Reference Books

From the Resource Guide in The CIG to Publishing Children's Books, 3rd Edition

Appendix B: Compiled by Harold Underdown

CIG Resource Guide Index

Other sections : Books on Writing | Books on Illustrating | Books About Books | Magazines, Organizations, and Websites

Resources from Guide to Publishing Children's Books


* : Essential resources--the basic books you are most likely to need

N: New items--added since the book was published

R: Revised items--new editions or significant changes to my comments

R Artist's and Graphic Designer's Market (2014 edition), (Writers Digest Books, annual). Illustrators who only want to work in children's books will want to stick to Children's Writer's and Illustrator's Market (see below), but if you are looking for other illustration work, this is a useful, annually updated "yellow pages," with hundreds of pages of listings (the most recent edition has over 650 pages).

R An Author's Guide to Children's Book Promotion, Susan Raab (Raab Associates, 2011). A concise guide from a children's marketing consultant, covering all the different aspects of book marketing and publicity, and including a useful list of contacts. Get more information and access to the author's marketing columns at the Raab Associates web-site (see below).

Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, John Bartlett and Geoffrey O'Brien (editors) (Little, Brown, and Co., 2012). This is the most respected quotation reference, and deservedly so. Wonderfully organized and comprehensive, this recently revised and updated edition will be useful not just for nonfiction writers but as a source for ideas and of course for historical fiction, chapter-opening quotes, and the like.

Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, 19th edition, Susie Dent et. al. (Hodder, 2012). Covering "mythology, history, classics, language, as well as common sayings, phrases, and legends," this is a reference book that also rewards the casual browser with a deeper understanding of our language and culture--a book that will provide unexpected inspiration.

*The Chicago Manual of Style, 17th edition (link goes to a more detailed review), University of Chicago Press staff (University of Chicago Press, 2017). CMS, as it is usually referred to, has long been the standard reference work in publishing for matters ranging from capitalization to the construction of an index. The 17th builds on the 15th edition, which was extensively revised, taking into account recent changes in technology, and adding a chapter on grammar and usage.

*Children's Writer's & Illustrator's Market (link goes to a more detailed review), Chuck Sambuchino (editor) (Writer's Digest Books, annual). An essential and annually updated reference book, this compendium lists several hundred book publishers, magazines, and other places that you can sell and publish your work. The focus is on the US, but it includes listings for Canadian and international publishers. Before the directory listings appear a few articles on the basics (every year) and a dozen or more articles on current topics (different every year). Purchase of the book also gives you access to an online version, updated throughout the year. A must-have on the desks of those who write or illustrate for children.

R Children's Writer's Word Book, Alijandra Mogilner (Writer's Digest Books, 2006). Do you have a sense of what vocabulary is appropriate for seven-year-olds? For twelve-year-olds? A "controlled vocabulary" may be required in educational publishing, but even in trade publishing this can be a very useful reference and source of guidance, especially for beginning writers who have not yet developed an intuitive sense of what works for different age levels.

R Dan Poynter's Self-Publishing Manual, 16th edition: How to Write, Print, and Sell Your Own Book, Dan Poynter (Para Publishing, 2007). If you want to self-publish, this is a good resource. Josephine (Joi) Nobisso used it (see Chapter 33).

The Dictionary of American Slang, Robert Chapman et. al. (HarperCollins, 1998). This is the standard reference book for slang. It will take you back to the nineteenth century and help with the slang of today. Provides guidance as to who used a particular word or phrase and whether it was considered coarse or just casual.

Dictionary of Modern American Usage, Bryan A. Garner (Oxford University Press, 1998). Children's book publishers can still be relied on, most of the time, for good copyediting, but that's no substitute for this comprehensive guide to usage and grammar. Use it to polish your writing and produce a good impression.

The Forest for the Trees: An Editor's Advice to Writers, Betsy Lerner (Riverhead Books, 2010). The author worked for many years at a large New York publisher of books for adults; her book is an enjoyable and insightful distillation of her experiences. Not an essential book, but a unique one that lets you hover invisibly in the background while an editor works and interacts with writers.

It's a Bunny-Eat-Bunny World : A Writer's Guide to Surviving and Thriving in Today's Competitive Children's Book Market, Olga Litowinsky (Walker and Co., 2001). This guide by an industry veteran covers some of the same ground as my book. There is a more detailed history of children's publishing, a good chapter on self-editing, and an insider's account of what happens to a manuscript from acquisition to publication. The main thread is the story of an invented first-time novelist, and his experiences while trying to find a publisher and an agent, and then working with a publisher. If you write picture books or nonfiction, or illustrate, however, you won't find much in Litowinsky's book you haven't found in this book.

N Kirsch's Guide to the Book Contract: For Authors, Publishers, Editors and Agents, Jonathan Kirsch (Acrobat Books, 1998). This may be the best book available in helping to understand a publishing contract. It begins with a model contract and then explains it clause by clause. Do not expect it to provide guidance in negotiating a contract, but by improving your understanding of a contract it will help you judge what matters to you. Includes a glossary.

Literary Market Place (R.R. Bowker, annual). Use this massive and expensive reference book at your library. It's the yellow pages of publishing and has information and addresses for publishers, packagers, and agents.

The Magic Years, Selma Fraiberg (Fireside, reissued 1996). What is a classic book about the cognitive and emotional development of children doing here? It's here because none of us really remember what it was like to be a small child, and this book helps us to remember, and to understand. I encountered it when my wife and I were looking for books to help us be good parents of our first child, but I list it because I think almost anyone writing or illustrating for children will benefit from reading it.

R 1001 Ways to Market Your Book, John Kremer (Open Horizons, 2006). You won't find that all the ways Kremer suggests are relevant for a children's book, but even if only 837 or so of them are, this is a valuable resource, and not only for authors and illustrators, but also for self-publishers or marketing staff looking for new ideas. To learn more about John Kremer, read this interview with him.

Publicize Your Book: An Insider's Guide to Getting Your Book the Attention It Deserves, Jacqueline Deval (Perigee 2008). By a former publicity director at William Morrow, this is a great general guide to publicizing a book. Even publishing insiders will find some ideas. Useful whether you want to supplement your publisher's efforts or are publicizing your own self-published book.

R Roget's International Thesaurus, 7th ed., Barbara Ann Kipfer (Collins Reference, 2011). This is the book to turn to when you can't find the right word--or just for general inspiration.

Terrific Connections with Authors, Illustrators, and Storytellers: Real Space and Virtual Links, Toni Buzzeo and Jane Kurtz (Teacher Ideas Press, 1999). This is the only book you need if you want to do school and library visits. It will provide guidance in finding and planning visits as well as what to do on a visit. I drew on it heavily for Chapter 31.

*Webster's Third New International Dictionary, Philip Babcock Gove (editor) (Merriam Webster, 1993). Yes, it's expensive and heavy, but you have to have this book on your reference shelf, or be willing to walk to the library to use it. Webster's Third is the dictionary used throughout children's publishing to settle spelling. hyphenation, and such issues; those enigmatic "W3" annotations made in the margins of your manuscript by copy editors refer to it.

Words into Type, Marjorie E. Skillin et al. (Pearson, 1974). Do not be put off by the publication date. WIT is an extremely useful companion to The Chicago Manual of Style, as it covers grammar, word choice, writing style, and similar issues in more detail, and is easier to use. Get WIT instead of the better-known but overly general Strunk and White.

R Writer's Market (2014 edition), Robert Lee Brewer (Writer's Digest Books, annual). This enormous (over 1,000 pages) annually updated market guide is indispensable if you are a writer interested in publishing in the general market in addition to the children's. Includes a guide to setting fees and feature articles as well as listings of book and magazine publishers.

Feel free to contact me with suggestions or comments.

This list is based on the Resource Guide in the Appendix of the third edition of my Complete Idiot's Guide to Publishing Children's Books. It has more material than the print version and has been enhanced with hyperlinks direct to web sites and book pages on (for purchase or just for information--if you prefer to buy elsewhere, I have created a page of suggested bookstores).

C.I. Guide Resource Guide Index

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