Yesterday I attended a North Central/Northeast Texas SCBWI chapter meeting with featured speakers Jan Peck, David Davis, and Carol Barreyre. Over the next few days, I'll share some of the writing insights they shared with the writers and illustrators atttending.
The hook for the meeting was a clever count-down comparison from Carol Barreyre, firstname.lastname@example.org: "How Writing is Like Dating." She graciously agreed to let me share her list with you.
Most of us remember what it was like to date. You put yourself out there, feel vulnerable, take risks, and sometimes get hurt. Submitting the results of our creative labors evokes many of those same feelings. It is a piece of ourselves. If we find our match, it is paradise. If our work is rejected, you feel like you've been rejected too. Here are a few tips to consider as you step out into the publishing world.
10. You wouldn't go out on a date half dressed. So, finish your manuscript.
Avoid submitting something that isn't complete. An agent or editor may ask for the whole thing. Hooray! But if you don't have the entire manuscript, an opportunity is wasted.
9. It's like looking in the mirror before walking out the door. You're first draft isn't ready for querying without another look.
Make sure it's polished (shoes shined, hair combed, spelling corrected, plot plotted) before it leaves your front door.
8. When you're dating, you need friends. Critique groups are a must.
I belong to two critique groups. They are invaluable! They provide you with "fresh eyes" and help you find the weaknesses and strengths of your "date".
7. You don't hit on every man or woman out there. Be selective about querying agents and editors.
Do your homework so you can find that perfect match. There are several great market guides out there (including one published by SCBWI). Haunt bookstores. Talk to librarians and sales clerks. Do internet searches. Stay informed.
6. Match.com or eHarmony.com? Do you need an agent?
Like a blind date, sometimes you need someone to help you find that perfect match. If you're not having success doing it yourself, look for the help an agent can offer.
5. Sometimes that hottie doesn't return your call. Agents and editors don't owe you a response.
If your book and their house isn't a good fit, if they don't connect, they you might not hear from them. You can followup with them, but don't stalk them. Don't try to force the relationship. If it isn't right, move on.
4. You don't meet Mr./Ms. Right if you don't get out of the house. You have to own your career, make an effort, and submit.
Nobody is going to come knocking on your door. You have to take the initiative and let editors and agents know you exist.
3. Know yourself and your dating goals. Be honest with yourself, the agents, and the editors.
Know up front what you expect to get out of the relationship and how much time you're willing to devote to making it work.
2. You wouldn't skip getting dressed or being select if you didn't use Match.com. No skipping steps 3 through 10 even if you decide to self publish.
To me, these steps become even more important because you've become you're own editor.
1. We all need help. SCBWI is your lifeline to the children's publishing industry.
I've been a member of SCBWI (Society of Childrens' Book Writers and Illustrators) since 1995. They are an invaluable resource! Check them out at www.scbwi.org.
Finding a life partner can be amazing. By taking steps to ensure a healthy relationship, writing or illustrating books can be a fun, rewarding, and mutually beneficial experience for you and your publisher.