So, You Want to Become a Children's Book Author?
Here are a few thoughts for you who wish to become a published author.
- Join the professional organization dedicated to serving the people who write and illustrate children’s books. It is the Society For Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, called SCBWI. You’ll find them on the web: www.scbwi.org. This organization publishes a great bi-monthly magazine with very helpful information for your work, how to write, where to submit, and future workshops and conferences. If you check out their web site you will also find many other links to sites of interest in the children’s book market.
- To sharpen your writing skills you may want to take some courses in writing. Check out your local college, university, and adult education classes in your area. Read “Take Joy” by Jane Yolen and other good books on writing!
- Maybe there is even a local group of budding writers who meet regularly and share their material for critiquing. Your local library may help you to find such a group. And if it does not exist you can start one yourself by putting an ad in your local paper. The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators has chapters in many states. There may be one very near to you.
- To find an agent please consult the latest and comprehensive information on a special webpage of the Society For Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators website. You must be a member to access that page.
- If you wish to send your manuscript directly to a publisher, you may want to do a little research beforehand. Go through the bookshelves of your library or book store and look for publishers who have published work like yours. Another resource, as mentioned before, is the bi-monthly magazine of SCBWI.
- There is no one perfect way to submit your material to a publisher. However, I have found these principals very helpful: Write a short covering letter and attach your manuscript. Always send photocopies -- never originals. If you want to have the material back always enclose a stamped self-addressed envelope. But not every publisher returns the material – even when return stamps are enclosed!
- Many writers think that their manuscript should be illustrated, and they let a friend or relative illustrate their story. I don’t think that this is the optimal way, because a good story must stand on its own. Illustrations that are not very professional could be harmful to your manuscript. However, if you really think that you have the perfect illustrations for your story, go ahead and send them to the publisher. It may work for you. But once again: only send photocopies! You may also want to consider attaching only one or two sample illustrations with your manuscript. Don’t forget, if the publisher likes your story they may ask a famous illustrator to do the pictures. That could really help with sales!
- My final word of advice: Write to have fun and not to get published! The process must be your reward! Otherwise you may be very frustrated and disappointed when your work is rejected. But nobody can ever take away the fun you had creating the story. One way to have fun with your work is to write your story for a young friend or relative, like your niece or your grandchild. This would make your story very personal, and also a wonderful gift. You would be doing the same thing that Beatrice Potter and Lewis Carroll did when they wrote their stories.
Finally: Check our Mem Fox’s two wonderful web pages for budding authors. She is one of the best teachers in this field: Here they are: