Poster Joy asked a question: At the risk of getting too personal, can you tell me - how many eggs do you lay?
I’m not exactly laying eggs. I usually lob my eggs over the fence. Don't worry my eggs are sturdy. I hope my readers find the following information helpful, insightful, uh, interesting, ok, worth one or two minutes of procrastination.
I've found goal setting very important. I formulate a business plan every year. There are many facets to this plan. I try to lob an egg a week over the fence into some waiting editor's slush pile. I don't always reach this goal, but I do try. This year I've sent out or have been sent (this means an editor contacted me about a project) 27 eggs. Currently, I've had 8 eggs hatch. I have three wobbling, but to put this into perspective, in 2003, I sent out 52 eggs, had four major wobbles and then one editor turned me down and the other three quit their jobs (not kidding) to go somewhere else (to make money, I presume). In 2004, I sent out 52 eggs, and 2 hatched. In 2005, I sent out 45 eggs and 11 hatched. Please note that I'm counting all hatched eggs regardless of size -- some eggs hatched were very small projects and some eggs hatched were much bigger ones. I can imagine that some years one egg will be all I am able to handle, but that would be a very big egg.
I did work for many years on my perfecting my craft. I made my first submission in 1995 and sent out a couple hundred rotten eggs from 1995-2003. In those years I was too lofty to have an egg goal; I couldn’t be bothered with details like grammar; I certainly didn’t have to research any houses; I was so brilliant – who could turn down brilliant work like mine. I garnered very few personal rejections with this stellar strategy. I remember crying when an editor wrote “nice” in ink on a photocopy of a photocopy rejection form.
Now I never send out a submission that is not targeting a specific house and editor. (Shh, listen, all over the country, trees are rejoicing at my choice to spare their lives. Editors are also rejoicing.) If I'm sending something out now, I've done my research. I've looked at the publishing house's list of books. I know some books the editor has edited. I've read these books.
I'm also very serious about the craft side of my work. I’ve got oodles of creative talent. I’ve decided talent is about 2 % of what you need. 98 % comes from reading and studying and writing and rewriting. I've taken lots of classes. I've attended many children's writing conferences and done major volunteering for SCBWI (btw, a great way to network.) The good news is I have always loved to read, so that part of the process has always been getting done. I've written enough words that an estimate of the number of words I've written would be painful; suffice to say, the number is way over a million.
My business plan includes professional development and networking. I also attend critique groups and read a novel or 5 picture books a week. On top of that, I devote an hour to marketing every week and write at least 5 days a week. I also have to spend time with other business – submission records, blogging, answering email, etc. These activities are all a part of my business plan. In the beginning, my goals were much more modest.
I continue to procrastinate every day, but I try to limit that to 15 minutes. Some people call this 'staring out the window time' an important part of professional development.
Note: I'm starting to call an egg where the editor calls a blue bird of happiness.