Friday, November 13, 2009

The Least You Need to Know: I Wrote a Book. Now What?

Jacqui's Advice on Getting Started

1. Ask yourself: who is the audience for this story? People get caught up in the mystique of being published, of being on book store shelves. But not every book has to be published to be a success. If you wrote a story for your daughter and she loved it and you print it out and she illustrates it, it may be the most special book in her library. My own kids have plenty of books like this. That doesn't mean they'll be special to every kid. It also doesn't mean they're worth less than a book that sells in a store. So ask yourself, who is the audience for this story? Or, a harder question, if I heard someone else wrote this story would I buy it?

2. If you decide to forge ahead with publishing, your first step is to wait. Wait until the story is distant enough that you can sit down and read it and be surprised. This may be a few weeks or a few months or even years. Then re-read and revise accordingly.

3. Read your story to some kids who don't love you. Your own kids will love it because you wrote it. So will your niece. You need an objective audience. Better yet: get another adult to read it to them while you watch. Pay attention. Take notes. Do they laugh in the right places? Do they yawn? Do they shrug and say, "It was good" at the end, or do they want to hear it again? Revise accordingly.

4. Get some other people's opinions. Find a critique group, online or in person. Join the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI). You don't have to be published to join and they are a wealth of information and resources. Your local chapter may be able to refer you to a local critique group. After your critiquers comment, revise accordingly.

5. But don't ask me. I'm sorry. I can't offer to read your book for you. I get a lot of requests and I barely have enough time to do my own writing, so my agent has forbidden me to read anyone else's work, outside my critique groups. Unfortunately, this is true of most authors.

6. Instead, go and look at the Jacqui's Room Rules for Picture Books. Revise accordingly.

7. Do your research before you submit. Children's Writers and Illustrators Market (CWIM) is a great place to start. The SCBWI site has good articles on getting started. Editor Harold Underdown's site has great information on the basics, as does his Complete Idiot's Guide to Children's Publishing.'s "How Do I Get Started As A Children's Writer" is good too. All of these resources will help you choose the best editor, publishing house, etc. for your specific story.

8. Follow the rules. Publishers and editors have individual requirements for submissions. Follow them.

9. But what about an agent? Yes. Having an agent makes things much, much easier. Agents are hard to snag, though, and most of them are looking for clients with a body of work that goes beyond one book. If you decide to go agent hunting, step 7 still applies, except now you are looking for someone who is a good fit both for your work and for you.

10. Go write another book. Don't sit around and wait to hear and waste away. Children's publishing moves very, very slowly. Use your time to keep moving ahead. And good luck!

This is a follow-up to The Least You Need to Know: How to Write a Picture Book.


Anonymous said...

My favorite is #10!

So true! The best way to forget about a manuscript you've submitted is to write a new one. And even better one! (And then you can kick yourself for sending that OTHER one out!)

Vijaya said...

Oh, my kids and I do love our homemade books.

cath c said...

excellent advice. thank you. no i will not be coming to a book signing of yours with my manuscript in hand, well, maybe i will, but i won't make you read it.

Jacqui said...

Tara, it's the hardest sometimes though, isn't it?

Vijaya, me too. We have one called "Naked Froggy Rescue Heroes." It rules.

cath c, I'd just be happy to meet you in real life!

Write2ignite said...

My daughters drooled over some old poetry of mine tonight and asked for me to print copies. They took the copies and promptly taped them to their bedroom walls. They have no idea how precious that was to me!

I love #5. I expect you get a lot of that, don't you? But oh, to have that problem! :)

I believe I'll print out this list and tape it to MY wall. ;)


Jacqui said...

WordWrangler, that is awesome.