I’ve written a book. Now what do I do?

erin and bo peep I’m just back from lots of fun school visits featuring my second picture book, Little Bo Peep Can’t Get To Sleep, (Atheneum/Simon & Schuster 2005), illustrated by Hanako Wakiyama. **Look for photos of the kids I’ve met in future posts.** Hanako also illustrated my first picture book, Goldie Locks Has Chicken Pox (Atheneum 2002) which is now an Aladdin paperback, and guess what?

I have never met my illustrator. That’s right. Which brings me to…

The Publishing Process: Frequently Asked Questions

#1. I’ve written a book and my best friend (sister-in-law, uncle, neighbor–fill in the blank) is doing the illustrations. How do we get it published?

Answer: STOP RIGHT THERE! Be forewarned: as a rule, publishers do not like the “packaged deal”–a manuscript with illustrations–especially from two unknowns. Most writer/illustrators started as illustrators, and got their names and portfolios known that way first.

Unless you are a professional artist, do not send art work when you submit your manuscript. Once your manuscript has been accepted, editors will match you with an illustrator. My wonderful editor at Atheneum “matched” me with Hanako Wakiyama, whose awesome retro illustrations fit perfectly with the nursery rhyme characters of both books. Boy did I luck out–especially because writers have virtually no say as to how their story is illustrated. The editors work as a go-between. I guess they don’t want one of us telling the other how to do her job. : )

#2. How can I become a writer?

Answer: Writers write. Not all of us get up at 5 am to write before heading to the day job. (Although I’ve read that Wendelin Van Draanen does this and I love her Sammy Keyes mysteries.) You squeeze it in when you can. I wrote the first draft of Goldie Locks Has Chicken Pox in the pick-up circle at my daughter’s elementary school. My mantra is Ten Minutes A Day. If I waited to start writing until I had two hours or more of uninterrupted time, I’d never write. O.K. some of my writing pals don’t have day jobs, but they go by the same rule: PBIC (Put Butt in Chair).

#3. Here is a copy of my book. I’ve sent it to two publishers and got rejected. Help!

Answer: You’ve made your manuscript into a “dummy,” a mock up of the actual book. As a rule, manuscripts are not submitted to an editor in this format. However, this is a good way to see if your manuscript works as a book: Is each page a “hook” to the next page? Have you made every word count, or are there extra words you don’t need? Do you have enough “scenes” for a 32 page picture book? For info on proper manuscript format, see the SCBWI.org web site or Writer’s Market in the reference section of your public library.

#4. How can I become a writer?

Answer: Here are Robert Heinlein’s Rules of Writing:

  1. You must write.
  2. You must finish what you write.

And my favorite quote from the film, Finding Forrester:

The first draft you write with your heart. The next draft[s] you write with your head.

This brings up another mistake many writers make: Thinking your story has to be perfect the first time out. Not so. Check out author Ann Lamott’s “Sh*tty First Draft” theory (from Bird by Bird):

The first draft doesn’t have to be good. It’s for finding out what the book is about, what you think about it, and what you want to say.

Writers write. But getting published is a business in itself. 10,000+ children’s books are published each year. The competition is tough. See the links on my web site and read on for tips on getting published. It’s very important to do your homework! Do not send your manuscript to the wrong house.

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