So, You Want to be a Writer

by Donna O’Donnell Figurski

(revised & reprinted 10/18/17 from My Writing Life at

Many hopeful children’s book writers believe that after they finish the text of their story, they need to find an illustrator. That is a myth and probably the biggest misconception of beginning writers.
Below I offer insight that I found along the way. I hope that these suggestions will be helpful to new writers for children. And … yes, I was one of those beginner writers (many years ago) who thought I had to find an illustrator.

You do NOT need to find an illustrator.

Once you have completed the book in its most finished form, you may begin the search for a publisher or an agent. This is a daunting experience because publishers and agents receive thousands of manuscripts a year, depending on the company and their size and popularity. Unfortunately, they only publish a very few of those. The larger, more popular companies may publish about thirty titles a year while the smaller companies may publish between two and three titles. This is where your hardest work begins.

Here are several suggestions below:

1. You need to do your research to find out which company would be the best fit for your story. To do that, you should go to the library or bookstore to find other books that are similar to yours. Then target those companies. Since you can only send your manuscript to one company at a time, and they usually take between three to six months to respond, if they respond at all, be sure to make good choices.

2. Since the business of publishing a children’s book has so many facets, you really need to do your homework. One of the best resources is the Children’s Writer’s and Illustrator’s Market–the current version. Sometimes you can find this in the library, but I recommend purchasing your own copy so you can mark it up.

There are two comprehensive books on the market to help you find the perfect agent. Guide to Literary Agents by Cris Freese and Jeff Herman’s Guide to Book Publishers, Editors and Literary Agents: Who They Are, What They Want, How to Win Them Over. Chuck also has a great blog online with the latest on agents’ wishes, Cris Freese’s Guide to Literary Agents Blog. Unfortunately, finding an agent can be just as daunting as finding a publisher, so you have to decide which route to take. An agent usually requires between 10% to 15% of your book earnings. A good agent is worth every penny.

3. This is probably the best suggestion of all. Go to writer’s conferences and join the Society of Children’s Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI). You can join for about $70.00 a year and they provide an immense amount of information. There are also local chapters. For example: SCBWI – Arizona or New Jersey SCBWI. I think all of the states have a chapter. There are even international chapters in Australia East/New Zealand, Indonesia, Mongolia, and Japan to name a few.

4. Joining a local children’s book writer’s group can also be helpful to get feedback on your writing. I have been a member of the Montclair Write Group since 2011 and continue to be a member even though I moved to the desert in 2013.

5. You can check out my website for a list of very helpful books about how to publish your children’s book. My Writing Life

Probably the best advice I can give to you is – if you believe in your book and this a dream you really want to happen, then be PERSISTENT and be PATIENT. It is just about the hardest field to break into. It can be done. Many have done it.

I hope that this information will help you.

Wishing you the best of luck.

To see more of my writings on “writing,” please go to my website. at My Writing Life

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