Monday, April 23, 2007

How Do I Get Published?


This is a common question authors get from writers who dream of being published someday. The problem is there’s no magic bullet. And no simple answer. Getting published takes tremendous work and dedication, and sometimes even a bit of luck. A writer and his/her work needs nurturing and time, like planting a seed, caring for it, and watching it grow into a healthy beautiful plant that gives oxygen back to the world.

Asking a published writer the name of their editor won’t help you (and is not included in “Miss Manners Etiquette Guide for Children’s Writers”—okay, I just made that up, but isn’t it a great idea?). Neither will being pushy with an editor, or mass-submitting your manuscript to every children’s editor you can find. The fact is it all takes time. You didn’t step from high school into your current job position you’re in today. It took time to develop your skills through education and experience.

So what’s the best piece of advice for a new children’s writer? It’s your lucky day, because I’m going to give you a “two-for” (two for the price of one, which in this case, is free).

First, learn your craft. Take classes, read how-to books, read the genre you want to write. Write that first draft then revise it until you can’t change one more word. Put it away for a month then see if you still feel the same way.

The second piece of advice—and this is the yardstick I use for serious writers vs. those who dream about it—join the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators (SCBWI). When you join, you’ll receive a fabulous handbook filled with so much information it will make your head whirl. They have two annual conferences (summer in LA, winter in NY). They provide a terrific networking opportunity for their members, guidance on writing, and realistic information on the marketing your work, once you’re at that point. Regional chapters offer workshops, retreats and one-day events, all related to writing for children. You can be involved as much or as little as you choose, but there’s something to be said for participating and developing camaraderie with other children’s writers.

The road to publication has its potholes, turns and detours. We all have to find our way through, but first learning how to drive (developing the craft) and having the SCBWI as a roadmap will make your trip much more pleasant!

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