The Best Things about Editing Children’s Books

What is the best thing about editing children’s nonfiction? A lot of answers come to mind. Like lot of editors, I’m an information collector, and children’s books are filled with information. Often, while working on a project, I find out many details and stories I never knew. As a fan of folklore, I thought I knew a lot about fairies and elves. But Shannon Knudson’s book was packed with unfamiliar tales. And I knew the basic facts about autism. But while editing Ana María Rodríguez’s book, I learned about the history of diagnosis, therapy, and how families cope with Autism Spectrum Disorder. On the third hand, I didn’t even know what astrobiology was when Fred Bortz’s manuscript landed on my desk. But I learned. Now I’m quite proud to know the basics of how scientists investigate the possibility of extraterrestrial life.

What else do I enjoy about the editing process? I love photographs, so I enjoy doing photo wishlists, looking through photo sorts, seeing the first layouts with the photos in place, and writing captions. I even like the more mundane editorial tasks—checking foreign spellings, looking capitalization rules up in the Chicago Manual of Style, doing indexes. All the things that sound positively painful to non-editors.

But the thing I like the best—the thing that comes to mind most often while working—is imagining how kids will use the book. I love imagining young readers being intrigued or excited about the topic of a book. We received a letter from a reader in England who had just finished Frankenstein. His favorite part, he wrote, was how Mary Shelley came up with the idea for her novel. That made my day. Not only did he choose a really interesting aspect of the story—but he was excited enough about it to write to us. Knowing that kids find reading an enjoyable experience and that they see the value in books—that’s definitely the most rewarding aspect of the job.

4 thoughts on “The Best Things about Editing Children’s Books

  1. Sharon aka Sapphire

    As a former elementary school teacher, I loved grading papers and making comments on them. It was wonderful to see how my students thought. Obviously, I had a lot of open ended questions.

    I was wondering if I could ask you a question about a writing format for non-fiction.

  2. Sharon Mayhew

    I wrote an article about snow removal. I'm new to the north and didn't know snow was actually removed. In the south it always melts. Last winter, I chased a snow removal crew, interviewed one of the guys and took photographs. I wrote my article like a personal essay. Would that kind of article only be appropriate for magazines?

    Thank you for being open to answering questions.

  3. Carol Hinz

    The best way to know if your idea might be appropriate for a book is to check the catalogs and websites of publishers to see what books are currently being published that are somewhat similar to your idea. (If there are no books even remotely similar, your idea might not be right for a children's book.) If you do find similar books, check the submissions guidelines of those publishers to see if they accept unsolicited submissions. For more information about the world of children’s publishing, you might also want to check out the blog Editorial Anonymous.

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