When I finally decided to try to start a career in children’s books, I imagined a rich and rewarding creative life of long walks where I do my best thinking and then school visits and brainstorming sessions with other authors as well as writer’s conferences and critique groups. Sometimes I have that and it makes me very happy, but I’m also discovering the business side of publishing. The business side is filled with things that don’t appeal to me like invoices, contracts, SEO rankings, and spreadsheets.
Last week I gave an author’s talk at a local school. I loved everything about it. I read Alone Together on Dan Street. I shared Jewish traditions and told stories from my childhood and stories about my own children. We talked about why it’s important to read stories where you can see yourself and your traditions reflected and why it’s also important to read stories where you see other people’s traditions reflected as well.
I explained how while I loved to read as a kid, there were few stories about Jewish children and none about one who was part Persian and that had grandparents who came from Hungary, Ukraine, and Russia. I told them how I read so many books that included description of the character’s Easter and Christmas celebrations and how that was positive. The richness of those traditions added to the stories, but where were my holidays like Passover and Purim and Rosh Hashanah? And where were holidays like Chinese New Year, Ramadan, Diwali, and Holi?
The school actually requested that I talk about Passover! I was thrilled. They understand the importance of diversity and the value of learning about other traditions. In the Q&A, I asked why Jews don’t celebrate Christmas and I wasn’t surprised. I was ready for this and also so happy that a child was really listening and finding ways to relate the story I read and my story to her own life.
Prior to my kidlit career, I had been giving tours of Ohel Leah Synagogue to local schools (as well as to tour groups and church groups and others) and it helped me learn to explain Jewish traditions in a succinct manner and to answer questions about Judaism.
The school asked if they could send a testimonial. Of course I said yes, but am now tasked with updating my website to add the testimonials that I have. They then asked for the dreaded invoice, a request they made in advance of the talk. Creating an invoice took far longer than it should and sending it took a bit longer. This is something that I should have completed ahead of time, but it’s exactly the kind if thing that makes me procrastinate whereas I will always show up to a talk on time and be well prepared.
On the front end of this talk and the others that I’ve given, there was also the question of rates. This is so difficult. I canvased fellow authors from my local SCBWI to find out what the market rate is in Hong Kong. I then adjusted that figure to reflect my experience and also to be an auspicious number.
I also recently had to develop a list of potential talks and add that to my website even though I individually tailor each presentation to the specific needs of the group.
Now I’m left checking my bank account for payment while a hundred picture book ideas swirl in my head and none of them are about accounting.