"Pointers from the Pros" gives tips from authors and publishing industry professionals on everything from craft to querying to their experiences on the road to publication.
**I'm bringing over some of my series posts from my old blog, so this is a blast-from-the-past post for those of you who have been with me since Wordpress.**
I spoke at the 35th annual Southeastern Writers Association conference in beautiful St. Simons Island, Ga., in June 2010 and took copious notes at the sessions. Although I couldn't go to all the faboo classes, I'm sharing some tips from some of the ones I was lucky enough to attend.
Here is what fantabulous children's author Gail Langer Karwoski* had to say about (younger) children's books.
THE BASICS OF CHILDREN'S BOOKS
- The characters should be around the age of the reader (or slightly older).
- The settings need to be appropriate for kids.
- In the current market, as opposed to the books you grew up reading, the words are now simpler & the text is shorter.
- It's so competitive; be the rule, not the exception---or you won't get published.
TYPES OF (YOUNGER) CHILDREN'S BOOKS
- Picture books:32-pages, with pictures on every spread
- Can be fiction or nonfiction
- Board/cloth books:16 pages or less, simple & short, made to last through wear & tear
- Most are developed in-house (not ideal if you're trying to break in).
- Many are redesigned classics.
- Concept books:explain a concept rather than telling a story
- There is no absolute beginning/middle/end; the order of the pages doesn't matter; each spread can be a vignette (her NF books are like this).
- These are considered showcases for illustrators.
- Novelty books/gift books:things such as pop-up, scratch & sniff
- Not built to last
- Schools & libraries don't buy them
- Expensive to produce
- Picture storybooks:generally intended to be read aloud to children (ages 4-8)
- Vocab appropriate to subject and age---*adult* is reading it, so it can include words like "triceratops"
- 32 pages---some longer, for older kids
- Some used as unit openers (for older kids), to be read by the kids themselves
- Separate from the other book types and not popular sellers (other than in schools & libraries)
- Some are longer picture books---biographies, for older kids (3rd-4th grade)
- Easy readers/early readers: meant for kids to read themselves, as transition books
- Usually < 200 words---sometimes even < 100 words.
- Very specific guidelines & very formulaic (many pub houses even have word lists to use for these).
- Usually assigned by the publishing companies to writers.
- Most picture books begin with the story, unless you have a legal relationship with the illustrator (it's you, your relative, your spouse).
- If there's no legal relationship and you're trying to suggest an illustrator in your proposal, it's like a siren screaming "AMATEUR" (=rejection).
- Many times, pub houses will pair a newer author with a more established illustrator to increase the book's chances of selling.
- If you can do both (you don't just "doodle"), you should; just make sure your proposal is professional.
- Many agents want author/illustrators (because it's less people to pay and more of a cut of the money for them).