The Complete Idiot's Guide to Publishing Children's Books

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The comprehensive guide to writing, publishing, and selling for the ever-expanding and always exciting children's market-now in a new and updated second edition.

- Includes new chapters for illustrators, on submissions, portfolios, art directors, and more
- In 2001, children's book publishing was a $1.8 billion market
- Offers practical advice on getting started, plus the ...

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The comprehensive guide to writing, publishing, and selling for the ever-expanding and always exciting children's market-now in a new and updated second edition.

- Includes new chapters for illustrators, on submissions, portfolios, art directors, and more
- In 2001, children's book publishing was a $1.8 billion market
- Offers practical advice on getting started, plus the basics on writing-and selling-books that kids will love and parents will buy
- Very few books on this topic provide specific information by experts
- Covers picture book, juvenile, and young adult markets
- Includes sample queries and proposals for most types of children's fiction

Practical advice on getting started as a children's author; basics of writing--and selling--books for children; tips on the publishing process--Cover.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The Complete Idiot's Guide to Publishing Children's Books by Harold D. Underdown and Lynne Rominger invites novices into its pages with plenty of white space, clearly labeled sections and humorous line drawings. Sidebars offer "Vocabulary List" words with definitions of industry lingo (such as ISBNs); "Stories from the Playground," with practical advice from published pros; and "Can You Keep a Secret?," with hints on a range of topics, including how to approach an editor at a conference and how to "write using active rather than passive constructions whenever you can."( Mar.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Publishers Weekly
Written for adults, The Complete Idiot's Guide to Publishing Children's Books, Second Edition by Harold D. Underdown delineates the ins and outs of creating books for children, including developing a writing style-with updated information on submitting proposals. PW wrote of the first edition, that it "invites novices into its pages with plenty of white space, clearly labeled sections and humorous line drawings." Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781592571437
  • Publisher: Alpha Books
  • Publication date: 2/3/2004
  • Series: Complete Idiot's Guide Series
  • Edition description: Revised and Updated Edition
  • Edition number: 2
  • Pages: 384
  • Product dimensions: 7.34 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.83 (d)

Meet the Author

Harold D. Underdown graduated from Haverford College with a Bachelor's degree in English allied with Spanish. He received a Master's degree in English secondary education from Temple University, and after several years of social work and teaching, he entered publishing in 1989. Harold changed gears in 1994 to open his own business as an editorial consultant. While consulting, he developed his Web site, The Purple Crayon, recognized today as one of the best sources of information about the children's publishing industry.

Harold joined Charlesbridge Publishing's trade division in 1997. When he left in 2000 he was editorial director of a list of 25 to 30 titles annually. He is now editorial vice president for, a company dedicated to publishing illustrated children's books in a variety of electronic formats.

Throughout his career, Harold has worked with, and in some cases discovered, a number of distinguished authors and illustrators, among them Larry Pringle, Yumi Heo, Deborah Kogan Ray, Bob Marstall, Evelyn Coleman, Pat Mora, Barbara Esbensen, and Tony Johnston. Books he has edited have been named ALA Notable Books, and have been named to such lists as the ABA "Pick of the Lists," the CBC/NCSS "Notable Trade Books in the Field of Social Studies," and the IRA/CBC "Children's Choices." He speaks regularly at conferences across the country. For more information, visit his Web site at

Lynne Rominger began her career in publishing almost a decade ago as a book publicist after earning her degree from the University of California at Davis in English literature/nonfiction writing. During her time publicizing other people's books, she decided to write herself and embarked three years ago on a freelance writing career. Since then, she's written more than 100 feature articles for glossy magazines, newspapers, and Web sites. She has edited the Mind & Body channel on, Richard Carlson's site based on his popular Don't Sweat the Small Stuff (Hyperion, 1997) series of books, and is a regular contributor to Lynne also writes the monthly arts entries and personality Q&A for a regional magazine near her home in Roseville, California.

In addition to The Complete Idiot's Guide to Writing Children's Books, Lynne has co-authored The Complete Idiot's Guide to Publishing Magazine Articles (Alpha Books, 2000) with Sheree Bykofsky and Jennifer Basye Sander, Your First Year as a High School Teacher: Making the Transition from a Total Novice to a Successful Professional (Prima, 2001) with Suzanne Laughrea and Natalie Elkin, and Your First Year as an Elementary School Teacher: Making the Transition from a Total Novice to a Successful Professional (Prima, 2001) with Karen Heisinger and Natalie Elkin. When not working on her next writing project-a children's book, of course-Lynne teaches English at Granite Bay High School, Granite Bay, California.

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Table of Contents

Part 1 Where to Begin? 1
1 Adults Rule the World 3
Getting Started 3
Books and Publishers 5
Putting Away Childish Things 6
What This Book Can Do for You 8
2 I Don't Know What to Say! And What Comes Next 11
You Are What You Read 12
Dear Diary 12
Practice Makes Perfect 14
Spontaneity or Results? 16
Do It Again! 18
3 Survey Course: The World of Children's Literature 19
Try It, You'll Like It 19
The Classics 20
Hot! Do Touch That! 23
Stop, Look, and Listen: Talk to Children 24
4 Why Write a Children's Book--and Why Not? 27
I Want Money, But I'll Settle for Fame 28
I Want to Be the Teacher 29
I Get to Be the Mommy 31
Look What I Did! 33
I Got a Star 34
The Chance of Getting There 35
5 The Piggy Bank and the Notebook 37
School Supplies 38
Really Cool Toys 39
A Place for Everything 40
There's a Time and a Space for Everything 42
Jack and the Bean Stock: Income 44
6 It's a BIG World 45
The Golden Age 45
Paperbacks: Fun and Cheap 46
The Big Get Even Bigger 47
Who's Buying? 48
It's an Electronic World 50
7 What's in a Book? A Guided Tour 53
It's a Cover-Up! The Cover, Jacket, and Spine 53
Teacher Says, "Give It a Title" 55
Legal and Other Details 56
The Stuff in the Front 58
What's Between Your Head and Feet? Your Body! 59
Go to the Back of the Line--Back Matter 60
Part 2 Finding Out What's Possible 65
8 Animal, Vegetable, or Mineral? Book Formats and Age Levels 67
Tell the Truth, the Whole Truth 67
Have Fun Lying 69
For Baby Brother: Picture Books 69
For Big Sister: Chapter Books 70
What's for Who? How to Tell 70
You Can Throw 'em 71
Read It Again! 72
I Can Read This 72
That's a Lot of Stories! 73
Mom, Can I Get This? 74
For the Backpack 74
For Kid's Eyes Only--Not! 75
9 Digging Deeper Into the Book Pile 77
Good Books (Literary Fiction) 77
They're, Like, Soooo Popular: Popular Fiction 78
Pat Sat on the Mat (Control the Vocabulary) 79
Swords and Sorcerers and Talking Bunnies 80
Stories Dressed in Facts: Historical Fiction 81
Neighbors Next Door and Far Away 82
The Facts Dressed in Lies: Fiction in Nonfiction 83
Straight Nonfiction 84
10 Apples and Oranges: Kinds of Publishers and What They Do 87
Quiz--What Do You Know? 87
What Does a Publisher Do, Anyway? 89
The Professionals 89
Pineapples and Oranges--and Bananas? Different Kinds of Books 92
Double Vision! The Blurring of the Boundaries 94
11 Keep 'em Rolling: Series 95
What's the Big Difference? 96
I Didn't Mean to Do That: The Unintended Series 97
School and Library Publishers 98
Easy Readers 99
Historical Fiction 100
Getting Down on Your Knees 100
12 Is It Ready to Hand In? 103
Rabbit's Friends and Relations 103
Reading Aloud 104
Apples of Your Writing Eye: Children 106
Know-It-Alls: A Critique Group 107
Writing Classes 108
Critiques by Professionals 109
Part 3 Out into the World 113
13 Know the Rules, If You're Playing 115
The Basics 115
What's an Unsolicited Submission, Anyway? 117
I've Been Waiting Forever 118
Dear Somebody 120
"Query First": Letters About Manuscripts 121
That's a No-No! 121
14 Who Draws the Pictures? 125
But I Can't Draw 126
But I Want to Illustrate 128
Instructions to the Illustrator? 131
Laying Out the Book 132
Photo Research: The Exception 132
Allow for Magic: It Happens! 133
15 I Know Somebody Who Knows Somebody... 135
Closed Doors: How to Pick the Lock 136
Secret Agents 137
A Friend in the Business 138
A Name on the Envelope 139
Conferences and Schmoozing 140
Faking a Contact 142
Win a Prize! 142
Useful But Not Essential 142
16 The Publishing Maze 145
Companies, Divisions, and Imprints 145
The Big Guys 148
The Little Guys 150
17 Deeper into the Maze: Other Kinds of Publishers 155
Sorry, I'll Try Next Door 155
Magazines 157
Educational Publishers 158
Regional and Niche Publishers 160
New! New! New! 161
E-Books and the Internet 161
All Is Vanity? Vanity and Self-Publishing 162
18 So, How Does It All Work? 165
Publishers Need YOU 165
Play the Game by the Rules 166
Follow Up Everything 169
You Can Get It--But You Must Try 171
What's Going On in There? 171
Part 4 Working with a Publisher 175
19 Oh Boy! A Contract! 177
How You Will Hear 177
Quiz--What Do You Know? 178
Hand It Over 179
What You Gotta Do 179
What Publishers Do 180
Your Allowance 180
Subsidiary Rights 183
Legal Language 184
Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes 185
20 They Might Take My Idea! Copyright Basics 187
A Tale of Two Writers' Ideas 187
"Mommy, What's a Copyright and Where Does It Come From?" 189
Safe, So Far 190
The Trouble with Folktales 191
"Dummy! Dumb-Dumb!" Why Stealing Is Stupid! 192
21 Make It Better 195
The Revision Process 195
The Writer's Reference Bookshelf 197
But It's My Story! 198
Ask for It! 202
The Care and Feeding of an Editor 203
22 My Editor Doesn't Understand Me 205
What Are Editors Like? 205
Mass-Market Books for the Very Young--Bernette Ford 208
Successful at a Smaller Publisher--Regina Griffin 209
Successful at a Larger Publisher--Kate Jackson 210
Getting Started--Jennifer Greene 211
Fifty Years Later--Margaret K. McElderry 213
In Good Hands? 214
23 What If I Don't Like the Pictures? 215
After the Manuscript Is Done 215
Finding a Good Match 216
Can I See Those? 218
But Her Hair Is Brown! 219
Helping Out with Nonfiction 220
Letting Go 220
24 The Rest of the Process 223
Your Editor ... and Beyond 223
So That's Why It Takes So Long! 227
Part 5 My Book Is Published! Now What? 229
25 What Are You Doing for Me? 231
I'm in the Catalog! 231
The Big Mouths 232
The Other Mouths 233
I'm in the Newspaper! 235
Not on the Shelf But in the Store 236
Going Long and Deep 236
26 Fun Stuff and Bragging 239
Freebies 239
Buying Ads 241
Ground-Level Marketing 243
Making a Best-Seller 244
27 Hey, Listen to Me! 247
Nudge, Don't Push 247
Lend a Helping Pen 249
"I Did It My Way" 250
You Gotta Have an Angle 251
Local Yokels, Redux 252
Moving on Up! 252
28 Bookstore Business 255
A Tale of Two (or More) Bookstores 255
Target-Rich Environment 257
First Contact 257
Leave a Message at the Tone 258
Party Plans 259
You Gotta Have a Gimmick 260
29 Back to School 263
School Visit Basics 263
The Song-and-Dance Routine 265
The Younger Set 266
Almost Adults 267
Making Contact 269
On Beyond Schools 269
On the Road 270
30 I Won a Prize! 271
The Big Ones--Newbery and Caldecott 272
Other National Awards 273
Teen Angst Awards 274
Get on These Lists! 276
Wowing Them All Over the Country 277
31 Building a Career 281
Becoming a Pro 281
Obstacles 282
Books and Their Untimely Deaths 284
Do-It-Yourself Publishing 286
What to Do Until You Can Live on Your Royalties 287
Keep Learning 289
Take Yourself Seriously 289
Out into the Big World 290
A Glossary 293
B Resources 301
C Samples and Examples 307
Index 317
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 5
( 7 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 7 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 16, 2004

    Updated and Improved

    The first edition of CIG to Children's Publishing World was noteworthy. The Second Edition refines and expands it, making it more reader friendly--no small accomplishment. It offers a comprehensive overview of children's book publishing from beginner's board books to YA novels, and defines each category and the publishers who publish them. You will find straight-from-the-shoulder advice on the value of learning about yourself and what you want to write, on work space, necessary tools, and discipline. It points out the value of writing classes, critique groups and conferences, and tells you how to move forward toward publication. The book's generous sidebar tips and insider secrets nearly approximate being at a topnotch conference peopled with talkative industry professionals. For example, you learn that Lisa Rowe Fraustino placed five of her six contracted books with editors she met and developed a rapport with at conferences; Editor Emma Dryden of Margaret McElderry Books wishes more beginning writers would become familiar with MMB's backlist, current titles, and specific submission guidelines before submitting their projects to MMB; Theresa Brandon shares professional pricing information and FAQ file at her fantastic 'Drawing Board for Illustrators,' web address provided. A superlative resource section identifies the best available books on writing and illustrating for children, reliable websites, general publishing industry references, and professional organizations. The book explains how to submit your work, offers examples of cover and query letters, tells how to connect with agents and artist representatives, and shares acceptable protocol to be observed on the road to publication, and beyond into the realm of publicity, self promotion and school visits. Consider using Children's Publishing World as your trusty mentor-between-covers as you head through the maze toward publication.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 5, 2004

    A Must-Buy for Children's Writers

    The first edition of this book was fantastic. The second edition has given readers wonderful new additions. There is now more information included for budding illustrators. More in-depth insights into the pros and cons of using an agent have also been added. Overall, this is a fabulous resource for anyone in the field--from the inexperienced writers just starting out to the more experienced authors out there.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 28, 2004

    Add this to your bookshelf

    Harold Underdown has compiled a must read for anyone interested in writing for children. I wish this was out 10 years ago when I got involved in writing for children. It would have saved me a lot of time. His sidebars offer web sites and other great resources helpful to newbies and experienced authors. This is a great title to add to those other writing books on your shelf and one you will pick up over and over again.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 24, 2004

    Tells It Like It Is

    This amazing book, supplemented with cartoons and sidebars, is chock-full of information for the budding children's book writer as well as the published author. I especially loved the section about school presentations. I've visited dozens of schools and libraries over the last six years, yet while reading this book I found myself thinking, I never thought of that! This is a reference book I'll return to again and again.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 29, 2004

    Children't Book Publishing:All You Need to Know

    The Complete Idiot¿s Guide to Publishing Children¿s Books, Second edition, by Harold D. Underdown reviewed by Billie A Williams, Thoroughly covers all the aspects of Children¿s publishing from idea to book store events after publication. Underdown begins with an over view of writing children¿s books and quickly moves into introducing you to the nitty-gritty of the publishing world. The book divided into Five parts each containing a complete plan: 1. ¿Where to Begin,¿ where does your idea come from, is it a good one, how can you tell? 2.¿Finding Out What¿s Possible,¿ what kind of books do children¿s publishers want, do they fit with what I want to write? 3. ¿Out into The World,¿ You have a contract, now what? 4. ¿Working With a Publisher,¿ do I get to say what I don¿t want them to do with my book; And a million other questions are answered as Underdown takes the reader through the chapters. 5. ¿My Book is Published Now What?¿ do I get to sit back and rake in the money? Underdown encourages you to get your next boat in the water quickly, ¿Building a Career¿. Each section moves you seamlessly along the path to publication and beyond with a plethora of examples, links and helpful guidance. In part three Underdown takes you on a guided tour of specific publishers explaining just how they chose their books and what their editors do. It gives you a new perspective into the very busy lives of the editors of these houses. It helps you to understand the reason it takes so long to get your acceptance or rejection and why a rejection can¿t be personalized. The way ¿Publishing Children¿s Books is written, be you writer or illustrator, you can pick and choose which chapters or sections interest you, each chapter is complete in itself, but I recommend reading from cover to cover. As an author of several published novels and other works, I still garnered important hints, tips and information from Underdown¿s well presented material. Throughout Underdown has placed invaluable information as extras in side bars/boxes such as: Vocabulary, which explains the terms used. Class Rules which gives the reader warnings or cautions. Can you Keep A Secret, tips and resources as well as suggestions are found in these. Play Ground Stories give real life anecdotes from other children¿s authors. Besides all the extras in the sidebars, Underdown provides Appendixes that offer a Glossary, Resource Lists and samples of guidelines, cover letters, query letters and manuscript format. This unique book is truly a one of a kind complete guide to the world of children¿s publishing. It¿s a book you will read through, but never loan out because you will refer back to it time and again. Harold Underdown, has posted sample chapters and many more links and guides as well on his personal web site, The Purple Crayon. I can¿t begin to recommend Publishing Children¿s Books highly enough. Beginner or pro you are bound to find it an extremely important book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 14, 2003

    Great guide!

    A wonderfully informative guide that would be helpful to both new and experiened children's book authors.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 28, 2002

    Not Just for Idiots!

    Outstanding advice to would-be children's book writers, offering a throughly knowledgeable, comprehensive overview of the field of children's book publishing (I should know--I am a children's book editor). The guidance the authors offer on writing for kids is both creative and practical.

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