So you have written a children’s book, or have an idea and want to write one. What now? If you are new to all of this, there are a couple of basic things you need to know.
- If you are planning on self publishing, you will need to hire an illustrator (and a book designer, and a printer, and you will need a distribution and sales plan). Don’t hire the cheapest illustrator you can find, unless you don’t care whether your book sells or not, or whether it looks professional. Self publishing is expensive and time consuming, so make sure you have the budget to hire experienced professionals to make the best possible version of your book so that people will actually want to buy it. Self publishing also requires a lot of time and skill to market your book, which you will have to do yourself. If you are entrepreneurial, like to be in control of everything, and have oodles of time and money, then by all means, go for it! You can hire me to do your illustration and/or your book design (layout). 🙂
- If you want to sell your story to a publisher, this is called traditional publishing. Typically you would submit only your manuscript to a traditional publisher. No illustrations. Read the submission guidelines on the publisher’s website and follow the rules. The publisher will typically hire the illustrator (of their choice) and they will pay the illustrator. The publisher will also pay you – either a flat fee or royalties. (Make sure you get an “advance on royalties”. If you don’t know what that means, look it up. But basically you will be paid a certain amount up front regardless of how many copies are sold – this is then deducted from royalties earned on sales, and then once you “earn out” this amount in royalties, you will start getting paid royalties again.) Smaller publishing houses might prefer to pay a flat fee. Most will be open to negotiation so think about how you would like your contract to be structured and be sure to read it thoroughly and understand it. Some publishers do not accept un-agented submissions. Getting an agent is sometimes as hard as getting a publisher, but if you get in, it is huge validation that your story is good! This is something to strive for.
- Beware if vanity publishers – these are companies that often pretend to be traditional publishers, but are not. The barrier for entry here is low. They are not as “selective” as traditional publishers and will basically “publish” anyone who pays them to. These companies will ask you to pay them to get your book published, with the promise that they will market and sell it. They will ask you to pay the illustrator too. From what I have heard, they do not do much in the form of marketing or distribution for you but are just in it to grab your money – you would probably be better off self-publishing. A legit publisher should be paying you, not the other way around. However if you choose to go this route, research them properly, ask them exactly where and how they distribute, try and get in touch with someone who has used them before. Make sure you will be getting bang for your buck.
- Copyright, royalties, advances and flat fees – look these up and know the lingo so you can negotiate terms and fees with your publisher and/or your illustrator.
- Before you submit to an agent or publisher or pay money to have your book illustrated for self-publishing, revise it a number of times, have it critiqued or edited. You want to present the best possible version of your story to the world, and your mom, child, uncle, dog’s opinion of it do not count. There are many resources online for getting your story edited or critiqued, so use them. A really great way to revise a picture book on your own, is to make a little book mock-up (book dummy) of all the pages and then figure out which text goes on which page. Practice paging through the dummy and reading it out loud. You will be amazed how this will help you fine tune your story. You don’t need illustration/sketches for this to work, but if you can draw even just stick figures, it is really a awesome (and fun) way to hone your story.
- If you are brand new to the industry, join a writers groups, take some online classes, do your research, and learn the craft. Writing for children is not as simple as just having a cool idea. You should know about the industry, know about story structure, know whether or not you should write in rhyme. You should know the standard number of pages and recommended word count for your chosen genre. You should know about pacing and page turns. There is tons of info online to help you take your great story and make it a masterpiece! I will list some of the info I have found helpful, below.
Helpful Articles and Resources for Writers:
Learning the Craft:
Story Teller Academy (Online classes for writers and/or beginner illustrators, critique groups)
Awesome Writing Tips from Mem Fox
Making Picture Book Magic (Online class for writers, also offers paid manuscript critique)
12×12 (Community and critique)
How much you get paid
General Info for Children’s Book Authors and Illustrators:
Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (Also a good community to join).