Writing a picture book is easy, isn’t it?
I mean, how hard can it be to churn out a few hundred words, ping your story off to a publisher and BINGO, they’ll fall in love with it and offer you a book contract?
In truth, the reality is much, MUCH tougher than anyone could imagine.
Firstly, unless you have an agent, the vast majority of publishers won’t entertain the idea of looking at your work.
Some independent publishers will, but the chances of being ‘discovered’ from ‘the slush pile’ or submissions tray as it is more politely known, is rare – very rare indeed.
When I embarked on my road to publication, I was as naïve as the next person. Having previously been a journalist and worked in the communications industry for more than 15 years, I knew I had the capacity to write and assumed this would be recognised instantly.
Like heck it was!
To make matters harder for myself, I was writing in rhyme. My children loved rhyming books so I naturally assumed the publishing industry would like it too.
If a publisher is handed a fantastic story in prose or an equally fantastic story in rhyme, by and large they will opt for the one in prose because it will be easier to sell globally.
Rhyme, done well, may sell in English speaking countries but the financial success of hugely expensive, full-colour, picture books often depends on sales from non-English speaking territories too.
Having to translate rhyme into Hindi, Italian, Russian or Mandarin Chinese will, of course, prove much harder than straightforward prose.
It’s for these reasons that many publishers err on the side of caution.
Another reason why many publishers shy away from rhyme is that it is regularly done badly.
Too often the stresses on words are in the wrong place, the meter is incorrect and the story is forced to accommodate the rhyme.
Of course, stories in rhyme are published but only when they are done competently and usually after months, if not years, of toil by the author.
Even when the story is accepted, the likelihood of it remaining unchanged is virtually unheard of and rhyme and plot will be revisited on many occasions – often to accommodate the illustrations.
More than three years down the line from my initial thought ‘I’d like to be a children’s author,’ I am finally seeing my hard work pay off.
My rhyming story ‘The Dinosaur Who Lost Her Voice’ (Illustrator Francesca Gambatesta) is due out June 27 2019, with EGMONT, proving that rhyming stories are published.
Throughout these three years I have gained an agent and lost an agent (I terminated my contract because the fit wasn’t right) and continued to write in the face of rejection, with and without an agent.
It is this capacity to keep going in spite of the knocks that will single out those who are serious about their craft and those who not.
Lewis Carroll, author of ‘Alice in Wonderland,’ famously said: “Failures are finger posts on the road to achievement.”
JK Rowling said of failure: “You might never fail on the scale I did, but some failure in life is inevitable. It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all – in which case, you fail by default.”
‘The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe’ author, C.S. Lewis, commented: “We are all failures – at least the best of us are.”
For anyone contemplating writing a children’s book and having that book published by a mainstream publisher, I wish you luck, the power of persistence and the hide of a rhino.
More importantly, I wish you enjoyment. For all my writing ups and downs, I have never given up because I LIKE creating.
If writing is something you can’t stop doing and stories crowd your head demanding attention, it’s probably fair to say you’re a writer.
Welcome to the easy peasy world of publishing.