Writing Books for Children

I realized only a few years ago that I wanted to start a career in writing children’s books. I am a devoted mother who wished nothing more than to keep her children interested in reading, and so, the birth of a story transpired. For all those aspiring authors out there, these are my real-life experiences of the children’s book writing field, both positive and negative accounts for all to learn from. I am truly hoping that by the end of this article you will be a much wiser writer and have the resources enough to face the literary world that awaits you.

Like a lot of authors, I traveled blindly into the mass circuit. I had never taken a writing class (other than grade school) yet still felt as though I had something to offer the story telling realm. I had absolutely no idea how fickle and cruel this business actually was. Basically, I had jumped from the nest without ever learning to fly. So, that will be my very first pointer to all of youâÂ?¦ Take a few writing classes! Enter a few contests! It may seem like a waist of time to some, but it isn’t. This is called experience, and yesâÂ?¦ it is taken very seriously and highly regarded when you enter this life long career move.
Everything I will be sharing is to educate new and semi-new authors that wish to be successful with their craft.

Writing Books For Children: 1st TIP
You have a story to share with the world

When I wrote my first children’s book entitled, “Emerald and the Magic of Raynon”, it was targeted to the 9-12 age groupâÂ?¦ yet I had made it 500 pages long which to say the least was highly intimidating to my own children. I had to then cut it into four books and make it a series, that wasn’t a bad thingâÂ?¦ it just made more work to promote. I must admit, when I began writing for children, I lacked knowledge which was a key element and extremely easy to obtain.

**Get to know your target audience before you write the book, that way you know what words to use and situations they can really get into. To do this, all you have to do is go down to your local bookstore and look through the section you are trying to market your future story to and thumb through various titles. This is how you understand your target audience better. You can get an average page count of what you intend to set for a goal, the general idea of the complexities of word and sentence structures for that certain age group, and a better understanding for key words that appeal to children for your title. The title is extremely important, as children often do ‘judge a book by its cover.’ If the words in the title show something that appeals to most kids, then that one will be picked up first by the little hands. The words of the title are just as important as the pictures on the cover.

Make sure that you visualize your characters, situations, and the places that the story will take place in your mindâÂ?¦if you can’t imagine it, then neither can your readers. The tale must be constantly dishing out new things for children to think about and relate to or you will lose their attention. This will doom the book to absolute failure, which in turn will place a black cloud over your next projectsâÂ?¦ thus making it ten times more difficult to appeal to your audience then when you are brand new and breaking into the literary scene. Only now are you ready to sit down and transfer your idea into print.

Writing Books For Children: 2nd TIP
Your manuscript is finally finished!

So, now that the time spent on writing your masterpiece is over, you can finally get it published nowâÂ?¦ right? Wrong! Do not make the mistake of thinking that writing books for children is that easy, this is the number one reason that most writers don’t last. To get discouraged for simple reasons that could’ve easily been avoided is just plain career suicide. I made the mistake myself and I almost threw up my hands, and turned my back on the whole idea behind my work, as most do. But I didn’t, my new job and the reason I started it meant that much to me to keep striving to accomplish what I had set out to do. Remember your morals, if you are writing children’s books to help them gain a sense of the ‘whatever you try and do… you can do” mentality, then you must first learn it for yourself.

The first thing you will need to do is hire an agent! It is probably the most important thing you will ever do in this field. Think of it as a long term investment into the survival of your career.

After I had written by series which only took a few months to do, I automatically started pitching it to publishing houses across the globeâÂ?¦ and what happened was, when the first one accepted my work I went with them. I am not saying that they are bad, I am simply saying that I didn’t take the time to know them at all. Publishers are not all the same. Some are ‘Traditional’ which offer large advances, pay higher royalties, and do all the promotions and marketing you will ever need. Unfortunately, they can only be reached through an agent.

Then there are POD (print on demand) publishers, they offer low or non-existent advances, no real promotion for your work and low royalty payments, not to mention they don’t do too much in the way of editingâÂ?¦ if they make a mistake then you have to live with it. This is the type of publisher I went with because I didn’t do my homework.

The last type of print publisher is the ‘Subsidy’ or ‘Vanity’ presses which will charge you a bundle for doing the same as a POD. Promises are usually high and quality/happiness with the services is usually low. I do not recommend them at all.
I had no idea that an agent was necessary to get good publishers to look at my work, I found out the hard way. So, this is your next and probably the most important tip I can offerâÂ?¦ obtain a Literary Agent, and remember you should NOT have to pay for their services until they get you a contract and you agree with all terms and conditions there of, then a standard percentage will be theirs for the work they had done on your behalf. To find good agents, check out ‘Predators and Editors’ online, or check with the Writer’s GuildâÂ?¦ they have all the information on trust-worthy agencies.

When you query an agent I have found that this has produced the highest results:
1. Your cover letter should look of the highest quality and include personal information of how to contact you under your FULL name and your PEN name.

2. Starting your letter: include a personal name you are trying to reach NEVER use ‘Dear Editor,’ (this is highly unprofessional)

3. Use a really good excerpt from your manuscript. The one you are most proud of. It should only be a couple paragraphs long and in “quotes”, this should capture your reader’s attention without letting go. They can tell about your writing by only a few lines of your work, that is their job and they are very good at it.

4. Always use loglines instead of a full synopsis (if they want a full synopsis they will ask you for it after reading through your letter), show them that you possess the ability to entice the reader using very few words and make them crave more. For instance, loglines are merely three sentences long per paragraph, limit 2 paragraphs. The info inside must contain key elements: Who, What, When Where and Why. Think of the first as a trailer to your book and the second a poster describing the obvious. This way it shows you respect them by not taking up too much of their time, and they see how good of a writer you are to manipulate the entire script into a very few sentences.

5. Lastly, credits� this is where the writing classes, contests, etc. come into play. For first time writers it is a must. If you have been published before then include your successes.

6. Personalize it! Thank them for their time and let them know that you are looking forward to a professional working relationship in the future.

Writing Books For Children: 3rd TIP
Now you are ready to take on the world

Thankfully even though I did not do all I had to do in order to start this highly stressful career, my work stood on its own. I was able to learn all these things quickly and make a success from my experiences. I have topped a few best-seller lists around the world and now have a line of novelty merchandise out relating to my children’s series that is being sold world wide. Now I can sit back and truly enjoy the rewards of my successes. I recommend that each and every author design a websiteâÂ?¦ to see what appeals to children take a look at mine, www.talesofmagic.com. This way fans/readers can come and take a look at your world. This opens a door into showing how much you appreciate your readers so that they will always want to come back to check out any future works. I was lucky to have become such a success, and I am thankful everyday. Hopefully my experiences will be a lesson for all of you hoping to get on top of this rewarding career choice and you won’t have to make the same mistakesâÂ?¦ trust me, this industry is hard enough, don’t make it harder on yourself.

For my final thought on how to make you become successful when writing books for children, I have one more piece of advice âÂ?¦ don’t quite your day job. If you feel you must keep steady work in the writing field (I personally think it is a wonderful idea) get a job freelancing your writing talents, this can also be used in your credits further on down the road. Also write and (edit yourself) a small manuscript designed for e-book purposes… most e-book publishers are free and there is another ‘credit’ to add to your list of accomplishments. Patience is a must and nothing in this business happens over night. I have been blessed that I have managed so much success in so little time, despite the number of mistakes I made going through this process. I hope I have been of some help to you and wish you all the best of luck in your ventures of writing books for children!

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