Books are usually the main source of income for a children’s author so obviously the best way to earn money is to crack on and write them! If you have a literary agent, they will take 15-20% commission on any earnings from deals they have achieved. This may seem quite a lot, but good agents are worth their weight in chocolate.
Although the bulk of your income will come from advances and royalties, there are other ways to earn from your books. PLR (Public Lending Right) is paid to authors whose books are borrowed from libraries. There is no joining fee and agents do not take commission.
ALCS (Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society) collect money on authors’ behalf for secondary uses of their work, such as photocopying. There’s a one-off lifetime fee of £36 (which is only taken once a first payment is made to you) but membership is free if you are a member of the Society of Authors.
Society of Authors www.societyofauthors.org
For invaluable information on publishers and agents, check out the Children’s Writers’ and Artists’ Handbook: www.writersandartists.co.uk
E-zines or printed magazines for children often include short stories (usually up to 1200 words). If you’re unfamiliar with a magazine, it’s worth purchasing back copies to find out what sort of stories they are looking for.
There are rows of brightly-coloured children’s magazine in shops. Check the editorial details of the ones that appeal to you and find out if they accept submissions. Don’t be afraid to be proactive and make contact with the editor.
You could also produce and sell a collection of your short stories as a book. These are rarely taken on by traditional publishers, unless you happen to be a fabulously well-known author. However, self-publishing, either as e-books or in print, is a great way to share the short stories you have written over the years. Collections with an overarching theme or where stories are linked in some way tend to be more popular.
It is often children’s fiction which receives most attention, but there is also a high demand for well-written factual books or faction books (crossover between fiction and factual). You need to know your subject area well (or enjoy thorough research) and write in a fun and engaging way.
The good news about factual books is that you don’t always need to produce a completed book to a publisher. Usually it is acceptable to write a few sample chapters, provide a thorough chapter breakdown of the book and then pitch the book. Visit publishers’ websites and always check submission guidelines as they vary.
If you like non-fiction but the idea of writing book is too daunting or time-consuming, why not try writing articles for children’s magazines instead? There are opportunities for non-fiction features in a wide variety of subjects and topics, in both printed magazines and e-zines across the world.
Payment for features can vary. Some magazines pay a certain amount per word whereas others may offer a flat fee for an article. Some pay extra for high-quality photographs to accompany the article. Information about payment should be found on the magazine’s website.
The other bonus of writing magazine articles is that after a certain amount of time, the rights usually return to you and you can take the same work to another magazine for publication. This means that one article can actually generate income more than once. Always check guidelines of individual magazines – some specify that material should not have been published before. Others may say you must wait six months from the original publication before republishing the article. You will probably have to tailor an article slightly to match the needs of another publication, but this is usually only a small amount of work, as you should know your subject area thoroughly.
Schools always need brilliant, musical plays for children, especially around Christmas time. They will often go to a well-known company specialising in providing such plays. Some of these companies accept finished unsolicited scripts; others ask for a synopsis of the story and then invite submissions for the full script if their approval is met.
Payment plans vary from company to company. Often there are no advances for work which is published. Instead writers receive a commission based on sales of titles they have written or contributed to. How much a writer receives depends on how much of the final product they have contributed to. For example, you could only provide the script of the play, but you would receive more if you provide the script AND the songs.
It’s also worth contacting local schools directly to see whether they would be interested in commissioning a play from a local author. You don’t know if you don’t ask!
Lazy Bee Scripts www.lazybeescripts.co.uk
Edgy Productions www.edgyproductions.com
Out of the Ark www.outoftheark.com
If you enjoy writing poetry, why not use it to generate some income? Although they are few and far between, there are publishers who do accept unsolicited submissions of children’s poetry.
You could also produce your own collection to sell to schools or at events. Schools and libraries may be keen to work with you around key times such as National Poetry Day (see www.nationalpoetryday.co.uk).
There are also opportunities for poetry in children’s magazines or e-zines but check submission guidelines carefully.
Visiting schools can be a rewarding part of being an author, as well as being good news for the bank account. How much you charge (or how much a school is willing to pay) may vary. The Society of Authors has issued guidelines for authors, on their website www.societyofauthors.org/
School visits can also generate book sales. Talk to the school about options for signing and selling your books, such as sending out order forms in advance or a ‘meet and greet the author’ session at the end of the school day.
Be proactive and contact schools in your local area. There are also various initiatives you can sign up with to help provide opportunities further afield.
Contact An Author www.contactanauthor.co.uk/
Authors Aloud UK www.authorsalouduk.co.uk/
Scattered Authors’ Society www.scatteredauthors.org/
As well as organising events aimed at children, there are also opportunities to share your writing experience with adults. Many writers are interested in specialising in children’s fiction, so why not share your expertise and run an event for adults? This could include: talks to local organisations, such as WI groups; visits to writing circles; running one-off workshops about writing for children; or delivering a writing course through a local further education college or online.
There are hundreds of competitions available for writers, especially if you are unpublished.
Every year Writing Magazine does a round-up of writing competitions for the coming year, many of which involve writing for children. Why not choose some to enter this year? Keep an eye open on the websites of publishers and agencies as they sometimes run competitions to discover new writers.
An increasing number of literary festivals are popping up throughout the UK. It’s no longer a handful of huge events that only work with high-profile authors. There are probably several local festivals on your doorstep. Getting involved could create opportunities to sell your books and raise your profile as a writer.
Could you run a writing workshop for adults who want to write for children or perhaps a workshop for the children themselves? Could you do a storytime session with younger ones? Perhaps you could have a ‘meet the author’ session or give a talk.
Be proactive and contact festival organisers. The Society of Authors has also provided guidelines for writers appearing at literary festivals. The amount you may be paid may not be huge compared to the top names in the business, but it’s a fun way to earn from your writing and a great opportunity to engage with your readers.