Am I the only one who thinks of conferences as gold-mining excursions? Because I felt as if I were panning for nuggets of wisdom as I sat in the Springmingle audience when Katie Carella, an editor from Grosset & Dunlap/ Penguin Young Readers and Price Stern Sloan! gave her presentation. And it was well worth the trip–I struck chapter book gold!
First of all, Katie Carella is young and engaging and very thorough. So if you ever have the chance to attend a conference where she’s speaking, you should pack your gear and go. That being said, I can’t possibly give you all the details. But I can give you a few sparkly highlights.
Chapter books can be anywhere from 1,000 words to 15,000 words, and they can be shelved in the library in a Chapter Book/Easy Reader section or in with the Juvenile or Middle Grade fiction. It’s all very confusing. What’s not confusing is that most chapter books stick to a tried-and-true format: short chapters, ending with cliffhangers. But if you read a lot of chapter books, you’ve already figured that out.
You probably also have figured out that chapter books are character-based. Find a great character that your audience will connect with and you’re golden. So if you know the technical side behind writing chapter books, why is it so hard to find a publisher for yours?
That’s where Katie’s glittery wisdom comes in. Here’s a question she offered that I think may be the most important one to ask yourself: Is there room in the marketplace for your story?
The only way you’re going to find that out is to research the marketplace. Investigate characters to find whether the character you’ve created has something special or different from what’s already out there. Read, read, and read some more. Know the hooks of the series that are available so that you’re not copying something that’s been done to death.
Basically, as Katie put it, you need to “think outside the box.” It’s a simple little nugget, but it can lead to a vein of chapter book gold!
P.S. That’s Katie Carella holding Cathy-on-a-Stick. She wanted Ashleigh Hally (a writer bud) to stand with her. Because two people standing with a pic-on-a-stick isn’t weird at all.