Once I decided to try to have my writing published, I started doing research. I went to the library, the book store, and searched online for info on how to get published. And, I found a whole lot of scary stories about rejection. The Giving Tree was rejected. Really. It was. And To Think I Saw It On Mulberry Street was rejected a remarkable 27 times before finally getting a yes. Looking back, these books, originally published in 1964 and 1937 respectively, are still in print and have each sold millions of copies.
So, what does this tell us? It tells us a lot, and little. The publishing industry is tough. Having a great book doesn’t guarantee publication. You need to find the right publisher, the right market, the right time for your story. Getting your book published takes effort, and even then, getting published doesn’t guarantee anything. As I am learning day-by-day, the work doesn’t stop when you sign that contract. There are revisions. Then they get an illustrator. Then, there are more revisions. After that, you need to have a marketing plan. It can be quite overwhelming. But, and this is a very important but, you don’t have to do it alone.
There are people all around you who are willing to help. I’m not just referring to the well meaning friend or family member, whose help we all appreciate greatly. You all know who you are. Thanks for all that stuff you’ve been doing. I know. Get back on topic. OK, the people I am referring to are the other members of the writing community. These fine folks include other struggling writers, published authors, editors, agents, illustrators, and many more. Surprisingly, they are pretty easy to find.
In the children’s writing market, if you are serious about getting published I highly recommend joining the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI), which you can find here. When I first started looking for a way to get published, I was prodded in the direction of SCBWI. I went to an event, and then I went to a second. I joined a critique group. My writing got better. I met other authors. I met agents and editors. I was networking. It was all very exciting and ultimately led me to where I am now. I am still friends with some of the people I met at my first event and a relationship I made at another is what led to my publishing contract.
But, I get ahead of myself. I joined SCBWI and met some fantastic people who helped me improve my skills. Never fear, if joining a group isn’t your thing, that’s not the only way to get good information. I also reached out to authors I like to read. I followed them on twitter, I read their blogs and commented, and I sent the odd email or two. You know what? They responded. I got retweets and responses on twitter. I had comments posted back to my comments. Occasionally, we would start a dialogue. I even received email responses to my inquiries directly from my literary heroes. As the saying goes, nothing ventured, nothing gained. These interactions helped shape the kind of author I want to be.
Here’s a perfect example. A few months ago I reached out to Jay Kristoff, an author whose first book, Stormdancer, came out last year. Throughout the year, I found myself drawn completely into Jay’s promotion plan for Stormdancer. Each piece seemed to fit perfectly together. From his amazing description of what his book is about, to his facebook app. He even did a pretty cool
trailer. I was hesitant to send an email to Jay because I didn’t want to come off as some stalker fanboy. In the end, my desire to know how he did all those marvelous things won out. Now, this was just a few short months after his book came out. It was also in the midst of the holiday season, which, I am told, they also have down under. Much to my surprise, and great joy, Jay responded. And, his email wasn’t just some short ‘thanks for writing’ type response. No way. Not Jay. I received a detailed explanation of how he promoted his book and how well, or poorly, he felt each activity went. No wonder his book was so awesome. He didn’t know me. He had nothing to gain by helping me, but he still went out of his way to help out. Jay’s not the only one.
My interactions with other authors, on the web and in-person, has shown me that more than a few of them are happy to go out of their way to help give someone a leg up. SCBWI people reach out to me to ask questions, or answer mine. People I have recently met on twitter have offered advice or help. One of them graciously offered to spend a little time talking to me about how she promotes her ebooks. Another kindly offered to send my child some swag when she found out he loved her book. Every time I look around I see another writer reach out a hand to pull someone up. The writing community is a close one. Perhaps that closeness is due to the fact that it is so hard. Or, perhaps writers are just good people.