Getting published is a HUGE accomplishment.But where most civilians (non authors & illustrators) think that a book deal means buckets of money and leaving behind a legacy, those of us in the trenches know that getting a book published is only the beginning. Looking back to my late twenties and thirties, all I wanted to do was be published, to get some recognition, to finally call myself a real illustrator. There was so much sacrifice and hard work that led up to that moment, but I shared the journey with a bunch of amazing illustrators and friends and my life changed in ways that I never imagined. Now, in my not so early thirties, with a few books under my belt, my priorities are shifting.
I think most creatives aspire to become greater at what they do. There is always a bigger goal, whether it be to sell a certain number of books a year, to win a certain award, or to get more press coverage for the work. . . there’s always something. My illustrator friends and I now obsess over sales figures and marketing strategies instead of just being able to focus on the work. It isn’t an easy business, and with trends moving more and more towards digital books,we are all working with a big question mark over our heads. Will the book sell? Should I send out more promos? How many school visits can I do this year? Can I afford a book tour? Will bloggers write about the book? Is my work still any good? Am I getting worse!?!? Can I work faster and make more books? Should I go digital?? The litany of worries go on and on.
If you’re anything like me, there’s also the doubt that comes AFTER you’ve sent the promos and made the appearances. Was that time well spent? Should I have been funnier? Did they really enjoy the book? Will anyone else buy it? Did I waste money on making those promos? Should I just stop making books? It will probably never end.
My very first class of sophomores are now graduating. I have seen so much growth in their work and personalities and it has been an inspiring ride. I have been able to contribute to many dreams, and though the road is still long for them, I have no doubt that they can make it if they stay dedicated. Many hope that making the work gets easier. My snarky professor answer to that is always, “not if you’re any good”. It is always painful, but you persevere and you make magic. There will be great successes, and there may be great failures. You might be famous and you might not. But every now and then when you are making something that makes you lose track of time and circumstance, you’ll remember why you love it and what brings you to the drawing table each day. Just keep working. Keep creating because you love it. There is no secret to longevity other than that. You’ll win some and you’ll lose some, but keep striving to do your very best work and everything will fall into place. . . I hope. 😉
–for Matthew, our pessimistic realist