"How to Write a Children's Book": Pt 3
If you are reading this article chances are you are probably going to write your book.
1. Remember to give yourself a date to finish the book.
2. Remember you need to create a writing place and schedule.
3. To need to actually start to write your book
Now that you know how to create your characters, you can EMBRACE YOUR CHARACTERS- make them walk and talk and come to life with clever dialogue and funny actions. The nicest part is that now you don’t have to worry about what you write going off track or on a tangent because you have created a structure (YOUR HOLY GRAIL, YOUR ROAP MAP, YOUR PLOT OUTLINE,) that allows you to know where your characters are going, so now you can WRITE WITH CONFIDENCE. Now you are free to improvise (like the jazz musician) and let the characters speak to your reading audience through the personalities and voices you have created for them. Your muse can finally come out of hiding and you can let your inspiration lead the way.
How long will all of this take? How long is a piece of string? Who knows how long it will take.
A FEW SUGGESTED RULES
Now you are writing wonderfully well, your book is on its way. Your plot outline is working, the characters are working, the dialogue is working and everything is moving forward nicely. You are really on a roll. By now you might be spending up to a few hours at a time writing and you have learned all of the basics of the techniques and your creativity is flowing so smoothly that you decide while you are writing you will just put the dinner on the stove to cook, so when you finish writing, the food will be ready to eat. WRONG….
NO COOKING WHILE WRITING…
Interestingly enough, the zone of your subconscious does not understand time. If you are in the writing zone, you are working inside your subconscious which has no sense of time and tends to take over and the notion of time is lost. In addition, other senses can also be significantly dulled, like the sense of smell and hearing. This leads to a cardinal rule. DO NOT COOK ANYTHING WHILE YOU ARE WRITING. I say this after many, many, years of having to eat many burned meals, and ruining too many cooking pots and having to live with a terrible smell of burning metal in the house for too many days on end.
When you are writing in a zone, and cooking, (which includes boiling water for a hot drink) invariably time passes quickly without you realizing it and you most likely will not hear the food timer, or smell burning until your meal or cooking utensil has been destroyed. I know this is a natural behaviour especially for people who see themselves as multitaskers, but writing and cooking can be a very dangerous combination. I seriously suggest only doing one at a time.
Tips for Helping your relax into writing.
“Your creative mechanism works best when there is not too much interference from your conscious mind” writes Maxwell Maltz in Psycho Cybernetics.
GET A GOOD NIGHT’S SLEEP …Sleep, the true art of relaxation.
Why sleep? Sleep helps to relax the subconscious and let it operate to its maximum capacity This is the first time I have really mentioned sleep in connection with writing. I now mention sleep because sleep is like a rejuvenation tonic for the subconscious or like a good drink of water for the body.
Over the years I have also found that when I get a good night’s sleep that my creativity seems to flow much easier. As I am a morning writer, I made the connection that the good night’s sleep was one of the things that helped. One of the reasons is very practical, which is that after you have spent half the day doing other things and you sit down to write, your body is more tired than if it was first thing after getting a good night’s sleep.
You may say yeah, that works great if you are morning person, but I am a night person. Then I would suggest an hour’s nap if possible before sitting down to write.
I know it seems like a lot of planning and discipline to write a book. Yes it is, but it all comes down to this- how badly do you want to write your book? If the answer is a lot, then you will do what it takes to make your book become a reality even if that means changing your behaviour to do it.
Because you are reading this article up to this point means that you are already taking serious steps to make your dream of writing a children’s book come true.
DON’T SHOW ANYONE ANYTHING UNTIL YOU HAVE FINISHED WRITING
We all want validation and to be told that what we are writing is great and worthwhile and that we are not wasting our time. But on the other hand you do not want to be discouraged or made to feel silly, worthless, or disappointed before you are strong enough to withstand the harsh winds that are due to come your way.
While you are writing your first book, you are in the process of building and nourishing your confidence and you cannot afford to allow self doubt to creep into your creative zone or your subconscious. The best way of doing that is by not unlocking the door to self doubt and criticism, even if that criticism is well meant or professional. There will be plenty of time for that after you have finished your book, but before you totally finish your book is definitely not the time.
You need the psychological accomplishment of knowing that you can finish your book even if you think what you have written is crap. Even so it is your crap, YOUR FINISHED CRAP, and that in and of itself is an accomplishment worth feeling good about. You crossed the finish line, and lived up to your commitment. After you have finished, whoever you show it to will have to admire you for finishing what you started no matter what they think or have to say. The thing you don’t need before you finish is someone adding negativity into your insecurity. So my suggestion is, no matter what you do, finish first. Then if you want to show someone…OK, but not until you have completely finished it.
CHANGES TO YOUR WORK ARE JUST A FACT OF LIFE and THEY ARE ONGOING
The other thing you must remember- almost no book is acceptable in its first finished form. That is what editors are for. They will look at what you have written and suggest changes. This is the normal process, so don’t think the first version has to be the final version. This is important because even though you have spent a lot of time writing you are emotionally very close to your work. You have to now step back and let other people insert their opinion and direction. This is not an easy thing for an artist because after working on it so long, you naturally feel an emotional connection. The difference between amateurs and professionals is that professionals first of all make the decision to work through the existing framework that they are presented with by the publishing company. They do the best they can, decide what they can live with and cannot live with in terms of the edit and they make the plans go on to the next book. Amateurs on the other hand fill themselves with angst and moan and cry like babies who have had their lollypops taken away about the changes imposed on their book. Part of being a professional author is working with editors. This is just the way it is.
One of the most important lessons I had to learn was that once you hand over your writing to the world you must let it go, because there are editors, producers, directors, who will change it. It is the nature of the business that other people will have input into your work.
Sometimes their suggestions might be brilliant, other times not so brilliant, but that is just how it is.
I find myself wanting to changes things all the time and even after the final edit I am still coming up with ideas that I think will improve the work. At some stages I can still make those changes but at some point it doesn’t make sense and it is more trouble than it is worth, so I just say, Ok I can live with whatever and move on to the next book. This is a natural process, so don’t freak out too much if what you have written or released is not exactly what you wanted the first time out. Just do the best you can and think that the next book will be even better.
YOU HAVE FINISHED WRITING YOUR BOOK. NOW WHAT?
This is when you start to play and to understand the game. You will quickly discover that many publishers do not take unsolicited manuscripts, or that many publishers will not take anything not submitted by an agent.
So you send out your book to a literary agent in the hope of attracting one to represent your book. After a number of rejections, no responses and “sorry we’re not taking on anyone else at this time” emails, you start to think “Will I ever get my book published?”
Let’s talk about what happens next.
You can still continue shopping your book to publishers who will take unsolicited manuscripts, because the same publisher that rejected your book today might accept it next month.
REJECTION FROM A PUBLISHER WHAT DOES IT REALLY MEAN?
It simply means that whoever has read your book does not feel for whatever reason that they are willing to take a chance on making the wrong decision and giving you a book deal. It has nothing to do with you being a good writer or not, absolutely nothing. Think about it like this, people who work in larger publishing companies making decisions about which books to publish like to keep their jobs. They don’t want to have to worry about the mortgage payments, the school fees, or the annual holiday. In short they want to make the kinds of safe decisions that will keep their lives intact. We all do. If they choose your book and it flops, that mean they have made a bad decision and they may be looked upon within the company as a bad decision-maker, hence their job may not be as safe as it was before.
If someone else inside their company reads your book and also likes it, especially if that someone is powerful then they are much more likely to accept your book for publication.
Let’s imagine that a few people in this large publishing company working together as a committee for accepting new books happen to agree that they want to publish your book. Now, if they decide publish your book and it turns out to be a flop, then it is a shared committee decision and one person cannot be blamed or singled out as having made a bad decision. But this is something you as an author have no control over, so it is best not to give it too much thought otherwise you will make yourself crazy.
But whether a publisher makes the decision to publish you or not, has nothing to do with the merit of your book.
So don’t be offended when publishers reject you. They are just trying to do what they think they need to do to keep their jobs intact. However with small publishing houses there might be a better chance of finding a publisher because even though they are dwindling in number as eBooks become more popular, I have found that sometimes small publishers tend to be more risk takers. They can be more willing to trust in their own instincts and sometimes they will agree to publish works based solely on its appeal to them rather than a group decision within the company.
Still, probably the most important thing to remember about rejection is what William Goldman the screen writer wrote in his book Adventures in the Screen Trade about Hollywood. It is true about the book publishing business as well. He said and I quote “Nobody knows anything”. It stands to reason if book companies knew what was going to be a success, with all of the research and focus groups they can undertake before publishing a book, they would never sign books that are flops, but the truth is each year most book publishers will sign more flops than they do hits. They always have, this is just the nature of the beast. Let’s look at it another way; if the people who rejected Harry Potter knew anything they surely would not have rejected it. I’m sure there is a group of editors and publishers somewhere still recovering from their nervous breakdowns after having rejected Harry Potter. In fact there may even be an entire club of them.
So to sum it up, rejection is not a personal rejection of you or your work, it is simply something that comes with the territory, like learning to ride a bike and falling over. Sometimes it will seem as if you must develop the armour of a rhino and the ego of a despot just to keep going. Sometimes things will be tough and other days even tougher but then sometimes the sun will shine on you in ways you could have never imagined. The trick is not let any of it faze you and carry on until you reach your goal. Also don’t give yourself a time limit for this because when things don’t happen within the time frame you will be disappointed.
WHAT CAN YOU DO ABOUT REJECTION? ABSOLUTELY NOTHING, except continue to cast your bread or in this case your book upon the waters as much as possible and see what comes back. One thing I have found to be true is the law of probability does apply. The more you send out your book the more chances there are of someone accepting your book for publication.
I will expand the category of rejection here, not just to include publishers, but also to include people who read your book who cannot get you publishing deals but simply may like to have something to say about your book. It could be well-meaning family, friends, or anybody you decide to give the power of the negative to comment about your work. YES YOU GIVE THEM POWER OF THE NEGATIVE by showing it to them and soliciting their opinion. So if you don’t want to hear what they might say, don’t show them or ask their opinion. That’s one way of dealing with it. The other way is that you will show your work to them and they may respond with all kinds of dubious and or negative comments, from “this is really rubbish” to “I don’t understand it” to “who’s going to buy this?” to “are you sure you are aiming at the right market?” or “did you research this before you wrote it to see what the competition was like?”
You will get all of these kinds of comments. I have gotten them, and sometimes still get them, especially when I am creating ideas that have not been tried and tested, but my answer is always pretty much the same, which is “I write and do what I like and I am sure that somewhere among the billions of people on this planet there are some people who will really like it.”
You will never have everyone like everything you write. Understand this and you will be better off.
If you think otherwise, stop reading this article now and go and do something else. The best you or I or anyone else can hope for is for a consistent and reasonably large group of people to like what we do at any given time. We all know that Harry Potter was a huge success but that is not to say the next series of books by JK Rowling will be as successful. Spielberg is the most successful film director there has ever been. In the 80’s he was hotter than hot, but now lots of his films don’t go big. When Bob Dylan switched from folk to rock music lots of his diehard fans were upset and hurt, some of them even rejected him and stopped buying his records, but so what? He lost some fans and gained new fans and new audiences.
But isn’t that the nature of art, to try different things, to float different ideas?
So don’t allow yourself to get into the trap of letting other people’s negativity or rejection define what your success image should look like.
You are now at the end of this series of articles which means you are really serious and that you have made up your mind to really make the effort to do what it takes to write your book. Along the way as you read, you realized that writing your book would not necessarily be an easy, breezy walk in the park, but you still kept reading anyway. That is more than enough reason to feel good about yourself, because it shows a level of commitment that you have already made to yourself and your book.
Here are some resources that you can find on the net to begin the process of finding a publisher:
Jeff Herman’s "Guide to Book Publishers"
Editors and Literary Agents.
The area of self publishing is growing so quickly that the major publishers are still running to catch up. It could well be that you will be more successful self publishing. Self publishing allows you to do a few things that an established publisher may not allow you to do.
You can get your book into the market ASAP.
Traditional publishers have a releasing schedule. Even if they take your book, the book most probably will be placed in the releasing schedule queue, so it might take 12-18 months after the agreement to publish has been made before your book actually sees the light of day in the marketplace.
If you self publish you can push your book immediately to the places where you think it will sell. You can start slowly and build up your presence as you learn more and more about internet marketing and create a fan base. Fans are the most important element for a self publisher because they actually buy the product.
Self publishing allows you know what sales are coming in and where they are coming from. For example you can put a questionnaire in your book purchase page that leads them back to an email that requests customers to let you know how they heard about your book. This will allow you to know where to put your marketing efforts.
I think self publishing is a really viable alternative to traditional publishers. One of the best resources I have seen in this area is called “55 Ways to Promote and Sell Your Book On The Internet” by Bob Baker. This is an excellent book for people wanting to self publish.
But note: Know this before you decide to self publish.
Self publishing is not for the faint hearted, the lazy or the impatient person.
The main thing I would caution you against is trying to find a middle ground and going to an internet marketing firm that will tell you they will put a marketing mix package together for you that will do everything for you and make you famous since your book looks like it is the type that could really sell on the internet. This is the hype that every author loves to hear about their book and it’s only natural because it fills you with hope and expectation and it fills their pockets with your money. The next step in the sales pitch is chose a marketing mix and all you have to do is sit back and let them as professionals handle things. DON’T DO IT, DON’T DO IT…NOT IN A MILLION YEARS.
Naturally you will always have a limited amount of money. But the problem with too many internet marketing firms is what they do or don’t do for you cannot be measured in quantitative terms. Most of them I have encountered are masters at double talking and telling you if only you had spent more money you would be in a better position.
My belief is that with 99.99% of these companies you are throwing your money down the drain. I know because I have been there and bought the tee shirt. I have also talked to a number of other self publishing authors who have been through the same thing.
Too many internet marketers talk a great game, but when delivery time comes around, they have nothing to tell you except to try an upsell you on a more expensive package.
Recently the United States Justice Department made a ruling against major publishers including Harper Collins, Macmillan, Hachette Group, Simon & Schuster, Penguin and Apple, Inc. about price fixing within the industry. My opinion is that this ruling strengthens Amazon’s position which is the largest internet retailer at the moment and it could be good for the self publishing author who is willing to learn the internet marketing game.
I think learning the marketing game is important because often time an author will get accepted by an eBook publisher and nothing happens with the sales because the eBook publisher doesn’t do the marketing that will sell the eBook. I think too many eBook publishers’ idea of marketing is simply to have your book as part of their catalogue and then do nothing to make sure that your book gets into the public view. Some of eBook companies even expect you as the author to go out and get reviews.
My belief is at least with the internet you can make sure your book is being seen by someone and maybe even talked about.
Have a look at this breakdown. If you were to sell your e-book through a traditional eBook publisher, they would most probably take your book on a 50/50 deal basis. This would mean your eBook publisher would receive 50% of the money that comes from the selling price of the book minus distribution fees and you as the author receive the other 50%.
If your book then sells via Amazon at, say, £1.00 (U.K.) your eBook publisher receives 35% of that amount and Amazon would take 65% as their distribution fee.
Based on your deal with your eBook publisher, you as the author will only be owed 17p that being half the amount your e-book publisher received from Amazon.
Now if the e-book publisher spends money designing the cover they will charge you for that as well. And they might even charge you for the purchase of the ISBN number that some distributors insist you have in order to be distributed by them.
So your author royalty may well be around 13% in the end, or 13p for each book sold.
If you can live with that amount of earnings fine, but if you would prefer the entire 35% from Amazon and are willing to do more than your e-book publisher might do, then your best bet may be to buy a few books on internet marketing and undertake your own e-book marketing effort at your kitchen table and do it yourself. Also if you decide to sell your book for £2.99 or more, Amazon will only take 30% and you can receive 70% of the sale price from Amazon.
I suggest buying Bob Baker’s book and hiring a few high school or college students as marketers even if it is only once a month. Come up with a strategy yourself or with someone you know and trust who has knowledge about sales and common sense.
Make sure your marketers stick to what you have decided and go forward. At least with this strategy you will have a handle on what your book is doing and if your book grows to the point of making it worthwhile to hire someone full-time, you will already have someone you have trained.
There are no easy roads to book publishing success and no pat answers in this area but for my money self publishing is the way to go, until a company is ready to step up and give you a deal that includes a nice advance based on the work you have already invested yourself in the marketing of your book.
In any case when you have written your book you will expect to get it published and one way or another I am sure that is exactly what you will do.
I have always liked this quote.
“You have to expect things of yourself before you can do them” Michael Jordan (Basketball All Star)
I hope that the reading of this article has helped you in that process of expectation.
All the Best in your Quest!