Shirley Raye Redmond is an award-winning writer and frequent conference speaker. She has sold more than 26 book manuscripts and over 450 magazine and newspaper articles. Her children’s book, Lewis and Clark: A Prairie Dog for the President (Random House), has sold 200,000 copies and was a Children’s Book of the Month Club main selection in 2003. Jennifer McKerley is a teacher and award-winning writer. She has authored Random House books for grades 1-3: Man O’ War, Best Racehorse Ever (2005) and Amazing Armadillos (2009). Amazing Armadillos was the 2010 Winner for Young Readers Book in the New Mexico Book Awards and was named one of the best children’s books of 2010 by Bank Street College of Education. She has also written several other children's books.
WOW: Welcome, Jennifer and Shirley Raye, to The Muffin. We are excited to have you here with us today and to share your book, Write a Marketable Children's Book in 7 Weeks, with our readers. To start off, please tell us a little about the purpose of your book and your target audience.
SRR: Many people dream of writing a children’s book, but don’t know how to get started. Our workbook walks the reader through the process in about two hours a day for seven weeks. We’ve used this method dozens of times to write manuscripts that sold to major publishers, such as Random House, Simon & Schuster, and Gale Cengage. Some of our titles have even won contests and awards.
JM: When we wrote this workbook, we had in mind the many people who’ve told us they have an idea for a children’s book, but they felt lost about how to begin and about the publishing process. They knew it was hard to sell a book and wanted to avoid false steps. We show writers how to begin on sound footing and keep going. Part of this involves understanding the publishing world, and we provide a quickie-education.
SRR: You can use our plan to write a picture book, a chapter book, a reader, a middle-grade nonfiction book, or a middle-grade novel in seven weeks. I used this user-friendly 7-week plan to write my very first children’s book, a 96-page humorous juvenile novel, Grampa and the Ghost. It went on to become a Weekly Reader selection. I’m pretty proud of that!
JM: We first show writers how to analyze the market in order to evaluate their ideas and understand the different categories of children’s books. In order to write a marketable book, they must know what age and category they are targeting. We further break down the process by guiding writers through two weeks of planning before they begin writing. We provide a simple plotting method along with many other helps. We apply our method to fiction and nonfiction and give specific tips on producing exciting nonfiction.
WOW: You bring up a good point that in today's competitive publishing world, you really have to know the market and where your idea fits. It's not as easy as just writing a good book. Your book gives writers assignments and tips. What type of assignments will writers be completing while reading the workbook?
SRR: The assignments are not esoteric. They are practical and to the point and actually guide the reader toward the completion of a marketable manuscript.
JM: An example of an assignment is to find five books that are like the one you want to write
and follow our guide to analyze them.
WOW: How is your book organized? Is it easy to use even for the beginning
SRR: The book is conveniently organized into a concise 7-week program, allowing a teacher, parent, librarian or other aspiring children’s book writer to complete a manuscript during summer vacation or before attending a writer’s conference. Just as someone who uses a sewing pattern to successfully complete a sewing project in a weekend, our “writing pattern” will help both beginners and experienced writers stay focused and on track as they complete their writing project.
JM: It is user-friendly because it gives writers meaty information without overwhelming them. It is organized into the steps of learning from the market, using that info to plan and
plot a story for a specific niche, writing with lots of aids along the way, and a guide to revising.
|Shirley Raye Redmond|
SRR: Yes, editors are overwhelmed by manuscripts. Most of them are not even remotely suited to their editorial needs and are quickly rejected. A savvy writer will send an editor what that editor is looking for. Breaking in with nonfiction is the easiest way—and the path few beginners chose to explore. Is it worth it? For me, yes. The advances and royalties on my children’s books have consistently been higher than those I receive for my romance novels. It’s also a lot of fun to receive letters from children who have read my books and to learn how teachers are using the titles in the classroom and to read the blogs of home school moms across the country to learn how they are using the books at home.
JM: Shirley Raye and I “broke in” by meeting editors at conferences, signing up for appointments, and then sending editors manuscripts aimed at their interests. Sending a stand-out query and cover letter also gets an editor’s attention, and we provide tips and examples for both.
WOW: The book sounds like it has everything an aspiring author needs to succeed. Wonderful! What do you think is the most difficult step in the process for children's writers? How does your book help overcome this?
SRR: I think many individuals who want to write for children do so because they enjoyed reading when they were kids themselves. They want to write books like the ones they loved--Five Little Peppers and Caddie Woodlawn, Tom Swift, etc. Too often, they jump into writing without doing market analysis—beginners need to spend time learning what editors want and are willing to pay for. Our workbook walks beginners through this crucial market analysis process.
JM: A difficult step is getting in the habit of writing regularly. Creativity and inspiration play a part in writing, but not as big a part as just doing it. We want those who dream of writing to bite the bullet and get a manuscript completed. We know it is an empowering feeling, and if they keep writing, they’ll learn that the writing habit itself triggers inspiration and creativity. Our goal is to get people writing whole projects—not dreaming, starting, stopping when they hit a snag, and never finishing.
Our workbook offers a straightforward, step-by-step approach. Our plan emphasizes persistence not speed. We provide a simple plan that does not overpower, but that encourages, guides, and shows a writer how to steadily reach writing goals.
WOW: Jennifer, you hit the nail on the head when you said that you just have to write it and write it regularly! Shirley Raye, thank you for pointing out how important it is for writers to know the market. To you both, we appreciate you sharing your insight with us today.
If you are interested in writing for children, click here for more information or to order Shirley Raye's and Jennifer's workbook, Write a Marketable Children's Book in 7 Weeks.
Interview conducted by Margo L. Dill; http://margodill.com/blog/