Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Advice to Aspiring Authors

Every once in a while I'm contacted by aspiring writers for advice on how to get started as a children's book author.  Whether they want to write picture books, chapter books or YA, my advice is pretty much the same. First I tell them that it’s great that they’re interested in writing a children’s/YA book, but then I warn them that having a children’s book published is not an easy endeavor. It’s a very competitive business. A single publisher might receive about 20,000 manuscripts in a single year from potential authors. Of those 20,000, the publisher might publish anywhere between 5 and 30 books, depending on the publisher’s size and needs. I don’t say this to discourage them, but I say it to give them the proper perspective of what they’re getting into.

If they’re serious in their publishing pursuit, here are some of the main suggestions I give them:

1. Attend local or national children's writing conferences. Not only will writing conferences teach you much of what you need to know, they're great places to make contacts with other authors as well as editors and agents. Preferably, you’ll want to look for conferences where national authors, editors, and agents attend to present their insights on writing and getting published. A good resource for finding about some of those events can be found at

2. Join a critique group. A critique group can give you objective advice on your stories. Once again, SCBWI is a good resource for finding out about local critique groups. Even if you’re not a member of SCBWI, the regional coordinator for your area would likely be happy to tell you about critique groups in your area. (

3. Attend writing workshops. Quite often different published authors offer workshops. This might be authors local to your area or ones that happen to be visiting your area in conjunction with a book tour. Simply do a Google search for writing workshops in your area.

4. Do your research. Read different books on writing children’s books.  The Complete Idiot's Guide to Publishing Children's Books by Harold Underdown is a good book to read, as is the Children’s Writers and Illustrators Market by Writer’s Digest. For longer works, Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maas is an excellent resource. There are also a lot of Web sites and blogs with good information too, such as and

5. Reads lots of current children’s books. If you’re not reading what’s being written and bought today in your genre of choice, you won’t have the familiarity you need with what sells in today’s market. Read as many books as you can.

 If you have other suggestions for the aspiring author, please share.

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