Tips on choosing a topic and finding a fresh angle
ONLINE COLUMN: Writing for Children
Published: September 18, 2009
|Should I try to think of a new children's topic to write about, or can I write about a topic that's already been covered before?|
As you're choosing a topic to write about, it helps to look at the topics a publisher has already covered. For instance, if you want to submit a nonfiction article to a children's magazine that publishes features about American presidents, make a list of presidents they've already published in the last three years. If they're yet to publish an article on Teddy Roosevelt, chances are they will be interested in your article about this president, even though it's a common topic. Nancy I. Sanders
The same holds true for the book market. If the publisher you're targeting has a list of picture books about a child's experiences at school but nothing about the first day of kindergarten, chances are it'll be interested in a manuscript on this topic even though many picture books have already been published on this topic.
Many publishers want their own product list to include a book on a familiar topic so that they can take advantage of the consumer's interest in this topic as well. Learn to examine a publisher's product list as you're brainstorming your next topic. Look for holes in a publisher's product line and write a manuscript to fill that gap even if a lot of other publishers have already covered the topic.
Publishers are always looking for an age-old topic handled in a fresh, new way. For instance, they know that each new generation of parents wants to buy bedtime picture books to read to their little ones.
The key, however, is to brainstorm a unique angle to handle a timeless topic. Go to your local library and study the books already published on your topic. Try to think of a different approach to take. Consider using a different format, a different genre, a different target age, or a different point of view. Experiment with various approaches. When you submit your query or finished manuscript, announce in your cover letter that your manuscript covers the same topic as several titles that sell well but is different in some unique way that will establish its own presence in the market.
As you gain more experience and acquire a list of published credits under your belt, you will build name recognition in the children's market. You'll develop your voice and establish a presence as a children's writer.
At that point of your career, if you have the desire to write about a topic that has already been widely published, go ahead. No other writer in the world can write about this topic from your perspective; you'll put your own fingerprint, as it were, on your manuscript in a way nobody else can. And if you already have a following, your fans will purchase your new book just because you wrote it even if they already have a book on that topic at home.
--Posted Sept. 18, 2009
|Nancy I. Sanders|
Nancy I. Sanders is the author of the groundbreaking new book for children's writers, Yes! You Can Learn How to Write Children's Books, Get Them Published, and Build a Successful Writing Career. Web: www.nancyisanders.com.