Seeking publication for children’s educational lit

Hi Victoria. I have a question for you. Hope you don’t mind. A friend who raises service dogs has written a children’s book. Her story is about a service dog & puppy raiser, intended to teach children about disabilities. She’s wondering where to go next. I know it’s hard for you to say, not having seen the book, but what would be her best next step? Submitting to agent or editor? I was wondering if you had any insight into children’s lit publishing, as I don’t, and my friend has finished her book 🙂 —TamaraNFamily

Hi, Tamara! I know you work for a nonprofit foundation that helps pets, so this sounds like a story close to your heart.

If your friend has never published before, she needs to get an editor before querying. Children’s lit has very special requirements, which is complicated by the fact that kids change so much as they age, so a book about raising service puppies for Young Adults will be quite different from one for Middle Grade, which again will be vastly different from a Beginning Reader, which is very different from a picture book.

Your friends needs an editor who can help her develop and polish her manuscript for that magic click in the mind of the child of the age she wants to reach. And she’ll need some help understanding the market for her audience so she’ll know how to present the book to an agent.

For children’s lit, in particular, she’ll need a good fit with her editor. While it’s true that a professional editor should be able to work effectively in any genre in which they have experience, there are some professionals who choose not to develop their skills in certain genres. (This is even more true of agents.) And, at this point in history, probably 90% of the aspiring editors out there right now hanging out their shingles have no experience in most genres, much less specialized ones like children’s lit. (These aspiring editors are cheap because they’re not professionals. I’m a very cheap gardener, myself. I wouldn’t know a radish from a rutabaga, but I’m willing to let you pay me $35/hour to find out!)

So your friend should be careful. She should research every editor she considers, to make sure they really do have the necessary experience for her special book. She can write to them and ask about their background in her genre. Find out how long they’ve been editing professionally. She can even ask for referrals. Otherwise she runs the risk, at best, of wasting her money and, at worst, of getting exactly the wrong advice—especially in a specialized genre—from someone guessing blindly in the hopes that she won’t be able to tell.

Children’s lit is a hoppin’ genre right now, although that’s mainly YA. Educational books for MG and younger will always have a smaller niche audience. In fact, self-publishing has a long and varied history in those smaller niches.

You may find yourself one day selling her book through the auspices of your nonprofit! A lovely partnership indeed.

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