Can you recommend any good reference books?

Posted on October 18, 2007

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I am interested in learning how to write for children. Can you recommend any good reference books?

I have recommended The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Publishing Children’s Books by Harold Underdown for several years. It truly is a must-have for beginning children’s writers. Underdown covers all the layers of children’s publishing business, and offers a lot of excellent advice. From how to write a query letter to who draws the pictures, this book truly does contain everything you wanted to know but were afraid to ask about writing for children.

If you want to write for children, it’s a good idea to know about the publishing world. Olga Litowinsky is a former children’s book editor, agent, and publisher. Her book, It’s a Bunny-Eat-Bunny World: A Writer’s Guide to Surviving and Thriving in Today’s Competitive Children’s Book Market is an insider’s look into the world of children’s book publishing today, and told with tongue-in-cheek good humor.

Writing Children’s Books for Dummies by Lisa Rojany Buccieri and Peter Economy is more than a how-to manual. It covers everything from what motivates you to write for children to genres to the children’s book market. Readers will find plenty of advice such as, how to craft your story, write nonfiction, find a publisher, and market your book. With the help of the thorough table of contents and index, information on a specific topic is easy to find.

I was particularly impressed with Chapter 2: Children’s Book Formats and Genres, and also Chapter 3: Understanding the Children’s Book Market. The biggest mistake prospective children’s writers make is that they simply do not know enough about the age group or market they’re writing for. Until now, I lacked a single reference – but this is definitely it. Lisa Buccieri is a publishing executive with over 15 years’ experience in the business, so readers can take her word for it.

But wait — there’s more! Experienced authors will find plenty to sink their teeth into. Authors Buccieri and Economy dish up the real meat of children’s writing by including chapters on plot, dialogue, point of view, and the awesome task of editing your own work. Authors will love the chapters on agents, contracts, and Ten Best Ways to Promote Your Story.

A wannabe writer once wrote to me: “I’d like to write for children but I can’t think of any story ideas. Where can I find story ideas?”

Well, guess what — Chapter 20 offers More than Ten Great Sources for Storylines, which is more like 12 full pages of story ideas.

Rich Tennant’s “The 5th Wave” cartoons, plus interviews with authors, editors, and agents generously sprinkled throughout contribute to the excellence of this book and catapults it to the top of my list of recommended reading for children’s writers.

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