Learn how to gather ideas
Published: August 5, 2010
Q: How can I find fresh and original ideas for today’s children’s market?
Nancy I. Sanders
A: My first suggestion is to “adopt” a local school. If your kids are little, volunteer regularly in their classrooms. If you don’t have school-age children, volunteer at your neighborhood school. Each time you walk into the building, you’ll see new projects hanging on the walls. You’ll hear kids talk and see children interacting. Your brain will automatically be stimulated with new ideas every time you visit.
I also like to brainstorm original ideas for children’s manuscripts. First create a list of universal childhood themes. These work best if broken into age brackets such as infant, preschool, elementary school, middle school and high school. Your list can include such issues as separation anxiety to losing a tooth to going on a first date. One of the easiest ways to add to your list is to search Amazon.com for book series such as the Berenstain Bears. Often the titles themselves reflect universal childhood themes.
Now look at your list of themes, and pick one to explore more fully. Let's say you choose to write about the first day of school. Start by listing five examples of exotic settings for this story. For instance, a child experiences his first day of school in a remote village in Africa. Next make a list of five examples of unique characters who experience this theme. For example, a cast of underwater sea creatures could all go to Fish School for their first day of kindergarten. Now brainstorm a list of five examples of unique eras in history. This list could include a young knight-in-training who starts his first day learning to carry a shield. Next make a list of five historical events or actual people. For example, young George Washington could experience his first day of schooling by his mother. Finally, write down a list of five ways you could retell a folktale, fairy tale or nursery rhyme—or use one as inspiration for your story. For instance, Little Boy Blue could wake up from his nap and remember it was his first day of school.
Another way to develop ideas is to analyze the market. Using Amazon’s advanced book search, type your themes in the keyword or title field, and choose your age range. Compare the number of titles available for each. The themes with the fewest published books could provide the best opportunities for getting published, because the market isn’t already overwhelmed with books on that topic.
Then choose a children’s publisher you would like to write for. Referring to your list of universal childhood themes, explore the publisher’s current catalog online. Cross off themes the publisher already has covered. Send a query asking if the editors would be interested in books on three to five universal childhood themes that you don’t see in the catalog. Even if one of the themes on your list is wildly over-published (such as potty training), a publisher might be interested in acquiring a book on the topic if it has not yet published one.
Publishers are eager for manuscripts based on fresh ideas. Do your homework and increase your chances for success!
Nancy I. Sanders is the author of Yes! You Can Learn How to Write Children’s Books, Get Them Published, and Build a Successful Writing Career. Web: www.nancyisanders.com.|