Monday, February 02, 2009
1. What do today’s kids want to read? What trends have you seen?
I think kids continue to want to read about kids like themselves; even if the kids are heroic or have supernatural qualities, kids—much like adults—identify with characters who encounter the same things they do: parents who don’t understand them, bullies at school, rifts between friends, wanting to be popular, etc. This is especially true for the Tween (8-12) section of kids; they are becoming more aware of themselves and others at this age. Younger kids like good stories, words that grab their attention and make them want to repeat them (my 4-year-old nephew picks up on the words that use sounds he can repeat and words with excitement: “oops!” When writers for young kids know how to incorporate these words/sounds into a fun story, it appeals to kids.
2. What is Tyndale looking for?
Tyndale is always looking for new ways to present Bible stories to kids; we have a full line of Bible Story Books that we evaluate constantly and try to make sure we’re meeting all kids/parents needs with the variety we offer. I’m personally attracted to great juvenile fiction—the type of book a tween would hide away in his/her room and read all day! This book must also please parents, have Christian content, but not be preachy…while holding the tween’s attention; A tall order, but one I’m constantly searching for. Devotions are good too—especially ones with a twist. Most parents love to buy devotions for their growing kids; it helps them get in the habit of reading Scripture/thinking about God/praying daily. We need devotions that will interest tweens, young/early readers, and infants/toddlers
3. What really sells Christian Children’s books?
A combination of great art, well-written stories, and a good value price—that will sell Christian Children’s books.
4. Would you suggest self-publishing first for a new author so they will have proof of sales in the market?
I think self-publishing is a wonderful route to go for first-time authors. Most people who write for children are doing it out of a special passion for youth, not for money; therefore, when they look at publishing their book as a ministry, they shouldn’t wait on a publisher to pick it up.
By self-publishing, the author can share their gift/passion with youth in their community and church. The internet can help them market their book and reach others outside of their community too. Illustrations are usually the most expensive part of publishing books (especially picture books and Bible Story Books) so it’s probably a good idea to find someone who can illustrate your work well too. I suggest authors consider art students or others who may not have been “discovered” yet and can offer them great work for less money or even just in exchange for exposure/experience.
5. Do you have to be a “big name” in another genre in order to be picked up?
No, you don’t have to have a big name in children’s books; most people don’t know the name of kids’ authors. However, for new authors, I’d make sure your bio is placed in a prominent place and you play up your heart for ministry, your commitment to Christ, as well as any educational experience you might have. Basically, you need to let potential buyers know why/how you are “qualified” to write for this audience.
6. How important is the author being involved in their own promotion?
It is always very, very, very important for an author to be involved in his/her own promotions. Besides a books’ content/idea, we always look at the book’s/author’s marketing potential. An author who is already actively involved with the audience she/he is writing to will gain a publisher’s attention a lot quicker than one who is not. Always keep track of conferences (and number of attendees) you speak at and will speak at and other venues you may be able to add to the promotions efforts.
7. Are Christian publishers interested in character education to get into public schools?
I’m sure some Christian houses are interested in character development/education to make breakthroughs in the Public School market; at Tyndale we are focused on getting the Christian message to our young readers. Our books are designed to bring them into or into a closer relationship with Christ.
8. Do they like series? Why or why not?
We at Tyndale like series for juvenile fiction; it’s one of the best ways to get juvenile fiction published. To make this successful, we need a strong concept that will hold the interest of readers throughout several books.
9. What advice would you give an author wanting to write children’s books and get picked up by a house?
First of all, I suggest writers study the house’s titles before you even consider submitting to them; if they have never published a picture book, you probably will not get yours published there. Instead, focus your efforts on finding a house that matches your needs and does well in the category your book falls into.
I’d also strongly consider self-publishing; Houses receive tons and tons of manuscript and quite frankly can not even read all of the unsolicited ideas. If you have a book bound and finished, it will get more attention. If you come through an agent, your work has at least been viewed and filtered a bit…so an acquisition’s person might get to review it.
Lastly, please, please do not be discouraged or upset when you are rejected. I don’t know a successful writer who hasn’t been rejected. Take whatever feedback you are given, use it if it is appropriate for you, and keep trying. If this is really about ministry, you will be happy to share it in whatever venue you can (church, community story-hour, website, blogs, etc.)
About guest blogger: Katara Washington Patton, Acquisitions Director, Children and Family, Tyndale House Publishers, 351 Executive Drive, Carol Stream, IL 60188
Katara joined Tyndale in the Fall of 2007 as Acquisitions Director, Children and Family, where she leads a team in developing products to touch the hearts of God’s little ones. She brings a wealth of experience in Christian and educational publishing. She has worked at McGraw-Hill, Urban Ministries, Inc., Jet Magazine, and Weekly Reader. Katara holds as a Master of Divinity from Garrett Evangelical Theological Seminary (Evanston, IL), a Master of Journalism from Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University (Evanston, IL), and a bachelor’s degree from Dillard University (New Orleans, LA). She frequently speaks at writers conferences.
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