Showing posts with label Nancy I. Sanders. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Nancy I. Sanders. Show all posts

An Interview with Children's Author Nancy I. Sanders

 by Suzanne Lieurance

Nancy I. Sanders is a prolific children’s book author. She has also written hundreds of articles for magazines, newpapers, and blogs. Other writers can learn a lot from Nancy, so I asked her a few questions about her writing career and how she works.

                                                        Nancy I. Sanders

Suzanne Lieurance: Nancy, please tell us a little bit about yourself as an author. How did you get started writing for children? What is your most recent published book? How did it come about?

Nancy Sanders: I started writing when my kids were born, nearly 40 years ago. I fell in love reading baby books to them and wanted to write my own. My most recent books are a set of baby board books! My dream has come true! Bedtime with Mommy came out last year and my newest release is its companion, Bedtime with Daddy. You can purchase them if you order them in at your local bookstore, order online at your favorite online store, buy them at the airport (they’re on sale across the nation!) or support the publisher by ordering at their website at


SL: Do you have an agent? If so, what do you think are the advantages of having an agent?  Are there any reasons not to have an agent?


NS: Yes, I have an agent. If you want to get books published with houses that only accept agented submissions, you have to have an agent. However, most of my books have been with the educational market or with publishers who do not require an agent and I didn’t use an agent for those.


One of the biggest reasons NOT to have an agent is if you work with a small publisher. An agent in the loop might be too difficult. There are plenty of small publishers out there and they’re delightful to work with. Plus they usually keep your book in print for years where the big publishers don’t. And they usually don’t require an agent.


SL: Do you have any kind of process you use regularly to come up with ideas for stories and books?


NS:  I take a very focused strategy with I brainstorm ideas for new books.


STEP ONE: I read through publishers’ online catalogs to see if there are any holes in the market or a big demand in the market for specific types of books. For example, when I was looking for a new baby book idea, I looked at a lot of catalogs and saw that many publishers have books for mommies with their babies. I could see these are a hot topic.


STEP TWO: I got as many baby books as I could from our local library about mommies and their babies. I had stacks and stacks of books that I read through! Over 50-100!


STEP THREE: I read through those books and brainstorm ideas that haven’t yet been done. I had just self-published a set of reproducible books for teachers called 42 HABITAT MINIBOOKS. So as I read through my stash of books, I realized nobody had done a baby book of animal mommies putting their babies to bed in habitats around the world! 


That’s where the idea for my books was born.


SL: Nancy, I know you have written over 100 published books for kids. Do you usually work on more than one book at a time? If so, do you have any tips for juggling multiple projects at once?


NS: Right now, I’m working on 2 major writing projects. I have one project’s research books spread out on the dining room table. The other project’s research books and journals are stacked on a side table in my living room. I keep them in separate places to help me keep them apart. And I keep them OUT. Keeping them out helps me connect with them on more constant level.


I tend to work on my one research project in the morning and the other book project in the afternoon/evening.


I also use separate pocket folders for each project to keep my files and research notes organized.


Sometimes I get tired working on one project, so I’ll pick up the other one and work on it for a while.


However, both have tight deadlines as I create new content, so I can’t let one lay idle for too long!


SL: What do you think are your greatest strengths as a writer?


NS: I’ve realized that I’m really good at taking something already written and putting it into my own words. 


This is good for retelling Bible stories. 


It’s good for researching facts and putting them in an interesting style for kids to read. 


It’s also a good strength to have if you want to write for a series because you have to take a voice that’s already published and fit into it with your own story.


I also like to share my insider’s secrets that I’ve learned over the years to be a successful children’s writer. 


I’ve self-published two how-to books for KidLit writers: Yes! You Can Learn How to Write Children’s Books, Get Them Published, and Build a Successful Writing Career and Yes! You Can Learn How to Write Beginning Readers and Chapter Books.


SL: When you are going to write a book, how much planning do you do ahead of time? For example, do you make a complete outline of the book? For longer books, do you interview your characters or create character profiles to get to know them better?


NS: Absolutely! For example, the two projects I’m working on right now required outlines of the whole project before I even wrote the content. And when I’m writing fiction or biographies, I always sit down and get to know my characters before I start writing about them. But the fun is that you learn more about your characters as you travel on the journey through writing about them. So it’s always a work in progress and nothing is written in stone.


Some of my favorite experiences as an author have been when I’ve handed in an outline for a book to a publisher. Then three months into the research, I discover an amazing new fact about this character and my whole project takes a U-turn!


SL: Voice is very important in children’s books. Do you have any tips for creating strong character voices?


NS: One of the most fun ways to develop your character’s voices is to sit down with them before you write the next scene or the next page. Imagine them each sitting in a different chair around your kitchen table. Then ask them questions about the upcoming scene. How do they feel about what is going to happen? What memory does that upcoming scene trigger for them? What do they want to say or do about the issue that will be confronted?


Then listen for how each one responds. Let them each tell you their answers in their own voice.


If you have trouble doing this exercise, assign each one of your characters a common animal. The stubborn character could be an ox. The flighty character could be a silly goose. The villain could be a crafty fox. Repeat this exercise and see how they respond!


SL: I know you’ve done some WFH (work for hire) in the past. Do you continue to do WFH projects? Any tips for other writers who want to find WFH projects?


NS: I love doing WFH projects! You get cash. Cold cash that doesn’t have to wait for sales and royalties. You don’t have to say a word to get the news out about your book. You don’t have to spend one single minute on social media plugging your book. Although I have a writer friend who wrote a children’s book as a WFH project. She said her publisher offered her, I think $1000, if she wanted to help promote her book on her social media sites. She did it. Now that’s the kind of WFH that’s really had a fun perk to go with it!


SL: What are you working on right now?


NS: I’m actually working on a WFH project right now!


I’m working on 2 projects: one is a curriculum project, and one is content for a new Bible.


SL: What is your biggest tip for beginning writers who hope to get published and make a career of writing for children?


NS: Treat it like you would any other job and you’ll succeed. Schedule on your calendar to sit down and write new content every day. Join writer’s groups where you can network and land contracts. Attend writer’s conferences so you can improve your skills and learn what it means to be a better writer in today’s publishing industry.


I belong to two writer’s groups. You can join these online communities so you can grow as a writer, too. Follow us on social media. Offer to contribute as a blogger or help the group out on a social media platform that you engage with.


Write2Ignite hosts a virtual Master Class twice a year. Plus we feature tons of timely writing tips for KidLit writers on our blog. Follow our blog and sign up for our newsletter so you can be in the know!


Christian Children’s Authors posts a lot of book reviews of current published books in the Christian market, so it helps you stay on top of new publishing trends. Please follow our blog! 

SL: Wow! Thanks, Nancy, for taking the time to answer all my questions.

NS: My pleasure, and thank you, too.



I hope you’ve found this interview interesting and helpful. Find out more about Nancy Sanders and her books at Nancy’s website:


Follow her blog for children’s writers at:

Blogzone (for writers):   

Suzanne Lieurance is an author, freelance writer, writing coach, speaker, and workshop presenter. She is a former classroom teacher and was an instructor for the Institute of Children's Literature for over 8 years. She lives and writes by the sea on Florida’s beautiful Treasure Coast with her husband, Adrian.


Lieurance has written over 40 published books and her articles and stories have appeared in various magazines, newsletters, and newspapers. She sends a free e-mail called The Morning Nudge to subscribers every weekday, filled with tips and resources for writers. For those who need more than a nudge, she offers a monthly membership program called The Monday Morning Shove, live, via zoom, every week, which includes a private Facebook support group. 

Writing for Children - Which Came First, the Chicken or the Egg?

If you’re in the children’s book industry long enough, you’ll find out there are two schools of thought. Some editors, authors, and agents believe the chicken came first. Others argue it was the egg.

Personally, after writing over 80 books for such publishers as Scholastic, Reader’s Digest, and Chicago Review Press, I’m a firm advocate of the egg.

What am I talking about? The “chicken” I’m referring to is a manuscript. The “egg” is a contract. If you want to have success, build a rewarding career, and earn a steady income from writing, which should come first, the manuscript or the contract?

There are countless articles interviewing successful writers who believe the chicken came first. These say, “Write the manuscript first and then get it published.” These articles explain how it took years for the author to hone her skills, revise her manuscript innumerable times until it was polished to perfection, and then catch an editor or agent’s eye. There are numerous conferences where editors and agents speak and repeat, “Send me a manuscript that knocks my socks off, and I’ll publish your book.”
What I want to know is, how did those authors pay the bills all those years? How did they maintain their sanity through the mountain of rejections? How did they build a career?
You see, I believe the egg came first. If you talk to career writers, those successful authors who earn a decent and steady living writing for children, you’ll find a surprise. More often than you realize, these writers land a contract before they write the manuscript.
How did I discover this? It happened at my very first conference. A friend said, “I signed you up for an appointment with an editor!” After I got over my shock, curiosity got the better of me. I went to the appointment. And listened. The editor told me about a new book idea she wanted. I found myself nodding my head and saying, “I’ll send you a proposal for that idea.” I went home, followed her directions, and sent her a sample of a potential manuscript. I landed a contract. And then I wrote the book. My very first book.
At that same conference, I stood in the lunch line next to a different editor. I asked her what she published. She said a series of Bible storybooks. I asked her if I could try to write one. She explained what to do. I went home and followed her directions. I landed a contract. And then I wrote the book.
And so the story continued. Time after time, I landed a contract first, and then wrote the book. I was starting to see a pattern here. It was exciting, and it sure helped pay the bills!
The story continues today. I found a blurb in a writer’s magazine saying Sleeping Bear Press was looking for alphabet books about multicultural topics. I studied their website, noted which topics their books already covered, and saw they didn’t yet have an alphabet book about African American history. I e-mailed a query asking if they’d like to see a proposal for such a book. They e-mailed back and said sure. After submitting the proposal, I landed the contract. Then I wrote the book, D is for Drinking Gourd: An African American Alphabet. Which came first in the picture book genre, the chicken or the egg? Once again, the egg. The same was true for my teacher’s book, Readers Theatre for African American History. Which came first in the educational market, the chicken or the egg? The egg, again!
My search for a new contract usually follows the same pattern. I look in market guides and writers’ magazines, browse bookstores and libraries, and network at conferences and writers’ groups. I look for a publisher who accepts queries. When I find one that interests me, I study their website, look at their catalog, and think of three to five ideas that could fit into their product line. Then I send a query asking the editor if she’d like a proposal on any of those ideas. When that query is in the mail, I look for another publisher to target. If an editor replies and asks for a proposal, I prepare one to submit. If I’ve never written for that genre and the editor requests a writing sample, I ask for a sample assignment so I’m submitting a sample targeted to that publisher. Once that’s in the mail, I continue the cycle again.
And so it goes. This method works in every genre. From middle-grade novels to nonfiction to novelty books to fiction picture books, I land the contract first and then write the manuscript. It’s daunting. It takes work. But it’s very, very rewarding. And it helps pay the bills.

Nancy I. Sanders is the bestselling and award-winning author of over 80 books with publishing houses both big and small. She wrote a children’s writer’s column in The Writer’s online magazine, the Institute of Children’s Literature e-news, and The Christian Communicator. Nancy still lands the contract first before she writes the book. You can learn more about how she does it in her award-winning book, Yes! You Can Learn How to Write Children’s Books, Get Them Published, and Build a Successful Writing Career.  It shares insider tips and winning strategies that have helped her land over 80 book contracts. Learn more at:


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