The Writers’ Advice Centre for Children’s Books

A seriously good option for self-publishing children’s authors

We all know that the golden rule of self-publishing is never to put out your book without first getting feedback, ideally using beta readers to start with – and most certainly using a professional editor.

With this in mind I’ll get straight to the point and tell you about the review and editing service offered by The Writers’ Advice Centre for Children’s Books, run by Louise Jordan.

Image of Writers' Advice Centre for Children's Books website home page

The Writers’ Advice Centre for Children’s Book offers advice and training to children’s authors

Louise, who co-founded Writers’ Advice in 1994, is ex-Head Reader for Puffin UK, and a children’s literary scout with over 20 years’ experience in the industry – oh, and an all-round lovely person!

Image of Louise Jordan

Louise Jordan – ex Head Reader for Puffin UK

My early encounter with Writers’ Advice…

I discovered Writers’ Advice back in late 1990s, a few years after I had started to write children’s books – and attended one of Louise’s excellent one-day workshops on writing for children.

Writers’ Advice still runs those workshops – as well as home study courses – but training isn’t all that’s on offer. Louise and her team of experienced children’s publishing professionals will give you frank and constructive feedback on your children’s book manuscript – whatever stage it’s at. The review takes into account everything from your book’s theme, to its plot, overall structure, characterisation, viewpoint, dialogue and target age group. They’ll also give you advice on how to approach publishers if that’s your aim.

How Writers’ Advice helped me with The Secret Lake

A year after attending Louise’s course – and reading her excellent book How To Write For Children And Get Published – I had my first draft of The Secret Lake ready, and used the Writers’ Advice manuscript appraisal service. After taking on board that feedback I then sent in a further draft.

The Secret Lake by Karen Inglis

Over 6,000 copies sold…

Looking back at the reports I received I realise just how instrumental they were in helping me move the story in the right direction.

  • I had the children grow up by the end of the story (what on earth was I thinking? – cut and major rework – kids aren’t interested in reading about adults!)
  • My opening was way too slow (Louise suggested I move a scene which is now the opening to the book…)
  • Certain key plot elements needed teasing out for the readers’ benefit – even though they were clear in my head
  • The children’s dialogue was way too mature in places…

These are but a few examples: suffice it to say that the feedback provided at all levels was thorough and, most importantly, highly practical.

How the reports looked back then…

Back in those days the advice service was all conducted by snail mail – authors sent manuscripts by post and received a feedback report a few weeks later.

Image of report on The Secret Lake

Early reports – circa 1999/2000

Here’s an excerpt from inside the second report I received back for The Secret Lake 🙂 I went on to write many more drafts after this (after leaving the story in a box for 10 years!) – in the later stages working with a close colleague and editor friend, Bridget Rendell, but many fundamental issues were solved by that time and I felt a lot more confident about my writing thanks to the advice I had received already.

Image of manuscript text

The Writers’ Advice Centre’s report on The Secret Lake

     I also sent an early draft of Eeek! The Runaway Alien to the Writers’ Advice Centre, as well as a clutch of shorter stories, including my rhyming tales about Ferdinand Fox – oh and one other story that’s still on my hard drive…watch this space!

Of course times have changed and documents are now usually exchanged online, though you can choose a postal service if you prefer. Louise also offers telephone and face-to-face feedback.

All of these services come at very reasonable prices, based on word count – or length of call if using the phone service. Use the links below to find out more.

An editorial service ahead of its time….

Writers’ Advice was originally set up to help aspiring children’s authors improve their chances of getting picked up by an agent or publisher, but it has adapted without fuss to serve the needs of authors looking to self-publish too. In fact as part of their offer they will give you realistic feedback on which route may be best for you. In this sense, I can’t help feeling that it’s a service that was ahead of its time.

As the publishing world continues to transform I’m certain that increasing numbers of freelance editorial services made up of experienced industry professionals will evolve to serve the needs of all writers. These changes are good news for authors and editors alike – each meeting a market need for the other. And of course they are great news for readers too.

In the case of The Writers’ Advice Centre for Children’s Books it’s a case of ‘business as usual’ and welcome to our world!

New Wacky Bee children’s imprint…

Wacky Bee children's publisher logo

Visit the website…

STOP PRESS! Louise Jordan has set up a new imprint, Wacky Bee, and is looking for new titles for her list aimed at ages 5-12.

To be considered for Wacky Bee you must have used the Writers’ Advice Centre’s manuscript appraisal service. Contact info@writersadvice.co.uk or check out the website www.wackybee.co.uk 

I’ll be doing an interview with Louise on Wacky Bee in the near future – but in the meantime I asked her what her one piece of advice would be to children’s authors.

Here’s what Louise said:

My one piece of advice to writers would be that placing a piece of writing in the market place is a bit like buying or selling a property. It’s all about location, location, location. In other words targeting is the most important thing…and a great writing voice!

Thank you, Louise!

Over to you…

Are you a current or aspiring children’s author?  Please feel free to ask questions or leave a comment below about your own experience of getting feedback on your work, or deciding whether to self-publish or follow the traditional route.

About kareninglis

Writer of children's fiction. Copywriter and web content strategist.
This entry was posted in Blog Update, Children's Books, Editing, Self-publishing, Writing & Editing. Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to The Writers’ Advice Centre for Children’s Books

  1. Debbie Young says:

    Great post, Karen, and very interesting. Although I’m not currently writing children’s books, it might be something I do in time, not least because I love reading them! (As you know, I really enjoyed The Secret Lake.) That closing piece of advice from Louise applies to all genres though – a great thought to end with! Looking forward to your interview with Louise and will spread the word about Wacky Bee.

  2. Thanks for the info! I self published a children’s book and currently working on another one. What platform would you recommend to self publish this type of genre?

    • kareninglis says:

      Hi Veronica – If you’re based in the UK and want bookshops to take your stock I’d recommend using CreateSpace for Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk only (ie don’t go for their Expanded Distribution) and Lightning Source or Ingram Spark for everything else. See my post here https://kareninglis.wordpress.com/print-on-demand/

      The reason to use Ingram Spark or Lightning Source for the rest is that their feeds will get your book listed in UK online and UK bookshop databases – which means they can order them in easily if a customer asks for them or if you approach a bookshop and they like your book enough to want to stock it. In UK bookshops aren’t that accepting of titles distributed via the CS Extended Distribution Channel. See more detail on my post above… Using LS also allows you to order your own stock for schools etc.

  3. Dawn Pickering says:

    Hello Karen
    I have obviously not found your site in time and already self published a short illustrated children’s story about 2 disabled children trike riding. I want to increase general awareness of this not just aim it at disabled chikdren. So I think that is where I need advise to make the book more appealing. It is aimed at children who are learning to read so under 7’s I would suggest.

    Dawn

  4. Elsa Bracero says:

    Hello, I’m confused about how to submit my transcript and have sooo much more questions. I writing a children’s book and I read not to submit it with pictures, that the publishing company will add pictures they see as appropriate. So then it seems I would just be submitting a single page of my writing. I doesn’t seem like a real book when things are condensed onto a single page. Should I e-mail instead a power point of my story?? I haven’t had anyone review my work, should I?
    I am seriously on page one of figuring out how to do this, please help. Thank you so much!

    • kareninglis says:

      Hi Elsa – as you probably know, my blog here focuses on self-publishing. However if you want to submit your manuscript for a picture book to an agent or publisher than, as a rule, I believe they prefer you not to send pictures as they normally have illustrators they like to use – or they prefer to make that decision. And, they may not even need/want you to map out a storyboard showing how you think the images would flow. See this link and scroll down to the part on picture books for more on this: https://www.scbwi.org/online-resources/frequently-asked-questions/

      That said, I would suggest mocking up a simple story board for your own benefit to see whether the story would flow/fit over a 24 or 32-page picture book format, keeping in mind the fact that pages at the start are needed for copyright, dedication etc end pages etc as described in my blog post on self-publishing picture books.

      I would also recommend researching which publisher would be the right fit for your book before submitting and then checking their website to see what their submission guidelines say about picture book submissions (or calling them if this isn’t clear) or, if you’re planning to approach an agent, do the same thing.

      The above all said, if you wanted to get feedback on your idea for a picture book first, you could use the services of someone like the Writers’ Advice Centre For Children’s Books which I talk about in the blog post here where you have left your comment. At the time of writing it looks as if they offer a written or telephone appraisal service for £100 for manuscripts of fewer than 5,000 words – and I’m assuming your picture book won’t run beyond 1,000 words and may well be shorter on word count: http://writersadvice.co.uk/manuscript.html

      I hope that helps. I’m sure if you search online you’ll find more answers and tips! And you might want think about joining The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) (the first link above) as they have a wealth of information for aspiring and published/self-published children’s authors. All the very best with your project! Karen

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