As every author knows, the path to publication can be a difficult one. But this doesn’t make it any less enjoyable or worthwhile. I hope that by sharing my experiences with you that I can help make your journey a little easier. They say that writing is a lonely occupation. It doesn’t need to be. With social media, networking and conference opportunities becoming more accessible, it’s easier to stay in touch and get that support you need to help you become published.
It took me three years to get my first picture book deal and that was with a small, boutique publisher called Windy Hollow Books.
Bearly There, published by Windy Hollow Books, was the first picture book contract I was offered.
When I started out, I really had no idea of what I was doing. I didn’t know what genre or age group I wanted to write for. I didn’t know the word limits for each market segment. I didn’t know who the publishers were in the market… I was very green.
Despite my passion for books, stories and writing. I literally knew nothing.
And that’s when I realised, I needed to educate myself.
I didn’t have the finances available to attend a university course and, being the full time carer of two very young children, I didn’t have the time to dedicate to long term study.
How could I educate myself quickly, effectively and without breaking the bank, I wondered?
I put my thinking cap on and started doing what every good author does: research.
I soon discovered that there were writers’ centres, writing workshops and NETWORKS that I could join. Associations like the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI), the Children’s Book Council of Australia (CBCA), the Australian Society of Authors (ASA) and the Fellowship of Australian Writers (FAW). Just to name a few.
There were lots to choose from and each came with a membership fee.
Northern Sydney CBCA Sub-Branch Members:
Kate Forsyth, Belinda Murrell, Antonette Diorio and Aleesah Darlison.
I also discovered writing competitions. A quick google search, or joining up to regular e-newsletters like Buzz Words and Pass It On, provided details of writing competitions that were open all around Australia and overseas. Competitions that provided a theme to write to, a deadline, sometimes feedback and if I was clever enough and lucky enough a certificate for winning or placing and even monetary prizes!
Just like there were lots of networks to choose from with membership fees attached, there were lots of writing competitions to choose from. With entry fees attached.
I wasn’t earning money from my writing, but it was going to cost me money to get my career off the ground.
I realised that maybe I’d have to approach this business of writing just like it was a business.
I would need a budget for my expenditure. But it wasn’t just going to be my expenditure. I had to view the money I was spending as an INVESTMENT. An investment in my career, my dreams, my fulfillment and satisfaction.
I’d need seed funding – that’s what they call it if you’re starting up a business.
If I wanted to be a doctor or lawyer, a nurse or builder, there would be a period of time where I would have to study and learn my profession. It would take time and money and dedication. Any profession does.
And that’s when I had my AHA! moment. If I was really serious about becoming a commercially published author, if I really wanted to make the grade, be good enough to be noticed amongst all those other brilliant (and already published) authors out there … I would have to learn the craft. And yes, it would require an investment of funds.
I’m not talking about millions of dollars here. You don’t need to spend a fortune on workshops, courses, mentorships, competitions, association memberships.
But you do need to spend something.
And not just money.
You need to spend your time and energy. You need to put yourself out there and invest YOURSELF in becoming an author. You need to immerse yourself in the industry.
How do you do this?
SCBWI Representatives attending the 2016 SCBWI Conference in Sydney.
Well, networking is one way you can invest and immerse.
If you join a network, make sure you go along to the meetings. Make sure you get to know the people in that network. Not just for what you can learn, or take from them, but for what you can give them. Networking is a two-way street. And it takes time to get to know something. Lots and lots of time. But, hey, that’s the fun part.
Okay, so I know I’m digressing a little here. There’s so much to learn after all! I’m going to save the topic of networking for the next Greenleaf Press Newsletter where I’ll give you some tips on what to do and what not to do when networking.
For now, I’d like the take-home message to be this:
There are four key things you can do to kick start your author or illustrator career.
Number 1: Enter Writing Competitions.
Number 2: Join associations and networks.
Number 3: Attend workshops, courses, conferences and festivals.
Number 4: Be prepared to invest in yourself.
Create an annual budget for how much you want to spend, or can afford to spend on working towards your publication goal. Then use that budget wisely throughout the year to help you achieve your aim.
I hope this information has been of some help to you and I look forward to sharing more information next time about networking.
One of the unpublished manuscripts in the Totally Twins Series was shortlisted (Highly Commended) in a writing competition. I ended up publishing four books in the series with New Frontier.