A few weeks ago a friend asked me if I would help a new writer who was about to publish her first book. Could I answer her questions, or maybe connect her to others who might?
Everyone starts as a newbie. We were all there once. “Of course,”I said.
Only moments later, the soon-to-be author made contact. All glowing with the radiance of first-time publication, she wanted to meet and talk. I, old fogy that I am, suggested she first email the nature of her project and her questions to me.
Barely seconds later, a long and detailed Email came back. This writer’s enthusiasm was palpable. Her first book is coming out! Like now! She needs to market! She wants to show it to me!
Some of her comments showed the cluelessness of a newbie. Well, maybe most of her comments. I've gotten wonderful advice in my newbie days, and continue to even now. I've given advice when friends ask, and on this blog- even when not prompted. I wanted to be helpful.
After a few hours’ thought, I sat down and composed a long Email congratulating this writer on her upcoming book. I suggested some links to places where I have learned a lot of useful things. I suggested the best chat-board in kid-lit as a good place to network, The Blue Board. I also included a link to the most informative professional organization for Children’s book writers. The SCBWI also welcomes the yet-to-be published.
I confessed that I have no experience in self-publishing, which is the route she chose. I made a gentle suggestion that her intention to have her book be “picked up by a major publisher” is unlikely if she self-publishes it. It has happened. But, for the most part, self-publishing is a deterrent to eventual traditional publishing. I added that presenting her book as for age 0-6 would not advance her cause, as this is not, developmentally speaking, a real age category in publishing. Infants and six-year olds will not listen to the same stories. Rather, the established age categories might be toddler board books (1-3) and young picture books (3-5). [There is also an older picture book category for beginning readers, ages 5-8.]
After checking her book out, I enclosed links to similar books. Writers should know about what is on the market if they are also the marketers of their books.
All right, I spent some time, enclosed plenty of good links, and signed with very best wishes for the success of her book. I added that she may write back with any questions she has. I know I had plenty, and do to this day. We all have a lot to learn, and paying it forward is a privilege.
Which is why I posted it here. Someone may find a bit of it helpful.
The one thing I would add is that if someone bothers to think about your inquiry and respond, thank them even if you don't resonate or feel happy about their input.
Maybe that should be Networking 101. Then pay it forward.