Monday, August 24, 2020

30 Non-writing Skills Every Children's Book Author Should Learn

It's no secret that being an author involves a lot of writing and writing-related skills. Storytelling, proofreading, plotting, revising...the list goes on. But there are just as many--possibly even more--skills that have nothing to do with writing that are key in helping you be a successful children's author. Many of these skills I've started developing over the past few years, and I've used them all! Most of these skills are essential. All of them are useful.

This post was originally published in March 2017, but it's gotten a fresh update for 2020!

1. Reading aloud

This may seem obvious, but some people are naturally better at this than others. Practice reading aloud using inflection and facial expressions. You don't want to read your book aloud in monotone and put your audience to sleep!

2. Dressing in a way that disarms children without alarming adults

Kids are drawn to fun patterns, book/movie characters, and colorful shoes! Be professional, but kid friendly! 

3. Public speaking

Essential for any author that wishes to do school visits or book signing events. Brush up on those high school speech class skills. Practice with small crowds of people you know.

4. Social media networking

Social media networking will help you connect with authors, educators, and other book people, which will ultimately lead to people learning about you and your books!

5. Graphic design basics

Even if you're the kind of person that will hire a graphic designer to create postcard and bookmark designs, you'll want to learn some graphic design basics. This will help you quickly create timely images to share on your website, blog, and social media sites. I like Canva, which is easy to use and has lots of templates that you can use for free!

6. Talking about yourself with cheerful confidence

This isn't just for those public speaking events! Conversations will naturally lead to questions about what you do. Be prepared!

7. Using Zoom or other video chat programs

Seriously. This part of being an author should not be missed!

8. Taking criticism well

Negative reviews are going to happen. Learn from them, but don't take them too hard! Also, you don't have to read reviews at all if you don't want to. 

9. Kid humor

Even if you don't write "funny" books, knowing how to elicit a few giggles from a crowd of kids will be a handy skill to have!

10. Crafting

Book themed crafts are good extension activities. Design your own or search for some that will work with your books. Either way, be a master with scissors and glue!

11. Introducing yourself to strangers

Like book store managers and people at conferences and book fairs!

12. Explaining your book's plot quickly and concisely

The last thing you want to do is bumble your words when describing your book! An "elevator pitch" can be useful in everyday conversation.

13. Waiting without obsessing

Of all the non-writing skills, this one may be the most helpful in keeping yourself sane.

14. Playing

You write for kids. Do I have to explain this one?

15. Creating printable activity pages

A handy skill that will save you some money. Kids seem to love word searches, by the way.

16. People watching

Not to be confused with stalking. But it's good to observe people, especially kids, and pay attention to how they interact with each other. Volunteering in a classroom or in the kids' area at church can help with this.

17. Signing your autograph

Trust me. It's not like signing a check.

18. Video editing basics

Whether you want to create a book trailer or simply record a video for Instagram or your blog, this skill can be very useful in helping you engage with your audience.

19. Photography basics

People like visual content. So take pictures. Good ones. I like using Instagram because the available filters and other editing tools can help make almost any photo look great!

20. Powerpoint

Useful for creating slideshows for school visit presentations. Also handy for putting together activity pages.

21. Reading for research

You need to know the market. What's being published? What's selling well? Read mentor texts, old and new. Plus, kids will ask you what your favorite books are. It will be wise to share about new books as well as old favorites.

22. Engaging a rowdy crowd of youngsters

Nobody wants to present to a group of kids that aren't interested. Learn how to engage with kids who seem disinterested. Interactive presentations are a good start. This may require some trial and error. Of course, enthusiasm on your part is vital!

23. Creating an attractive table display

For school visits, author appearances, book fairs, etc. Stuffed animals are a big draw. And other props. Make it fun and inviting, but not overly busy. 

24. Planning extension activities

This goes beyond crafts and activity pages. Coming up with unique games or group activities that you can share with teachers or use during your visits will help you stand out in a crowd, and make you a hit with the kids.

25. Navigation

Even in the age of GPS, it's good to know how to get around. When you're driving to an unfamiliar area for a school visit, you're gonna want to be able to get there even if technology fails you. Hint: Ask your school contact about traffic issues, parking, construction, etc.

26. Time management

Building a platform, maintaining a platform, promoting your books, visiting schools, writing. You've got a lot on your plate. Finding a good balance is essential.

27. Self-promotion

You're going to have to promote your own books, even if your publisher does publicity too. It can feel a little awkward at first, but it's necessary. The good news is that much of this is just getting out there and getting to know people. But you've got to talk about your books too. Don't be shy!

28. Bookkeeping

Keeping track of income and expenses is essential, and being organized makes tax season much simpler.

29. Thinking on your feet

Kids (and adults) might ask questions you didn't anticipate. So, expect the unexpected, and practice pausing without saying "umm."

30. How to inspire a child!

Writing a book that children love is part of it. But there's more to it than that. Hint: Think of your own childhood. How can you use that to connect with children today?