Sometimes, it’s good to be backed into a corner.
Like us, staked out here at the corner of “writing kids’ books” and “self-publishing.”
I live here, too. And I love it. I love sharing tools to create excellent children’s books, whether that’s tips on publishing, marketing, or actually sitting down and writing or editing the thing (and getting it illustrated).
Did I mention I have a guide coming out to self-editing your own children’s book? I love every aspect of this process, even editing (and with this book, maybe you will, too).
But it does get lonely sometimes.
It’s a fun corner, but there aren’t a lot of us around. We aren’t very high profile, and there aren’t many folks to keep us inspired.
Then somebody like Sean Platt comes along, a proud indie author who makes his living and supports his family writing his heart out in science fiction, fantasy, nonfiction and more, to the tune of tens of thousands of words a week.
Plus he does a couple of podcasts.
Plus… (get ready for it)… he writes kids’ books. But you’ve never seen his books, and he says you never will. That’s because he writes under a pseudonym: Guy Incognito, a name swiped from a Simpson’s episode.
“Most of my published work is for grownups, so it doesn't make sense for me to use the name ‘Sean Platt’ when writing for children.”
(This guy is less secretive about his pseudonym than anyone else out there.)
As part of the iconoclastic trio behind the weekly Self-Publishing Podcast, and one of the co-authors of Write. Publish. Repeat. (which you really must buy, and here’s why), Sean’s known as a genre-hopper, and some of his stuff is pretty… mature.
That hasn’t stopped him from targeting the junior market; he just branched out and created a pseudonym so he can get those words out into the world without worrying that your kids (or his) are going to stumble across some of his racier books.
The WKB Interview
“Never, ever speak down to your reader. You want to tell the story just as you would for an adult.”
Sean took a few minutes to share his thoughts about children’s books, and about why he’s chosen to use a pseudonym – something you might consider as well if you want to write in several genres without confusing kids or scaring parents.
WriteKidsBooks (WKB): How is a kids' book different from an adult book (the most important difference(s), in your opinion)?
Sean Platt (SP): The most important thing when writing a quality children's title is to never ever speak down to your reader. You want to tell the story just as you would for an adult. The only difference is that you want to frame the narrative within contexts they can understand and relate to. The difference is in tone. The sorts of things I like to say when writing for adults aren't all that different from what I like to say when writing for children, but of course there is no swearing or hyper adult situations.
WKB: What is your favorite children's book of all time?
WKB: Since you write children's books under a pseudonym, do you feel more free to branch out than if you used your real name? (And do you worry that children might discover some of your other writing?)
SP: Yes, absolutely. I started writing for children first, but I really love (and prefer) writing for adults. Most of my published work is for grownups, so it doesn't make sense for me to use the name "Sean Platt" when writing for children. Yes, I'm always concerned that someone who shouldn't be reading my adult stories will find them, but I can't let that impede me from creating my best work. I make sure that nothing from Guy links out to Sterling & Stone (our parent publishing company) or me. I'm sure that this costs us growth, but that's a small price to pay.
Sean and his Self-Publishing Podcast buddies recently ran a one-month “Fiction Unboxed” program. For a fee (they funded it through Kickstarter), fans could go behind the scenes to watch them create an as-yet-unplanned novel. They opened up every step of the process, from planning story beats to sharing each day’s raw written text.
The resulting book, The Dream Engine, is a hybrid that appeals to kids and adults. With 59 reviews and a 5-star Amazon ranking, currently #20 in the Young Adult steampunk category, it’s creeping ever higher on my personal “wants” list.
As a parent himself, Sean shared his story of becoming a full-time writer in Writer Dad: Life’s Better with the Right Words. It sounds mushy (and it’s billed as “a love letter to Cindy and Sean’s family”), but overcome the skepticism if you want a closer look at how he’s managed to do it all.
You just might find something in there to inspire you to make the real changes in your life that let you create the life you want as a writer. In any genre you choose to write in.