Posted in Before You Begin, The Nitty Gritty of Children's Writing

Glossary of Publishing Terms

ABA:  American Booksellers Association

ALA:  American Library Association

ADVANCE:  Money paid to an author or illustrator by a publisher after the book contract is signed.  Advances are paid against royalties.  Usually, the author or illustrator won’t receive any additional payments until the royalty earnings have surpassed the amount of the advance.

AGENT:  Person who sells an author’s work for them, negotiating any contracts, etc. for a fee, however, no fees should be paid up front.  Also known as Literary Agent.

ALL RIGHTS:  Sale of material where the publisher becomes the owner of the material.  The author may not sell the material again.

ARC:  Advanced Reader Copy – a bound galley sent out to reviewers.

BACKLIST:   Books still in print from previous seasons.

BELPRÉ MEDAL:  An award for outstanding children’s literature and illustration that celebrates the Latino/Latina cultural experience.

BOOK DOCTOR:  Someone who will examine your manuscript and critique it for a fee.  These vary greatly in quality.

BOOK REVIEW:  One person’s opinion of a book, printed in a newspaper, magazine, newsletter or online.

CALDECOTT MEDAL:  An annual award* to the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children. Administered by the Association for Library Service to Children.

CBA:  Christian Booksellers Association

CBC:  Children’s Book Council – nonprofit national trade association for children’s trade book publishers.

CHILDREN’S CHOICE BOOK AWARDS:  A new award (2008 first year) voted on by young readers. Sponsored by CBC.

CLIP:  sample of a published work

CONTRACT:  Legal agreement between author or illustrator and publisher which lays out details of  how and when the material will be published, what rights are sold,  payment, etc.

COPYRIGHT:  Legal protection of a work.  Most publishers copyright the text in the author’s name of the author.

CORETTA SCOTT KING BOOK AWARD:  Presented annually by the Coretta Scott King Task Force of the American Library Association’s Ethnic Multicultural Information Exchange Round Table (EMIERT). Recipients are authors and illustrators of African descent whose distinguished books promote an understanding and appreciation of the “American Dream.”

COVER LETTER:  Brief letter to introduce your manuscript.

CRITIQUE GROUP:  Group of writers or illustrators who help each other hone their work.

E-BOOK:  A book only published electronically.

EDUCATIONAL MARKET:  Book publishers whose purpose is to sell to schools and libraries.

ELECTRONIC RIGHTS:  The right to print a work in an electronic form (i.e. via the Internet.)

FIRST RIGHTS:  Or First Serial Rights.  The right to be the first to print a work in a magazine.
FLAT FEE:  The author or illustrator is paid one lump sum for their work, and receives no royalties.

FRONTLIST:  The books being published in the current season.

GALLEY:  A collection of unbound signature pages of a book. A bound galley is bound into book form.  A galley is an uncorrected proof.

GENRE:  Writing category, i.e. romance, children’s, nonfiction, mystery.  Often have subcategories.

GOLDEN KITE AWARDS:  The only children’s literary award judged by a jury of peers.  Given by the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.

HARDCOVER:   Books bound with a hard, cloth-over-cardboard cover and covered with a paper dust jacket.

HORN BOOK:  Well-known magazine about children’s and young adult literature.

INSTITUTIONAL SALES:  Books sold to schools and libraries.  Both trade and mass market books can have institutional sales.  Institutional sales often makes up a large portion of the sales for Children’s books.

IRA:  International Reading Association, a nonprofit network committed to worldwide literacy.

KIRKUS:  Kirkus Reviews, a well-known magazine that reviews books prior to publication.  A starred review indicates a book of remarkable merit.

MASS MARKET:  Your standard-sized paperback book aimed at a wide audience.  Smaller than a trade paperback, usually with a different cover illustration than the hardcover edition, and considerably cheaper.

MASS MARKET PUBLISHERS:  Companies that produce paperback books inexpensively and in large quantities.  Book titles may follow trends and sell high volume in a short amount of time.  Some may be reprints of hardcover books. 

MICHAEL L. PRINTZ AWARD:  An award for excellence in young adult literature.

NET PRICE:  The money the publisher actually receives from each book sale after discounts are given to book stores or buyers.  Some publishers base the royalty paid to the author or illustrator on net price.

NEWBERY MEDAL:  An award for the author of the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children.  Awarded annually by the Association for Library Service to Children, a division of the American Library Association

NON-EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS:  The right to print and reprint it, but others may print it as well.

  The right to print a manuscript one time.  i.e. one issue of a magazine.

OOP:  Out of Print.  Not printed anymore.

OVER THE TRANSOM:  Unsolicited submission.  See Slush Pile.

QUERY LETTER:  A letter to gain interest in a manuscript or idea.

  A manuscript an editor personally requests either in response to a query letter or at a conference, retreat or workshop.

REPRINT RIGHTS:  The right to print a manuscript that has already been printed.

RETAIL PRICE:   Cover price of the book.  Most larger publishers pay royalties based on the cover price.

RETURNS:  Books that booksellers return to the publisher.

ROYALTIES:  The percentage of the proceeds from the sale of each copy of the book that the author or illustrator receives.  Royalties vary depending on the publisher, the type of book, amount of experience author has, etc.  Authors and illustrators are both paid in royalties unless a flat fee arrangement has been made.

SASE: self-addressed stamped envelope.

SASP:  self-addressed stamped postcard.

SCBWI:  Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.

SCHNEIDER FAMILY BOOK AWARD:  This award honors an author or illustrator for a book that embodies an artistic expression of the disability experience for child and adolescent audiences.

SECOND RIGHTS:  The right to print a work that has been printed once before.

SELF-PUBLISHED:  Author has a book they feel strongly about and pays to have it published themselves, with or without the help of a company who does this.

SIDE-BAR:  An additional piece of information accompany8ing an article or story–often printed to the side.

SIMULTANEOUS SUBMISSION:  Manuscript submitted to more than one publisher at the same time.

SLUSH PILE:  Term for unsolicited manuscripts received at a publishing house.

SUBSIDIARY RIGHTS:  Sales of a book to other outlets such as book clubs, foreign publishers, magazines, or movie studios.

SUBSIDY PUBLISHING:  Author pays part of all of book publication, promotion and sale.

award in 2009 for teens to choose their own award winners.  Sponsored by CBC.

TEXAS BLUEBONNET AWARD:  Awarded by the students of Texas** through a voluntary reading program.

TRADE PAPERBACK:  A book bound with a heavy paper cover, either larger than the standard-sized paperback or the same size and with the same cover illustration as the hardcover edition.

TRIM SIZE:  The outer dimensions of the finished book.

A manuscript not specifically requested by the editor.

VANITY PRESS:  Publisher who requires author to pay all costs of producing the book.  Often these manuscripts are not edited.

  Awards for books for children in 3rd through 5th grade and for children in 6th through 8th grade, voted by the students.

*National book awards
**State and regional awards 

Posted in Before You Begin, The Nitty Gritty of Children's Writing

Children’s Book Categories

Image by Kidaha from Pixabay

read-2841722_1280 Children’s books are often broken up by age categories. Age ranges may vary by publisher. There are, of course, word length and manuscript pages exceptions to the generalizations below.

Picture books — In its broadest definition, a picture book is a book in which the illustrations play a significant role in telling the story. Under this umbrella are several types of books:

Baby books — For infants and young toddlers, these books are generally lullabies, nursery rhymes, fingerplays, or wordless books. The length and format varies with the content.

Toddler books — Very simple stories for ages 1-3 (under 300 words) familiar to a child’s everyday life, or concept books (teaching colors, numbers, shapes, etc.) Books are short (12 pages is average) and the format can be board books (sturdy paper-over board construction), pop-ups, lift-the flaps or novelty books (books that make sounds, have different textures, etc.)

Early picture books — A term for picture books geared toward the lower end of the 4-8 age range.  These stories are simple and contain under 1000 words. Many early picture books have been reprinted in the board book format, thus widening the audience.

Picture books — Traditionally, picture books (also called “picture story books”) are 32-page books for ages 4-8 (this age may vary by publisher). Manuscripts can be up to 1000 words, but many publishers are looking for 500 words or less.  Plots are simple (no sub-plots or complicated twists) with one main character who embodies the child’s emotions, concerns and viewpoint. The illustrations (on every page or every other page) play as great a role as the text in telling the story.  Occasionally a picture book will exceed 1000 words; this is usually geared toward the upper end of the age spectrum.  Picture books cover a wide range of topics and styles.  Illustrators should check out the Caldecott Medal winners.  Writers should look at the Charlotte Zolotow Award winners.
Nonfiction in the picture book format can go up to age 10, 48 pages in length, or up to about 2000 words of text.

Easy readers — Also called “easy-to-read” or “rookie readers,” these books are for children just starting to read on their own (age 6-8).  They have color illustrations on every page like a picture book, but the format is more “grown-up” — smaller trim size, sometimes broken into short chapters. The length varies greatly by publisher; the books can be 32-64 pages long, with 200-1500 words of text, occasionally going up to 2000 words. The stories are told mainly through action and dialogue, in grammatically simple sentences (one idea per sentence). Books average 2-5 sentences per page.  See “I Can Read” books. (

Transition books — Sometimes called “early chapter books” or “beginning chapter books” for ages 6-9, they bridge the gap between easy readers and chapter books. Written like easy readers in style, transition books are longer (manuscripts are about 30 pages long, broken into 2-3 page chapters), books have a smaller trim size with black-and-white illustrations every few pages. See the “Stepping Stone Books” published by Random House.

Chapter books  — Sometimes called “early middle grade” or “early chapter books” for ages 7-10, these books are 45-60 manuscript pages long, broken into 3-4 page chapters.  Stories are meatier than transition books, though still contain a lot of action.  The sentences can be a bit more complex, but paragraphs are still short (2-4 sentences is average).  Chapters often end in the middle of a scene to keep the reader turning the pages.  Look at the “Amber Brown” books by Paula Danzinger.

Middle Grade — This is the golden age of reading for many children, ages 8-12.  Manuscripts suddenly get longer (100-150 pages), stories more complex (sub-plots involving secondary characters are woven through the story) and themes more sophisticated.  Kids get hooked on characters at this age, which explains the popularity of series with 20 or more books involving the same cast. Fiction genres range from contemporary to historical to science fiction/fantasy; nonfiction includes biographies, science, history and multicultural topics. Check out some middle grade novels from the list of Newbery Medal winners.

Young Adult (YA) — For ages 12 and up, these manuscripts are 130 to about 200 pages long.  Plots can be complex with several major characters, though one character should emerge as the focus of the book.  Themes should be relevant to the problems and struggles of today’s teenagers, regardless of the genre.  The Printz Award list contains many worthy titles.

Notes: I don’t know where I got this info originally–it was something typed up with no author reference.  I have seen variations online as if solely written by that person.  (  and
I have updated some of the information. -Sue

Posted in Before You Begin, The Nitty Gritty of Children's Writing

Why Write?

why-1432955_640“We need to be honest, right from the start, about why we want to write for children. If we intend to moralise, teach a lesson, patronise, categorise, marginalise, or show off our own brilliance, we are doing it for the wrong reasons and we’ll need to reassess our motives. We are not writing academically de-constructible literature. Nor are we writing as therapy to eradicate our guilt about the world and what we have done to it.” – Mem Fox

The reasons why writers write are as varied as there are writers.  But the question you need to answer is why YOU want to write.  Following are some basic reasons to consider.

Because you . . .

. . . love books and the written word

“There’s a difference between getting money for what you do and doing it for money.  If you don’t do it for love, or because you think it needs doing, get out and let somebody else do it.  If nobody else does it, maybe that means it shouldn’t be done.” – Emma Bull

“The beautiful part of writing is that you don’t have to get it right the first time, unlike, say, a brain surgeon.” – Robert Cormier

. . . enjoy reading

“What really knocks me out is a book that, when you’re all done reading it, you wish the author that wrote it was a terrific friend of yours and you could call him up on the phone whenever you felt like it.” – J.D. Salinger

. . . have something to say

“The best books come from someplace deep inside…. Become emotionally involved. If you don’t care about your characters, your readers won’t either.” – Judy Blume

“I hope my books help children see some of the wonder in the world. I hope they show children that their own lives are rich material for storytelling.  But most of all I hope that through my books, children know that I believe in them–in their ability to learn and to reshape the world.” – Larry Dane Brimner

“The secret of good writing is to say an old thing in a new way or say a new thing in an old way.” – Richard Harding Davis

“Writing enables me to speak without being interrupted!” – Roberta Sandler

. . . have lots of ideas and a busy imagination

“I think ideas buzz about in the air like tiny mosquitoes. Many “land” on you and get brushed aside. But it’s the ones that take a “bite” out of you, the ones that really get into your blood that make you the most passionate about writing.” – Dian Curtis Regan

“The best way to have a good idea is to have lots of ideas.” – Linus Pauling

“Ideas are like rabbits. You get a couple and learn how to handle them, and pretty soon you have a dozen.” – John Steinbeck

“Artistic creativity is a whirlpool of imagination that swirls in the depths of the mind.” – Robert Toth

. . . can’t not write

“I’m usually not inspired as much as driven to write. It’s something I feel compelled to do.” – Dotti Enderle

“If my doctor told me I had only six minutes to live, I wouldn’t brood. I’d type a little faster.” – Issac Asimov

“A musician must make music, an artist must paint, a poet must write, if he is to be ultimately at peace with himself.  What one can be, one must be.” – Abraham Maslow

“Writing kept me sane when I was a stranger in a school or neighborhood. I’ve kept a diary since I was ten years old. It’s a place for my emotions to catch their breath; a portable fire escape, I guess.” – Mitali Perkins

“I shall live badly if I do not write, and I shall write badly if I do not live.” – Francoise Sagan

. . . desire fame or immortalization

“If you would not be forgotten as soon as you are gone, either write things worth reading or do things worth writing.” – Benjamin Franklin

“One should write to be read.” – Ken Macrorie

. . . not for the money!

“If writers were good businessmen, they’d have too much sense to be writers.” – Irwin S. Cobb


“A professional writer is an amateur who didn’t quit.” – Richard Bach

“Everyone is different and that means that everyone is going to need to write a story in a different way. You have to discover how you need to do it. There is no easy way. You can only discover how to by doing it.” – Diana Wynne Jones

“Talent is way down on the list of things you need to write; it comes in a distant fourth, after persistence, motivation, and discipline. And the reason is that “talent” is as common as mud; what’s rare is the motivation to sit down and actually do something with it, the discipline to do it regularly, and the persistence to stick with it until it’s finished.” – Patricia Wrede

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When to Write?

“If you write only when excited or motivated, you’ll never finish.  You have to write even when it’s the last thing you want to do.  Just put something down.  You can always edit it later or even throw it out.” – Bob Mayer

“A writer who waits for ideal conditions under which to work will die without putting a word on paper.” – E.B. White

For me, the best time to write is scheduled time.  Twice a week, I meet other writer friends in a library where we each set up our laptops and work.  We have to be quiet in this setting, so aren’t so tempted to chat.  At lunch in a neighboring coffee shop, we talk, discuss problems in our individual manuscripts, then get back to work.

Do what works for your schedule, but commit to the time and don’t let something else preempt it.  Including the internet if you’re in a wifi friendly location!

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