About the Path to Publication (hopefully)
If you're here, than you probably already know about my self-published children's book If My Oak Tree Could Speak (if not, grab your copy here). Admittedly, I plunged myself into the deep waters of publishing without really knowing how to swim. I had such a strong desire to create and contribute my voice to the world and did it though my book. I have NO REGRETS about the beautiful picture book Janice and I created. Yet now that I've travelled the self-publishing road for a few years, I've decided to change course onto a new path, that of traditional publishing.
Being in the Kid Lit world has shown me how much I adore it! I have the best time connecting with children through story and imagination. In a very real way, I still possess some of their innocence which allows me to speak to them on their level--its just who I am! And I understand that innocent does not mean dumb, not does simple mean stupid. Our kids hold an ethereal essence that often gets kicked out of them too soon. Let's encourage childhood! While teaching them to be kind humans at the same time. They have their whole lives to be boring adults ;)
It's my intention to share the hills, valleys, and pitfalls of this path to (hopefully) traditional publication as a point of interest and a way to keep myself accountable to my goals. Why all the caveats? This industry is tough. It's competitive and political and saturated. Many have worked YEARS to have a book published regardless of genre and some are still waiting. For some, it just never happens. I'm still not sure how long I'm willing to wait for it but I've learned there is plenty to do in the waiting.
Before a book is made, there are several steps that take place over many years. Let me start by telling you about querying.
After the actual writing of a good story (which involves critiques and many edits), a writer must decide if they will seek a literary agent or submit their story to presses that are open to unrepresented manuscripts. These presses are often smaller. If a children's writer wants to be published by top publishers, such as Scholastic, they will need an agent. It will depend on the writers ambitions.
Regardless of their focus, both with require a query letter. A writer will track down literary agents they feel are a good fit (every agent is looking for something specific) or the presses that are open to their type of story, then follow that agent/publisher's specific submission guidelines, sending queries.
If a writer is successful in this step, they will negotiate terms then begin the publication process. It can take dozens of queries before a book gets published, if it happens at all.
What I've learned is that to be a submitting writer means to get comfortable with rejection. A rejection doesn't always mean you're a bad writer. Sometimes it means your work wasn't a good fit, or someone else's was a bit better. For every published piece you see from me, know that it stands on a large pile of rejection emails. In light of this, my goals are based upon submissions, not acceptances. I cannot control who accepts my manuscript, but I can control who I submit to and how often I do it. Therefore, I set monthly goals on how many presses/agents I will query. Some writers set timed goals, or daily word counts, to stay on track (depending on the project).
Thanks for the lesson, but what are you going to do?
As for me, I have yet to decide whether I will seek an agent. Partly because that part of the process seems daunting. Finding agents is one thing, finding the right agent another, and each has such particular submission guidelines that it makes me dizzy! Not to mention that most authors tell me they only got signed after meeting face-to-face with their agents, which basically means finding the right one and stalking them! That's a lot to process as an introvert with mild social anxiety.
I currently have two polished stories that I have begun to query to smaller presses. I began the process in December 2022, and this month is when I will begin to hear back (each press usually states 4-6 months before receiving a response). I am not under any illusions that my manuscripts are shoo-ins. Instead, I have a peace that my stories will find the right people if it's meant to be.
In the meantime, I write. I grow. I learn my craft. I'm stretching my abilities and trying new genres and styles. Most importantly, I'm feeding the God-given creativity that fizzles underneath my skin. But I'm doing it gradually, with patience, because God has also given me a family to care for, a home to tend, and a church body to serve. I'm doing his will in those things too. I have a purpose and it is multi-faceted. This balance in perspective has been long fought for and I'm happy to be on this side of it.
I hope you've enjoyed reading a bit of my heart and goals, and gained some sympathy for all your writing friends, ha! Encourage them when you can. Support their work. Share their stories. Every little bit helps to silence the relentless imposter syndrome that plagues us all.
Until next time,