Friday, February 25, 2011

How I Got a Book Contract the "Wrong" Way.

My "namelos" book contract wasn't my first book contract. I have a book out already.  A book I don't mention often.  It's not that I'm not proud of it--I am.  But, in traditional publishing terms, the way it went down was illegitimate.  It was wrong, wrong, wrong.  This is how it happened:

1. I heard of a contest put on by the The Children's Museum of Indianapolis.  They wanted a picture book written about one of their exhibits.  A nameless, stuffed polar bear that had been there for 50+ years.

2. I emailed saying that I didn't know if it was open to everyone but I'd be interested in submitting something if it was.

3. I visited the museum and took pictures, then went home and started writing.

4. I didn't hear back, so I scrapped it.

5. The contest deadline passed.

6. I received an email saying that they'd looked over the entries and hadn't gotten one from me. Was I still interested?  I emailed back that I was and attached the first few pages.  They must have liked them because they gave me an extra two weeks to finish.

7.  I wrote and revised like a maniac and two weeks later I submitted.

8. They called saying they'd narrowed the submissions down to two and mine was one of them.  They wanted to meet me.

9. I got a call two hours after the meeting saying they'd chosen my book.

10. They asked if I had suggestions for an illustrator. I said: "Uh.....".

11.  They chose one and actually asked for my opinion (And I thought: This isn't how it's supposed to work--I've read ALL the books and publishing blogs, so I know)  But I loved Joy Allen's  work and enthusiastically agreed.

12. I signed a real contract and got a real advance.  It was all legit and stuff.  (And it was enough to buy a nice, new riding mower which was good since I exploded our garden tractor--flames 10 feet high, billowing smoke, exploding tires--the works.  We met some of our neighbors for the first time that day....)

13. My book came out!

14.  The nameless polar bear now had a name: Martimus.  They announced it at "The Snowflake Soiree" and unveiled a brand-new plaque in front of him that has a picture of the book (with my name on it).  I signed books for people because they actually wanted me to!  Wowza.


To top it off, my baby dressed as a polar bear:



It was awesome.



And yet, I rarely talk about the book for two reasons: 1. I feel like I'm bragging which makes me uncomfortable. and 2. (and I'm quite ashamed of this one) The museum published the book through "Authorhouse".  Let me make clear that I have absolutely nothing against Authorhouse or self-publishing.  In fact if  you choose to go that route then Authorhouse should be in the running.  They've done very well by me.  But still, there's a stigma, in traditional publishing circles, that made me feel my achievement was less "official" somehow.

Since then, the recent and ongoing changes in the publishing industry have made me ponder what it really means to be published, and why it's important to me.  It made me realize how silly I was being.  If books end up in the hands of readers, no matter the route, isn't that what's important?  I know it's what's important to me.  So, even though my path thus far has been untraditional, I want to "own" it.  My picture book contract was my first step onto the lunatic fringe, and I'm proud of it.

Next up: A "real" book contract--or is it?


9 comments:

  1. That's so fascinating. I think it counts, how you got the contract, because it's through a museum, you were judged and everything. It's not like you just paid 1000$ for your book to be published.

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  2. April, thanks so much for being my first commenter! *throws confetti* And I appreciate what you said. It's funny how high my standards are for myself to reach "legitimacy". I don't know if I ever will completely, but I'm trying. :)

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  3. Alina - I absolutely adore you! I am thrilled you're getting your book published and cannot wait to read it. :)

    However...I can't believe you didn't tell me/us that you were the one who named Martimus and wrote a book about him! I understand the thought of discomfort, but I know my girls will love to read a book written by a woman they know. :) It's awesome, and I've already put a request in at the library for it.

    I loved your bio, too. The stories from when you were younger were cute, and I appreciate your honesty and frankness about the more recent events in your life. I've bookmarked your site, and will be checking back frequently!

    Oh - and the design is amazing!!!! That Lorie is creative!

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  4. Aw, thanks Julie! And I'm sorry I didn't tell you about Martimus. :D How exactly do you propose I should have brought it up? *Butts in* "um, everyone, hesh up cuz I wanna tell ya about ma book!" ;)

    I'm glad you liked my bio! I was wondering what everyone would think of that. :D

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  5. You may have told me this story, but I love reading it with the photos. :)

    I think there is less stigma associated with that type of publishing now, but I totally understand how you feel.

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  6. We are glad you wrote it!!!

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  7. Teresa, thanks! And I think you're right, but sometimes it's hard to get those things out of your head. :)

    Jodi! Well, it's nice seeing you over here. :D And *I'm* glad that *you* wrote the nicest book-review I've ever read. :)

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  8. What you write is delightful and worth reading. I feel you could publish your work on the sidewalk and it would be appreciated. No worry. Just keep writing and sharing. Cheers.

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  9. Linda, thank you! You totally made my day. :D

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I never bite the hand that comments

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