Week of July 15, 2012: How I Got My First Picture Book Deal
Tuesday, July 17: Fred Koehler—Perseverance and a Postcard
Dad’s Bad Day—Spring 2014
It’s a pretty incredible feeling to get that phone call telling you there’s an offer on the table for your book. It validates all the hard work and dedication that you’ve invested in your craft. Here’s how I got my phone call:
The first book I wrote took eight or nine years to complete. It was pretty awful. But I took it to New York to the Algonkian Writer's Conference and pitched it anyways (because I really didn’t know what else to do). Lo and behold, I got my butt kicked by editors, agents, and facilitators and came back to Florida with my tail between my legs.
But I made friends. And I learned from it. And I sulked. As a form of therapy, I started drawing again—which I hadn’t really done in years. I finished a drawing, and since I liked it, I wrote a story to go with it. I liked the story, so I illustrated the whole thing over the course of a year. I took my finished picture book to an SCBWI conference to pitch it. Lo and behold I got my butt kicked by editors, agents, and facilitators and had a much shorter drive home with my tail between my legs.
But I made friends. And I learned from it. And I sulked. I shelved ten years’ worth of work and started over from scratch. I repeated this pattern again and again at different conferences in different cities until the feedback started getting better and better and I felt like I was getting “close.”
Simon & Schuster Art Director Lucy Ruth Cummins helped change the course of my career. In a paid critique, she pretty much laid down the law of what she saw as my strengths and where I had the most opportunity. She did not offer me a deal or a foot in the door. Just a nod in the right direction.
I took her advice, sent out some postcards with her suggested image on them, and heard back from four different publishers interested in my characters. The story I had developed to go with it was a great fit for Dial Books, and I got the call on Christmas Eve. Success!!!
The gist of my journey is pretty simple and it’s a pattern any brave soul can follow. Do your best work. Ask your SCBWI critiquer to be brutally honest. Sulk (but not for too long). Follow your critiquer’s advice. Then repeat. Your time will come and we’ll be celebrating your phone call soon enough.