Sunday, March 6, 2016

Writing and illustrating children's books--a panel discussion notes by Leanne Dyck

The ferry docked, I walked on and searched my purse. No pen. I'd left for this panel discussion without a pen--not even one. Not good, especially when you live on a rural island. (Ferries sail from Mayne Island to the mainland twice a day--in the morning and in the evening.) 

Solution:  I'm now an owner of a BC Ferries pen. It's red and features a window framing a ferry. The ferry sails back and forth when you tip the pen. (Which is much more frequent than Mayne Island to the mainland sailings)

Pen in hand, I sailed into the Greater Public Library, down the stairs and into the conference room...

The all female panel consisted of four authors (|Pam Withers, Linda DeMeulemeester, Beryl Young, Cynthia Heinrichs, Victoria Miles) and one illustrator (sorry, I didn't get her name). Ellen Schwartz served as moderator. All are members of CWILL. They spoke briefly about their careers. One of the panelist was 81 years old; first published at 66 years of age; she plans to keep on writing.

This event was information-rich. Here's what I heard...

Question:  How do you choose an illustrator?
Answer:  You don't, the publisher does.

-as a picture book author, it is valuable to understand the illustrator's side of creating your book

-85% of children's book authors are women and so male authors are given extra credit--by the industry. They are fine role models for boys (who are often reluctant readers).

-If the book you are currently writing feels too difficult, then you might be on the right track.

Book recommendation:  How to Write a Children's Book and Get it Published by Barbara Seuling

Bookstore recommendation:  Kidsbooks (a children's book bookstore in Vancouver)

-The illustrator (who was an author-illustrator), on the panel, encouraged author-illustrators to work as an illustrator first and then as an author-illustrator.

-Listen to your editor. They are your best friend. They can help grow your career.

-The more you are published the more a publisher will allow you to take risks (i.e. write in different genres, etc.)

Question:  What changes have you seen in children's book publishing in the last five years?
Answer: -Maximum word count for picture books is now 750 words
-Illustrations:  simple lines, simple colours
-YA (young adult) is edgier and edgier
-Profit margins are thinner and thinner
-Instead of in-house, publishers are now using contract editors
-Publishers want books that need very little editing

-Publishers are especially interested in self-starters (i.e. writers who are actively involved in building their social network, etc.)

-It may be tempting to self-published, but look realistically at your skill set. In particular, you need to be a skilled marketer and have enough money to finance your project.

Question:  What about kickstarter to finance your project?
Answer:  To be successful, you needed to be on the top of that wave. It's trickier to seek that financing now.

Be cautious:  Avoid publishers (and others) who ask for money and who don't offer money. Ask for an advance. Hire a lawyer to read your contract before you sign it.

Web site recommendations:
Preditors & Editors (to avoid being scammed) *be advised, this list is not a complete
Literary Rambles (to find an agent) *most children's book authors don't have agents
Canadian Children's Book Centre (to educate yourself regarding the Canadian children's book publishing industry)
Booming Ground (to grow as an writer)

Invest in whatever makes you feel stronger as a writer. Don't worry about people stealing your ideas. Instead, work on developing your creativity.

Writing Picture-Book Texts by Sophie Masson

Next post (March 13th):  I'm participating in another Tundra blog tour:  Shimmer by Paula Weston (YA fantasy). This is book 3 and I was a little worried because I haven't read books 1 or 2. But the publisher and author have done some really cool things to ensure this didn't happen. I'll take more about that in my next post.

Sharing my author journey...

Question:  How do you promote your books? How do you attract readers?

Answer:  One way is by giving author readings.
Question:  How do you learn how to give author readings?
Answer:  By attending them.

Author reading:  John Vaillant 
Monday, March 7th 
2 - 3 p.m.
Mayne Island library