Chances are, you won’t be the next J. K. Rowling. After all, she’s the only children’s writer on the planet who makes over a billion dollars from her work.
But that doesn’t mean you can’t make a living as a children’s writer. Here are a dozen ways to get your freelance career started:
1. Make sure you learn the basics of writing for children. If there aren’t any courses in children’s writing available where you live, take a correspondence course (through the mail) or enroll in an online workshop in children’s writing. There are many good correspondence courses and online workshops available. Go to www.google.com and type in the words “writing for children. ”
2. Read, read, read – all the children’s magazines and books that you can – from a writer’s viewpoint. Study these articles and stories for structure, rhythm of language, a child’s or teen’s voice, and the type of content that appeals to young readers (and that editors tend to buy).
You might find a limited number of children’s magazines at your local bookstore, so get a current market guide to find out about other magazines for kids, then write for sample copies of these publications so you can read and study them.
3. Develop an appropriate resume to submit to publishers. You might not have many (or any) writing credits at first, so list any work you have done that was writing related. It doesn’t have to be only work you did for pay. Also list any volunteer work you have done that involved writing.
4. Join a critique group, or start one, and subscribe to at least one publication for children’s writers.
5. In addition to your critique group, network with people who already do what you want to do - one way to do this is to join your local chapter of the SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators), or sign up for an online listserv of children’s writers. Go to www.yahoogroups.com and search for groups for children’s writers. You’ll find several.
6. Learn to write a great query letter and how to correctly format a manuscript. There are many good books available that explain (in detail) how to write an effective query and how to format a manuscript for submission to a publisher. You can also google “writing a query letter” or “formatting a manuscript” to find various articles that should help you.
7. Once you’re comfortable with your skills as a children’s writer, spend at least one day a week on marketing – looking for new opportunities and writing assignments. You’ll find job ads for children’s writers in those newsletters you start subscribing to and also on online job boards for writers.
8. You MUST learn to use the Internet effectively. Also, learn how to transfer your work electronically. And, if you don’t have one already, get an email account.
9. At least once a year, attend a children’s writer’s conference or workshop. This is will give you more networking opportunities, plus you’ll learn, firsthand, the current needs of many children’s magazine and book publishers.
10. Be dependable and professional. Freelancing is a business. Learn the business. For example, don’t expect to submit a handwritten manuscript and have an editor read it. Also, don’t expect to ignore submission guidelines and have an editor read your manuscript (see next step).
11. Study the markets and write for guidelines for the publications you wish to write for. Today many publications have submission guidelines (and even current needs) available on their website, so search these websites first to save yourself time and postage.
12. Give yourself time to succeed. This is one of the most important steps. If you’re just starting to write for children, don’t expect to make a living at this for awhile.
As you learn more about the business of writing for children, and continue to improve your craft, more opportunities will become available to you. You should also realize that it will take more than writing magazine stories and articles to make a living as a freelance children’s writer, so you must actively seek work ALL the time. But follow the steps outlined above, and your freelance writing career will be off to a good start.
See you in print!
Suzanne Lieurance is a freelance children's writer and she teaches children’s writing for the Institute of Children’s Literature, and offers online workshops for children’s writers at http://www.suzannelieurance.com
Lieurance also owns the Three Angels Gourmet Co. which produces a unique line of “heavenly gourmet mixes. " For daily food tips and other food information, visit the Three Angels Gourmet Co. blog at http://www.threeangelsgourmet.blogspot.com