Laura and I have been teaching people how to become successful children’s authors for close to 25 years. It’s a rich and wonderful way to spend one’s life, and we’re grateful for every moment.
But with the publishing industry in upheaval and new technologies arriving daily, I’ll admit to some troubled moments of late. Moments that find me asking the same questions many of you have surely posed:
What now? What’s next? What does all this change mean for children’s writers?
And then I saw her. And it all made sense.
courtesy One Laptop Per Child, one.laptop.org
I was bouncing along online, doing my usual rounds, when I came upon a photo of a girl, maybe 12 or 13. Her notebook barely conceals a wide smile, her eyes are filled with wonder and joy. In front of her, a new computer to call her own.
I read on, and learned about an effort to place computer and reading technology in the hands of children throughout the world. This young Afghani girl – who, not long ago, wouldn’t even have been allowed to enter a school – was a beneficiary.
Looking at the photo again, I realized I was looking at something much bigger than a girl getting a laptop. I was witnessing a life being transformed before my eyes.
What will the days and years ahead hold for this young woman now that the writers of the world can speak directly to her? Will being part of a worldwide community of young readers make her feel less alone? Will the books she reads inspire her to greatness?
Now multiply this child by 50 million. Or 100 million. Maybe more…
Soon, a sea of children in every part of the globe will be able to experience, with a tap of a finger, the magic of books. And their lives will never be the same.
And neither will yours.
That’s because, starting now, anything we dream up – the lessons we hope to teach, the comfort we want to give, the giggles we want to conjure – will, for the first time, be instantly available to children everywhere, at every moment.
And that’s when it struck me. That moment of revelation when it all finally made sense:
Writing isn’t about money. It isn’t about fame.
It’s about changing the lives of children through our work.
And now anyone can do it on a global scale.
A Kindle book, an app, a video – these powerful publishing mediums can reach that girl in Kabul, and a schoolboy in Russia and a farm girl in Iowa at the same time. And we can do it ourselves without a giant budget, without a publishing contract and without having to be a technical genius.
In fact, we can start doing it right this minute!
When I truly got my mind around this new reality, everything changed. My apprehension, my doubts, my feeling of “where do we go now?”… they all melted away.
Do you see? Learning how to create an app isn’t some chore that must be dealt with. It’s a fun adventure that will give you the tools to impact millions of children’s lives. Book marketing isn’t a scary process that will steal your soul. It becomes about building a roadmap to share your message with as many young minds as possible.
And the craft of writing? It becomes truly paramount.
We now have the chance to connect directly with boys, girls and teens throughout the planet. They deserve the best from us, so let’s take hold of this precious opportunity and give them stories, plots, dialogue and characters that exude quality and care.
There’s no doubt – a lot of junk will get published now that the virtual printing press is open to all. But, with advertising becoming increasingly ineffective, the books that will reach large numbers of children are the ones that parents, teachers, librarians and other kids rave about. It’s all about word of mouth. And bad books don’t get good word of mouth – only good books do.
If you want to succeed in the new publishing world, the “secret” is quite simple: Write Great Books!
We’ve all dreamed about inspiring kids on a large scale, but there were some daunting hurdles to overcome… editors to convince, bookstores to be sold to, distribution limitations to be reckoned with. We dreamed of changing the world, but we knew that, ultimately, our dreams were in the hands of others.
That was then. Now, we’ve got the power. So let’s dream big.
Let’s dream really, really, really big.
Laura and I want to help you fulfill those dreams. And we’ve decided that, from now on, this will be the driving focus of Children’s Book Insider:
We are committed to building a community of authors using
21st Century tools to change the lives of children around the world.
Alongside our readers, we will move forward into the future with excitement, not apprehension or doubt. We will work to instill our passion for the possibilities of this brave new world with all our hearts. And we’ll celebrate each and every victory you achieve in reaching a child with your work.
So, here we are, you and I. Pioneers staring out over a giant landscape of possibility with no one to stop us from expressing ourselves and impacting those remarkable young minds that await us.
Is it a little scary? Maybe. But don’t all great adventures begin that way?
We know that many of you may still have reservations about the future. And we know that many of you may even have reservations about your own ability to make use of these incredible new tools.
But, in this moment, all we ask is that you remain positive, remain willing to learn and remain focused on the real reason we’re here. If you can do that, you will move forward, and you will start to impact the lives of children in a truly meaningful and fulfilling way.
And remember, we’ll be doing this together. One step at a time in way that puts it all within your grasp.
This is going to be a blast. The readers we’ll create. The lives we’ll change. The world we’ll help shape.
Are you as excited about this as we are?
Isn’t this the real reason you decided to become a writer?
Are you ready to take your place as a 21st Century Author? Then join us on this journey.
The world is now ours.
PS: In case you’re wondering – we aren’t for a minute abandoning traditional publishing. We’ll still be the absolute best source for market leads and tips for submitting to publishers. But now, it’s all part of a bigger picture that allows you to choose your path toward changing children’s lives with your work. How exciting is that?
PPS: There’s even more about our vision that we still have to tell you! As a fundamental part of our new direction, we’ll be working with some wonderful nonprofit groups to spread literacy, build schools, provide access to literature (including your work!) and distribute reading technology to children around the world. Stay tuned to find out how you will be personally involved in this important effort.
Now it’s your turn. Please use the comments section to tell us how our new mission resonates with you. Are you feeling a little more confident? A little more excited? Do you see how looking at the big picture makes the task of learning about new technologies less intimidating?
You are a big part of this exciting new journey, so please share whatever’s on your mind!