Authors of children's, adolescent, and young adult literature write stories aimed at young audiences.
Reading can contribute enormously to a child's development, and many young people are as enthusiastic about stories as any adult - often more so. Authors who write books for children and teenagers tend to aim their work toward a particular age group or reading level, as a five year old and a fifteen year old will have different skills, needs, and interests. Picture books feature minimal or rhyming text and are aimed at very young children who may not yet be able to read; these books often come about as collaborations between authors and illustrators. Chapter books are geared toward slightly older, more confident readers who can digest longer chunks of text, though many of these still prominently feature illustration. Young adult novels resemble ordinary, grown-up books, usually featuring teenage characters in a range of situations and genres.
Children's literature often features young or fantastical characters that young readers can relate to, easy to read text, and enthralling illustrations. There is a long tradition of storytelling aimed at children, and it's one that should be understood by anyone looking to make their mark on the genre. However, the rules of general authorship still apply - children deserve fulfilling narrative arcs as much as anyone!
Work as a writer of children's or young adult literature may include...
- Writing in a clear, approachable voice
- Working with an illustrator to build a world
- Doing market research on children's interests
- Continually revising structure and content
- Creating narratives that will appeal to young readers
Writers of children's books often work independently, with publishers, or with illustrators - sometimes all three, at different points in the process. There are numerous publishing houses and subdivisions that deal exclusively with books for young audiences, and writers of these books may submit their work to several before finding a good fit and landing a book deal. Publishers choose stories that will appeal to a specific demographic, using contemporary market research to figure out what the kids are into these days. Until a book deal comes through, a children's author often works in some other capacity and works on the book in their free time. Once that day comes, an author will receive an advance and subsequent royalties that correspond to sales.
Many writers of children's literature are parents, and countless bestsellers began as bedtime stories. It's common for authors to have experience or formal education in creative writing, literature, or even illustration, but the most important thing an aspiring author can have is creativity. A bright new idea told in an engaging way will catch on with readers, parents, and publishers, and can have lasting influence on the children who experience it. Those looking to get their work in tip-top shape and have it read by as many people as possible should consider working with a children's literary agent, who can connect them with an editor, an illustrator, and a publishing connection.
If you're a gifted storyteller with a sensibility for themes young people enjoy, you might have a fulfilling career ahead of you as a children's author.
The Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators is the international professional organization for authors and illustrators of books for children and young adults.
The Children's Writer's Guild is a community of writers, illustrators, and educators promoting excellence in children's media.
The Children's Literature Association is a nonprofit association of scholars, critics, professors, students, librarians, teachers, and institutions dedicated to the academic study of literature for children.