Last night I did an author event at the New Philadelphia Library in New Philadelphia, Ohio. Shout out to them for a wonderful event! I had the pleasure of meeting a couple of aspiring writers and illustrators who wanted more information about publishing children's books. I'm always happy to offer information about this crazy world of publishing because that's what others did for me when I was just starting out. In fact, that is the whole point of Critter Lit! I love that our community of writers and illustrators is supportive of one another. We cheer when someone succeeds and commiserate when someone fails. It's something that I've always loved about my community.
So that got me thinking about what I did to get started. Of course each author or illustrator's journey into this business is unique, but these are some of the things that helped me.
So you want to be a children's book author or illustrator or both! Where to begin? The publishing world is intimidating and overwhelming. Most days it feels remote and untouchable. It's not. You just have to be willing to work incredibly hard and never ever give up. Which is a lot easier said than done. I know. So how do you make something seem possible? Immerse yourself in it. Then it doesn't feel quite so scary.
Tip No. 1 - READ A TON OF BOOKS
First and foremost, you need to educate yourself. Make friends with your local bookseller or children's librarian. Find out which books are being talked about. Which books they love. Which books they see people responding to. The more you read the better you will understand what the market is and what other authors and illustrators are doing. This will also help you understand how your ideas will fit into the market. Who will buy your book? Is it marketable? My first job was in a children's book shop. This is where my education began. That coupled with a voracious reading habit helped me understand the children's book market.
Tip No. 2 - JOIN A WRITING GROUP/CRITIQUE GROUP
You have to get out of your own head and share your work. Finding a group of people who you can share your writing or illustrations with is tremendously helpful. You can give and receive feedback that can make all the difference for your project. I've been apart of the same critique group for a couple years now. We try to meet once a month and share new stuff that each of us is working on. Some of us are author/illustrators and some are authors only. This dynamic has been great for us to get well-rounded responses to our work. I tend to share my ideas with my critique group first before diving in and writing. They have been my barometer for whether or not I have a good idea bouncing around and if I should develop it further.
Tip No. 3 - JOIN SCBWI
SCBWI - The Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators. This is one of the best resources for authors and illustrators, especially if you are just starting out. SCBWI is a national organization with chapters all over the country. Each chapter has their own events (critique groups, meetings, conferences, etc.). There is also a huge Summer and Winter conference in New York and Los Angeles every year. The great thing about SCBWI is that it provides a support group of like-minded individuals. Everyone loves children's books. You can meet editors, art directors, authors, illustrators, book designers, agents, and more through this organization. It's also a place where you can ask lots and lots of questions about the industry and receive answers from professionals currently making books for kids. For more information about SCBWI, click here.
Tip No. 4 - COMMIT
No one is going to write your book for you. If you want to break into publishing you have to be willing to work your butt off. Seriously. This is a tough business. You are your biggest advocate. So stop putting off your writing and just do it. Make a commitment to write every day. Finish your book. Be brave and keep creating what you love.
Tip No. 5 - BE SOCIAL
Make friends. Be supportive. Find out what authors and illustrators are doing. Twitter and Facebook are great resources for this. You never know who you might connect with and where that could lead.
Until next time...