I have no idea how to get published in under twelve years. Now, plenty of authors do sell their first books in a much shorter time than that. In fact, every published author I know did it in less than twelve. But that’s how long it took me…and I’m glad it happened just as it did.
No, I’m serious!!!
Next weekend, I’m giving a speech to my biggest audience yet at the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators conference in New York. The title of my speech? How to Sell a Book in Twelve Years…or Less! I admit, the title is misleading because of what follows the ellipses. But I can’t imagine anyone trying to sell their first book attending a speech called How to Sell a Book in Twelve Years…But No Less!
To organize my speech, I created a timeline of the twists and turns I’ve taken on my journey. And lucky for me, over those dozen years, I hardly threw anything out. Not only did that packrat quality help me remember what went on in each of those twelve years, but it gave me some cool stuff to show in my Powerpoint presentation.
For example, I recently dug up my very first non-rejection from an editor. It was by no means as exciting as a full-on acceptance would’ve been, but it was not a rejection and that’s all that mattered. An editor at Houghton Mifflin had simply returned the postcard I submitted with my picturebook manuscript, replying that she needed some more time to think about it. Maybe it’s hard to imagine why that was so exciting, but I remember very well the avalanche of hope that non-rejection gave me after a string of nothing but hardcore rejections.
I ended up revising The Chalkboard Drawings three times for that editor. In time, she rejected it. But with each round of revisions, the manuscript got better and I became a better writer. So I assumed, if not that particular manuscript, something else would get picked up in no time at all!
That was 1998.
I had seven more years to go.
But each year that passed, if you want to put a silver lining on it (and I do), gave me more and more fodder for next weekend’s speech!