Showing posts with label writing contract. Show all posts
Showing posts with label writing contract. Show all posts

Thursday, October 1, 2020

Children’s Writing and Publishing Process - The Traditional Path



Children’s books fall into one of three categories: picture books, middle grade, and young adult. There are genres, like board books and easy-readers, but I'm sticking to the first three I mentioned.

Along with this, children's writers need to take the necessary steps to achieve success whether aiming at traditional publishing or self-publishing.

In regard to traditional publishing, there are four steps in a writing career: writing, submissions to agents and publishers, book sales, and a writing career.

1. Writing

Actually writing, and all that it entails, is the basis of a career in writing, whether writing books, articles, becoming a ghostwriter, or copywriter. And, each of these career goals takes a number of steps that involve time and effort. But, we’re focusing on writing for children.

A. The first step is to write, but in addition to writing, the new writer will need to learn the craft of writing, along with the particular tricks of writing for children. Children’s writing is more complicated than other forms of writing. The reason is because you’re dealing with children.

Rules, such as age-appropriate words, age-appropriate topics, age-appropriate comprehension, storylines and formatting are all features that need to be tackled when writing for children.

Within the first step rung, you will also need to read, read, and read in the genre you want to write. Pay special attention to recently published books and their publishers. What works in these books? What type of style is the author using? What topics/storylines are publisher’s publishing?

Dissect these books, and you might even write or type them word-for-word to get a feel for writing that works. This is a trick that writers new to copywriting use – you can trick your brain into knowing the right way to write for a particular genre or field. Well, not so much trick your brain as teach it by copying effective writing. Just remember, this is for the learning process only – you cannot use someone else’s work, that’s plagiarism.

If you need extra help writing your story, check out my book on writing for children: How to Write a Children's Fiction Book.

B. The next step, number two, is to become part of a critique group and have your work critiqued. Critiquing is a two-way street; you will critique the work of other member of the critique group and they will critique yours. But, there are advantages to critiquing other writers’ works – you begin to see errors quickly and notice what’s being done right. This all helps you hone your craft.

C. Step three on the writing rung is to revise your manuscript according to your own self-editing and critiques from others. It’s also recommended to put the story away for a couple of weeks and then revisit it. You’ll see a number of areas that may need revising that you hadn’t noticed before.

D. It would also be advisable if you budget for a professional editing of your manuscript before you begin submissions. No matter how careful you and your critique partners are, a working editor will pick up things you missed.

2. Submissions

Before you think about submitting your work anywhere, be sure you’ve completed the necessary steps in number one. 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:

http://agentquery.com
http://www.guidetoliteraryagents.com/blog/

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.

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.


3. A Contract and Book Sales

If you do your homework, your manuscript will eventually find a home. Don’t let initial rejections, if you receive them, deter you. A published writer may not be the best writer, but she is definitely a writer who perseveres.

After you sign a contract, you’ll be ‘put in queue’ and at some point begin editing with the publisher’s editor. From start to actual release, the publishing process can take one to two years.

A couple of months prior to your book’s release, you should begin promotion to help with book sales. After its release, you will want to take part in virtual book tours, do blogtalk radio guest spots, school visits (if available), and all the other standard book promotion strategies.

Be sure to also create your Amazon Author page and fill in everything you can to make readers aware of you and your books.

And, don't forget to get reviews. Book reviews help sell books. You can find out more about getting and using book reviews effectively with  How to Get Great Book Reviews by Carolyn Howard-Johnson.

4. A Writing Career

Now, you’ve got your book and you’re promoting it like crazy (this is an ongoing process). The next and final step is to repeat the process. You don’t want to be a one-hit wonder, so hopefully you’ve been writing other stories. If not, get started now. On average, an author writes a book every one to two years.

Along with keeping up with writing your books, having published books opens other writing opportunities, such as speaking engagements, conducting workshops and/or webinars, and coaching.

There are a number of marketers who say your ‘book’ is your business card; it conveys what you’re capable of and establishes you as an expert in your field or niche. Take advantage of these additional avenues of income.

 Karen Cioffi is an award-winning children’s author. She runs a successful children’s ghostwriting and rewriting business and welcomes working with new clients.

For tips on writing for children OR if you need help with your project, contact her at Writing for Children with Karen Cioffi.

You can follow Karen at:
LinkedIn 
Twitter 

Check out Karen's newly revised How to Write a Children's Fiction Book.


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Tuesday, November 5, 2013

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: http://yesyoucanlearn.wordpress.com




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