Hello Children’s Writers and Friends,
It seems never ending these days, I’ve been hearing about another couple of new publishing houses, but I’d like to take the time to find out a little more before I share again on this topic, other than to say I was able to speak to Clare Halifax of Scholastic at The Creative Kids Tales Festival and asked her the question I’ve seen several others asking in groups and forums online. Namely, ‘How Can I Tell Which Publishers are Open to Illustrator Submissions?’ I’ve put the answer Clare gave as an update on last month’s post, so press the arrow key and have a look if it’s of interest to you… or a friend.
As to the actual subject of this post, my journey along the road thus far, here are some of the hills and valleys which have led me to a big green signpost on the road to publication marked ‘Signed Contract!’ Yes, I realise an exclamation mark is probably incorrect at the end of the previous sentence, but I’m sure any emerging writer knows exactly why it’s there.
I hope the following three questions will cover what you’d like to know in the bounds of what I’m allowed to tell you. If not and I can tell you please post your question below and I’ll endeavour to get back to you soon if it is an answer I’m permitted to provide. What was the process of getting this manuscript to contract stage? What is the importance of Networking? What’s been happening since I signed my contract? This will be a two-part Post so that it does not become too long and boring. Question one will be covered this month and questions two and three next month.
What was the process of getting this manuscript to contract stage?
As it turned out, the road I ended up taking to get this manuscript published was a long and convoluted one. As The Sorrowful Star (working title) was one of my earlier manuscripts I still knew very little about Picture Books including expected word length. The original story was around a thousand words. I shortened it to enter a short story competition to be part of an Anthology. This longer version was published in Zinewest 2014 (run by what is now WestWords http://www.westwords.com.au ) but in my heart it was always a PB because I could visualise the spreads.
With this in mind I had assessments with an editor of one of the large publishing houses for two years in a row. The editor liked my story the first year, but explained that it was not a PB for several reasons, not the least of which was length. I worked on it at home and in my FAW (Fellowship of Australian Writers) critique group
I had also discovered (CKT) Creative Kids Tales (creativekidstales.com.au) by now and more specifically Pen Pals, the predecessor to the current Creative Kids Tales Critique Group, of which I am still an active member. I posted a request for Pen Pals to which three people responded, one being Kathy Creamer, who loved my ms and felt sure it would be published. At the second year assessment, to my delight I found that the editor was impressed with my dedication to the story and my willingness to make suggested changes to the ms. The editor wanted me to make a few more changes. The manuscript changed again, quite considerably as I readily agreed to all the proposed changes, bar one. I provided my reasons for not wishing to make this change and my willingness to work together to find an alternative. For whatever reason, as there were other factors I became aware of later, which were certainly out of my, and possibly their control, I heard nothing more from that editor, even after sending a polite enquiry a few months later.
I finally resigned myself to the fact that it was time to find a new home for this ms which obviously had merit. I applied to about three other houses, losing heart and taking longer to submit elsewhere each time. Fast forward 3 years, 4 years from when I first penned The Sorrowful Star, and Kathy Creamer has herself moved into publishing, establishing Little Pink Dog Books publishing house (www.littlepinkdogbooks.com) with her husband, Dr. Peter Creamer. For one week in September last year they opened their doors to unsolicited manuscript submissions. Naturally, along with a couple of other manuscripts I submitted, the manuscript with the new title of Star. Kathy recognised it at once, but was saddened to see the many changes which had been made to this once beautifully lyrical manuscript. It had become for want of a better word, ‘cute’. I was told that LPDB was interested in taking my story further, but asked to find the version Kathy and I had once worked on together. Not remembering exactly which version that was, I now had exactly 8 different versions of this ms, I sent Kathy 4 which were completed around the same time. Using these she was able to find the exact one we worked on complete with her own editing notes. I guess what’s noteworthy here is that it was the more lyrical version that Little Pink Dog Books were interested in, yet the other publisher liked the ‘cuter’ version. Without being biased at all here… uh hmm… I believe both were sound, well-written stories with a great plot and characters with whom it’s easy to empathise. So I guess, if you receive a rejection, fellow travellers, keep moving along the road, it simply might not have been your stop.
At this stage, there were still several other manuscripts under consideration and no doubt several other factors too. Announcements were being made of other authors to be published from that September submission and I waited with baited breath to hear from LPDB again, which in due course I did. While they worked on their decisions, I had to come to terms with falling in love again with the older version of a manuscript. I’d put a lot of work into taking it in a different direction. I was of course going to do it, I’m no fool, but it did require me to ‘kill my new darling’ and recommit to my first love. I read and reread The Sorrowful Star until I once again saw its beauty. By this time, I had heard from LPDB again. Peter Creamer was now my contact person as we tried to find and agree upon an illustrator. There were several options; an established author with a waiting period, an illustration student whose potential they can see and wish to encourage, from a school in England with which LPDB have an affiliation. (A terrific idea, but as an emerging author, not one I chose for myself) and Kathy herself with a waiting period. More to-ing and fro-ing and eventually I was asked to see what I thought of Margaret Dewar’s work, one image/style in particular. Thankfully I loved Margaret’s work, as I sensed the Creamer’s did too.
Now at last, with everything in place, it was time for contracts to be viewed, scrutinised and signed!
That’s been my road so far and despite the lows there’s been far more highs and I am
Savouring the quest,
Farewell fellow travellers
What is the importance of Networking? and What’s been happening since I signed my contract? to follow in next month’s post.