Finding publishers accepting children’s books is no easy task! I know because I’ve been doing it awhile. I’ve authored 16 books without an agent. I’m now actively pursuing one, given the tighter and more competitive climate, but am still pitching solo. It’s not impossible, and I know many other kidlit authors/illustrators that are staying commando. Wait, I mean rogue. Agentless? You know what I mean.
But as I get ready to submit my next round of picture books, I see more and more publishers that USED to be open to submissions are either closed and now agent only, are at capacity and temporarily closed until further notice, or sadly have shuttered down completely. Some have been bought out by larger houses so their policies have changed, some are simply catching up from the constant influx of subs and are temporarily overwhelmed.
What that means to me is that aaalll those great lists of picture book publishers I’ve bookmarked and found sooo helpful are now outdated. It’s frustrating to have to re-research every link. You feel my pain, I know you do.
[click READ MORE to read entire post and get to list]
I’m making an effort to up my social media presence. Who wants to join me?
I am going to spend the month of May doing one thing every day that will ripple across my social media outlets, to engage (if not educate and entertain) and grow my followers. Since many writers are introverts, I know marketing and promoting ourselves doesn’t come easily. Being asked to “up our social media presence” can feel like a trip to the dentist. While it’s easy to to put off or “get to later,” it’s really not that hard. We just have to do it. That’s why I created this challenge.
Sure, I’d like to have more followers, what author wouldn’t? I admit I’m way behind where I’ll like to be when my next book comes out. But building a list for potential book buyers is not the only reason I’m doing it. The years of Covid confinement have left me with lingering feelings of isolation, and I’m eager to (re)connect with people.
I’m doing it for me.
Sure, the best time to start building your platform was years ago. But the next best time is now.
Yep, time to get to it. I’ll have a short blog here detailing each task I’m doing, each day, so you can come join and learn along with me. The tasks all differ. Some are creating lists of ideas. Some are specific posts that’ll take 5 minutes to do. Others might take more work, but will still be manageable. I promise. I don’t have all day for this stuff—which is why I’m looking at small, daily steps. I am breaking the challenge down into 31 small-ish tasks that should all add up to making a decent difference. Sorta like eating an elephant one bite at a time. It’s a CHALLENGE to push us past our comfort zone. I think it will help if we cheer each other on along the way.
So, fellow author friends, whadday say?
Will you join in? Leave a message or sign up below to make sure you are committed! (Experts say you’re more willing to follow through on a commitment or challenge if you tell someone else about it. Saying your goal out loud, or posting it publicly, makes us feel more accountable. Do it. Do it.)
*For those unfamiliar with the term “author platform,” I can best describe it in a visual. Picture a group of people. Let’s say they are all authors. One person stands on a raised surface—it could be basically anything for better visibility; let’s say it’s a milk crate. That person is now a little taller than all the other authors around them. They stand out. You can spot them in a crowd. They are an author, on a platform.
You want to be the author that sticks out, that is noticeable in a crowd. You need a platform. In modern terms that means having a strong social media presence. It could be a solid group of Facebook followers (10K is minimum to be impressive these days)(yikes, right?), Instagram, Twitter, or any of the new ones popping up like Post, Mastodon, Discord, Clubhouse…the list goes on and on. It could also include people who subscribe to your newsletter or follow your website. These aren’t people that you blatantly scream BUY MY BOOK to, mind you, they are your friends, your support, your cheerleaders. And if they’ve been ignored for too long, they’ll move on to someone else. I don’t want to lose any more friends! In fact, I want to make more.
Not everyone is comfortable sharing information online, even when it’s required.
If you’re self publishing and/or using Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) to print your books on demand (POD), you will notice that you have to hand over your social security number (SSN) or TID (Taxpayer Identification Number) in order to set up an account and get started. You also need to hand over your bank account info so they can pay you royalties (lots, hopefully!). In the age of cyber and identity theft, many people are uncomfortable sharing that precious information — as well they should be. Our friends over at the Northern California Publishers and Authors (NCPA), have suggestions.
EID: You don’t have to use your SSN, actually. What do you mean? you may ask. I have to give them a legal identifying number or I can’t sign up. Well, instead of using your SSN when you sign up for your Amazon KDP account, there is an option to provide an EIN, or Employer Identification Number. Do it. Use your EIN instead of your SSN or TID! It’s that easy.
But I don’t have an EIN, you might say.
Then get one!
Many people assume that to get or have an EIN you have to run a business or at a minimum, hire employees (hence the Employer part of the acronym). But no, you don’t have to be or have either. As a writer, you are a business.Gasp! And get this — it’s free to get an EIN directly through the IRS, online. Double gasp! Tell me more! Click here for the direct link on how to secure an EIN. You *will* have to give your SSN or TIN to sign up (they need some way to track you, it is the government after all)–but you’ll be giving it directly to the IRS.
Sharon Darrow, president of NCPA, cautions, “DO NOT waste time and money going through a third party, because they often charge and can take longer because your application has to be submitted through the IRS.” She finds the EIN page “clear as mud,” but it’s not too bad for government work (wow, two government burns, nice, Kemper). The app should take about 15 minutes to complete. And, Ms. Darrow feels, is worth it. “Using the EIN not only protects your privacy, but makes you look a little more professional.”
Uncomfortable with completing the form online? The bottom of the page has a form you can download to apply through the mail.
BANK ACCOUNT INFO: Kindle also requires your bank account. No, they aren’t being nosy, they need it in order to get you your moolah from book sales. Ms. Darrow has another suggestion that is “very simple and helpful for your tax records.” And I agree. “Set up a separate account for your writing business,” she says. “Even if you only have a handful of transactions a year, it protects your privacy and is more professional. Make sure you are getting an account with the bare minimum or no fees, and ask your banker if it’s connected to any of your other accounts in a way that an outsider could access. If you are especially worried, set up the writing account at a bank or credit union where you have no other accounts. This way, you can give the bank account information to Kindle with no worries.”
I’ve had a long slump. I’m IN a slump. One long train of rejections that keeps chugging by, practically waving in my face as it passes…
I told a friend of mine last week that if I didn’t hear back from a certain house by Friday, that I was done. I had shopped this particular manuscript around with fast and early interest rapidly fizzling into radio silence. That glowing promise, I think, is what has stung the hardest. Because after what I was certain was a sure thing, it’s gone nowhere. I’ve received the highest level of feedback I’ve ever heard on this one, and yet also received the fastest rate of rejections. I don’t get it. And I’ve. Had. Enough.
I’ve been frustrated for months. “Nothing of mine has been picked up for a few years now,” I told my friend. “I’ve had a good run…21 books. But I’ve got to face the new facts. I’m not cutting it. I need to move on. It’s okay, no hard feelings. No regrets.”
She didn’t say a thing. So I continued:
“I don’t get it. This sh*t is good. Borderline great. I mean, quite frankly it’s my best work,” I bragged lamented. “Agents and editors have flat out told me! Yet for one reason or another, it’s ‘not the right one for them.’ ARRRGGGH.” (I may have shaken my fists to the sky in a trite manner before toning it down a wee bit.) (OK, fine, I may also have let a few swear words fly before caching my breath.) (But I did not punch her, or the wall, or the poor guy walking by with fear in his eyes as he gave wide berth.) “I can’t control others, I can only control myself,” I said, sorta calmly. “So if I don’t hear back from [said house that I’d been really optimistic about] by Friday, I’m done. I’m getting off this train. I’ve submitted dozens of new manuscripts this year alone.” I scrunched my face and self corrected. “Tens? Well, at least five. Some better than others, I can admit. This last one can be my swan song. Time to jump ship. Or long-waving train car, whatever.”
“Everyone has a slump. That doesn’t mean you abandon ship. Shut up–I know you’re gonna say train. You know what I mean. What’s your problem? Why now?”
“The problem is, nothing that I’ve felt with my heart and soul as NEEDS TO BE TOLD has gone anywhere. My older stuff I’ve let go of, it’s crap, but some of this stuff I haven’t been able to abandon because I’ve truly thought they’re worthy. Yet guess what–after years and years of trying, they aren’t published. I’ve got to see that for what it is and recognize maybe my work is just not good enough. I need to move on. It’s okay, I’ve really thought it through. Been thinking about it for years, actually, and only now have the nerve to do it. I’ve made peace with it. ”
“Can you, though?” she asked, her question boring through my heart like a fire-heated rod.
“Can you really give up writing?”
My friends, has anyone ever asked you a question that stopped you in your tracks? One that called you out and showed you who you are? One that perhaps caught you off guard because you thought you already thought through all the ramifications and possible outcomes and were fine with all of them, but that one question made you realize you were just PRETENDING to be okay with said decision?
That’s what this question did to me.
Especially because this decision was based on an arbitrary if not fake deadline, with all hope pointing to a house actually getting back to me by said fake deadline, because I really wanted to hear back from them so I could continue writing. I mean, if I wanted to quit, I’d quite, right? None of this “starting tomorrow” business. If I wanted to stop swearing (HAH!) then I’d take it seriously and quit–not starting next week as long as no one pissed me off before then. I guess it’s like an addiction?
Swearing Writing is part of who I am. It’s what I do.
So no dumb, fake deadline is gonna make me quit.
Spoiler alert: As you may have guessed, that house hasn’t gotten back to me. It might never get back to me. Yet here I am. Writing. I’m still looking, still pounding the pavement, still pandering, still waving my LOOK OVER HERE flag. I’ve chosen another house to send to–three in fact. (I never said I was exclusive in the submission and unless requested, these days most assume you aren’t. I’d really like that first one. But tick tock, I ain’t got all day to hear no, lol. I can retract my submission to the others if that one signs me. Wouldn’t that be a great problem to have?)
So, yeah, here I am, writing again.
Does it feel good?
Better than not writing, that’s for sure.
Thanks for joining me on this writing journey. I bet you’ve got “I’m done” stories too. Let me hear about them!