Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Pathways to Publication: Interview with Kim Griswell

Have a manuscript you think might be worthy of publication and not sure what to do next? Maybe you're wondering if you need an agent and how to go about finding one. Or you're confused about what kind of money is involved--does someone pay YOU or do you have to sink some of your own savings into this venture? What does an editor do? Will you have to market this book yourself?

Last month I wrote about my first feeble attempt at publishing a book. Now I'm interviewing other writers on their SUCCESSFUL pathways to publication--from self-published to traditional, debut writers to a writer who's published 130 books, and everything in between. 


Writer, teacher, and editor Kim Griswell on the importance of making connections in the children's book publishing world 

Jody: You wrote a book that you felt was worthy of publication, what were your next steps?

Kim: The little pig in Rufus Goes to School trotted along an interesting path on his way to being bound in book form. When I wrote the book, I was the coordinating editor of Highlights for Children. Because of my Highlights association, I met many wonderful writers and illustrators. One of those illustrators was the very-accomplished Valeri Gorbachev who has more than 50 picture books to his credit.

After I wrote Rufus, I showed the manuscript to Valeri. He said, "Kim, you're a good writer. I don't know why your books aren't getting published. I like this little pig. I would like to illustrate your book and maybe that will help you get a start."

Jody: Okay, that is NOT the typical path for a writer of picture books--teaming up with an illustrator beforehand!

Kim: I know. Manna from heaven, right? So Valeri did a dummy (which is a mock-up of the story with rough illustrations) and we submitted it to one of the editors he'd worked with before. The takeaway point here—in writing for children, connections matter. Make friends! Join SCBWI. Go to Highlights Foundation workshops and connect with writers and editors. Don't just sit in your writing cubby all alone and think that's enough. These days, it's not.

Jody: And as your story shows, you never know what connection will make a difference. What happened next on Rufus's journey? How much time time did it take to get that finished manuscript to publication? Were there any wrinkles along the way?

Kim: Valeri and I were just talking about this. I think I wrote the first draft in 2007. The dummy and manuscript were first submitted in 2008. The editor said she loved it and asked for a revision. She liked that, too. She said she was taking it to acquisitions, and then...nothing.

For more than two years.

We emailed. We called. We emailed again. We wondered if she'd died (but maybe she walked into one of those thin spaces of yours, Jody!) or left the company or...who knew? So, yes, a wrinkle—the kind you'd see on the face of a 107-year-old crone, I'd say.

Jody: Kim, you're cracking me up. But seriously, I get it. The submission process. The wait. The anxiety. Sometimes, just as we think we're about to cross over, we hit that stalled point. If you don't joke about it, you'd wallow in despair.

For those writers still playing the waiting game, what's your advice? I guess what I'm asking is how did you get Rufus off that editor's desk?

Kim: Well, I started thinking that I probably needed to have an agent. Once again, I used one of my connections. My Highlights colleague Marileta Robinson was being repped by the Herman Agency. I asked if she'd give me an intro to her agent to see if I could get my work read. Her agent, Jill Corcoran, took me on.

As it turned out, Ronnie Herman took Rufus under her wing as she reps all the picture books at her eponymous agency. Ronnie managed to wrestle the manuscript and dummy back from the editor who'd been sitting on it. I think it might have been 2010 by then. And she started sending it out. She placed it pretty quickly with Sterling, and I could not be happier. The folks at Sterling are amazing!

Jody: 2010... and the book is out finally, this month. That IS a long journey to publication. But like you said, it ended up in the right home. What are some of the details of the book deal that you can share?

Kim: My book is traditionally published, and I did get an advance, as did Valeri Gorbachev, my illustrious illustrator. The manuscript went back and forth a few times with my editor, but there were just small changes at that point. It had already been revised and revised again. I saw Valeri's new dummy and finished art and galleys and had the opportunity to read through for errors. (Didn't find a one!)

Jody: What about marketing and promotion? What does Sterling do and what do they expect you to do?

Kim: Sterling seems to have a solid marketing, sales, and rights department, from what I saw recently in a visit to their offices with my editor. They've featured Rufus Goes to School on their fall catalog, which is a big deal. Art from the book appears at the beginning of each catalog section.

They took Rufus to the book fairs at Bologna and London and had Rufus with them recently at BEA in NYC. They're doing a bookmark and a book trailer, all of which is a really big deal to me.

Everyone at Sterling seems so excited about Rufus and they are talking him up at conferences and online.

I'll do whatever I can to help. Rufus has shown up on my facebook page and in some tweets and retweets. I plan to do whatever signings I can and will be available for school visits. Rufus traveled with me recently to The Barn at Boyds Mills where I introduced him to every writer I could pigeonhole, one of whom has already had me write a note to her students to share with them when she gets a copy of the book. Whatever Rufus needs, I'm here for him!

Jody: Any thoughts on the future of publishing or what's going in the industry, as far as mergers, e-books, bookstore closings, etc., go? Do you see any of these issues as affecting you now, or in the future?

Kim: I don't know about everyone else, but here's what I see: books are being published. More books than ever! Great books. Good books. Mediocre books. Life-changing books. Quiet books. Print books. Ebooks. Books serialized on blogs and in tweets. And don't be afraid of digital publishing!

Instead of preventing kids from reading, being on the Internet actually makes them bigger readers than ever of all kinds of things.

As for print? It's alive and well, from wacky informational books (don't miss the books I edit such as The Enchanted Toilet and Uncle John's Smell-O-Scopic Bathroom Reader for Kids Only!) to snuggle-up-in-the-lap picture books.

It's a great time for books and a great time for writers, especially those who are willing to dig deep to learn the craft and seek editorial guidance (whether at a big publisher or through an epublisher).


Kim Griswell is an author, editor, and writing teacher. A former editor at Highlights for Children, she's now the developmental editor for Uncle John's Bathroom Reader: For Kids Only books. She's published over two hundred stories, articles, and columns. Rufus Goes to School is her first picture book. You can find out more about Kim on her website

Monday, July 22, 2013

Moments of Paralysis Followed by Spurts of Manic Productivity

So. My book is coming out in 50, 49, 48, 47 days (see the handy countdown widget to the left) and I am floundering around in the dog days of summer. My to-do list is out of control. Words to write each day. Books to read. Emails to answer. Calls to make. A book launch party to plan (Sat. Sept. 7 from 2-4 at Cover to Cover Bookstore in Columbus, Ohio. Please mark your calendar).

And those are the work-related things.

There's also life in general. Laundry to wash. Meals to plan. Tomatoes and green beans to pick from the garden. Toilets to clean. (or, not clean)

I used to pride myself on being an organized person. Oh, I was a whirling Tasmanian devil of a multi-tasker. In fact, I thrived on that kind of busy lifestyle. In my hey day I sat on numerous boards and committees. Edited a school newsletter. Taught Sunday school. Carpooled the heck out of my kids--to soccer practices and music lessons and club meetings and play dates. I also worked a couple of days a week as a Gifted/Talented teacher.

And I baked cookies.

In my spare time, I wrote novels and dreamed of the day when one of these would be published.

Now that one of them IS about to be published, I'm trying to resurrect that old multi-tasking self.

The trouble is that she sorta burned out a few years ago. What happened was my husband took job in another state and in one swoop I quit all of those meetings and committees and boards--activities that I once thought were so important--and that I mistakenly believed simply could not function without ME. (Fun fact: they all continue to function to this day without any problem at all.)

I took stock of myself then: New place. New me. A chance to decide what I really wanted to do with my time. Parent my kids. Write.

And this is what I did for the next few years.

I think I got spoiled.

Writing, it turns out, requires time and quiet and reflection. At least for me. I know that there are lots of writers who hold down full-time jobs. One writer I know has two year old twins. I honestly do not know how she does it.

But I am going to have to figure it out, because marketing a book requires time too. Lots.

How did that long-buried/burned out Super Volunteer Carpool Mom DO IT all?

I guess what I am trying to figure out is how to balance all of the things I need to do and want to do. How to spend each day productively. And at the same time how to enjoy my life (my son home from college for only a month; my daughter who is already two steps out the door). How to deal with unforeseen stuff that comes up without flipping out because it threw me off of my self-imposed schedule.

A few things I have stumbled upon that I hope will help:

1. LET STUFF GO THAT IS NOT IMPORTANT. Do I really need to clean the bathrooms? Okay. Maybe I DO need to clean the bathrooms. But I don't necessarily have to dust the whole $*%& house weekly. (People who know me are reading this and thinking: did Jody EVER dust her house weekly? No. No, I did not. But you get my point.)

2. Prioritize. This goes along with number one. Some things simply must be done on a certain day. Other things can wait until tomorrow. Or next week. My big TO-DO over the past weekend was creating an address list for my book launch party. I actually have a deadline for this because the owner of Cover to Cover wants the list by the end of the month.

3. Don't freak when a task takes longer to complete than I planned. Apparently, it takes four hours instead of one to create an address list. Who knew?

4. Look at the big picture. Take one thing at a time. These seem to contradict each other but maybe not. I read somewhere, probably in Oprah, that when you are faced with what seems like a huge task, to keep from being overwhelmed, break it down into teeny tiny pieces. Makes sense. I'll let you know if this works.

5. Let go of some preconceived idea of productivity and perfection. That hey day I was talking about when I was volunteering to run every activity and driving around town and baking cookies--it wasn't such a fun time for my family. I told myself I was doing all that for my kids (solving the problems of education in America by creating PTA meeting agendas) but one night I was tearing out of the house for yet another meeting and I realized that I had something scheduled for every night that week and would not be able to put the kids to bed. Another time my little daughter broke down in tears as I raced her from a piano lesson to a viola lesson.

6. One of my New Year's Resolutions this year is to enjoy this wild ride of a book launch. But this can be a resolution for anything and for life itself. I'm making an address list for a book launch because I have a book coming out! I should be falling on my knees and praising the gods of publishing instead of whining about staring blearily at an excel spreadsheet of addresses for four hours.

In a few weeks many of the people I love and admire most in the world, people who have supported me and cheered me on and believed in me over the years even when I had begun to doubt, will gather for a celebration. Some are coming from far away and taking time off from their own work and families. They'll stand in line and fork out ten bucks for my book.

The least I can do is throw them a cool party.

Also, I think I will bake cookies.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Pathways to Publication: Interview with Nikki Boetger

Have a manuscript you think might be worthy of publication and not sure what to do next? Maybe you're wondering if you need an agent and how to go about finding one. Or you're confused about what kind of money is involved--does someone pay YOU or do you have to sink some of your own savings into this venture? What does an editor do? Will you have to market this book yourself?

Last month I wrote about my first feeble attempt at publishing a book. Now I'm interviewing other writers on their SUCCESSFUL pathways to publication--from self-published to traditional, debut writers to a writer who's published 130 books, and everything in between. 


Artist Nikki Boetger on what the publication process looks like from an illustrator's point of view

Jody: How did some of your first illustrations become published?

Nikki: Right now I have eighteen different published pieces and have worked with three different publishers. The first three books were with very small presses, one not even in existence today. These were also what I call risks. I was starting to build confidence in my work and didn't feel as though I had a strong portfolio, but as I was diving into blogging and other social media outlets, my work was getting seen and apparently shown around too.

I was contacted by the first two publishers. I did not seek them out. I say "risks" because the publishers were very small and they paid little to nothing, but I felt I would get better portfolio pieces if I worked with them. Which is exactly what happened.

Jody: You mentioned being on social media. Did you do any other kinds of research--join a professional organization or attend conferences--that kind of thing?

Nikki: I was slow to take part in my local chapter of SCBWI because of the location and meeting times and I still haven't gone to a conference (then, because of money, but now, because conferences seem to fall on or near the end of deadlines). I tried critique groups, but partners I was paired up with only ever said to me: " I love it!" or "It's so CUTE!" I graduated from Columbus College of Art and Design, and I was used to being given very thorough critiques. Simple praise wasn't helping me get better or evolve, so I ceased participating.

Jody: "It's cute" doesn't quite cut it.

Nikki: No. It's the social networking and other connections that allowed me to reach the success I have now as an illustrator. So, I try to stay on the ball with those things. Though my website is in horrible need of updating! :)

Jody: But lucky for you--you have the artistic design skills to make this happen!

Back to those first three books, what kind of time frame is involved? In other words, how long did it take from finished project to publication?

Nikki: My first book, What's Wrong with Mud? (written by Gillian Colley), was assigned to me in the fall of 2007. That book was created using cut paper, and I had a full time job working as a graphic designer in a library system, so I finished illustrations about ten months later and they were sent to be photographed and then put into layout and design.

The book was released in spring of 2009. The next two books were trade paperbacks and only took a year from beginning to print.

Jody: Was all this wrinkle free?

Nikki: Well, I will say that I was very upset at the printed versions when I got them. The print quality was awful, the design and layout were horribly done, and the company did not honor their contracts of paying royalties. So, though the illustrations in those books were some of my best at the time, I was ashamed of the end result.

Jody: This is probably the point where it's helpful to have an agent...

Nikki: Yes. And here's where the luck and my love of social networking comes in. I was still in the stages of building confidence and being really critical of my work and portfolio. I was NOT looking for an agent, but I was sharing a lot of art on my blog and participating in lots of illustration listservs and trying to get some feedback that way. One fall day I received an email from an agent saying she had seen my work and had been watching my blog. We had a few conversations, I had a lot of questions and she had really wonderful answers!

It took me a few weeks to make a decision. The first contact made me feel so excited, but the overwhelming part of having to find that confidence of being good enough to have an agent was a lot at the time. I did end up signing with Anna Johnson of AJ & Associates in October of 2009. She immediately took as much art as I could give her, and she used it in promos for visits to different conferences and things she had planned in showcasing her illustrators' works.

It was less than a month when she called me with a big project for BrightStart Learning called Learnalots. In three years time, the Learnalots were developed, 15 published educational materials are on the market, and I am working full time on more to come!

Anna doesn't do much in terms of representing me today because she knows I am swamped with work for the Learnalots, but she is still my biggest cheerleader. I have taken on a few side projects and she is always there for me when I have questions about contracts, negotiating pay, art critiques and so much more! I adore her and have made a lifelong friend in her too!

Jody: Walk me through a typical book deal from an illustrator's point of view.

Nikki: All of my experiences have been different. The first book was a competition, though I did receive an advance and was under a contract. As I said, the following two were with a publisher who never sent payment for royalties. My agent quickly advised me to NEVER work with that company again. And I use that artwork how I want to, disregarding the original contract.

Now I work with a wonderful mass market publisher. I am considered a sub contractor, and I have so much work with the development and future products in the Learnalot brand line that it's like having a 9-5 job and working overtime. I do have a contract with that publisher, and the team of people I work with there are incredible. We call ourselves the dream team, in fact. It's been the best experience and I hope in continues long into the future.

I do take on side projects on occasion. I am about to work on a small book for a hospital. The process for me now: they come to me with idea, I ask a lot of questions about the project, then I form a price quote for the work. I explain in fine detail what they get from me in that price--I even list number of edits and what additional edits will cost. I find this helps a client really understand the value of the work we do.

They sometimes want to negotiate cost, but I rarely have to do that since I have added in the detailed synopsis of the work I do for that cost. I always ask for 1/2 of quote in advance of me starting the work. And I always put in the contract that I will be paid the remainder of the quote within 30 days of delivery of final art or project.

This has worked very well for me and I am happy to say, I have never had to wait months for final payment. I don't generally work with royalties in mass market and with side projects.

Jody: Tell me a bit more about the editing process.

Nikki: I always review and ask a lot of questions on content or scripts when I first receive them. Most things get edited before I start to work on the sketches. I always allow two edits in sketch phase and one to two edits in final artwork before tacking on extra charges for revisions.

Jody: I am assuming illustrators have marketing and promotional work to do.

Nikki: I am not required to market things I work on, but I do. I always ask permission from the clients or publishers first (I have never been told no) and then I run with it. I was in public relations for a library system for a few years, so I have lots of ideas for marketing! I mainly use social media, but I do visit my local shops and book stores and libraries. I get to know the management staff at each and I try to keep them informed. I don't shove it down their throats like a door to door salesperson, but I do share and try to get others excited about such products.

I have not worked with a big, traditional publishing house. At this time, my successes with the mass market and education industry allow me to not have to and I am really enjoying working for a different market. I plan to continue this path for as long as it lasts!

Jody: Any thoughts on the future of publishing or what's going in the industry, as far as mergers, e-books, bookstore closings, etc., go? Do you see any of these issues as affecting you now, or in the future?

Nikki: I don't concern myself too much with this as of now. My publisher takes our products and the Learnalot brand to Bologna, Frankfurt, BEA and more each year and he always gives the team a great status report when he comes back. He has strong enthusiasm for our side of the industry right now, and I trust that instinct in him.

Working in libraries for so many years, you realize just how many people rely on the libraries to get free resources. This makes me believe that the industry will of course change, but it won't disappear. Writing and illustration is everywhere you look. You just have to think outside the box to see where the future might lie. This will take you far, I think!


Illustrator Nikki Boetger lives in the Central Ohio area. You can find out more about her work on her website

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

WHO AM I? You Are Who You Say You Are and Other Possibly True Thoughts about Identity

When I was ten, one of my favorite books was Charlotte Sometimes by Penelope Farmer. On the surface it's a time travel book, but there are some insights in it that struck me, even as a ten year old, as kinda cool. Now that I think about it, the book may have set me off on a lifetime quest.

Here's the gist of the story: a girl, Charlotte, is sent to a boarding school in the English countryside. The first day is overwhelming and confusing. She's in a strange place. She's meeting a bunch of new people. The girls all sleep in a big dormitory. Everyone has been going to this school for a while. They're friends, joking and fooling around, while Charlotte sits shyly on her bed and watches.

The next morning she wakes up and there's that feeling of strangeness again. She's in an unfamiliar place. She doesn't know anyone. She's homesick. So she doesn't realize at first that things are different. It is the same dormitory with the same beds. The same school. But the class schedule is different. The girls are different. One of them calls her Emily.

It slowly becomes apparent to Charlotte that she has slipped back in time and switched places with a girl named Emily. It's the bed, it turns out, that the two girls sleep in that makes the switch possible. The story unfolds with Charlotte and Emily switching places every other day, experiencing the lives of the other.

I think my ten-year-old self was attracted to the time travel aspect of this story, but also to the idea that it might be possible to escape your life--escape yourself. And there's a creepy notion at the heart of this book: Why are the girls able to pull off this switch? They don't even look very much alike.

One morning Charlotte simply wakes up in Emily's bed, people call her Emily, and she doesn't correct them.

I heard this idea once, that some authors explore the same subjects over and over. Jane Austen writes about marriage. Faulkner explores his little town in Mississippi. Fitzgerald keeps trying to figure out how the rich are different from you and me.

My go-to subject, I think, is identity. Somehow, even when I'm not aware of it, in my stories and books, I circle back to this theme. Who am I? my characters ask. How do people perceive me? Do people really know me? Can I change? 

No big shocker, my soon to be published first novel Thin Space plays around with this subject too.

Bear with me while I digress for a moment. When I was teaching high school English many years ago, I had a set of twins in my homeroom. Ned and Ed (not their real names) were identical, although there were slight differences in the shapes of their faces if you looked closely, if you took the time to get to know who was who.

I am ashamed to say that I did not take the time. I had Ned and Ed in my classroom for roughly fifteen minutes a day for an entire year, but I never learned which boy was which. These kids were on the annoying end of the behavior spectrum. When I reprimanded one of them, which I did, a lot, I always had to take a guess at the name.

Me: Ned, sit down.
Ned/Ed (glaring): I'm Ed.
Me: Whatever. Sit down, Ed.

It hit me one day how upsetting that must've been for those boys--to have people mixing them up, not taking the time to figure out who was who. And not caring enough to bother.

What would that be like--to be a twin? To have people--maybe even your closest friends and family--squinting, pausing, wondering--if you were you. 

Or if you were the other one.

You can read Thin Space on Sept. 10--exactly two months from today!--to find out how I answered that question.

In the mean time, since I am still clearly enamored with the topic of identity, I'm starting a teen guest blog series called WHO AM I?

I'll be posting the responses soon...

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Fun Times Writing a Book

Sometimes when I am doing a school visit the question will come up: how exactly do you write a book? People have these images of what a writer is and what a writer does.

An inspiring idea plops into his head and he simply takes dictation:

She stares into space (until the idea plops into her head):

She crumples up a lot of paper:

He may go a little crazy:

But overall, it's a cool job and the results are worth the work:

The truth is much more angsty and boring and hard to explain. Usually, I make a joke about how I put my butt in the chair every day and write.

But the next time someone asks me, I think I might go into specifics, using yesterday's writing day as an example:

I wake up at 7 a.m. and put my butt in the chair and power up my computer. I take my butt out of the chair and make the first of many cups of coffee. I read emails. I start my endless loopy scroll through social media. What's going on with my friends on Facebook? Twitter? Tumblr? Not much, really.

I open my writing file and read a few lines of what I wrote the day before. Turns out that what I thought was brilliant and funny and moving sorta sucks.

I check Twitter again and eavesdrop on a strangely fascinating conversation between librarians.

I go back into my manuscript and play around with some of the sucky sections. It still sucks, but not as much.

I check on the librarians again. I take a look at Facebook. I fight the urge to see if anyone has rated my book on Goodreads. I lose that fight and check. Yup. It's a meh review and I feel like crud for three minutes.

I go back into my manuscript. What I just did to fix things doesn't really fix things. I have a giant plot hole that I never even noticed until this moment. I add a sentence. I take away a sentence. I delete a paragraph. I add a paragraph.

My dog jumps on me. I take her for a walk. While on the walk the solution to my plothole pops into my head. Aha! Woo Hoo! I scoop up my dog's poop and ruminate over this.

I get home. I make another cup of coffee. I loop through social media again. Nothing's really happening out there, but I check once more just to be sure. Nope. Nothing.

I read the Yahoo headlines and the comments and feel despair about the fate of our country and humanity. Maybe I will write a dystopian novel. Or maybe I will express my outrage by sharing a bitingly satirical picture on Facebook.

I brush my teeth.

Somebody commented on my Facebook post. I click on her page and look at the pictures from her latest vacation.

I open up my manuscript and try the solution that came to me whilst I was walking my dog. It doesn't work. What the hell was I thinking? I flip around two sentences. I flip around two paragraphs. I delete everything I've done this morning. I eat lunch.

I check my emails. I go back into my manuscript and write half a page. I take my dog for a walk. I write another half a page. I wash my face. I make an ice coffee. I click on Goodreads. I pop into Twitter to see what the librarians are up to. Someone else commented on the Facebook share. I look at his vacation pictures. His kids are adorable.

I write three pages.

My husband comes home from work. Weirdly, it is 6:00. "Just give me like, thirty more minutes," I tell him. Awesome guy that he is, he makes dinner. We eat it. I write for another hour.

I vow to get started earlier tomorrow.

I wake at 7 a.m.

Monday, July 1, 2013

No, Really. I'm Serious. How DO You Get Published?

The past month I've had a grand old time interviewing writers about the stories behind their book deals. If you were able to read even a handful of these interviews, you probably noticed, like I did, that there are a variety of publication pathways.

Also, there's so much WORK involved going from a finished manuscript to a published book.

Here are a few nuggets of wisdom that jumped out at me (and that I learned over the years on my own journey to publication):

*Publishing a book is HARD. But it is not an impossible dream either.

 Many of the writers I interviewed experienced setbacks along the way. Everyone gets rejections. It's hard to catch the attention of an agent. And honestly, sometimes the process takes a freaking long time. My book Thin Space was "finished" in 2009. It was on submission for two full years before a publishing house expressed serious interest in it.

Something that surprised me was how difficult it was just to get anyone to read it--I'm talking agents and editors. I only got four or five rejections. The majority of the people I sent the manuscript to either rejected the query or never responded one way or another. To say this part of the process was extremely frustrating and depressing is a gross understatement.

*There is a difference between working with a big publishing house and with smaller regional houses and with self-publishing. None of these paths are necessarily better than any other, but a writer needs to understand how the deals can differ.

A big house is potentially going to have bigger distribution and name recognition and promotional reach. But they may not give you the personal attention that a smaller house can.

I didn't realize for a while that I had lucked into a very cool situation with my smaller imprint within a larger house deal. Beyond Words is a small publishing house and they have never published a Young Adult novel before. They've taken a chance with Thin Space and want it to do well, so I've been getting lots of personal attention and perks that I know I would not have gotten with a bigger house. BUT I've got the bigger house behind my book too with Simon & Schuster. 

My agent told me when I signed the contract that I was getting the best of both worlds, and she was right.

*Something beginning writers don't know about self-publishing is how many hats they're going to have to wear if they go that route. In addition to writing, you have to learn about formatting and cover design and marketing (or you will have to hire people to help you with these things). There's money involved upfront that is not involved when you sign with a traditional publisher. Also, there are limits to distribution. Many brick and mortar bookstores will not carry self-published books. You probably won't be able to do a signing at a bookstore or attend a book festival with a self-published book.

But so many books are being bought for e-readers now and many writers--especially those writing romance/erotica and science fiction, are having lots of success with self-publishing. As one of my interviewees pointed out, yes, you may have to pay some money up front if you go this route, but you can keep all of the profits.

*Many of the writers I interviewed mentioned how much research they did when they were starting out. Whether your dream is to sign with a big NYC publishing house or throw your book up on Amazon, you're going to have to do your homework.

There are a ton of online and other resources out there for aspiring writers. A few good ones to get you started:

SCBWI The Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators--the professional organization for those of us who write for children.

Highlights Foundation offers a variety of classes and retreats on the craft of writing and illustrating.

Institute of Children's Literature--well-respected online writing course.

Children's Writer's & Illustrator's Market It's updated yearly and includes everything you need to know about submitting your work to publishing companies, magazines, and agents.

Harold Underdown's The Purple Crayon--excellent online resource on children's writing and publishing.

Some of my interviewees praised the Rutgers One on One Plus program, where writers can pitch their books to agents.

(And of course, if you do not write for children, there are many resources and organizations out there for your particular genre or area of expertise.)

When you are down in the doldrums and wondering if you can press on in the face of rejections (or if you are realizing that you still have more to learn about craft) here are some helpful books on writing and creativity:

Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott
The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron
On Writing by Stephen King
War of Art by Steven Pressfield
The Writer's Journey by Christopher Vogler

*Last but not least, once you sign that book deal, you will figure out quickly that the journey is just beginning. You'll have to navigate contracts and tackle revisions and learn how to promote your books--no matter which publishing route you choose.

I'll be doing more of these interviews in the future--I've already lined up an illustrator (because I realized I hadn't included the publication journey from an artist's point of view) and a picture book author and an author who's written over 30 books for the educational non-fiction market, and I'll be posting these over the next few months.

Thanks for sticking around with me on my journey, and I hope I have helped you as you embark on yours. I know, BELIEVE ME! I KNOW! how daunting all of this sounds when you are just starting out. The reward, though--having people READ this book of yours someday--makes it all worth it.

(Let me give a shout out here to the very cool banner above--designed by my awesome neighbor and aspiring teen artist Courtney Berger.)

Oh, and if you are a writer or illustrator with a journey to publication that you'd like to share, drop me a line. I'd love to hear your story.