Sunday, July 24, 2016

How to Get Started in Children’s Writing

If you like kids and have a genuine love of children’s books, you’re on your way to writing for them. But you’ve probably heard stories about how competitive publishing is—especially children’s book publishing—and how manuscripts can sit on an editor’s desk for a long time before the editor takes action, one way or the other. But don’t let that stop you.

The first step to getting published is to find an idea that will fit within the category of children’s books you’ve chosen. The idea must fit the category, and thus the age and reading level of the child who will be reading it.

To begin, make friends with the children’s librarian at your local public library. Find out what the new trends are in children’s literature.  Find out what kids are reading these days. The answers will surprise you. And if there are any kids there, watch how they choose books from the shelves, especially in your book category, and listen to their conversation. Then check out a dozen or so books in your chosen category that are similar to the concept you have for yours.

If you don’t have a definite idea, read other media directed at children. You can often get a sense of what the next trend in children's book publishing is going to be by studying kid's magazines. You’ll find a selection them at your library or bookstore. Most come out monthly, so they respond to trends faster than book publishers. Studying Web sites geared for children can also provide cutting-edge information. Many of these Web sites are educational ones. Others tie in directly to product lines or books directed to children. And many children’s magazines have their own interactive sites for kids.

When you come up with some ideas, test them out on some children of the age range you’re targeting—your own or those of friends and neighbors. Tell them about your ideas and ask them what they think. Children, especially younger ones, are extremely honest, and they’ll tell you whether they like the idea. In fact, they’ll ask you how soon they can read your book. This is early test marketing.

If you’re considering writing a non-fiction book for your children’s age group, read the news, either in print or online. Start a file of clippings or printouts of articles that apply to children and your specific subject.

Besides talking to kids about the books they’re reading, spend time with your target readership.
Volunteer at a school library, get involved with a church youth group, or figure out another way to get firsthand experience with kids. Investing your time and creativity into getting to know kids is the best way to learn to write for them.

Attend writers conferences. The Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, a large international organization for those who write and illustrate children's books, sponsors regional conferences and two large national conferences a year. But don’t limit yourself to just children’s book writing conferences. Networking with other writers at general writing conferences can be helpful, too. Besides interacting with other writers in person, you should also search for children’s writing forums and communities online.

You should do all of the above on an ongoing basis. Once you get a good idea and test it on some children, you’re ready to begin planning your book. The information you gather from the above sources will help you throughout your children’s writing career.

Next Week: The Changing Face of Children’s Book Publishing

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