Thursday, April 1, 2021

Writing a Children’s Book Series - Different Types


 

I attended a ‘live’ workshop through SCBWI (before the pandemic). This one was with Senior Editor Matt Ringler with Scholastic. He’s in the series department for chapter books, middle grade, and young adult.

If you write in these genres, you’ll want to read on!

In case you weren’t aware, Scholastic is the only publisher that deals solely with children’s books. One out of every three children’s books is sold by Scholastic.

That’s pretty impressive.

Scholastic sells their books through their publishing houses, the Scholastic Reading Club, and Book Fairs. They sell to 35 million children in more than 130,000 Fairs across the country, annually.

Okay, that’s enough about Scholastic, now on to great children’s writing tips.

Children’s books have specific age groups:

Early chapter: 6-8 age group
Chapter books: 7-10 age group
Middle grade: 8-12 age group
Young adult: 12+ age group

Ringler noted that in the ‘early chapter’ books, the rules are stricter. Getting the ‘reader level’ right is essential as are using age appropriate words.

He also noted that ‘young adult’ is not a genre, it’s an age group. The reason for this is that book stores have limited space for books and they separate children’s books by age.

What I found very interesting, is a series doesn’t have to follow through with the same characters.

The series could focus on a particular theme, maybe sports. Or, maybe the series focuses on a particular setting or time period, or other.

This gives the series writer great flexibility and freedom.

And, did you know that there are three different formats for children’s series?

1. The continuation.

The books in this format continue with the same characters and often the same situation, like in the Harry Potter series. These books are dependent on information in the prior books – you need to read them in order. You need to know what happened in the previous books to keep up with the story.

2. The standalone.

The books in this format don’t reference the prior books at all. You can pick up Book5 and be good to go. You don’t need any prior information to make sense of the story. And, they aren’t in any kind of sequence.

These books are independent of each other.

An example of this type of series is “Goosebumps.”

Ringler mentioned that when dealing with a standalone series, branding is super-important.

Getting the logo and cover design just right is necessary to help make the series a success. It needs to be easily recognizable as that series.

To get it just right takes months. All the departments involved need to be on board and approve it.

3. Sequential, but not dependent.

The books in this format are in order (sequential), but they’re not dependent on what happened in the previous book.

I think the editor mentioned that the “Puppy Place” series falls in this category. But, there was a lot of information, so please don’t quote me on this one.

Where does an editor get his projects from?

Ringler finds manuscripts from:

- Agents: they pitch their clients’ stories to him.

- Authors: existing Scholastic authors will come to him with another book they’ve written.

- Colleagues: other editors in Scholastic may get a manuscript that isn’t right for them but think it would be just-right for Ringler.

- Book Clubs and Book Fairs: they’ll need specific books for specific fairs. For example, focusing on the month of April, they want an April’s Fool book.

- Self-generated: these are ideas Ringler gets on his own. It may from browsing books stores, watching a movie or TV, or other.

Once the story is found, what’s the purchasing process?

This is the same for all editors. If they find a manuscript they’re passionate about, it goes to the Acquisitions Dept – everyone gets involved in the decision to purchase the story, or not.

Ringler noted that he can get rejected for a number of reasons:

- Scholastic has a similar book in the works
- They feel there’s not a market for it
- They just don’t like it
- Other reasons

The editor needs to fight to have his book chosen. It can take a year or more just to buy a book if things work out in the editor’s favor.

Once the book is actually acquired, there are five steps that need to take place:

1. The editor goes over the first draft manuscript. This phase is about concept, story, clarity, etc.

2a. After the editor is done, it goes to the copyeditor for line editing. This phase is about grammar, punctuation, spelling, fact checking, and so on.

2b. Next, it’s on to character design. The illustrator will come up with a number of character designs that will be reviewed. The decision as to which should be used will be made.

3. Then it’s on to interior layout and design. The font to be used, where the illustrations are placed, the chapter heading style, and so on happen during this phase.

4. The fourth phase is where it’s all put to together with the cover, back cover, front matter, and so on. The book finally gets published at the end of this phase.

After about 18-24 months of contract, the author finally has a published book.

I’ll have more on writing a children’s series with Matt Ringler April 7th, next week.

This was originally published at: http://karencioffiwritingforchildren.com/2018/06/17/childrens-book-series-types/ 


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. She is also an author/writer online platform instructor with WOW! Women on Writing.

You can connect with Karen at:
LinkedIn  https://www.linkedin.com/in/karencioffiventrice
Twitter https://twitter.com/KarenCV
Pinterest  https://pinterest.com/KarenCioffi/

 

 MORE ON WRITING AND MARKETING

Branding Checkup

Perseverance Pays Off

Read as a Writer

 

 






8 comments:

Terry Whalin said...

Karen,

Thank you for this insightful article about children's books. Many writers wrongly believe children's books are easy and anyone can write one. With the details in this article, you've repeatedly shown the hard work and effort involved in putting together these books.

Terry

deborah lyn said...

Karen, thank you for your informative and inspiring article. I too found the description of a children's book series very interesting! Continuation, Standalone, Sequential but not dependent--opens wide the way for an author's series creativity. The purchasing path and after acquisition path will prove essential for many authors. Thanks again.

lastpg said...

Karen, thank you for such an informative and inspirational post. My Abi Wunder series falls into the sequential category. The two main characters stay the same with a mixture of other characters. I've hinted at similarities, such as in Book 2 Abi has already met the kids in the story from a previous visit, and that she likes to go ghost-hunting, but that's all. Book 3 will be set in a completely different place than the first two. Book 3 is intended to be the last book in the series though who knows? It might work to continue! I have shared your terrific article.

Karen Cioffi said...

Terry, it was a very interesting workshop. I knew they were a lot of work, but didn't realize all the elements involved to publish a children's book.

Karen Cioffi said...

Deborah, so glad you found it informative. Most authors don't realize what's involved. These are some of the reasons a book may not be picked or or why it takes so long to actually get published.

Karen Cioffi said...

Linda, I think that's a good way to go with a series. Each book is it's own story with maybe the cast as the connection. I did the same with my Planetman series. This way a reader doesn't have to read the first book and so on to know what's going on in any particular book.

Carolyn Howard-Johnson said...

LOL. I guess I always thought of your books on the environment as a series--even without knowing I might be making a mistake! Ahem!
Hugs,
Carolyn Howard-Johnson

Karen Cioffi said...

LOL No mistake, Carolyn. I originally titled the series as Thomas the Planetman, but the publisher changed it to The Adventures of Planetman. And, for publishing and marketing purposes, they're in retailers under the individual book's title rather than the series title. Interesting process.

Marketing Engagement & Optimization: Balancing Your Process

  by Deborah Lyn Stanley Because Promotion and Marketing is about the reader, you’ve created a quick way to find your writing online. You ha...