As creative professionals in children’s book publishing, our happy place is no doubt in the creative work of writing and illustrating. However, we are, each and every one of us, also a business. And it can be really difficult to advocate for ourselves as businesspeople when we prefer to have our heads in the clouds, imagining stories. But it is necessary to do so. Your work and your career will never matter as much to anyone else as it does to you!
But where to begin? Advocating for yourself is like a muscle you need to begin flexing and making stronger. Lucky for you, you can benefit from my many mistakes! And I’ve made plenty in the course of my 20-year career. Here is a list of my best HOT tips on how to actively advocate for yourself as a creative business person in children’s book publishing:
- Read your contract. (Book contracts, agent contracts, really—ALL the contacts!)
- Familiarize yourself with standard contract terminology and language. A great place to begin is the SCBWI Sample Children’s Book Contract chapter in the SCBWI’s Essential Guide to Publishing for Children that is available to all members on the SCBWI website.
- Ask questions. If there’s anything you don’t understand in your contract, ask your agent, ask your publisher.
- Seek legal advice on your contracts. An easy and accessible place to begin is to join the Authors Guild. Published members have access to legal advice and are able to submit their contracts to the AG’s legal department for an impartial assessment in a timely manner.
- Ask for what you need. Ask for what you want. If you don’t ask, you are unlikely to get it, whether it is more money, more time, more rights, etc.
- Always ask for more money. Publishers are never going to make their highest offer out the gate. They need wiggle room to negotiate. This means that if you don’t ask for more, you will only receive the lowest first offer.
- Know when & how often your royalty reports are issued and make sure you ALWAYS receive them, whether it is through your agent or directly from your publisher.
- Read your royalty reports. Check the math, proofread for errors, review your book sales and track your book’s progress toward earning out your advance.
- If you discover errors on your royalty reports, bring it to the attention of your agent and/or your publisher, and stay on top of getting it resolved. The sooner errors are detected, the easier they are to correct.
- Ask questions. If there’s anything you don’t understand on your royalty report, ask your agent and/or your publisher. Note that many publishers even have easy-to-read guides available for deciphering their royalty reports.
- Book promotion typically begins 6-months ahead of a book’s release date. At this time, contact your publisher and inquire about their promotional plans, resources, and ways you can be active in promoting your book. They will welcome your involvement.
- Most sales/marketing/publicity departments will create ARCs (advanced reading copies) for promotional efforts, whether print, digital or both. You can reach out to book reviewers, Instagrammers and bloggers on your own. If they are interested, you can request your publisher send them an ARC on your behalf.
Working with Editors & Art Directors
- Taking creative direction can be challenging, especially when it is communicated through email or notes written directly on your manuscript or artwork. It is not uncommon for something vital to get lost in translation. If you find you don’t understand your publisher’s creative direction, disagree with it, or have questions about it, ask to do a phone call. Communicate in person, in real-time to clear up confusion, disagreements, and questions with ease and speed.
Now that you’ve got my best HOT tips, you’re ready to start flexing your self-advocacy muscles like a creative boss. You got this! I believe in you!
You can find Jane online at www.superjane.com