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That light-bulb moment!

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.

lightbulb

Back to the drawing board…

After a full week, I got into work on Friday to see there was a visitor coming in to school to work with the children.  After seeing his name, bells started to ring as I realised he was the children’s author: Richard O’Neill. As soon as an opportunity arose, I introduced myself and asked if I could pick his brains about the world of children’s books.    He was extremely helpful and gave me some excellent advice.  He even asked to see my book and went through it with me during the lunch break.  It was amazing to get feedback from a successful storyteller and I was particularly pleased when he said he liked it.

So, the journey continues as I’ve now had more input, which I will heed as I go back and edit my book once more.  I’m on a long road but it is a very interesting one as I continue on the cycle of sharing my book, getting feedback and then editing it.

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Feedback

Well, it has been an interesting couple of weeks… A few blogs ago I was talking about the importance of networking and there has been some movement on that front. Now people know about my book, word is starting to get around. I’ve been in contact with someone within the world of children’s literature, who has been doing some great work forwarding my book/ideas to the right people. On the back of this, I’ve had some very useful feedback on my book from people with excellent knowledge and experience, which has led to some new publishers interested in me sending them a proposal of my work. I’m not arrogant enough to think my first draft of a children’s book will be perfect so I’m willing to take onboard feedback and make changes to my story, design and style, if necessary. Let’s be honest, this is my first attempt and there are people out there with great knowledge and experience in this area.

This is going to be a long road but I’m really happy that there is a buzz developing and people are discussing my work.

Why I wrote a children’s book

As a teacher, I have read countless children’s books over the years. Some are fantastic but some are quite baffling… There have been many occasions where I have read a book to a class and felt underwhelmed because nothing actually happened in the story. There was no tension, no action, no drama and no excitement; sometimes there wasn’t even a moral undertone that children can learn from. More often than not the artwork was amazing but sometimes it really wasn’t. However, the most incredible thing when I read a book like this is when I see a golden badge on the front stating ‘eight million copies sold’… really? How?!

This got me thinking – I can do this! I know I have the artistic ability and I’m certain I can create stories which will excite, entertain and grip children. I already had some ideas and it was a matter of choosing the right flagship idea to go with first. My first story has tension, action, excitement, an educational element and a cliffhanger. Although I’m open to editing it on the advice of more experienced practitioners, I’m pleased with it and truly believe children will enjoy it and want to read the next one in the series…

What came first the chicken or the egg?

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.

Six degrees of seperation

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.

picture networking 001

Back to the waiting game…

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.

The declined offer

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.