Monday, March 14, 2011

How to Succeed in Children’s Publishing, Without Really Trying In Six Easy Steps

Hmm. That doesn’t sound right does it?

The movie, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying (1967) directed by David Swift or the newly remounted Broadway show, starring Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter) and John Laroquette is a comedy but is pursuing a career as a children’s author a comedy or a tragedy? Maybe creating a career in the kid’s biz of publishing is a dramady—a bit of the comic and a bit of the tragic. But the only real tragedy, as we read last Monday, is not trying.

But how do we create a career? You got me? I am still figuring it out but I have learned a few things in my ten year pursuit to publish and my now two years on the shelves.  And here they are:

  1.  Put writing first.             

No, this doesn’t mean to ignore your family and friends, to not do well at your day job, or to let the laundry pile up until it buries you alive. But what it does mean is keep creating as a top priority.

2.     2.  Keep reading.

It can be hard to find the time to read when there are school visits to book, presentations to create, blogs to write and read. But keep reading. Read critically. Read for pleasure. Just read.

3.      3. Attend the biz of writing workshops/read biz of writing blogs

Do we twitter? Facebook? Blog? V-log? Create fliers? Audio clips? Podcasts? Social media is here and it is here to stay. Go learn from PR professionals but remember your first priority is not to run a social media empire. It is to write. So write and pick the couple of business tools that feel good to you. 

Greg Leitich Smith works the tech for the Holler Loudly About Alien Invasions and Truth with a Capital T Book Party
4.   Create Community.

We are not in this alone. Even if you live in the Artic tundra or on the equator and you think there are no other children’s authors or illustrators around, look. Are there any in your town? Your state? Becoming an Austinite was easy. We have a thrilling and thriving kid-lit community here but even if you aren’t in Austin tap into the creative people in your area. Together you can lick wounds, celebrate successes and keep the solitary confinement to times when you are deep in the cave. 

5.     5.  Pay it forward.

All artists have mentors. When a writer whose work we admire sees something in us—believe them. They have been where you are. They are lending a helping hand. Take it. Listen. Be grateful and don’t forget to pay it forward. When your time comes, and you see a talented newer writer—reach out.

6.       6. Develop a split personality. 

Author Jenny Shank, who I mentioned in last week’s post on perfectionism, advises:
“You can’t stop looking if you want to publish a book; you just have to compartmentalize the looking. I turned my publication-seeking activities over to a fragment of my personality…let’s call him Johnny Business—while the rest of me didn’t think about it, worry about it, and went about my days without pining over it. What Johnny Business does is none of my business.”

So how does that work?  Well, the business side of you keeps sending out work while the creative side of you is creating. The business side of you thinks about ways to raise your profile while the creative side is creating. The business side of you works a business plan, makes contacts, follows them up, while the creative side of you is creating. Think of it as the yin and yang or rather the Biz and the Whiz. The biz side of you is necessary but without the inner whiz- kid creating there would be nothing for Biz to do.

Creating a career is not a knee-slapping musical comedy—not even if Harry Potter appears and dances across the stage.  The title of this post should be: How to Succeed in Children’s Publishing, While Really, Really Trying.

 It takes more than six easy steps. It takes a lot of trial and error. It takes a lot of chocolate and wine. It takes a lot of work and even more access to one’s inner whiz-kid.  Simply put, it takes what it takes.

And speaking of community, check out the Awesome Austin Goings On:

From Publisher's Marketplace:

Jo Whittemore's D IN DRAMA, about a group of drama school losers who are perpetually cast as trees and nameless villagers, but hatch a plan to upend the status quo and create their own starring roles, again to Alyson Heller at Aladdin, by Jennifer Laughran at Andrea Brown Literary Agency.

Philip Yates's A PIRATE'S TWELVE DAYS OF CHRISTMAS, companion to the popular A PIRATE'S NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS, to Sterling Children's, for publication in Fall 2012, by Quinlan Lee at Adams Literary (World).


Alvina Ling at Little, Brown has bought world rights for Chris Barton and Tom Lichtenheld's companion picture book to Shark vs. Train, for publication in spring 2013. Erin Murphy at the Erin Murphy Literary Agency is the agent for the author, and Amy Rennert at the Amy Rennert Agency is the agent for the artist. 
For  an interview with Chris Barton about his latest non-fiction offering head on over to Kathi Appelt's blog where she has interviewed an in-depth interview titled: The Real Chris Barton.

Also, since March Madness is upon us look for an Inside the Writer's Studio Interview Tuesday through Thursday this week.

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