Monday, January 20, 2014

Birth Of A Book







I announced last week I had received my first book contract. It was an exciting time and my feet still haven't touched down yet. But before anyone thinks this is a case of an overnight success I wanted to tell you a story about the birth of a little book...

I have been writing on and off for more than forty years but only considered doing it professionally four years ago. After a twenty year hiatus where I only wrote sporadically, I returned to my writing with a passion and began a middle grade chapter book about three boys. It took me about three months to actually finish the first draft and I thought that was a good start. I was writing on my own and told no one about my dreams of becoming a published author...not even my sister knew. I did this for two years where I wrote and wrote and read everything I could get my hands on about writing. I didn't know at the time a huge writing community was out there waiting to show their love and support for another newbie writer.

Then I stumbled upon a post somewhere...I don't even remember how I discovered it...but I found out about Tara Lazar's PiBoIdMo in the fall of 2011 and decided to join. The excitement of joining that challenge literally changed how I saw the publishing industry and my focus started to shift to writing picture books. I wondered if I was doing the right thing and got my answer through a series of dreams. 

Every night that fall for three weeks I would dream of completed picture book stories in vivid detail. In the morning I would wake up and quickly write down my dreams before I forgot them. There was no denying there were stories clawing their way out of my head and onto paper.

Then I heard about Julie Hedlund's 12 X 12 challenge for 2012 and decided to join. That was about the same time I came across a group of professionals who gave away FREE critiques of picture books stories and rated their potential for publication. Rate Your Story was hosted by Miranda Paul and I began sending my stories to her, eager to hear from the wonderful judges who gave me their professional opinions of my work. 

One of the stories I submitted to Rate Your Story that year had to do with a little girl trying to learn how to read. I thought I had a strong story but RYS returned it to me with a 5 rating. That rating meant I had a good story idea but it still needed work so I continued to revise my story until I finally thought it was ready for submissions in January of 2013. By then I had joined 12 X 12 for another year and wanted to submit this one story to the participating agents Julie had lined up. 

March's agent that year was Tricia Lawrence of Erin Murphy Literary Agency. While I didn't submit this particular story at first, Ms. Lawrence enjoyed the other story I submitted to her and requested three more...one of which I sent was this one. I knew it could take a long time for an agent to let me know if they were offering representation so I continued to submit this story to different agents but never a publisher. My little story about a girl learning to read attracted many, many nice rejection letters from agents saying while they thought it was a cute story, it just wasn't for them.

Fast forward to January 8th, 2014 when I hear about a pitch contest happening on Twitter under the hashtag #Pitmad. I originally wasn't going to participate because I was really busy that day but I finally decided to put up three pitches, including my story about that little girl. Within minutes of posting I received two requests for queries on two of my stories from two different publishers. I couldn't believe my luck!

Later that night I sent off both queries with stories attached and thought it would take awhile before I might hear back from either one of those publishers. Imagine my surprise when I received an acceptance email from a publisher on the 9th stating they wanted to publish my story! And what was even more surprising is that they asked for only ONE word to be changed in the entire manuscript.

I replied to the email and after chatting with the senior editor, I told her I was interested in possibly working with them. I then spent the next two days researching everything I could find on this publisher. All my research continued to give me good vibes about potentially working with them...even though they are a start up digital-first small press publisher. I also sent an updated email to Ms. Lawrence on the 10th advising her of the status of the story she was considering for representation. My book offer now put me at the top of her list to consider.

By the 14th I had the actual book contract in hand and I spent this past weekend going over the wording with a fine-tooth comb. Many of my writer friends have stepped in to give me advice about what should and shouldn't be in this contract and SCBWI (Society of Children's Book Writers & Illustrators) has an exceptional sample book contract for members to view, along with comments on other things to look out for. THAT alone made my membership fee worth it! After two days of nothing but reading legal jargon, I created a word document listing my questions and issues to be negotiated and returned it to the publisher for their consideration.

While the actual turn around time for this story...from original Twitter pitch to query to submission to acceptance to contract in hand...was only SIX DAYS, the journey to this moment took much, much longer.  Hopefully I will be able to announce soon all concerns were resolved and we have moved on to the next phase in this wonderful journey to becoming a REAL PUBLISHED AUTHOR!!





68 comments:

  1. Donna, this is the best ever story to your first book. Congratulations! I look forward to reading it.

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    1. Hi Sherry and welcome to my blog! Thank you for your kind words. I will hopefully be able to give an update soon announcing I've officially signed the paperwork...;~)

      Thanks for stopping by and come back any time!

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  2. Thanks for sharing and giving me hope! Congrats on sticking with it too! I love RYS and think Miranda Paul is very knowledgeable. I got a 5 as well on one of my ms. so am revising it too...What's the name of your book and when will we see it on the shelves?

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    1. Hi Danielle and welcome to my blog! I couldn't agree more about Miranda and her wonderful RYS judges. I don't mean to be mysterious about some of the details of my book offer but since the final paperwork hasn't been signed yet, the name of it and possible release date is subject to change like the seasons...;~)

      Thanks for stopping by and come back any time!

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  3. Way to go, Donna! CAN'T WAIT TO HEAR WHO THE PUBLISHER IS! Congrats, and good job going carefully over the contract!

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    1. Hi Tina! Since I've never seen a book contract before I was uncertain about whether I would understand the wording or not. Fortunately for me, Mother raised no fools and I actually found it relatively easy to read. I am quite excited for this opportunity and look forward to seeing my story in print hopefully one day soon...;~)

      Thanks for stopping by and come back any time!

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  4. I'm so Happy, Happy, Happy for you. I Can't wait to see your book in print.

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    1. Thanks, Margaret, for your kind words and welcome to my blog! Believe me, I won't be keeping it a secret once the paperwork is actually signed and I get closer to my book being a reality!

      Thanks for stopping by and come back any time!

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  5. Donna, hard work paid off. Congratulations. Now, spread that mojo around! Hope to someday be writing of my own journey, just wish it didn't have to be so painful! Best wishes; you deserve it!!!

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    1. Thanks and welcome to my blog! I agree this writing journey has been challenging with lots of bumps and potholes along the way but ALWAYS fun...;~)

      Thanks for stopping by and come back any time!

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    1. Hi Mary and welcome to my blog! Thank you for your kind words...hopefully I will be announcing soon the actual signed contract after the latest discussions with this publisher are completed. And congrats to YOU for joining Mira Reisberg's wonderful Children's Book Academy!

      Thanks for stopping by and come back any time!

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    1. Hi Belinda! Thank you for your kind words. I was hoping this post would inspire others to keep on writing and revising...;~)

      Thanks for stopping by and come back any time!

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  8. Thanks for sharing your story, Donna. Congratulations, again. It's a good thing you went ahead and joined #Pitmad. Now I wished I had tried, not that i would've got an offer but for the opportunity that i shouldn't pass up.

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    1. Awwww, Romelle, you never know what will happen until you take that leap of faith in your own work and try...;~)

      Thanks for stopping by and come back any time!

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  9. Congratulations, Donna. I hope some day to be able to tell about my journey to getting published. Whatever happened to your MG manuscript. Have you tried to get it published?

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    1. Hi Janet and welcome to my blog! My MG story about those three boys had to be set aside for awhile since the picture book voices in my head were louder at the time...lol. No, I haven't tried to submit my MG story...yet...it needs some revisions before it might sparkle enough to capture the attention of a publisher...;~)

      Thanks for stopping by and come back any time!

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  10. Kudos Donna!!!!!!!! And well deserved :)

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    1. Hi Ann Marie and welcome to my blog! Thank you for your kind words. I've worked really hard these past four years and it's nice to see some positive results of my labors...;~)

      Thanks for stopping by and come back any time!

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  11. What a great story, Donna. congratulations on all you hard work!

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    1. Thanks Sylvia...I try...;~)

      Thanks for stopping by and come back any time!

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  12. Thanks for sharing the journey, Donna and I am thrilled you hold your first book contract in your hands after all your diligent perseverance. I am sure this is the first of many. Brava!

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    1. Hi Joanna! I am positive I wouldn't have gotten this far without the writerly wisdom of friends like YOU...;~)

      Thanks for stopping by and come back any time!

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  13. Great post, Donna, and congrats on getting the contract without an agent! We hear over and over about the importance of agents, so it's good to hear that an author can get a book contract without one. (And no one will take that 15%!)

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    1. Hi Deborah and welcome to my blog! I am extremely happy my story caught the attention of a publisher. That being said, I do think writers have an easier time of making it in the publishing industry when they have an agent on their side. And as far as the agent commissions go, since an agent is an expert in the publishing industry and not myself, I have no issue with sharing earnings potential with someone who will work as hard as I will to make my writing career a success...;~)

      Thanks for stopping by and come back any time!

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  14. What a great story, Donna! So happy for you! Congratulations :)

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    1. Hi Susanna! What I didn't mention is how YOU encouraged me so much those first two years it literally help mold the writer I am today! I have a feeling if I stopped to actually thank everyone who's been on this journey with me so far, my dedications page would be longer than my book...;~)

      Thanks for stopping by and come back any time!

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  15. Donna, thank you so much fir sharing your exciting journey! You have encouraged me! :-)

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    1. Hi Tracy! Thank you for your kind words. I am hoping this post will encourage other writers to never give up. You have to polish your story to the best it can be, you have to find the time to network with other writers/editors/publishers so people in the publishing industry realize you are serious about your career, then most of all...you have to keep your fingers crossed and wish on a luck star! ;~)

      Thanks for stopping by and come back any time!

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  16. So excited for you, Donna! Thank you for sharing your first publishing contract adventure and also for the useful resources you mention. And to think this is only the beginning!

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    1. Hi Michelle and welcome to my blog! Can you tell I AM excited about this? Since I write picture books, middle grade, young adult, essays, and poetry, I'm constantly running stories through my head...now to find time to get them all down on paper...lol...

      Thanks for stopping by and come back any time!

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  17. Thanks for sharing, Donna. You have certainly done your homework! The best of luck in your writing career.

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    1. Hi Barbara and welcome to my blog! Thank you for your kind words. I try to be very methodical in my research so I can make the best informed decisions...especially for things I am most passionate about like writing and my Taekwondo...;~)

      Thanks for stopping by and come back any time!

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  18. Donna,
    So proud of you! KNEW it would happen. ;)
    Doing a Snoopy Dance in your honor!

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    1. Hi Tracey! Thanks...it wouldn't happen without great critique partners like you and Bethany Telles!

      Thanks for stopping by and come back any time!

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  19. Congratulations and WHOOPIE! Since joining 12x12 last year, I've payed attention to folks who are ahead on the learning curve; it's success stories like these that keep me plugging. Best of luck with the book, and your publishing journey, Donna! :0)

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    1. Hi Donna! I was hoping people might find this story motivating enough to keep writing because good things CAN happen to those who work hard and persevere...;~)

      Thanks for stopping by and come back any time!

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  20. Thank you so much for sharing your journey, Donna! It gives me hope that any opportunity could be the one! Congratulations!

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    1. Thank you, Carrie, for your kind words! I'm really excited about this opportunity and feel in my heart this is a good decision for me and my future writing career...;~)

      Thanks for stopping by and come back any time!

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  21. Congrats Donna! Look forward to seeing your work in print/digital!

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    1. Thanks Stacy! This publisher runs digital first and then print and print on demand. Don't worry...I'll be shouting from the rooftops with more info as soon as all the paperwork is signed...;~)

      Thanks for stopping by and come back any time!

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  22. What a wonderful success story, Donna! Congratulations to you and your success!

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    1. Thank you, Teresa...that is so wonderful of you to say! Now it's that time again to sit and wait...and wait...while the publisher considers my requests...;~)

      Thanks for stopping by and come back any time!

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  23. Congrats, Donna . . . How exciting! The first of many, I'm sure.

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    1. Hi Jarm! From your lips to publisher's ears...;~)

      Thanks for stopping by and come back any time!

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  24. So,so happy for you, Donna. I'm doing the snoopy dance right along side of my friend, Tracey Cox!

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    1. Hi Mona! You and Tracey doing the snoopy dance in my honor? THAT I'd like to see...;~)

      Thanks for stopping by and come back any time!

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  25. Great story, Donna. Your work ethic has always been inspiring to me. Hard work pays off. Well done. Congratulations!

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    1. Hi Genevieve! I am honored you think me an inspiration and I will try to continue to live up to those high standards...

      Thanks for stopping by and come back any time!

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  26. Congrats, Donna! It's wonderful to hear of your success and ALL the hard work that went into it.

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    1. Hi Kirsten and welcome to my blog! Funny thing is...it really didn't seem all that hard at the time but now I look back and marvel at all the growth I've achieved in what seems to be a very short amount of time...;~)

      Thanks for stopping by and come back any time!

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  27. Thank you for sharing. First, congratulations! Second, you are an inspiration for all of us. Third, Bravo! I am so glad that every bit of your hard work has been recognized. Finally, please share more of what happens, next. Please continue the journey.

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    1. Hi Sandi and welcome to my blog! Thank you so much for your kind words. Since I'm no different from any other aspiring author out there, I thought it might be interesting to describe how one of my stories managed to peak the interest of a publisher. In these challenging times it's probably easier to receive a book offer when you have an agent already but my journey shows it STILL can be possible if you just stay focused on the light at the end of the publishing tunnel...;~)

      Thanks for stopping by and come back any time!

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  28. Donna, thanks for sharing about your book journey. CONGRATS!

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    1. HI Susanne! Yeah, the "glow" hasn't worn off yet...lol...but now the REAL waiting begins as the contract is back in the hands of the publisher with my requested changes. They are a lovely company from everything I have read and I'm am excited at the possibility of working with the senior editor I have been chatting with so far!

      Thanks for stopping by and come back any time!

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  29. This is an inspiring and enormously helpful post, Donna. I know it will encourage many to stick with their dream of becoming a published author. I hope what people will see is that you TOOK ACTION! Dreams alone won't get the job done. Kudos!

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    1. Hi Elizabeth!

      I am so touched by your kind words...thank you! You are right...I've had many people tell me over the years I couldn't do this. I've racked up my fair share of agent rejections. I've certainly had my moments of doubt. But I never allowed it to get in the way of my wanting to become an author. I polished my writing skills. I read the wisdom of authors who came before me. I researched and studied and chose carefully where I submitted my stories to so they would have the best chance of being seen by the RIGHT people. And hopefully, I did not let my ambition and excitement about wanting to become a published author get in the way of the BUSINESS side of things. I can't afford to have a lawyer hold my hand through this contract process but Mother raised no fool and I am confident I both understand what is being offered to me by the publisher and was able to relay back issues I wanted to discuss before signing anything. This publishing house sounds like the PERFECT match for my first book but I will not let my heart rule my head and lose my integrity along the way...I can wait some more if need be...;~)

      Thanks for stopping by and come back any time!

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  30. YAY!!!!
    I am SO happy for you! Happy, happy, happy, happy multiplied by 5 trillion!!! WOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!

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    1. Lol, Erik...let me guess...you're happy for me? ;~) I'll be sure and let you know more as I know more...

      Thanks for stopping by and come back any time!

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  31. Thanks for sharing your success story Donna! It gives us all hope!

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    1. Hi Juliana! Thanks for your kind words. I plan on hopefully have more good news to share in the not too distant future...;~)

      Thanks for stopping by and come back any time!

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  32. Donna, I'm so happy for you. This is great news! I'm sure there will be many more to come. Thanks for inspiring us all.

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    1. Hi Pat! Thank you for your kind words. I'm super excited about this opportunity to work with some wonderful editors and publishers. I will keep everyone in the loop...;~)

      Thanks for stopping by and come back any time!

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  33. Hi Donna .. that's amazing - I'm so happy for you, yet so enjoyed reading your loooong journey .. but talk about speeding up the video right at the end!! Good luck and I do hope you'll have a fantastically happy year and years ahead .. Hilary

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    1. Hi Hilary! Hopefully this just shows there are many possible paths to publication and I was fortunate enough to find one of them! ;~)

      Thanks for stopping by and come back any time!

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  34. Thanks for sharing your story, Donna. What a journey! So very interesting. Congratulations on this exciting step in your writing career.

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    1. Hi Alayne! There is still so much for me to learn but I'm very excited about this next step. The publisher seems very knowledgeable about the publishing industry and I feel it's a good fit for this story...;~)

      Thanks for stopping by and come back any time!

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