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1 Burnside Reference- Writing for Kids

The Complete Idiot's Guide to Publishing Children's Books


The Complete Idiot's Guide to Publishing Children's Books Cover


Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

The comprehensive guide to writing, publishing, and selling for the ever-expanding and always exciting children's market-now in a new and updated second edition.

Includes new chapters for illustrators, on submissions, portfolios, art directors, and more

In 2001, children's book publishing was a $1.8 billion market

Offers practical advice on getting started, plus the basics on writing-and selling-books that kids will love and parents will buy

Very few books on this topic provide specific information by experts

Covers picture book, juvenile, and young adult markets

Includes sample queries and proposals for most types of children's fiction


Children's book publishing is one of the most difficult fields of publishing for new authors to get into. The Complete Idiot's Guide to Publishing Children's Books gives potential authors tips, inside information, and detailed instructions for everything from how to prepare a proposal to how to get an agent. Detailing the differences between picture books, juvenile fiction, and the young adult novel, the book also covers branding, series, and licensing, discusses writing styles and character development, and explains forming illustrator partnerships.

About the Author

Harold D. Underdown graduated from Haverford College with a Bachelor's degree in English allied with Spanish. He received a Master's degree in English secondary education from Temple University, and after several years of social work and teaching, he entered publishing in 1989. Harold changed gears in 1994 to open his own business as an editorial consultant. While consulting, he developed his Web site, The Purple Crayon, recognized today as one of the best sources of information about the children's publishing industry.

Harold joined Charlesbridge Publishing's trade division in 1997. When he left in 2000 he was editorial director of a list of 25 to 30 titles annually. He is now editorial vice president for, a company dedicated to publishing illustrated children's books in a variety of electronic formats.

Throughout his career, Harold has worked with, and in some cases discovered, a number of distinguished authors and illustrators, among them Larry Pringle, Yumi Heo, Deborah Kogan Ray, Bob Marstall, Evelyn Coleman, Pat Mora, Barbara Esbensen, and Tony Johnston. Books he has edited have been named ALA Notable Books, and have been named to such lists as the ABA "Pick of the Lists," the CBC/NCSS "Notable Trade Books in the Field of Social Studies," and the IRA/CBC "Children's Choices." He speaks regularly at conferences across the country. For more information, visit his Web site at

Lynne Rominger began her career in publishing almost a decade ago as a book publicist after earning her degree from the University of California at Davis in English literature/nonfiction writing. During her time publicizing other people's books, she decided to write herself and embarked three years ago on a freelance writing career. Since then, she's written more than 100 feature articles for glossy magazines, newspapers, and Web sites. She has edited the Mind & Body channel on, Richard Carlson's site based on his popular Don't Sweat the Small Stuff (Hyperion, 1997) series of books, and is a regular contributor to Lynne also writes the monthly arts entries and personality Q&A for a regional magazine near her home in Roseville, California.

In addition to The Complete Idiot's Guide to Writing Children's Books, Lynne has co-authored The Complete Idiot's Guide to Publishing Magazine Articles (Alpha Books, 2000) with Sheree Bykofsky and Jennifer Basye Sander, Your First Year as a High School Teacher: Making the Transition from a Total Novice to a Successful Professional (Prima, 2001) with Suzanne Laughrea and Natalie Elkin, and Your First Year as an Elementary School Teacher: Making the Transition from a Total Novice to a Successful Professional (Prima, 2001) with Karen Heisinger and Natalie Elkin. When not working on her next writing project-a children's book, of course-Lynne teaches English at Granite Bay High School, Granite Bay, California.

Table of Contents

1. Adults Rule the World.

Getting Started.

Piercing the Static. No One Best Way. It Takes Time. Lots to Learn—Start Here.

Books and Publishers.

Picture Books and Appendix Books. So Many Publishers! Kinds of Publishers.

Putting Away Childish Things.

Take It Seriously. Art and Commerce. “When You Grow Up, Will You Write for Adults?”.

What This Book Can Do for You.

The Whole Picture. No Magic Formula. X Marks the Spot. How Others Did It. A Vade Mecum. Know the Forest, Not the Trees. No Guarantees.
2. I Don't Know What to Say! And What Comes Next.

You Are What You Read. Dear Diary. Practice Makes Perfect.

Let It Flow. Visualization. Memories. Get a Feel for.

Spontaneity or Results? Do It Again!
3. Survey Course: The World of Children's Literature.

Try It, You'll Like. The Classics.

Ask a Librarian. I Can Count to 100.

Hot! Do Touch That!

Back to the Library. Here a Bookseller, There a Bookseller.

Stop, Look, and Listen: Talk to Children.
4. Why Write a Children's Book—and Why Not?

I Want Money, But I'll Settle for Fame. I Want to Be the Teacher. I Get to Be the Mommy. Look What I Did!

Personal Passions. Open to Inspiration. The Inner Child.

I Got a Star. The Chance of Getting There.
5. The Piggy Bank and the Notebook.

School Supplies. Really Cool Toys. A Place for Everything.

Here a Book, There a Book, Everywhere a Book, Book! Puss and Booting. Red Rover, Red Rover, Send Research Right Over. The Secret Files Garden.

There's a Time and a Space for Everything. Jack and the Bean Stock: Income.
6. It's a BIG World.

The Golden Age. Paperbacks: Fun and Cheap. The Big Get Even Bigger. Who's Buying?

Eye-Catching Books. TV, Movies, and Candy. Our Friend Harry Potter.

It's an Electronic World.
7. What's in a Book? A Guided Tour.

It's a Cover-Up! The Cover, Jacket, and Spine. Teacher Says, “Give It a Title”. Legal and Other Details. The Stuff in the Front.

“For Me!” Dedications. Tables of Contents. Forewords and Introductions.

What's Between Your Head and Feet? Your Body!

Appendix Books. Alphabetical and Other Setups. Other Elements.

Go to the Back of the Line—Back Matter.


8. Animal, Vegetable, or Mineral? Book Formats and Age Levels.

Tell the Truth, the Whole Truth. Have Fun Lying. For Baby Brother: Picture Books. For Big Sister: Appendix Books. What's for Who? How to Tell. You Can Throw 'em. Read It Again! I Can Read This. That's a Lot of Stories!

Folktales and Fairy Tales. Short Stories and Poetry.

Mom, Can I Get This? For the Backpack. For Kid's Eyes Only—Not!
9. Digging Deeper Into the Book Pile.

Good Books (Literary Fiction). They're, Like, Soooo Popular: Popular Fiction. Pat Sat on the Mat (Control the Vocabulary). Swords and Sorcerers and Talking Bunnies.

Traditional Fantasy. Mon Dieu! The Clock Is Alive! Personifications. Watership Down vs. Sammy Squirrel: Anthropomorphism.

Stories Dressed in Facts: Historical Fiction. Neighbors Next Door and Far Away. The Facts Dressed in Lies: Fiction in Nonfiction.

Telling a Story. Drama.

Straight Nonfiction.
10. Apples and Oranges: Kinds of Publishers and What They.

Quiz—What Do You Know? What Does a Publisher Do, Anyway? The Professionals.

Getting the Ball Rolling. Professional Manuscript Preparation. Overseeing Production. Sales Force One—or More! Team Effort: Marketing. A Pocket Full of Marbles and Money.

Pineapples and Oranges—and Bananas? Different Kinds of Books.

Pineapples—Trade Books. Oranges—for the Masses. The Childish Masses. Mass Appeal: What Publishers Want. Bananas? The Institutional Market.

Double Vision! The Blurring of the Boundaries.
11. Keep 'em Rolling: Series.

What's the Big Difference?

Series or Single Title? Let's Get Series Now.

I Didn't Mean to Do That: The Unintended Series. School and Library Publishers. Easy Readers. Historical Fiction. Getting Down on Your Knees.
12. Is It Ready to Hand In?

Rabbit's Friends and Relations. Reading Aloud.

One Is the Loneliest Number. Guided Responses. The Director's Chair.

Apples of Your Writing Eye: Children. Know-It-Alls: A Critique Group. Writing Classes. Critiques by Professionals.

Good Guys and Bad Guys.


13. Know the Rules, If You're Playing.

The Basics.

Sew a Label on It. Send a SASE, Don't Be Lazy! Dear Editor. The Envelope, Please! And Then You Wait.

What's an Unsolicited Submission, Anyway? I've Been Waiting Forever. Dear Somebody.

Covering a Cover Letter. What Not to Include.

“Query First”: Letters About Manuscripts. That's a No-No!

Neatness and Spelling Count. Pink Envelopes and Other Horrors. More Than I Need to Know. The Wrong Kind of Bedtime Book.
14. Who Draws the Pictures?

But I Can't Draw.

My Brother-in-Law Can. I Hired Someone. Why Don't You Get Dave Caldecott? The Publisher's Job.

But I Want to Illustrate.

Be Real: Can You? For Professionals Only. Best Foot Forward.

Instructions to the Illustrator?

Not in the Manuscript. What's OK—and What's Not. Be Flexible.

Laying Out the Book. Photo Research: The Exception. Allow for Magic: It Happens!
15. I Know Somebody Who Knows Somebody …

Closed Doors: How to Pick the Lock. Secret Agents.

To Agent or Not to Agent? Not Now.

A Friend in the Business. A Name on the Envelope.

To a Particular Person. From Your Lawyer. I'm a Member of …

Conferences and Schmoozing. Faking a Contact. Win a Prize! Useful But Not Essential.
16. The Publishing Maze.

Companies, Divisions, and Imprints.

Dad, What's an Imprint? One at a Time, Please. Door Number One, Door Number Two.

The Big Guys.

What Are They Like? I'd Like You to Meet …

The Little Guys. What Are They Like? I'd Like You to Meet …
17. Deeper into the Maze: Other Kinds of Publishers.

Sorry, I'll Try Next Door. Magazines. Educational Publishers. Regional and Niche Publishers. New! New! New! E-Books and the Internet. All Is Vanity? Vanity and Self-Publishing.

A Lot of Work in Vain. Going Solo.
18. So, How Does It All Work?

Publishers Need YOU. Play the Game by the Rules.

The Union Makes You Strong. Catalogs, Conventions, and Guidelines. Scope Out the Competition. Waiting Patiently—or Not.

Follow Up Everything.

When You Get a Nibble. Not Too Much! Not Too Aggressive!

You Can Get It—But You Must Try. What's Going On in There?

Behind Closed Doors. Help, I'm Sinking! Do I Know You? Lost in the Shuffle.


19. Oh Boy! A Contract!

How You Will Hear. Quiz—What Do You Know? Hand It Over. What You Gotta Do. What Publishers Do. Your Allowance. Subsidiary Rights. Legal Language. Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes.
20. They Might Take My Idea! Copyright Basics.

A Tale of Two Writers' Ideas. “Mommy, What's a Copyright and Where Does It Come From?”. Safe, So Far. The Trouble with Folktales. “Dummy! Dumb-Dumb!” Why Stealing Is Stupid!

Plagiarism, Intentional and Otherwise.
21. Make It Better.

The Revision Process.

The Best Part. On Your Own. With Your Editor.

The Writer's Reference Bookshelf. But It's My Story!

Get Me Rewrite! Structural Editing. Line Editing. Fact Checking.

Ask for It!

Editing. My Paper's Late. No Guilt Trips, Please.

The Care and Feeding of an Editor.
22. My Editor Doesn't Understand Me.

What Are Editors Like?

The New York Ivory Tower. People Who Love Books. Cogs in a Machine.

Mass-Market Books for the Very Young— Bernette Ford. Successful at a Smaller Publisher—Regina Griffin. Successful at a Larger Publisher—Kate Jackson. Getting Started—Jennifer Greene. Fifty Years Later—Margaret K. McElderry. In Good Hands?
23. What If I Don't Like the Pictures?

After the Manuscript Is Done. Finding a Good Match. Can I See Those? But Her Hair Is Brown! Helping Out with Nonfiction. Letting Go.
24. The Rest of the Process.

Your Editor … and Beyond.

Here Some Copy; There Some Copy; Everywhere Copy, Copy! High-Fashion Time: Designers. Just the Facts, Ma'am. 100-Proof. Lights! Camera! Action! The Production Manager.

So That's Why It Takes So Long!


25. What Are You Doing for Me?

I'm in the Catalog! The Big Mouths. The Other Mouths.

Local Yokels. Mommy Says I'm Special!

I'm in the Newspaper! Not on the Shelf But in the Store. Going Long and Deep.
26. Fun Stuff and Bragging.


X Marks the Spot. Put That Up! Postcards from the Edge. Do-It-Yourself. Creative Genius. For Teacher's Eyes Only.

Buying Ads.

The Bookstore. The Library. The Consumer. The Teacher.

Ground-Level Marketing.

Did Hennie Pennie Live in a Chicken Coop or a Co-Op? Bookstore Giveaways.

Making a Best-Seller.
27. Hey, Listen to Me!

Nudge, Don't Push. Lend a Helping Pen. “I Did It My Way”. You Gotta Have an Angle. Local Yokels, Redux. Moving on Up!

Newspapers. Radio. Television.
28. Bookstore Business.

A Tale of Two (or More) Bookstores. Target-Rich Environment. First Contact. Leave a Message at the Tone. Party Plans. You Gotta Have a Gimmick.
29. Back to School.

School Visit Basics. The Song-and-Dance Routine. The Younger Set.

The Rally. Story Times and Reading. Class Workshop. Storytelling. Carnivals. Parent/Teacher Fundraisers.

Almost Adults.

Do Lecture Me! Rally Up! Work? Me, Work? Debate Team. You're Too Old for a Story—NOT!

Making Contact. On Beyond Schools. On the Road.
30. I Won a Prize!

The Big Ones—Newbery and Caldecott.

Newbery. Caldecott.

Other National Awards.

The National Book Awards. I Have a Dream: The Coretta Scott King Award. Big Award from “Little House” Lady.

Teen Angst Awards.

Margaret A. Edwards Award. The Michael L. Printz Award.

Get on These Lists!

ALA Notables. Children's Choices. Outstanding Science. Notable Social Studies. Parents' Choice.

Wowing Them All Over the Country.

Reading Rainbow. End-of-Year Lists.
31. Building a Career.

Becoming a Pro. Obstacles.

The First One's Easy. Censorship. Doubts. An Agent in Your Corner?

Books and Their Untimely Deaths.

Going OP. Get Your Books and Your Rights. Back from the Dead?

Do-It-Yourself Publishing. What to Do Until You Can Live on Your Royalties.

Packagers. Writing and Editing. Textbooks and Supplemental Materials. Teach Writing! You've Learned a Thing or Two.

Keep Learning. Take Yourself Seriously. Out into the Big World.

Appendix A: Glossary. Appendix B: Resources. Appendix C: Samples and Examples.

Product Details

Yolen, Jane
Rominger, Lynne
Underdown, Harold D.
Rominge, Lynne
Yolen, Jane
Indianapolis, IN
Children's Literature
Composition & Creative Writing - Children's Literature
Edition Description:
Mass Market
Complete Idiot's Guides (Lifestyle)
Series Volume:
Publication Date:
Grade Level:
9.05x7.34x.84 in. 1.30 lbs.

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Related Subjects

Reference » Publishing
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Reference » Writing » Writing for Kids

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Product details 368 pages Alpha Books - English 9780028639758 Reviews:
"Synopsis" by , Children's book publishing is one of the most difficult fields of publishing for new authors to get into. The Complete Idiot's Guide to Publishing Children's Books gives potential authors tips, inside information, and detailed instructions for everything from how to prepare a proposal to how to get an agent. Detailing the differences between picture books, juvenile fiction, and the young adult novel, the book also covers branding, series, and licensing, discusses writing styles and character development, and explains forming illustrator partnerships.
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