Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Children's Book Writing: No More Creative Than Copywriting?

Writer Abroad always thought it would be fun to be a children’s author. It seems like such a creative career--at least in comparison to some of the marketing writing she does on a daily basis. But the realities of writing for children, as she learned from an author at the Chicago Lit Fest this month, seem otherwise.

This particular debut author/illustrator had to go through 70 revisions of her 200-word picture book once it got to the publisher—70 illustration revisions—in addition to text revisions. She said by the end, the only part of the book that was hers from the original version was the last page—and that she had had to fight to keep the ending less than happy. Percentage wise, she quoted 1 percent of the book was truly hers.

These kind of results, barely recognizing what you originally suggested, sound a lot like some of the advertising and marketing writing Writer Abroad has done for clients over the years.

There's a lot to learn at the Chicago Lit Fest,
which is held every June.
And there's a reason for that: Apparently the marketing department at this author's large publisher kept pushing for the characters to be more like a particular Disney character, since that character was popular the summer her book was coming out. Apparently the marketing department was in charge of basically everything.

Now along with being a freelance writer and author, Writer Abroad works in the advertising and marketing industry. She considers it a plus to do so because she normally enjoys it, and also because it informs her pure creative writing work. The reality is that knowing what kind of writing sells and how to sell it matters. A lot.

But if it comes to the point where a 200-word picture book has none of the 200 words or illustrations originally suggested by the author in it, then is writing a book for a big publisher no more creative than writing for advertising, where often every word is at the whim of clients?

It appears that in some cases at least, the only way to be completely in creative control as an author is to be your own publisher. Especially when you consider beautiful and successfully independently published children's books like the Lost My Name series (which Writer Abroad's daughter loves).

That’s why for the time being anyway, Writer Abroad is pretty happy with her balance of writing for business and writing for the pure creativity of it. Somehow, keeping her corporate writing separate from her book writing, yet controlling both via her own writing and publishing company—is the perfect balance of writing for industry and writing for pure creativity.

It’s something to consider when a writer considers her alternatives. And these days, there are a lot of them. 

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