Do's and Don'ts

Want to greatly improve your chances of being published? Then listen up!

by Jon Bard, Children's Book Insider


  • Learn the market. Spend lots of time in your local bookstore and library, reading through current bestsellers. Try to discover what they have in common, and how they differ from the books of your childhood.

  • Perfect your craft. Before worrying about seeing your name in print, really learn how to write. Take courses, read "how-to" books, join a writing group, and so on. Master dialogue, characterization and plot. Write for the sake of writing, and enjoy the journey -- you'll have plenty of time to chase a publishing contract later.

  • Focus your attention on "hot" areas in children's publishing. Publishers continue to look for multicultural stories, nonfiction for all ages, horror stories and easy readers.

  • Request publisher guidelines and catalogs before submitting your work to a publisher. Study these to make sure your work is what the publisher is currently seeking.

  • Learn to write a crisp, upbeat query letter that will grab the attention of a harried editor.

  • Be persistent. Success as a writer rarely comes easily or quickly. Don't get discouraged by rejection...just keep writing!


  • Assume that today's kids' books are just like the ones you read as a child. Juvenile literature is more sophisticated, creative and far-ranging than ever before. Dick & Jane don't cut it anymore!

  • Get bogged down in cliches. Editors are sick of cute talking animals, "ugly duckling" stories about shy wallflowers who save the day, and moralistic tales that shout "it's OK to be different!" Strive for originality. (A note about taking animals: Talking animals aren't completely taboo, it's just that most writers don't do them very well. What's important is that your animals have completely developed, unique personalities and characteristics. You need to develop these characters just as carefully as if you were creating human characters. Too many writers use their animal characters as stereotypes, thinking kids will be immediately drawn to them just because they're animals. Everything your animals say and do should be a logical extension of their individual personalities.)

  • Treat kids like babies. Don't talk down to your readers. Use rich and interesting language that evokes strong visual images, not baby talk.

  • Preach. Your job as a writer: to entertain. If your story has a message, tell it through the plot and characters, not by a "moral" tacked on to the end.

    And the #1 "Don't"....

  • Don't waste your time trying to write a children's book and get it published without understanding the "rules of the publishing game." Blindly sending off your stories will get you nowhere. Use our exclusive success tools such as Career Starter Beginners Guide and Children's Book Insider, the Newsletter for Children's Writers to learn the right way to do it. You'll save time, money and aggravation...and give yourself a fighting chance of seeing your work in print.