Networking Advice for Children's Book Authors and Illustrators
Networking is an important part of business. In this post, I want to open a discussion about what it looks like in our industry. I would argue that there are different kinds of networking, just like there are different kinds of relationships, and the best way to make lasting connections in our industry is to build real friendships and business connections over time.
1. Be Friendly But Professional
Earlier this week, two book packages arrived in the mail. One was this advance reader copy of THE STAR FESTIVAL, by Moni Ritchie Hadley and Mizuho Fujisawa.
Moni asked me in advance if I was interested in seeing an early copy of the book, but she didn't ask until we'd established a relationship through emails. By the time she asked, I definitely wanted to see her book. And it's a beautiful picture book that will introduce young readers to the mythology behind the Japanese Tanabata Festival in a heartwarming family story. I thought Moni did a fabulous job of weaving metaphor and mythology in a relatable setting, and Mizuho's gorgeous illustrations are going to draw readers right into the story.
My second book package was a personalized collector's edition of ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS, by Stephanie Perkins. Steph and I became friends over 10 years ago when I started leaving comments on her blog. She encouraged me to start a blog of my own and to get a Twitter account.
My point here is that Steph and I were friends before she sold her first book, and that's true of most of my friends who have published books. If you like what someone is doing, tell them so. If you'd like to be critique partners with someone who's working toward the same goal that you are, don't be afraid to ask. Most of my earliest critique partners were my blogging friends way back when blogging was still cool.
That's even true of my first regular critique partner for picture books, Jessie Oliveros. I'd been reading her blog off and on for years and reached out to her via Twitter in 2015 to see if she wanted to swap critiques. Jessie agreed, and now she has an award-winning picture book. If you haven't read THE REMEMBER BALLOONS, get yourself a copy (and a box of tissues). You won't regret it.
You also won't regret time spent nurturing long-term relationships with people who share your goals.
2. Put Yourself Out There
If you're a fellow introvert, this one can be kind of scary. True story: I was a member of SCBWI for five years before I ever attended a SCBWI conference. And from what I understand, that isn't unusual. Successful networking is going to mean going to conferences, and I highly recommend volunteering. Get involved. For me, it meant volunteering to edit/coordinate the newsletter for SCBWI Nevada. As far as networking goes, this is one of the best moves I've ever made. I'm so grateful for the friends I've made through SCBWI.
Join organizations. Volunteer. Take classes. Be your best self. Don't be fake, but if you're struggling with imposter syndrome, it's okay to “fake it till you make it.” You have to risk rejection and do things that scare you a little. Seriously, most of us are struggling with imposter syndrome. You never know what opportunities you'll have if you put yourself out there. This job I have with Storyteller Academy is a direct result of doing exactly what I told you to do in this paragraph, and I love my job. It's hard to imagine my life without the friends I've made through Storyteller Academy.
3. Follow the Golden Rule
Seriously, treat other people the way you'd want to be treated. I buy and give away books that I want to see succeed, but there are things you can do that don't cost any money.
For example, these are some books I ordered and picked up from my library this week that are by people I want to support. Even if I own a book, I'll check it out from the library to create some demand in our library system. I also talk to librarians about the books we're excited about. The librarian who checked these out to me said she loved THE OLDEST STUDENT, SOAKED, and DANCE LIKE A LEAF.
Can I just take a moment to say that you want to be networking with librarians, educators, and booksellers now, before you have a book?
If you're checking books out from the library (or buying them), take the time to leave a review. Online reviews are a great way to support your fellow creators. The more reviews a book has on a site like Amazon, the more visibility the book gets.
Sharing and retweeting important moments in your fellow creators' social media is another way you can support them for free.
If you have any suggestions for ways to support and/or network with fellow creatives, please share them in the comments.
I'm giving away one book to a random commenter. You can win any book pictured in this post or any book written or illustrated by a person pictured in this post. Just let me know in the comments which book you'd like. For extra entries, share the post on social media and let me know in a reply to your original comment. This giveaway will end on November 30 at midnight (PST).
Myrna Foster writes and edits content for Storyteller Academy and the WriteRiders Newsletter for SCBWI Nevada. She has spent a lot of time teaching and coaching children, including five years as a preschool teacher. She's also worked as a journalist, and Highlights High Five has published six of her poems.
Arree Chung is an author/illustrator and the founder of Storyteller Academy. Arree’s Ninja! series has received starred reviews from Kirkus and School Library Journal. Kirkus also gave a starred review to Mixed, which recently won the FCGB award.
Today Arree lives a creative life, making stories for children. Arree spends most of his time making picture books, writing middle grade novels, and sharing his love for art, design, and storytelling with kids and dreamers everywhere.