The Odd World of Writing for Children

The children’s writing community is an odd bunch.  Don’t get me wrong, I mean that in the most respectful way possible since I am a part of that community.  Now I will explain that when I call the writing community an odd bunch I don’t mean that they are the type of people that stay up late eating a block of cheese and monitoring their Facebook fan page for Tootie from the Facts of Life.  Though if that’s what you’re into, who am I to judge? What I am talking about is an odd sense of camaraderie in an extremely competitive market.

Some people think it’s easier getting published in the children’s market than it is to be published in adult markets, but they would be wrong.  The odds aren’t great, especially in the picture book genre, which is  my main focus.  Publishing houses do not make large amounts of money on picture books; therefore the number of picture books that get printed each year is small, compared to other genres. If you look at a rough estimate of who gets published, you will find the majority are established writers already associated to a publishing house, let’s just say it’s 80%.  That leaves 20% open slots for new writers.  Now add in the many celebrities that are throwing their books into the ring with name recognition which automatically boosts sales (very appealing to a publishing house).  That drops that 20% down even lower for us regular folks. Which means, the rest of us are now fighting for, maybe, a 10% chance to get our picture book published.  Again, these are rough estimates based on information I have found on the web.  So if we are all fighting for this tiny sliver of a chance to get published, then why are there so many examples of writers helping each other get published?

Like I said, writers for children are odd.

The amount of information to help you better your chances of getting published that is put out on the web by other writers for free is amazing.  Look at the Verla Kay Blue boards.  It costs nothing to join and there is so much information on this board you may not have to look anywhere else, except this blog of course.  I couldn’t tell you how many times I have seen people posting about “this publisher” open to submissions or “that agent” looking for a particular genre.  You would think it would be in a person’s best interest to keep this info to themselves, but they don’t.  I have found great web sites such as Rhymeweaver.com going through the ins and outs of how to rhyme.  Why offer up that information? Especially for free? Wouldn’t you want other people’s rhyme to be painful to read so that yours stands out?  And let’s not forget the all-important writers’ critique group.  A group of people all working toward the same goal, getting together and helping each other perfect their work.  It’s like if Tom Brady sat down with Mark Sanchez before the big game and helped him with his throw.  In such a competitive world, who does that in this day and age?

Writers for children do, but why?

One of the reasons is that writing is unique in that it is an individual effort to write something, but it takes a team to get published.  After writing your book you need people to critique it.  You need people to look over your query letter.  One person could not keep track of the changing landscape of publishing houses and know which ones are open and which ones are closed.  You need people to help keep track of the overwhelming amount of information you need to know.  If and when you get published, these same people are links to marketing your book.  You do this because it is a give and take community.  You help others because you need the help.  You help because those in the writing community want to be a part of putting quality literature on the market.  Try to name one other type of business that does that.  I also work in the science community and I can tell you, that type of collaboration does not exist with your competitors.  Though I have to wonder what types of products would be on the market if it did.

Now that I think about it, maybe writers aren’t that odd.

14 comments

  1. Wonderful post. I’m a librarian by trade and started writing again after my Muse went on a LONG hike. Thanks for a great blog.

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    1. Thanks for reading Anne. Glad you enjoyed it. Keep writing, its the only way to make sure your Muse doesn’t take another hike!

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  2. Michelle, better 15 minutes than 3 years. That’s the rejection I got in the mail a few days ago. Crazy! And Paul, I love your idea! Hi, My name is Carol Gordon Ekster and I write for children. It’s been one day since my last rejection letter…and I’m not sure I feel good about it! But I am learning that if your story is meant to be out there in the world, when the timing is right, that acceptance will come.

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  3. So, so true, Paul! KidLit peeps are the most wonderfully supportive group of people. I feel lucky to have so many people at my back cheering me on… especially when I get yet another rejection letter.

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    1. Hey Michelle, you’re right about the support factor given to writers especially from your critique group. I feel with every meeting we should start by going around the table saying “Hi, My name is Paul Czajak and I write for children, it’s been 4 days since my last rejection letter and I’m feeling really good about it.”

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    2. Ha Ha. Good idea. Hi. My name is Michelle and it’s been 4 hours since my last rejection. It only took the editor 15 minutes from the time I hit send. I think that’s a new world record, so I feel pretty good about that. (NOT joking btw).

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  4. Hey, Paul. Isn’t it great to find a profession and a community where goodness, kindness, and honesty are the norm? Thank you for sharing the vibes. Not only do we enjoy working with good people, our stories help kids grow and deal with life. And they are tangible. What could be better than that?
    It has been fun watching your work grow and find success.

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  5. Great post, Paul. It is, indeed, good to be part of a community who genuinely wants to see our direct competition succeed!

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  6. Maybe it is nice guys like you that makes it easier to root for our fellow writers! It makes us all hopeful when we hear of other children’s writers getting contracts. And when great books like yours are published it is good for children and for the industry. Keep those writing successes coming.

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  7. Great post, Paul! I work in another field that has a level of camaraderie similar to what you describe: K-12 educational publishing. Perhaps there’s something about writing for children, for school or fun or both, that makes the adults play so well together!

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