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?
College Cuisine. I was given the opportunity to illustrate the entire book. (And even contribute some recipes!) The author and I never did meet, but it was a wonderful collaboration nonetheless. My first real, hard-covered children’s book was I’m A Hop Hop Hoppity Frog.
Did you have a mentor in the publishing world, or did you do it all on your own?
I did not have an agent, nor any publishing connections. I love the process of books and art, and it had been a dream lifestyle of mine “forever.” I used to attend CWILL BC events downtown, wondering how to break into that world, and finally took a night class from the wonderful and caring Kathie Shoemaker at Langara, which gave me more insights into the whole mystery. I had her critique my dummy as well, which was very helpful. I wanted to do my very best.
Do you have a favourite publishing moment? A career highlight?
Well, yes, when I cashed in my air miles and flew from BC to Ottawa to participate in a writer’s/illustrators conference, ready to meet my first publisher with my very first dummy and presentation. I kid you not, I set up a pink garage sale “Barbie” cassette tape recorder with pink speakers and played her the song (that my husband had written).
The song was the text I wanted to use in my children’s book. The utter goofiness of the whole event and my youthful enthusiasm got her attention, I suppose!
(We each had 10 minutes only.)
(I didn’t know I was goofy.)
The highlight though, was presenting my book to a large audience, and having my proud family see me “autograph” books at a CWILL BC event.
How did you find your publisher/agent?
I flew back east to a conference that offered a meeting with a publisher. However, I did not get the gig, then, and heard nothing back from her, either. A few months later the same publisher was presenting at a 3-day workshop, near where I lived. It was very expensive, for me, though, over $200.00 a day. But it was on the West Coast, so I scraped together the money and tried again to snag her attention.
Is there a publishing mistake you would never repeat?
Yes! At the second very expensive workshop, other book editors were asking to see my work, and were excited about my presentation; I was thrilled someone in the industry was showing such interest. I happily and innocently shared my dummy and portfolio; unbeknownst to myself, the first publisher already had “wanted” me, but had never even let me know.
I learned that that was called “multiple submissions” apparently A Big No No. I had no idea I was making a mistake, as she had not let me know anything about her interest, and several months had already passed by.
Later on I phoned her long distance to find out what went wrong, and tried very hard to explain my innocent blunder; negotiating still, to get the book off the ground. It did, then the publisher went bankrupt, and it was another challenge to get paid. (But I finally did!)