Friday, July 20, 2012

Margie, Tammi, and Lisa

Week of July 15, 2012: How I Got My First Picture Book Deal
Friday, July 20: Margie Palatini, Tammi Sauer, and Lisa Wheeler

For today’s post, I’ve gone through the Picture This! archive (aka: Directory) and found stories from previous author interviews. We sometimes forget that the authors we admire so much were once unpublished, too. So, of course, each of these fabulous authors had a first book sale and a story to tell about it. Read their stories more even more inspiration!

Margie Palatini—A Manuscript in the Attic

Piggie Pie! was my very first picture book—and the story behind it—(yes it did bake in an attic for almost fifteen years), along with some of the original black and white sketches by Howard Fine from our book dummy are on my blog at, so please check it out.

After receiving a rejection letter early for Piggie Pie! which said: “You shouldn’t write picture books” . . . I listened. I didn’t. I don’t think I wrote a picture book for at least ten years. However, I did write mid-grade and tween novels, and had four published years before Piggie Pie! ever came out.

Tammi Sauer—Success Through the Slush Pile

I had dabbled in writing for a few years (this means I would work on a story for three days, put it away for five months, work on it again for a week, then put it away for two months, etc.). I didn’t get serious about writing until spring 2003. A year later, I received my first offer.

Cowboy Camp was a slush submission. That manuscript had gone to acquisitions at three houses. Oh, the joy! But no takers. Oh, the agony! I first learned about Sterling Publishing through one of SCBWI’s publications, and I knew this house would be a good fit for Cowboy Camp. I sent off the manuscript and heard back from the editor in two weeks. Yee haw!

Lisa Wheeler—From a Stack of Rejections to a Bidding War Between Houses

Like most writers, I’ve been writing all my life. But I didn’t get serious about it until I was 32. It took four years and over 225 rejections before I sold my first picture book.

My first sell is like a Cinderella story. I had acquired an agent in May of 1998 based on a chapter book he liked. After five months, the chapter book still hadn’t sold. I was fearful that my agent would dump me.

About that time I wrote One Dark Night. I sent it to my agent and he immediately called me. He was very excited by the book and wanted to orchestrate an auction for it.

On a Monday, he sent the manuscript out to four houses and they all made an offer. It was overwhelming.

After a few days, two of the houses dropped out. I was a total wreck. I wasn’t sleeping and I had a day job to go to. I asked my agent to wrap things up so I could eat and sleep again.

On Thursday he told the last two houses to have their final offer on the table. I chose Harcourt on October 30, 1998 (it was a Friday). I recall being worried that a mistake had been made and that on Monday morning I would receive a call from Harcourt or my agent saying that they changed their mind. I mean seriously, who gets nothing but rejection for four years and then has houses fighting over a book? It doesn’t happen—at least not in my world! Until it did.


Jennifer R said...

What a fun post! It makes me remember that everyone has to start somewhere and rejections are very common for beginners!

Penny Parker Klostermann said...

Aw...more inspiration! Great post!

Rob Sanders said...

Thanks, Jennifer and Penny!