By Chana Stiefel
In our previous posts, we mentioned the first P's of picture book success: passion, persistence, professionalism, & the importance of play. To continue on your path, you'll also need these P's.
Patience. Remember how your mom or dad would rush you out the door in the morning and then you would wait, and wait, and wait for the school bus? Publishing is like that. You work like mad to send out stories. And then you wait. And wait. And wait. For days, weeks, months, sometimes years. You wait for agents and editors to respond (which sometimes never happens). You ask yourself: Should I write them back? Sometimes you get a call for revisions. Then you wait again. Even when your manuscript is accepted (hooray!), you wait. You wait for a contract, you wait for an advance, you wait to hear who your illustrator will be, you wait for sketches, you wait…How long? Expect at least two years from acceptance to publication. So yes, patience is very high up on the list of P’s. Know that patience pays off. And don’t just sit there waiting patiently! Keep writing!
Peer review. As writers, we are often married to our work. We love it dearly and we don’t want anyone else to mess with it. But I can’t emphasize enough the importance of getting outside opinions before you submit. By “outside,” I not only mean outside your home, family, and friends. But outside your comfort zone. As I once heard a college admissions officer tell prospective students, "Have someone who doesn't love you read your essay." Same for kidlit! If you haven’t already, join a picture book (or kidlit) critique group. Not only will you get honest feedback and editing advice, but you’ll also find tremendous support and create new friendships. I met my co-blogger Donna Cangelosi at a NJSCWBI conference and she invited me to join her PB group. It was one of the best decisions I ever made! For tips on finding a critique group, join SCBWI and check out the regional pages. Joining kidlit writers' groups on Facebook is another great way to find a peer group.
Practice, practice, practice. How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Or Macmillan or Scholastic or Penguin? Practice, of course. You wouldn’t expect an artist to scribble on a napkin and hang his drawing at the MoMA. (Actually, my dad tried that once. It didn’t go over well with the guard.) Real artists go through buckets and buckets of paint before they achieve success. I recently read an article about Rose Levy Beranbaum, author of The Cake Bible. She said that she often bakes a cake 17 times—measuring and testing every ingredient before she can say it’s perfect. Now I would totally eat Beranbaum’s 17 mess ups, but it’s good to know how much work went into her recipes. Your book is like a cake…you gotta go through the mess-ups to reach perfection.
Today’s takeaway: Patience, peer review, and practice, practice, practice get you closer to the prize!
More P’s to come! Please share your P’s (and Q’s) here!
Donna Cangelosi and Chana Stiefel are picture book critique partners & friends who are passionate about kids' books & are eager to share tidbits from their writing journey with other aspiring writers.