Friday, June 26, 2009

Hooray for Newbies

Hello, I have a few small stories and ideas for children's book. But I can not find anything that tells me what I need to do or where to submit ideas and pieces. Could you please give me some pointers? I have book from the library on editors and agents, but its has nothing in it about children's books. Is there another book somewhere or a website or something that I can get to? I also need it to have specifics on what to send and how to send it. Thank you it would greatly be appreciated.
Anonymati! I call you to arms. Or rather, to the comments.

46 comments:

Mim said...

I think a subscription to SCBWI would be worth your time. My local chapter has a great online group that helps to answer lots of questions. Plus you get a magazine every quarter I believe that talks about all of that stuff. It's super relevant to kids material and PB stuff.

Laura Martone said...

Wait, is this a joke?

First of all, if you're looking for an agent or editor for fiction, you'd better have a finished book - even if it's for children. If you do have a completed children's book (ready to be seen by reputable agents and editors), I would consult two main sources first:

1. The Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) - www.scbwi.org

2. The 2009 Children's Writer's & Illustrator's Market, a handy guide by Alice Pope - www.cwim.com

Hope that helps!

Susan Adsett said...

The Complete Idiot's Guide to Publishing Children's Books, 3rd Edition (Paperback)
by Harold D. Underdown

Writing and Illustrating Children's Books for Publication: Two Perspectives (Hardcover)by Berthe Amoss& E Suben (my personal favorite)

The Encyclopedia of Writing and Illustrating Children's Books by Desdemona McCannon, Sue Thornton, and Yadzia Williams (more geared to writer/illustrators)

Good Luck!

Anonymous said...

Here's where SCBWI comes in very handy -- I recommend that this Newbie start by considering membership -- the discussion boards and newsletters are really helpful for someone new to the "industry".

The book Children's Writers and Illustrators Market is also very helpful, as is the site writersdigest.com (keyword "children" and see the resources that come up.)

And, of course, nothing beats EA for great advice, insights, and a daily chuckle!

Chris Eldin said...

Welcome to our world!
If you have anything along the lines of "Timmy and His Pet Squirrel," I'd go ahead and send it to EA at the email address on the sidebar.
hehehehe

Okay, seriously, I love SCBWI for its resources. The Verla Kay Blue Boards have a lot of info (just google that). I'm sure I'm repeating what everyone else is already saying...

Good luck!!
:-)

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

A great resource for this is the Society of Children's Book Writers & Illustrators www.scbwi.org
If you have never done anything in the children's arena, this would be a good place to start. Lots of articles, resources, conferences, critique groups. Best to you.

Christine said...

Start by actually writing your book. The rewrite it twice.

Then find some people to read it who don't need to flatter you. Rewrite/revise again.

Then read through the entirety of Miss Snark's archive, at http://misssnark.blogspot.com/ and do what she says.

Anonymous said...

Are the stories ready to query? All I can say (as average joe schmo with no experience) is that I read and read every good blog I could get my eyes on for the past 6 months, regardless if they were for adult or children's lit.

THEN, I found agentquery.com to be a good source to find agents who represent "children's." From there, I clicked through to each individual website and read on to find out who was interested in picture books or MG. I added them to my regular blog watch and after enough time, got up the guts to query my favorite story. Still searching for more agents. Still writing more and I still have more in my own personal slush pile. :)

azang said...

http://www.scbwi.org/
http://www.verlakay.com/boards/index.php
http://www.cwim.blogspot.com/
http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=writing+for+children&btnG=Google+Search

Michael Reynolds said...

Out in the world around you is the marketplace as represented by Barnes and Noble.

Go to Barnes and Noble. If you want to write something short, find the magazine you think it should go in.

If you want to write a book go find the place where it would be shelved. I don't mean that it has to be just like everything else, but it has to be kind of like everything else. It has to be a recognizable size, shape, length and target audience.

If you can find neither (a) nor (b) you have a big problem. You then have two choices: 1) Go your own way, beat your head against a brick wall trying to ignore the marketplace (aka B&N) or you can 2) adapt to the marketplace.

Once you're done with the B&N level of the game, move on to the finding of the agent.

In answer to your inevitable questions, a) Yes, most agents are idiots but b) some are good and c) you'll need one anyway as a newbie, so it's not like you can escape this level.

Find an agent by diligently searching online or in one of the many books that list agencies. Pay attention to the agent's submission guidelines because they're little tin gods who must be obeyed.

And of course by "little tin gods" I mean, um, devoted guides for honest writers.

In any event obey the agents! Unless they tell you to submit to just one at a time in which case ignore them and submit as many times as you like.

You may want to try a writers conference where, for a price, you can force one of these creatures to speak to you with a semblance of civility.

When you are rejected by the various agents you have a choice. a) Keep going or b) give up.

The choice is yours and you'll either be a) too easily discouraged, b) deludedly persistent or c) make it into print.

If an agent accepts you it means either a) he can sell your book or b) you'll never hear from him again.

If a) great, if b) start over again at B&N.

-- Michael Grant

Anonymous said...

Uh-oh...

*ducks barrage*

Anonymous said...

There are many places to get information about publishers and agents for children's writers (e.g. http://www.cwim.com/), but you are probably better off start at this page on the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators: http://www.scbwi.org/Pages.aspx/Just-Getting-Started

Note1: Only complete stories will sell--not ideas.

Anonymous said...

SCBWI (Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators) is a great organization and resource. www.scbwi.org. I also like the Institute of Children's Literature. They have a very helpful, friendly community, especially for new-comers, great articles specifically for children's work and chat rooms. And they're great about discussing not just craft but the business! http://www.institutechildrenslit.com/

MelissaPEA said...

I think it's June and not April 1, so this is possibly a real request. If you are serious about wanting to be a children's writer, you need to read as many children's books as possible before you even contemplate submitting to editors and agents. You need to write constantly, and be in a critique group dedicated to writing for children. You need to take online or in-person classes on writing for children, in which you get feedback from an instructor with experience in children's publishing. You need to take and give criticism well and learn how to revise. Join the SCBWI. Attend mentoring conferences sponsored by your local chapter of the SCBWI. Read books about the craft of writing, and explore websites and blogs of children's writers and editors for tips on writing.

Do all of the above for at least five years before you begin to think about the submission process.

Good luck.

Anonymous said...

First, you go back to the library and this time talk to the librarian. She or he is the one NOT checking out the books. She or he is sitting there at the Information Desk, waiting to help you find things.

Books aren't always in the local library you are using, but the librarian can search the library system for books about writing children's books. Once she or he has exhausted your library system, she or he can search all the libraries in your state. Librarians also have access to all the libraries across the United States, but I don't think you'll have to search that far.

Don't be put off by strange titles -- like "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Publishing Children's Books," 3rd Edition by Harold D. Underdown. You'll find it's a book full of details about the business, written by a children's book editor.

There are many, many other equally helpful books.

The other thing you should do is join the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators and go to conferences. you can join the group at www.scbwi.org

Welcome to the madhouse world of children's book writing.

Anonymous said...

You might want to check out the Society of Children Book Illustrators and Writers group (scbiw.org) to begin with.

Buffra said...

You could always check out the 2009 Children's Writer's & Illustrator's Market book from your library.

You could check out the website of the Society for Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI).

You can read through the quick reference section here at Editorial Anonymous's (EA to friends) blog. You can also read through previous posts.

Individual agents and editors will have specific submission guidelines that you should peruse before sending anything to anyone.

BUT....before you do ANY of that, you really should first join a critique group and begin to work with other writers to make sure your work is as polished and perfect as possible.

Also, read lots of children's books.

jeanne said...

You may or may not want to buy the Children's Writer's and Illustrators book. I buy it every year, but really, you can find everything you need to know for free online.

Besides, EA's wonderful blog, I recommend the following websites:
The Blue Boards,
http://www.verlakay.com/boards/index.php

Harold Underdown's site,
http://www.underdown.org/

Cynthea Liu's site:
http://www.writingforchildrenandteens.com/

GOOD LUCK!!!

Sarah Laurenson said...

Number one resource for the business of writing for children:

The Society of Children's Book Writers And Illustrators. It's an international organization with everything in one place.

There are many other places on the web as well. Verla Kay (sp?) is one I hear about all the time and have yet to make it over there. (So many great resources, so little time)

L.A. said...

Check out the SCBWI (Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators)website. Be open to learning that it's harder than you ever could have imagined to write a publishable children's book. But, if you listen, lots of writers there will share their advice for how to get started.

Next, whatever type of book you want to write is the type of book you want to read. I was told if you want to write a picture book, read at least a thousand of them. You'll start to see the way a good book works.

You might also check out blogs by some of your favorite children's authors. Often, they have tips for writers.

Finally, writing for children is generally a long apprenticeship, long as in years. A writing teacher of mine said, "No one would ever think they could become a concert pianist without years of study and practice. We need to approach writing for publication in the same way." Be patient and have fun.

Anonymous said...

First read Harold Underdown's THE COMPLETE IDIOT'S GUIDE TO PUBLISHING CHILDRENS BOOKS, then cruise on over to http://www.verlakay.com and actually read the FAQ section. Don't ask questions until you've done some background work (which it sounds as if you are willing to do). If you've done a bit of homework, you'll know what to ask at that point.

Anonymous said...

Seriously, they couldn't find any information? There are a number of great books and a huge amount of information on the internet.

Just to start with:

The Children's Writer's and Illustrator's Market.

Society of Children's Writer's and Illustrators.

The Purple Crayon website.

I have a bad feeling that if this author has not done the basic research on how to submit for publication they have also not done the research needed to learn how to polish their stories.

Anonymous said...

First off, I'm glad you found this board! Kidlit is truly fun to write, and while you are very excited right now about your ideas, you have to remember to actually let those ideas simmer and form and write them BEFORE you contact anyone.

Editors and agents don't look at "ideas" and "pieces." They look at finished, polished, work that has been well-thought out and is also saleable. If you send them something before you (the manuscript) is ready you've just ruined your chance at querying them later, when it's actually good.

So, as excited as you are right now, hold off on querying anyone just yet.

SCBWI:

--I suggest joining SCBWI, it's a great place for beginners and has lots of information that you'll need. The have chapters everywhere and it might be a good place to find a critique group in your area.


VERLA KAY'S:

--I urge you to go to the message boards on Verla Kay's and poke around. They are very helpful and in reading other posts you will find a wealth of information from those that are already in the game of submitting.


AGENTQUERY.COM:

--Later on, when you are ready to submit, a site called agentquery.com is a great place to research different agents. You didn't mention what you are writing, but if you are writing picture books be aware that it is awfully hard to find an agent for just that.


NATHAN BRANDSFORD's BLOG:

--To further understand query letters and how to write them, agent Nathan Brandsford has great posts on this at his blog. Go to the FAQ on the side of his blog.


QUERY SHARK:

--Also, Query Shark -- agent Janet Reid's blog -- will give you very, very important examples of what to do and not to do when attempting to write queries.

You don't have to accomplish this all in five minutes. Soak in the information. Marinate in it for awhile. Write more than one manuscript. The longer you are in it, the more your work will change and grow.


ABOVE ALL ELSE:

--READ. I cannot state this enough. It is amazing how many people want to write kidlit and yet don't read it. You've simply got to read. Using your memories of books you liked as a child isn't enough of a reference. You've got to read what is out there now, right now. The library is free, and reading opens you up creatively in a way that nothing else can.

Best of luck!

Lisa Schroeder said...

Books:

Harold Underdown's site and books are great resources - go to www.underdown.org. "Basic Information" is a great place to start.

Alice Pope's Children's Writers and Illustrators Market is a great resource with editor and agent names and helpful articles. I believe the 2009 one comes out in August.

SCBWI (Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators) is an organization you can join and there are all kinds of resources there to help as a member. You get a newsletter every month that gives market information, helpful articles, plus information about conferences that can be helpful.

Other sites:

www.verlakay.com/boards
http://www.write4kids.com/

Hope that helps.

magolla said...

Uh, write it first leaps to mind.

You've managed to put the cart before the horse. There are plenty of ideas to be had, you have do the hard work and provide a finished product first, which means write the book.

Read, read, read. If you want to write a children's book you need to know what's out there.

Oh, did I mention that you have to actually WRITE the story?

And just because you can write an article for such and such magazine or you've been a journalist for a gazillion years, it doesn't mean you can write children's stories. Writing fiction is a 'hole 'nuther beast. Each genre has a different set of reader expectations (rules).

Oh, did I mention this?
Write the story. Edit story. Find someone to critique it. Beat head against keyboard. Try to erasing all the red ink. Give up since CSI might wander by and wonder about all the 'blood'. And then, Guess what you do?

Write another book.
Lather, rinse, repeat

Jeanie W said...

The book you're looking for is The Children's Writers and Illustrators Market, edited by Alice Pope. You can follow Alice's blog at http://cwim.blogspot.com/. Consider joining the Society for Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (www.scbwi.org). Attending their conferences and workshops can be a good way for new writers to learn about the industry and make connections with other budding writers.

Also, check out the links in the right-hand column on this blog. A lot of publishing professionals are sharing their knowledge of the industry for free.

Diandra Mae said...

The Children's Writer's and Illustrator's Market: (http://www.cwim.com/)

You can also join SCBWI(scbwi.org)and get the latest publishers market, info on how to submit, etc.

Research: go to the library and check out those books similar to yours. Find out who published them by reading the publishers information, then go to that publisher's website and read their submission policies.

Anonymous said...

I have a question that corresponds to this. Since I am constantly having to prove my existance to new editors, what is the correct way to approach them? Is a cold call email announcement with my website of art samples ok? Ask for some kind of reply if they are interested to receive more samples periodically? If there is no reply, is that to be seen as a NO, not interested? How can I learn to read "editor code language" ? So confusing.

Jimmer said...

Since I'm a nice guy (from Minnesota, naturally), I'll assume that this person is a foreigner. How this individual found EA's blog but seems unable to find other pertinent web sites or books is a mystery.

Harold Underdown's site is full of information and links:

http://www.underdown.org/

Nancy Coffelt said...

I get emails sounding a lot like this at least a couple of times a month. Way back when I still used a telephone for business,(whew! glad those days are over!)I'd get calls from "friends of friends of friends" wanting to know how to get their stories published. I used to spend a fair amount of time with them, but after the second or third time people listened and then asked me to give their stuff to my editor, I stopped doing that.

Now I have a standard answer: take a class at community college, buy Harold Underdown's "Complete Idiot's Guide to Publishing Children's Books", and join SCBWI.

But I have to say I'm still surprised to talk with people who say they want to have their book published only to discover they haven't even written anything down.

The Storylady said...

I've found the best tool is the "Chldren's Writer's & Illustrator's Market" book, available on Amazon or at any big bookstore. It has great articles, resource tips, and of course, the list of publishers. Just be sure that once you target a publisher, to go to their website for further instructions on submission guidelines as they change quickly, and some information in the book may already be out of date.

Sarah said...

I'd say reading this blog's archives is a good start. Check out the Anonymati link on this blog, too. Great posts about first pages.

I'm no expert, but the best advice given me was to concentrate on becoming a great writer. If that's your goal (rather than getting published right away) you'll be thinking straighter than many of us were when we started.

To help with writing, check out your local SCBWI chapter. They have conferences and should also have critique groups that you could join.

While you're working on your writing, get familiar with the publishing world. There are tons of very good blogs that will help you with that. Take the time to read their archives. The blogs EdAnon has listed under "Be Aware Of" are some of my favorites.

It's going to take time (lots!) to write well and become familiar with all the terms and protocols in publishing, but it's worth it. Good luck!

Editorial Anonymous said...

Yay, Anonymati! Nicely done.

Editorial Anonymous said...

P.S. I think it will be useful to the querier to see how many times certain sources were referenced. There are a lot of sources out there, but the consistently helpful ones are the ones you hear about over and over.

Emily Kokie said...

For Anonymous at "June 27, 2009 10:53 AM" - I assume you are an aspiring illustrator. Your process will be a little different than an aspiring author, but still requires you follow submission/query guidelines. And many, if not all of the sites and resources suggested for the original question would also be of benefit to you.

If you are looking to illustrate childrens books, then, again, SCBWI would be a great first step.

And having an online portfolio is great, but your contacts with editors and agents still need to follow protocol for illustrators. So do your research, much as others are suggesting for the original question.

For the original question, I agree with almost all the suggestions for info, and especially recommend SCBWI - you will get national resources and local support. A strong SCBWI chapter can be a godsend as you are getting your feet wet and working on your first manuscripts. And it can be a good way to find other writers, critique groups and local resources. That would be my first step.

Second, read as much as you can - online resources and books in the genre you want to write.

And welcome to the writing community.

Emily

Yat-Yee said...

Looks like I am too late. Lots of great advice and great resources recommended. If it seems overwhelming: just do it at a pace that allows you to absorb the information.

Anonymous said...

First, with all due respect to EA, how on earth did you find this site before finding SCBWI, Purple Crayon, et al.?

And with all due respect to the previous poster, I would not go to Barnes & Noble to study the market. That would be like going to McDonald's to learn how to make hamburgers. If you have a local independent children's book store, maybe go there. Definitely go the library, and take your librarian by the hand.

Michael Reynolds said...

Yes, it's best to ignore the single largest book retailer.

Anonymous said...

Michael -- The single largest book retainer, as you call B&B, isn't the world's best source of good books. Far from it.

Have you been in their children's book section?
1-- Latest books from popular, well known authors, maybe.
2-- Lots of series -- lots and lots of paperback series
3 -- lots of 'toy' books
4 -- some classics and a few award winners

Where do you actually the best selection of new books as well as old standards loved by children, new and older classics?

your public library, that's where.

B&N gives new adult books two to three months to sell, then out they go, never to be seen again. Most of the new (especially nonfiction) books they never even stock.

Their reason for stocking hardly any children's nonfiction? it doesn't sell within the 2 to 3 months they give any book to sell.

Rose Green said...

I second all the sites and books to look at (esp. SCBWI and Verla Kay), plus I just want to add that when you've been at it for a while, it all seems elementary, but from a total newbie's standpoint, the industry does seem rather shrouded in mystery. :) I think it's a completely reasonable question to want to know how the system works, even if you don't have anything polished and ready to submit yet.

Good luck!

Anonymous said...

Um, this is kind of like saying, I have a few ideas about surgery, can you tell me where I can operate? Really, focus on your writing, read craft books, read A LOT of children's books. Then, when you have written something you're proud of, get out there and get an agent. There's really no other way to do it.

Michael Reynolds said...

Anon:

I know the mechanics of B&N very well. They bought 700 plus displays of my latest book.

I'm also a big fan of indies and libraries -- just did an event with the great and amazing Andersons in Naperville. But it's madness for a newbie to ignore B&N. B&N defines a big part of the market, especially with what's looking like the implosion of Borders. And I don't know any author who's happy to be ignored by B&N, not unless they have some other source of income.

B&N has managed to put huge bookstores in every corner of the country. They did it by understanding the market. It behooves an aspiring writer to try and understand what it is that B&N understands.

Anonymous said...

Michael R. said that B&N:
" They bought 700 plus displays of my latest book."

That's nice -- and how many did they return?
Was it fiction or nonfiction?
For younger readers or older readers. Or adult?

You know, but others might not, that Barnes and Noble doesn't buy a single book. They borrow them to display, hope they sell, and send the publisher a portion of the sale price if they do sell. Then they pack up the ones that didn't sell, in the short time they had them on display, and 'return' them.

If the book is hardback.

Paperbacks they don't even return -- they rip the cover off to return to the publisher and toss/destroy the actual book. The author, who thought he sold all those books, suddenly discovers his royalties statement shows a loss which will be taken from the author's royalties in the next royalty period, if possible.

Sad but true.

Every time I go to B&N, I'm disappointed with the selection -- the titles I want aren't there and I'd rather not buy a 'toy' book or a series book.

Anonymous said...

There are several places you can see almost everything that publishers are producing and are pushing for this season.

BEA -- Books Expo America. Usually meets the beginning of May.
Google it to discover if this national gathering of publishers will be on your side of the country anytime soon. It is expensive to get an exhibits pass, if your publisher won't give you one, but the overview of publishing and the giveaways of free books is huge.

ALA -- the American Library Association. www.ala.org
Usually meets in June or July. (in Chicago this year in July)
The exhibits pass is usually only $35 or so. About half library technology and half publisher's displays.

AASL -- The association of School Libraries (librarians?) Most of the exhibits display school technology and books useful to support school curriculum.

It's usually marketing people that staff the booths, especially at BEA, but editors are often at the other two events on Saturday and sometimes Sunday.

Authors often walk the aisles, taking notes as to what the publishers produce, so that they can later query or send a proposal for manuscripts similar to those publishers publish.

ae said...

I'll let Michael speak for himself but I know some of his titles for kids, and he is a great and prolific writer...


As for B and N...I think that depends on the location perhaps and demographics which essentially IS marketing.

The ones near me have fairly large children's sections and well stocked with all kinds of titles. There is a lot of quality shelved. Yes, there is saccharin which I would not likely find at my indies but saccharin sells well...

My gripe with B and N has more to do with the staff and lack of knowledge, ambivalence and a general lack of caring about books. :''''(

Whereas, the staff at my indies breathe books. :) And they are right around the corner and give discounts like B and N. And when they order a book it is there the next day. So I rarely go to B and N unless I am shopping for something else and want to walk in (which may be a marketing ploy for B and N)

Anyway, I stray off topic and I apologize.

Word verification: Subblent -- Mixed materials under a covering as in "What's tonight's subblent you are making for dinner, honey?"

Michael Reynolds said...

Anon:

Hardcover, kids, fiction.

One never knows what has sold until the royalty statement.

But I think antipathy toward B&N is like antipathy to Starbucks. I think Peets makes much better coffee than Starbucks. But I'm grateful for the ubiquity and convenience of Starbucks.