Thursday, October 8, 2009

Interview: Nancy I. Sanders, (Very Successful!) Children's Book Author

Today we have a visitor! Please welcome Nancy I. Sanders. She has encouraged and inspired me in many ways, and I think her story will do the same for you. This interview is only one stop on Nancy's blog tour. At the end of this post, you'll find information on where you can find the rest of her interviews. Enjoy!

Question: Your career has spanned over 20 years with more than 75 books published with traditional publishers both big and small. You also have self-published several books. Can you share about how you’ve done all you’ve done?

Answer: One of my favorite Scriptures is Isaiah 8:11-14a, “The Lord has said to me in the strongest terms: ‘Do not think like everyone else does. Do not be afraid that some plans conceived behind closed doors will be the end of you. Do not fear anything except the Lord Almighty. He alone is the Holy One. If you fear Him, you need fear nothing else. He will keep you safe’” (NLT).

As a writer, I take this to mean that we don’t need to worry about what editors decide to do with our manuscripts as they meet together to make their marketing and publishing plans. The decision to accept or reject our manuscripts is totally in God’s hands. He is in control. This has brought me great peace along my writing journey.

This Scripture has helped me learn to “let go” of my hopes and intentions for many of my manuscripts and accept God’s decision. If I have marketed my manuscript and it receives a full round of rejections, I set it aside for awhile. It accomplished its purpose for this season whether it was to train me to improve my skills as a writer, bless the members of my critique group as they read it, or plant a seed in the heart of the editor who read it and ultimately rejected it. I move on to write new manuscripts to accomplish God’s new purposes for such a time as this.

So it is that I have developed a system where I work on three separate manuscripts to meet three different goals. In my new book for writers, I call this the Triple Crown of Success. The three goals of the Triple Crown of Success are:

Write for personal fulfillment.
Write to get published.
Write to earn an income.

When I write for personal fulfillment, I work on whichever manuscript God has called me to write. I don’t worry about getting it published or earning money for it. Sure, if it happens to sell and sell big, then I’ll know that was in God’s plan for it. But that’s not for me to worry about. My task is to write it because God has called me to write it. He’ll do what He plans with it.

When I write to get published, however, I use a completely different strategy. For these manuscripts, I’m not necessarily writing something for personal fulfillment that will change the world. I’m not trying to earn money. I’m just trying to build my published credits regularly and often. So I write these manuscripts for the no-pay/low-pay market such as recipes in my church newsletter, puzzles in children’s magazines, or articles for community magazines.

When I write to earn an income, I use an entirely different strategy. This strategy is what my new book, Yes! You Can Learn How to Write Children’s Books, Get Them Published, and Build a Successful Writing Career is mostly all about. Once again, I’m not necessarily writing for personal fulfillment. These manuscripts might not get published for a number of years. I am writing to earn a living and get paid while I write. As a children’s writer, this means that I try to write children’s books. And I try to land the contract before I write the book so that I’m earning an income on a consistent basis. When I want to earn an income as a children’s writer, I query widely and query well. I send out queries to publishers who accept queries until I land contracts to write books. Work-for-hire books such as math activities for teachers or library books about holidays. Ghostwriting where I write books that my name isn’t even on them. Royalty-based contracts on topics that I never imagined I’d be writing about but that a publisher needs for their product list. All these books are vastly different, but they’re similar in one respect. I land the contract before I write the book. I get paid and I earn an income while I write. And the amazing thing about this is that often, while I’m writing the book or after it comes out, I realize that the whole experience was a deeply fulfilling one and that I’ve been called to write it after all.

So where does self-publishing come into all this? Remember those books I sent out and received a full round of rejections? I have written these manuscripts for “Personal Fulfillment” because I felt God called me to write them. I also have felt that God wanted these books published for such a time as this. After researching the market and realizing a traditional publisher wouldn’t offer me a contract for them, I decided to publish these myself. I am thrilled that I have. What joy each one of these books has been and still is to know that God is using them to reach people and minister to their hearts.

I like to encourage writer friends, writers in my critique groups, and other writers to explore the option of self-publishing your book if traditional publishers have rejected your manuscript. This can definitely be very fulfilling personally in many different ways.

My self-published titles are available on Amazon. They include:
Depression: What’s a Christian to Do?
Anyone Can Get Published—You Can, Too! A Practical Strategy for the Christian Who Writes

To Follow Yahweh’s Plan: A Novel on the Book of Ruth

Question: Tell us about your new book and how it came about. Also, tell us how your book can help us reach our publishing goals.

Answer: My new book is Yes! You Can Learn How to Write Children’s Books, Get Them Published, and Build a Successful Writing Career. It had a very exciting beginning!

I’ve been leading critique groups in some form or another for over 15 years. I have been blessed with a very successful career as a children’s writer, so I am always trying to share in my groups about the things that worked for me to encourage my heart as a writer, help me get published often, and actually earn an income during these years. One of the best places I discovered I could do this was on my blog.

One day, E and E Publishing contacted me. The publisher told me she’d been reading my blog. After I got over the shock that a publisher was actually reading my blog, she said she wanted to offer me a book contract based on the material on my blog! It was the kind of stuff we dream about as writers.

The great thing about this book is that the material I include in it is tried and true. These steps and these strategies have worked for me. Not only have they worked for me, however, but as different members of my critique groups as well as readers of my blog have put these strategies into practice, they’re experiencing success, too! In fact, recently on my blog, a complete stranger posted a comment saying that she bought my book, started using the strategies I share, and within one week landed a book contract. Wow! Even I was amazed! She said that now her whole critique group is buying the book.

Question: In the front of your book, there is a quote, “If one can, anyone can. If two can, you can, too!”™ Can you tell us a little bit about the background behind your quote?

Answer: When I speak at writer’s events or to new writers, they often say, “You can land a book contract like this because you’re already an established writer.” The amazing thing is that I landed my very first book contract before I wrote the manuscript! And the second! And the third!

When writers hear that, they usually respond, “Well then, you must be a very talented writer.” I just have to smile. When I started writing I knew absolutely nothing about writing. I even submitted one manuscript idea written in red ink on notepaper. I still have some of my earliest manuscripts and I cringe when I read them. They’re bad.

I know that if I can build a successful career as a children’s writer, absolutely anyone else can, too! But I’m not the only one who has a successful career as a children’s writer. I have lots of friends who are working writers. If two or more of us can do it, I am confident that you can, too. In my book, Yes! You Can, I share insider’s tips about the world of successful working writers so you can start building your own career today, too.

Yes! You Can Learn How to Write Children’s Books, Get Them Published, and Build a Successful Writing Career
By Nancy I. Sanders
E and E Publishing, 2009
Available on

Web site:

Nancy I. Sanders is the best-selling and award-winning author of over 75 books including D is for Drinking Gourd: An African American Alphabet (Sleeping Bear Press, illustrated by E. B. Lewis). She has been published with such houses as Tyndale, Standard, Concordia, Barbour, Chicago Review Press, and Scholastic Teaching Resources. Her column for children’s writers appears in The Writer’s online magazine, the Christian Communicator, and the Institute of Children’s Literature eNews. Nancy is a frequent contributor of nonfiction articles and feature fiction to Focus on the Family’s magazine Clubhouse Jr. One of her newest books is Yes! You Can Learn How to Write Children’s Books, Get Them Published, and Build a Successful Writing Career.

Find Nancy's Blog Book Tour here:


Publisher said...

Great Interview!!! Thanks for sharing this Dianne. Sometimes I have to put reading on hold, but I got caught up in the information on this one. Thanks for passing on the link.

Beth Bence Reinke said...

Thanks, Nancy, for sharing your experiences and expertise. Your book sounds wonderfully practical and applicable to a writer's real life!

Great interview, Dianne, :o)

Dianne E. Butts said...

Hey, Publisher. I, too, have stacks of info in my "to be read" file. But Nancy's stuff hits me right where I need it, helpful for where I am right now. So glad you enjoyed this interview and found it valuable. Thanks for commenting.

Dianne E. Butts said...

Thanks, Beth. I'm so turned on by Nancy's writings. I've been struggling to make ends meet in this writing game for a long time, and Nancy's practical info is helping me formulate a better plan. Glad you found the interview helpful.

Nancy I. Sanders said...

Hi everyone! It's so exciting to be here on this wonderful blog. Thanks, Dianne, for being a stop on my Virtual Book Tour! And Beth and Publisher, I'm glad this interview struck a chord in your writer's heart. Thanks for sharing. -Nancy

Dianne E. Butts said...

Horray! Nancy stopped by. How fun!

Donna McDine said...

Hi Dianne: Terrific interview of Nancy! Her new book was on my to purchase book and now I've purchased it and can't wait to start reading it.

Children’s Author
Write What Inspires You Blog
The Golden Pathway Story book Blog
Donna M. McDine’s Website

Dianne E. Butts said...

Awesome, Donna! Her book is on my "to be purchased" list too...just as soon as I have some of the current irons out of the fire. There's nothing more frustating to me than to have a new book I'm excited about sitting here and I'm too busy to relax and enjoy it. So I'll wait until I can absorb and implement it while I read it.

Thanks for the comment. Can't wait to check out your blogs, too!

Nancy I. Sanders said...

I can hardly wait for both of you to read the book, Dianne and Donna. I just spoke about it at our local SCBWI event and the bookstore sold out of its 20 copies almost immediately after I spoke! I'm eager to hear more testimonies about how these strategies are working to help writers get to the next level of their career. Keep me posted, gals! -Nancy

Dianne E. Butts said...

Will do, Nancy. I'm hoping to get to your book soon.

Everybody, another resource I learned about from Nancy is the Children's Writer newsletter. You can get a sample issue for free here: I just received my free newsletter and can't wait to read it!

Anonymous said...

What an inspiring interview! Nancy, your method of writing three manuscripts at a time is a real eye-opener. Never thought of that, but I suppose dividing them into categories with a distinct purpose helps keep them from overwhelming you.

Great interview, Dianne!

Dianne E. Butts said...

Yes, Bonnie, Nancy's system has my mind busily dividing all those irons in the fire into her three categories. Suddenly, I'm not feeling guilty for the "need to make money" category because I feel like it's taking away from the "this is what is important to God for me to write" category. And it's suddenly okay for me to write what excites me to boot. It's quite free-ing.

Thanks for your comment, Bonnie. I'm glad you found help in Nancy's interview!

Evelyn said...

Thanks for sharing, Nancy. I love your scripture verse. Definitely a good one for helping keep us focused on what's really important about all this writing stuff we're doing.

And for anybody who's wondering--I *have* read Nancy's book and it's great!

Thanks, Dianne, for hosting this interview. Congratulations on all your publications!!

Nancy I. Sanders said...

Thanks, Bonnie. Yes, working on 3 different manuscripts for 3 different goals has really made a difference for me. I used to try to just get my 1 manuscript out there and get it published/earn the big bucks/and be about a topic I love. But it never got me anywhere. Now, I see my stuff in print a lot, earn a steady income, and write about stuff I feel passionate about--just with different manuscripts targeted to different markets! -Nancy

Nancy I. Sanders said...

I'm glad the Bible verse inspired you, too, Ev. And thanks for the plug for my book. Smile. How are all your book deadlines coming along? I know this is a crazy month for you!-Nancy

Dianne E. Butts said...

Thank you, Evelyn. When I look at all my publications, I'm proud of every one of them, even though I'm still struggling to break through on the book thing. Thanks for the confirmation on Nancy's book. I'm definitely going to get it and I hope learning about it today has helped many writers.

Dianne E. Butts said...

Nancy, thank you so much for inviting me to host you today on your blog tour. It has been fun! And I've been blessed by getting to know you and by all the readers who stopped by today.

Wishing you all the best with your book and the rest of your blog tour!

Sue Tornai said...

Dianne, thank you for this wonderful interview. I am inspired by Nancy's comments and will buy her book on Amazon as soon as I leave this blog.

Dianne E. Butts said...

Awesome, Sue! You're one step ahead of me. But I'll hope to catch up soon! Thanks for commenting, my friend. I hope you'll come back and let us know your thoughts on the book!

Sue Tornai said...

I am s-o-o thankful for Nancy's book. I got it on Friday and I hope to finish it today and begin implementing the fun concepts tomorrow. I already sent my resume, samples and query to Capstone Publishers. Thank you, Dianne and Nancy for this turning point in my writing carer! Blessings to both of you.

Sue Tornai said...

I finished the book and I'm inspired and motivated! I scheduled a meeting with Beth Thompson, Inspire Christian Writers Critique Group, to discuss Nancy's critique group ideas and I started my spreadsheets targeting magazine markets and work-for-hire markets. AND I wrote a query letter for an article on work-for-hire. Off and running!

Dianne E. Butts said...

Thanks for keeping us updated, Sue! I've received Nancy's book and am reading it in spare moments. Can't wait to have a larger block of time to dive in. I'm excited about it, too!

I did get to spend an hour in the library last Saturday--all studying children's writing. Half of it I spent checking out Writer's Digest's 2010 Children's Writer's and Illustrator's Market. The other half I spent in the children's section checking out all those books.

Yesterday, I ordered Writer's Digest's 2010 Children's Writer's and Illustrator's Market just so I'll be ready to run. Can't wait for it to arrive, too.

Sue Tornai said...

I will send you the market guide I get from the Writer's Institute. Since I just updated my copy, I can send you my 2009 copy. It is the MAGAZINE MARKETS FOR CHILDREN'S WRITERS. I use it more than the Writer's Digest Children's Writers and Illustrators Market Guide. Would you e-mail me your address again? I haven't reconstructed my address book since my computer crashed in April.