Crash Course in Children’s Publishing: Everything You Need to Know Online Course Sept-Dec 2021

September 22 - December 11, 2021

Please note: this course is full. Please click here to be placed on our waiting list.


Online (Facilitated)

COVID Reschedule/Refund Policy
What’s the difference between Highlights Foundation workshop types?


10 weeks




At the end of this course, you will understand how the children’s book publishing industry works, including writing, revising, submitting, publishing, and marketing a book for children, teens, or young adults.

You’ll learn details about the editorial development process, including what to do once you have a finished book.

Material will be covered over the course of 10 weeks via five live Zoom sessions and pre-recorded content in our online learning platform. You’ll also have access to weekly live office hours with faculty.

This course includes an optional 1:1 written critique and consultation. You will be matched with a mentor in the field that aligns with your needs as an aspiring children’s book creator. If you would like to be paired with a mentor, please select this choice upon registration.


Stories help kids develop language, build the power of imagination, understand their world and value their lives as they see themselves reflected within. This course educates and encourages creators as they bring their voices to this important work.

Why do we mention this? Learn about the Highlights Foundation mission.


  • You are a serious beginner. Tired of exhaustive online searches, hard-to-sift-through information, or lack of practical advice? This course is a great way to get a jump start on your goals.
  • You want to write for children but don’t know how to get started. Our goal is to demystify children’s publishing and answer ALL of your questions about the process.
  • You’ve written a story for children but have no idea how to submit it to publishers. This course will give you best practices for revising and submitting your work.
  • You have sold some stories to children’s magazines and would now like to learn more about the book publishing process. We’ll give you a behind-the-scenes look at all that goes on, from submission to publication.
  • You’re ready to devote some time to learn and practice. This course offers long-term support over 10 weeks and allows you to learn at your own pace.

What to Expect from the Crash Course: Watch the video

Who Should Attend the Crash Course: Watch the video


This course runs for 10 weeks and is a mix of pre-recorded content and live Zoom sessions.

Live sessions are Wednesdays at 8pm Eastern. Dates are noted in the agenda below.

(Note: If your schedule does not allow you to attend live sessions, that’s OK! You’ll have access to the recordings. They’re usually posted the day after the session, and they’ll be available through January 31, 2022.)

There are also weekly live Zoom Office Hours with faculty on Fridays at 11am Eastern. These are optional but encouraged.

The course also includes writing exercises, community interaction, and goal-setting. To maximize your investment in the course, take advantage of these.

This course includes an optional 1:1 written critique and consultation. You will be matched with a mentor in the field that aligns with your needs as an aspiring children’s book creator. If you would like to be paired a mentor, please select this choice upon registration.

Trying to figure out how this course fits into your schedule? Read some ideas about planning for the right level of commitment.


During this course, you will:

  • Explore genres of books, types of publishers, types of markets; fiction vs. nonfiction, flat fee vs. royalties, schools and libraries, etc.
  • Find out how to get help before you submit from books, conferences, critique groups, beta readers and children.
  • Use writing exercises to get to know your characters and develop your stories.
  • Understand submissions rules and practices, including which mistakes to avoid.
  • Find out how to get started as a professional and find your community.
  • Learn about how publishers sign up manuscripts and how to make sense of contracts.
  • Discover the publishing process: developmental editing, line-editing, copyediting and proofreading, design, illustration, production, marketing and distribution.

You can watch some previews of the course here:
Ta-DAA! Acquisition!
Design & Illustration
More Kinds of Picture Books


The course is divided up into 10 sessions, each with a different topic. Here are the session topics and dates:

Week 1: Introduction to the Crash Course
Wednesday, September 22
Live Zoom session, 8pm Eastern
Introductions, overview, goal setting.

Friday, September 24
Live Zoom Office Hour, 11am Eastern
Bring your questions for open discussion

Week 2: Books, Publishers, Markets and More
Wednesday, September 29
Pre-recorded content released

  • Types of books and genres in the children’s book industry
  • Types of publishers and who’s who
  • Today’s children’s book market
  • Additional resources, including Matthew Winner’s “Writers Are Readers” and more!

Friday, October 1
Live Zoom Office Hour, 11am Eastern

Week 3: Getting Started with Your Story
Wednesday, October 6
Live Zoom session, 8pm Eastern

Additional content released

  • Reading current books, and how to do it
  • Building your industry knowledge
  • Getting feedback and revising
  • Additional resources, including review sources, how-to books, and more!

Friday, October 8
Live Zoom Office Hour, 11 am Eastern

Week 4: Getting Started as a Professional
Wednesday, October 13
Pre-recorded content released

  • Getting started as a writer
  • Finding community, caring for yourself as a creative, and dedicating time to your craft with Leah Henderson
  • Essential conversations in children’s publishing: responsible representation, anti-racism and anti-bias books
  • Additional resources, including “You’re Never Too Old to Write” and more!

Friday, October 15
Live Zoom Office Hour, 11am Eastern

Week 5: Digging Into Character
Wednesday, October 20
Live Zoom session, 8pm Eastern

  • Knowing your characters: creative exercises
  • Character backstory
  • Little known facts
  • Character voice
  • Character interview
  • Place as character

Friday, October 22
Live Zoom Office Hour, 11am Eastern

Week 6: Research, Submission, Query Letters
Wednesday, October 27
Live Zoom session, 8pm Eastern

Additional content released

  • Publishers and editors
  • Agents and what they do
  • Submissions
  • Additional resources including, “Query Writing is All About the Pitch” and more!

Friday, October 29
Live Zoom Office Hour, 11am Eastern

Week 7: Getting the Deal
Wednesday, November 3
Live Zoom session, 8pm Eastern

Additional content released

  • Acquisitions
  • The contract
  • Understanding terms and royalties
  • What to watch out for
  • Additional resources including “Believing After 10 Rejections” and more!

Friday, November 5
Live Zoom Office Hour, 11am Eastern

Week 8: What Comes After: The Editing and Publishing Process
Wednesday, November 10
Pre-recorded content released

  • Developmental editing, line-editing, copyediting and proofreading.
  • Design and illustration
  • Production
  • Marketing
  • Distribution
  • The “end”
  • Additional resources including a video highlighting self-publishing in today’s market, and more!

Friday, November 12
Live Zoom Office Hour, 11am Eastern

Week 9: Digging Into Illustration
Wednesday, November 17
Pre-recorded content released

The illustration process:

  • Sketches
  • Approval of sketches
  • Art samples
  • Final art
  • The book design
  • and more with Daria Peoples

Friday, November 19
Final live Zoom Office Hour, 11am Eastern

Week of November 24, no meetings (Thanksgiving)

Week 10: Where Do We Go From Here?
Wednesday, December 1
Final live Zoom session, 8pm Eastern

  • Questions you still have
  • Evaluating your goals and next steps of action

After the workshop:
If you select the option to pair with a mentor for 1:1 feedback and consultation, you will be asked to complete a survey assessing your publishing goals and needs. You will work with your mentor to select a time to meet and materials to exchange.

Nervous about consultations? See how the Highlights Foundation approaches the process here.

A note about workshop agendas and how they change and evolve.


Who should attend? Watch the video.
Into the Woods podcast talks with Harold Underdown about the online Crash Course
7 Quick Tips for Beginning Writers
How to Start Revising That First Draft
Getting Out of the Slush Pile
Questions to Ask BEFORE You Submit Your Story or Art


“I was able to confidently complete my draft and query letter. It was the highlight (no pun intended) of my year! Thank you. I am looking forward to working with my mentor, as well.”

“I loved getting deep insight into the children’s book world today and also a better understanding of the business of the publishing world and how to navigate it. It was a comprehensive overview – and the instructors were positive and supportive.”

“I can’t say enough about the instructors. The knowledge they shared was incredible and very non-threatening to one who is just trying to get started. I found encouragement in the midst of the reality of the hard work and time requirements.”

“I am thrilled with this experience. So many of my questions have been answered and I learned a great deal. Harold is wonderful and I enjoyed listening to him. Allison did a great job, too, especially about query letters.”


Harold Underdown

Harold is an independent children’s book editor and consultant who works with authors and publishers on manuscripts, books, and strategy.…
Learn more

Leah Henderson

Special Guest Leah Henderson has always loved getting lost in stories. When she is not scribbling down her characters’ adventures,…
Learn more