When Are You Going To Write a Proper Book?

In case you didn't know, (and you probably didn't because I'm not great at shouting things from rooftops), I'm going to have a children's picture book of my own published later this year. *squeee* And yes, it will be a 'proper book'. Under the discerning eye of my very brilliant publisher, my words are currently being brought to life by an incredible illustrator. I almost burst with excitement every time I see a sample sketch in my inbox. I am dying to show you everything but there are a few months to go before I can do that.

In the meantime I am immersing myself in the world of books. I'm trying to learn as much as I can about the industry and how I can give my book the best chance of being seen by lots of children and their parents. As much as I've always loved books, I still have a lot to learn about how 'being a writer' works and what happens after the words leave my hands and go out to a wider audience.
A couple of weeks ago I attended an event for children's writers and illustrators in DLR Lexicon, called When Are You Going To Write a Proper Book? It was packed to the rafters with people at every stage of their writing/illustrating career. It was a day full of inspiring panel discussions with experts in the industry and chaired by the phenomenal Sarah Webb, current writer-in-residence at DLR Lexicon.

Apparently there was a waiting list of over 70 people trying to get tickets - so I feel really lucky that I bought my ticket early. There must have been a lot of disappointment, though, so with that in mind  I thought I'd make note here of my top-three 'takeaways' from the day.

1. Join In:

One of the overwhelming messages I got from the day was to 'join in'. All of the speakers were incredibly generous and open with their expertise and very welcoming and approachable at break times. The advice was to; attend events and festivals. Talk to people in the industry. Join the relevant organisations. Basically, to take part in the world of children's literature.

In terms of children's writers Children's Books Ireland and the Society of Children's Books Writers & Illustrators (SCBWI) are the ones to look out for. Their sites are packed full of information about the world of children's literature and the kinds of opportunities there are for writers and illustrators in Ireland. The Irish Writer's Centre is another amazing resource for Irish writers of every genre.

2. Hustle

You might be lucky enough to get a book accepted for publication but apparently the books themselves don't actually make writers very much money... For picture books apparently the 'norm' for writer's royalties is 7%. of the RRP. Which... doesn't work out at a lot unless you're selling millions of copies. In Ireland, those kinds of volumes are extremely rare, if they exist at all. So, if you want to start making a career as a writer you will need to hustle. You'll need to do events. Organise school visits, library events and pitch to festivals to run workshops or speak on panels. You can also apply for bursaries, competitions and awards. But even after all of that, you might also need another job. This is the reality.

3. Get Social

Some of the top publishing houses in Ireland were in attendance at the event. They spoke on various topics but one was around 'promotion'. There is only so much a publisher can and will have time to do on behalf of their authors in terms of promotion. This means that authors are advised to have a social media presence and to engage in as much self-promotion as possible. In fact, an aspiring author can even be looked on more favourably for being taken on by publishers if they have already begun to build a platform. So it's definitely worth taking seriously!

There was lots of other information and I have half a notebook full of scribbles from the day but those were some of the main points that stood out for me. I was obviously making notes as a 'children's writer', but I think the list above is relevant to writers of any genre, really. It's all about finding your writing tribe and putting yourself out there!

EDIT: The event was recorded and you can now find a podcast of the entire event HERE. I've also spotted that there is a second similar event being planned for May 2017 so keep an eye out for that and get your ticket early if you'd like to go!

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If you have in interest in writing for children, you might also enjoy some of these tips:

4 comments

  1. I#m really thrilled for you Sadhbh and can't wait to see the book. It must be a dream come true. Thanks for sharing your notes from the day. I read in the Irish Times recently too about how little writers actually make out of books. Shocking, especially considering the work that goes into creating a story. Best of luck with yours.

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    1. Thanks so much Fionnuala, I am beyond excited about it. I'm absolutely dying to get my book into my hands! It is kind of awful how it works out financially but when you break down the print costs, proofs, distribution, illustration, publishers cut and probably loads of other things I imagine it makes sense. I think writers and creatives in general don't ever get into it for the money though!

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