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Condition: Used: Very Good
Comment: Pages clean with no writing/marks but last 2 pgs of index have small creases; spine very good, no creases; cover has minor wear. Ships in poly bag.
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The Complete Idiot's Guide to Publishing Children's Books, 3rd Edition (Idiot's Guides) Paperback – May 6, 2008

52 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

As this revised edition states, “Children’s publishing is a big business, with many kinds of publishers, many kinds of books, and right ways and wrong ways to do even such a simple thing as write a cover letter.” Children’s book editor Underdown covers all the bases of breaking into the industry, from tips on maximizing the creative process to manuscript-submission pointers to ideas for promoting a published book. Background on the history and current state of children’s publishing includes information on new trends and new imprints launched up to 2007. Featured throughout are real-life anecdotes from published authors and illustrators and recommended Web resources. Back matter includes a glossary, bibliography, sample cover letters, and an index. Whether a “complete idiot” or an experienced writer or illustrator, children’s-publishing hopefuls will find this a comprehensive, balanced resource. --Laura Tillotson


“If you want to see your work published, this is the one book you absolutely must have. Why? Because Harold tells the truth about publishing for kids and teens; the good news, the hard news, and the information that will give your story a fighting chance. This book unveils all the secrets. I personally recommend it to hundreds of writers every year.”
--Laurie Halse Anderson, author of Speak, Fever 1793, and Twisted

“Having worked as both editor and author, Harold Underdown is a knowledgeable and sympathetic guide to the often bewildering world of writing and publishing books for young people. The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Publishing Children’s Books is encouraging without pandering, realistic but not pessimistic, thorough and generous. I wish this book had been around when I first started out!”
--Linda Sue Park, Newbery Medalist

“What a thorough and useful book! A guided tour of children’s book and magazine publishing that never skips a step. For seasoned writers and illustrators it is valuable. For beginners, it is essential. I learned plenty!”
--Gail Carson Levine, Newbery Honor winner

“My life would have been much easier if The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Publishing Children’s Books had been available when I was getting started! It covers the whole territory--though I particularly like the sections on revision and ‘the publishing maze.’ Consider it your cheat-sheet to the world of children’s publishing.”
--Cynthia Leitich Smith, fiction author and owner of Cynsations

“With each new edition, this amazing resource gets better and better. Just when you think Harold has said all that can be said to help writers understand the complex world of children’s publishing, he offers something new. An eye-opening tool for new writers, and a vital support to any writing career, this book always perches near the top of my reference pile so I can snatch it quickly to find the answers I need. If you truly want to understand this business, this book’s for you.”
--Jan Fields, author and owner of Kid Magazine Writers

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Product Details

  • Series: Idiot's Guides
  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: ALPHA; 3 edition (May 6, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1592577504
  • ISBN-13: 978-1592577507
  • Product Dimensions: 7.4 x 0.8 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (52 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #152,911 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Harold Underdown is an independent editor; he does critiques, helps to develop manuscripts, and provides other editorial and consulting services for individuals and publishers.

Harold enjoys teaching, and in that role wrote The Complete Idiot's Guide to Children's Book Publishing, now in its third edition. He founded and runs "The Purple Crayon," a respected web site with information for writers and illustrators about the children's publishing world at He speaks and gives workshop through the Highlights Foundation, SCBWI's national and regional conferences, and Kid's Book Revisions (offering online and on-site tutorials and workshops in partnership with Eileen Robinson).

As an in-house editor, he worked at Macmillan, Orchard, and Charlesbridge, and has experience in trade and educational publishing. Among the books he has edited are Yumi Heo's One Afternoon, Larry Pringle's and Bob Marstall's An Extraordinary Life, Lisa Rowe Fraustino's Ash, Grace Lin's The Ugly Vegetables, and Sneed Collard's and Michael Rothman's The Forest in the Clouds. He is also the editor for the Young Patriots Series, published by Patria Press.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

43 of 44 people found the following review helpful By Reader on January 7, 2009
Format: Paperback
Like all Idiot's Guides, this book is designed for beginners in the field. However, after hearing the author speak at a conference, I decided that I might have things to learn from the book. I was right. Even though I've been writing for a while and have a contract for my first book, I found that several sections clarified some industry basics for me. It helped me sort out the relationship between companies, divisions, and imprints and was good for making sense of my contract. I also appreciated the section on working with my editor. This is an excellent primer for anyone getting started in children's writing, and has useful information for those who have gotten a little into the field as well.
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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful By A Bookfair Mom on January 15, 2009
Format: Paperback
I've used this book and recommended this book to people interested in the children's publishing industry since it first came out. Its an excellent overview. I think the two star reviewer who said that the book was for "complete idiots," was being a little harsh. I've been working on writing and selling my own books for close to eleven years now and I still run into people who don't know the difference between the genres. Even as someone that might be called an "intermediate/advanced" writer, I still use it as a reference.
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Robin on January 15, 2009
Format: Paperback
Our SCBWI library has all three editions of this book and I always recommend it to anyone who contacts me for information about writing and publishing for children, at no matter what stage of the game they reside. I know of no other thorough, up-to-date publication on the children's book business. We always sell out of them at our conferences.

The author relied not only on his own knowledge, research and experience, he contacted writers in all phases of the business and got their input as well. Either the answers are there for both aspiring and experienced writers, or the resources for further research are revealed. He continues to update information via his website and welcomes suggestions and input. What more can you ask from one book? I highly recommend it.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By John Joyce on March 17, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Virtually Maria (Virtual Trilogy)

Written in the form of short notes, this book contains all the information, wisdom, reading lists and even contacts that you might expect to harvest at a three-day seminar on publishing children's books, as a mere fraction of the price.

It starts with the basic truth that children's books MUST appeal to adults (since adults buy them - not children) and then takes the reader through the 'world' of children's books and how to write, illustrate and publish them. I use the word 'world' because this book goes beyond the simple 'how to' manual in that it takes the reader inside the childrens' book industry and deals with agents, publishers and how to build a career as a successful childrens' book writer.

There are other books that deal with the writing, layout and illustration of childrens' books in far more detail, but this is the first book that I've encountered in my thirty-plus years of writing that gives me a feel for the greater universe of book production that I need to navigate in order to achieve success.

A highly recommended first manual for every children's book author.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Hopeful Writer on January 22, 2013
Format: Paperback
Harold Underdown can do better than this mishmash of outdated publishing advice.

First, instead of concentrating on the writing process, this IDIOT'S GUIDE is more about the publishing process. All fine and good, but the publishing process has changed so much in the last decade and Underdown fails to cover the changes, which makes the rest of the book's information suspect. It made me doubt that he was an insider. Has he even been published himself? Is this book just a promotional tool for his own business?

Second, there is so little attention given to self-publishing, ebook publishing, and all the other venues that are available to writers today that I felt cheated when I bought the book.

Third, what about the difficult task of finding an agent--practically REQUIRED these days for certain publishing houses? If we cannot get in, how can we get traditionally published by a children's book imprint?

Finally, there are so many other books about writing out there that I would really recommend looking at others.

Waste of my money.
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22 of 26 people found the following review helpful By John Walzer on August 2, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
We can't say we weren't warned: this is the "idiot's guide" to children's publishing, after all. Much of the advice is so basic that only a simpleton would need it: "When a book is produced with a hard, stiff outer cover, it's a hardcover book. When the cover of a book is pliable, the book is softcover." Duh. "Break the manuscript into paragraphs. Start a new page only when you come to the end of another one. Don't try to type it out in book form." Double duh.

One gets the suspicion that this book has been rehashed and haphazardly updated for many years, beginning in the pre-Internet era. Indeed, this is the third edition, published in 2008, but Chapter 30 on "do-it-yourself publicity" makes no mention of web-based publicity outlets. No Facebook, Twitter, blogs, social media, podcasts, giveaways, no mention whatsoever of the way books have been publicized for the last 15 years. Just the dubious advice to hold signings (useless unless you're famous) and send out press releases.

Similarly, Chapter 17, "I Need an Agent!", after the usual simplistic discussion, directs us to books listing agents. These may still be valuable, but MOST agents these days insist on being queried only by email, and there are websites listing agents and writers' experiences with them. Harold warns us that agents don't like "being offered a manuscript that's dog-earned from making the rounds"; when, again, most agents today look only at digital submissions.

When it comes to the self-publishing chapter, Harold dips a toe into the ocean of the web and mentions and, then immediately says he does NOT endorse what they do. Further on he recommends, about which we hear nothing but negative reports.
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