So there began the next stage – learning how to put together a submission, researching potential publishers with the right fit, packaging up the submission with great anticipation, and sending Slow Down Sarah! off into the big, wide world. A learning curve in itself, and an exercise in building self worth… nobody relishes the thought of rejection!
And of course, inevitably that day arrived. The stamped self addressed envelope turned up in the mail… and I opened it with trembling hands and a shaky heart. Would this be the moment I had longed for and dreamed of? Or would it be the first obstacle in the road to publication?
Even though you’re half prepared for it, the ‘No’ still hits with a resounding sting! While the words ‘…it doesn’t fit our publishing list at this time,’ aren’t necessarily criticising the quality of your writing, they still can only be classified as a big, fat, rejecting NO! And that’s what happened with the first rejection. A standard cover letter with the standard apology that my work couldn’t be included in their list, and me left not knowing if there was something inherently wrong with my writing, or if I just hadn’t found the right match in a publisher yet.
However, the second rejection was a whole new experience. This time I received a letter with feedback from the publisher. It said:
I read this with interest but unfortunately I cannot find a place for it on my current children’s book list. It’s fun and engaging and full of vitality. Sarah’s personality bursts with energy and is even more defined by her rural setting which gives her plenty of freedom and room to move. But I am afraid the story is not quite what I am looking for at the moment.
This is in part because of your choice to use rhyme. For while it gives the story an energetic bounce, and you manage to maintain the rhythm well throughout, books in verse are difficult to sell in the current competitive market, and unfortunately as a small…publisher of five or six titles a year, I am afraid I have to be very careful about what I take on. I am sorry we cannot make a fit this time…I wish you luck with it elsewhere.”
My initial feeling was ‘Rejected again.’ But then I remembered what I’d read… that as editors are so busy, the prospective writer should not expect to receive feedback from editors – a standard form letter that they have not accepted your submission is the norm. And if by chance, feedback is given to a writer, they should take it as a compliment because editors will usually only take the time to do that if they really like your work and want to encourage you. Remembering this information made that letter turn around in my mind from a rejection to an encouragement. The editor had actually taken the time to respond to me! She had said my book was fun, engaging and full of vitality! She’d noted the strength of Sarah’s personality. And she’d explained a perfectly valid reason why she herself could not take on the publication of my story, but she obviously thought it was otherwise of publication standard.
I began to feel more and more confident that Slow Down Sarah! had what it took to be a published book. The confidence boosters had begun with the editor pitch and her encouraging comments about my writing ability… my confidence grew again by the two sets of feedback I had received from the judges of the CYA competition, and now an editor of a publishing company had expressed confidence in it. All three of these sources of confidence were essentially rejections – the editor at the pitch didn’t take on the book; I didn’t win the competition and the editor was not going to publish my story. But I had decided to see the positive in each situation.
Then it dawned on me… Slow Down Sarah! was of a publishable standard. I just hadn’t found the publisher with whom it was a fit yet. I could continue submitting to publishers one at a time, finally find the right one, sign a publishing contract, have no control over the illustrator or other design elements of the book, and make a standard author royalty from book sales…
OR….. I could take advantage of the distribution system I already had in place through Child Writes (including the online store at www.childwrites.com.au/store) and the fact that we had secured a distributor, maintain control over the full process (selecting illustrator and the overall look), and make a higher percentage on each sale as a self publisher. It didn’t take long for me to decide. I opened a spreadsheet to compare, verified the numbers, spoke to Emma, and decided that I would change course immediately from submissions to commercial publishers, to becoming a self publisher. After all, we taught children to write and illustrate their own children’s picture books which we published through Boogie Books. Why on earth couldn’t we publish Slow Down, Sarah? And there began the next step of the journey…