info for emerging creators

Sunday, 1 January 2017

Hello, and welcome to this info-packed post for emerging creators. You've been directed here because people like me are contacted by people like you quite a lot, and although we absolutely love to help, we only have so many hours in our day (what, after working hard on our own creative journeys and having to iron shirts and wash our hair and other completely pesky things like that).

Due to a backlog of contracts and deadlines and pesky hair-washing, I'm hoping this post will help point you in the right direction.

But before you dash off to peruse a stack of resourceful links, do take note of my Don'ts if you're really, truly serious about entering the children's book industry. I figure it's more helpful to know what to avoid than what to 'do', because doing really is common sense (be polite, patient, professional, open, etc) and these 'don'ts' are eye-poppingly common among emerging creators. The following is an abridged excerpt from my Fantastical Flying Creator E-Workshop (more on this below). A warning: what I have to say is pretty frank. But you'll thank me for it one day.


Forget about industry
Becoming industry-involved will fast-track your children's book industry journey exponentially. I cannot overstate this enough. If you'd like to take the long, hard, lonely way, then don't even think about joining such brilliant, priceless organisations as your local writers centre, SCBWI, the CBCA, the ASA, Illustrators Australia or industry equivalents in your country. Join Facebook groups. Go to book launches, conferences, festivals and other events where you can meet and mingle. Meeting publishers is an unbeatable way to fast-track your publishing possibilities. See How to be a Successful Writing Festival or Conference Delegate. And don't underestimate taking the initiative, either. Review books for someone. Start an exciting new group or artistic initiative.

Forget to thank
When emerging creators contact professional creators to ask something of them, I would say at least 85 - 90% don't even respond to the professional. This happens all the time to professional creators and it makes us feel used and undervalued, and frankly, like a number. We take the time to respond to you, and it appears awfully rude, petulant and unprofessional to be contacted and then dumped by a person because they didn't get what they wanted (expecting it for free, I might add). Failing to respond at all (let alone a 'thanks, anyway') is the fastest way to develop a bad name. That professional will remember you forever … and not in a positive way.

Forget to introduce yourself
When emailing or phoning a creator (please email before resorting to the phone, if phone numbers are even available), don't start it with 'Hi, can you do this for me?'. ALWAYS use a salutation (e.g. Hi, TANIA), say who you are, and then launch into your reason for contact. Common decency, non? Oh--and don't forget to respond and thank.

Be impatient
Publishers are overloaded and frantically busy. They can't respond to every request or submission, quite simply because there is no manpower and the subs far outweigh the ability to get back to you. Submissions are a teensy, tiny part of their workload, and as publishing teams shrink and our industry continues to grow (yay!), wait times will only get worse. Be patient, kind and show you're easy to work with. By all means, if you want to kybosh any chance with a publisher, become impatient, indignant and rude.

Expect it all
Every journey is as unique as your fingerprints. There is no 'way' to become a children's book creator, and there is no formula or shortcut. You simply need to DO THE WORK. You need to become involved and learn as you go. Take things one step at a time, and know it will take 3 years before you're even 'recognised' in the industry (that's only if you're really proactive and involved) and at least 10 years before you have major success (that's only if you're really proactive and involved). It's a slow burn, and only those who really, truly want it, will get there. How much do you want it? Do the work. Although most children's book creators are enormously generous and supportive, don't expect others to give you the answers. Find them yourself.

Go on the defensive
Don't be defensive about your work. If someone tells you it needs improving, hear them, take what works for you and let go of the rest. This most especially applies to assessments, critiques and feedback—whether done privately or via competitions or services. You simply cannot become belligerent over someone’s point of view, or twist their words into a personal attack (it happens a lot!!). No one wants to work with people like this, let alone publish them. Remember that feedback is designed to pull out the things that are going WRONG with your work. Sending you a sheet outlining all the fabulous parts of your work is absolutely counterproductive. You will get nowhere with your writing (or illustrating) if all you want is a ‘wow, this is great, well done!’. Reacting badly screams volumes about how far you still have to go as a writer. It also screams ‘mediocrity’. The better the creator, the better the understanding of the concept of improvement and growth (also known as The Gap).

When you embark on your creator journey, it's very exciting. You'll put a heck of a lot of energy and enthusiasm into your book's promotion, but be wary of using a foghorn. Be positive and promote your work, yes, but don't bombard, don't self-laud, don't use capital letters and exclamation points and inflated hyperbole. Don’t use repetitive or rambling text, don't plug your work like it's a Demtel ad and never, ever describe you or your work as amazing, hilarious, brilliant, five-star or in any other way highly-rated. That's for other people to decide.

Not in person, not online. Develop genuine friendships instead. You can be a fan of someone, sure, but be respectful and transparent.

Take take take
It's not all about you. There are many generous and wonderful people who are willing to give their time and energy to you, so do the same for others. Karma is alive and well in this industry and what you give is absolutely what you'll receive.

Keep keep keep
Many people, when entering this industry, become fearful that there’s not enough space for everyone—for new books or new ideas. Or they worry their idea will be 'stolen'. The first thing I think is: 'tickets!', but seriously, ideas are cheap (actually, they're free and no one has copyright on an idea). It's the years of work and dedication and talent that make an idea into a wonderful product or book. Chronic keepers may feel compelled, through irrational fear, to withhold information, opportunities, aid, ideas, concepts, skills, contacts and more, just in case someone ‘steals’ it or—gasp!—succeeds, thanks to you. Keep things to yourself at your own peril, child of the universe. Or tuck them in a drawer, hide them from the world … and get nowhere.

Be grudging
It’s easy to notice the people who resent the work or success of others. They'd rather choke than offer praise or congratulations. Be happy for others and their success. This is so important. Like the Keeper, the Grudger attracts nothing but missed opportunity. For me, there is nothing more joyful than seeing someone else succeed. Sometimes it feels even better than my own successes. Being happy for others has a beneficial flown-on affect most people don’t even realise—on both physical and metaphysical levels. I highly recommend it.

Be afraid
Don't succumb to fear or anxiety on this writing journey. Just don’t. Move through it and have faith in yourself. Take one small step at a time and you'll be amazed how magically everything unfolds at just the right time (also known as Being On the Right Path). Develop a thick skin—creative industries sometimes need rhino hides.

Be indignant
When submitting your work for competitions, do not contact the organisers to have a bitch and moan about your failure to shortlist, or the feedback you received. Do not be openly hostile or abusive. Do not be passive aggressive or prickly. Take a deep breath and accept things, even if you disagree with them. Remember, this is one person’s opinion, and writing, like art, is highly subjective. If you're intent on burning bridges, developing a bad reputation and exponentially lessening the possibility of being respected or even published, being indignant is the way to do it. Develop that rhino hide!

Suck people dry
As you learn and grow and seek aid and support, be mindful of becoming a drain on people's time. Source the info yourself first (you will almost certainly find it by googling, seriously), then if you simply must contact someone or ask something of them, be really mindful, super-efficient and organised. For example, don't ask someone to be a blog tour host and then let them do all the work. You'll be so much more successful if you have everything planned and sorted in advance. Also, endless emailing and questions can compromise any relationship after a while. And at events, a handful of questions is fine, but never EVER corner a creator and monopolise their time and energy for an extended period of time. It's cruel and opportunistic, which no one likes. When you’re offered advice or aid, be respectful of the time donated to you and THANK people for it. This goes for paid advice or aid, too. And, to be honest, you really should offer to pay for someone's professional time and advice. When you develop real and mutual industry friendships, you'll be there for each other, gratis, but until then, do be prepared to pay for aid, just as you would in any other business.

Be a doormat
A smart creator is prepared to do a lot for little return in their early years, but do watch out for the leeches and the people who will milk your enthusiasm for all it's worth because trust me, they’re out there. In short, you should never be taken advantage of or repeatedly asked to do something for nothing. A little is okay, especially if it resonates with you or is to your benefit in some way. There is NOTHING wrong with benefiting from proposals. You are not a charity (although I do recommend volunteer work!). When it comes to contra deals, you should also ensure the ‘deal’ is fair. Weigh it up carefully and go with your gut (it's never wrong). As you develop your career and become well-known, you’ll be consistently asked to do a lot for nothing, including give advice and mentor. Find a way to balance this so you can be generous without being ruined.

Do nothing
Do the work. 10,000 hours of it, minimum. Writers write. Illustrators illustrate. Every word and every brushstroke adds to your skillset and talent and the likelihood of publication. Ever grow, learn and hone your skills. Put your head down and don't look sideways.

Run your own race. Stop comparing yourself to others and worrying about the success of others. Nothing will squash creativity faster. Do you own thing.

Judge or gossip
No one is ever an overnight success. Don't judge their journey or presume they are a certain type of person. Online personas are especially inaccurate, and many online people are nothing like they are in real life. We never know what's going on in another person's world or why they act the way they do. We also never know who knows whom, and who shares what with whom. We are a small industry, so be ever kind and don't resort to judgment or gossip.

Forget to READ!!!
Whether entering competitions, applying for grants, asking for a book review, submitting a manuscript or contacting media, READ guidelines and outlines carefully, several times. Take your time and ensure you’re clear and are doing things accurately, before submitting/making contact/asking questions that don’t need to be asked. It will exponentially up your chances of anything, across the board.

Don't expect anything. Ever. Most especially from publishers who are holding your life’s work tightly in fist. It will help you navigate the disappointment that runs so consistently parallel with this career path. Lower your expectations, and the disappointments will slide off your back, and your wins will be so much sweeter. Good advice for life in general, really. 

Best advice you’ll ever receive...
Don't give up. Ever.

And now for some resources:
ask tania
My series of posts help new creators navigate their way through the kids' book industry. There are loads of topics covered, that will likely answer many of your questions. I'm open for new questions here and there throughout the year, so click above poster for more information.
resources for authors and illustrators
This series of in-depth author/illustrator resource posts are enormously helpful to those wanting an industry leg-up.
the fantastical flying creator 
Oh how I wish this had been around when I was starting out. Tania McCartney is the real deal — she knows her stuff inside out. And what’s more, she shares her knowledge with grace, wit and unwavering enthusiasm. The Fantastical Flying Creator is a gift. Grab it! I cannot recommend it more highly. - author Jen Storer. Click the poster above for more information.

If you would like to connect with me in person at an event, see...
Upcoming events, talks and workshops

If you would like to see how I prepare for school visits and speaking events, see... Author visits/speaking 

Also see my resources for adults on my website, for things like teaching notes.

I have run a very busy blog since 2007, featuring an enormous amount of content on themes such as travel, photography, crafts, gardening, baking, decorating and design, Christmas, and kids' parties series of posts. See a list of blog post topics here and there is also a labels list in the right hand column of the blog. There's stacks of writing posts on there.
kids' book review
For a brilliant children's book resource, be sure to frequent Kids' Book Review, which I founded in 2009, and is currently managed by Dimity Powell.
52-week illustration challenge
When I founded the 52-Week Illustration Challenge in 2014, I never dreamed it would become what it is today. Now operating with over 6000 members, the Challenge is now in its third year and is not under the direction of Kirsty Collett. Challenge members even exhibited for Arts Brookfield in March 2015! Click the logo above for the Facebook member page, and there is also a Facebook Community Page and a blog. The group is so large, it's only opening for two months of the year, normally November and April.

I hope this helps you on your shining creative journey.


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