A group of published UK-based authors and illustrators of picture books, children's and YA.

Life after the book deal: The Argh! to Zzzzz

This week the Allsorts are looking at life after the book deal. This is my A-Z of the terms every children’s writer needs to know… 

Author:  Your new job title. Carries much weight at parties, very little with mortgage advisers.

Bookshops: A bittersweet experience. On one hand, so many incredible books. On the other, so much competition. See also: Libraries.

Children. Don’t have more than one. Or have as many as possible, and they will inspire and focus you like never before. I chose option two.

Deadlines. The most important dates in your diary. Children’s birthdays, wedding anniversaries and holidays can all be bumped to meet one.

Editor. Someone who will love and nurture your book as much as you do, but using a much tougher parenting technique.

February. Glorious month when PLR statements arrive, you celebrate every last 6.2 pence, and banish the thought that you owe triple the total in library fines.

Google. A place to type your own name repeatedly, along with keywords such as ‘review’. If you start to feel you’re overdoing it, try Duck Duck Go for an entirely new list of results.

“Gosh that’s exciting, where can I buy one?” What you hope people will say when you tell them you write children’s books.

“Had anything published?” What people actually say when you tell them you write children’s books.

Holidays. Previously a time to relax, unwind, and squeeze in as much food as possible. Now a time for other people to relax and unwind, while you squeeze in as much writing as possible. See also: Work/life balance.

Immediate family. The people who can be counted on to read nary a single word of your writing, except under duress.

January 31.Day of the annual resolution to put 20 per cent of your earnings into a separate bank account, and to complete your next tax return on 6 April.

Libraries. Another battleground for the wide-eyed child and green-eyed monster within. See also: Bookshops.

Long-lost relatives. Will suddenly appear, demanding advice on publishing a children’s book written by their daughter / daughter’s best friend / daughter’s best friend’s dog.

Mojo. You might wake up buzzing with creativity, you might not. But you’ll get better at getting on with writing regardless. This is a very good thing. See also: Deadlines.

Niche. Play to your strengths as you build a career but every few months challenge yourself to write something entirely different – an article, a poem, a picture book. It keeps your writing fresh and opens up new career possibilities.

Office. It’s in a corner of your house, doubling as a depository for ancient paperwork, broken toys, and your partner’s work clothes.

Pension. Something that other people have.

Querying. Continues to be scary, whether you’re 8 or 80 books into your career. In fact it gets worse.

Royalties. Should feel like being paid several years after doing the work. Actually feels like a gift from the free money fairy.

Shelf. Soon you’ll have one full of copies of your book. Weirdly, you’ll never feel a particular desire to open one and read it. Annoyingly, neither will your family.

Trolls. An occupational hazard, even for children’s writers. I’ve only encountered one, after trip-trapping over the pages of my local newspaper. Unsettling but best ignored.

Undivided attention. Traditionally reserved for Twitter, but throw a scrap to your family from time to time.

View. Because staring into the distance is part of your job spec. There’s a large tree outside my window, and somewhere in its branches are the answers to my trickest edits.

Work/life balance. Easy enough when you set your own hours. Though secretly you can’t get enough of the first.

X. “Marks the spot.” If in doubt, ask a three-year-old – they have all the best ideas.

Yawn. A sign that it’s past midnight, the children will be up in five hours and you really should switch off your computer and sleep. But this idea is so good and the words are flowing and you love what you do and anyway…

Zzzzz. … is for wimps.

Please feel free to add to the list by leaving a comment. Particularly if it starts with K…

HeadshotIsabel Thomas has written more than 80 books for children and teenagers, published by DK, Pearson, Collins, Raintree, Wayland and Bloomsbury. Before becoming a full-time writer, she studied science and worked in journalism and children’s publishing. She is zookeeper to three young sons.


About Isabel Thomas

Isabel Thomas studied Human Sciences at Oxford University before becoming a writer. Her books for young people include HOW TO CHANGE THE WORLD (OUP), shortlisted for the Royal Society Young People's Book Prize 2016, and SELF-DESTRUCTING SCIENCE: SPACE (Bloomsbury). Isabel lives in Cambridge, where she is zookeeper to three young sons. Website: Twitter: @raisingchimps

9 comments on “Life after the book deal: The Argh! to Zzzzz

  1. Jayne
    August 14, 2013

    Knowledge – you become an instant expert on everything, from Ancient Rome to Zoos. And would be brilliant on a pub quiz team if you ever had time to go to the pub…

  2. Isabel Thomas
    August 14, 2013

    Reblogged this on The blog what I wrote and commented:
    My latest post for Author Allsorts…

  3. Leoarna
    August 14, 2013

    I always love your wry posts on being an author – and you haven’t put me off trying, (yet). Hats off that you have earnt any money at all from writing, seems such a far off proposition at my end!

  4. ruthwarburton
    August 14, 2013

    K is for Kopy editors.

  5. Isabel Thomas
    August 14, 2013

    Perfect! I totally needed you at 9pm last night!

  6. emma carroll
    August 15, 2013

    All so true! Great post.

  7. Hilary McGrath
    August 17, 2013

    Love it. So why do we keep writing?

  8. Isabel Thomas
    August 18, 2013

    Weirdly this does not work out for me – I always but always come third. I know a publisher who won Mastermind though, weeks after having a baby too!

  9. Helen
    December 18, 2014

    I particularly liked
    Editor. Someone who will love and nurture your book as much as you do, but using a much tougher parenting technique.
    And when the editors are great, you can see all the other children they’ve brought up, and how well they’ve done, so you know the tough love is worth it!

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