Friday, February 11, 2011

Unrealistic Expectations? Unrealistic Expectations, Party of Four?

I am a working writer (film) and director.
I have written a children's book. People seem to really like it, 
"People"?  You mean like your neighbors and friends and plumber and stuff?  They don't know anything about children's books.
and of course I want a good illustrator and want it published.
I was thinking of getting an pro illustrator myself and presenting it to editors in it's completed form--is this crazy? 
Yes.
I imagine editors want to be part of that process, but also fear a hack artist getting assigned to it.
Well, get a good editor.
Also, isn't writing children's books like opening a restaurant--something that everyone wants to do but almost nobody really succeeds at?
No, no.  It's worse than that.

Writing children's books is like singing-- something EVERYONE, even the ones who don't know how to cook, think they can do acceptably.  I swear to god, if you started stopping people on the street and asking them if they had an idea for a children's book, 99% of them would say yes.  This is why editors don't generally admit to what they do when speaking to strangers.

For restaurants, there are three categories: people playing with the idea of opening a restaurant, people trying to run a restaurant, and people running a successful restaurant.

For children's books, there are four categories: people playing with the idea of writing a children's book, people trying to get a children's book published, people who have gotten a children's book published, and people publishing successful children's books.  As much failure as there is in restaurants, there is much, much more in books.

However: there are many things you can do to lessen your chances of failure, and among them are writing a great deal, reading a lot of children's books, and finding out as much as you can about the business. 

I mean, who is more likely to run a successful restaurant-- the person who has pipe dreams of serving his grandmother's recipes to other people, or the person who has practiced running a restaurant, investigated how other restaurants are run, and educated themselves about the business of running a restaurant?

50 comments:

Christine Tripp said...

>Writing children's books is like singing-- something EVERYONE, even the ones who don't know how to cook, think they can do acceptably.  I swear to god, if you started stopping people on the street and asking them if they had an idea for a children's book, 99% of them would say yes.<

So true and American Idol brings that point crashing home:)

>  This is why editors don't generally admit to what they do when speaking to strangers.<

Also why working Illustrators cringe just a little when saying what they do for a living, at a party or in a group. We are preparing/shielding ourselves for that hammer to come down, which it always does. At some point in the evening, after that revelation, at least one person will corner you and tell you all about how they have written a children's book and maybe, if your very lucky, they will let you illustrate it!!!! Oh bother:(

Alicia Padrón said...

Oh I really love this post!

A hack artist? Really?... Well everyone is entitled to their fears I guess. Mine are scorpions and running out of chocolate.

You couldn't be more right about the group division in the children's book world. And the ones that are left out who don't belong to any category think writing children's books is super duper easy and say anyone can do it. I can't tell you how many times I've heard that one before!

Nancy Coffelt said...

"Also, isn't writing children's books like opening a restaurant--something that everyone wants to do but almost nobody really succeeds at?

No, no. It's worse than that."

This made me laugh so hard I spit tea. I started writing when I was young and stupid. Now that I'm well aware of hard it is, I think I'd have my present self tell my past self to seriously consider opening a restaurant.

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ClothDragon said...

I don't have an idea for a children's book. I WANT an idea. I think I might have an easier time convincing Little Girl that reading is fun if I wrote something I'd allow her to read. But I don't have an idea.

Also, starting a restaurant takes a significant outlay of money -- pots/pans, tables/chairs, a building, inspections, stuff. People with a dream recognize this and unless they're really driven, they let the risk convince them to put it on a back burner.

Writing requires a notebook and a pencil. (I know, writing well takes a lot more than that, but simply writing only requires those two relatively inexpensive things.) Until you get to the submission stage, it's very low risk.

Anonymous said...

"I am a working writer (film) and director.
I have written a children's book"

This is my favorite part. Dude, you have a job already. Stop crawling into mine. And editors, get the $$ bills out of your eyes when you choose these types of folks who you think are going to get your book into film. Are you stoned?

Michelle Cusolito said...

I'm so glad you're back. I really missed your posts for the months you were away. I kept waitng for you to reappear in my "Blogger reading list." Today, I'm finally commenting...

Thanks for the straight shootin' as always.

http://michellecusolito.blogspot.com/

Christine Tripp said...

>And editors, get the $$ bills out of your eyes when you choose these types of folks who you think are going to get your book into film. Are you stoned?<

Anon, no Editor is going to this a film writer/director will have the pull to get their book made into a film. Unless of course the letter was written by Martin Scorcese (sp?) or someone along those lines (and it where, he wouldn't be worried about the Editor finding a "hack" illustrator for his book, he could BUY a celeb Illustrator:)
There are a LOT of unknown working people in the film industry that have NO influence what so ever.

Stephen Macquignon said...

*LOL*
If I had a dollar for every time someone told me “I have a great idea for a picture book” and wanted me to illustrate it. I thought I would have been safe at the 2011 SCBWI winter conference nope.
The last person who asked me to illustrate there picture book also asked if I could found the project as well.

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Joseph Travis said...

When I was a technical illustration student I used to get all sorts of family friends asking me to illustrate children's books for them, I gave up explaining what my course was, I smiled and nodded and let them carry on dreaming.

Now I am a Potter people don't expect me to illustrate for them, just sell them pottery for cost price.

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