Harold Underdown's
The Complete Idiot's Guide to
Publishing Children's Books

Review: Harold Underdown's The Complete Idiot's Guide to Publishing Children's Books

How exhaustive is the information in the C.I.G. to Publishing Children's Books? Well, let me put it this way: the Table of Contents has a Table of Contents.

I'm not kidding. (If you don't believe me, click the Amazon ad to the right, then "Look inside the book.") You see, there's a Part 1, containing 7 chapters. The 1st chapter contains 4 sub-chapters. Then those sub-chapters are further segmented.

You don't need to be an idiot

Now remember, I said "exhaustive," not "exhausting." All this specificity is part of what makes this book great. And...

Once you've read it through, you can re-consult the Table of Contents (and the Table of Contents of the Table of Contents) to remind yourself of what you've read.

The truth is that the title, The Complete Idiot's Guide to Publishing Children's Books, doesn't give the book enough credit. In addition to the expected publishing how-to, the book covers writing for the children's book market as well.

In fact, it isn't until Part 3 (page 113 in my edition) that the author even begins to talk about marketing to publishers.

One of a ton of useful gems

That's smart. If you're new to writing for a market - in this case, the children's books market - there's a lot to know. The sheer number of authors trying to publish books means the deck is stacked against you.

You'd better know the market before you try to sell to the market.

Do you know the classic children's books everyone should know about? Do you know the market segments, e.g. easy-reading picture books, early readers, and early chapter books, and how long a manuscript for each should be?

The author makes sure that you do.

Maybe you were about to send a 1400 word manuscript out into the world when the market you're aiming for expects something more like 750. That's the value of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Publishing Children's Books: to prevent you from coming across as a complete idiot!

The book's hyper-segmentation means you can easily focus on the parts that are news to you and gloss over the parts that you already knew.

Underdown also provides a helpful glossary and recommended resources (none, in my opinion, more valuable than this book!), as well as:

  • sample submission guidelines
  • sample cover letters
  • sample query letters (there is a difference!)
  • sample manuscript format, and
  • an extensive index.

(But sorry. There is no Index of the Index.)

Meet the author of the Complete Idiot's Guide

Publishing children's books is what Harold Underdown knows. He works in the business and has a sideline as a highly paid editorial consultant.

(You can even hire him yourself! But do yourself a favor and read the book first. Remember: you don't want to come off as a Complete Idiot.)

Mr. Underdown doesn't stop with getting published. He also has extensive information on building a career, getting your now-published book into bookstores, marketing, trying to keep your book in print, and self publishing.

Notably, the tone of the book is hopeful. It makes you think, "Hey, I can do this."

But hey, if you don't know the market, you probably won't be able to do this.

So while this book may not be essential, knowledge of the market is. If you don't have that knowledge, it's my belief that The Complete Idiot's Guide to Publishing Children's Books is the quickest way to get it.

Final thought: treat yourself to the most recent edition. (As of this writing, that would be the 3rd Edition.) Between the internet and publisher consolidation, the industry is changing fast. Saving a few bucks probably isn't worth the price you pay by getting yesterday's news. So...

Here's an Amazon search for the C.I.G. to Publishing Children's Books, 4th Edition. Make sure there isn't one before you buy the 3rd!

The publishing page.

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