Monday, April 6, 2015

7 Things About Children's Publishing You May Not Know

Contract number one!
This is a picture of me holding my first real book contract. What an amazing day! Man, was I naive! Before my series was published, I had no idea what I was getting into. You can read post after post and go to forum after forum, but until you're fully entrenched in "the business" it's hard to know what to expect. Even now, after being published since 2010, I still don't have all the answers--not even close. I guess that's good, though, keeps life exciting! 

Long story short, here's 7 things about publishing you may not already know. Please feel free to add to the list in the comment section. 

1. Just because you were published once (and published well) doesn't mean you'll get published again. Many writers think it's just that easy, but they're wrong. A foot in the door is just that, it's not another book contract. 

2. You may have had a bestselling debut book, but if book number two isn't awesome, your publisher may not (and probably won't) publish it. While I was speaking at an author's event a few years back, I met several bestselling authors who had books shelved by their publishers AFTER they were already bestselling. They said (in a nutshell) their publishers had told them the books weren’t good enough and the house and the author would both look bad for putting them out there. Goes to show you, money is NOT everything to publishers. 

Me holding my first copy of Book II
3. Your agent may be brilliant at selling children's books, but the adult writing world is completely different. So, if you've written an adult novel, chances are your kidlit agent will tell you to shop it to other agencies. 

4. Foreign rights are awesome! By and large, the author simply sits back. The book is translated by the foreign house and many times given a new cover. The author does little in most cases, but collect advance and royalty checks. If you can get a foreign rights deal, it's a very nice perk, plus you get to see your book translated into another language which is so rewarding. 

5. Throw yourself into your book's marketing. Many writers may think if you sign with a big house or any house they will throw tons of money into marketing your book. NOT TRUE. Most houses, including the household names, have very little money allocated for marketing most of their list, therefore it's on you to get the majority of the word out there. If you can't afford a publicity agent than start a grassroots campaign and work your backside off. Trust me, you can get the word out there with little to no money, just be prepared to work! 

My little girl holding my first book at B&N

6. Contracts take a long time! From the time your agent calls you with the news to the time the contract is signed you better be prepared to wait. Contracts go back and forth between the agent and the publisher several times and then they have to go to legal and sometimes many other departments in between, so be prepared to wait, sometimes over six months. Even though it's so hard to keep quiet, this is why you should never reveal your "deal" until all the ink is dry. This is a crazy industry and you just never know what could happen.

7. Books get pulled ALL THE TIME. You have a book contract. You're editing at breakneck speed. Everything seems to be going fine and then BOOM your publisher pulls the rug out from under you. It could be that your editor quit or the house doesn't like the direction of the project--there's so many reasons why this happens there's too many to list, but it does happen, so be prepared. It's hard and it hurts terrifically but you can survive it. You've got to dust yourself off and start again. If you hadn't had been persistent, you would not be here in the first place!


  1. The key word is "persistent." (Especially since the publishing world seems to move at the speed of a glacier.)

    1. "Glacier". That is the perfect word to describe it!! :)

    2. Hilary and Michael,

      It would be easier if we were immortal, but we're not, and we do need healthy outlets to deal with the challenges highlighted in the post above.

      Especially if we can't write multiple books in a year (to "distract" ourselves) we need to be able to have people we can vent to in private, but also to brainstorm solustions that we can share with all writers.

      Also, I want us "Mayhemers" to rmember regardless of what a publisher does or doesn't do, and even if we're publishing ourselves, we're only one person, we can't do it all at once, no we can't do nothing, but we can't do it all ourselves.

      I still feel publishers should something on the marketing front to add to what we're already doing. I'd also like to understand that we're taking just as much a risk as you are on any given book, we don't want it to fail (sales wise) anymore than you do. But the difference is we as indivuals, don't nessecarily have savings to recover as you the publishers

      Hilary, understand I do get the business involved in what you touch on, but I do sometimes fear some publishers (however small or large) overestimate what any one author can do at one time.

      It's not anymore realitic to expect authors to be these dynamos

      Not to compare apples to oranges her, but Disney didn't become an international multi-million brand overnight. It took TIME.

      Publishers can't preach patience to authors and that turn arounda drop us once we've signed a contract, or expect us to become "soulless" salespeople. I'm not picking on anyone in particular, I'm jsut stating a general opinion here. I LOVE working with my editor at my publisher, but because they're small with limited resources, I feel an added duty to get the illustrator and cover art my book needs.

      In exchange, I'm getting the outside editing and publishing platform I couldn't afford to give myself.

      Even if I have to pay for it myself, I'm getting the creative control and imput I wouldn't likely get at a larger pbulisher, but at least I wouldn't have to worry about printing costs or getting into bookstores, this especially matters in the Children's market because despite the "ebook revolution" not all kids have access to ebooks, and print books still matter to non-YA readers.

      My fear (my author journey aside) is we're reaching a point in publishing in general where only the richest among us can survive long enough to thrive.

      That's why I feel torn in this push to indie publish, because to do it at a pro level takes a lot money, not just time, and despite the adage "You can get more money, not time" lack of money does get in the way.

      To be continued...

    3. That would shut so many wrriters out, and I'd hate to see that happen. I'm still positive about my journey, but some days ( or YEARS) are harder than others.

      We need to talk more about this and help each other brainstorm solutions.

      Also, one thing indie authors (who can publish at the pro level, like Chris Eboch/Kris Brock) forget is that when we publish ourselves, we're not just doing the marketing, hiring an editorial team (in an ideal world) we also have to pay all our printing costs, and I think that gets overlooked when writers talk about going indie.

      Chirs, I know YOU know that, I was just using you as an example of smart and professionally publishing a book, just clarifying that in case it wasn't clear in the context I meant above.

  2. Wonderful (and somewhat painful) post, Hilary. Thank you! It really is a profession that depends so much on the author. Book touring can feel like life as a door-to-door salesman. But I've gotten emails from my publisher after events. They can see the spike in sales after every signing and author visit. An author should never sit back and let anyone else do the work. We simply can't afford it.

    1. I've heard horror stores about authors who thought their house was going to market them, so they did nothing, and book sales were less than favorable. You have to tenacious and creative!

  3. The idea that it gets even harder after accomplishing the first step is somewhat terrifying, but what's the alternative? Certainly not giving up. What in the world would I do with all my time if not write?

    1. Eat junk food and play video games!! :)

  4. Never knew why authors had to stay quiet for so long before announcing their book - thanks for the inside look!

    1. Right, because what if something went wrong? I'd hate for everyone to ask me when my book was coming out and I had to tell them it didn't work out. That would be a big ouch! :)

    2. I know when I sold "GABRIEL" I waited because I knew there could be twists and turns before contracts were signed.

      I told my close writer friends, but waited until after the contract was signed and accepted on both sides before I really went public on my site.

      That said, I had to change publishers (but kept my same great editor) for resaons I shared January 2014.

      In my case, I wasn't ordered to keep quiet, but I know from other author's experiences I'd read about, it was safter as I'd hate to have to take it back later.

      My heart goes out to authors who really thought they'd finally got a sale (or found their agent).

      I think it's important to be as transperent as possible so you instill trust in your emerging readership.

      My author friend, Kelly Hashway, had to go through that when she started using a pen name when she branched out from the picture books and YA novels she'd become known for, to New Adult romance.

      She had to keep the fact she was writing under two name a secret for a long time, she finally did share that news on her blog, and in a video. I know some authors prefer keeping their pen name work a secret from the reader

      I know Sara Paraetsky (adult mystery author) faced this when she wrote books outside her V.I. series and the reception was poor as most of her long time fans only wanted V.I. books and little else from her, and sometiems authors in that situation need a new name to reach a different audience and be able to honor their creative need to write outside what they're known for under the name the first published with.

      I know we as writers (and readers) talk a lot about how series have a pull stand-alone books don't always muster, but the danger of mostly doing series is readers only want your series, or sometimes stand-alone books ceomcer a hard sell in publiser's POV more-so than the readers, and sometimes it's both.

      Author Ann Martin makes no secret of what she faced after "The Babysitter's Club" series ended, and made sure when she did "Main Street" she had a more defined end point in sight, and to ensure she could write all the books herself.

      I know this can be controversial given all the author deception stories that hit the news now and then, but we should remember that there overall more legit authors use pen names are aren't scammy and shady.

    3. EDIT: "I know this can be controversial given all the author deception stories that hit the news now and then, but we should remember that there overall more legit authors use pen names who aren't scammy and shady versus those who sadly are."

    4. Thank you for all the insights, Taurean. Really valuable information! :)

    5. Thanks Hilary, I'm glad when I can share resources and let other writers they aren't alone when they face the push-pull between art and commerce.

  5. Hilary -- All true, true, TRUE things here!

    I love that picture of your daughter with your book. I hope you gave her bookmarks and marketing materials to pass out at every possible book event. NO ONE can resist someone that cute!

    My girls are now 18 and 15. Doesn't work for them any more. :P

    1. Dianne, she's my biggest if I can get the 12 year old reluctant reader to fall in line I'll be all set! :)

    2. Hang in there, Hilary (Re: the 12 year old), it took me until I was 16 to be the reader I am now. It's NEVER too late, the book or books to reach him or her sometimes don't come as early in our lives as we'd like.

  6. Thanks, Hilary.
    I'm on this learning curve right now!

  7. Hilary, thanks for another great post. I appreciate your insight.


Thanks for adding to the mayhem!