As a kid, I loved stories and dreamed of being an author. Now I’m an adult, my dream has come true. But do you have to wait that long for a publisher to choose to make your book? Can kids get their stories turned into books?
Last month Penguin Random House signed up 13-year-old slam poet Solli Raphael’s first book, Limelight. Awesome! But are stories like Solli’s rare?
I talked to some Aussie publishers last year for Crinkling News about whether kids can get publishing contracts for their stories… This is what they said:
The write stuff
Lisa Riley, publisher with Penguin Random House Australia, says it’s rare for a primary school kid to get a publishing deal. “More often it’s the odd 15- to 17-year-old who’d written a [Young Adult novel] that might get published,” she says.
Story comes first
Cate Sutherland, publisher with WA’s Fremantle Press, says age doesn’t matter. “We often have no idea how old an author is when we first read their work,” she says. The most important thing, she says, is the story.
Linsay Knight, publisher with Walker Books Australia, agrees. “The story has to come from deep within you,” she says. “You’ve got to want to tell it.”
Practice makes perfect
All three publishers recommend that young writers start by developing their craft. “Writing and drawing are like lots of things: the more you practise, the better you get,” says Ms Sutherland. “Write or draw as often as you can. It can take a long time to get where you want to go, so don’t give up. No one starts out an expert. And when you’re not creating, read!”
A mentor to guide you
Many publishers recommend entering kids’ writing or illustration competitions. Ms Knight says: “You need to bring your work to the attention of adults.” She also says young creators need to have the support of a mentor—someone who can help and guide you along the way.
Case study: Josh Button’s success story
Josh Button, WA, was ten when he wrote his first book, Joshua and the Two Crabs. It was published by Magabala Books in 2008, when he was 13. The story is about Josh and his family, and he worked on it for three years with his teacher, Robyn Wells. “I was very happy and proud of this book,” says Josh. “I was kind of a celebrity when the book first come out.”
Josh’s publisher, Rachel Bin Salleh, says Magabala Books was thrilled to discover Josh’s work. “The story was both unique and bold…a beautiful interpretation of friendship and where you might find it,” she says.
Josh published his second book with Ms Wells, Steve goes to Carnival, last year. “The book is about a jazz-loving gorilla called Steve who lives in a zoo in Rio,” explains Josh. This year, Josh and Ms Wells published a third book, called At the Zoo I See.
Josh’s advice to wannabe authors and illustrators? “Pick up a pen or paintbrush and just go for it. If you are stuck in the middle of the book, or need some help, just look for someone in your community or city who might be able to act as a mentor, just like Robyn did for me,” he says.
Types of book publishing
- Trade publishers make books for sale in book stores and to schools and libraries. They usually pay authors an up-front fee, called an advance, and a percentage of the money earned from selling copies of the book, called royalties. The publishers in this article are all trade publishers.
- Educational publishers make books for use in schools.
- Vanity publishers require authors to pay a fee to publish their books.
- Self-publishing is where authors make and sell the book by themselves.
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