Monday, December 30, 2013

Two kinds of authors.

There are two kinds of people who want to write kids’ books.  Which one are you?

I know, I know, I didn’t tell you what the two types are yet.

But I want you to think about it before I answer. 

Ask yourself:

  • Why do you want to write kids’ books?
  • What are my strengths as a children’s author?
  • What are my weaknesses?
  • Who do I want to write books for?

Okay, so what are the two types?  I’ll give them nicknames, but remember – these categories are very broad and these titles are just generalizations.

“The Mom Writer”

Not just for moms, this category includes grandmas, grandpas, aunts, uncles or friends - anyone who wants to share good stories with their own kids, grandkids, nieces, nephews and any other children in their lives.  These folks generally aren’t in it for the money, fame and adulation (which is good, because there isn’t much here).

A writer in this category usually has two huge things going for her:

  • Story – you know what they want to write.  Whether it’s based on truth (“the time grandpa ran away from home as a boy”) or fiction (“the penguin who wanted to live in Hawaii”), this is an incredible strength.
  • Audience – you know who you want to write for.  Believe it or not, authors often take a long time figuring out exactly who the story is for.  If you know that Mackenzie, who’s a 5-year-old girl, will really enjoy your penguin story, then you have a leg up already.

One big downside for those in this group is taking your story and making it more general – making sure that other 5-year-olds will also enjoy your book.  Another may be that you don’t have all the skills to take your words and make them absolutely perfect.  We’ll talk about both of these things more in a later post.

“The Pro Writer”

Okay, in truth there are very few actual, “professional” children’s writers, but that’s okay.  In this group, writers are probably hoping to make a little money while telling stories that are either important or fun.  This group may include teachers, librarians and others who enjoy sharing good books with children.

If you’re a writer in this category, you probably also have a few things that make you special:

  • Literature – generally, you love kids’ literature.  If you raised kids, you loved telling them stories.  You may have strong opinions about what makes a book great, good, or simply awful.
  • Writing skills – you may have a lot of writing experience, from your career or in your personal life.  Perhaps you’ve also written stories or articles for adults to enjoy, and you probably have a love of language that you’d like to incorporate into your kids’ stories.

In this group, the big downside may be a lack of specific direction – you know what you want to do but don’t know exactly HOW to get started.  You may not have a story fully-formed in your heart, just bursting to get out.  This is the group that’s most likely to suffer the dreaded Writers’ Block, but that’s okay… we can fix that, too!

If you don’t see yourself fitting into one or the other of these categories neatly, that’s okay.  There’s always going to be some overlap – moms who are natural wordsmiths, librarians with a story to tell.  That’s okay.

There is one more group… but this blog probably isn’t for them.

“The Gimme Big Bucks”

These are the people who are in it for the money – only for the money.  Or maybe the fame and fortune (perhaps they’ve never read a kids’ book to discover that the authors usually aren’t rich and famous?).  There are ways to self-publish children’s books (make that “books”) and try to get money quickly. 

One thing I’ve seen a lot lately is people who republish public-domain books.  They download the text free on Project Gutenberg, auto-design a spiffy cover, then “print” their own brand-new edition of Anne of Green Gables, Little Women or the Wizard of Oz.  They sell it for cheap to hook book buyers who don’t realize that their edition is full of typos (thanks to bad OCR when the original book was scanned) or formatted amateurishly so it’s almost unreadable.

(Formatting is another one of those things we’ll talk more about in a later post!).

Worse is when people like this swipe stuff (“swiper, no swiping!”) and put together a collection of items that aren’t public-domain:  illustrations, quotations, even story excerpts.  The self-publishing cops may catch up to them eventually, but generally, copyright holders need to pursue their own claims against these guys – there’s no organized effort to stop copyright violators in the print-on-demand world.

Another thing this type of person will do is put out a “series” of books, written quickly and badly, in an effort to become the next J.K. Rowling or Eoin Colfer.

Enough said about this type of person.  Let’s ignore ‘em and move on!

I hope those of us in the “good guy” categories can use this blog to come together to learn and share ideas to create and publish great kids’ stories together.  Deal?  Good!

Which type are you?  Do you fit neatly into one or the other of these categories, or do you belong in a special group all your own?


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