Thursday, August 20, 2009

Madonna did it and so can I!

Tip of the Day: Wonder what the average picture book author gets for an advance? Barbara Kanninen surveyed 100 authors and posted the info here.

As you know, Lisa’s (Miss Crafting a Career) first book was a picture book for little ones about lulling babies to sleep.

So she is the perfect perfect for today's question:


Ok Lisa, I'm going to tap into your children's book writer brain! You know I have a couple of dozen or so kids right? ;) Well, that means I hang out with a ton of moms of my kids. And over and over again a mom will tell me about her dream to write a children's book. And they ask me for any tips I have for getting into the children's book writing field. And I kind of go blank. If you ask me about how to get started in the teen fiction field I could go on all day and point you in a bunch of directions. But I never know what to tell these mom friends of mine in regards to children's books. So Lisa, could you please tell me how you would answer this question and then I can just steal what you said and pretend I'm the super cool smart one? Thanks!


Oh, this is a hard one.

Because I think people think picture books are super easy to write. And they aren't. You're supposed to tell a story with a plot and interesting characters that kids will want to listen to again and again in 700 words or less.

And the picture book market is SO competitive. I mean, breaking in is tough. REALLY tough.

But, you can't really tell people, "don't bother," can you?

First, I would recommend they get a couple of books

1) The Complete Idiot's Guide to Publishing Children's Books by Harold Underdown.

2) The Children's Writer's and Illustrator's Market (CWIM) (a new edition comes out every August) edited by Alice Pope.

These two books will give them a great starting place - everything from how to format a manuscript to what publishing houses take unsolicited manuscripts will be in these two books. Because not many agents take on picture book authors, I think it might be better for someone new to picture books to submit on their own, to houses that take unsolicited. When I started writing back in 2001 or so, there were quite a few. I know there aren't as many now, but there are still a few. If they can, they should get themselves to a writer's conference and get a critique. This is a great way to get some feedback and if they're paired with an editor at a publishing house, and the manuscript is good, it can be a way "in."

There are resources all over the web as well. is a great one. On the home page is a big thing that says, "Beginning Writer? Start here!" is another good one. It costs money to join but you'll get a newsletter, have access to their message boards, find out about local conferences, etc.

If your friend is serious about finding out how to do this and about writing the best story she can write, she'll take this information and run with it. If she was hoping you would give her your agent's phone number, she may look at you funny when you tell her to go get some books on the subject. There is no "easy road" as we all know. Each writer has to find his/her own path and be open and willing to learn as much as possible about writing and how to get published.

So, there you go. As an aside, you will get asked about what you do at book signings and things too, and people will want to pick your brain. So you may want to have a sheet ready that you can hand out that gives books, web sites, organizations, etc. all dealing with writing/publishing for kids and teens.

Hope that helps!!


Thank you Lisa!!! You gave such great information. And I LOVE your last tip—what a good idea to have a sheet ready to hand out! :)

Kristina, MIss Delighted to Debut


DeenaML said...

There's something nice to me about the idea of telling a would-be-writer that they need to buy some books to learn how to write them. I mean, we should WANT to spend some money on the industry to which we want to belong!

Ghost Girl (aka, Mary Ann) said...

Absolutely, Deena! And they should read lots and lots of the kind of books they want to write.

Anonymous said...

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