Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Venturing into the Publishing Landscape

I was having dinner with a lovely woman from the New School Writing for Children's MFA program (Hi if you're reading!).  She's a Latina like me and so among other things, we chatted about the Latino market in children's fiction (abysmal).  I could go on about that, but the diversity in children's lit issue is too big a topic for my energy level right now.  That's a post for another day.

Anyhow, as we talked it occurred to me that a lot of aspiring writers don't really know the market.  They read the books they write, which is the most important thing (thumbs up on that one), but beyond that, don't really get what's going on in the business.  Strangely enough, being in publishing I sometimes forget that not everyone know the biz.  I get it, though.  You need to write the book of your heart, but you do need to know the market, too.  There's so much to know that how can these poor baby writers (I'm one, too, as a writing newbie) keep up?  I'm constantly learning, so I understand that even if baby writers would like to know more, they often don't know where to start and where to stop.

Caveat before you start studying up: KEEP WRITING.  Seems obvious, but you'd be astonished at how many people are wondering about the querying process before they've even finished a manuscript.  Finish first, then worry about that later.  You're not going to get anywhere fiction-wise with an unfinished (and unrevised) manuscript.  So keep working at it, even if it's at a snail's pace.  A page per day, writers, that's all you need.

I could go on about all the blogs and magazines I read to get my market fix, but this is my How to Get a Glimpse of the Publishing World for Dummies edition. I recommend doing these three basic things to get your feet wet.
  1. Those books you've been reading for pleasure and research?  Check out the acknowledgements page.  The author will typically thank their editor and/or agent for their success.  You'll start recognizing who works with the books you love and who could conceivably work with you down the line.
  2. Subscribe to Publisher's Lunch.  It's a daily digest of publishing tidbits you should keep abreast of--book deals, publishing staff moves (where editor and agent names will become familiar), the digital battlefield, etc.  It's free to subscribe to the email.  It's only paid if you want the full Deluxe Publisher's lunch version, which you don't really need (Hmmm...I bet you can even read Publishers Weekly magazine at your local library for the full monty; still, the gratis daily email would be enough for you).
  3. Join Twitter, if you haven't already done so.  You're a children's book writer.  Even if you don't want to join, nowadays you have to.  Besides writing, writers now have to be involved in social media to stay relevant (Yes, there are exceptions, but this is the norm now).  Follow your favorite authors, book bloggers, agents, and editors.  You'd be surprised at the connections you'll make.  And the amount of information buzzing on twitter is insane.  You'll be a publishing pro in no time.
Follow those three steps for the bare bones approach to learning industry information.  If you've already done those three things, then you're ahead of the game!  I'll compile a more extensive list for intermediate people in the future.  Any suggestions on what to add?

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