I'm always delighted when I find a quality book on the subject of writing for children. I recently came across Barbara Seuling's How to Write a Children's Book and Get It Published in my local bookstore and I snatched it up. A very successful children's writer and illustrator with over 60 published books, Barbara Seuling was formerly a children's book editor for over nine years. She knows her craft.
Part One of this guidebook provides an introduction that helps you define your goals as a children's writer. The author begins with a variety of probing, relevant questions that offer an accurate self-assessment of whether you are really cut out for this field. You definitely need massive amounts of persistence and the author is not afraid to point that out.
Of all the books I've read recently that are specifically written for beginning children's writers, this book does the best, most accurate job of defining the different categories of children's books available for sale today. The only type of book missing in her initial list is the e-book, which she discusses later in the book. Her thorough descriptions of the available areas for children's writing have given me some ideas for types of books I might attempt to write in addition to my specialty area of picture books.
Part Two of the book delves into a problem that is not frequently discussed. What do you do if you don't have enough ideas for books? What do you do if you have too many ideas and can't pick one? Barbara has great ideas and suggestions for how to handle these two opposite ends of the scale. One of my favorite parts of the book is when she discusses her own personal struggle with procrastination and how she developed techniques to work through that issue...very valuable tips. The last portion of Part Two talks about how to hone your writing abilities to create a clear, clutter-free writing style that reflects your personal voice.
Now we delve into the heart of the book. Part Three provides a short course on the major points you need to know as you tackle writing the different types of books outlined in Part One. The important elements of Picture Books, Easy-to-Read Books, Early Chapter Books as well as the varying techniques needed for successful fiction and nonfiction are explored. There's a section on writing in verse as well as on writing plays for school presentations.
Your book is written and you're ready to submit it to a publisher! In Part Four, Barbara walks through the steps needed for a submission and talks about how to find the best publisher for your work. She also deftly handles the discussion of whether authors should send out simultaneous submissions or not. There's a section with specific tips for the illustrator/author and a section on the new emerging markets, such as e-books.
Part Five of the book discussed the realities of your first contract. What will it be like to work with an editor? Will she or he ask for endless revisions on a book you feel you're finished with? Barbara shares a surprising personal experience that shows how the collaboration between author and editor works and how it can result in unexpected benefits. This one story and the wisdom in it was worth the price of the book.
The back of the book is filled with information-rich appendices with references that will help you as you move along in your journey as a children's writer.
One last comment...reviews on Amazon depicted this book as harsh toward the beginning writer's chances in the marketplace. I completely disagree. This book is practical and realistic about the persistence it takes to succeed as a children's writer. The author suggests you send your manuscript out and then keep working on a new one.
Don't give up if you know your life's work is to be a children's writer.