another way to discover this. But they always say, if it’s a good story, they’ll buy it!

You don’t have to have an agent for children’s books, but these days it helps.
They can help, and it’s much more important than it used to be, many children’s writers do, and most of the big names do. But some do not, too. If you can sell yourself and take care of the business parts, you can succeed in children’s writing.