When our leader, Jean Hall, announced recently that her long-time friend, Nancy Sanders was joining our team, I did what everyone does these days when we want to get to know someone…I checked her website, of course! Before you click on over, grab a cup of coffee or tea and enjoy this interview–you’ll find some nuggets that aren’t on her website. Then you’re welcome to browse her African American History books, her picture books, her writing curriculum…and much more!
Carol: How did you get started as a children’s author?
Nancy: When my two sons were little, I enjoyed reading baby books to them so much that I wanted to write them, too! But my big publishing breakthrough was at my first writer’s conference. Someone I met at the conference walked up to me and told me she’d booked an appointment for me to meet with an editor. Why me?! I was soon to find out it was definitely a God-thing.
I swallowed my nervous jitters and went to the appointment. Not being prepared to show her anything, I asked her, “What are you looking for?” The editor said she wanted a book on cheap crafts for Sunday School teachers. She even told me exactly what to submit to her and how to submit it! So, I wrote up what she told me. I sent it to her and landed a contract to write my first work-for-hire book.
From then on, that is how I’ve published most of my books. I ask editors what they’re looking for. Or I pitch ideas or queries to them. Then I land the contract to write the book. I talk in depth about how to do this in my how-to book for KidLit writers, Yes! You Can Learn How to Write Children’s Books, Get Them Published, and Build a Successful Writing Career.
Carol: You have written so many different types of books. Which came first? Second?
Nancy: My first published books were work-for-hire such as Sunday School crafts and Bible-themed puzzle books. I call these my breakthrough books. Signing 3-6 work-for-hire book contracts each year helped me get my foot in the door. Plus, they gave me actual income while I worked. Most importantly, they helped me gain the experience and confidence I needed to build a solid career in the children’s publishing industry. From there I was able to land contracts with the big publishers such as Scholastic Teaching Resources, Tyndale, and Zonderkidz.
Carol: Which is your favorite genre to write?
Nancy: My favorite genre is always the genre I’m currently working on. Right now, I’m having a delightful time writing board books for babies! The first book in the series just came out, Bedtime with Mommy, and it’s simply a joy to work on! I just signed the contract for the second book in the series, too, and I bet you can guess what that is! Plus, people are giving such wonderful responses. They’re purchasing multiples and gifting them at baby showers and more. The most rewarding experience, though, was when I read it to my grandson for the first time. When I read the last page aloud to him, he said, “Read it again, Grandma!” You can learn more about my newest book by visiting my website at http://nancyisanders.com/bedtime-board-books/
Carol: What is your favorite genre to read?
Nancy: I guess you could look at my current stack of library books sitting next to me on the couch to answer my current favorite genre. 30 baby board books and picture books for babies! I maxed out both my library card and my husband’s. Yup! I love reading in the genre I’m currently writing.
If I’m not reading in the genre I’m currently writing in, you’ll find my nose in a nature/western/pioneer book such as My Friend Flicka trilogy or the Little House on the Prairie series.
Carol: What was your favorite book as a child?
Nancy: Charlotte’s Web. I still have my original copy today. I can’t wait to read it aloud to my grandkids. I probably read it at least once a year. I’ve even taught how-to-write classes using it as a model. It’s one of the best examples of character voice there is.
Carol: How has your Christian faith influenced you as an author?
Nancy: As a writer, I often feel so weak. I’m weak in my writing skills. I’m weak at pitching ideas. I’m weak at marketing myself. So, when I’m feeling particularly weak, I sigh and talk with God. I say, “God, I’m so weak in this area. Are you sure you’re calling me to do this?” And then the Holy Spirit nudges me and I perk up. I say, “Yes, God. I’m really, really, weak in this area. THANK YOU for the fact that I am really weak in this area because this means you’re really going to shine! In fact, your power will be made perfect in my weakness. Alleluia!” And then, with 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 burning in my heart, I’m excited to work on my writing again because with God’s grace, in my weakness, I am strong!
Carol: Do you have a community of writing peers who have helped you?
Nancy: Many authors have helped me each step of the way!
Here’s something I started this past year that has really made a difference in my life as an author. I’ve started keeping a journal of writer friends and peers. Each page has a different author’s name I currently know whether through online groups I’m part of or who I’ve met at conferences or local groups. There are probably about 75 names on this list because I keep adding to it. From time to time, I’ll go through this list and I’ll e-mail various author friends and ask them to help me in some way such as repin a pin I’ve created for my new book or post a comment on an interview I’m featured in. And it’s turning into a wonderful sense of community because then I do a similar favor for them, too. And then as I read their interview or repin their pin, I see what they’re doing to be successful in today’s tough market as a KidLit writer. So we’re mentoring and helping each other!
Carol: What advice would you give to new writers?
Nancy: Choose a way to get your writing “degree.” Attend writing conferences such as the Master Classes offered here at Write 2 Ignite. Read how-to books and how-to-write magazines. Subscribe to writing blogs like Write 2 Ignite’s. Look for work-for-hire contracts with publishers because it’s like getting paid a scholarship to learn the ropes of the writing industry. Volunteer your writing with publishers who offer no-pay or low-pay opportunities such as Sunday School take home papers. Online children’s e-zines. Start writing and getting the experience of writing, submitting, and working with editors—all on a regular basis. You’ll gain experience and build confidence. Then when you have a few published books under your belt and lots of writing credits to your name, you can start pitching ideas to the bigger royalty-paying publishers so you can land contracts to write even more books!
Nancy I. Sanders is the bestselling and award-winning KidLit author of more than 100 books. Her passion is to help other KidLit writers (like you!) experience the joy and success of writing for children like she has. Her motto is: “If one can, anyone can. If two can, you can too!” She has self-published two how-to-write books with an insider’s peek on the industry and oodles of tips and strategies she’s used to get published over her career. Yes! You Can Learn How to Write Children’s Books, Get Them Published, and Build a Successful Writing Career is chock full of helpful career advice and practical applications you can use. Yes! You Can Learn How to Write Beginning Readers and Chapter Books is a must-have resource if you want to write for kids.
Nancy would love to connect with you on the web! Here’s where you’ll find her:
Facebook Author’s Page: https://www.facebook.com/NancyI.SandersAuthorPage/
Amazon Author’s Page: www.amazon.com/author/nancysanders