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Children's Books Basic Resources:
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The Purple Crayon Blog March 2010
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This continues the resource list I created for the "Business of Pet Writing Conference," held in New York City during the Westminster Kennel Club dog show. This part has suggested books.

For detailed information and guidance, here is a selected list of key resources. These are taken from the Resources section of my Idiot's Guide. Go there to see a wider selection of books. Note that the books about writing are only a few of the many available, and you should take the time to find one that feels right to you. My longer list of writing how-to books may help.

An Author's Guide to Children's Book Promotion, Susan Raab (Raab Associates, 2007). A concise guide from a children's marketing consultant, covering all the different aspects of book marketing and publicity, and including a useful list of contacts. Get more information and access to the author's marketing columns at the Raab Associates web-site.

Bookmaking: Editing, Design, Production, Third Edition, Marshall Lee (W.W. Norton, 2004). I took a course in book design when I was still wet behind the ears, and the second edition of this book was the textbook. I learned a lot about the process of putting together a book and then printing it, and got some hands-on knowledge of book design. The emphasis is on unillustrated or minimally illustrated books, making it a useful companion to Uri Shulevitz's book, below. This edition is updated to cover the use of the computer in design and book production.

The Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition (link goes to a more detailed review), University of Chicago Press staff (University of Chicago Press, 2003). The 14th edition of CMS, as it is usually referred to, is the standard reference work in publishing for matters ranging from capitalization to the construction of an index. Now it has been extensively revised, taking into account recent change in technology; new material includes information on citing online sources and editing electronic documents. Don't throw out your 14th edition, but you can expect this edition to rapidly become the new standard.

Children's Writer's & Illustrator's Market (link goes to a more detailed review), Alice Pope (editor) (Writer's Digest Books, annual). An essential and annually updated reference book, this compendium lists about 700 book publishers, magazines, and other places that you can sell and publish your work. The focus is on the US, but it includes listings for Canadian and international publishers. Before the directory listings appear a few articles on the basics (every year) and a dozen or more articles on current topics (different every year). A must-have on the desks of those who write or illustrate for children.

The Complete Idiot's Guide to Publishing Children's Books, 3rd edition, by Harold Underdown (Alpha Books, 2008). Of course this is my book, but I can't help that: it's also a comprehensive guide to the practical side of children's publishing, from book genres to going out of print.

A Family of Readers: The Book Lover's Guide to Children's and YA Literature, (click the link for a more detailed review) Roger Sutton and Martha V. Parravano, editors (Candlewick Press, 2010). For a comprehensive guide to the best children's books, with consideration given to what is particular to different age groups and genres, look no further. You'll also find thoughtful comments about what makes those books the best. Not just for parents, this is a wonderfully opinionated guide to books and why they matter.

From Cover to Cover: Evaluating and Reviewing Children's Books, Kathleen Horning (Collins, 2010). An excellent look not only into the process reviewers go through, but at the standards editors often follow. From the Horn Book review: "Each clearly written chapter enumerates the characteristics that make a book of a specific genre successful. For example, the chapter on easy readers discusses print size and word length, while the chapter on fiction gives examples of the ways authors develop character."

The Giblin Guide to Writing Children's Books (4th Edition) (link leads to detailed review), James Cross Giblin (Writer's Institute Publications, 2006). A how-to by a noted editor and writer of nonfiction, now available in a revised edition. This covers writing nonfiction, novels, and picture books from the valuable perspective of someone who has been on both sides of the desk.

How to Write a Children's Book and Get It Published (3rd edition), Barbara Seuling (John Wiley and Sons, 2004). Another general guide mostly on writing, but with some information about the publishing process too. Seuling is strong on the writing process and on working with a publisher. She is active online as a writing instructor.

Minders of Make-Believe: Idealists, Entrepreneurs, and the Shaping of American Children's Literature, Leonard Marcus, (Houghton Mifflin, 2008). The only available history of children's book publishing in the United States, and an excellent one at that. Marcus covers the business, the companies, the editors, and the books in a thoughtful narrative packed with interesting anecdotes.

Picture Writing (link leads to detailed review), Anastasia Suen (Writers Digest Books, 2002). Subtitled "A New Approach to Writing for Kids and Teens" this highly useful guide distills much of what she teaches in her highly respected online classes. This is a practical, not philosophical book, with exercises and other help for someone trying to find their way.

Take Joy: A Book for Writers, Jane Yolen (Writer, 2003). Jane is to some a guru of children's writing. I know her not just as the writer of this book's foreword but as a passionate and thoughtful speaker and a jaded but still engaged observer of the children's publishing industry. Her words on writing will inspire you, prod you, move you, irritate you--and get you writing.

Writing with Pictures: How to Write and Illustrate Children's Books (link goes to a detailed review), Uri Shulevitz (Watson-Guptill, 1985). I can't overstate how useful I think this book is to the beginning or practicing children's book illustrator. It covers how to tell a story in pictures, planning and roughing out a book, composition of individual illustrations, technique, style, and the use of visual references. The only problem is that this hasn't been revised since 1985 and so concentrates on black-and-white and pre-separated color art. However, the principles and techniques he teaches remain essential--there's no other book like this available.

For even more useful books, you can access the entire Resource guide to my Complete Idiot's Guide to Publishing Children's Books, from which the above were selected.

Comments are welcome.

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