When I was first thinking (and dreaming) about writing a children’s picture book over three years ago, the owner of a local bookstore told me to join The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI). It is the only professional organization specifically for those individuals writing and illustrating for children and young adults in the fields of children’s literature, magazines, film, television, and multimedia. Several of the most prestigious children’s literature professionals sit on the SCBWI Board of Advisors. I ended up joining the organization and have attended several of their events. They offer events where you have the opportunity to have your book reviewed by some of the best editors at the major publishing houses in the country, to top agents. It was a huge learning curve for me but one I am so glad I embarked on as it helped me to become a better writer and meet some wonderful fellow creative types. Once you become a member of SCBWI, you are sent a monthly magazine, SCBWI Bulletin, that arrives in your mailbox begging to be opened and read. There are loads of great information included and even mentions of editors at publishing houses and/or agents that are accepting manuscripts or query letters. It is a great starting point if you are looking to realize your dream of someday seeing your book in print and a great reminder of published authors that there is so much more to learn. The journey really is endless and you can read about new and upcoming authors and books. I had a chance to speak to Stephen Mooser who has been the Editor at the SCBWI Magazine for over 40 years, and asked him to share his thoughts on the changes he has seen over the years in publishing as well as tips for aspiring writers.
How many years have you been the Editor of SCBWI Magazine and what changes have you seen in the industry since you started working there?
I’ve been editor since the first issue more than 40 years ago. Of course I’ve seen lots of changes—regular cycles of government school and library funding increasing or being cut—continuing mergers of giant publishers and those big corporations looking for the next Harry Potter to the detriment of the mid-list author. More recently a modest comeback of independent bookstores following years of shrinkage due to Amazon and mega bookstores like Barnes and Noble. In recent years the rise of beautifully done picture books by fine artists. Then, of course, a revolution in publishing brought on by digital books…….
Any thoughts on eBooks and how they are changing the landscape for writers?
The e-book is here to stay—with it comes easy access to publishing for anyone with a few(or a lot) of dollars and an idea. From discussions with industry people the real digital children’s book has not yet been invented. For now, the books are nothing more than electronic versions of print books, complete with page turns and a few add-ons such as built in dictionaries, language translations and some animation—maybe the next jump will be a book that allows the reader to take over from the author, or work with the author through social media links to write and animate the story—still despite all the hype there is still little money in e-books for children—good work will always find an audience, but so many people are posting less than quality work that they will never sell many copies—besides the first thing one has to do to sell an e-book is drive people to the sales site of that particular book—no easy task considering Amazon has 30 million unique titles online and thousands more going up every day.
If someone is just starting out and has a dream to write or illustrate a children’s book what three steps would you recommend they take?
Educate yourself! Read tons of books in the genre that interests you. Write, write and rewrite—writing like anything takes practice—it is hard work but worth it—the competition is stiff, but persistence pays off—I’ve seen hundreds sell first books through doing the steps I’ve described—and join the SCBWI –not only will you gain an education you’ll join a supportive community of helpful like-minded writers and illustrators.
What has been one of the more rewarding parts about working in this industry and supporting fellow writers?
Seeing those first sales, and watching the sincere congratulations from their peers—and getting to know so many wonderful people–there is no industry like children’s books –and there is no more satisfaction from writing than visiting a school and seeing how your work has inspired kids to read, and in so doing changed their lives.
Any news you want to share with Penelope’s mates?
Debuting in the next few weeks is my own first venture into electronic publishing. My latest book(my sixty-second) is a print-on-demand available from Create Space called Class Clown Academy. To promote it I’ve been building a virtual school over the last 3 years www.classclownacademy.com It is interactive and full of games, projects such as paper airplane constructions, a music room where kids can compose and record music on whoopee cushions,
A place to print out your diploma, a movie theater showing a very funny film and a student store selling Class Clown Academy merchandise including t-shirts, cups and bumper stickers “My child was Goofball of The Month at Class Clown Academy”…. Check it out—if you don’t like I think your ten year old will.
Thank you for your time Stephen and for doing such a great job running the SCBWI Bulletin – a great resource for writers!
To learn more about the SCBWI and how to join just go to: http://www.scbwi.org/Pages.aspx/Who-We-Are—What-We-Do