When people find out I’m a children’s author, I typically get this response:
“Oh, wow! You know, my sister/cousin/neighbor/son’s teacher wrote a children’s book a while back. You could probably help her/him to get it published.”
This is so common. You know the saying “everyone has a book in them”? That’s incorrect. “Everyone has a children’s book in them” is far more accurate!
In the early days, I was naive. I said, “Of course!” I gave the person my contact info, then I spent hours with their acquaintance critiquing their manuscript, teaching them about picture book structure, and ultimately causing this person great disappointment when they realized the tale they whipped out on a rainy afternoon wasn’t publishable exactly as they had written it.
It made them feel awful. It made me feel awful. It was not worth it.
Then I realized—these casual writers think having a published book would be “neat”. And it’s not neat. It’s hard work.
So now, I take a very honest approach. Instead of offering my assistance right away, I say this instead: “If they have a passion for children’s books, by all means, send them my way and I’ll do all I can to help. But if this person wrote a story on impulse and they don’t have any desire to have a career in children’s literature, they’ll find it extremely difficult to get published and end up being very frustrated and disappointed.”
This is usually followed by an “Oh. Gotcha.”
They understand. (I hope.)
I don’t know why being a children’s author is perceived as such a simple skill as opposed to something like playing in the NHL or becoming a doctor or lawyer. You never hear someone say, “You know, my sister/cousin/neighbor/son’s teacher wrapped an ace bandage around a kid’s ankle a while back. You could probably help him/her to become a pediatrician.” OK, I realize you don’t need a degree to become an author, but you do need several years of concentrated study and practice. You need to be dedicated. Passion for your craft is essential.
So now I let people know this. Publishing is not something to enter into partway. The industry is full of criticism, rejection and waiting…more waiting than the DMV times a thousand. It’s frustrating. It’s challenging. If you don’t love it, you won’t live through it.
So hope and dream. And work hard.
The kids deserve it.