Thursday, August 23, 2007

Competing against oneself? Is there a way to avoid this?

I have a book coming out called City Hawk (about Pale Male) this September. Not far away! As you all know, my book Strong Man came out early this summer. I haven’t even put up coloring pages for the book or other promo things. It’s a new book! So essentially I have two books out in the same year and kind of close together. This concerns me.

For example, Strong Man got into the Society of Illustrators show. I haven’t heard anything on City Hawk so I’m guessing it didn’t get in. Right there I was competing against myself! At the end of the year when books go up for awards… it’s not like BOTH of my books would have the chance to win something… just one.

I WISH I could do one book a year. I am really burnt out. But I can’t afford it. When I was doing one book a year I had to work more hours at the bookstore and I was stressed about paying bills CONSTANTLY. I don’t want that life. So I guess I wonder what it takes to be an author/illustrator and do it comfortably without losing ones sanity and without putting out competing books.

Some people will say “Well, why don’t you do school visits. They pay well.” My friends just last week told me I should stop whining about the book signings/events I’ve agreed to do this fall. “You’ll sell books Meghan!” they said. True, I will sell books. But I don’t like doing it! If a big part of my life becomes something I don’t like doing then I’d rather find a new career. Why should I be miserable? Also, I’ve done enough bookstore signings to know that they’re WORTHLESS. So what if you sell 10 books? (10 books, by the way, at a store like B&N is a lot). That won’t make a dent in sales.

So I guess for all of this blabbing I don’t have a solution. I don’t know what to do so that I don’t compete against myself. I don’t know how to make sure that BOTH of my new books get equal attention.

On another topic--I’ve been working this week on organizing my living/working environment so that I’ll have more work hours available and will spend less time looking for my keys and my phone and my white paint and my reference material, etc. If I have time, later today I’ll post some photos of my new methods/work area.



Anna Alter said...

Hmm, that is a tough situation having two books that are somewhat similar (nonfiction bios) out in the same year. What if you tried to schedule things so that if you have two books in a year, they are different enough from eachother that they would not compete as much... that is they could be up for different types of awards?

I feel like I am just starting to understand how much work needs to go into launching each book as it comes out, and doing that twice a year is a lot of work that may or may not increase your bank account in the near future... yet as you say doing one book a year is not enough to live on. The only solution I can suggest if you don't want to go the school visit route is to find some other part time gig that pays better than B&N... a friend of mine who is a professor with a Phd spends holidays working for UPS for extra cash- good $ and benefits too...

Libby Koponen said...

It IS a tough situation. Another part-time gig might be as a designer someplace -- that would pay more than double what you get at B&N, and with your talent and all the programs you know you could get the work easily. Though finding a place that also paid benefits would take time, those places do exist. Universities are more generous with benefits than most companies: if you work 25 hrs/week many pay full health insurance etc.

Enough money to live on without being constantly stressed out AND enough time and energy to do one's art work - for me it's always not enough time or not enough money (and during really bad periods not enough of either!). But I'm getting closer to the right balance all the time....but maybe that's the eternal carrot, that someday....

Anyway, I hope YOU find that balance, Meghan! And soon, the stress can't be good for your health.

Anonymous said...

.... nice highlight in Publishers Weekly Children's Bookshelf!


Anonymous said...

Dear Meghan,

You cannot do much better than front and center on PW Children's Bookshelf! Great visibility!!!

I suspect that our energy is best directed at the next book. I have come to believe most promotion that we do, (along with book signings) are just distracting and taking time from the next book.

...and I am not certain your books compete with each other. It is one of the benefits of non fiction.

Best wishes for both the new babies!


Elaine Magliaro said...


I think the more books you have out...the more visible you become to the people who purchase children's books for schools and libraries and for their children. Your name becomes familiar. And if people liked your previous books, there's a good chance they'll want to see your next book. While your last three titles have been nonfiction--I don't see them as being that similar: The first was about a radio show, the second about a person, and the third one about a bird. ALIENS and STRONGMAN have received lots of critical acclaim. I think you are establishing a name for yourself in the world of children's literature. I can't wait to read your next book!

Meghan McCarthy said...

Thanks guys. I am pleased with the PW article! One thing stood out for me that Jeanette wrote:

If there’s a story I want to tell for a particular age group, it involves a lot of simplifying and that appeals to me.

I thought - Wow! That's it for me too!


Anonymous said...

I'm coming in late here. I do understand the bit about overlapping promotion and the time and expense of trying to launch each book into the world in a terrific way.

But, to me, having two books out in one year doesn't sound as much like competing with yourself as it does like having two lottery tickets instead of one. Awards seem like icing on the cake, since every year there are many books worthy of winning any given award. Given that, and the vagaries of how buzz starts about any book, I think you double your chances of notice, not undercut yourself.

Since you must do more than one book per year for financial reasons, I think you're steadily and quickly building a name and reputation and a great body of work. I hope the book promotion efforts you do for each book spill over to your other books!