by Jo Franklin
Being a children’s author is really hard work. I thought it was going to be all about writing books and living the life of an eccentric recluse in a hobbit hole or writing shack. But I was so wrong. I am juggling so many things and I don’t think I am always successful.
Here are some of the things that I have to do every day :
Write my books – This is the best bit of my author life. I’d love to be doing it all day every day, but that is totally unrealistic. It takes me a year to write most of my books. That is partly because I have to do all the other things listed below, but it is also because the space between actually writing is as important as the writing itself. I like to leave gaps in between writing my drafts so that I can look at my work with fresh eyes and come up with important improvements to the text. The non-writing spaces in my working day are also important. It’s amazing how I often find the answer to a problem in my writing in a pile of dirty laundry.
Website Design – In case you didn’t realise, this website was designed by me. I hope you like it. The problem with having a website is that I need to keep it fresh so my visitors (you!) don’t get bored and keep coming back to see what I am up to.
I feel I am failing at this. I have to keep reminding myself that I do more on my website than some authors but not as much as others (Pop over to Candy Gourlay’s website if you want to see some awesome content) . And now someone has emailed me telling me that a link doesn’t work and I don’t know how to fix it. Gah!
School Visits – Not only do I have to develop great school visits, I also have to go out there and deliver them. Yes I do school visits and author appearances at libraries and festivals. Here are the details. Meeting readers is the second best bit of being a children’s author (after writing the books in the place) but the downside is that it is very tiring and normally wipes me out for a day afterwards which stops.
Provide Extra Content – Either on my website or to schools I have visited or will be visiting soon. This means colouring sheets, wordsearches, teacher’s resources, craft activities to go with my books. I have totally failed at this one but it is on my To Do List – honest.
Twitter – I’m on Twitter – @Jofranklin2 – but I need to be better at it. I think I should be engaging in lively conversations with the right people (authors, publishers, librarians, bookshops and teachers) without engaging with the wrong people (trolls and spammers for certain, but also an sort of time suckers that don’t lead me anywhere) while promoting myself, my book and my author appearances (children’s authors need to do many author events and school visits) without being a promotion bore which upsets people (especially me).
Acronyms and How to Use Them – SEO, HTML, CSS and probably a hundred more that I don’t even know exist at the moment. I am having a go at this but I’m still an amateur which probably shows. Part of the problem is that SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) is such a black art that it is easy to upset Google by mistake.
FYI – I never mean to upset anyone but it does happen sometimes so if that’s you – I’m sorry!
Video Artist – It’s all about YouTube these days. In fact it’s getting to the point that no one is ever going to get a contract for a children’s book ever again unless they have a YouTube channel and a gazillion subscribers. I currently have two videos on my YouTube channel (as of 10th October 2016) and I will make more but they are so time consuming to make and then I have the added responsibility of making sure that I don’t accidentally post them with obscene words in the subtitles. Don’t ask! I leaned this the hard way.
Photographer – So that I have an unlimited stream of visual publicity material. This is one of my latest efforts. In fairness, I had to enlist the help of my daughter Eleanor because taking a selfie while sitting on a grave is very difficult
Ideas Factory – I need to be able to come up with new concepts at the drop of a hat so when my agent lets me know about a new opportunity for some commissioned work I am able to respond instantly. I did this the other week and …. yippee! Sorry it’s secret squirrels for now but it seems to have paid off this time.
Juggling all of the above – The hardest thing of all is that I have to juggle everything. Switching between tasks is very bad for my writing. I am trying to be more disciplined about ring fencing my writing time, but it is difficult because if I get an email from my agent or from a librarian trying to organise a school visit, I have to respond immediately.
So next time you ask yourself the question ‘What does an author do all day?’ think of me juggling all these tasks and more.