Sunday, March 8, 2015

on Writing and Illustrating Kids Books by Leanne Dyck

Thanks to my friend and author Pam Withers, I was able to attend the...

CWILL (Children's Writers & Illustrators) of British Columbia Society's panel discussion.

CWILL is an organization for published writers and illustrators. (CANSCAIP is an organization for unpublished and published writers and illustrators. As well as others interested in children's literature.)

(I took some picture of this event, but they didn't turn out -and so...)
(doodling by Leanne Dyck)

Moderator:  Ellen Schwartz

Panelists:  Silvana Goldemberg, Sheri Radford, Claire Eamer, Sara Leach, Kallie George, Mark David Smith

To introduce us to the panel, moderator Ellen Schwartz asked the authors to talk about their author journey.

Some authors spoke of being led to writing by a desire to entertain their family -- younger siblings, extended family.

Two of the panelists have mothers who are authors. I always thought that this would be a leg up in starting a career. But these panelists said, after watching their mothers work, that it was a deterrent. 

Many of the presenting authors had won awards for their writing.

Audience question:  should you send potential publishers both the illustrations and the writing?

Answer:  lead with your strength. If you are an artist send illustrations. If you are a writer send writing.

Often times, publishers will link established illustrators with new writers, or visa versa. This helps with the marketing of the new book.

A lively, engaging discussion ensued and I scrambled to take notes.

It's very wise to do a lot of research on the genre. Attendees were encouraged to visit Kidsbooks. (A large children's bookstores in mainland British Columbia.)

If your manuscript breaks the rules (or is a pop-up book), send it to an international book publisher.

Graphic novels are hot right now. Kids Can press made a name for themselves in Canada by publishing them.

Show tenacity. One author told us that her road to publishing took eight years to travel.

Send your submission and then wait 2 to 6 months. If you haven't heard from the publisher follow-up.

The protagonist is generally two years older than your target reader.

The best way to sell a book is by word of mouth.

Good resources...

Writers Market

Children's Writers and Illustrators Market

Jump Start Your Book Sales

The Canadian Children's Book Centre


Illustrators receive half of the royalties from the sale of picture books. 

If illustrators want to be traditionally published, they were encouraged to seek out publishers, first. Instead of soliciting authors. 

Whether an illustrator is seeking to be self-published or traditionally published, they were encouraged to build an artist web site that features their portfolio. These portfolios should endeavour to show their range of styles (no more than four) and give a sense of themselves as an illustrator. Direction can be obtain by visiting other illustrators' web sites. 

Self-published author...

Self-publishing your children's book was discussed. 
Where will you sell your children's book? 
If you find it easy to answer this question then you have a better chance of being a successful indie author.

Above all, focus on crafting a quality book. 

Non-fiction author...

Authors of non-fiction picture books need to send a detailed proposal to the publisher. The cover letter should explain why their book is important. 

Sometimes a publisher will seek out an author to write the book. In this case, the publisher will have conducted some of the research.

Thank you, Pam, for inviting me to this inspiring, informative and fun event.


Author and panelist, Mark David Smith wrote a brief review of this event and published it on his blog. Here's the link.  

(photo by Leanne Dyck)

Sharing my author journey...

Do you remember Goldilocks? Remember:  "This bed is too soft. This bed is too hard." 
Well, I had a little bit of that this week. 
Thanks to the CWILL panel discussion, I found another piece to the writing picture books puzzle. I discovered that some of my manuscripts were too long -- word count should be from 600 to 1,000 words. I revised one of my manuscripts and was able to cut 243. But those 243 words were good. I think it would make a fun story, I told myself. And I was right. But now the problem is that this new manuscript is 163 words too short. 

Well, if all problems were that easy to solve my life would be problem free. 
Now to send the manuscripts away to publishers. : )


Turns out there isn't really a minimum word count for picture books. A story is finished when the story problem has been solved. 

Read this article:  Picture Book self editing checklist for more helpful tips.