Friday, July 29, 2016

Small Crisis - by Jason Kirschner

I am facing a little bit of a dilemma right now. A small crisis of faith. I'm a guy with a family and a day job who wants to write and draw for kids. I'm passionate about it. I do it in my spare time, weekends, late nights, Arbor Day. I've got one book out and it’s doing ok.  People are buying it and based on reviews, liking it! But … it hasn’t made national news or a best-seller list but if you’re reading this blog, odds are that you've heard of it.  And I’m proud of it.  I believe in it.  I think the work is strong.

Currently,  I’m working on some follow-up projects.  I have ideas.  Lots of ideas actually, but there was one I was drawn to the most and I decided to concentrate on that. It’s the kind of story I like — silly and nerdy and a bit wordy.  I’ve finished a manuscript that made me laugh. I’m in the process of drawing the dummy now and I like how it’s progressing.

And still, my mind wanders back to the first book often.  The one that’s on shelves but not “breaking the internet” in any way, shape, or form.  This new book is written very much in the same vein as the first.  Not the same story or characters, but I think stylistically they’re cut from the same cloth.  I wonder if I’m making a mistake.  Should I infer some lesson from the “not huge success” of the first book?  Should I change my style? Should I be trying something completely different?

A sketch from the new project--and also sorta how I'm feeling (minus the tutu.)
I’m not sure of the answer here.  When I first started trying to write and illustrate books, I tried very hard to make the kind of books that I saw on the shelves. I was probably imitating more than creating.  I was so frustrated that I was making the kind of thing that I saw in the stores and yet I couldn’t sell a thing.  So I took a small leap and created something I really loved.  I honestly thought it was going to be an exercise or a practice project of some sort.  I didn’t think anyone would ever bite.  But they did!  I thought I’d found the secret.  Make what you love!

But based on early sales, not as many people love it as I’d hoped.  I’d hoped there would be one in every household across America. It didn't happen. There could be loads of reasons why.  I'm a first time author.  Perhaps I didn't market it perfectly?  I've learned a lot on that front for next time. (Also see Mike’s brilliant entry from last week for help there.)  But part of me thinks that if the work is out there and it’s appealing, then people will find it.  It might be naive but it’s the way I feel.

So…some questions.

Also from the new thing.
First off — what’s my goal?  If it’s to match J.K. Rowling’s sales, I’ve failed miserably.  If it’s to get my books in the hands of kids that might love it, I think I’ve done that. In fact, I know I have. I've seen great reviews and received kid drawings that tell me it's true.  Ding!

What to do with the new project?  Should I scrap it? Do I rewrite it and make it more stylistically different from the first?  I think I am going to rewrite a bit.  Just a bit.  I won’t make it something I don’t love or just imitate what I see on shelves but if you just ignore what you’re seeing in the world around you than you're burying you head in the sand. Ding?

So. What have we accomplished here?   Believe in your work.  Write what you love. Know the market.  Know how to market. I know all of this isn’t new ground for writing/illustrating blogs but it was my week to blog and this was much cheaper than therapy. Much appreciated and Happy (belated) Arbor Day!

Jason Kirschner is the author and illustrator of Mr. Particular: The World's Choosiest Champion from Sterling which you can now find on shelves in bookstores everywhere. Get your own copy and see more of Jason's work at


  1. Love your honesty, Jason! And your book is going to build momentum as the fall arrives. Teachers and librarians will really enjoy Mr. Particular to relate to other particular kids. I think this time next year, you will feel so much better about the mark you are making on the industry.

    1. Thanks Barbara. I'm sure you're right. It's just my latest internal argument. Once in a while my neurosis get to steer the ship - for better or worse.

  2. I think you're taking a chance by using the comic book format to illustrate young picture books. There will be some parents/teachers who are less comfortable reading aloud a book in this format. But, being different also allows your work to stand out. Every day I make a new children's book illustrator or writer friend on FB, I'm happy my circle is growing but it also makes me painfully aware just how many of us there are out there. And, how completely important it is to be different. Keep on keeping on, Jason! You have oodles of talent and a great sense of humor. The big book will come : )

    1. Thanks Virginia! Very kind words and much appreciated. I'm a teensy bit down but definitely not out. It was my turn to blog this week and this is what I've been thinking about. It was actually therapeutic to put it all down "on paper", so to speak.

  3. Creativity is all about risk taking! Absorbing the world around us, processing that information and allowing it to inform our end product in a fresh,new way, something you do so well! I love being a creative, but there's also an emotional roller-coaster side to what we do, which we try not to think about. We all have those feelings every time we put ourselves out there. I appreciate you having the courage to share it, it makes me feel less alone. And...I love your first book! It's a great story that a lot of kids and parents can relate too, the art is great, the humor is great and it's the kind of book that kids who aren't attracted to a traditional reading format, will absolutely love! Mr P has only just started his journey. Give it some time and in the meantime, keep on doing your thing, not for any other reason other than, you're just driven to. Love the new sketches, can't wait to see the rest!

  4. I love "silly, nerdy, and wordy", too! And I know how you feel. Isn't it funny how the worrying (and waiting) never stops? Well, the Murrays love Mr. Particular and can't wait to see what you come up with next!

  5. I totally understand your questioning, Jason, as far as what works and why. I'm not published or repped yet, of course, and until that happens, I'll continue questioning my judgement. I hate that that doesn't change, BUT---you've got so much talent, I know it'll work out :) And how many bestsellers are there? Very few in comparison to the thousands of books published each year, and of course, it's rare one can predict which books that will be, right? ;)