Thursday, September 25, 2014

Dear Baby Barbara

I was inspired by this post to write a letter to Baby Barbara.

Who is Baby Barbara? 

She's ME twenty-five years ago, longing to become a published author of children's books.

Now that I'm older and wiser, here are some of the things I would tell Baby Barbara.

** While all those rejections letters are coming in, don't just sit there and cry about them. Either figure out how to improve whatever is being rejected or work on something new, for criminey's sake.

** Hooray! You finally sold a manuscript. Now your foot is in the door and anything you submit after that will be published. Right? 

WRONG. No matter how many books you publish, each and every one must undergo the same scrutiny, the same consideration, the same acquisition discussions. Just because you've published one book, or twenty books, doesn't mean your next one will be published. Each one must stand on its own merits. 

(And when an unpublished author friend says, "Well, of course, your publisher is going to accept your manuscript. You're already published," you have my permission to punch her in the nose. Hard.

** Don't spend all that money mailing out a gazillion postcards to a gazillion bookstores. Just don't. Go ahead and get some postcards with your book jacket and reviews, etc., to give out at conferences and send to some key people or selected stores or whatever. But make wise choices. Of course, this is just my opinion, but I don't think doing a huge mailing is money well spent.

** Do get active on social media. Get a blog and post to it regularly. Get on Facebook and Twitter. Connect with book people regularly. This is a much cheaper way to reach a lot of people than all those postcards you mailed.

** Do take time to acknowledge all the wonderful book lovers who connect with you - thru emails or social media or whatever. Teachers. Librarians. Etc. Those people are champions of children's literature and you are lucky to connect with them. It's a win-win.

** Study the marketing done by writers you admire and who seem to be "out there" everywhere and clearly sell a lot of books.

** But remember that you are NOT those other writers. If you can't sew a moose costume or bake school bus cookies or design interactive games or create glow-in-the-dark bookmarks or visit every bookstore in the U.S. or deliver keynote speeches at major conferences, then don't. Do whatever YOU can do.

** Stop feeling pressure to speak at every conference or visit every school or make charming but educational videos or create brilliant brochures. Just stop it. 

** It's okay to say NO. No one will hate you. Your career won't be ruined. You won't be a useless, wasted, has-been, sorry-excuse-for-a-human-being.

** Some reviews will hurt your feelings. They just will. Read them. Cry. Cuss. Eat Oreos. Drink whiskey. Move on.

** Stay away from GoodReads. It is toxic to your soul. Haters gonna hate. 

People who feel the need to tell the world your book is a waste of a good tree (without thoughtful and constructive criticism) are puppy-kickers. Stay away.

** And whatever you do, do NOT respond to the puppy-kicking haters. Just don't. 

Buy yourself a voodoo doll if that makes you feel better. Or write cuss words on your driveway with chalk. Or buy those cute shoes you saw at Macy's yesterday. 

But do not write a response to haters. They will only hate you more and you will look stupid in the eyes of the world.

** Stop checking your Amazon sales rank incessantly. It's stupid. 

** You know all that time you spent checking your Amazon sales rank and reading hate reviews on GoodReads? You could have written six more pages of your new novel and had time left over to buy a purse online at Nordstrom.

** You will be envious of other writers. They win more awards. They get more starred reviews. They have more Twitter followers. They speak at more conferences. Their publishers send them on international book tours and they have their books made into movies starring Meryl Streep and Johnny Depp. 

Envy is a natural human emotion and you aren't going to hell and back for feeling it. 

But feel it and then....get over it. 

Remind yourself that you've sold a book. You've spoken at a conference. You had a nice review. Whatever. There might even be someone out there envying you

Focus on the positive and slam the door on the negative.

** AND remember your peers are your friends. Fellow writers will help you, give you advice and be there when you need to hash out a problem. They will cheer your successes and lament your troubles.

** Be grateful. 

You sit in front of the fire in your jammies and slippers on a snowy day and make up stories. 

You visit schools with hallways lined with welcome signs and drawings based on your books. 

You receive letters from kids that make you laugh. 

You see a book with your name on the cover in the book store. 

You receive letters from teachers who read your books to their classes.

You are doing what you love and don't have to ask "Do you want fries with that?"

Be grateful, Baby Barbara, be grateful.


Sarah Albee said...

I love this post, Barbara. :D I should bookmark it and re-read it daily.

Susan Hill Long said...

Wonderful post, Barbara. *begins stitching up a moose costume.*

Kate Morgan Jackson said...

Wonderful, practical, reassuring, perfect advice. Loved this!

Dawn Babb Prochovnic said...

Thank you for these lovely reminders!

Anonymous said...

I love this post, Barbara! It’s straight forward great advice!

Augusta Scattergood said...

Thank you for reposting this. Every writer, new and been-around-awhile, should read it once a year. Or more.