by Kevin Scott Collier
I wish I had a dollar for every frazzled beginner writer who e-mails me. I enjoy helping anyone who approaches me with advice, but I seem to hear from more people who are anxious or nervous than excited and optimistic.
Personally I never had time to be nervous about landing my first book contract. It happened so fast I didn't give it much thought. In fact, everything since that first contract has happened fast. I guess when you're spinning in a hamster ball you have to focus on what work needs to be done and not worry about what is up the road.
I became a published author by chance or maybe by a miracle. I bumped into two publishers from Indiana who happened to be in the same Michigan post office doing business I was when I was mailing a little story I had written for a niece. I overheard one of the gentlemen (Paul Trittin, of Baker Trittin Press) mention something about "publishing books." For amusement only, I approached the two and told them I was a writer. Associate Dr. Marvin G. Baker wanted to hear what my little story was about I had just mailed. So I told them.
Two days later they drove back to Michigan for a luncheon they had arranged with me. Right there, over a salad, they offered me a contract for my first book. Not only that, Dr. Baker said, "We are looking forward to a long relationship with you." I pinched myself a bit, then went to work on my writing.
I wasn't looking to be an author. I had created characters and written little stories for my own amusement all of my life but had never sent out a manuscript. Every writer who approaches me via e-mail tells about the same story, how they have dreamed of being an author most of their lives. They speak of all of the manuscripts they have mailed out and the rejection letters. And some write that after many years of trying they just landed a contract with a publisher.
In my case it happened so fast I didn't have much time to dwell on it. I didn't get nervous about it even though Baker Trittin Press wanted me to rewrite that little story into a book quickly. That first published book, "firstname.lastname@example.org" was written in 22 evenings. I had no time to be frazzled. I had to be focused on inspiration for the story and making a close deadline.
After the first manuscript was turned in, things started to move even faster. Word got out I was also an illustrator and I soon I was turning out artwork for children's books. One publisher after another, all small houses, approached. Within the first year I already had deals with half a dozen small companies.
I was excited, but I didn't have time to be nervous.
The writers who are just entering the children's literature field are anxious and seem lost. Many ask for advice on submissions, but I can only report what others have told me. I fell into this market in a very unconventional way. I have even signed a few book contracts based on a title only for books I had not written a word for. That's outrageous. I thought you turned in a complete story and hoped to get a contract, not sign a contract then decide what to write. I do know one thing for sure. Every minute a writer spends worrying about the business are fewer moments to create material for it.
It's been a fast-paced journey for me. So, if you do approach me via email to ask questions, remember I may not have the answers. I can only say what has worked for me. Like every other entry-level writer, I have no idea what the path up ahead will reveal. But, the best advice I can give is to be patient and never be discouraged. No one will believe in you unless you believe in yourself first.
I will continue this writing journey, and no matter where it takes me, I shall not be nervous.