Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Picture Book Workshop #39: Giving and Receiving Advice

This weekend, at Open Studio Hartford, I was approached twice by people who had aspirations of publishing children's books.

This is not rare or irritating.  I'm totally cool with people approaching me with inquiries.  But sometimes - sometimes - these people are not really all that serious about the craft of writing or the business of publishing.  Sometimes, they just want a secret pass to fame & fortune.

If you are a published writer, you know the secret as well as I do.  It's called busting your butt. 

And if you are a writer who wants to be published, there, I just spilled the beans.

I usually tell people that they need to buy ONE BOOK on writing and publishing for children, preferably something current that might discuss the ins and out of self-publishing as well as traditional publishing.  They need to read THE WHOLE BOOK cover-to-cover, then they'll have a much better grasp of how to proceed.

People who are serious about becoming writers will usually stop there.  They understand that they have to educate themselves.  Maybe they have a follow-up question about which books I have read or SCBWI or how to get involved in a critique group, or something that shows they have an idea of what's involved.

But some people - some people - really just want me to boil down all my knowledge and experience into 5 Easy Steps to Becoming a Children's Book Author.  And some people - some people - want me to read their work, critique it (but not really), pass it along to my agent, and do all the work for them.

When this happens, I try to be as polite and professional as I can.  I restate my earlier advice of getting a book on writing, suggest they look into finding a critique group (maybe through their local library) and offer my editing services for a fee.

If you ARE one of these people, just know that a lot of work goes into writing any kind of book.  In addition to writing, authors have to constantly think about marketing, social media, author appearances.  We are crazy busy - and almost everyone I know has kids, a spouse, a home, medical issues, a grocery list, three piles of laundry, bills to pay, leaves to rake, and a bunch of other stuff to deal with.  Unless the author you are requesting a free critique from is a dear friend whom you've helped out a number of times, PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE do not ask for free services.

I, for one, hope that everyone who wants to write for children is able to do so.  Maybe you want to make it your career and put the work in and get published and win awards.  Maybe you self-publish 100 copies and sell them locally.  Whatever it is, I want you to succeed.  But you have to do the work.  I have my own work to do.

And I'm off to do it now!


Anna Staniszewski said...

Exactly. I'm happy to help people who are willing to do the work, but there are definitely some people who want the work done for them. I like your advice to have them read a book on writing. I'll have to use that next time someone asks me "how you get a book published."

Julie_c said...

Anna - you just said that so much more eloquently than I did! :)

Mirka Breen said...

Spot-on. I just had one of those "some people" approach me last week.
If it's a real life friend, I point them to a few of the resources that helped me when I began. If they are not, I send them directly to Harlod Underdown's Idiot Guide to Writing and Publishing Children's Books, because it is a genuinely great starting place, and one of the words in it expresses my angst.

Amber Hamilton said...
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Amber Hamilton said...

The other day I blogged by posting a story called, "Pig Writes a Book". I think I'll make copies of it to hand people who ask me this once I have a book of my own. Lol! No, not really, but it does cover the basics of your blog post. I've taken a detour from submissions to raise two babies, which may be part of the reason, but I'm still not published in the book market. It's a long, hard road. (I am an author of magazine stories for children.)

Johnell DeWitt said...

I did a lot of dumb things when I was starting out, but thankfully, I never did this. I do have friends in the industry so I could have, but something saved me from doing it. I wish that same something had saved me from sending out my first few submission. Ugh!

Vikash Kumar said...
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