The business of writing picture books

Picture Book writer is residence Rashmi Sirdeshpande

September 2022

I love writing for children. Like love with a capital L O V E. I’m proud of the books I’ve made, the teams I’ve made them with, and the difference they make to readers all over the world. The thought of it all gives me a warm, fuzzy feeling deep in my heart. But writing is also 100% my BUSINESS and I’m not ashamed to say it. On school visits, children have asked if I ever dreamed of being an entrepreneur and I say ‘YES, and I AM ONE NOW’.

I know people talk about how we can’t be doing this for the money because advances (where they exist) are almost always peanuts and paid in chunks to add insult to injury. It’s an industry that is exceptionally tough if you don’t have another income (or someone else’s income) or a shiny pile of inherited wealth to lean on. No one disputes that. So we do it for the love, right? Well, I’m just not comfortable with that. It’s this kind of thinking that fuels those freebie requests and promises of payment in EXPOSURE. We can LOVE our work and still consider it exactly that: WORK. 

(High-fiving Maz Evans here – we met the other day and had a good old vent about ALL of this!

There’s no shame in treating your writing as a business. I do. I look at the market and what’s out there. I think strategically about gaps and where I fit in. I’ve been developing an author brand step by step, book by book. I’ve deliberately made personal connections across publishers, schools, library services, festivals, and bookshops – choosing which events to do and which projects to support because they’re in sync with my ‘WHY’, the reason why I write for children. It’s the difference I want to make in the world and it’s the core of my ‘business’. 

The next big step in my business strategy, after a brilliant author coaching session with Kelly Weekes and a goal setting sesh with the formidable Annaliese Avery, is to recognise, as every business does, that saying YES to something means saying NO to something else. Resources, like time, are limited. After all, I’m just one person (even though I’m lucky to have the support of an awesome agent and some lovely publishers). There’s the other side of the coin too: saying NO to stuff means leaving room for something exciting and unexpected! 

Now, I’m setting boundaries and blocking out time for my personal and business priorities. And in my business, I’m my biggest asset so taking care of ME is a mega business priority too. So I’ve blocked in time for that. Big chunks. Just blocked out in my calendar. I know our situations are all very different so only you know what will work for you, but this is working for me and I’m loving it.  

You can love writing and still call it work. And you can do it without losing the joy. You can be strategic about what you write and do and when and how and you can be fierce about protecting the most important bit of your business, which, ultimately, is YOU.  

Want to learn more from Rashmi?

Rashmi is 2022 Picture Book Writer-in-Residence for the Hub, WriteMentor’s community learning platform that connects like-minded storytellers and provides all the tools they need for writing success.

Find out how you can access member-exclusive content delivered by industry experts like Rashmi.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Scroll to Top
%d bloggers like this: