SCBWI NY: Shaping a Career in Children’s Books

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On the last day of the SCBWI Winter 2010 Conference, Sheldon Fogelman gave an informative talk about how to shape your career writing children’s books. He offered sound advice while sharing stories from his years of experience working as an agent.

He stressed two major points:

  1. Remember that publishing a business
  2. Don’t be afraid to get out of your box

With these two key points in mind, he offered the following advice to writers, both published and unpublished:

  • Never stop writing; you don’t know when the book you write will be THE book
  • Don’t be easily discouraged
  • Keep learning how to write so your work is publishable
  • Make sure you’re asking the right questions along the way
  • Beware of saying yes to everything; quality counts, so only work on those projects that will benefit your career
  • Avoid unreasonable financial pressure; you can’t work effectively if you’re burdened by debt
  • Keep your finger on the pulse of the market
  • If you’re trying to get into the market, keep writing until your books are good enough to get an agent
  • If you’re already in the market, look for ways to expand your presence
  • Have a plan so you know where you’re going in the industry; don’t wander
  • Bring all of your ideas to your agent and create a plan together
  • Read as much as you can within your genre
  • Be open to editorial advice; other people have good ideas
  • Only self promote as long as it doesn’t take time away from your work
  • Ask to work with the publisher’s promotion department when your book is coming out
  • Maintain an “I’ll help you if you help me” attitude
  • Always strive to make your work better and better; utilize critique groups
  • Have an idea of what effects your books will have and where they will sell
  • Don’t be afraid to step out of your box
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