Jun 24

Writing a Successful Children’s Series – 3 Key Elements

This is Part2 of writing a children’s series. And, if you’re a children’s writer of chapter books, middle grade, or young adult you can write one.

To write a series, you need three things:

1. Strong characters

In a ‘live’ workshop, Scholastic senior editor Matt Ringler noted that the most important element of a series is a strong character.

According to Ringler, the Goosebumps series is a perfect example of characters that people care about. This makes them want to read the next book in the series, and the one after that, and so on.

This is what makes a series successful.

2. Strong plot

Plot is also important, of course you need a good story. But Ringler finds strong characters trump plot.

3. The hook

Your story as always needs to grab the reader. It needs to hold his attention.

I can see you shaking your heads. Of course, you need these elements.

But, with the series it needs to have them consistently to keep the momentum moving forward.

So, how do you write a successful story?

According to Ringler, the most important aspect to writing a successful story is to do your research.

– Look in libraries and book stores. See what’s getting published and study those books.

– Look at similar titles in the genre your write and in the age range.

– Paying attention to comparative titles are crucial. Who published them? Who edited them?

– Know the format for the genres. This includes the word counts, age group, word levels, and so on.

– Read in the genre you write. Read at least 40 books in this genre. If you find this boring or you hate doing the research then you shouldn’t write in that genre. The research should be the fun part.

– Know what the editor edits. Know the genre he works in. If he edits chapter and middle grade books, don’t send him your picture book.

– Check out the editor’s website and try to find him on social media. You can also check Publisher’s Market Place and Book Shelf. The information you get from this research will give you a better idea of what he’s looking for and possibly how to approach him.

Next is to write and keep writing.

– Join a critique group to get other viewpoints (eyes) on your story.

– Revise, edit, slash, cut, and even start over if need be.

– When you’re finished with a project, start on the next one.

Ringler emphasized that the more books you have out there, the more potential you have for visibility and sales. If a child likes a book, she’ll want more of that book in the form of a series.

How do you know if you’re a successful series writer?

Most series have four books, some have six. This is usually the max of a successful series.

Then there is the phenomenon. These books skyrocket way beyond expectation.

Think “Harry Potter,” “Goosebumps,” “Twilight,” “Puppy Place.”

“Goosebumps” has been around over 20 years and the original author, R. L. Steiner, is still writing them. As a standalone series, it may be one of the reasons for its phenomenon success.

“Puppy Place” is on its 54th book.

And, “Harry Potter.” Enough said.

But, again, these are the exception to the rule.

How do you measure success?

Personal Success:

– Making extra money to supplement your income
– Support yourself with your writing
– Living comfortably
– Making the BIG bucks (this is exceedingly rare)

You’ll need to decide which of these meet your criteria for success.

Critical success:

– Positive reviews
– Starred reviews
– Grants and award

If you’re just starting out, don’t let bad reviews hinder you. “Goosebumps was originally slammed by reviewers. So was “Star Wars.”

Longevity success:

– A long lasting career. The ability to continue publishing.
– Consistent desire for more books from readers, libraries, editors, etc.

Promotional success:

– Public recognition (not usual)
– Direct outreach to kids to help promote reading
– A bigger platform for more visibility

Book sales success:

How many books do you need to sell to be considered successful?

Ringler gave an example of a new author, Author1, who had a 10,000-book print run. He ended up selling 20,000 books. The book was considered a BIG success.

In a second example, a new author, Author2, had a 100,000-book print run. The publishing house expected his book to be a hit. But, he only sold 20,000 books. This book was NOT a success. The publishing house lost money on this author.

In example two, if Author2 wants to pitch another book to that publishing house, they’ll think twice about giving him a contract.

So, success can be relative. Both authors sold 20,000 books, but one was considered a success, the other wasn’t.

I love the example Ringler gave. It something I hadn’t thought of and certainly puts sales success in perspective.

Summing it up:

If you write chapter books, or middle grade, or even young adult, consider turning your story into a series.

To read the first part of this two-parter article on writing a series, go to:
Writing a Children’s Book Series – Different Types

Children's ghostwriter

Whether you need rewriting or ghostwriting, let me take a look at your story. Just send me an email at: kcioffiventrice@gmail.com. Please put “Children’s Writing” in the Subject box.

Or, give me a call at 347—834—6700

Let’s get your book in publishable shape today!

Villain or Antagonist – Is There a Difference?

Want to Get Published? 6 Must-Do Steps

Making a Fiction Story Work – 5 Key Elements

Jun 17

Writing a Children’s Book Series – Different Types

Different types of children's book series

I attended another ‘live’ workshop through SCBWI. This one was with Senior Editor Matt Ringler with Scholastic. He’s in the series department for chapter books, middle grade, and young adult.

If you write in these genres, you’ll want to read on!

In case you weren’t aware, Scholastic is the only publisher that deals solely with children’s books. One out of every three children’s books is sold by Scholastic.

That’s pretty impressive.

Scholastic sells their books through their publishing houses, the Scholastic Reading Club, and Book Fairs. They sell to 35 million children in more than 130,000 Fairs across the country, annually.

Okay, that’s enough about Scholastic, now on to great children’s writing tips.

Children’s books have specific age groups:

Early chapter: 6-8 age group
Chapter books: 7-10 age group
Middle grade: 8-12 age group
Young adult: 12+ age group

Ringler noted that in the ‘early chapter’ books, the rules are stricter. Getting the ‘reader level’ right is essential as are using age appropriate words.

He also noted that ‘young adult’ is not a genre, it’s an age group. The reason for this is that book stores have limited space for books and they separate children’s books by age.

What I found very interesting, is a series doesn’t have to follow through with the same characters.

The series could focus on a particular theme, maybe sports. Or, maybe the series focuses on a particular setting or time period, or other.

This gives the series writer great flexibility and freedom.

And, did you know that there are three different formats for children’s series?

1. The continuation.

The books in this format continue with the same characters and often the same situation, like in the Harry Potter series. These books are dependent on information in the prior books – you need to read them in order. You need to know what happened in the previous books to keep up with the story.

2. The standalone.

The books in this format don’t reference the prior books at all. You can pick up Book5 and be good to go. You don’t need any prior information to make sense of the story. And, they aren’t in any kind of sequence.

These books are independent of each other.

An example of this type of series is “Goosebumps.”

Ringler mentioned that when dealing with a standalone series, branding is super-important.

Getting the logo and cover design just right is necessary to help make the series a success. It needs to be easily recognizable as that series.

To get it just right takes months. All the departments involved need to be on board and approve it.

3. Sequential, but not dependent.

The books in this format are in order (sequential), but they’re not dependent on what happened in the previous book.

I think the editor mentioned that the “Puppy Place” series falls in this category. But, there was a lot of information, so please don’t quote me on this one.

Where does an editor get his projects from?

Ringler finds manuscripts from:

– Agents: they pitch their clients’ stories to him.

– Authors: existing Scholastic authors will come to him with another book they’ve written.

– Colleagues: other editors in Scholastic may get a manuscript that isn’t right for them but think it would be just-right for Ringler.

– Book Clubs and Book Fairs: they’ll need specific books for specific fairs. For example, focusing on the month of April, they want an April’s Fool book.

– Self-generated: these are ideas Ringler gets on his own. It may from browsing books stores, watching a movie or TV, or other.

Once the story is found, what’s the purchasing process?

This is the same for all editors. If they find a manuscript they’re passionate about, it goes to the Acquisitions Dept – everyone gets involved in the decision to purchase the story, or not.

Ringler noted that he can get rejected for a number of reasons:

– Scholastic has a similar book in the works
– They feel there’s not a market for it
– They just don’t like it
– Other reasons

The editor needs to fight to have his book chosen. It can take a year or more just to buy a book if things work out in the editor’s favor.

After the book is actually acquired, there are five steps that need to take place:

1. The editor goes over the first draft manuscript. This phase is about concept, story, clarity, etc.

2a. After the editor is done, it goes to the copyeditor for line editing. This phase is about grammar, punctuation, spelling, fact checking, and so on.

2b. Next, it’s on to character design. The illustrator will come up with a number of character designs that will be reviewed. The decision as to which should be used will be made.

3. Then it’s on to interior layout and design. The font to be used, where the illustrations are placed, the chapter heading style, and so on happen during this phase.

4. The fourth phase is where it’s all put to together with the cover, back cover, front matter, and so on. The book finally gets published at the end of this phase.

It will take around 18-24 months after the contract is signed for the author to finally have a published book.

To see Part2 of this article, visit: https://karencioffiwritingforchildren.com/2018/06/24/writing-childrens-series-3-elements/

Children's ghostwriterWhether you need rewriting or ghostwriting, let me take a look at your story.
Just send me an email at: kcioffiventrice@gmail.com. Please put “Children’s Writing” in the Subject box.

Or, give me a call at 347—834—6700

Let’s get your book in publishable shape today!

Villain or Antagonist – Is There a Difference?

Writing a Publishable Children’s Story: 12 Power-Tips

Secondary Characters – Are They Important?