Monday, December 5, 2011

Writing Books for Children: The Traditional Publishing Path

Children’s books usually fall into one of three categories: picture books, middle grade, and young adult. To become published in any of these genres, you need to take the necessary steps to achieve success whether aiming at traditional publishing or self-publishing.

In regard to traditional publishing, there are four steps needed to become a traditionally published author; the first step is writing.

Actually writing, and all that it entails, is the basis of becoming a published author or writer, whether writing books, articles, becoming a ghostwriter, or copywriter. Within this first writing step, there are four subcategories.

Writing for Children: Four Traditional Publishing Steps

1. Writing and Reading

The first step for a successful writing career is to write. But, simply writing isn’t enough, the new writer will need to learn the craft of writing, along with the particular tricks of writing for children. Writing for children is more complicated than other forms of writing. The reason is because you’re dealing with children.

Rules, such as age-appropriate words, age-appropriate topics, age-appropriate comprehension, storylines and formatting are all features that need to be tackled when writing for children.

Within the first step rung, aside from reading books and magazines on the craft of writing, you will need to read, read, and read in the genre you want to write. Pay special attention to recently published books and their publishers. What works in these books? What type of style is the author using? What topics/storylines are publisher’s publishing?

Dissect these books, and you might even write or type them word-for-word to get a feel for writing that works. This is a trick that writers new to copywriting use – you can trick your brain into knowing the right way to write for a particular genre or field. Well, not so much trick your brain as teach it by copying effective writing. Just remember, this is for the learning process only – you cannot use someone else’s work, that’s plagiarism. 

2. Writing for Children and Critiques

The next step, number two, is to become part of a critique group and have your work critiqued.

Critiquing is a two-way street; you will critique the work of other members of the critique group and they will critique yours. But, there are advantages to critiquing other writers’ works – you begin to see errors quickly and notice what’s being done right. This all helps you hone your craft.

3. Writing for Children: Revisions and Edits

Step three on the writing rung is to revise your manuscript based on your own input and that of your critique group. This process should go on until the manuscript is as good as you can get it. It’s recommended to put the story away for a couple of weeks and then revisit it. You’ll see a number of areas that may need tweaking and revising that you hadn’t noticed before.

Then it's on to self-editing and proofreading. The article links below have a number of self-editing steps you can use to help in the process:

Ten Tips Checklist for Self-Editing Part 1

Final stages of Self-Editing Part 1

4. Writing for Children: Take it to a Professional

It would also be advisable to budget for a professional editing of your manuscript before you begin submissions. No matter how careful you and your critique partners are, a working editor will pick up things you missed. If your budget just doesn’t have enough for a professional edit, read everything you can on self-editing; the article links above have some helpful tips. Then, apply what you learn to your manuscript.

Once you have a polished manuscript, the next three steps in a writing career are: submissions, a contract and sales, and a writing career.

It’s important to mention that the above four steps should be taken whether you are going the traditional publishing route or you’re going to self-publish. Just because you may be by-passing the publisher’s gatekeepers, who protect the integrity and quality of the work they accept, your manuscript should be the best possible, a quality product.

Self-publishing is not an excuse to cut corners, rush a book, or create a substandard product. Remember that your book is a reflection of you and your writing ability.

Karen Cioffi is an author, ghostwriter, freelance writer, and editor. To learn more about writing and marketing visit While there, sign up for A Writer's World newsletter; you'll get two free site-related e-books in the process.


  1. a Fun way to help your child to Read. Learning to read is a milestone in every child’s education. Most children begin to read at six or seven years of age, but for some kids who have trouble grasping the alphabet, Click n Kids will help.

  2. Thanks for these great tips. I'm excited that my first tween/middle grade novel comes out in March with a Canadian publisher, and I've really valued the professional edit I'm getting with it!

  3. Another good article, Karen. Thanks for sharing with us.

  4. Rosemary, congratulations on your book coming out in March!

    Thanks, Vivian.

  5. Great article, Karen. I spent some time yesterday revising my very first picture book. I wrote it in 2003 and I've revised it many times. I was, however, shocked at how much I've LEARNED since first starting. Not only that, but how much I've learned since my last revision only one year ago.

  6. Rena, that goes for most of us. I think learning is an ongoing process. There's always something out there we may not have heard of.

    Karen Cioffi Writing and Marketing

  7. Very nice article, Karen. Everything you said is so important.