Hello Zoë, it’s me, your bossy Overbearing Thought Processes. Do you remember, about a year ago, you went to the launch of, My Dog Bigsy, at Where the Wild Things Are bookstore? You met a lovely young woman who had just had her picturebook published. She innocently asked “So, are you a writer?”. (At this point, you had half a manuscript secretly percolating, and had shown it to two established book-friends who said “I think you’re onto something here”). Do you recall, Zoë that almost audible click as you hesitated before responding “Oh! No! Well, Not yet! Um I mean, I am thinking about it!”. That was the catalyst — it was time to unleash your genius on the unsuspecting hordes or fantastical future fans *cough*.

This this happened (deeeep breath aaaaand. GO): conferences, writers’ group, critique groups, online forums, Facebook groups, a million new Facebook friends, Instagram, Twitter (not for long), subscribe to this, read that, follow the rules, follow the rules, the rules, the RULES and whatever you do, be yourself, stand out, be professional, be fresh. Don’t be afraid, don’t do the wrong thing. Did I mention the rules? GAAAAH!

You are not at all keen on rollercoasters, are you Zoë? (hells no, I am the type of gal who likes pockets in my dresses* and pens with fountain tips).

But… you are nothing if not an excellent learner (thank you Overbearing Thought Processes).

Well, let me show you what you’ve learned so far (with the disclaimer that this is not advice. This is simply a list of things that you are working through, at the very beginning, right now).

Here goes:

  1. People are really nice — find the ones you like and stick with them. If you don’t feel at least 87.96% comfortable with the people you’re hanging with, you’re hanging with the wrong people.
  2. Nothing means anything. There are people who are great at working a room. There are people who seem to be friends with ‘important’ people. WELL, none of this actually means anything. The only thing you need to concern yourself with, Zoë is this: Write well, write well, write well. Build a decent body of work. Don’t be too distracted by networking or marketing. Just write. Just draw.
  3. The supply/demand ratio is out of your control. There are SO many people vying for the attention of a very small number of ‘gatekeepers’. Statistically, Zoë, you are doomed. BUT. This is not a completely hopeless situation. It’s a little like finding love — you have to find the right publisher at the right time for the right manuscript. SO, refer to point number 1: write well. Draw more. The more you do it, the better you’ll get.
  4. There is a lot of talent out there. It may feel like there is not enough room in this industry for you, right? But, if you work hard, take time to learn and keep making friends (for motivation and happiness) then you will be able to find your little space in this author/illustrator world. Don’t rush. AND, again, refer back to number 1: write well (and don’t forget to practise the drawing).
  5. A word about conferences. They are a rollercoaster of emotions, sitting on the edge of your seat hoping hoping that maybe someone will see something in your work and sign you on the spot (I hate rollercoasters). You have read over and over that if you’re new you should go to all the conferences, sign up to courses, build a website, work on your author platform. The only problem with doing ALL of this, Zoë, is that you really can’t afford it! SO, spend your money wisely: invest in some key educational courses (see this one, for example); work on your craft (check out this and this); get some critiques from key people (see this one, for example); enter some competitions like this one, for feedback on your work; but above all, listen to the golden advice given by every single publishing industry professional I have ever heard: “above everything else, write a good story”.

*what is with the pastry and pockets?! This blog post came about as a result of meeting and talking with some wonderful people. One of these people is Penelope Pratley. She drew the delightful image above, which is a portrait of me, Zoë (not Overbearing Through Processes). Check out her new website here.