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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
- The Writers’ Advice Centre for Children’s Books – manuscript appraisal services & costs
- Meet The Writers’ Advice Centre for Children’s Books’ editorial team
- Workshops and home study courses from The Writers’ Advice Centre
New Wacky Bee children’s imprint…
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.
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.