Joining the "In Crowd" of Children's Publishing
This past weekend I attended the DFW Writer's Conference in Dallas Texas. I enjoyed wonderful craft focused workshops, befriended talented established and aspiring authors, enjoyed a laugh or two with my critique partner, and received the BEST NEWS EVER from my agent (more on that soon). It was a wonderful weekend; for me. I couldn't help but notice that not all attendees felt as relaxed and carefree among their tribe as I did. I saw petrified pitch presenters, isolated introverts, and self imposed Back Row Joes.
Hey I get it, I've been there. I attended my first conference three years ago and felt like the biggest fraud. Doubt's evil voice whispered,
You're not a real writer.
Why are you here?
You can't introduce yourself to a published author, get real.
You can't talk to an agent, they'll get annoyed.
You are not ready for this.
I isolated myself too embarrassed to talk to anyone for surely they would know that I didn't belong. Besides, I was only there for the submission opportunities.
Any of this sound familiar? This attitude is so common among first time conference goes it's cliché. A friend recently remarked that pre-published writers attend conference for submission opportunities while established ones attend for craft building.
What does this have to do with joining the in crowd? Everything! The secret to joining the in crowd in children's publishing is:
Shift Your Focus
Focus on craft. Talk to agents to learn from them. Network with authors to find critique partners that will tell you what your manuscript needs.
Publication is the ultimate goal of every author, but it shouldn't be the only goal.
Take a trip through time with me...
We will begin in 2015. I am attending my very first national SCBWI conference. It's huge. It's intimidating. It's humbling. I met authors whose confidence was envious. I wanted to know how they got to that point. How did they mingle so freely among the elite? They spoke and laughed with agents, ate lunch with known authors, and answered questions in classes. Yet here I was a petrified pitch presenter, isolated introvert, and self imposed Back Row Joe.
I was there for the submission opportunities, but realized I couldn't jump from where I was to publication. First I had to join the in crowd. I wasn't sure how do it, but I made a career changing decision. I would volunteer.
This isn't the first time I have talked about this, but I bring it up again because it truly was career changing.
Shortly after my first conference experience I volunteered to write a blog post for my SCBWI chapter blog. That lead to a position on the leadership team, then another, then another, until became the Regional Advisor for the North Texas chapter of SCBWI. I experienced another conference first; planning one.
I was soon on a first name basis with agents, editors, and prominent authors and illustrators. I didn't pitch. I didn't submit. I didn't ask "how did you get published?" Instead I listened. I learned. I revised manuscripts to reflect what I learned. I received excellent critiques from knowledgeable sources. I made friends.
By the time I attended my second national SCBWI in 2017 I was in the in crowd. I said hello to agents I knew. I ate lunch with authors I had connected with at events and on social media. I answered questions because I was confident in my answer. Also in 2017 I signed with my agent Marisa Corvisiero. Guess what, I didn't submit to her. I took advantage of a critique opportunity. She had excellent suggestions and asked me revise and resubmit. A few weeks later I was her client.
I found success by shifting my focus. You can too.