GUEST BLOG: Thoughts on Landing Contracts BEFORE You Write the Book with Tina Cho

Today I am delighted to have fellow children’s writer Tina Cho as my guest blogger.  Like me, Tina  is passionate about her faith and writing and she’s found a wonderful way to combine the two as a work-for-hire author.  So grab a cup of coffee (or tea, as I prefer) and enjoy Tina’s thoughts on her experience landing contracts through work-through-hire publishers.

Learn to query publishers, and you can land a contract or two before you write the book! Here’s my story.

I perused the marketplace section of Children’s Book Insider in November 2009 (which is now CBI Clubhouse) and noticed that Legacy Press took proposals for Christian children’s books. My mentor, Nancy I. Sanders, had taught me how to research a publisher’s existing product line, find a “hole,” and think of 3-5 ideas that would fit their series of books. I was immediately drawn to Legacy’s Christian Girl Guides. These American Girl type books have fun stories, games, crafts, and activities around a theme. So I thought of another book idea (manners and etiquette guide) that would fit that series and sent them a query letter.

A year and three months later I received an email to send a proposal. I took the next three months to research and write the proposal. I waited. No email. So I figured my proposal had been rejected.

Nine months later I received an email that said they were still considering my proposal, but in the meantime would I like to write another book in which they had developed the concept in-house? He said my voice and tone would match perfectly. (I’m wondering at this point, exactly what my voice sounds like!) This was a craft and devotion book for girls. So I developed all the crafts and wrote the book in two months. Whew! During this time, Legacy sent me a contract for The Christian Girls Guide to Grace, February 2012, and I finished writing the 10 chapters May 2012.

I am truly thankful to God for allowing me to write these. My faith and numerous readings of the Bible, plus experience as a teacher, had given me a knowledge base to work from. One of the reasons I wanted to write for children is that I wanted to leave a legacy for my own children. With Christian Girls Guide to Grace, I received my opportunity for my daughter. In fact, I dedicated the book to her. (She doesn’t know yet.)

So be a patient writer, learn to query, and you, too, can land contracts!

Tina is an author of 23 guided reading books from Lakeshore Learning and Compass Media. My Mini Pet Shop and The Christian Girls Guide to Grace, both from Legacy Press Kids and a coloring book with Warner Press will be out in 2013. She is a former elementary teacher who currently homeschools her 5th grade daughter and 2nd grade son. Though she grew up in Iowa, she is now living outside of Seoul, South Korea.  For more of Tina’s thoughts on faith and writing visit her at http://tinamcho.wordpress.com or http://tinasdevotionaltidbits.wordpress.com or http://tinaseducationaltidbits.wordpress.com.

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INTERVIEW: Author Jody Jensen Shaffer Chats about Work-for-Hire

Jody Jensen Shaffer writes children’s poetry, fiction, and non-fiction. Her poems and stories have appeared in numerous magazines including Highlights for Children, High Five, Babybug, Humpty-Dumpty, and Turtle. Recently she published two books: BLUE JEANS BEFORE THE STORE and BREAD BEFORE THE STORE (The Child’s World, 2012).  Today we’ll be chatting about her new books and her experience doing “work-for-hire”.

Laura: Welcome, Jody.

Jody: Hi, Laura. Thanks for having me!

Laura: First of all, congratulations on the publication of BLUE JEANS BEFORE THE STORE and BREAD BEFORE THE STORE. Can you tell us a little bit about them?

Jody: Sure. They’re part of a series of books that follows a common product from its beginning all the way to the consumer. They’re written for 3-5th graders and tie in nicely to curriculum that discusses consumers, producers, and natural, human, and material resources. They’re also great for studying the elements of nonfiction texts, like headings, glossaries, and tables of contents. The Child’s World did an excellent job with the books. They’re really gorgeous and accessible.

Laura: Both of these books were published by The Child’s World as “work-for-hire” projects. Can you tell us a little bit about “work-for-hire” and how it differs from other types of publishing?

Jody: With a work-for-hire book, the publisher provides the topic and finds an author to write about it. They also own the copyright. With non-work-for-hire books, the writer uses her own ideas for the subject matter of the book and then tries to find a publisher for it. In this case, the author owns the copyright.

Laura: How much did you know about your subjects ahead of time? Can you describe your writing process from research stage to final copy?

Jody: I didn’t know any more than most people about how bread and blue jeans are made, so I did a lot of research! I consulted books and reliable internet sites. Then I wrote several drafts  When I was happy with my work, I sent it to my editor. She made suggestions; I revised. We did this a couple of times. When we were both happy, a content expert reviewed my manuscript. (A content expert is someone who knows the topic inside and out and can verify that the details are accurate.) Finally, I was ready to turn over my manuscript to the publisher for layout, design, copyediting, and printing.

Laura: Do you have any more “work-for-hire” projects in the works?

Jody: Yes, I do! I have four biographies of today’s celebrities coming out this fall, and three more work for hire titles coming out in 2013.

Laura: How does a writer go about finding “work-for-hire” opportunities?

Jody: A really great source is Evelyn Christensen’s website, http://evelynchristensen.com/. Go to the “Writers” tab, then click on “List of Markets” under the “Educational Markets for Children’s Writers” heading. Click on the links she provides to learn about each publisher and what they want. It’s also a good idea to check out the publishers’ books from your library. After you’ve done your research about the publishers, send them what they ask for in their guidelines, usually a resume, cover letter, and a writing sample or two.

Laura: You also write picture books, poetry, and magazine stories and articles. Can you tell us a little bit about this aspect of your writing? Any exciting news on this horizon?

Jody: When I began writing for children in 2006, I focused all my attention on fiction picture books and poetry. I was lucky to have several poems published in reputable kids’ magazines.  And a few of my picture book manuscripts went to acquisitions (that is, were almost picked up by publishers). I started writing nonfiction for kids in 2011 and have really enjoyed it. I write both now and am very happy.

As to exciting new news, I’ve got some! tiger tales will publish my first fiction picture book, US TIME! It’s tentatively scheduled for release in 2014.

Laura:  Congratulations, Jody! I can’t wait to read US TIME! Thanks, again for stopping by.

Readers who want to learn more might enjoy checking out these related links:

http://jodyjensenshaffer.blogspot.com

http://childsworld.com/shop/new_arrivals

http://www.tigertalesbooks.com/home