For the past years I've kept a profile page on myspace and have joined and participate in various writing groups. One such group is the Teen Lit group moderated by author Sarah Mlynowski, a wonderful group where "readers and writers of teen fiction meet" and talk things over. In one of the threads in that group I had a conversation with Jessica M., a 14-year old yet-to-be-published writer from Lafayette, Louisiana. She had good questions on how do teens go about getting published. With her permission, I've posted the transcript of our conversation below:
Jessica M.: I know I am young, but age doesn't always matter. Is there any way to get a book published if you are under the age of 18? I am really curious about it and I think I have a great book in the making. I just am having trouble finding a publisher that isn't for the 18+ over crowd. Plus, I am pretty young and can't afford an editor and everything.
Good editors do NOT charge for their services. Beware of those who do charge. Good editors also look at the manuscript and let the writing speak for itself. Wasn't Eragon written by a teen? Age is not as important as the quality of the writing.
The best way to get to know good editors and agents (in my opinion) is to attend reputable writing conferences where they're attending. I don't mean for you to attend lots of these conferences but at least one good one a year. The best thing about attending these conferences is that by just attending you're allowed to submit your manuscript to the editors/agents that were at the conference and so you totally bypass the slush pile and the "no unsolicited manuscripts" rule that most publishers have.
If you have to pay to have someone look over your manuscript then you're talking about book doctors. Nothing wrong with doing that so long as you know that is what you're doing. Many a great editor that worked for established publishing houses have moved in that direction and offer editorial services to both published and yet-to-be-published writers and it's up to you to decide whether it's worth it to pay them to look your manuscript over and help you bring it up to publication standards.
Before you go that route, however, I would suggest you join a local critique group. A good group can help you polish your work tremendously. Also I've been putting together a list of writing resources I keep on my shelves and if you know of others I should add to this list, please let me know: Good Books on Writing
Jessica M.: I need help finding a publisher. I have found websites that publish books and send them to stores for free..but it's only for 18 year olds and over.
I'd love to see the list of websites you've found that will publish your book for free AND send it to bookstores for free. Regular publishers will do that if they acquire your manuscript and take you up as one of their authors but websites? I'm curious.
Jessica M.: I'm curious as to how to find them [writers' conferences] in my area and how to contact them when I do. I don't want to get into anything that requires a lot of things that I can't handle being only 14 years old.
If you're talking about how to find good and reputable writer conferences to attend start out by asking your local public library what writing conferences they know about. Often they sponsor them. I live in Colorado so here the Pikes Peak Writers Conference is tops. Writers Digest has billed it as one of the top 10 writer conferences in the country and that's saying a lot because normally the east and west coast have the biggest conferences. Here are links to several articles posted to the CCF site that talk about past PPWC events:
Top-Tier Children's Editors at PPWC
2004 Pikes Peak Writers Conference
Also, many writer conferences sponsor writing contests. Young people can enter those contests and if they win they can attend the conference. In Colorado the Pikes Peak Writers Conference sponsors the Pikes Peak Writers Fiction Writing Contest. I've served as a judge for this writing contest for several years and we do get teens submitting their writing and they do win. It's fun to have them attending the conference with their nametags saying "contest winner." :-)
If you're writing for a YA audience, and I'm thinking that's what your book is about, then it'd be good for you to get acquainted with what I feel is THE best organization for children and young adult authors to belong to: The Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators. Even without joining the organization and paying the annual dues, you can still visit their website and learn a whole lot from what they have posted there that nonmembers can access. Their website is: http://www.scbwi.org/.
If you click the link at the top that says "Regional Chapters" and on that page click "Chapters and Advisors" link you'll land on the page that lists all the regional chapters in all 50 states plus overseas. Click the link for the state you live in and write the person in charge and ask them when are their conferences and whether you can attend. I was the registrar for many years for the Rocky Mountain Chapter in Colorado and we loved it when young people attended, though they didn't so very often. I know I took my daughter with me once and that was pretty cool.
When you contact your local library to ask about writing conferences in the area, ask them also if they have a list of writing workshops, writing organizations, and critique groups. I know that here in Colorado The Pikes Peak Writers is a great group to belong to and it's only $35 a year to join and you get to attend monthly meetings for free where you learn a whole lot about the art and craft of writing.
Jessica M.: and I'm sorry..I don't have those websites anymore..I deleted them after I saw that they were only for 18 year olds and up.
That's ok. Just be careful because nothing really in life is "free." There might have been strings-attached in the fine print of those websites and if you sign something it's then hard to get out of it. :-)
The only drawback I've personally found when mentoring teens in writing groups is that they often feel/think they know it all and don't need to learn anything else about writing. I'm hoping that's not you because regardless of how long you've been traveling along the writer's journey, and how good your writing is, we all can learn as we move along. But it is true that it was hard trying to teach some teens that they, indeed, didn't yet know all there was to know about the art and craft of writing. :-)
Jessica M.: Oh, don't worry. I know I can improve my writing because nothing is perfect. I have been trying to read as many books as I can this summer to try and get different writing styles from different people. While I would read, I would look and see how they would write their sentences and how they explain things. I'd also see how they make their characters so realistic. I think I will ask the Library about those conferences. Do you think that they might even have a list of publishers and editors in the area that I live? If libraries usually carry information like that, then I could look it up.
I don't think they would have a list as such but they should have the book titled 2010 Children's Writer's & Illustrator's Market (Children's Writer's and Illustrator's Market) --a new version comes out every year.
This book is considered "the #1 children's publishing resource." What it does is list all the publishers AND the type of manuscript they're interested in publishing. This is very helpful because let's say you're writing a YA (young adult) novel and you send it to an editor that's only interested in mainstream or biographies then that editor will know you just picked his/her name out of a hat and sent your manuscript to them and they'll reject it outright.
But if you do your homework, go thru the 2010 Children's Writer's & Illustrator's Market (Children's Writer's and Illustrator's Market) and find the publisher you feel would be most interested in what you're writing and then call the house and confirm that editor is still working there and then you send your work to the editor by name you have a much higher chance of getting a "read" than if you don't follow those steps.
The 2010 Children's Writer's & Illustrator's Market (Children's Writer's and Illustrator's Market) will also tell you what the individual publishers submission guidelines are and whether or not they accept unsolicited manuscripts.
Actually, this is a book you may want to buy because then you can highlight and mark it all over when you find things in there you want to follow-up on. Maybe first look at it at the library and then buy it online. I always go to http://www.addall.com and type in there the ISBN or title of the book I want and that website finds the place online that the book is selling the cheapest.
These are all such GREAT questions you're asking!!! I think I'd like to take your questions and post them to the ChildrenComeFirst.com website along with the answers I've been writing here. I don't have to use your name unless you want me to. If I do use your name I would just use your first name, the first initial of your last name and the city/state you live in. Let me know if you'd like that.
Jessica M.: Yeah that would be great! I'd love for you to do that because I know there are teenagers like me out there that are confused and would need help. I have been pondering these questions for months. I was lucky enough to get advice from you. It has been VERY helpful. Well, my information is Jessica M. Lafayette, Louisiana.
I most definitely will look up that book. I hope I can find someone to look at my manuscript. I mean it's been my dream since I was 7 years old, when I wrote a small story for my dad for father's day, to become a published author. I have also wanted to show my English teacher some of my work. Maybe she would be able to recommend some things. She probably knows a few people because of all the workshops she has to go to.
But I can't thank you enough for the advice and sources you have provided me with. It is VERY helpful.
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