Building a writing career
ONLINE COLUMN: Writing for Children
Published: August 28, 2009
|Is it better to land a contract first or write the manuscript first? |
If you have not written a children's book or magazine article, it's best to gain experience first. Start writing today. Start getting published now by writing for the no-pay/low-pay market. There are numerous publishers listed in market guides who pay a small fee or none at all, especially in the periodical market. The no-pay/low-pay market is ripe with opportunity to gain experience because most writers skip over it in search of greener pastures. Obtain samples of these publications, read them with your proverbial magnifying glass, write manuscripts targeted for their market, submit these manuscripts, and start building published credits right away. Nancy Sanders
As you gain actual writing and publishing experience, however, it's to your advantage to attempt to land a contract or an assignment before you write the manuscript. This helps guarantee that you'll get paid while you're writing and will help you start building a successful career as a children's writer.
How do you make the leap? Evaluate the market in which you're acquiring published credits. Have you been submitting puzzles for publication in children's magazines? Send a query to a book editor and pitch three to five ideas for potential puzzle books. Have you been writing mysteries for teen magazines? Send a query to a book editor and pitch three to five ideas for potential middle-grade or young-adult mystery novels.
Sometimes the market feels smaller and smaller the more you get published. More publishers require agents. More agents require potential clients to already have an established track record. In today's tough, competitive children's market, it can take years to find a publisher for a manuscript you already wrote, no matter how well-written it is. How should we, as children's writers, adjust to this dilemma? Learn to query widely and query well.
Yes, many children's publishers do not accept queries from unagented writers. If you do not have an agent, skip over these houses. Dig through your market guides and look for children's book publishers who ARE open to receiving queries. Establish part of each week's writing routine to include time for studying one of these publishers, evaluating the list of titles they already publish, and brainstorming three to five ideas for new books that would complement their list.
Don't worry if you're not totally passionate about potential topics. Writing is a job. Learn to treat it as such. Sure, you can still write manuscripts you love, but if you want to experience solid success in today's children's market, learn to write on topics editors are looking for as well. Send a short query letter to the editor of a publisher you've been studying. Pitch three to five new ideas, explain how they fit into the publisher's product line, and list your published credits. If you're targeting a large children's magazine, do the same.
Continue sending out queries to a variety of publishers until an editor responds and asks for a proposal for one of your ideas. Then prepare the proposal and submit it. Try to land a contract or assignment before you write the book or article. Make it your goal to earn income while you write.
Nancy I. Sanders has written numerous books and articles for children. She also leads three critique groups and is the author of a new book for children's writers, Yes! You Can Learn How to Write Children's Books, Get Them Published, and Build a $uccessful Writing Career (summer 2009). Web: www.nancyisanders.com.