Author is defined by Merriam-Webster for Kids as: a person who creates a written work. I like to share that definition with students because it is encouraging. If you put the words on paper you are an author. You are a wordsmith, but you must also be brave and thick-skinned. If you want to be a published author, putting words on paper is just the first step. And there are things you can do to increase your chance of success.
Understanding the business of publishing is one key to success. It is a business that involves many people, all of whom are hoping to make a living. I did not find success as an author until I began to study the business. The knowledge gained helped me target submissions and decreased the sting of rejection! For example, understanding how many submissions a publisher receives vs how many books they publish a year is eye-opening, as is a look at resources like Publishers Weekly. Any given week, a majority of their top 25 picture book bestsellers were written decades ago.
Tenacity, according to my invaluable Flip Dictionary, is a synonym for patience and persistence. Two of the words I wanted to use, but there’s no P in AUTHOR. However, maybe tenacity is really the right word. And writing is about finding the right word. Tenacity involves patience, persistence, and determination. To be a published author you cannot give up or be discouraged. Despite the overnight success stories, most authors will be rejected MANY times (I have been hundreds of times) and they will have waited months for this lovely rejection news!
Hone your craft. An author is never done learning. In the age of the internet, resources abound. There are blogs, online workshops, and online critique groups. Join groups like the Author’s Guild or Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI), and you’ll find abundant information and links to MORE information. A critique group, or at least readers other than family and friends, is a must. Like the game of telephone, what you see in your head does not always make it to the paper and into your reader’s mind.
Organize your time. Most authors have other jobs and obligations. When I have time to devote to my writing I have to decide how to utilize my time – do I work on a new story, revise an old one, research places to send a story, catch up on industry news, read reviews of books, read books in the genre I write, do a writing workshop, read a book about the craft of writing, market the books I have published, etc.! AND, don’t forget what may be the most important: quiet thinking time, letting the ideas come and grow in your mind!
Read, read, read! If you want to be a published author you need to read. Reading books in the genre you write will help you understand what goes into a book that makes it from manuscript to library shelf. Reading any genre exposes you to words, language and the art of storytelling. And reading does one more thing-it supports other authors, which is what you are or hope to be!
Holly Niner’s latest books, No More Noisy Nights and The Day I Ran Away, were released from Flashlight Press in 2017. She has had numerous stories published in children’s magazines, and her previous picture books were award winners. Mr. Worry: A Story about OCD, received the 2005 IBBY Outstanding Books for Young People with Disabilities Award, and I Can’t Stop: A Story about Tourette Syndrome, was the winner of the 2006 Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Award and a 2005 Bank Street College of Education Best Book. Holly lives in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Find her at hollyniner.com. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter.