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Children's Books - Writer/Illustrators

Helen Beatrix Potter is one writer/illustrator. She was born on July 28, 1866. Her parents had her raised by a nanny. Nanny McKenzie believed in fairies, witches, and magic. Beatrix never forgot her stories.

Her favorite childhood pets, Benjamin Bouncer and Peter Piper were her rabbits. She had a menagerie of dormice, hedgehogs, bats, and lizards. By age nine years, Beatrix made renderings of catepillars, fungi, and flowers. Her The Tale of Peter Rabbit was written as a letter in 1893 for a friend's son.

When she was 16, her family lived in Wray Castle in England's Lake District for the summer. She met people involved in ecology and she was involved, at age 28, in a National Trust for saving the Lake District's way of life. This continued throughout her adulthood.

Beatrix's uncle encouraged her to submit her sketches of her rabbits, Benjamin Bouncer, to a greeting card company. The she decided to rework The Tale of Peter Rabbit and try to get it published.

No one would publish this story, but she self-financed 250 copies which sold rapidly. Frederick Warne decided to publish 8,000 copies of Peter Rabbit. This book was a bestseller. Beatrix went on to write 27 successful books. In 1905, Norman Warne asked Beatrix to marry him, when she was 39 years of age. However, Norman died of leukemia a month after he proposed.

After Norman's death Beatrix moved to Hill Top Farm in Cumbria. In Hill Top she wrote The Tale of Tom Kitten and Jemima Puddleduck, a story based on her beloved collie, Kep. She wrote more stories and bought more Lake District land. In 1923, Beatrix bought 2,000 acres of land called Troutbeck Farms, which she restored.

When Beatrix Potter died in 1943, her ashes were spread over her beloved land. Many thought Beatrix understood animals better than people (Realm, No. 93. August 2000, 19).


The English Experience Cumbrian Cottages Frederick Warne's Beatrix Potter site The Pheasant Inn (Cumbria)

A Career in Children's Publishing Involves More Than Just Writing Skills or Artistic Talent

Contracts and Negotiations:


Contracts include specifications about fees to be paid, services rendered, deadlines, rights purchasedm and for artists and photographers, whether original work is returned. Specifics are typed in after negotiations.

Never depend on oral agreements! Written contracts protect both parties from misunderstandings.

Avoid "work-for-hire" clauses - they mean you give up all rights to your creations. Highlights for Children usually buys all rights.

Look for option clauses that requires the author to give the publisher a first look at his/her work before offering it to other publishers. Don't let them hold this up for more than 30 days.

For more tips write:

Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators
345 N. Maple Drive, Suite 296
Beverly Hills, CA., 90210

*request their publication: "Answers to Some Questions About Contracts" BE SURE TO SENT A S.A.S.E..

Book publishers pay authors and artists in royalties, a percentage of either the wholesale or retail price of each book sold. Large publishing companies usually give authors advancements against future royalities. Half is given at the beginning of the contract, the other half after the book is finished. For illustrations, one-third of the advance should be collected upon signing the contract, one-third upon delivery of sketches, and one-third upon delivery of the finished art.

Book Publishing Rates

In 1998, advances ranged from $3,500-5,000 for writers; and $7,000-10,000 for text and illustration packages.

Royalities are usually 5% (split between the author and the illustrator), but can go to 10%.

Books for middle grade age novels can fetch $4,000-6,000 and 10% of royalities; paperbacks $3,000-5,000 with 6-8% royalities.

Get Copyrights from:

Copyrights Office
Library of Congress
Washington D.C. 20359


Copyright Documents

Rights to Publishers

First Rights: The buyer (publisher) purchases the rights to use the work for the first time in any medium. All other rights remain with the creator (writer or artists). When material is excerpted from a soon-to-be-published book for use in a newspaper or periodical, first serial rights are also purchased.

One-Time Rights: The buyer (publisher) has no guarantee that he/she is the first to use the piece. One time permission to run written works, illustrations, or photos is acquired, then the rights revert back to the creator (writer, artist or photographer).

First North American Serial Rights: Similar to first rights, except that the United States and Canadian companies will stipulate these rights to ensure that another North American company can't use the work at the same time.

Second Serial (reprint) Rights: Newspapers and magazines are given the right to reproduce a work that has appeared in another publication.

Simultaneous Rights: More than one publication buys one-time rights to the same work at the same time. This is for magazines with different clients or circulations.

All Rights: The creator (writer/artist/photographer) gives up all rights for a publisher that pays a premium wage.

Foreign Serial Rights: For foreign markets where you previously sold North American rights.

Syndication Rights: Much like serial rights. The syndicate (newspaper or magazine) would receive a commission and leave the remainder tobe split between author(artist) and publisher.

Subsidiary Eights: Serial rights, dramatic rights, books club rights, or translation rights.

Dramatic, television, and motion picture rights: This selling process can take a LONG time. See Jim Burnstein information.

Display rights or electronic publishing rights: CD-Rom. e-books, online ads, or any future items of this sort.


The Children's Writing Resource Center The American Library Association The International Reading Association The American Booksellers Association Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators
Alicia Austin, Illustrator

The Benefits of Belonging to a Writer's Group

  1. You have an audience for your work.
  2. You can get an objective viewpoint regarding your work.
  3. You can get contructive criticism.
  4. You can share resources and knowledge.
  5. You can use others ideas through problem solving and brainstorming, thus overcome plot obstacles.
  6. You can find conference companions.
  7. Workshops help you to be more committed to your writing
  8. Workshops can give you the motivation to keep writing and revising your work.
  9. You can get encouragement from other writers who understand rejections. This , in turn, can keep you motivated with advise on how to revise your story, etc.
  10. Your can share your successes with other writers.

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Webmaster: Margaret Odrowaz-Sypniewska, B.F.A., P.N.A.
Last updated on October 16, 2001