So, I have been meaning to tackle a subject from my FAQ section in more detail, and it is usually on my mind after returning from conferences. One of the most common conversations I have with people who talk to me for the first time regarding the authoring world is their declaration:
1.”I have an idea for a kids book” [aka the Dreamer]
2. “I (wrote / am writing) a children’s book too”, [aka the Hobbyist]
3. “My child is an amazing (writer / artist) and we think (he / she) should be published”, [aka the Proud Parents]
Despite being presented these over and over, I never really know what to say, other than “that’s great”. I never know what they are hoping I will say. Sometimes they come right out and ask, “How can I get published?”, as if there is one single answer for that one very simple question. I usually cringe a little every time. I cringe because I just don’t know what to say.
My mom often uses the phrase, “casting pearls before swine”, which I always interpreted, in nutshell, as meaning, “you can try to give something valuable to someone that doesn’t understand or appreciate it, but they will not utilize its worth, so don’t bother”. As much as I want to offer advice to hopeful, eager people, I often don’t. Its not that I feel it would be a waste. There are just tell-tale signs they are not ready for advice. I literally can’t give them advice. My answers for them are to questions they are not even ready to ask, (“whoa, really?”), Its true, Grasshoppah.
Let me start with the first: The Dreamer: I apologize in advance for this, but its hard for me to take the Dreamer seriously. There’s a little devil on my shoulder that gets offended when someone compares an idea they have never acted on to my hard work and efforts. I have worked really hard to learn the ropes of publishing, and every day is still a struggle. And I have dedicated my life and career to the pursuit of making books. So when someone lets me know that they have a great idea, yet did not challenge themselves further to dedicate their hardest efforts at it, how can I be excited and hopeful for them?
My advice for the serious Dreamer is to:
1. Write and or draw.
2. Read as many books about the do’s and don’ts of publishing.
3. If 1. and 2. are done, rinse and repeat.
4. Repeat again.
5. Then ask for advice.
The second is the Hobbyist: The Hobbyist is one click ahead of the Dreamer. But the Hobbyist is more dangerous because they have actually written or drawn something. Now, their writing may be clever, and their art may be unique. But here’s why they are dangerous: They are writers / artists with the Dreamer’s misunderstanding of the reality of publishing. To give an analogy: even the most dedicated med student who has a vast interest in medicine would not be ready to perform a surgery until they have gone thru rigorous schooling and practice. The Hobbyist may feel that their work speaks for itself and they should skip all the necessary steps and go right to end game – publishing. They have an imaginary idea of how publishing works instead of a researched one. To the Hobbyist, the goal of being “published” too often is mistaken as the goal of winning a contest, or the culmination of a fun adventure; but publishers and serious authors understand it is a career, not a flight of fancy.
My advice for the serious Hobbyist is to:
1. Do everything on the Dreamer’s to-do list.
2. Get serious. Become a Careerist – someone who takes it upon themselves to respect the process as much as their writing.
Now the third, the Proud Parents: Every parent is amazed by the creativity of their kids. Talented kids have one aspect needed to be great writers / artists, but are missing the second crucial component – years of honing their craft to become professional writers / artists. It is for this reason that publishing is an unrealistic goal Proud Parents want to see happen for their kids. Many parents feel that getting published would be the natural end result of their child’s talents, when perhaps just helping foster their writing or drawing may be the more realistic outcome. Sometimes children may be just as happy if their classmates can read their stories in a school newsletter. Do kids even really grasp the scope of what “getting published” means? It has been known to happen, but is extremely rare, and is often a gimmick.
My advice for the serious Proud Parent is: “Why so serious?”
Here’s an equation that is missing an important part:
“My daughter is a great gymnast. She could be in the Olympics.”
The first and last sentence may be true. But without the hard work in the middle, it is not a realistic statement. Now let’s see this same equation again, and see if it still holds the same weight:
“My son is a brilliant writer. He should be published.”
See what I mean?
In conclusion, all great books start with Dreamers. Dreamers turn into Hobbyists who may turn into Careerists, and some even have Proud Parents backing them up. The point is, don’t be just another typecast, and try to break out through knowledge. I hope this advice does not offend but sheds a little light on the reality of this bunny-eat-bunny business.