PICTURE BOOK FOCUS Top 3 Things to Do While Waiting For a Deal

The Picture Book Storyshaper: Expert Advice From An Experienced Editor

Waiting for your next book deal? Natascha Biebow suggests three essential
things you should do while waiting for the big wave!

Many writers and illustrators I work with ask: "I've finished a bunch of picture books and I've submitted them. What should I do next?" or "I've got a interest from an agent . . . they are sending my book out on submission" or "The agent loves it and is taking it to a book fair! What now?"

Pondering this question made me think of a favourite picture book by Quentin Blake, in which Mrs Armitage and her steadfast dog Breakspear set off for a day at the beach to catch a big wave. We are all, in a way, waiting to catch a big wave. Which big wave varies depending on where we are in our career path as authors and illustrators - getting an agent, a first book deal, attracting the attention of reviewers and librarians, looking for a new breakout book idea, building an online presence, securing the next deal . . .

Mrs Armitage and the Big Wave by Quentin Blake © Red Fox

No matter where you are on your journey, it is good to be prepared. But how prepared?
What about when the big wave finally arrives . . . what then?

Here are three things you can do while waiting for your big wave:

Forget about waiting for an agent or publisher to get back to you for just a moment. Take the time to get right back on your surfboard and set off seawards again. Then, add some 'bunting' to your portfolio of work and allow yourself to HAVE FUN. See what happens!

Mrs Armitage and the Big Wave by Quentin Blake © Red Fox
Go out and observe or meet children at a local playground, the zoo, the library. Connect with your picture book audience and remind yourself of what their day is like, what they are interested in, how they speak, how they observe the world with wonder.
• Browse the children's book section of your local bookshop or library and update yourself on what's new. It's really important to understand and keep up with the competition, with what publishers are doing, how booksellers are displaying and selling books.
• Read some picture books out loud. Type them up, create a spread-by-spread breakdown of their pacing, study them as mentor texts for inspiration.
• Experiment with different genres and artwork styles. For example, if you write in rhyme, try prose. Illustrate something you wouldn't normally draw just to see if you can.
• Take a course or attend a workshop or webinar.
• Draw, doodle, collage – even if you're not an illustrator! Dance or act out a puppet show. ALLOW yourself to create something new!

Doing this not only gets your creative brain fired up, but allows you time and space to write or illustrate at your best. Importantly, honing your skills and getting familiar with the market and your audience will stand you in good stead when it comes time to do revisions and to market yourself.
When you resurface, don't be afraid to check in on your submission. After waiting a few months, send a polite, professional and friendly enquiry to find out whether you can get any feedback. 


Be creative and create new connections with other authors and illustrators, editors, art directors, librarians, booksellers, teachers and other influencers.

There is a social media vehicle for just about everyone - consider your online presence: can you blog? Can you offer any kind of insight or free advice about something? Are you funny? Can you make a YouTube video? Or are you great with pictures, photos or illustrations?  Would a website suit you? Check out what other like-minded creatives are doing.
What can you shout about?

Mrs Armitage and the Big Wave by Quentin Blake © Red Fox
Don't forget that you can also network in person! See if you can attend any conferences, workshops, author events, book launches, festivals, theatre programmes - go and lurk anywhere you might bump into someone who might be a good connection on your writing or illustrating journey. Who will you hook into your network?

Mrs Armitage and the Big Wave by Quentin Blake © Red Fox

While you wait, you can start to build some bridges so that when you get that next book deal, you are visible, ready to promote yourself and your book, and able to make connections with the people who will take it to market.
But BEWARE - online stuff can be a time sap; keep it manageable and tailor it to your strengths, because . . .


THE most important thing you can do is to create the next book. After you've allowed yourself to doodle a bit and nurture your creative brain, get back to work, bum on seat.

You need to build up a portfolio of picture book work. Agents and publishers want to invest in authors and illustrators, knowing that they have a career in them. Having a variety of polished work is important.

You will have honed your editing, revision and marketing skills. 

Then, when the big wave finally comes, you will be READY!

Mrs Armitage and the Big Wave by Quentin Blake © Red Fox


Natascha Biebow Picture Book Storyshaper
Natascha Biebow is an experienced editor, mentor and coach, who loves working with authors and illustrators at all levels to help them to shape their stories at Blue Elephant Story Shaping

Check out the Cook Up a Picture Book Coaching Courses.Blue Elephant Storyshaing
Natascha is also the author of The Crayon Man (coming in 2019!)

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