Children's writing

Publishing: Where to Start

scoular-class-11.jpgWe had show-and-tell during a break in Marion Scoular’s class. I love Jan’s applique work!

I am often asked for advice on how to get something published. A couple of days ago, someone emailed seeking advice for publishing CLUELESS-like books for New England forests and parks.

I confess I cringe at these inquiries because I’m pretty sure any reply I make will disappoint, and who wants to disappoint someone who has actually read one of your books? My sense is that people want an easy answer:

“Oh, just call What’s-Her-Name and she’ll get you set up.”


“Send your work here and they’ll publish it.”


“Click your heels together three times and repeat ‘This is a book.'”

But if it works this way, I don’t know about it.

This was my answer:

I’m glad you enjoyed CLUELESS IN ALASKA: KNOW MORE!

I’m afraid your publishing question does not have a simple answer. There are a zillion options, and none is easy. I had been selling puzzles and articles to children’s magazines for many years when I began CLUELESS, and I did a lot of research into book publishing before proposing the book.

You have two basic options: self-publishing or finding a publisher. Self-publishing is on the rise, and there are many Print On Demand options. A couple of the difficulties here are that you have to pay for it yourself, and you are on your own to market the book.

Finding a publisher can be extremely difficult; competition is fierce. Because CLUELESS is an AK book, I thought I’d seek a regional publisher, and there were only two publishers for that region. I don’t know of any Northeast publishers offhand, but look at books about your area and see who publishes them.

Another option is to look inside the National Forest or state parks systems and see if those organizations are interested in publishing. I just did two puzzle books for Alaska Geographic which is the organization that runs all the park and forest bookstores in Alaska. They are a tiny publisher, but they support what they publish, so I don’t have to worry about marketing.

There are many potential pitfalls in publishing. If you dig into publishers you’ll come across what are called “Vanity Publishers.” These are publishers that charge the author to publish his/her book. It’s not quite the same thing as self-publishing, and there’s a stigma attached to books printed by these companies. There are unscrupulous agents as well.

Two great resources for children’s writers are:

SCBWI: The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators

Predators & Editors

There are oodles of other informative Web sites, newsletters, and blogs. The first step is sifting through lots of info.

If you were hoping for an easy answer, I know you’ll be disappointed, but I don’t believe there is an easy answer. And this is just the publishing side of the equation; the writing side is something else entirely.

Publishing is a long and interesting journey. I wish you the best of luck if you decide to undertake it.

Be well.


Okay, how do I make that better for the next time?

Categories: Children's writing

3 replies »

  1. I don’t think it needs changing at all. You provided an honest, informative answer, albeit not an easy or quick one. I think folks appreciate the honesty. If I received this answer to an inquiry I had made, I’d think it was well thought-out and real. If, on the other hand, you told me to click my heels and say presto, I’d be highly skeptical.

    I like it.

  2. I agree with Shelly, Jen. You were honest and gave valuable information. I’m often approached in my shop by people asking for advice on starting their own shop… who do they contact for product, etc. My response is usually “decide what you want to carry and make phone calls to the mfgs. Ask them the questions”. The person asking thinks that is a poor response, and I just say that “if you can’t do the work up front yourself, you’ll never succeed.” We’re conditioned to want the easy, quick solve, but success comes from the slow and steady exploration of fitting the puzzle pieces together. It’s a blessing when you tell that to people and they know the time frame going into a venture.

  3. Well, thanks. I know some people are disappointed by such an answer, but maybe there’s really no way to satisfy them. Still, I hate to disappoint anyone. Guess that’s my problem!