So You Want to Be a Children’s Book Author?
5 Things You Need to Do RIGHT NOW
by Erin Dionne
Congratulations! You want to write a children’s book…and you have no idea what to do next. Well, here are five steps you can take that will get you in the right direction and help get your career off the ground. Just remember me when you make that Newberry or Caldecott acceptance speech, mmmkay?
1. Read. Read. Read. (Actually, this could fill three out of the five slots). Read what you loved as a kid, but—more importantly—read what’s current in the market. Check out the NY Times bestseller list, the latest award winners, the “what’s new for kids” table at your local indie bookseller. Familiarize yourself with the topics that are being covered and the amazing talent and range of work being published. Books for kids aren’t what they used to be—even ten years makes a huge difference in publishing.
2. Write. Duh…right? Well, you’d be surprised at how many people say they want to be writers but never get around to actually writing anything. You have to pay to play, people. Or, in this case, write to write. You don’t have to write every day, or at the same time, but you have to write something. So put the BIC (butt in chair), and get to work!
3. Make friends in the industry. Go to readings at bookstores and libraries or on campus. They’re free, and authors love to talk about their books, process, and answer all kinds of questions. The more you expose yourself to writers, the more you’ll want to write and the better writer you’ll become—you’ll feel challenged to create a scene as beautifully as Sarah Dessen, or you’ll remember what Lois Lowry said about revision, and apply it to your own work.
4. Read blogs. Agents and authors are blogging and tweeting and facebooking like crazy, all to share info about the publishing process and giving great insight into this wild ride of publication. Check out pubrants.blogspot.com (Agent Kristin Nelson’s blog) or mandyhubbard.livejournal.com (author/agent Mandy Hubbard’s blog) as places to get started.
5. Join a critique group. Find like-minded people who you trust to not just tell you when your writing is great (that’s what moms are for), but to tell you when your work needs…well…more work. Organizations like SCBWI (The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) can help you find—or start—a critique group. Then practice being a great listener, learning to take criticism and applying it to your masterpiece.
Following these five steps will give you a solid foundation in building the skills you need to become a published author—an understanding of the current market, strong editorial skills, and knowledge of the industry. Once you have that, you’ll have all the skills you need to be a success!