How did CWILL BC members get their first big breaks in the publishing world? In this series of interviews with local writers and illustrators, we ask what advice they would offer and what mistakes they would never repeat — an inside look at the publishing process, from the creators’ point of view. Please feel free to tell your own publishing tales in the comments section below.
What was your first book?
Project for a Healthy Environment. This book was published in the late 1980s and is still in print. Sad to say that some of the problems the world faced then are still problems today.
Did you have a mentor in the publishing world, or did you do it all on your own?
I was “discovered” by the rep for Stanton and McDougal, who introduced the senior editor from John Wiley and Sons to me. This was just after my toystore, Einsteins, the Science Centre had won an international award for promotion. I said I could write and they believed me.
Do you have a favourite publishing moment? A career highlight?
Winning the Eve Savory Award from the BC Innovation Council for Science Communication was a pretty big deal. Twice short-listing for the Subaru Award for hands-on science activity books was also amazing. I was also on four journalism fellowships to the United States to prestigious institutions, which was certainly a highlight of my career.
How did you find your publisher/agent?
Usually publishers find us and by “us” I mean the writing team of Shar Levine and Leslie Johnstone. We have requests from publishers around the world who would like to work with us.
How did you handle early rejections?
This is terrible to say, but I never had any rejections early in my career. When pitching to publishers, they bought the book that was proposed.
Do you think about trends/marketing when you’re developing a project?
That is the only thing we think about and all our proposals include an analysis of the market for that topic.
What advice would you give an emerging writer/illustrator?
Don’t quit your day job. Seriously, there’s just not enough money to pay the rent.
Is there a publishing mistake you would never repeat?
Yes. There are some publishers I would never work for again and some contracts that I regret signing. I would never have a submission date before payment of the advance. It would be more of “right of refusal” timing.
What’s the most interesting thing you’ve learned since publishing your first book?
We used to have to send in two copies of all manuscripts, with detailed attachments of the photographs that went with each chapter. It’s so simple now to email a book, put things into dropbox. Submissions of materials and editing are so easy now. The use of digital images and videos also make our lives very simple.
What project are you most excited about now?
We are just going to start several projects which will build on information I learned on several of the science fellowships. These projects will have audio and visual materials embedded in the chapters, so we think the books will be the most unique on the market. We are looking forward to being in more control of the projects, which will be interesting to say the least.