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 then 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 that gets 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 boost 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 and 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.

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