The previous post was about the relative ease of finding a publisher for my first book. This post is about finding a publisher for my fourth book. (Not so easy!)
Finding a home for Littledog. How the manuscript became a book…
In 2006 I began tinkering with a draft about a girl who wanted a pet. I was aware that the theme was unoriginal but saw in it a timeless appeal. The little girl would ask her mother for a pet and the mother’s repeated response created a refrain for the story.
“I don’t think so,” said Mum. “We’re too busy.”
The story was boring and wooden. It lacked energy and depth. I abandoned it.
Months later, while holidaying at the beach with my family, a small black and brown dog began visiting us. He pushed into the yard from under the gate and my children played with him. He came and went as he pleased for a few days. We named him Littledog. One morning Littledog went running with me and it was during that run that the story for the book Littledog began to brew in my head.
By April 2007 the Littledog manuscript was complete; it was 576 words long. I sent it to a major Australian publisher and three months later received a standard form rejection letter.
In July 2007 I resent the story to another publisher. I am embarrassed by the opening paragraph. The first two lines were horrible.
In our family there are four people, and one dog.
There’s me, my mum, my dad, my little brother Sam, and our dog, Littledog.
Littledog found us one afternoon during our holiday.
He was waiting at the shack when we go back from the beach.
In September 2007 I received this feedback from the publisher:
In other words, we don’t want your story; there, squatting among some kind words, was rejection number two.
I decided to try working in more repetition. Perhaps an engaging refrain would bring something unique to the text and set it apart from other lost dog stories.
I toyed with these:
We don’t need a dog
We can’t keep the dog
The dog’s not ours
They were all too negative. I tried
Littledog wagged his bottom and Sam hugged him.
Finally I settled on:
Littledog just wagged his tail. His whole bottom wagged too.
This refrain remains in the published story as shown here below.
I rewrote parts of the manuscript and tightened the story so that even with the inclusion of the new refrain the manuscript was 570 words, not 576. I resent the story to another publisher
In November 2007 I received a standard form rejection letter.
I phoned a fellow children’s author friend to moan, sulk and vent. Why wouldn’t anyone publish a book about a dog? Children love dogs. We think we’ve heard it before but our children haven’t and if they have they’d like to hear it again. My friend and I whined about what we perceived to be the trend in Australian children’s publishing towards edgy ‘issues’ books that were popular with judges on award panels. “Esoteric drivel!” my friend proclaimed, which was sweet of her because it made me giggle.
I had to blame someone so I chose to blame publishers.
By the end of the phone call I’d resolved to keep trying, firm in the belief that stories children can relate about timeless themes such as summer holidays, the beach, family and pets, are ever important and fun.
Later I also calmed down enough to stop blaming the publishing industry and appreciate that maybe the story had been turned down for other reasons. Perhaps it wasn’t yet good enough?
So I redrafted, redrafted and redrafted again. I made many little changes to sharpen the writing. I read it aloud over and over.
When I was finished the first lines read:
Littledog found us one holiday evening.
He was waiting at the shack when we got back from the beach.
These sentences remain in the published book as shown here below.
Littledog was now 545 words long. I submitted the manuscript to another publisher and received a standard form rejection letter.
In February 2008 I redrafted once more and trimmed the text until the story was 519 words long. I sent it out for the fifth time.
After a few months there was an email from an editor. She thought the story was ‘delightful’ and she planned to take it to their acquisition meeting in August.
In August 2008 I received a letter of offer from the publishers, Scholastic Australia.
In December 2008 I signed the contract. Yeeha!
During 2009 Littledog was beautifully illustrated by Tamsin Ainsley, then beautifully designed and then printed.
In Feb 2010 Littledog was released nationally! Hooray!
So, was it worth it?
Picture Books and Publication – Part 2 © Katrina Germein 2010
Have you had similar experiences?
Littledog Teaching Notes
Read a review of Littledog – Readings
Read a review of Littledog – Story Time Books
Read a review of Littledog – Books From The Basement