Networking Advice for Children's Book Authors and Illustrators

Hanging out with Superman (AKA Jim Averbeck)

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. 

Jessie Oliveros and I at the Whitney Awards in 2019

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.

Book Giveaway

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).

Blog Contributors

Instructor Photo: Myrna Foster

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.

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53 thoughts on “Networking Advice for Children’s Book Authors and Illustrators”

    1. I really want to read “Dance Like a Leaf” and “Soaked”. I plan to look for them on my next visit to the Library!

    2. I will like to have a copy of No, Fuzzball bc I have a 4-year-old who always talk about wanting to own 10 cats so I believe this will be a fun way to teach her what to expect when she owns at least 1 cat one day..IDK yet maybe next year or .??? lol and the next one in line that I will like to have is the oldest student to help teach my kids about history and encourage them that it’s never too late to learn something new

  1. I am constantly trying to be better at the things I feel that I lack. Thank you Myrna for all the encouraging words!
    Soaked looks like a fun book to read!

  2. Such a lovely post! I have set aside part of my day to support my fellow creatives in just the ways you suggest and am looking for more ways as you speak. I was underwhelmed with my first pitch party, but was encouraged with the networking that I’ve received from taking part! THE OLDEST STUDENT looks like a touching read with another type of diversity!

  3. Thanks for the excellent tips. I’m going to start reviewing books I get at the library! If I am a lucky recipient of one of the books above, I would choose DANCE LIKE A LEAF!

  4. This post totally inspired me to reach out to someone I would love be critique partners with. Thanks Myrna! Also if it’s possible to get Remember the Balloons, I would love a copy! Thanks again.

  5. I already bought “Soaked” and I love it. The story and the illustrations are wonderful and full of fun. I have seen Soaked popping up all over the lit sites I look at so I hope it is doing GREAT. I would love any picture book. Thanks, Myrna!

  6. Thanks Myrna for the networking tips and sharing some of your personal stories! As well as the selection of books in the photo, I haven’t read them so will have to look them up in my library or local bookstore. Spencer’s New Pet- curious about that title! Have a great Thanksgiving!

  7. Thanks for sharing such helpful tips on how to be an active and supportive member of the writing community, Myrna! I hadn’t thought about checking out books that I own to boost circulation and demand. Brilliant! I am on it! I would love a copy of “Dance like a Leaf.”

  8. Thanks for these tips. It motivates me to put myself out there. I plan on joining SCBWI and I have been slowly trying to connect with others who may be interested in books I am starting to write. I have been making regular trips to the library and checking out children’s books and review them for the content and illustrations. The librarian is getting to know me so I guess I need to open up more to her. I would love to read Dance like a Leaf and Soaked, or even have my own copy!

  9. Great advice, Myrna. Networking is important but it can be fun if you take the right approach – a genuine approach as yo uhave shared. Ty.

  10. All of the books look super cute. I think my kids would love Soaked by Abi Cushman, because they love watching the rain

  11. Folks can’t believe it when I say I’m shy and introverted, but I am. It’s tough for me to be open to others. Anyhoo, great post! And I already have Soaked and Brown Sugar Babe, sooooooOOOOooooo any of the others would be great. Thanks, Myrna.

    1. Yep, I can see that about you. I’m always surprised when people are surprised that I’m introverted, lol. My extroverted friends and family all act like it’s something that I can turn on and off, or that it will just go away if I spend time acting extroverted. They don’t get that acting extroverted, attending conferences, etc. is physically and emotionally draining for me. Is it worth it? Yes.

  12. I have thought of leaving reviews on Twitter before. What hashtags do people use for PB reviews? I would love to have Spencer’s New Pet.

    1. I’ve never left reviews on Twitter before. I usually leave them on bookseller websites and occasionally on Goodreads. I’ve seen people link to their Goodreads reviews on Twitter. I’d search some related hashtags and see what seems to be the most popular. #PictureBooks would work.

  13. Thanks for these super helpful tips, Myrna. It’s so fun to start recognizing names…on Twitter, on chats at virtual conferences, and even on book jackets (like Isabella Kung co-teaching the illustration class this Friday)!

  14. I would love The Star Festival! Thanks for the chance to win! Can’t wait to share my winning book with my 4 grandchildren!!!

  15. Networking is a very important part of success. Thank you, Myrna, for sharing. Both The Very Hungry Lion and Spencer’s New Pet take you on a journey (with or without saying a word). The reader makes assumptions and predicts the ending…or should I say predict a possible ending to the story. How creative!

  16. Hi Myrna,
    I enjoyed reading your post. I am always buying books because I am a teacher so I love to find new titles to share with my students. I was curious, do you think a blog would be something important to start as an aspiring writer? If I were to win a book any would be great but I am most interested in Brown Sugar Babe or Soaked.

    1. Hi Melissa! Thank you for being a teacher, especially this year.

      No, I don’t think having a blog is important. If you want to start a blog because you feel you have something to give and it will bring you some kind of fulfillment, then go for it. But if it’s just another thing to do, then I’d skip it. Personally, I love blogging.

  17. Thank you for your post and advice! So many of us (including myself!) often have a hard time putting ourselves out there, but I’ve met so many wonderful people over the years because I did! If I were to win one of the books, I’d love Soaked! Thank you so much!

  18. I appreciated your post. You’re so right about being an introvert. For over 15 years I was in pastoral ministry. I was an introvert in an extroverts’ world. Presently, I am trying to get more involved in the kidlit world, but find it difficult to begin. COVID 19 hasn’t made it any easier, either. But, I’m slowly trying to get plodding along with it. I’m 73 and trying to learn picture books. I’m on Facebook but am having difficulty wrapping my mind around all the social media. I do have a picture book in the self-publishing mode right now. It may be the first and last time I’ll do that for a number of reasons. I’m getting too long-winded here, so I’ll quit by saying that if I win one of the books my choice would be “The Hungry Lion.”

  19. Thank you for such practical advice! Sometimes we can’t see the forest for the trees and these were all excellent reminders! If my name were to be drawn, I would love the book The Oldest Student. Thanks so much!

  20. I would love to read Dance Like a Leaf and Soaked. Both titles intrigue me. I especially like the cover of Soaked. Thank you so much for the helpful networking ideas and the chance to win one of these books!

  21. I also went to your facebook page (Storyteller Academy). I liked the page, I liked the post on the BlackFriday Bootcamp, and I shared the BlackFriday Bookcamp post. I hope I can log on for at least part of the Bootcamp! Thank you.

  22. All those books look fantastic. Soaked seems like a lot of fun. I want to have all of them. I’m gonna wait to see which one I win, and buy the rest. 🙂

  23. Thanks for the encouragement to put yourself out there! These are all such great choices, but if I could pick one I’d choose Soaked.

  24. Dance like a leaf sounds fun! That would be my pick! I like this article, as I’m just dipping my toe into the concept of writing a children’s book, any tips are so helpful. Cant wait to chat up our librarians again when they reopen!

  25. Myrna, what you said about libraries resonates with me. We’re so fortunate to have libraries accessible and am happy to contribute to their foundation. I’m a volunteer at the Leading to Reading program they have for elementary grade kids.
    My choice of books are:
    Dance like a leaf, No Fuzzball, Soaked, The Oldest Student, Spencer’s new Pet.
    I’ll be happy to receive any of the PB. Thank you.
    Happy Thanksgiving to all.

  26. Awesome post! I’d love The Oldest Student, Brown Sugar Babe (such an affirming one!), Spencer’s New Pet, Dance Like a Leaf, Soaked or A Hungry Lion. I love to contribute to books’ success too at @landoflibros on Instagram!

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