As promised, and with a nice big gap, more thoughts on children’s book publishing.
In the last post – being taken on by an agent. It’s a lovely thing. Once I’d got my story up to scratch, she sent the manuscript to about 12 different publishers and I sat back and relaxed. In fact, I’m sure I barely gave it much thought at all, so busy was I going about my busy business. OK that’s not true. I checked my email obsessively and slowly the rejections pinged in. They all came via my agent. If the response from the publisher was positive but still a no, they would have the subject title ‘A heartbreaker’. That would indicate that the publisher had liked the book (or so they said) but couldn’t publish it because they already had something similar on their list/had to make some toast/were allergic to cats/all of the above. Others simply said no. Some were a teensy bit rude, but I got over it. I got over it a whole lot more when Scholastic came back saying, we’re interested, let’s meet and chat.
So on to the next phase – negotiations and general testing of the waters. Sadly, not all books are snapped up in frenzied bidding wars for large sums, but equally not all books are rejected flat out just because they’re not currently strong enough. Some really great editors out there are prepared to work with a new writer and help them hone their writing along the way. So it was for me. My editor at Scholastic suggested amendments and tweaks to my story and I rewrote it. This was partly to make the story better, but also to see if I could take direction. I could, the story improved hugely, and I signed a deal. But not before lots of people had to rubber stamp the manuscript (not literally). My editor put it forward to the head of publishing, and when she liked it, my editor took it to an acquisitions meeting, where sales and marketing bods also have a say. If you get a yes all round, you get a deal. I had to wait a slightly agonising three or four weeks between learning I’d made it through acquisitions and having an offer formally made. It was all worth it, though.
Being prepared to rewrite your manuscript has, in my experience, been essential. No good getting too precious. If you can see your story as a collaborative work, rather than a perfect piece of art created by a single individual, you’ll stand a better chance of getting published and creating something great. Only really established authors get to call the editorial shots. We jobbing ingénues must take direction – often on the chin.