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?
My geography curriculum, Mapping the World By Heart, originally published by Scholastic, now by Fablevision.
Did you have a mentor in the publishing world, or did you do it all on your own?
Nope; just found my way along.
Do you have a favourite publishing moment? A career highlight?
Just before If The World Were A Village was published, the publicist from Kids Can Press called me and said “this is a great book and it will sell well, but please understand that a successful children’s book sells 12 or 15 thousand copies and disappears, so keep your expectations low”; to date, If the World has been reprinted 20 times, has sold nearly a million copies worldwide, and has been republished in 26 countries in 22 languages other than English.
How did you find your publisher/agent?
The agent I eventually ended up with was a parent of one of my grade 7 students; I’m the luckiest grade 7 teacher that ever lived.
What advice would you give an emerging writer/illustrator?
The learning curve is steep, but never give up; also remember that NOTHING ever happens at the speed you expect it to…
What’s the most interesting thing you’ve learned since publishing your first book?
The most successful authors do a lot of their own marketing — not selling, necessarily, though many do, but not passing a bookstore without stopping in, making calls, etc. World of mouth is good, but only goes so far.
What project are you most excited about now?
New book, A Book of If, in process now at Kids Can; an exploration of scale, making impossibly big things tangible and real.