My 12-part guide to writing and publishing picture books for children
When I wrote the outline for this 12-part series, I had not yet written this post. Looking at it again now, I am struck by the enormity of the topic. ‘Who are you and who do you want to be?’ Whoa!
There is book after book, post after post out there, each offering tips, tricks and advice designed to help people discover who they are. Life coaches, career coaches, psychologists, counsellors, motivational speakers and more have founded profitable careers doing just that – helping people find their unique purpose and determine their goals in order to build the life of their dreams. There’s a massive industry built on this fundamental question and, as long as we have our basics covered – food, water, a safe place to sleep – we all ask ourselves this question, probably many times over during the course of our lives.
However, within the context of this 12-part guide to writing and publishing picture books for children, the question I pose may be better worded like this: How does what you know about yourself influence the kinds of books you’d like to create and shape the authorial career you’d like to establish? Yes, you may well know you want to be an author, but what kind of author would you like to be – specifically? How would you like your ideal life to look? Are you shooting for particular goals, goals that will make you feel successful?
In order to answer these big questions, you will need to take time out for self-reflection and ask yourself some smaller questions, the answers to which will collectively inform, and even create, your life plan. You may wish to list your passions, your likes and dislikes, and the way you’d prefer to spend your time. For example, are you genuinely passionate about sustainability or the cosmos or deep sea diving? Would you ideally like to carve out a career creating books around a particular theme? It would certainly make the process of creating and presenting your books more enjoyable to ensure they are based on your interests. Do you have a preference for writing for and interacting with young children under the age of five, or would you rather write for early readers and visit school-aged children to talk about your books?
It is wise to consider questions such as these before you begin your career as an author or author/illustrator, as it is easier to establish yourself if you have a clear plan with specific milestones mapped out. Also, you don’t want to find yourself five years down the track wishing you’d written instead for a different readership or specialised in another area. Saying that, it is likely you’ll want to review these questions and reconsider your life plan several times along the way. Most of us change and grow as time goes by, and our ideas – both for our books and our lives – do too. However many times you need to do it, do it. It will help you to make a plan of action relevant to your evolving sense of self, and help to create a forward-moving strategy for your writing career and your life.
Here are some question ideas:
- Is there a particular area of interest I’d like to share with my readers?
- Is there more than one book that I can write on this topic? How many?
- Will this area of interest continue in my life, or do I foresee a use-by date?
- If I choose a specific area of interest, will it pigeonhole me and am I comfortable with that?
- Do I want to be an author whose books inspire, teach or amuse?
- Do I like engaging with very young children – reading to them, playing with them and talking to them?
- Would I prefer to interact with a different age group? Define your ideal target readership.
- How do I like to spend my time? Do I prefer being alone and working on book projects, or am I also happy to spend time with large groups of people at, say, writers’ festivals or at schools?
- Am I happy to present?
- What other skills do I have that may complement my writing career? For example, illustrating, speaking, reading, narrating, editing and so on.
Again, who are you and who do you want to be? Take the time to know yourself. Write down a list of your skills and passions. Write down your dreams. Use one or more of the many books out there to help you understand yourself and overcome any self-doubt. Turn your self-doubt into self-belief. And make time to spend with yourself each day, so you know who you are in the world. Your creative voice will then have clarity and authenticity because you’ll believe in you.
“If you don’t design your own life plan, chances are you’ll fall into someone else’s plan. And guess what they have planned for you? Not much.” Jim Rohn
If you found this post helpful, you may like to read other posts in the series, My 12-part guide to writing and publishing picture books for children:
Part 1: Know and love your readers
Part 2: Ideas and inspiration
Part 3: Character, theme, rhythm and rhyme, and all of that writing stuff
Part 4: Who’s who in the zoo (writer, illustrator, editor, designer, publisher)
Part 5: Editing and storyboarding
Part 6: Illustration
Part 7: Traditional publishing or self-publishing
Part 8: Submitting your manuscript — the slow business of traditional publishing
Part 9: Contracts, advances and royalties
Part 10: PR — book launch, web presence, book talks and more
Part 11: Who are you and who do you want to be?
Part 12: Resources