Deciding to write a children’s book.
Hi, I’m Rich. I’m the wrong side of thirty but the right side of forty and after a successful ten years in education I had a ‘light-bulb’ moment… For years I have been wondering how I can use what is probably my greatest talent, illustration. Then it hit me! An idea came into my mind where I could illustrate, exercise my creative mind and utilise the years of experience I have gained in teaching… So, back in January of last year I started sketching pictures for my first children’s book.
12 months on and I have finished it! The artwork is drawn, the text is written and I have submitted it to numerous publishers. I’m pleased with my book’s beautiful imagery, exciting storyline and cliffhanger ending. I wanted to create a children’s book aimed at children aged between seven and ten years old that has a combination of picture book-style artwork and an exciting, adventurous storyline.
Now I am at the painstaking stage of waiting to see if someone will take a chance on me as a new author… After twiddling my thumbs and pulling my hair out waiting for a while, I’ve decided to be more proactive so I’ve started this blog. I will share the process I have been through so far and keep the blog up to date with any new developments… Be back soon.
When I was trolling through dozens of publishers I learnt that unless you’ve already had a book published some publishers/literary agents won’t even look at your work… Okay, so how do I get my FIRST book published if I already have to have one published for them to look at me?
This scenario reminded me of other situations I have come across, such as premier league football tickets. A lot of top clubs will only sell tickets to people who have been before, but surely everyone must have a first time of going… Also, this reminded me of some employment opportunities, where employers want someone with experience. How do you get experience without being given an initial opportunity?
Thankfully, there are some publishers who will accept manuscripts from first time authors and these are the ones that I need to approach.
Now I’m in this stage of hiatus, waiting to hear from publishers, I wanted to do something productive that may help me along the way. At first, it was a big secret that I had written/illustrated a book and I’m not sure why. Perhaps I wanted to surprise people, perhaps I was worried about not finishing it or perhaps I was afraid of failure. In the end, the few people who did know about my book encouraged me to tell people and get the word out.
The best quote from one my friends was, “You’re writing a secret book… that’s going to sell well!” This got me thinking; I’m not going to get anywhere if I don’t get myself out there. Ever heard of the theory of six degrees of separation? You know, that you are linked by a series of seven or fewer acquaintances to anyone in the world… So, here I am spreading the word and asking people who know me to spread the word as all it takes is for the one right person to see it.
Oh, and as for failure, well Mr Churchill said it all, “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts…”
I guess it’s true of any opportunity/goal; it takes good timing, a bit of luck and a lot of persistence.
After the rollercoaster of emotions from my false dawn, it was back to the waiting game. I’ve researched and submitted to a fair few suitable publishers and now I have to be patient. Some of the publishers state that they will endeavour to respond within six months as they have a large amount of submissions to go through, some of the publishers say they will hopefully respond within 12 MONTHS and some say that they will only respond if they are interested. This is going to be a testing time for me as I’m the kind of person that wants everything yesterday… I must be more mindful!
This is where I am now. It has not been six months yet so I’m waiting for responses. My plan going forward is to wait until six months has passed and see where I am. If I’ve had no takers then I will submit to some more publishers (perhaps broadening my horizons across the pond). Hopefully, I will gain some feedback on any unsuccessful submissions, which may help me tweak things for future attempts. But hey, I’m still hopeful and continue to believe that one publisher will give me a chance to showcase all of my hard work.
One morning at around six o’clock, I woke up before my alarm (damn this term-time body clock). As I had a good 20 minutes or so before I had to get up, I grabbed my phone and began looking at my emails. Suddenly, I had a knot in my stomach and I could feel my heart beating harder as excitement and adrenaline began to surge around my body… I had an offer from a publisher!
“Over the past few weeks my colleagues and I have been discussing various aspects of your work and have agreed that your book is suitable for children with an enjoyable narrative, charming illustrations and a cliff-hanger ending. We believe that it deserves a chance to reach the general readership and this can be achieved with the marketing capabilities we can provide.”
I couldn’t believe it; it was happening and very early on in the process. I had only sent off my submissions about a month before (perhaps alarm bells should’ve rung then but I was caught up in the moment). All the hard work had paid off and now I was going to be a published author… With an enormous spring in my step, I got up and began getting ready for work. As time ticked on I began to calm down and my thoughts began to settle. I went from excitement to pragmatism and began to think more rationally. Then, I thought to myself that perhaps I should investigate this offer further before I get carried away with it all… So, I began researching the publishers. My heart sank and I felt like a fool. There were almost countless articles mentioning this publisher, telling a similar story to mine. It turns out this publisher is what is known as a vanity publisher, which is basically a company requiring the author to pay for some or all of the publishing costs. Vanity publishers generally make their money from charging authors rather than selling books.
I will emphasise that this publisher praised my work highly and did act in a very professional manner throughout the offer (even when I declined it). Also, they only wanted me to contribute a small amount of money. Now, this would’ve have been great if I merely wanted to have a book published, tell my family, put it on Facebook and be able to talk about it in years to come. However, I’m more ambitious than that. Call me a dreamer but I think my book can do well with the right opportunity. I really believe in my book and I think it is worth being more patient and worth working towards obtaining a traditional publishing contract with a successful, well known publisher or an ambitious new publisher.
So, after all the excitement and the rollercoaster ride of emotions it was back to the waiting game… waiting for a publisher to take a chance on me.
Finally, after months of hard work I had got my first book to a stage where I was happy with it and now it was time to try to get someone to publish it.
My first action was to find out how the process works so I did what every modern person does today; I googled it. After reading several blogs, forums and web pages, I stumbled upon a blog which listed the best publishers and how they want your submission. I’ve researched a lot and learnt a lot. I’ve learnt a lot of new terminology, such as ‘unsolicited manuscripts’ and ‘vanity’ publishing. I quickly realised this was going to be a steep learning curve.
After trolling through many publisher’s submission guideline pages, I made a list of publishers who may be interested in my book. Many looked perfect but had the disappointing words of ‘submissions currently closed’ headlining their submissions page. Several stated they were not interested in picture books so I crossed them off my list and several just didn’t look suitable (lots of Hunger Games and Twilight style books).
So I had my list of publishers who looked like the real deal, wanted picture books, were open to unsolicited manuscripts and who were accepting submissions. However, with each submission I had to endure more formatting fun! Aaaah! Every publisher wanted different things, such as different word counts, just pictures and a synopsis, pictures and text, text in a certain line spacing and font, text separate from the pictures, personal statements, emailed submissions less than 10mb, less than 5mb and even some less than 1mb! I soon realised this was not going to be a simple, quick stage in the process…
So the the pictures were drawn, the words were written and now it was time to construct the pages. I wanted to keep a picture book style with the artwork dominating each page, but I wanted to make sure my text was clear and easy to read.
As usual, the process took longer than I thought and being a perfectionist, I had to get it just right. It took a lot of patience changing the size of the text, lining it up and shaping it around the pictures. Early on in the process I had decided to try to blend the writing with the pictures and not stick to a rigid block of words. This enables each picture to be viewed and enjoyed unobscured.
Finally, after a lot of screen-time my pages were complete, my front cover was designed and I was ready for the next, scary stage… approaching publishers.
Okay, so now it was time to start putting pen to paper by adding words to my pictures. Having been a teacher for a while I knew where I wanted to pitch the word level, what grammatical features I wanted to include and how I wanted to structure the sentences.
I began my writing at home but finished the first draft of the text whilst I was on holiday in the Lake District. It was completely coincidental that I was writing my first book whilst visiting the home and setting of one of the greatest children’s writers, Beatrix Potter. I went on a tour of her house and felt empowered with inspiration as I found out more about this remarkable author.
After I had finished the first draft, I called in the help of family members once again to give me feedback. Finally, after many, many tweaks I was happy with the words and ready to begin constructing the pages of my book…