Writing for Children

Words from a leading Literary Agent


How to write what the market wants to buy

Writing for children usually starts with a parent's experience of making up stories for their own children. That's great, but kids' books are products too - and you always have to keep half an eye on what the market wants.
We've asked a leading literary agent to contribute his thoughts on how to ride that most dangerous beast - the publishing market.

Peter Cox, of Redhammer Management (Info)

Children's publishing has gone from isolated backwater to profit powerhouse in just a few years, largely thanks to JKR. And inevitably, it is now over-published.

To succeed, first get to know your demographics and what they read - a 12 year-old girl's taste is very different to a 14 year-old boy's - and write to that exact age group. A lot of manuscripts fail because the authors simply don't understand their readers' age-based requirements.

Then consider the genre - publishing outside of genre is tough - not impossible, but not easy for a first-timer. Finally, reinvent the genre itself with your manuscript; give publishers (and literary agents!) a reason to get excited - we really do want to be the one to discover the Next Big Thing!

The author's name is a brand, so consider what yours stands for. If you dip in and out of genres and readerships, then you'll never break through or have much impact. So choose your area, and focus on it. If your theme can be extended, to two books or more, then you should mention this and briefly show how future books might develop; I've sold six-book series very successfully, because publishers like the predictability.