Are you still waiting to finish your manuscript before you submit it? Author Nancy I. Sanders has a different approach you might want to take. With more than 100+ published books, you can trust her advice–been there, done that, and now she’s sharing her secrets with us. (Thank you!)
What do you write? How/why did you pick your genre?
I write for children. With over 100 books published, some I write because the topics interest me. Others I write because a publisher is interested in that topic. And others I write because they seem like a good fit in the current market which means there’s a strong possibility a publisher will offer me a contract. That’s why I wrote my newest book, the gold-medal winning Bedtime With Mommy because I felt it was a good fit in the current market. A publisher picked it up just a month after I finished writing it! And it already won a gold medal!
Wow—congratulations! How long does it take you to write the book?
Before I write it, I like to brainstorm ideas for a potential manuscript. Bedtime With Mommy took me about 6 months to brainstorm the idea after reading tons of baby board books and studying publisher’s catalogs for a unique idea to a universal topic. It then took me about a month to write and edit it.
When I wrote The Bible Explorer’s Guide: 1,000 Amazing Facts and Photos, it was an assignment so I just had two months of intense research, writing, editing to write the manuscript for that deadline. Plus, I had to recommend all those images, too!
When I wrote my nonfiction biography for middle grade and young adult, Jane Austen for Kids, it took me one day to brainstorm for it. (The idea hit me while reading a Jane Austen novel and I instantly knew it would be a perfect fit for my publisher I already had several titles with.) The editor requested the proposal in one day after receiving my pitch. And then it took me about two and a half years to research and write it. That included traveling to Paris and England and attending a Jane Austen convention in Huntington Beach, CA and taking my own photos for the book. Once it was with the publisher, it took several months of back-and-forth editing before sending it off to the printer.
That sounds like a lot of fun. 😊 How do you combat writer’s block?
The short answer: I create an environment for my brain to enjoy playing with words. The long answer: I teach an entire audio class on this (with lots of handouts!) that’s called GETTING IN THE WRITER’S ZONE. It’s available for just $29 at The Serious Writer Academy.
How do you prepare to write your books: pantser, plotter, both, something completely different?
I’ve learned to plot the entire book from beginning to end even before I start. (I’ve had to do this with numerous publishers who require a proposal with a page-by-page synopsis for a picture book or chapter-by-chapter synopsis for a longer book before the book is written. That’s because like many career writers, I often sign a contract to write the book before the book is written.) But then whether I’m writing fiction or nonfiction, picture books or chapter books, I allow myself to take detours as the characters and events demand while they’re coming to life in the first draft. So I do both.
If you’re self-published, why did you decide to go that route?
I’ve self-published my two books on how to write children’s books because I wanted total control of the books including how long they stay in print. Yes! You Can Learn How to Write Children’s Books, Get Them Published, and Build a Successful Writing Career is an insider’s peek at the strategies I’ve used to build a successful career as a children’s writer. Yes! You Can Learn How to Write Beginning Readers and Chapter Books gives the nuts and bolts of writing for young readers.
If you’re traditionally published, why did you decide to go that route?
I’ve had 100+ books published by traditional publishers because as a career writer, that’s where I earn my solid income through both work-for-hire contracts and royalty contracts.
What’s surprised you the most about the publishing process? That many career writers land a contract before they write their book. It’s not mentioned at writer’s conferences, where they usually just talk about sending in your completed manuscript to try to get a contract for it.
What advice do you have for new authors?
Learn to get published frequently and often by writing for the no-pay/low-pay market such as Sunday School take home papers and children’s magazines. It’s like taking a college course on writing…for free! Also, learn to earn income while you’re writing by signing contracts before you write the book. (I tell how to do this in my first how-to book.) And then always also be working on writing manuscripts that are near and dear to your heart. In other words, always be working on three different manuscripts for three different goals.
What does your revision process look like?
I’m a list person. I make lists of words that support my topic. I make lists of universal themes that tug on every child’s heart. I make lists of funny stuff that makes kids laugh. I make lists of sensory details that fit the background of my story. The list goes on! So after I get my first handwritten draft finished of a paragraph, stanza, scene, or chapter, I type it into the computer. Then I pull out my lists and the fun begins! I plug in a certain number of funny stuff if it’s a humorous book. I plug in a certain number of words that support my topic. I plug in a certain number of sensory details, etc.
Nancy I. Sanders is the bestselling and award-winning children’s author of more than 100 books including the gold-medal winning board book Bedtime with Mommy. Her book The Bible Explorer’s Guide: 1000 Amazing Facts and Photos (Zonderkidz, 2017) was co-winner of ECPA’s 2018 Young People’s Literature Award. Jane Austen for Kids (Chicago Review Press, 2019) explores the daily life, faith, and writings of one of the most beloved authors in literature. For more information about Nancy, visit her website at
Blogzone (for writers): https://nancyisanders.wordpress.com
Christian Children’s Authors group blog: https://christianchildrensauthors.com/
Write2Ignite group blog: https://write2ignite.com/blog/
Facebook Author’s Page: https://www.facebook.com/NancyI.SandersAuthorPage/
Amazon Author’s Page: www.amazon.com/author/nancysanders
Teachers Pay Teachers: https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Store/Teacher-Plus-Writer
Linked in: https://www.linkedin.com/in/nancyisanders/