Behold! The children’s book industry. Here’s how it works

Is there a hierarchy in the children’s book industry?

Hell yeah!

If you’re just entering this dog-eat-dog world, think of it like a school. A large, grey bugger with tall fences and lots of asphalt.


The picture book creators are kept inside, in a rarefied, humidity-controlled, tastefully decorated sanctuary. Busy finger painting. Will speak to fairies. No one else.

The junior fiction authors spend most of their time on the monkey bars. Occasionally flash their knickers. Known to pull faces. At each other.

The middle grade authors are in the auditorium, rehearsing Shakespeare and bossing each other around. Still believe in unicorns. Will deny it.

The YA authors are behind the shelter sheds, smoking. Some even do the drawback. Will jab nerds with a compass.

The nonfiction authors are in the library, reading Funk and Wagnalls and sucking up to the librarian. Begin every sentence with, ‘Did you know…’

The poets are on the canteen roof, eating black licorice and staring down rain clouds.


The indie authors are in detention. Writing lines and organising coups.

The illustrators are in the toilets. Spraying graffiti. Cutting each other’s hair. Giggling.

The graphic designers. School? Yeah, right.


The publishers are in the front office, holding the principal to ransom, threatening people via the overhead speakers.

The editors are in the stationery cupboard, playing Scrabble and sniffing paper.

The agents are in the staff room. Eating biscuits.

The reviewers are in the canteen. Icing cupcakes — and polishing bruised apples.


The literary judges.  Aka, The Inspectors. Pop up when least expected. Carry clipboards (with nothing on them). Frighten the bejesus out of everyone. Can’t always be seen. Have access to cunning disguises. And invisibility cloaks.

Some players take on more than one role.

That’s when things get messy.

That’s when the analogy breaks down.


Hear the bell?

Gotta run.

Jen xo

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17 Replies to “Behold! The children’s book industry. Here’s how it works”

  1. Deeply moving, such profound meaning behind the reviewers icing cupcakes and polishing bruised apples.

  2. As you know, I have indeed read the Funk & Wagnalls standard dictionary of the English language, and I’ve played Scrabble whilst sniffing paper in a cupboard, but now that you’ve outlined the antics of the other strange characters in the book industry, I want to expand my experiences. First up, I’ve never been on a monkey bar, but I’m willing ot flash my knickers…and I’m very good at pulling faces.

  3. So brilliant. Now, the blog-behind-the-blog, please. What inspired this? Careful notes over a long period? A mad moment of insight? Created because of a particular gnashing of teeth memory or just with tongue firmly in cheek?

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