Getting Out of the Slush Pile

Recently, I’ve had several emails from writers desperate to get published.  Sadly, I find most of the writers who contact me know little about the business of writing for children…and it really is a business.  You might as well know that now people.  No one is going to publish you because you’ve written a story that your children love, or one that your students adored.  No one is going to publish a story because it teaches children an important lesson.  Publishers want stories that they can sell, stories with a fresh take on a universal subject, stories that are stand head and shoulders above the usual.  Those stories may have a lesson imbedded in them, but the lesson serves the story, not the other way around.  The first thing I ask these writers is “When was the last time you read a children’s book?  Many refer to classic stories from their childhood.  Most haven’t a clue what is going on in children’s publishing today.  I immediately send them to the library and local bookstore to read award winning books, I encourage them to join or form critique groups to really work on their writing skills, and I send them to Harold Underdown, an editor, and the author of The Complete Idiots Guide to Publishing Children’s Books.  In addition to the book, Underdown has lots of material on the web that can help wanna-be’s.  Check out Getting Out of the Slush Pile.

 So if you’re one of those writers, do us both a favor, and get your butt down to the bookstore, and to the library, start a critique group and start looking at your work critically…and check out Harold Underdown’s site…There are no shortcuts.  You just have to put in the hard work.  You have to revise your story until it is  perfect.  You have to become the best writer you can be. But, I  guarantee that you won’t regret it, and who knows, you might even find you’ll work your way out of the slushpile.

4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Harold Underdown (@HUnderdown)
    Aug 28, 2011 @ 19:35:56

    Thanks for the kind words, Sheryl! I want to make a small correction–I am not a “former” editor. I am not working in-house at present, but I continue to edit children’s and YA books as an independent editor. Information about that is on my website, in fact, at


  2. patientdreamer
    Aug 28, 2011 @ 13:02:09

    Great sound advice Sheryl. I belong to an online Children’s Book Hub with other “writers in progress”, have this book and working my way through it. My blog shows I read and review childrens books, mostly Picture books. It is only through the Hub one learns so much, and from reading children’s books one learns not only what children enjoy now, but also that the style and text of books (especially picture books) have changed over the years. Thanks for this.


    • sherylbooks
      Aug 28, 2011 @ 17:50:07

      Sounds like you are doing the perfect thing Diane. It’s not an easy business, but it is wonderful, and I love the way children’s writers are so supportive of each other. Nothing else I’d rather be doing.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: