ALL IN THE FAMILY
Dear Author Enabler,
For about six years I have been writing children’s stories that were only for the benefit of my son, who is now 8 years old. I would like to publish them and share them with other children. I am wondering how I should go about doing that. Can you please help me?
Janny Gédéon
Jamaica, New York

It’s wonderful that you created these books for your son, but selling them is a different process from the creative act. You will want to get a literary agent, and before you get an agent or sell directly to a publisher, you need to select the strongest example of your work. You will require some help making that decision, and I suggest you get it by joining the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (www.scbwi.org). This nonprofit group offers conferences, information and support. Become involved and seek guidance about what work to shop and where and how to shop it.

LONG STORY SHORT
Dear Author Enabler,
I have just completed a 4,200-word children’s short story. What is the market for these types of stories—not really picture books or chapter books—and how good is the market? Are they also suitable for literature books for short stories in classrooms? Also, does a writer have to write the query letter to an agent?
Laura
Ohio, Illinois

Congratulations on finishing your story—not everyone is able to accomplish the first, important goal of completing a manuscript.

When it comes to selling your book to an agent or publisher, you are better off settling on a category than saying your book is something in between. Based on your brief description, I’d call it a short chapter book, meaning it’s aimed at 6- to 8-year-olds. My understanding is that the market for these books is lukewarm right now, but you shouldn’t take my word for it; you’re better off talking to an agent who knows the children’s book market well. As for the classroom question, don’t get ahead of yourself—you need to sell the book first.

This brings me to your last question, which is really the most important one. Yes, you should try to get an agent by writing a well-crafted query letter. Be sure to pay attention to each agent’s submission guidelines, which should be listed on their website.

TRIAL AND ERROR
Dear Author Enabler,
I am currently working on a novel and frequently encounter a problem where it takes me a great deal of time to produce a small amount of writing. As a result, I view my work sessions as drudgery. To deal with this, I sometimes simply force myself to write whatever comes to mind, just to get some words on the page and quicken the pace of production. On the other hand, this approach can result in proportionately more rework than if I take my time and find Flaubert’s “mot juste.”
So, my question is: To which side of this conundrum should I lean?
Michael Mackey
Chicago, Illinois

It’s just one writer’s opinion, but I think you should continue producing work every time you write, even if some of it is of lesser quality. I have no doubt that there are authors who get in a zone and produce beautiful prose right off the bat, but most of my time is spent improving my work via rewrite and edits, and I think that is true for the majority of writers. I’d also suggest you join or form a writing group; writing for other thoughtful readers might help to inspire your best work.

Send your questions about writing to authorenablers@gmail.com.

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