Nov 28

Top 3 Draws of Traditionally Publishing Children’s Books

Children's Books and Traditional Publishing - Why?

While most of my children’s ghostwriting clients go the self-publishing route, about a quarter of them (maybe a little less) take on traditional publishing.

Why go traditional? What’s the draw?

The first reason is budget.

When dealing with children’s books, many authors don’t have the budget to hire an illustrator.

For a standard picture book, there are usually 12-14 interior illustrations. That’s the bare minimum. If the author wants an illustration on every page, then it’s double the amount.

If the author has a chapter book, then she’s looking at illustration for each chapter, at the very least. Thinking on the low end, if the author has 5,000 words, that should be divided into around ten chapters of about 500 words each. So that’s ten interior illustrations.

Even middle-grade books can use interior illustrations here and there, possibly for each chapter.

Granted, you can have different types of interior illustrations, such as half-pages and sketches, but it’s still an expense.

Then there are the front and back covers.

Using the illustrators I work with, the pricing ranges from $80 to $180 per interior illustration and $200+ for the front cover. Pricing is usually less for the back cover. And these illustrators are very reasonable.

I’ve had clients who have paid $10,000 and more for illustrations.

So, it’s easy to see that having to pay for illustrations can get expensive.

On the flip side, the children’s author doesn’t need to pay for illustrations with traditional publishing. The publishing house uses its own illustrators and covers the expense.

This is a huge deal and is a major draw of traditional publishing.

The second draw is the prestige and validation associated with traditional publishing.

While I’m self-published and traditionally published, let’s face it, they don’t hold the same weight. That’s just the way it is.

The primary reason for this is that a lot of self-published books aren’t professional.

With the ease of self-publishing, anyone can slap a book together without knowing how to write and put it up for sale.

These authors make it bad for authors who take the time to learn the craft of writing and create a professional book.

Although, the old stigma associated with self-publishing is easing a bit.

The third draw is it’s all done for you.

Most authors, especially the newbies, don’t know how to go about self-publishing. Having a publishing company do everything for no cost is extremely alluring.

Just keep in mind the legwork and patience involved:

A. The author needs to create a query and synopsis of the book
B. The author needs research publishers and agents that deal with the particular genre
C. The author needs to submit the manuscript
D. The author needs to wait for a bite, which is not guaranteed
E. An accepted manuscript can take 18-24 months before it’s actually published.

But aside from the work and time involved, if the author gets a book contract, she has a professional group behind her. She can rest assured she’ll have a professional book.

So, these are the top three reasons why some children’s authors prefer going the traditional path.

Need help with your story?

Whether you need help with ghostwriting, rewriting, or coaching, let me take a look at your children’s story. Just email at: Please put “Children’s Writing” in the Subject box. Or, give me a call at 347—834—6700.

Let’s get your idea off the launch pad or your outline into a publishable and marketable story today!

Or, if you’d rather give it a shot and do-it-yourself, check out my book, HOW TO WRITE A CHILDREN’S FICTION BOOK.


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Jun 16

Submitting Your Ghostwritten Manuscript to a Children’s Publisher

Submitting to a Children's Publisher

If a client of mine is unsure of which publishing path to take, I always advise her or him to at least give traditional publishing a try.

Once the author decides to give it a shot, s/he most always asks HOW.

Let your fingers do the walking.

To submit your manuscript to traditional publishers, you’ll need to do research.

Do an online search for publishers who handle children’s books in the genre of your story.

You might also get the Children’s Writer’s & Illustrator’s Market. Get the most recent edition and look for publishers you think will be a good fit for your book.

This is tedious work and time consuming, but it’s the only way to get your manuscript out there and in the hands of acquisition editors.

Keep in mind that you can also submit your manuscript to literary agents who, if they accept you as a client, will then shop your manuscript around to traditional publishers.

The benefit of getting an agent, if at all possible, is that the agent will be able to open doors you can’t.

You’ll have to actually submit your manuscript.

While it’s tough to put your work out there and possibly get rejected, there’s no way around this.

You’ve got to submit.

You’ll need to write a query letter to submit along with your picture book manuscript, or a portion of your chapter book, middle grade, or young adult.

The publisher’s website will let you know:

  • How much of your manuscript should be submitted.
  • If you need to email your submission or mail it.
  • If you need to email it, the site will let you know if you should attach the document/s or put everything in the body of the email.
  • Other details you’ll want to pay attention to.

Go over the publishers’ guidelines carefully and follow those guidelines just as carefully. The editor who receives your submission won’t be happy if you carelessly neglect to follow the rules.

Keep submitting to different publishers. Give it at least 6 months to a year – if you have the time … and the patience.

Be careful: If the publisher asks for any money from you, they are not a ‘real’ traditional publisher.

Attend a writer’s conference.

Another way to possibly get your foot in the publishing door is to attend writers’ conferences.

This is the best way to mingle with other authors, attend workshops, and possibly get to pitch your story to an editor or agent.

Some conferences you might look into are:

Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators

Writer’s Digest Annual Conference

NYC Writers Conference

San Francisco Writers Conference

New York Writers Workshop (NYWW)

For a much BIGGER list of conferences, check out:

There are also a couple of free online writers’ conferences. Just do some research to find them.

Keep it going.

While you’re waiting for replies to your submissions, keep researching other publishers and keep submitting.

While the traditional publishing submissions process takes work and can take a long time, and there are no guarantees you’ll get a contract, but nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Happy hunting!

Children's ghostwriter

Whether you need editing, rewriting, or ghostwriting, let me take a look at your story. Just send me an email at: Please put “Children’s Writing” in the Subject box. Or, give me a call at 347—834—6700

Let’s get your idea off the launch pad or your outline into a publishable story today!

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Feb 18

Writer’s Conferences Are Not All the Same

A few of my clients who travel the ‘real’ traditional publishing road have attended writer’s conferences, or are thinking of attending one.

Well, Carolyn Howard-Johnson has a great article that helps writers choose the perfect one. Every writer thinking of attending a writing conference should read it.


Guest Post by Carolyn Howard-Johnson

I have been updating the flagship book in my multi award-winning #HowToDoItFrugally Series of books, The Frugal Book Promoter, and ran across this excerpt. So naturally, I wanted to pass it along to you. After all, all conferences were not born equal. You want to choose carefully.

Choosing a conference can be tricky. Many conferences are expensive. Even free online conferences can take a lot of time. This is one of those occasions when it pays to be picky.

Determine your goals and choose a conference accordingly. Some focus almost exclusively on craft and often call themselves retreats. Some offer seminars in book marketing. Others tend to be entrées to agents and publishers, and some offer information on publishing like the legalities of copyright law. Some do a little of everything.

Study up on conferences. The library has back issues of Poets & Writers that include reviews of conferences. Use your networks or Google to get opinions and suggestions from writers who have attended. Here are a few more conference-perfecting ideas:

Do not choose a conference based on its exotic location unless your first interest is a vacation.
If you choose a conference that offers critiques of your work by publishers or agents for an additional fee, spend the extra money to participate. And if you wait until later, you may have to kick in another full conference fee for the privilege.

If signing with an agent is what you are really after, wait until your book or proposal is fine-tuned to go to a conference.

Hint: If pitching an agent is your primary goal, be sure agents who specialize in your genre will be there by reviewing the conference Web site. Register for the conference early enough to be assured of an audience with your choice.

Determine the thrust of the conference you will be attending. Because of proximity and prestige, UCLA ( has access to Hollywood as a resource. This makes their conference one of the best for screenwriters. Other conferences have their own specialties.

If you want to find time to concentrate on your writing, you may prefer a writers’ retreat rather than a conference.

Examine the credentials of the conference presenters. If you write persona poems, you may want to study with a teacher who has had success writing that specific kind of poetry like UCLA’s Suzanne Lummis. A person who is interested in writing courtroom dramas will benefit from an instructor who has published in that genre.

Another bona fide educational institution that offer onsite and Web classes are Gotham Writers’ Workshop in New York. You may find a good one in your town.

Until you’re sure you can utilize an expensive conference to its fullest, select seminars offered by some online conferences like Jo Linsdell’s PromoDay ( It is free, though you are encouraged to make a small donation to defray costs. It’s also a good idea to take the same precautions selecting a free online conference you would take choosing an expensive on-site conference. Time is money.

Hint: Bring a small pouch of tools with you to conferences. I use a bag I received with an Estée Lauder gift-with-purchase. Toss into it color-coded pens, snub-nosed scissors (sharp ones may not get you through airport security), a small roll of cellophane tape, your index labels, paperclips, strong see-through packing tape (in case you must ship materials books and other materials back home), ChapStick, hole puncher, breath mints, a tin of aspirin, elastic bands, Band-Aids, and your personal medication. If you are presenting, throw in a hammer, tacks, razor, a small pair of pliers and a mini measuring tape. Mine even has a spool of very fine wire for hanging large posters. Don’t unpack this kit when you get home. You’ll need it in the future for other conferences, book signings, book fairs, and other promotional events.

You can use a conference to promote, too.

Some conferences offer tables where participants can leave promotional handouts for their books or services. Before you leave home, ask your conference coordinator how you might utilize this opportunity.

–  Ask the conference coordinator if they publish a newsletter or journal. If so, send the editor media releases as your career moves along.
– Take your business cards to the conference.
– If you have a published book, take your bookmarks to give to others.
– If you have an area of expertise that would interest a conference director, introduce yourself. She may be busy, so keep your pitch very short and follow up later.
– Record the names of fellow conference attendees and presenters who might give you endorsements for your book in the future.

This article was first published at:

About the Author

Author and Book MarketerCarolyn Howard-Johnson’s first novel, This Is the Place, won eight awards and her book of creative nonfiction, Harkening: A Collection of Stories Remembered, won three. Her fiction, nonfiction and poems have appeared in national magazines, anthologies, and review journals. A chapbook of poetry, Tracings, was named to the Compulsive Reader’s Ten Best Reads list and was given the Military Writers’ Society of America’s Award of Excellence. Her poem “Endangered Species” won the Franklin Christoph Prize for poetry. She speaks on Utah’s culture, tolerance, book promotion and editing and has appeared on TV and hundreds of radio stations nationwide.

Both The Frugal Book Promoter and The Frugal Editor are in their second editions and have awards from names like USA Book News, the Irwin Award, Dan Poynter’s Global Ebook Award, Readers’ Views Literary Award and Next Generation Indie Book Award. How To Get Great Book Reviews Frugally and Ethically: The ins and outs of using free reviews to build and sustain a writing career is the newly released third in the HowToDoItFrugally Series of book for writers.

Children's ghostwriterWhether you need rewriting or ghostwriting, let me take a look at your story. Just send me an email at: Please put “Children’s Writing” in the Subject box.Or, give me a call at 347—834—6700

Let’s get your idea off the launch pad or your outline into a publishable story today!


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Oct 07

The Cost of a Picture Book

Picture books

Probably 75 percent of my clients want picture books. Of that 75 percent, about 25 percent go the traditional route.

Yep, most don’t have the patience or grit to go the traditional route.

But, with the retail price of a traditionally published picture book being on the high side, authors may wonder why they only get a tiny fraction of it.

Well, to create and publish a picture book costs a lot.

Harold Underwood uses an imaginary book that costs $18 retail. Seems a good hefty price that will allow for a good royalty amount, right?

Uh, not so much.

Breaking down the costs involved in getting that book out to the world, it’s really not a good amount considering the wholesaler and bookseller get half of that.

Then take into account the publisher’s overhead, cost of printing and other incidentals, like the time involved in the project and all the ‘publishing’ people involved for that length of time. That $9 gets eaten away pretty quickly.

This is why there’s usually only about a 10 percent royalty set on the list price for the author and illustrator to split.

You’d be surprised at how little the publisher’s profits actually are.

To read more about why your book costs so much and you get so little, read:
Why Does A Hardcover Book Cost $18?

Children's ghostwriter

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

Or, give me a call at 347—834—6700

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Aug 19

Should You Really Write That Book?

I read an interesting article at The Outline. It starts off by demolishing two diehard myths:

1. Everyone has a book in them.
2. Any story can be turned into a book.

We have to keep in mind though that there are two very different publishing models or paths.

Let’s go over myth #1.

The author of the article, literary agent Kate McKean, explained that just because you may have an interesting story that your family and friends love, it doesn’t mean an agent or publishing house will want to take the time and money to turn it into a book. It doesn’t mean that anyone outside your personal realm will pay money to buy the book.

But, what if people you know tell you that your story is book worthy?

Still, they’re most likely not professionals in the book industry. A lot goes into creating a published book. And, “those well-meaning and supportive people rarely know how a story becomes printed words on a page.” (1)

A look at the self-publishing side.

According to a NY Times article, “81 percent of Americans feel they have a book in them — and that they should write it.” (2)

The author of that article notes, “I wonder if the reason so many people think they can write a book is that so many third-rate books are published nowadays.”

This makes creating a book seem easy.

Yes, self-publishing has given those people who want to write a book the opportunity to do so, but should those books be written. Will the finished product be a book that will add value and quality to the self-publishing arena and to the reader?

Unfortunately, in a lot of instances, this isn’t the case.

Let’s go over myth #2.

Can any story be turned into a book?

This depends on which publishing path you take and whether you believe quality matters?

Good writers can usually take any story / topic and weave their magic to turn it into an engaging and publishable book. But, these writers have taken the time to learn their craft – they’re professionals.

According to McKean, “writing a book that people will pay money for or take a trip to the library to read, requires an awareness few storytellers have.”

Along with this, while writing itself is a solitary thing, creating the book for others to read isn’t. When writing, you need to have your reader in mind.

Writing a book is kind of like hosting a dinner party. You do the cooking in the hopes that your guests will love the meal. If you take care to cook a good meal, chances are your guests will enjoy it and even asks for more.

If you don’t follow a recipe, use inferior ingredients, don’t cook it long enough, and so on, chances are your guests won’t enjoy it. In fact, they may be annoyed that you’d serve them something so awful. In this case, do you think they’d ever come back for another of your dinner parties?

With traditional publishing, agents and publishers are the gatekeepers. They ensure value and quality. They decide if your story will sell. While books are considered art, the traditional publishing system needs readers to buy those books in order for them to make a profit.

In the self-publishing realm, it’s another story. It’s a free-for-all. Any story can be turned into book. But, should it?

If you have a story you believe in and want to take the self-publishing route, go for it. But, PLEASE, take the time and care to create a good story, even if it means hiring a ghostwriter to write it for you. And, invest in a professional book design and cover.

If you’re self-publishing a children’s picture book, invest in quality illustrations also.



Children's ghostwriterLet me take a look at it. I’m a working children’s ghostwriter and rewriter. I can turn your story into a publishable book that you’ll be proud to be author of.

Shoot me an email at: (please put Children’s Writing Help in the Subject line). Or, you can give me a call at 834—347—6700

Let’s get your story in publishable shape today!

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Jul 24

Writing a Book – To Publish Traditionally or Self-Publish

Traditional or Self Publishing - The Author Dilemma

Whether to publish traditionally or self-publish is the question I get most from my ghosting clients. Most new to the writing arena don’t understand what’s involved with either path. This article will hopefully shed some light on the topic.

Traditional Publishing

With traditional publishing, you submit your EDITED manuscript to publishing houses and/or literary agents.

To submit to publishers means finding ones that accept submissions in your genre. To do this, you’ll need to write a query letter. It’s the query letter that you first submit. And, until you find a publisher who’s interested in your manuscript, you have to keep submitting.

It’s the same process for both publishers and literary agents.

There’s no way to determine how long it can take to find a publisher or agent who will offer you a contract. It could happen quickly (not the norm) or it can take a year, two years, or more. There are no guarantees it will happen.

As an example, it took Chicken Soup for the Soul 144 rejections before finally getting a publishing contract. And, they put a lot of time and effort into their publishing quest.

And, there are lots of other famous authors who had their share of rejections. Check out this LitHub article: The Most Rejected Books of All Time

The traditional process takes perseverance and commitment. You need to research publishers and agents. For this process, I recommend getting “Children’s Writer’s and Illustrator’s Market [current year].” It has hundreds of listings.

If you’re not a children’s author, you can use “Writer’s Market [current year].”

Assuming you do get a contract, it can take up to two years before your book will actually be available for sale.

Again, there are no guarantees with the traditional publishing route.

But, with all that said, there is still a level of ‘status’ and credibility with books that are traditionally published. And, you never know if you’ll get a contract quicker than expected. An added bonus if you’re writing a children’s picture book, you won’t have to find an illustrator or pay for illustrations and a book cover.


With self-publishing you’re in control.

You write your story or hire a ghostwriter to write it for you. Just make sure the story is edited and proofed before moving onto the next step.

Once that’s done, you’re off to find an illustrator – this is if you’re creating a picture book or even a chapter book / middle grade that will include some illustrations, even if just black and white.

You can find children’s book illustrators at: (look for children’s book illustrations)

You can also do an online search. I provide my clients with a list of illustrators my clients have worked with.

While you can find some ‘cheap’ illustrators out there, be sure of their skills. Be sure they understand what you’re looking for. And, be sure they proof their own work. You MUST also check the illustrations to the text – make sure the illustrations are relevant to the content on that page. You’ll also need to check for accuracy and consistency within the illustrations.

I’ve coordinated illustrations to text for clients and have found a number of errors from missing parts of feet to inconsistent furnishings from scene to scene.

After you have the illustrations with text layout, you will need to prepare/format and upload the book to publish it. For this, you can use services like Kindle Direct Publishing KDP (for ebooks and paperbacks).

For non-Amazon distribution, you can go with IngramSpark for print books or Draft2Digital and Smashwords for ebooks.

Just be aware that with these services, you’ll need to do the work yourself – the manuscript will need to be properly formatted and you’ll need to upload it yourself. If this intimidates you, you can hire someone on or to do it for you.

There are services that will take your manuscript and run with it through print-ready files. They often offer packages. One is, another is 1106 Design.

I also now offer Writing to Publication, taking your book from ghostwriting or rewriting through to illustrations and publication (including uploading to Amazon and IngramSpark). If you’re interested and would like to discuss this service, send me an email to

Warning: Some services that offer packages in addition to formatting and uploading your book for publishing will probably offer lots of other services: cover design, editing, illustrations, and so on. They can be expensive and I’m not sure of the quality of, say their editing services. So, have the book already to go. All you should need them for is actual publishing and distribution.

Another thing to look out for is that companies that offer publishing packages may not have the best copywriters, editors, and illustrators. ALWAYS check the work they do for you and if it’s not right, insist they revise it. And, be sure to check out a few of their published books. And, if you hired them to do a website, check some of the websites they’ve designed. This means reading the copy they have on the pages too.

To find reputable self-publishing services, visit Alliance for Independent Authors. (Scroll down to the list of services and their grades.)

Summing it Up

So, whether to self-publish or go the traditional route depends on your time frame, finances, and commitment to submitting your work. And, if you choose the traditional path, you’ll need to have patience and perseverance.



Children’s Writing and Publishing Process – The Traditional Path
Self-Publishing: 3 Tips to Help You Avoid the ‘I Want It Now Syndrome’
Striving to Be a Better Writer by Writing More

Need Help With Your Story

Let me take a look at it. I’m a working children’s ghostwriter and rewriter. I can turn your story into a publishable book you’ll be proud to be author of.

Shoot me an email at: (please put Children’s Writing Help in the Subject line). Or, you can give me a call at 834—347—6700

Feb 22

Is Your Manuscript Ready for Submission?

Submitting your manuscript

Writing is a personal experience. Each writer faces his or her own obstacles and processes. But, one common aspect of writing is it always starts with an idea. You may take that idea and turn it into an outline. You then take your outline and sprinkle it with letters and words and watch it grow. Words turn into sentences, sentences into paragraphs, and paragraphs into chapters. The journey can take months and even years. But, the love of writing, the love of your story, and the hope of publication keep you dedicated.

Then, the day finally arrives. Your manuscript is complete. The envelopes are ready. All you have to do is submit, submit, and submit again. But, hold on a minute. Have you gone over all the necessary steps to ensure your manuscript is actually ready to be submitted to a publisher or agent?

The writing journey can take months and even years. But, the love of writing, the love of your story, and the hope of publication keep you dedicated.

Time passes, and finally your manuscript is complete. The envelopes are ready. All you have to do is submit, submit, and submit again. But, hold on a minute. Have you gone over all the necessary steps to ensure your manuscript is actually ready to be submitted to a publisher or agent?

There are eight steps that every writer, especially those new to the business of writing, should follow before submitting a manuscript.

1. Rewrite, rewrite, rewrite. Then self-edit your story until it’s the best you can do.

2. Make sure you belong to a critique group in your genre. Submit your ms for critique.

3. Revise your story again taking into account the critiques you received. Here you want to use common sense in regard to which critiques you listen to. If all your critique group members tell you a particular section of your children’s story is age inappropriate, listen. If one member tells you he/she doesn’t like the protagonist’s name, use your own discretion.

4. Resubmit the manuscript to the critique group again. See if you’ve revised or removed all the problem areas.

5. Proofread and self-edit the manuscript until you think it’s perfect.

6. Print the manuscript and check it again. You’ll be surprised at the different types of errors that will be found in this format. You should use a colored pen or pencil for these corrections so they’ll be easy to spot later on.

7. Now, it’s time for the final corrections. Give it another go over.

8. Have your manuscript professionally edited.

If you’re questioning why you need to have your manuscript professionally edited after going to the trouble of having it critiqued and worked on it meticulously and endlessly, the answer is simple: An author and a critique group are not a match for the expert eyes of a professional editor.

Here are a couple of questions to ask yourself:
• Did you and your critique group catch all the punctuation errors?
• How about knowing when or if it is permissible to use quotation marks outside of dialogue?
• Do you know about the Find function on your word program to check for over used words, such as was and very.
• What about ellipsis dots, or the over use of adjectives and adverbs – got a grasp on them?

This is just the tip of the iceberg. Isn’t it understandable why it’s important to take that extra step, and yes, expense, to have your manuscript edited. If you’re undecided, ask the professional writers you know if they recommend it. You can also ask if they could recommend a qualified and affordable editor.

The powers that be, editors, agents, reviewers, and publishers, all know the difference between a professionally edited manuscript and one that is not. Every house needs a solid foundation, right? Getting your manuscript professional edited is the same thing – it will provide a solid foundation. The number of authors seeking publishers and/or agents is staggering. Yet, the number of publishers and agents is limited. Give your manuscript every advantage possible. One of those advantages is having it professionally edited. It can be the deciding factor in whether your manuscript makes it to the editor’s ‘to read’ pile or the trash pile.

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Need Help With Your StoryWhether you need rewriting or ghostwriting, let me take a look at your story. Just send me an email at: 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!

Or, if you’d rather give it a shot and do-it-yourself, check out my book, HOW TO WRITE A CHILDREN’S FICTION BOOK.

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