So you want to create children’s books? Great! All you need are some silly words and a few pictures. How hard can it be, right? Wrong! If you’ve ever written a children’s book, you know that these stories are complex and layered—and it takes time to get them right.
But writing stories is just the beginning.
After you have your stories in hand, how do officially enter the intimidating arena of children’s literature, affectionately known as “kid lit”?
Below are 5 ways you can get your foot in the door.
1. Get Active on Twitter
Twitter is a great place to start. The kid lit community on Twitter is active and thriving, with new virtual meetings and groups being formed every day.
Not only can you “meet” and interact with fellow kid lit creators (and kid lit agents/editors, whose connections will become very valuable down the line!), you can also use Twitter to stay informed about current kid lit events—book releases, promotions, giveaways, courses, etc.
Plus, writing tweets is an art form in and of itself—a great challenge in self-editing, and reducing your word count!
Some great kid lit Twitter accounts to follow:
@PenguinRandom:Penguin Random House
@FeiwelFriends: A Children’s imprint of MacMillan publishing
@SCBWI: Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators
2. Enter Contests
Entering kid lit contests is a fun and exciting way to sharpen your kid lit writing skills. Most contests are themed, allowing entrants to explore new and interesting subgenres of kid lit. Winners receive bragging rights (great for your resume/Twitter bio) and otherwise out-of-reach prizes, such as chats with agents/editors and exclusive submission opportunities!
Contests are also a great way to meet and interact with other kid litters. Twitter is a good place to discover/research kid lit contests. Another option is to research favorite/popular kid lit authors’/illustrators’ blogs, and subscribe to those blogs for updates. Creators are constantly publicizing contests to stir up excitement for their fellow kid-litters!
Some fun kid lit contests to consider entering:
PB Party: Typically in February, PB Party is hosted by author Mindy Alyse Weiss and allows kid lit authors to submit a polished picture book manuscript portfolio to an exclusive board of agents with the goal of possible representation.
Vivian Kirkfield’s 50 Precious Words: Typically in March, this contest challenges writers to create a unique story with a beginning, middle, and end, using only fifty words.
Rate Your Story Summer Contest: Typically in August, this contest allows authors to submit manuscripts in the fiction, non-fiction, and young adult novel categories with the possibility of winning exclusive editorial/agent feedback and other prizes.
3. Seek Mentorships
Kid lit mentorships allow applicants to work one-on-one (or in small groups) with established kid lit authors/illustrators to polish previously work-shopped manuscripts or picture book dummies.
This focused/uninterrupted time with industry professionals is invaluable to burgeoning kid lit creators! Mentorships are offered on a rolling basis, but generally tend to be seasonal (spring/summer and fall/winter).
Twitter is a good place to watch for mentorship application announcements, but general research will do the trick, too.
Some excellent kid lit mentorships to consider applying for:
Rogue Mentorship:Rogue Mentor is a volunteer-run program that provides flexible mentorship opportunities for kid lit (and adult) writers. These mentorships are assigned on a rolling basis and mentors are constantly changing, making this an excellent and dynamic program!
Write Mentorship:Write Mentor offers a comprehensive summer mentorship program that includes a full manuscript developmental edit as well as access to an agent showcase, if the mentee chooses to participate at the end of the program.
PB Chat Mentorship:PB Chat Mentorships also take place in the summer, with the goal of helping/educating writers and illustrators on their path to traditional publication of their picture books.
4. Join Online Communities
There are so many online communities dedicated to the development and promotion of kid lit! Serious authors should consider joining SCBWI first—the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators is filled with incredible resources for kid lit lovers, as well as access to unique courses, critique groups, and organized events.
There are dozens of other online communities dedicated to perfecting the kid lit craft—do a little research, and choose the one that is right for you!
Some fun kid lit online communities to consider joining:
SCBWI:A must for all aspiring children’s authors/illustrators. This long-standing organization has every resource a kid lit creator could ask for, and so much more!
12x12 Picture Book Challenge:12x12 is a year-long writing challenge with the goal of helping members complete12 picture book drafts. Members of the 12x12 community receive exclusive access to kid lit webinars, member critiques, and other awesome resources.
Storytellers Academy:This online writing community of children's book writers and illustrators is dedicated to crafting amazing stories. Membership to this community includes mini-classes, guides/checklists/workbooks, workshops, agent/editor events, and more.
5. Start Querying
When you feel like you’re ready—P.S., “ready” means that you have at least three polished picture book manuscripts/dummies that have been critiqued and peer-reviewed, and query letters to accompany each story—then, query on!
It can be scary to jump into the unknown world of querying, but sometimes, justgoing for it is best! If you find yourself swimming in a pool of rejections right away, take heart—all kid lit writers get rejected.
This might be a sign that a little more revision in necessary before querying further. Or not! Utilize the resources above and make the best decision for yourself. Above all, believe in yourself and push on.
Some querying resources to bookmark:
QueryTracker:This online database of literary agents is regularly updated to reflect which genres and which agents are/are not currently accepting queries. You can filter your search by genre type, which is helpful for kid lit-focused queries. This is a great way to track requests sent and a good jumping off point for researching compatible agents!
MSWL:Agents regularly update their specific literary preferences on this Official Manuscript Wishlist. The information that these agents provide is extremely helpful in deciding who to query, how to query them, and what relevant/specific information to include in your query letter!
Twitter:Many agents/editors take directly to Twitter when announcing a query-status change. Follow favorite literary agents and watch closely for these types of announcements!