19 tips to break into the children’s book industry: Picturebooking, Episode 48

In All, Picturebooking, Podcasts by Nick Patton8 Comments

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Noah Klocek Cloud Country Picturebooking

Advice for amateur storytellers looking to become professional

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Note: below is a brief summary of all 19 tips. These are not direct quotes. I had not planned on doing this but thanks to my one-month-old son I was wide awake at 2 a.m. Enjoy!


1. Practice

Ultimately the way to build confidence and become a professional in any calling is to just practice. A sketchbook is a practice tool. Use your sketchbook for research and development. Build repetition and muscle memory. Ovi Nedelcu • picturebooking.com/25

2. Be OK with Feedback

Be ok with feedback from your peers and especially from editors and art directors. Listen to the feedback and change your stories. It’s not just you making a book, it’s a group project. You need to respect that and be open to collaboration. Ashley Spires • picturebooking.com/32

3. Connect

Connect with fellow creatives. Join SCBWI and critique groups. Be part of the community. Ben Clanton • picturebooking.com/35

4. Do it Again

When you finish a story send it out to publishers but don’t sit around waiting for feedback … start on the next book! Jason Chin • picturebooking.com/21

5. Make Stuff and Show it to People

Make stuff and show it to people. Don’t wait to be picked for a job. If you want to do comics … make a comic. Put it online and show it to people.  Dani Jones • picturebooking.com/6

6. It’s for the children

Volunteer or do what you need to do to get in front of kids as much as possible to help you understand your audience. Be brave and put yourself out there. Henry Cole • picturebooking.com/7

7. Determination, Self Evaluation & Thick Skin

Determination. You have to keep telling yourself that this is important and why it’s important. Self evaluation. What are you doing and how does it work with what the publishing world is doing. Thick skin. Rejection is part of this deal. It’s part of this profession. So a thick skin is important. Kelly Murphy • picturebooking.com/15

8. First be Good at Your Craft

Be really good at your craft first. The getting published part is so overwhelming and daunting. You can pound the pavement, submit to publishers and go to conferences but you need to be careful. You can get so wrapped up in that stuff that you lose focus on what matters. Focus instead on being good at drawing, painting and writing. Ultimately you have to have something great to show or else the rest of that stuff is a waste of time. Matt Tavares • picturebooking.com/23

9. Build a Body

Write and build up a body of work because not everything you write is going to be publishable. Look at what is being published. Studying what has been done helps you understand where you can fit in and how you can stand out. Miranda Paul • picturebooking.com/31

10. Read Stories

Read stories, because it’s the best way to come to understand what is good storytelling and why it is good storytelling. Figure out why they work and how they work. And then you can start applying what you learned to your own stories.  Molly Idle • picturebooking.com/27

11. Believe it. Work like it!

Feel that you’re a professional writer and work at it like a professional. Studying really great books on how to write and how to pull out your creative side. Go to small workshops where authors or editors or publishers can read your work and give you tools for making your writing better. Rebecca Kai Dotlich • picturebooking.com/28

12. Not All Good Advice is For You

Ask a lot of people for advice and pick the answers that make the most sense for you. Most say if you want to write you have to read. But if reading isn’t your thing find a different way. Mike Wilbon once said that if you want to be a good reporter read what everyone writes, but if you want to be incredible and have your own voice don’t read anything anyone else writes. Just trust your instincts and follow your voice. Gary Karton • picturebooking.com/30

13. 10,000 hours and a Little Common Sense

The only thing that really matters is that you hone your craft and become as good at writing or illustrating or both as possible. Practice. Believe in Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 hours rule. Put in the time and then you’ll be good. You also have to have some business sense. Realize what your time is worth and what your work is worth. Hire the right people. Have an agent who has your back. Work with a publisher with whom you share a vision. Have common sense. Peter Brown • picturebooking.com/13

14. Experiment

Don’t be afraid to try new things. And don’t be afraid to have things not turn out the way you wanted. You can learn so much from something that doesn’t turn out as you hoped or expected. Chris Ayers • picturebooking.com/29

15. Have a Built in Audience

Get a writing group. It encourages you to write because you know your work will be read. And you get two or three different view points. Sam Valentino • picturebooking.com/18

16. Know What’s Now

Read the new books coming out in your field. Publishing trends change. In picture books word count has gone way down and the kind of humor you can use has changed. Understand what is being published today. Tara Lazar • picturebooking.com/33

17. Everyday

Read and write everyday. It’s not something you can do every now and then. Don Tate • picturebooking.com/36

18. Can’t Stop Talking About It? Write About It!

Write what you really love. Write about the topic that you can’t stop talking about. Victoria Jamieson • picturebooking.com/38

19. Know Why It’s Good … Or Bad

The most important thing for a storyteller is to understand why something was written. And then to know why it’s good or why it’s bad. Don’t just study books, you can learn something from all media. Dan Santat • picturebooking.com/20

Books mentioned in this episode

Ovi Sketchbook
Available Now

Purchase Ovi Nedelcu’s book for your reader or readers.

Thank You

Thanks for listening to today’s show! If you enjoyed this episode, subscribe to the podcast on iTunes or sign up to receive emails of new episodes. If you want to be my best friend in the whole world wide web leave a review for the podcast on iTunes and share this episode. Thanks again for letting me and this podcast into your life.

About the Author

Nick Patton

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Hi my name's Nick! And I enjoy stories told with words and images. In 2014 I started the Picturebooking Podcast, where I get to chat with the people behind my favorite stories. I spend my free time writing, drawing, painting and talking picture books. It’s a good life.


  1. Pingback: 048: Tips to Break Into the Children’s Book Industry | Picturebooking

  2. Wow! This is quite a gift! But I think the title is a little misleading, as this information is golden even for those of us who are published authors and illustrators. Thanks.

  3. You know, I enjoyed EVERY tip here and appreciate it all, but I have to say this one thing: Dan Santat is absolutely AMAZING! Thanks for this, all you talented people 😀

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