Tips for Getting Your Children's Book Manuscript Published
by Robin Preiss Glasser, Illustrator of FANCY NANCY
In the four years that I have been illustrating Fancy Nancy, I have had the opportunity to meet literally thousands of people who love children's books, which is a real perk for me. I adore speaking to new people and swapping stories. And invariably, wherever I go, people tell me that they have written a children's book, or they know someone who wants to be an illustrator, and they look to me for advice. Although I don't have all the answers - everyone's success story is different - I do have some basic tips and bits of advice for those of you who are interested in trying to get a children's story published.
The first thing you should know is that it isn't easy or for the feint of heart. Be prepared for rejection. After four years of art school, it took me another five long years before I got my first book deal. And even after that it wasn't instant success. People weren't knocking down my door! But I knew that this was what I wanted to do, and with a lot of hard work and perseverance, I finally made it.
In my opinion, poets are our best children's book writers. I'm not suggesting that the best children's writing is in poetry form - it's just that poets know how to express so much in so few words, something you find in the most successful children's books. So poem or prose, if your manuscript is longer that one to three pages, double spaced, start editing.
If you are a writer, but not an illustrator, do not feel that you need an illustrated manuscript to send in to a publisher. That's the job of the editor, who matches manuscripts to the right illustrator. Case in point is my work on Fancy Nancy. I did not even know author Jane O'Connor before our wonderful HarperCollins editor Margaret Anastas put us together. Jane works in New York City, and I am located in Southern California. Isn't technology great?
Take classes in writing children's books. As in any profession, you need to be a specialist of the form. Despite popular belief, not everyone can successfully write a children's book. You need to learn the basics of what works and what doesn't, and then you need to write, write, write.
Talk to the people in your class to see if they want to form a writing group. Peer feedback can be very constructive. In addition, it can be hard to stay motivated in a vacuum. Setting deadlines keeps you going!
Talk to your local children's librarian. They can offer suggestions on what to read. It is important to know what is out there, and you learn so much from reading other people's work. In addition, children's librarians are often passionate readers of children's literature themselves, and may have some wonderful insights to offer on the subject. In addition, look over the books that are on "best of the year" lists and objectively compare your work to what you are seeing.
Find out where the nearest book festivals are being held in your area. Try to attend as many panel discussions as you can so you can hear different writers talk about their work and their approach. (I live near Los Angeles, so I recommend the L.A. Book Festival. It is one of the biggest and best in the country. People come from as far away as Arizona to attend. Plus I'm always there, so stop by to say hello!)
Look into joining the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) www.scbwi.org. SCBWI hosts two annual conferences - one in New York in the winter and one in L.A. in the summer - as well as regional conferences and panel discussions. These conferences are excellent places to hear talks by people in the field, attend workshops, and garner opportunities to talk to editors, agents, and published authors and illustrators.
Don't just stick to one favorite story or idea that you have. Instead of sending out the same manuscript over and over, send out lots of different stories, so editors or agents can see you are versatile and maybe start to remember you. Look for trends. This can be a good way to get your foot in the door.
Check out the book Children's Writer's & Illustrator's Market by Alice Pope, updated and published annually. This invaluable manual is filled with everything you need to know about getting published, as well as current names of publishers, addresses, and the editors who work there. Editors move around a lot, so you need to have up-to-date information.
Once you have a manuscript that is in the proper form -- something you can learn from the book Children's Writer's & Illustrator's Market -- send it out to publishers and agents. When you receive rejection notices, keep them. If that princess story you wrote back in 1992 is resurrected and sold in 2010 now that pink and girly subjects are a hot trend, these will be fun to show at book talks!
If your 10-year-old wrote a manuscript that you think is brilliant, remember that publishers are looking for more mature authors. (My first grader wrote and illustrated my favorite story of all time, The Three Little Tushies and the Big Fat Head. I thought it was genius, but refrained from sending it to my editor at Simon & Schuster.)
And finally - good luck. I've been making art my whole life, but now, at 54, I feel like I am finally getting the hang of it. Don't give up, because eventually someone might take notice!
I recently got the opportunity to speak at Tory Johnson's amazing Spark and Hustle conference in New York City along with Twitter master marketer Ted Rubin. The event brought together female business owners and entrepreneurs and offered tons of great information and advice that we can all apply to help our own businesses grow and flourish.
Our presentation focused on growing your business through social media and I tackled the topic of Twitter and Facebook.
While I have 1000's of virtual followers/friends on Twitter, my immediate friends and professional colleagues have yet to dive in. Some just don't get it, others don't have time for it, while still more think that it's another time sucking activity that they just don't need. If you're an entrepreneur, small business owner or writer and haven't yet signed up for a Twitter account, it's time to dive in.
Don't worry about what to say in your first tweet - the key at first is to listen.
Here are some of tried and true tips for navigating Twitter and Facebook for your business or brand:
1. If you have a local business, search hashtags for your local area or your specialty and join the discussion. Many local cities do regular Tweet ups both online and in person - Twitter offers a great way to connect in real time with fellow entrepreneurs. The key is then connecting offline and solidifying the relationship. In fact, if you live in Westchester, NY you can join #WestChat on Thursdays at 9pm for a lively discussion with like-minded business owners, writers and residents. Visit www.tweetchat.com, enter the hashtag for your Twitter party and start tweeting!
2. Facebook should be utilized for your customers and fans. Create a fan page that people can not only like, but can share their experiences and opinions. My neighbor has a Facebook page called Kimberly's Confections. Think Ace of Cakes in your own backyard. Every time Kim comes up with another amazing creation, she posts it on her Facebook Fan page and her customers and fans share comments. She has hundreds of comments from satisfied customers and the only problem she has now is not having enough time to keep up with all the orders!
3. Create a Facebook Group if you'd like to start an ongoing discussion or chat with friends or people in your field. You can select your group from your Facebook friends. Facebook groups enable you to streamline the discussion. Think of it as a virtual Board of Advisors and/or a focus group who can help you as you make important business decisions. Also - invest in Facebook Ads where you can target your demo - make sure you select the cost per click option rather than cost per impressions. That way, you know that people are actually visiting your website!
5. If you have a compelling story to tell, start blogging. Create a blog function on your site or blog right on Facebook and start sharing your story. Offer tips from your area of expertise, comment on other like-minded blogs and join online blogging communities where you can potentially contribute content and share your experience in a larger venue. If writing isn't your thing - hire an experienced blogger and social media expert who can blog for your site and connect with your core demo via Facebook and Twitter.
Most importantly, don't feel like you have to be all over the place - better to have a targeted approach with regard to social media than to spread yourself thin. Through blogging, listening and participating in discussions on Twitter and engaging your consumers and fans via Facebook, you'll be surprised at how you can drive sales and exposure to your business and your brand.
If you haven't followed us on Twitter yet, then now's your chance, simply click on our @Rolemommy handle and follow us today! If you're interested in joining our Project You Facebook group, we've got the link to that too.
As a publicist, I have been watching the fallout over the latest blogger brouhaha involving the founder of Mommy Networks - a former HR representative who decided to try her hand at "PR" by providing gift cards to bloggers to post, tweet or "Like" positive reviews relating to Toyota. Within a matter of hours, the blogger was called out by the social media community as well as Toyota, which confirmed the company had no relationship with her.
After readily admitting she had no experience in public relations, the blogosphere heaved a collective sigh of relief and then took the woman to task for tainting the perception of bloggers as potential shills for major brands (the woman shuttered her site within 24 hours of the debacle). While there are plenty of PR firms that engage bloggers in a meaningful way to become brand advocates for their clients, there are certain practices that as a publicist, I don't feel comfortable pursuing.
In my opinion, I do not believe that bloggers should be paid to review products. I'd like to add that the Role Mommy Writer's Network does compensate bloggers. However, the posts that are sent to our members include excerpts from books, information about contest opportunities and advertorials relating to a topic that might interest their readers. All compensated posts clearly state that the content is sponsored by our network.
While we do compensate bloggers to syndicate content or adapt an article from our site for their readers, we do not believe that blogger reviews should be compensated. A payment for a review post can potentially taint the perspective of the writer. And if the blogger decides to slam the product after reviewing it, then the project is a bust in the eyes of a client and the PR firm can then find themselves in hot water.
While there are plenty of influential blog sites that review products for free (including Role Mommy), publicists should continue to pitch reviews for products and services just as they would a traditional media outlet. If a blogger responds that they will consider reviewing the product if you compensate them, you should consider another path to reach their readers - perhaps through advertising on their blog or compensating them to write a post that is sponsored by the brand but does not include a review of their product. It is possible to get your message across in a meaningful way without having a blogger become a shill for your products or services.
With marketers honing in on PR by compensating bloggers to post reviews, the role of the public relations professional has become completely marginalized - unless you are able to set aside a budget to compensate bloggers for their time. How can you expect a blogger to review your product if they are being paid to do so by one of your competitors? What I do advocate to clients is to offer creative content (print or video) that a blogger might be more interested in utilizing or adapting for their readers. Or, compensate a blogger to share their personal experience in a post that is sponsored by the brand. Tell a story, don't wax poetic about how amazing your new front loading washer is. Authenticity is the name of the game.
Nevertheless, just as I would never set foot into a dentist's office and claim I know how to perform a root canal, the same holds true for marketers or former HR reps who believe they are now doing PR by compensating bloggers to review products. I wish we could go back to the days where advertisers and PR executives knew which side of the fence they were supposed to stand on, but sadly, we can't. As a result, as this space continues to evolve, as writers, we should strive to provide quality content on our sites without compromising our ethics.
Posted in: PR 365 on 02/26/2011
If you are a member of The List, then over the past two years, you've been receiving all kinds of great opportunities - from media inquiries, to event invites, to product reviews and much more. We are committed to building upon the incredible network of bloggers, freelance writers, authors, experts and entrepreneurs who are all members of our community and as a result, we are thrilled to launch the Role Mommy Writers Network, a syndication platform that will offer you the opportunity to feature paid advertorial content on your blog.
Please be advised, we will not be compensating bloggers to post reviews and will continue to offer you the opportunity to have access to products and services before they hit the mainstream market so that you can share this exclusive information with your readers.
Advertorial posts will be advice driven and at times, will feature videos, photos and/or podcasts that have been written exclusively by bloggers. These articles can be utilized in its entirety on your blog or adapted as you see fit. All members of the network must fully disclose that the posts are sponsored by the Role Mommy Writer's Network.
In addition, this incredible group will have the opportunity to attend writer workshops, events, retreats, interview best selling authors and entrepreneurs and network with like minded women and men who love to write. If you have't already been in touch with us and if you'd like to apply to become a member of The Role Mommy Writer's Network, please fill out the application below and we will notify you if you have been accepted into this exciting new program.
I'm sure I got you there. No, I haven't decided to pack it in and give up my blog but I have seen a lot of women making the conscious decision to walk away from this world in order to spend more time with their families or pursuing careers IRL (in real life for those of you new to the whole bloggy/tech scene). You see, when you first start blogging, it can actually be really cathartic. You share your innermost secrets that you can't tell your real friends, you connect with like minded souls across the country, you plan to meet them in person and you do, and then you start getting contacted by publicists to attend events, review products, possibly go on all expense paid trips, the memories can be priceless. But what do you have to show for it?
Have you been able to turn your passion for blogging into a business or have you tried for years and for some reason, something just doesn't seem to be clicking? Do you get frustrated when you see other bloggers succeeding while you're struggling to make a dent in a world that already seems pretty overpopulated at the moment? Let's get down to the heart of the matter shall we?
Blogging certainly means different things for different people.
For many women who are pioneers in this world, blogging is about great writing. It's about storytelling, as we instantaneously share those intimate moments when something incredible or heartbreaking happens in our lives.
A blog can be a forum for individuals who are passionate about causes to band together to make a difference in the lives of those less fortunate than themselves.
A blog can be a mom's connection to individuals in the outside world who might be going through the same thing she is - sleep deprivation, post partum depression, parenting a child with special needs.
It's a wonderful motivator - just look at Bookie Boo and her Mamavation campaign which has swept through the Internet encouraging women to take back their bodies and lose weight!
Blogging can be a hobby and it can also be an addiction.
When your child is begging you to get off the computer so that you can help them with their homework, school project or take them off to buy clothes for summer camp - it's time to step away and return back to life as we know it.
For me, blogging has been an amazing and surprising experience. I have met some of the most talented writers in our nation - many of them humor writers, since that's my passion, and have made lasting relationships that I am certain will endure throughout my life. I have been inspired by the bloggers who rally against adversity and protect their own when tragedy strikes. I have been incredibly disappointed and shocked by women who hurl mean-spirited comments on Twitter and ascend to their own bully pulpit via their own blogs. And I have also felt incredible respect toward the women who have managed to turn their passion for blogging into a successful business. (Still trying to figure out that one as I write this post - damn how I wish my hubby was an IT guy).
As my children continue to grow and need me more (trust me new moms, it doesn't get easier, it just gets harder), what I've come to realize is that I need to keep my blogging in check. I will never give it up because writing is my passion, but I am finding ways to bang out blog posts when my kids are fast asleep (um, that would be now), at a friend's house for a play date or during my work day when inspiration strikes.
If you believe that you will be able to build a brand because you have a blog, just know that the work you have in front of you is incredibly arduous. I'm not saying you should give up - just don't try everything at once. You don't need to criss cross the state attending dozens of conferences - just choose the ones where you'll get to connect with your online friends while learning how to take your passion for blogging to the next level.
And it's perfectly fine to continue blogging as a hobby. This is not a race - it is a marathon - an uphill one at that, and the more you blog, the more you build a loyal following who may be interested in what you say or might just be entertained by your writing.
Don't get down if people don't comment. There are amazing bloggers who are great at engaging their audience. Others may have lurkers on their blog who read and move on - either way - if you are happy with your writing, don't look for validation online. Connect with other writers you admire and respect and find out how they've managed to perfect their craft.
Join a writer's group or a book club. Step away from the laptop and meet people in real time where you can discuss the things you love or help one another achieve your personal or professional goals.
Spend time with your family and friends. I remember one old friend telling me she keeps up with me through my Facebook and blog posts. That's not how I want her to keep up with me - I want to see her more. Get the chance to have dinner or a glass of wine and laugh the way we used to when we were back in high school.
Technology can be a blessing and a curse. It can enrich your life by exposing you to opportunities and friends you never even knew existed. But it can also suck time away from the ones we love. At the end of the day, blogging should not be all consuming. And as you're cruising for Facebook friends and Twitter followers, you should know that in your own home live the most important people who would really like to know your status right about now:
"Mom is about to wake me up so she can make me breakfast, fix my lunch and take me to school."
One day, they'll be too old for me to wake them up, cheer them on at ball games or kiss them on the cheek before they fall off to sleep. And I don't want to miss a minute of it. Am I quitting blogging? No way. Just doing it in moderation so that I can get back to the real world.
I recently participated in a one-of-a-kind live web event that was held on behalf of the R Baby Foundation, which was established in 2006 to organize and fund efforts to improve the outcomes of medical care for infants, particularly those who contract certain viral infections within the first month of life. The R Baby Foundation is dedicated to helping newborn babies with often-misunderstood viral infections and other infectious diseases receive the highest quality of care and service through supporting education, research, treatment, training and life-saving equipment.
I had so much fun moderating the webcast along with the incredibly inspiring Emily McKhann, co-founder of The Motherhood. Panelists include R Baby founder Phyllis Rabinowitz, along with seasoned and successful mompreneurs: Brenda Berg, Nicole Feliciano, Lauren Parisier and Kimberly Seals Allers.
The session featured candid insights, intimate confessions and thoughtful advice from women who have built their lives and their businesses around their passions and priorities. In case you missed it, you can watch it below!
Feeling inspired but don't know where to start first? Well, have no fear. Yours truly is launching an innovative fundraiser on behalf of RBaby. Starting today until Mother's Day, I am offering one on one PR 365 consultation for your brand. And if you book a 30 minute session with me, I will donate the proceeds to the RBaby Foundation. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org for details of how I can help you build your brand and you can help RBaby make a difference!
As I've been touring the country promoting my new book, See Mom Run, I've had the opportunity to meet women who took time out of their busy day to laugh. Whether we were letting our hair down at Calista spa, getting our brows done in Boston, sharing hilarious stories at the YWCA in Ridgewood, meeting incredible moms at the JCC in Charlotte, or singing at the Comedy Sportz Theatre in Chicago, I have been thrilled that there are supportive women out there who take time away from errands, their kids schedules and everyday demands to get a dose of the See Mom Run spirit.
Though we've had a nice turnout at our events, what I have increasingly found are the number of women who don't respond to our invites at all. Or better yet, the ones who say they will come and then at the eleventh hour send an email apologizing that they can't make it due to either a work or family conflict. While I've been guilty of that offense myself, I've begun to make a concerted effort to attend the events I've committed to. The reason - if you say you're going to be somewhere, people are counting on you to attend.
These days, it is so easy to cancel via email that we don't even think about how those no shows affect the people, charities or companies hosting the event. While you may think no one will miss you if you flake and don't show up, think again. You are one of many who do the same exact thing on a regular basis. More often than not, people cancel attending events more than the ones who actually go to them.
Now I know as much as anyone else that as moms, we all have a list a mile long of all the things we need to accomplish on a daily basis. Work a full time job. Supermarket shopping, laundry, clean the house, take kids to baseball, football, ice skating, birthday parties and more. What we don't realize is that we get so caught up running on the treadmill of life that we're missing out on experiencing those moments in time where dare I suggest it, we can actually enjoy ourselves and relax.
I recently read "Showing Up for Life" by Bill Gates Sr. where he shared anecdotes about how he always made it a point to attend social events, charity functions, professional gatherings and family get togethers. Every experience led to new opportunities - so much so that connections he and his wife made in their many charitable circles helped jumpstart the career of their son, Bill Jr. If you ask me, being a gazillionaire is not too shabby if all it took was showing up for life (and a brilliant son of course).
Trust me when I give you this important piece of personal and professional advice. You need to show up. Show up for a networking event that could lead to your next job or a consulting gig. Show up for an evening with your girlfriends and not a night in front of the TV playing Farm Animals on Facebook. Show up for a charity event or a book club party. Or a mah jong game. For God sakes, show up for life.
My grandma Dora used to have a saying about people who don't show up for special occasions. "If you don't come, you don't have to go home." With her thick Yiddish accent and a shrug of her shoulders, what grandma meant was that people who don't come to social gatherings inevitably miss out. Sure I love staying home with my family and cuddling up on a crisp December night (and no, I refuse to wear the Snuggie my husband just purchased at True Value Hardware). But I also love the chance to visit new places, meet up with girlfriends, network with like-minded individuals, attend family gatherings or dare I say, go out on a date with my husband.
We are mothers, not martyrs and it's about time we take time for ourselves by saying yes and meaning it. If you agree to attend a social event - whether it be for a friend, a relative, a charity, school or business associate, then do the right thing and show up. If you think you won't be missed, then think again.
As the saying goes, you snooze you lose. So why not say yes and mean it next time? And here's another tip - it's okay to say no too. If you know from the start you can't make an event, you're much better off being upfront and honest than stringing someone along and canceling at the last minute. Of course, you can never predict whether your child is going to come down with swine flu, but for the most part, you should be able to gauge whether you can stay true to your word.
So why not give it a shot? Reunite with old friends or network with the people who may hold the key to your next big break. Show up for life and stop making excuses. And you never know. You may even find yourself having a great time along the way.