CI: I’ve always been interested in writing. Poetry was my first love. The first time I remember actually being recognized for my writing was in elementary school. I was in the third or fourth grade and I wrote this poem called A Fluffy White Feather. It was terrible. But my grandmother saw it, loved it, and called the Phoenix newspapers to tell them they HAD to publish my poem. She declared that a star was born and I was the star. Talk about motivation! I was far from a star, but my grandmother’s faith in me inspired my writing from then on. Oh, and in case you’re wondering, none of those papers published my poem.
As far as my career in children’s publishing, I started dabbling in writing books for kids in college. It wasn’t until I was pregnant with my first child though, that I set out to make a career of it.
LH: What was your first success?
CI: My first success wasn’t with book writing. I found success first as a freelance writer. My first publication was a piece called My Turkicans for The United States Turkish Times newspaper. I then went on to write more articles for them, as well as blogs for sites like Families.com, and articles for other publications including Chula Vista Living, Avenues, Ladera Ranch Magazine, and STOMP Fashion Magazine. I also dabbled in writing greeting cards for Leap Greetings and started writing web content—all while pursuing my main love—writing for children. My first book success was my picture book, ‘Twas the Day Before Zoo Day. After its publication, I began writing a lot for the educational market. By the end of the year, I will have 14 books in print—one from Sylvan Dell Publishing, and 13 from Capstone Press.
LH: What kind of books or articles do you most enjoy writing?
CI: I enjoy so many types of writing. I love writing funny, quirky picture books. I also enjoy writing somewhat serious contemporary novels in free verse. For articles, I prefer clever parenting articles that show the “real,” often fallible nature of life.
LH: Do you have an agent? Tell us about your experiences with/without agents.
CI: No, I am not currently represented by an agent. It’s not imperative for a picture book author to have an agent. Would it be nice? Sure. When my current novel is complete, however, I do plan to begin searching for agent representation.
LH: What are your thoughts about marketing? Do you have any great tips on how to do it well?
CI: My general feeling about marketing is to do all that you can. This is a given when you publish for a small or independent publisher. But even when you publish with a large publisher, doing your own marketing can mean the success or failure of your book. With big publishers, people assume they handle the marketing for you, that they push your book. Sadly, this isn’t often the case. Publishers push the books they think will sell really well. With the others, marketing efforts falter. If you want to gain a wide audience for you book, it’s best to start early, before the book even comes out. Here are some things to consider:
1. Do you have an online presence? This could include a website, a blog, a presence on Facebook or Myspace—anything that gives you a link to the outside world.
2. Do you want to do bookstore signings? If so, become friendly with your nearest independent bookstore. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t approach the large chain stores—you should, but an independent book store is likely to give you and your book the attention you both deserve. And because some stores book authors up to a year in advance, you’ll want to get a jump start on this.
3. Can you find a niche market for your book? For example, my zoo book lent itself easily to doing visits at zoos or animal parks. If your book has a specialized focus, hone in on that.
4. Have a contest! People love to get things for free, and hosting a giveaway contest on your blog or website will help generate interest for your book.
5. Have a launch party. If your book is out and you want to re-energize sales, have a re-launch party. These can be anywhere. Invite family, friends, and anyone else you think might be interested in your book.
6. Consider school visits. Many children’s book authors make a living doing school visits. There are some logistics to be worked out when pursuing this, but you may find it’s well worth your time, especially if you enjoy kids or teens, depending on the genre of your book.
LH: If you could go back in time and start over, tell us one thing you have learned that would help you to succeed better/faster/with less struggle.
CI: I wish I would have known that there is a support group out there for children’s writers. With organizations like SCBWI and online sites like http://www.verlakay.com/ (check out the Blueboards section), aspiring and established children’s book writers aren’t alone! So much of this business is trial and error. If I could do it again, I would have asked for help sooner and not been afraid to approach those who knew how to navigate the scary, scary world of publishing.
LH: Any other thoughts to share?
CI: Just that I teach online for UCLA Extension. I currently teach Writing for Children: A Beginning Workshop. In the winter, I’ll also be teaching a general non-fiction for the youth market course. Stop by my website at http://www.catherineipcizade.com/ to learn more about me, my books, and my upcoming classes.
LH: Thanks for telling the blog visitors about your interesting experiences with writing, Catherine!