Thursday, September 1, 2011

Writing for Children: Submissions to Contract to Book Promotion to Career Part 1

The foundation of writing for children, or any genre for that matter, is to learn the craft of writing. In regard to being a children’s author you will need to learn the specific rules and tricks to create appropriate stories with age-appropriate words and storylines.

Once you have taken the time to hone your craft and have critiqued, revised, and edited your manuscript to a polished state, it’s on to the next phases of the traditional children’s writing path: submissions, promotion, and a writing career.

1. Submissions

Before you think about submitting your work anywhere, be sure you’ve completed the necessary steps to learn the craft of writing. You’re manuscript needs to be as polished as you can possibly get it.

Submissions can fall into two categories: those to publishers and those to agents. In regard to submitting to agents, in a Spring 2011 webinar presented by Writer’s Digest, agent Mary Kole advised to “research agents.” This means to find out what type of agent they are in regard to the genre they work with and the agent platform they provide: do they coddle their authors, do they crack the whip, are they aggressive, passive, involved, or complacent. Know what you’re getting into before querying an agent, and especially before signing a contract.

Here are a couple of sites you can visit to learn about agents:

The same advice works for submitting to publishers also; research publishers before submitting to them. Know which genres of children’s books they handle and the type of storylines they’re looking for.

Whether submitting to a publisher or an agent, always follow the guidelines and always personalize the query. There may be times the guidelines do not provide the name of the editor to send the query to, but if you can find that information, use it.

According to Mary Kole, it’s also important to know how to pitch your story. This entails finding the story’s hook. Agents and publishers also want to know what the book’s selling points will be and what successful books it’s similar to. In addition, they will expect to be told what your marketing strategy will be. It’s a good idea to create an online presence and platform before you begin submissions; let the agents and publishers know you will actively market your book.

Along with the story’s hook, you need to convey: who your main character is and what he/she is about; the action that drives the story; the main character’s obstacle, and if the main character doesn’t overcome the obstacle, what’s at stake.

Ms. Kole recommends reading “the back of published books” to see how they briefly and effectively convey the essence of the story. This will give you an idea of how to create your own synopsis.

When querying, keep your pitch short and professional, and keep your bio brief and relevant. You will need to grab the editor or agent and make them want to read your manuscript.

Here are four tools you can use to help find a publisher or agent:

•    Writers Market: Where and How to Sell What You Write
•    Children’s Writer’s & Illustrator’s Market: Over 700 listings for book publisher’s, magazines, agents, art reps, and more
•    Guide to Literary Agents: Where and How to Find the Right Agents to Represent Your Work
• Online resource to help you sell what you write

Karen Cioffi is an award-winning children's author and children’s ghostwriter as well as the founder and editor-in-chief of Writers on the Move. You can find out more about writing for children and her services at: Karen Cioffi Writing for Children.

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And, get a copy of WALKING THROUGH WALLS (a middle-grade fantasy adventure set in 16th century China. Honored with the Children’s Literary Classics Silver Award.


Deb Hockenberry said...

Great post with good advice, Karen! Do you think it's better to get an agent when submitting a children's book?

Margaret Fieland said...

Karen, thanks for the informative post and great list of resources -

Heidiwriter said...

Excellent post, thanks for the tips and resources!

Weaver said...

Lot of good information here. Thanks.

Karen Cioffi said...

Hi, All,

Sorry for the delayed response, I was offline all day yesterday. Thanks so much for stopping by.

Deb, I don't think it's necessary to get an agent when submitting a children's book, but it can't hurt to query for one while you're submitting to publishers.

Agents do have a much broader publisher reach than authors and there are some publishers you can't even get to without an agent.

Anonymous said...

I have a children's series on the back burner. Too much other stuff going on. But once my WIP is edited then I can focus an hour a day or so on it. Thanks for the links!

Unknown said...

Thanks for your great tips and link karen.

Karen Cioffi said...

Stephen, I know what you mean - there just aren't enough hours in the day.

Kathy, Glad you found the tips and links useful!

Anonymous said...

Hi Karen, great post! I look forward to reading the other parts. You always have such great information to share with writers. Thanks!

Donna McDine said...


Fantastic article with great tips. Thanks for sharing.

Award-winning Children’s Author
Write What Inspires You Blog
The Golden Pathway Story book Blog
Donna M. McDine’s Website

BarbaraB said...

Thanks, Karen, for being generous with all this information. Good stuff here.

Karen Cioffi said...

Hi, Susanne, Donna, and Barbara. Thanks so much for your kind words - they are certainly appreciated!

Vivian Zabel said...

So far, the advice is great for any and all types of submissions, not just children's books.


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