The Basics of Writing For Children
An Introductory Guide To Writing For Children
If you dream of writing for children this introductory guide will give you a starting place.
Unfortunately, there is no "quick" way to break into the world of children's publishing. If you
love writing for children and would do it even if you never made much money or never got
published you may just have the passion needed to be successful!
If you've decided that writing for children is your passion - let’s get started...
Becoming part of a writer’s community is a great way to learn about the craft of writing
for children. One of the best organizations for children’s writers is the
Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI). As a SCBWI member
you’ll be able to access workshops, presentations, critiquing, message boards and list serves.
Look for other associations or writers groups in your area. It's very helpful to be able to network with
others who share a common goal and who can provide you with guidance and answers to your questions.
Do Your Homework
First on your agenda should be reading. The best way to learn about writing for children
is by reading published children's books. Reading excellent books will provide the most wonderful
and rewarding "homework".
Although you probably have your own favorites, it’s important to be current with today’s publishing.
Audiences and writing styles change, so be sure you are learning from current offerings.
Study the children’s writing market and publishers catalogs.
The writing market is ever-changing. Keeping abreast of current market changes and styles will keep
you on top of your game.
Write, Write, Write
Writing is what writers do. Don’t think about it - just do it! Make time to write every
day. You won’t get your book written or develop into the writer you want to be unless you keep
at it. Don’t let doubts, time
constrictions or anything else keep you from your writing.
Set goals. If you have time issues set up a schedule - and stick to it!
When you believe your book is ready to be submitted for publication, remember
you may not be the best judge of whether your work is at its best.
By all means have it critiqued by a professional. This is where SCBWI or other writer’s groups you
have joined can be fully utilized. Having your work evaluated by a professional writer or editor
will give you valuable insights and information into perfecting your work.
Revise, revise, revise! Getting published is not a hobby but a multi-million dollar business.
Your book must be the best it can be.
Commit To Submit
Once your manuscript is in tip-top shape, send it out to the agents you have
chosen. If you receive helpful criticisms, revise accordingly and
Writing for children isn't as easy as it sounds, and neither is getting published, but if you don’t
try it will never happen. So commit to submit - and do it - again and again, if necessary.
Where To Submit
Trying to find the right agent may seem daunting, but here are a few
good places to start your search.
Childrens Writers & Illustrators Market This guide provides detailed information
about children’s publishers, agents and more. A must have for every author or illustrator.
The Children’s Book Council A useful list (updated monthly) of children’s publishers that
describes the publishers programs. Also notes whether publishers accept unsolicited submissions and in
what form submissions should be made.
Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators Besides the networking and critiquing
I talked about earlier, SCBWI also provides a wealth of publishing resources for members.
Directory of Literary Agents
eBook Crossroads Listing of Literary Agents
After researching put together a small list of the agents you have chosen. Check guidelines
to make sure you make your submission correctly.
How To Submit
As noted above, always follow the agent’s guidelines. Include a brief
cover letter mentioning your relevant experience. Put your return address on the envelope. Unless
the guidelines tell you differently, enclose a self-addressed, stamped envelope for the return of
your materials if the agent isn’t interested. Also include a business sized SASE for their
response. Do not send original art or the only copy of your manuscript.
Most agents require a
In essence, a query letter asks for permission to send in your manuscript.
Don’t be surprised if it takes awhile before you hear anything - but have your manuscript
ready to send if the reply is yes.
While your waiting, write, write and write some more.
Your manuscript should be in an easily readable typeface (upper and lower case) on
plain paper, double-spaced. Your return address should be on the first page. If your manuscript is
intended to be a picture book, do not break it into pages with a few sentences each, just type it
out as a story. It is not necessary to indicate the age for which your story is intended as that
should be clear from the manuscript itself.
It is not necessary to send illustrations with your manuscript. In fact, you shouldn't. It's not
the author's responsibility to provide illustrations for the story
and could increase your chances of rejection.
Be Prepared To Revise
Although you most likely believe that your manuscript is as good as it can be - it's probably not.
So don't be upset if you are asked to do some revisions.
Never Give Up
Even the most celebrated authors have received their share of rejection
letters. It’s simply part of the business. So don’t give up, just keep on reading, keep on writing
and keep on submitting.
I’ll be looking for your books at the bookstores!
For more in depth information on writing for children, here is a short listing of books to
How to Write a Children's Book and Get it Published, 3rd Ed.
Writer's & Illustrator's Guide to Children's Book Publishers and Agents,2nd Edition
Writing Picture Books: A Hands-On Guide from Story Creation to Publication
The Encyclopedia of Writing and Illustrating Children's Books
The Writer's Guide to Crafting Stories for Children