Getting Published: Children's and Young Adult Fiction
Are You Ready to Submit?
Writing for Children’s and Young Adult fiction is every bit as demanding and challenging as writing for adults. Don’t choose this category simply because you believe it will be ‘easy’.
Familiarise yourself with the age ranges within this category in order to understand where your work fits in:
- Picture books (0–5).
- Early reader books (5–7).
- Chapter book (short and long chapters) (7–12).
- Young-adult fiction (12–18).
Is your book finished? A publisher will not be interested in a half-finished book, no matter how good the first few chapters are. A prospective publisher or agent needs to know that you have the commitment to complete the book before they take it on.
Familiarise yourself with the age ranges within this category in order to understand where your work fits in
Don’t underestimate the importance of proofreading your manuscript. Have you checked countless times for spelling and punctuation mistakes? Have you left your manuscript in a cupboard for a month and gone back to it with a fresh eye? Have you asked somebody to proofread it for you?
Publishers are inundated with thousands of manuscripts a year and can afford to be picky. They are very unlikely to accept a manuscript which needs a huge amount of time (and therefore money) spent on it when there are talented writers who will go the extra mile to make sure that their work is as good as it possibly can be. If you would like feedback on your work, you may wish to send it to a literary consultancy or manuscript appraisal service.
Submitting your Manuscript
In most cases, novelists will need to find a literary agent. Not only will a literary agent seek to find you a publisher and broker a deal for your work, he or she will also represent your interests over the long-term. Finding an agent you trust and believe you can build a relationship with is essential.
Very few publishers accept unsolicited submissions, though some still do. It’s worth remembering that those that do will be receiving a huge number of submissions. You therefore need to think about how to make your submission stand out from the crowd.
It’s acceptable to send a short sample of your work along with a covering letter and SAE to a number of publishers or agents simultaneously. You should receive a response within three months but if you haven’t heard anything back after five or six months then send a polite reminder.
When a publisher or agent has registered interest in your work and asked to look at your complete manuscript, you should then not send your writing anywhere else until you’ve had a response. Etiquette is important in publishing and editors can be quite sensitive.
Unless you are very fortunate, you will have to deal with long silences. Initial enthusiasm and friendliness from a publisher or agent who has shown interest in your work is commonly followed by a prolonged period without communication. Try not to interpret this silence as negative. It takes a long time to read and properly consider a full manuscript and it’s likely that the editor or agent will also need to discuss the work with colleagues. They also have other manuscripts to read and will be thinking about how to commission a balanced list of books.
Developing your Work
Vampires or dystopia may be the hot topic now, but may not be by the time you’ve finished your book. Try and ignore what’s popular and write what you want to write. That being said, if you genuinely want to write about something which is popular, then make sure you’re saying something new.
Read, Read and Read
As with all writing, it is vital that you read as much as possible in order to become a better writer. This is particularly important when it comes to Children’s and Young Adult fiction; pay attention to the voices that are out there and work where your own voice fits in. Make sure you read widely, taking in a mixture of classics, contemporaries and cross-genre fiction. If you need some recommendations, we have a variety of kids and teens book lists on our website.
Don’t bog your writing down with details and avoid the temptation to make token popular culture references
Remember Your Audience
Your childhood may seem like a vivid memory, but things will be very different for children and young adults today. Keep them in mind as you write, asking yourself what they would want to read about. Don’t bog your writing down with details they won’t be interested in, but avoid the temptation to make token popular culture references. Pay careful attention to the time period you are setting your story in and the subsequent changes to the way teenagers behave, such as the use of mobile phones and the internet. It’s also important to consider wider societal issues and the emotional impact of historical events, such as the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
With all of this in mind, do remember to stay true to your work and your characters. Are they speaking and thinking the way someone of their age would? They can differ from this of course, providing it is consistent and makes sense to the story. Do your research and speak to your potential audience. We also have some great writing tips from Nicola Morgan and Tom Pow.
Don’t Underestimate Your Readers
Just because you’re writing for children or young adults, that doesn’t mean you have to ‘dumb down’ your work. Think of your work as a conversation with them, an equal footing which appeals to their knowledge and experience of the world. In addition to this, pay close attention to the pace and plot of your work- younger readers will pick up on any mistakes in an instant!