Have you ever dreamed of writing a children’s book? You probably have. In a profession where we are surrounded by children all day long, it shouldn’t be that surprising that many art teachers have considered taking on this challenge. The fact that we are so closely connected to children gives us a slight advantage. We tend to know what children enjoy and what they respond to. We also know what’s happening in their world. These are things we can draw upon to capture their imaginations. So, just what does it take to become a published children’s book author? Here are few tips that can get you started.
Honestly, the children’s book market is perhaps one of the hardest genres to break into. This is because, just like you, many other people also want to write a children’s book. Publishers received thousands of manuscripts each year, but most publishing companies only produce a handful of new works. Those odds make the field incredibly competitive.
Visual artists don’t live in boxes. Visual artists familiarize themselves with artworks from the great masters to today’s contemporaries. They visit museums and local galleries and even view art on Pinterest. Just like the artist that knows her art, the children’s book writer knows her books. Visit the library and local bookstores. Sit in the children’s section and read as many books as you can.
A visual artist wouldn’t create one painting and then seek out a solo exhibit. An author shouldn’t write one book and seek out a publisher either. After you write your first children’s book, congratulate yourself. Then, pick up your laptop and type out another. The more you write, the stronger your stories, plots, and characters become. Write ten or more stories before you decide to send your best work off to be considered for publication.
Many writers believe they need to find an artist to illustrate their writing, however, this step is not necessary. Most publishers would rather pair the writer with the illustrator of their choosing. As artists ourselves, we might be tempted to illustrate our own work. While some children’s books are written and illustrated by the same person, being accepted by a publisher for both of these talents makes the task more difficult. You may increase your odds of being published if you focus on either writing or illustrating.
Art teachers understand the value of the art critique. Of course, we evaluate our students’ work, but we often ask them to evaluate each other’s art as well. In the same manner, it is important and valuable to receive feedback about your writing. While a friend or family member might be willing to read your story, a fellow writer can often give you sound advice. Joining a local writers’ group will improve your writing as your work is critiqued and as you critique others.
Art teachers who are members of the NAEA understand the value of membership. We go to conferences where we learn from each other as well as the top professionals in our field. For the children’s book writer, the organization to join is the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI). Membership in this organization provides access to valuable information on the website and through their local and national publications. Attendance at either a state or national SCBWI conference will open your eyes to the professional world of the publication industry.
Much of this article’s focus has been on seeking out professional publishers, however, self-publishing is an option for consideration. With print-on-demand online tools such as Lulu.com and Createspace.com, your books could be available for purchase through media giants such as Amazon this very afternoon. Self-publishing is easy, virtually cost-free and can make your stories accessible in both print and online formats.
There are several advantages to having a book published by a publishing house that you will not receive by self-publishing. For example, a publishing house will make sure your book is professionally edited and formatted before it is printed. A publishing house will also market and distribute your book. Although self-publishing companies can post your book on Amazon, it will be up to you to make sure people know it’s there.
Writing children’s books is often described as a labor of love. Though some authors are published, most are not. For this reason alone, getting published should not be your only goal. Like an artist who relishes the time spent creating art, you should write for the love of writing. Enjoy the work that goes into creating a story just as much as you would enjoy working on a painting or throwing a pot.
Editor’s Note: Ian is the author of How To Milk A Dinocow, Peak City Publishing LLC. Check it out!
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