You're in luck! The world of children's book creators is supportive, caring, and willing to lift each other up and celebrate not only new books, but also each moment of connection with kids, libraries, schools, and with each other. After working in schools for decades and witnessing the passion of my teaching peers, I was amazed and grateful for the same type of dedication and compassion shown by the people in the kidlit industry.
Maybe you've always wanted to write for kids but don't know where to start. It can feel like everyone knows the secret handshake but isn't willing to share. It can be especially trying for people who have had success in other areas and thought this would be an easy transition. It's not, but I believe it's attainable for those who choose not to quit and who are open to learning and determined to follow through on their goals.
Check out my Ten Tips below, and if you have questions or are looking for a coach, send me a note.
Ideas are crucial! I find that many writers give up on their manuscripts and claim they can't write, but often the issue is not their writing—it's the idea!
Here’s a short list to help you collect ideas:
Don't Give Up (but don't be fooled, either)!
We were all children. It can’t be too hard to write and publish a picture book, right? Sorry. Editors are swamped with manuscripts. If you’re a one-story person, it may not be worth the time and energy it takes to get published. If you’re persistent and this is your dream, follow it!
No one can walk you through everything you need to know about writing and publishing picture books, but these tips will shorten your learning curve:
1. Write! Many people prefer the idea of writing to the work of writing. I avoided writing for years by reading about it and by saying I didn’t have time. You need to put in your time. Learn your craft. Attend classes and conferences. Read books, magazines, and other publications. Sign up for online newsletters. But make sure you write!
2. Know kids’ books. It's "learning from the masters." Look up current award lists, get recommendations from teachers, librarians, and children's authors. Go to the library and check out a stack of books every week. Observe kids. Hang out with them. Volunteer at schools, libraries, scouting or 4-H groups, etc. Notice them wherever you go!
3. Join SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators). They’ll teach you everything you need to know through their website, handouts, newsletters, and conferences. Order “The Book” and get involved with your regional chapter.
4. Join or start an online or in-person critique or writing support group. Find writing buddies. Libraries, colleges, and SCBWI may connect you with other writers.
5. Once you've polished pieces with your writing buddies, sign up for manuscript critiques at conferences, and have a thick skin about it. Listen carefully without judgment.
6. Research agents and editors. Follow all submission guidelines. Take your time on this step. Starting too early or sending out too many may end up sabotaging your chances.
7. For picture books, it can be as difficult to get a good children’s writer’s agent as it is to get a book published. Finding an agent might not be your best first step, but it's still worth a try.
8. Don’t send in a manuscript a friend illustrated for you. Editors or art directors select the illustrator. If you write and illustrate, consider telling the editor the text and artwork may be considered separately to raise your chances of being published.
9. Expect rejection. Most stories are just practice, and everyone gets rejections. Celebrate those rejection letters! Each one means your story is one step closer to finding its home.
10. Listen to your critics, inner and outer, talk back, and keep going! Success comes with persistence. Get support when you need it—you deserve it!—and don't stop!
Fiction Magic Cards will help ensure your picture book, middle grade, YA, or adult fiction has enough tension, conflict, or suspense. The deck and guidebook also help with writing ideas and can also act as a coach when you need encouragement to keep going.
Check out Rhyme Time under the COACHING tab!