If I could tell aspiring authors one thing, it would be…

By Sue Fliess

The list of dos and don’ts is staggering, and for aspiring authors, this list can be, and usually is, overwhelming. The good news is you are about to embark on a journey with some of the friendliest, funniest, most fun and supportive people on the planet. So take a deep breath. Because children’s writers rock. Librarians rule. Booksellers champion. Agents believe. Editors love (and with any luck, buy). You will get a LOT of advice, both good and maybe some not so good, so I will try to make mine count.

So, here it is: get yourself out there — and I don’t mean friending every editor on Facebook or pitching your idea to an agent trying to use the bathroom. Writing is about being in community with other writers and anyone else in the industry – whether they seem like a key player or not.

Being writers, we have the tendency to hole up in our home offices, or find the back corner of the coffee shop to write in solitude, so as to not interrupt the creative miracles about to spew out before us. (clears throat). It may be out of your comfort zone, but isn’t that how we grow as human beings? Forming relationships and being professional in this industry is the only way you will get better and the best way (I think) to get noticed. And once you are in relationship with them, stay in relationship with them. You simply never know when that former teacher you met at the park the other day will suddenly own her own bookstore, or that editor who loved your story but had to decline it, is now an agent looking to build her client list. It’s a small world – be nice to everyone – and mean it. There’s no room for talking smack in kidlit. Besides, what school wants a visit from a gossipy, catty author?

Yes, your writing has to be good (and often good alone doesn’t cut it anymore) or fresh or original. But do your research – on editors, writers, on the books that are selling and who’s selling them. Go to book signings and observe. Blog, guest blog, interact with and read other writers’ blogs. Meet other authors and illustrators and listen to what they say. Really listen. Read. Subscribe to magazines on your craft, join writing organizations (SCBWI), apply for grants, form or join a writing group. Go to conferences and meet people – other writers, illustrators, editors and agents. For without them, our writing will forever remain as 12 pt. font on recycled paper.

Sue Fliess is a freelance writer, marketing professional and children’s book author of three forthcoming picture books. Shoes for Me, her first book, will be published by Marshall Cavendish Children’s Books in March, 2011. Cavendish will also publish A Dress for Me in 2012, and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Children’s Books will publish Tons of Trucks!, in 2012. Sue lives in Northern California with her husband, two boys and their guinea pig, Mocha. Please visit her web site at www.suefliess.com.

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