Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Thinking about writing for young children? Have questions?

Who doesn't like children's books? As a writer, they seem like the ultimate opportunity--you can write about anything, right? Writing for little kids sounds like fun, but of course, its serious business.

Three of the most common questions new writers of children's books have are:
  • should I pitch my project as part of a series? 
  • should I hire an illustrator for my project?
  • will I make more writing for children than adults?

Multi-published author, Christine Taylor-Butler, shares her insights.  

1. Submit a single text and keep the sequels in your back pocket. The "series" isn't what sells the book. It's the command of the language, the concept, and the execution that sells the book along with market potential.

2. DO NOT hire an illustrator.  If you don't have a name in the industry, publishers sometimes pair you with a known illustrator to boost market potential.  Also, the illustrator has to be well versed in publishing requirements.  You will work with the editor, but the illustrator works with the art director who will have ideas about how the book should be shaped.  I've met several of my illustrators and am fascinated at how many drafts they go through before the Art Director is satisfied. In one case, as many drafts as I had done on the text side.

Also - understand that the illustrator will need to understand crop, bleed, gutter placement, printable color range, etc. to prepare the artwork.  Hopefully your illustrator is professionally trained, but unless it's a really strong project, publishers will assume that the team is already fixed in their vision for the project and it will be more likely to kick out a rejection.

3. The picture book market does not pay as much as the market for novels. It sometimes takes years for the picture book to appear on the shelf, the books are expensive to produce (because of the full color requirements) and the author and illustrator are splitting the royalties. So it's not as lucrative for agents to represent that market. Usually the author has a literary agent, the illustrator has an artist's representative.


Christine Taylor-Butler is the author of more than sixty books for children, and Chair of MIT's Regional Educational Council. She is currently based in Kansas City, Missouri.