by Annette Schottenfeld and Jennifer Buchet
The stars have aligned and “the” response you’ve been waiting for, in what seems like forever, arrives…"We’d like to acquire your manuscript for publication." After contract signing, celebrating, social media announcements, & coordinating with your editor (and possibly illustrator), your release date is at long last approaching.
As you experience this amazing & wonderful next level of the publishing process, here are just five (of many!) things we wish we knew ahead of time:
1. Build relationships with your local indie bookstores and libraries before your book’s release.
This may sound daunting, especially for writers & illustrators, as we tend to be a bit of an introverted bunch. Make a list of local bookstores and libraries in your area, then make plans to visit them. When visiting bookstores introduce yourself to the owner and/or manager, and at local libraries, meet the children’s librarian(s) and strike up a conversation. Booklovers are a friendly sort and there’s lots to connect over. No need to “hard sell” the first time you meet someone—that can wait until you actually have book in hand!
2. Keep a list of tips and ideas for book promotion.
Once our books were under contract, we immediately began researching how to promote them. Your agent/publisher should provide guidance, but there are also great blogs and websites with quality tips, including Kidlit 411 & SCWBI, and of course, social media. Make note of any associated costs, so you can budget accordingly.
3. Speak to published authors and start a calendar of tasks to complete leading up to your release date.
Keeping a calendar is so important! Depending on your lifestyle, perhaps only one task a week is realistic or maybe five are attainable. And, support these published authors and illustrators by reviewing their work on Amazon and Goodreads, and requesting their books at your local library (which gives you a great conversation starter, too!) Remember that the 6 months up to your book’s release are important promotional months.
4. Join a debut group for support, ideas and cross promotion.
The kidlit world is a supportive, loving community and joining a debut group (or book birthday group, if this isn’t your first rodeo) is very important. Check on Twitter and other social media platforms for groups to join. But don’t join too many at once—remember, you’ll be expected to support others in your group in return for their support. More so, you’ll learn a lot by chatting with folks walking the same path as you.
5. Pace yourself, your job is far from over.
This is one of the hardest things to remember. You think you’re all done once contract is in hand then, boom—edits are needed, boom—pre-sales marketing hits, boom—your debut group needs help, boom—more edits are coming! And of course, there’s always that sequel or two you may want to write!
Writing and illustrating children’s books is a true marathon, not a race. Yet with the support of others, the run can actually be fun vs grueling.
Stay strong and create on, friends!
Annette's debut picture book, OBI'S MUD BATH and Jennifer's debut picture book, LITTLE MEDUSA'S HAIR DO-LEMMA are both launching in late 2020 with Clear Fork Publishing. Both authors are currently working hard on their next books and of course, pre-marketing their soon-to-be-released picture books!
You can chat with both authors on Twitter at any time! Strike up a conversation with Annette @nettschott or shoot the breeze with Jennifer @yangmommy..
By Sandra Sutter
Our last post, by the fabulous Melissa Stoller, focused on the benefits of critiques. I am fortunate to have a number of wonderful critique partners that have pushed my manuscripts to be the best they can be. And, I hope I have done the same for them. Being an effective and supportive critique partner is just as important as receiving critiques and applying them to your work.
Which brings me to the focus of this post. What can you bring to your critique group to be a positive and productive member?
Some of you may know that I am a course assistant at the Children’s Book Academy (CBA). One of my jobs is to set up the critique groups at the beginning of each course. That means I get to see a LOT of groups as they are formed. Some go on after the class is over and some do not. I met my very first critique partners in the same way – when I took the picture book writing course in 2017. Here are a few things I have learned over the last two years.
Critique with kindness. I borrow this phrase from Dr. Mira Reisberg because she stresses this in her courses at CBA. I think it is the most important principle to remember when handling others’ work. This does not mean you cannot be honest if something doesn’t seem to be working in a manuscript, but it does mean you should find a way to say it appropriately. It also sounds a bit like the Golden Rule, doesn’t it? Treat others as you would like them to treat you (and your manuscript).
Be accepting of differences. Every writer has particular likes and dislikes, their own style of writing, and a unique vision for their work. It will not always be the same as yours’. Focus on the story elements, understanding the authors’ goals, and whether the language (including rhyme and meter) works well together. Ask questions and make suggestions that might be helpful, but understand that it is not your story. If the person ignores what you have to say, let it go.
Pull your weight and be flexible. One thing I love about my critique partners is that we keep our promises. Does this mean we are always on time with critiques? That we always have a manuscript ready to share? That we follow our ground rules perfectly? No. But we communicate our needs and expectations. We understand when someone has a vacation, a family emergency, job responsibilities, or even times of burnout. We trust that the work will get done – because it does. And when someone needs help quickly, we respond. It’s a flexible system of responsibility and accountability, in addition to support and encouragement.
As you can tell, I have some wonderful critique partners. Here’s a big shout out to them all . . . You’re the best!
Sandra is the author of the award-winning THE REAL FARMER IN THE DELL (illustrated by Chantelle & Burgen Thorne), released from Spork/Clear Fork Publishing in March 2019. Her second picture book, STAN'S FRIGHTFULLY CLUMSY HALLOWEEN, comes out in 2020. In addition to picture books, Sandra writes chapter books, middle grade and young adult novels and has a secret wish to be an illustrator (but shhhhh . . . she doesn’t quite have the talent for that yet). She lives with her husband and two spunky, but loveable, kids in the heart of the Kentucky Bluegrass region.
You can find out more about Sandra and her work at: