Pros: Tons of helpful information; organized; extremely comprehensive
Cons: Legal information could use more explanation in places; a bit thick in places
Rating: 4 out of 5
First posted 3/28/2006
Review book courtesy of Lisa Rojany Buccieri and Peter Economy
I’ve read and reviewed a good handful of “For Dummies” books (FDBs) and “Complete Idiots” guides (CIGs), and I find it interesting to compare the two series, particularly since they’re trying to do roughly the same thing. Both series try to take incredibly diverse topics of all kinds and make them accessible to your average person. They start from the proposition that you don’t know much of anything about the topic, but you really aren’t that stupid and want to learn if someone would just tell you what you need to know. However, there are some differences, overall, in the final outcome of how they approach this.
I’ve read particularly impressive books from both series, and I’ve read fairly unimpressive books from both. Overall I think I prefer the CIG. The quality seems consistently higher. They’re more entertaining and lively, and the information seems pitched at a more consistent level. Of course, trying to entertain presents its own pitfalls. As one CIG I reviewed demonstrates, sometimes trying to be humorous can get in the way of delivering good information. However, when done well a lively and amusing style can make information more memorable and help the reader to focus.
I bring this up now because Lisa Rojany Buccieri and Peter Economy’s “Writing Children’s Books for Dummies” serves as a particularly good example of the differences between the two series. It’s an extremely useful book, crammed with facts and advice, but it shares a few minor flaws with other FDBs.
I’ll start with the amazing. This book is so full of utterly indispensible advice that it’s a wonder it doesn’t explode in a shower of confetti and punctuation. On every single page you’ll find information that could help you plan, write, publish, or publicize your children’s book. The book covers every single aspect of the process that I can imagine, from brainstorming to editing, finding an agent to signing contracts, self-publishing to promoting your book.
The advice found here is positive yet realistic, honest about what you need to do to succeed without being harsh. It gives you the tools you need to improve your work, develop your skills, and polish your professionalism. One of the most useful features is the scattered collection of interviews with professional publishers, editors, and writers, all of whom give you straight-up helpful information about what to do (and what to avoid) when trying to get published.
If you’re totally unfamiliar with the professional publishing world you’ll find plenty here to introduce you, but even if you’re an experienced writer just looking for childrens’-book-specific advice this book is worth your time. My one concern is that the legal information isn’t as consistently basic as the rest of the information, and if they’re aiming this book at beginners then I’d think that’d be one of the scarier and more alien sections, in need of extra hand-holding help. Legal information in particular tends to make starry-eyed beginners curl up in the fetal position, and I think this material could have used a bit more work to make it accessible.
As fantastically useful as the information is, I did find it harder to stay focused on this book than I do with most CIGs. It gets rather dense with material, and although there are definitely some bright spots of humor, they’re a little scarce for a book of this type. Humor is such an invaluable tool for getting frightened beginners to loosen up and absorb information. Other than that, however, the writing is clear and thorough. So if you don’t need that kind of help to get through the information you need then this book will be a fantastic aid to you.
Whether you want to publish a board book or young adult novel, a series about crime-fighting alien teens or an informational book about great white sharks, this book has everything you need to make it from the idea phase to publication. In fact, I intend to make sure a friend of mine who writes children’s books gets a copy, and that’s definitely praise.