How to Succeed as a Children’s Book Writer

I’ve wanted to be a writer my whole life. I wrote a book of short stories when I was 8 (it’s called “Short Stories That You’ll Love By Julie Siegel I’m an 8 Year Old”) and kept writing through high school, college, and after. Most of what I wrote was bad. I read a lot. I got ideas and heard excellent sentences in my head and then when I went to write them down they transformed into terrible sentences that made my head hurt.

I’d like to tell you I kept at it. And I did. Kind of. I kept trying, but, ever confused by my inability to write luminous and breathtaking prose (or, to be honest, my inability to write funny stories), I dabbled. I wrote half a story every six months, which is not a great way to become a better writer.

By the time I was in my late 30s, I still barely realized that to be a better writer, I should write more. I understood it intellectually at that point, but had trouble accepting it. Until finally I was sick of my own whining and just, you know, did it. I wrote more and wrote more and slowly actually got better.

I wrote for a few more years, until I had stories that were good enough to submit to agents. But…then what? There is so much information available, in books and online, but frankly it was too much information. And also not enough. I could figure out how to write a good query letter. But what really happened to that query letter after it got sent out? I wanted a query cam so I could see whether my letter or email was sitting in an inbox, unread, or whether the agent was reading it and making a sour face, or maybe was not reading it at all and had forgotten about it entirely (so I wanted not only a query cam but also an agent mind-reading device).

I got an agent, and an editor, and realized how much I still didn’t know about the book publishing process. What was I supposed to do with my author platform? Why did it take so long to make a picture book? And could I make any money doing this?

My agent Danielle Smith and I are friends, and we talk about these things a lot. We talk about how many people we run into who also seem to need answers. Guess what? Now we’re going to give you the answers! We’re doing a 90-minute Writer’s Digest webinar on Tuesday, November 29th called How to Succeed as a Children’s Book Author. We’ll cover queries and agents, book contracts, marketing, and more. Plus if you sign up one of us will critique your query for you. I got a few query critiques before I started submitting, and it was really helpful to have fresh eyes looking at my letter and telling me whether everything made sense. Even if you can’t make the live webinar on the 29th, if you sign up now, you can watch a recording of it, and you’ll still get a query critique.

So go ahead, sign up. It’ll be fun. And I bet you’ll learn stuff. Especially if you, like me, are relying on things like “I’ll hug my letter before I put it in the mail so it’ll have good vibes attached to it” as a success strategy. (Yes, I did this. I guess it worked?)

Comments (2)

  1. Christina November 18, 2016 at 10:34 pm

    What a great resource for people Julie- I will be sure to pass on if I know anyone who is interested in writing.
    You know El Camino del Mar was the street we lived on in San Francisco- you must have come to visit at some point and been inspired by that street name (as it’s a fantastic one) as well as by the foghorns that we could always hear from there. My favorite is “all sports can be dangeras”

  2. Julie November 22, 2016 at 5:13 pm

    Yes, that was exactly why I named it El Camino Del Mar. I think that sounded so amazing poetic to me. Though I guess my address One Knickerbocker Road was pretty great too. Also the foghorns! Those were new to 8-year-old me, too!

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