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.
How did you handle early rejections?
Rejection is never easy, but I think it is the rare author who hasn’t experienced it. When I started out, I probably took it too personally. They don’t like my book! I’m crushed! Now I remind myself that my manuscript might be rejected, not because it’s not good enough, but because the publisher might already be publishing a similar book or feel that it’s not marketable at this time or doesn’t publish books about my topic. It’s important to keep sending your manuscript out and to stay optimistic. It is also important, if you are lucky enough to get a rejection that contains some critique or suggestions, to really look at your manuscript. Are there things you can improve? Are there ways you can make it better?
Is there a publishing mistake you would never repeat?
I accepted a verbal commitment from a publisher for a fantasy novel with a promise that the written contract would come. I was assigned an editor and did a substantial amount of revision, more than one time. The publisher stalled and stalled and, after a year, informed me that they were only going to publish authors they had previously published. I was out of luck! I’d also wasted a whole year when that manuscript could have been circulating. From now on, after a reasonable amount of time, I would expect a contract and I wouldn’t do a major revision without one. (That’s different than a publisher who says, “If you want to revise this manuscript, we’ll be happy to take another look.” To me, that’s honest. Go for it!)
What advice would you give an emerging writer?
Read as many children’s books as you can get your hands on. Try to pick quality books that you can learn from and enjoy. Reviews and lists of award winning books are two sources. Find out how other successful authors handle challenges and difficult bits. Read aloud great dialogue. Develop a feel for what is appropriate for different ages. Get inspired!
Do you have a career highlight?
A definite highlight for me was attending the Silver Birch Gala in Toronto. My book Never To Be Told was one of the nominees and ended up being an Honour Book. The whole experience was exhilarating — I met hundreds of kids who love to read (yes, they are still out there!) and for one day I felt like a celebrity. My juvenile novel Missing has been nominated for the 2013 Silver Birch and I am already excited about attending the Gala in May.
What project are you most excited about now?
One of my goals for 2013 was to dive into social media and I am very excited about my new blog. It is called Write to the Point and is full of tips and strategies for people who want to get started writing for children or who want to pick up a few new ideas. I also have a website and a Facebook Fan Page!