Ready. Set. Go!
Several years ago, I was inspired to write a children’s picture book. Me and everybody else, right? But mine was special because not only did my mom love it, but so did my wife! I know, I know. With critics like that praising my work, how could I possibly fail? I’ll tell you. And this is where you can follow along.
Daddy Tries is picture book with a special target of triathletes. Also, it rhymes. By all accounts, the world wide web suggests that writing a weird rhyming picture book is the most direct route to becoming an unpublished author. I am well on my way! And I am serious about it.
I wrote a full manuscript for a traditional length 32-page book aimed at the humorously adventurous lifestyle of a budding triathlete as seen from the eyes of a child. Then I wrote it again. And then rewrote that. Finally, I was confident enough to share it with strangers at a critique group. Periodically on Sundays in 2012, I met with a collection of aspiring authors of all types at the U-City Public Library. This process was especially helpful in tightening up the meter of my writing.
By this point, I was set to conquer the children’s picture book world. Publishers would be clamoring to sign me to a deal. I sent query letters, cover letters, and manuscripts out into the world with almost no idea that each one had a snowball’s chance in hell of succeeding. A handful of rejection letters trickled in. Some publishing houses just didn’t respond. Others mentioned that they were too busy to read any new stories at all. Enthusiasm waned. Disappointment set in.
“A bad attitude is like a flat tire. You can’t go anywhere until you change it.”
With one email, my outlook changed completely. I felt like Daddy Tries had a chance again. One editor actually complimented my query letter, deeming it one of the best she had seen in a while, and requested the full manuscript. I was ridiculously excited and fell all over myself trying to send a proper email response.
Every couple months- that’s fast in the publishing world – I would be pleasantly surprised to hear back from her again. She edited, rearranged, made content suggestions, and even brainstormed illustrations that could make the story come to life. Daddy Tries was shared among her team, and then with some triathlete friends, generating a fair amount of positive feedback. Throughout the conversations, though, she was always careful to temper expectations by reminding me how much she liked the project. She was not sure it was a perfect fit for her publishing house.
That was my precise problem. For what publisher is Daddy Tries a perfect fit? Sports Illustrated for Kids? Nope. The same imprint as Fancy Nancy or Do Princesses Wear Hiking Boots? Not really. How about the big names in the industry with a deep list of titles? Nope. They don’t even accept submissions from authors outside of those they currently publish. So, if you’re in, you’re in. But if you’re out, you can’t get it.
The once-interested editor eventually cut me loose and wished me luck. I was back in the void. But with a revamped product in Daddy Tries! It was different, and most importantly, better. It got time and attention from a few seasoned professionals who never had a bad word to say about it. Not only that, but I knew I had a potent query letter that didn’t need to be agonized over. It was clever and impactful enough to capture the attention of the right person.
Yet I couldn’t shake the feeling that my chances of getting that close again were really slim. How was I possibly going to get another crack at something that a lot of people consider nearly impossible? How could I get struck by lightning twice. I let that attitude dampen my enthusiasm, which caused me to put down the project.