So You Want to Be a Writer
(Reposted and revised from my website, donnaodonnellfigurski.com February 2010)
(Reposted from Donna O'Donnell Figurski's Blog)
Many hopeful children’s book writers believe that after they finish the text of their story, they need to find an illustrator. That is a myth and probably the biggest misconception of beginning writers.
Below I offer insight that I found along the way. I hope that these suggestions will be helpful to new writers for children. And … yes, I was one of those beginner writers (many years ago) who thought I had to find an illustrator.
You do NOT need to find an illustrator.
Once you have completed the book in its most finished form, you may begin the search for a publisher or an agent. This is a daunting experience because publishers and agents receive hundreds, sometimes thousands of manuscripts daily, depending on the company and their size and popularity. Unfortunately they only publish a very few of those. The larger, more popular companies, may publish about thirty titles a year; while the smaller companies may publish between two and three titles. This is where your hardest work begins.
Here are several suggestions below:
You need to do your research to find out which company would be the best fit for your story. To do that, you should go to the library or bookstore to find other books that are similar to yours. Then target those companies. Since publishers and agents usually take between three or more months to respond, if they respond at all, be sure to make good choices.
Since the business of publishing a children’s book has so many facets, you really need to do your homework. One of the best resources is the Children’s Writer’s and Illustrator’s Market – the current version. Sometimes you can find this in the library, but I recommend purchasing your own copy so you can mark it up.
Another trusted book that may help you to find y the perfect agent is Jeff Herman’s Guide to Book Publishers, Editors and Literary Agents: Who They Are, What They Want, How to Win Them Over (29th edition 2023).
Unfortunately, finding an agent can be just as daunting as finding a publisher, so you have to decide which route to take. An agent usually requires between 10% to 15% of your book earnings. A good agent is worth every penny.
You can also tap into Agent Query to find what agents are looking for.
This is probably the best suggestion of all. Go to writer’s conferences and join the Society of Children’s Writers and Illustrators. (SCBWI) You can join for about $95.00 a year and they provide an immense amount of information. There are also local chapters. For example: scbwi – Arizona or New Jersey SCBWI, I think all of the states have a chapter. There are even international chapters in Australia East/New Zealand, Indonesia, Mongolia, and Japan to name a few.
Joining a local children’s book writer’s group can also be helpful to get feedback on your writing. You can even join online writing groups that meet in Zoom or other social media platforms. I belong to two writing groups––both online.
You can check out my website for a list of very helpful books about how to publish your children’s book. My Writing Life.
Probably the best advice I can give to you is – if you believe in your book and this a dream you really want to happen, then be PERSISTENT and be PATIENT. It is just about the hardest field to break into. It can be done. Many have done it.
I've even done it with my book, Prisoners Without Bars: A Caregiver's Tale. You can check out my book at my website, donna o'donnell figurski - Author
I hope that this information will help you.
Wishing you the best of luck.
(Clip Art compliments of Bing.)
If you have some time, check out my Surviving Traumatic Brain Injury blog.
I am the author of Prisoners without Bars: A Caregiver's Tale. It's the true story of how my husband almost left me--three times.