There have been many times in my life when I felt like I'd never ever be a published author, EVER! The road to getting published was so long and slow and filled with frustration and disappointment. But I kept at it. Kept writing, kept growing, kept learning. It paid off. Now, suddenly I have been a published author for an entire year!
I have learned a lot over the past year. Much of it I "knew" because of all the reading and networking and all that jazz that I did in the years before my book released. But there is no better teacher than experience, and even the things that I "knew" before were really driven home once my book hit the shelves!
So here are some of the things I've learned about publishing, about myself, and about the work it takes to actually BE an author.
What it means to take an active role in marketing my books.
Everything I read about marketing before I was published said a variation of the same thing: It is your job to market your book. Your publisher is only going to do so much. So, I knew this. But I didn't really know what it would look like or how much time it was going to take. Marketing can suck up every bit of your writing time if you're not purposeful about how you use your time.
The power of word of mouth.
If people like a book, they tell people that they know, especially if they know the author! Word of mouth has led to people asking me about my book, asking where they can buy it, and inviting me to come and visit their school or store. Also, when someone asks what I do and I say, "I write picture books," they seem genuinely interested. That's why I always keep a stash of bookmarks in my purse!
I can do things that make me (very) uncomfortable.
Before I was published, the thought of "approaching a bookseller" to tell them about my book was terrifying. But not long before WHAT ABOUT MOOSE? was released, I did just that. I went into the local independent book store, introduced myself, and told them about my book. They were enthusiastic and welcoming and kind, and I don't know what I was so afraid of! I've also managed to drive, by myself, into unfamiliar neighborhoods and enter unfamiliar schools and say, "I'm here for the author visit." This is significant, because driving in unfamiliar areas can be a huge source of anxiety for me!
A not-so-favorable review doesn't really matter.
At least, not to me. Of course, I want people to like my books. But it isn't realistic to expect everyone to love them as much as I do. And it isn't realistic to expect only raving reviews, as if those were the only opinions that matter.
If only one child shows up for a reading/signing event, it is worth it.
I did a story time event at a small, independent book store a few months ago. It was a very small crowd of one family and a teacher. I sat and read to a little girl as she colored a WHAT ABOUT MOOSE? coloring page. I think I signed only one copy of the book that day--for the teacher! But if my presence at a story time event can give a child a positive book-related experience, then my job is done!
This business really is about the stories and the kids more than about making money.
I knew that I probably wasn't going to make gobs of money as a picture book author. What I didn't know was just how much that didn't matter. I'm not saying that I don't want to make money as an author, because I do. But the reason I want my books to do well is so I can keep writing them. My writing is how I let my little light shine in the world, and the list of things that are more important than that is pretty short.
Marketing isn't what I thought it was.
Designing bookmarks and postcards, putting together a book trailer, and creating graphics for social media take a lot of time. Doing those things myself not only saves me money, but also lets me use some of my other creative skills. I've also spent a lot of time contacting schools and book stores to get the word out about me and my books. But a lot of marketing has less to do with selling my book and more to do with making connections with people.
Other authors care about my success.
The support I've seen from other authors has made me realize what a great of people the kid lit community is. They tweet and retweet and read and review, and even buy other authors' books. There are a lot of reasons for that, but ultimately, every children's author's goal is to get a variety of quality books into the hands of children. And that is cool.
Public speaking is easy cheesy when the audience is full of children.
I can barely stand and speak in front of a small group of adults at church without feeling like my heart is going to pound out of my chest. But put me in front of a group of kids and ask me to talk about books and I'm quite at ease! It truly is my favorite part of being an author.
I look forward to learning a lot more in the years to come!
Don't forget to enter the GIVEAWAY for a chance to win a signed copy of WHAT ABOUT MOOSE?