So you want to write children’s books. Maybe you even have written books. Loads of them! And now you’re curious about what it takes to get published.
Well, first of all, there is absolutely no one-size-fits-all path to publishing. Quite the contrary. I know writers too young to vote who have signed book deals early in their career. I’ve known many many more who have written for five or more years, getting closer and closer, and yet still haven’t sold their first book. And of course, now there are all kinds of self-publishing options that have changed the field even more.
If you are a kid, there are lots of options for getting your words out in the world! You don’t have to write a whole novel (anywhere from 50,000-90,000 words!) and race around to publishers, all of which can feel pretty overwhelming. In fact, my advice to you is to go slowly, check out some of the links below that publish kids’ writing, and wait until you’re a little older to write a book. Unlike underwear modeling or Olympic gymnastics, writing is not something that is only possible when you’re young! So here are some places where kids can submit stories, poems, and artwork…check them out! But remember, whether you are writing a short story, a whole novel, or a school paper, the basic steps are the same: Brainstorm, Write, Revise, Revise Again, One More Time, Clean it Up, Celebrate!
(Note: I can’t promise all these links are up-to-date and accurate, but they were when I added them. Good luck!)
For Grown-Ups and Others Who Write Whole Books
As I said above, there are lots of paths to publication these days. But for traditional publication by one of the big publishing houses, it takes time, talent, and luck in some combination. It also takes some industry know-how. Again, I stress that it’s different for everyone, but here are the basic steps it takes to get published.
1) write a book
2) let it sit for a while
3) revise — not just correct typos, but really fix the bones of the book*
4) find excellent critique partners and let them tear it apart*
5) revise again and send back to the excellent critique partners
6) and again
7) research literary agents who represent authors with similar work*
8) draft a short query letter that pitches your book and makes agents curious*
9) repeat step 4 through 6 with the query letter
10) start sending out that query letter
11) pay attention to feedback
12) start writing your next book
*these steps are all critical and there are wonderful online resources to help figure them out. Websites listed below are awesome places to find critique partners, post your query and get feedback, learn about different agents, and so on. DO NOT GO IT ALONE…there is a ton of great information out there, as well as all kinds of support.
Below is a small list of resources that I found helpful as I went through the process. Buckle up, godspeed, and enjoy the ride!
For advice on the craft of writing:
Middle grade author Janice Hardy’s blog has amazing posts on every step of the writing process, from brainstorming to revision. Hugely helpful.
Editor at Scholastic shares thoughts on editing and writing. Also links to her book, Second Sight, which is a great resource for writers looking for an editor’s perspective on revisions.
Bestselling YA author Maggie Stiefvater’s blog has some excellent (and highly subjective) posts on her writing and revision process.
For online discussion boards and community and resources:
This website is invaluable for all new writers. It can be overwhelming, as it has all kinds of information on every possible genre, from poetry and chapbooks to young adult and picture books. It is very worthwhile to poke around, as there are great threads on literary agents, querying, finding critique partners, and more. There are also places to share your work and get feedback.
Verla Kay’s website has loads of information for children’s book writers. In addition to tips and resources, her “Blue Boards”, as they’re known, are a great place to talk writing with like-minded folks.
Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators: One of the best resources for people who want to break into the field. Has lists of local critique groups listed by state. They have regional groups across the country and around the world, and the regional conferences can be an excellent way to meet fellow writers as well as editors and agents.
This site offers a really unique community for aspiring authors to connect, commiserate, and be seen by prospective agents. Offers opportunities to share work and get feedback, critique partner “dating” services, and “secret agent” contests for literary agents to check out new authors.
This amazing group puts on a free online writers conference every August for children’s book authors. It has a lot of the advantages of attending a writing conference without the cost and travel of getting to one. Editors, agents, live chats, critiques and more are all available in real time during the conference and afterwards on their website.
For industry information:
A free daily newsletter on publishing: “Shelf-Awareness” is for the general reader…and there is also Shelf Awareness ‘Pro” for news about the industry.
Industry magazine Publisher’s Weekly puts out an online children’s book newsletter, which is free and has great information on what’s happening in the trade.
P.S. For kids and grown-ups…writing is hard. Getting published is hard. It can be easy to get discouraged! So here… a cat on a surfboard!