Exploring what Publishers are looking for

What gives voice and substance and individuality to our writing is the inner spark. One of my writing group members quoted the Talmud, and since it’s been a month, I can’t remember it accurately. But the gist in literary terms was that we don’t write what we see, but what we are. I believe that every subject or setting we choose, every character we develop, what scenes and plot points we describe, as well as our themes—all are autobiographical. So we definitely should be writing from our hearts.
But as I read the March, 2013 issue of Children’s Writer, I was very struck by the importance of reading a monthly journal such as this or The Writer or Writers’ Digest not just to benefit from the articles on craft, but also to learn what publishers are looking for. Children’s Writer especially refers subscribers to publishers and websites and editorial and agent advice. To know what editors are looking for is such a leg up. Two women in my writing groups received this kind of gifted information. One woman’s editor asked her to write a book similar to the one she’d just published, gave her the title and the concept. Now plenty of less skilled writers could still blow such a gift. I experienced this privileged information back in the 90s and published three books. I’d thought it happened more rarely today, but I am probably wrong. Editors have wishes/needs for their lists and they delight in finding a writer that can fulfill them.
The other woman learned from her agent that a certain house was interested in publishing a series for a particular age group. They defined page count and many other details. My friend just wrote a book, hoping to land the job.
Many publishers want to find writers to create the books they need. Often, they offer work-for-hire contracts which may seem less attractive than those that supply royalties, but in a rough market, all kinds of contracts, publishing opportunities are worth investigating.
And who knows? An idea from an editor or publisher may touch that inner spark, so that we are still writing from our hearts—just with a more targeted focus. So think of subscribing to children’s Writer or another publication. I find it invaluable.


About Sally Hobart Alexander

Blinded at the age of twenty-six, I left California and elementary school teaching for life in Pittsburgh, Pa. There, I met my husband, got a Masters' degree in social work, had two kids, now 35 and 32, and became a writer. Surprisingly, the writing career led me full-circle to teaching, and I teach in Chatham University's M.F.A. program and lead two writing critique groups. Always, since the age of 26, I have traveled, not in the stereotypic darkness attributed to blindness, but a mist. My blog then, "traveling through the mist" will deal with issues in my culturally different life as a blind writer, teacher, speaker, and human being.
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