Do You Have What It Takes to Be a Picture Book Author?
One of the most frequent questions is, "How do I become a picture book author?" The aspiring author usually has an idea waiting to be unleashed, though this need not always be the case. But almost without fail, she is usually a parent or grandparent who has made up stories to her children/grandchildren and is now itching to get them published.
I'm always happy to hear that the oral tradition of storytelling is alive and well and I encourage all parents to continue inventing bedtime stories to their little ones. However, publishing your story is entirely different ball game, especially if you decide to go through a traditional publisher. Unless you are Madonna or Jay Leno or any of the 55 celebrities here who have written a children's book (yes, that many!), be prepared for long haul. I know many excellent writers who have been writing for years, if not more than a decade, who have never gotten published. Some of them are churning out their twentieth manuscript even as I write, while others have opted for the self-publishing route.
So, without launching into a sermon of what you need to do or not do in order to get that publishing contract, here is a list of questions to "assess" your candidacy as a picture book author.
1) Do you read enough picture books to fill a truck bed? (And I don't mean when you were a kid.)
2) Have you written at least one manuscript?
3) Do you dedicate a regular amount of time each month to writing?
4) Are you a member of your local writing community?
5) Have you joined your local chapter of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI)?
6) Do you have a writing group that gives you constructive and honest feedback on your work?
7) Do you know if your story has already been published?
8) Do you attend writing workshops or conferences?
9) Can you take at least 50 rejections from literary agents/publishers without throwing in the towel?
10) Are you always brimming with ideas for the next manuscript?
If you've answered yes to at least half of my questions, congrats--you're on the right track!
If you've answered yes to everything but still aren't published, don't give up. The yellow brick road may be long, winding and even lonely--Dorothy probably had it better--but stick with it and the reward you reap will be well worth the tears and perspiration.