Wednesday, August 27, 2008

I Could Have Written That Book

When my sons were small, I made almost weekly treks to the local library. In the children's area, we checked out stacks of books together. Some of them I carried home and others I read to the boys right on the spot in the library. Every now and then as I read through the pages, I thought, "Well, I could have written that book." Or "I could have told a better story that this one."

If you've said this statement (or even thought it), keep reading because I want to give you some insight about the children's book market.

Many of those authors will go to their computers, open a blank file and write this story, then go to a market guide and fire that manuscript off to a publisher and earn their first rejection form letter. While their enthusiasm for the children's book market is admirable, these writers have violated one of the first principles to getting published. They have not studied the market.

Until I worked inside a publisher who made children's books and acquired them for the publisher, I never understood the huge expense related to producing simple 24-page or 32-page full-color books. While the advances for these books to the writer are often in the modest $1,000 to $2,000 range, the actual cost can easily reach over $100,000. You can see how the decision to publishing a children's book is not made lightly--at least if the publisher wants to remain in business.

Did you notice in the previous paragraph where I mentioned 24-page and 32-page children's books that the books have standard lengths? Even this type of detail is important to understand about the market if you want to write children's books.

Understanding and insight into the current marketplace will put you way ahead of the other submissions for a children's book editor.

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6 Comment:

At 9:42 AM, Blogger Donna J. Shepherd Left a note...

Thank you for your wise advice and insight into the children's book publishing industry. I will work that much harder polishing up my prose.

At 10:44 AM, Blogger Connie Arnold Left a note...

This advice is quite helpful because there is always more to being published than one would think. It seems like writing children's books should be so simple, but it actually isn't.

At 11:28 AM, Blogger Laura Christianson Left a note...

I could have written that blog post.

Just kidding -- great info, Terry! I've never written a children's book and don't know if I have one in me. I applied that concept when I began reading books and articles about adoption issues and kept saying to myself, "I could have written that."

Finally, I stopped repeating that mantra and actually sat down and wrote the books! I feel much better now.

Laura Christianson
co-founder, HeBlogsSheBlogs.com
Taking blogs from 'potential' to 'influential'

P.S. I learned that tip about always including your web address and tagline in your comments sig line from you. You are a wealth of good info -- thanks for your willingness to share it.

At 11:32 AM, Blogger Kristi Holl Left a note...

I have to admit that I started writing for children after reading to my kids and thinking those very thoughts you mentioned. That was one of the best things about the writing course from the Institute of Children's Literature--the dual emphasis on honing your craft while studying the markets. I LOVE writing for middle graders and tweens.
Kristi Holl
Writer's First Aid

At 1:32 PM, Blogger Crystal Laine Left a note...

As a former first grade teacher, I can't tell you the number of times I heard, "Well, it's pretty easy to teach first grade, I would think."

Same with children's books--people assume because of the levels of reading, that it's "simple."

On the contrary, to teach the younger grades actually takes more teaching skill (LOL, of course I'd say that :) ) than teaching college students. Writing books for children, too, takes a skill set that requires intimate knowledge, as well as child development knowledge that helps with the book's copy/content.

Since you've written for children, Terry, and have taught at ICL, you write this post with such authority.

Great post, as usual.

At 3:34 PM, Blogger Barb Davis Left a note...

Thank you so much for the tips! The Writing Life is one of the best blogs around. I'm a devoted follower.


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