Hello future (traditionally) published picture book authors. As promised, I have author/illustrator Suzanne Bloom back this week to help me help you along your path to publication. If you are an aspiring picture book author, you may feel as if you will never be published. I know, I’ve felt the same way. And as a new picture book author (yes, I still consider myself new because even though I have been writing for nine years, I just signed my first contract last year and my book is not yet out), I wonder if I will ever publish another. So I understand your frustration. You may be wondering if there’s something you could be doing to move you further along. I wonder what Suzanne thinks? Let’s find out.
Suzanne, what could an aspiring picture book author (or illustrator) do to help them break in?
Are you attending conferences or workshops? This is a good way to meet authors, illustrators, editors, art directors, and agents. There may be an opportunity to have a manuscript or portfolio reviewed. Do you have a critique group? Have you thought about trying a different genre, or submitting to children’s magazines? Have you visited the book store and studied the current crop of picture books, chapter books or novels to see what is being published now?
Great advice! And I would add that there are a lot of fairly recent books on writing, illustrating, and publishing children’s books that offer tons of useful information. Check your local library. Also, I recommend joining professional organizations such as the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) and the CBI Clubhouse. And don’t forget the Children’s Writer’s & Illustrator’s Market book. It contains helpful articles, as well as listings of publishers, agents, contests, conferences, and more.
Suzanne, how long should an aspiring picture book author (or illustrator) keep trying before they throw in the towel?
How many towels do you have? It was 10 years between my second and third book. I would drive by a fast food restaurant with a NOW HIRING sign out front and wonder if that was meant for me. A sensible person would have sought gainful employment; with benefits and a retirement plan. I opted to become a visiting author instead. I found a balance between the solitude of the studio and the lively exchange of ideas with young students. Many suggestions from grade-schoolers have shown up in my illustrations, like the volcano and the snake in My Special Day at Third Street School by Eve Bunting. I decided that if I couldn’t make a living writing, I could make a living talking about writing.
And in between talking about writing, Suzanne kept on writing and submitting and writing some more. And I’m so glad she never “came to her senses” because now there are nearly twenty fabulous picture books with her name on them, and I’m positive she hasn’t thrown in her last towel yet. So don’t give up, aspiring authors. You can be published too! It just takes time, patience, and following good advice from those who have been in your shoes.
Come back next week when I ask Suzanne how she handles rejection letters and harsh critiques.
Suzanne Bloom was born mid-century in Portland, Oregon, which accounts for her love of overcast days. She moved to Queens, New York in time to finish kindergarten. Her first book We Keep a Pig in the Parlor was published in 1988. She has authored and illustrated many more books since then including The Bus for Us (2000) and the popular Goose & Bear series, which includes A Splendid Friend Indeed, Treasure, What About Bear, Oh! What A Surprise!, Fox Forgets, and her latest, Alone Together. She has been given a Theodor Seuss Geisel Honor Award and has been selected for the Texas 2×2 list of 20 best picture books (twice). She currently lives in upstate, New York with her husband in the house they built 34 years ago, down a dirt road and on a hillside. She has two grown sons, one cat, and one dog. To learn more about Suzanne, please read the interview I did with her back in 2010, or check out her website: www.suzannebloom.com.