Great Expectations: Ten expectations of authors on the road to publication

by Lana Wayne Koehler and Gloria G. Adams, authors of Ah-Choo!

Expectation # 1: My first draft will be perfect.

   When we each first began our journey toward becoming professional writers, we assumed that the first draft of our work was also our final product. Boy, were we in for a big surprise! Then, we joined critique groups, attended conferences and workshops, and read books and articles about writing children’s books. We each practiced our craft. We learned that there would be many, many edits and drafts before we felt we had done the best that we could. Then, after we sold our manuscript, our editor for Ah-Choo! made even more changes!

Expectation #2: I should send my manuscript out to every publisher.

   All publishers do not take children’s manuscripts. Many publishers don’t take unsolicited submissions; you must submit through an agent. Some publishers are only interested in young adult or middle grade novels. Some only want non-fiction or picture books. Some only publish religious books. It’s very important to thoroughly research publishers to find out if they accept submissions, in what format you should submit, and what they might be looking for. The Children’s Writer’s and Illustrator’s Market is a good resource; publisher’s websites and editor and agent interviews are also great sources.

Expectation #3: I will hear back from the editor or agent in a week or two.

   Today, more and more editors never respond; they will tell you that if you haven’t heard from them in three or six months (or often longer) that you should assume they are not interested in your manuscript. Agents usually respond much sooner than editors. Be patient and keep writing.

Expectation #4: My book was picked up by an editor! No more re-writes!

   Ah, foolish Mortal. There will almost always be re-writes! And more re-writes.

Expectation #5: When I sign my book contract, I will get a big advance!

   Unless you are a well-known writer, advances are either small or non-existent. We feel very fortunate to have gotten an advance for Ah-Choo! It was small and we each only got half, but we still got one. It all depends on the publisher. You might consider having a lawyer look over your contract. If you have an agent, he or she may be able to negotiate a better advance for you. The advance will also have to be recovered by your publisher before you will receive any royalties.

Expectation #6: Now that I have an editor, things will go smoothly.

Of course, having an editor who loves your book is exciting, but our editor wanted to put her own mark on our book. We excitedly worked with her and offered us some great suggestions! She mentioned that she liked squirrels so we added squirrels. She said that she had a great picture of a rooster so we added a rooster. However, when a suggestion changed our meter, we rebelled. In a conference call, we asked her to read the book aloud and when she did, she understood our objections and we saved our meter. However when we received our book, two verses were changed! Moral: Get final text approval in your contract!

Expectation #7: Once the editing is done, my book will be published right away.

Our book, Ah-Choo!, was purchased by Sterling Children’s Books in November, 2013. The original publication date was fall, 2015. In the end, our roll out date was March 1, 2016. Enough said.

Expectation #8: My publisher will manage the marketing of my book.

Well, yes and no. Our publisher has been very generous with their support by supplying posters, bookmarks, bookplates, and note cards. They have also marketed it to public libraries, bookstores, and (soon) to zoos. They have paid for us to attend a conference and have submitted our book to state and local book events. However, it is up to us to publicize our book to schools and libraries through interactive programs and presentations. We also make arrangements with local booksellers for book signings. We are hoping to add newspapers, magazines, radio, and local television in the near future. It’s up to us to manage the “who, what, when, where, and how” of marketing our book.

Expectation #9: I will make lots of money with my book!

Maybe—if you’re a New York Times best seller! Here’s the deal on picture books: the average picture book sells about 4,000 books. A run of books is 10,000. Royalties are split between the  illustrator and author (and as co-authors, we split them again). It's easy to see that in order to make a reasonable living as a writer, you need to write and sell MANY books each year.

Expectation #10: Now that I have an editor/publisher, they will always buy what I write.

Good luck on this one! Our editor asked for anything we write. While we submit our manuscripts to her, we have yet to interest the publisher in any new projects. Such is the life of a writer!

7 Reasons to Belong to a Writing Community

By Laurie Lazzaro Knowlton

Writers are a unique group of people. We live in our heads, surrounded by characters that tell us their stories and expect us to record them on paper. Sometimes those characters keep us up at night, interrupt our daily chores, and become more real to us than our everyday lives. To outsiders we are loners, a wee-bit crazy, and not always understandable.

1. That brings me to the first reason for the importance of a writing community:UNDERSTANDING Who else is going to understand you missing a meal, staying up all night, or holing yourself up in a locked room? Only another writer. They understand that writing is a consuming, demanding job. They understand that if you don't get the ideas down on paper NOW, that later, when time allows, you may find yourself staring at a blank screen. They are the only ones who get where you are coming from, so join a group! (Check out, and local writers groups that meet at libraries. If you can't find a group, start one!)

2. ENCOURAGEMENT:  When you hit a glitch, and your characters have taken a long weekend in Neverland. only another writer understands those dry spells. We need encouragement. The great thing is that not only do other writers encourage each other, but when they are gathered together, an energizing ripple effect begins to roll. As each writer discusses their latest project, your own brain's ideas begin to flow and the next thing you know you are excusing yourself to rush home to your computer to write.

3. Every manuscript requires many sets of eyes. CRITIQUE groups are a must. Every time I finish a manuscript, I just know it is an award-winning book. But the reality is that good writing begins with rewriting. Even though the story is clear in your head, the reader isn't always able to see things the way you pictured them. That's where many sets of eyes are helpful. Your peers can tell you the manuscript's strengths and where it needs some work. Fellow writers are your first readers and helpful editors.

4. A good writing community is needed for NETWORKING. I attend as many conferences, workshops, and critique meets as possible. Writers know what is happening out there in the big world of publishing. You hear things about editors who are wonderful to work with, publishing houses that have recently opened their doors to unsolicited manuscripts, and houses that are now requiring a query letter. Go, listen, and grow!

5. Who are you ACCOUNTABLE to? Unless you are under deadline with a publisher, writing
requires you to be your own boss. Some writers are diligent, setting aside a set amount of time to write daily, but many writers are so creatively wired that they get off task easily. I am one of those people. I am a crafter, a nature lover,  a thrift store hunter and a five-year-old at heart. Unless I have someone to answer to, I find it is unbelievably easy to get distracted. My writing community helps me to be accountable.

6. A writing community is vital because they will CHALLENGE you. Many times when brainstorming together, I have challenged my peers by saying, "If you don't write it, I will!" Two friends that I challenged this way ended up with contracts! A challenge can be as simple as setting an amount of words to be written by the next meeting, or getting a manuscript out by a set time, or review a manuscript you put aside. But whatever the challenge, you will better off as a writer.

7. Last but not least, a writing community is valuable is for CELEBRATION. When you get that first publication, who else is going to understand your journey? No one besides another writer realizes the hours you've pored over your creation. No one else understands the angst felt before you turn your manuscript over to the U.S. postal service, or the daily walks to the mailbox wondering..."Will there be another rejection? Did I get an acceptance?"

Other writers get it. They value the days, months, and often years it takes to get from idea to publication. So when it is time to celebrate, your writing community will be full of high fives, balloons and maybe even a glass of champagne.

So don't hide yourself off in a room by yourself. Get out there. Find a group of like- minded creative writers. They will understand and encourage you. They will critique your work and they will help inform you through networking. Your community will challenge you and make you accountable. But the best part is, they will celebrate with you every step of your journey from idea to publication.

Why Do We Write?

by Gloria G. Adams

As writers, most of us have asked ourselves that question at one point or another. 

Generally, we write because we can’t NOT write; it’s how we express our creativity. The ideas bounce around in our heads and we long to get them down on paper and bring them to life. Which is just so much fun!

But what are the other reasons? ARE there other reasons?

Do you write to make a statement, teach a lesson, change people’s minds about an issue?
Do you write to make money? To get published?
Do you write for approval? Validation? Satisfaction? Accomplishment?
Do you write to help someone else through an experience you’ve survived?
Do you write to create the worlds you wish you lived in or the characters that you would like to be?
Do you just love to tell stories?

Quotes about this question abound; here are just a few:

“A person is a fool to become a writer. His only compensation is absolute freedom. He has no master except his own soul, and that, I am sure, is why he does it.” – Roald Dahl

“I write to give myself strength. I write to be the characters that I am not. I write to explore all the things I’m afraid of.”  - Joss Whedon

“I just knew there were stories I wanted to tell.” – Octavia E. Butler

“I’ll be writing until I can’t write anymore. It’s a compulsion with me. I love writing.” – J.K. Rowling

For me, writing is magic. The ability to create whole worlds, critters and/or characters, and weave them into a story that is mine alone, that began as nothing more than the seed of an idea in my brain, is exciting and empowering. To spark that same excitement in a child who reads my book? That would be the ultimate royalty payment.

My dream as a writer is to create a character that a child will fall in love with and remember for his or her whole life, that might be a hero or an inspiration or just a great, childhood friend. Like Ann of Green Gables, Nancy Drew, the Hardy Boys, Peter Pan, Winnie-the-Pooh, Frodo Baggins, or Harry, Hermione and Ron. 

Some may say we don’t need to ask ourselves this question. I disagree. Because sometimes we get lost in all the mechanics, the marketing, the seemingly endless editing, and we forget the reasons that brought us to this place where we spend so much of our time pounding away at computer keys.

Whenever I get sidetracked, I ask myself the question again. Why do I write? 

Ah, yes: Magic!

Five Things I've Learned About Marketing: Part I

By Lana Wayne Koehler

When I started writing, I thought that I could put everything into one blog post. I quickly realized that it would be necessary to make this part of a series. Here’s the breakdown:

Part I: It’s All About Me
Part III: I Can’t Do It All
Part IV: I Have To Do It All
Part V: It’ll All Turn Out in the End

Part I

It’s All About Me

The best advice I’ve ever been given was to start marketing my book before it’s written.  Not that I followed it for my first book. Unfortunately, I didn’t understand the power of early marketing. But I will definitely start earlier for my next book.

When was the last time you struck up a conversation with your hairdresser/barber?  Cable guy? Neighbor? These are all opportunities to promote your book.

Have you told a friend about your book? That’s marketing! The next time you’re out somewhere, strike up a conversation that might eventually lead to someone buying your book. Use your elevator pitch! I always carry swag (Bookmarks, postcards, business cards, etc.) with me just in case someone wants more information.  

My husband used to roll his eyes when I would start talking at the checkout line. By the time I finished, everyone in the line, including the cashier, would have a bookmark. Now, he not only expects it, he joins in!

What can you do to market online? Think of yourself as a brand and the Internet is your platform. It can be overwhelming, especially if you don’t have much of a presence online. Start with one new site and play around with it until you feel comfortable. Slow and steady is the way to go.

These are the top Internet sites for building a platform today. It’s also important to keep up with any new (and ever changing) apps and sites. I asked my resident 16-year-old to explain how each of them works. If you don’t have a handy teen, check with your local library for courses and tutoring.

Each has its own peculiarities. Here’s a brief description:

Instantly share what you’re doing in 140 characters or less. You can also share photos. It’s a great way to share information with a lot of people quickly. Not good for lengthy conversations.

Primarily a photo and video information-sharing site. The fun part is filtering your photos (by changing their color, etc) and sharing.  It has taken over twitter with the teen crowd in case you write for middle grade or YA.

Correspond with real time videos and texts (called snaps) that will disappear in 30 days after being viewed. You cannot retrieve any of your information after that time. If you’re paranoid, or under 30, this is the site for you.

This is a good site for people looking to connect with friends, family and fans. Joining groups is a great way to meet new people with the same interests. You can find a group for almost anything by searching Facebook. You’ll want to keep your professional page separate from your personal page. If you try to over promote your Facebook page, you can be put in “Facebook Jail” that can last 24 hours to two weeks. Read the rules and be careful!

My favorite addictive activity. You put information that you’ll (probably) never use into organized boards that other people want to follow. You can have a business platform and a personal one. Or you can just have fun!

In order to get a following on any of these sites, you have to follow. Start with people you know. Then add as you meet more people.

Remember that once you put something out onto the Internet it’s out there forever (even snapchat has limitations). Post carefully. Don’t post pictures or say anything that you wouldn’t want your mother or new boss to see. That said, post early and post often.

The best relationships with a readership take time. Internet platforms require not only following lots of people, but having them follow you back. To do that, you have to offer something of value. Ideas, advice, and recommendations all require lots of research and time. Take the time to build a solid platform. Which segues nicely into Part II—It’s Not About You…

Who’s Keeping up with the Kardashians?

By Kate Carroll

Now that I have your attention…

Sorry, this isn’t about the Kardashians. Heaven knows everyone else writes about them. Hollywood groupies and fans crave every single detail of their lives.

Details. That’s what I want to talk about - the details of manuscript submissions. Unlike the details leaked about the Kardashians, the minutiae of manuscript submissions is vital to a writer’s success. Being alert to the details helps a manuscript get to an editor’s or an agent’s desk. So let’s dish details– shall we?

Once you polish that manuscript like a bowling ball, you are ready to submit. Sounds easy, but any of us who submit our work knows that it is not that simple.

Of course, we secretly believe that our manuscript is a best seller and that editors’ or agents’ calls will be forthcoming. But most of us know, that’s not as realistic as we would hope. Does that happen? Yes. But for most people who are looking for their first publication, it has to do with the preparation and the details.

Here are a few things to keep in mind when seeking your first publication.

1. Know the market.

And the market is always changing!  What was considered acceptable when I was reading to my kids probably wouldn’t pass muster from an editor today.

Every genre has very specific guidelines. Every market has a structure that authors use.  It took me a while to go from reading lots of picture books to actually studying them. Scrutinizing the competition is a great way to understand what editors are buying and what is trending in the genre.

That being said, due to the subjective nature of publication, there are always, and always will be exceptions. Editors buy favorite authors. Houses publish specific types of projects.  As writers, it is our responsibility to familiarize ourselves with the current trends. Sometimes, I have a seed of an idea, and I can’t seem to stop it from growing. But many times, I find that my idea is blooming along with a hundred fully bloomed projects out in the marketplace.

I would never tell you not to write what’s inside of you. At the heart of every thing I write is the passion to write words and ideas that inspire me. Yet, as I grow in experience, I conduct more market research. I check out titles on a specific subject, especially if it is a well-worn subject. I make monthly visits to the local library where I research new titles in the genre I’m writing. I’m sure others can add ideas here, but the most important thing to do is your homework. Study the market.

2. Follow the rules.

We can’t seem to get away from them – especially in traditional publishing. Here’s the thing: We are at the mercy of those who make decisions. Research every agent or editor to whom you want to send your project. Generally, you can find specific submission guidelines on websites. My advice? Follow them! 

Slush piles are real, folks. If you want your manuscript to make it from there to an editor’s eyes and heart, then adhere to the guidelines.  Don’t ever give the first reader of your manuscript a reason to put it down simply because you didn’t follow the rules. Details! Pay attention to them.

3. Write your best work.

When I first heard that advice, I thought it was rather trite. Of course I’m writing my best work; I wouldn’t write anything less. Everything I write is my best!  But, over time, I’ve learned that every genre has its demands. Every genre wants perfection.

You may have a wonderful way with words and great syntax but does your manuscript have the charm, the magnetism, the quirk and the precision to make it to acquisitions?  Whatever you write, it needs to be irresistible to those making the publishing decisions. Be courageous to write and rewrite. Be courageous to take criticism from fellow writers. And when your homework is one hundred percent done, be courageous to submit!

Luck and Karma

By Julie K. Rubini 

One of my favorite quotes is, “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.”
The Roman philosopher Seneca could have been referring to my journey as a published children’s book author.

My story has a tragic beginning, but a beautiful, new ending.
Julie K. Rubini

My oldest daughter, Claire, died July 6, 2000. She was just ten years old.

Claire left behind her parents and a younger sister and brother who loved her very much, and a chocolate Labrador puppy she wasn’t too sure about.
She also left behind a passion for books and reading. Claire was never far from a book, and often used reading as an excuse to get out of chores. Often her dinner got cold, as she begged to read “one more chapter, please Momma?”
We encouraged her passion from birth. Every night while reading to our children, I would go to that back flap of the book. As a freelance writer, I thought it was important that they learned about the authors and illustrators.
Soon after her death my husband Brad and I felt compelled to honor Claire in a way that was true to her. We kept coming back to books and reading, yet couldn’t quite get our heads and hearts around anything but getting through the day.
Then a moment of divine intervention, karma, pure luck, or whatever you want to believe happened.
Six months after I gave her “one last hug” while she walked off to her campsite, we were on a flight to my oldest niece’s wedding in Jacksonville. There, in my seat pocket was an in-flight issue of Time Magazine. Slightly tattered, the cover intrigued me.
For within was a story about former First Lady Laura Bush and her involvement with the Texas Book Festival. I’ve always been a huge fan of hers, so I read on. What resonated with me was the fact that the TBF featured Texas-born authors and illustrators, or who had written books set in the Lone Star State.
Wham! From all those years of teaching my children about all of you, I’d discovered a way to honor her, as well as all of your amazing work that brought such joy to our family.
I turned to my husband sitting across the aisle, and with tears in my eyes, I said, “Read this article. This is what we are going to do to honor Claire.”
Claire’s Day was born.
Although we promote Claire’s Day as Northwest Ohio’s largest children’s book festival, it is Ohio’s only book festival dedicated to children.
And, now into our 15th year, we are no longer just a day. Not that we ever were.
Claire’s Day has always featured a dozen or so of our region’s most prolific authors and illustrators. And, a highlight of the day, is our C.A.R.E. Awards - Claire’s Awards for Reading Excellence. Given to children who are selected by their principals as being the most improved readers in their schools, the awards include a special certificate and a coupon for the recipient to choose his or her very own book from the selection authored or illustrated by our special guests.
In 2002 we gave out 23 awards. On May 21, we anticipate honoring 800 children.
For the first few weeks of May this year, over 20,000 children at 43 schools will witness the magic of a school visit by one of our guest writers and artists.
And I’ll be amongst the featured authors this year.
In 2007, while speaking at Claire’s Night, our fun reception for grownups the night before the festival, I shared that I had written my memoir. In the audience was Anne Margaret Lewis, who was not only author, but owner of Mackinac Island Press. She had just written and published Hidden Michigan. They were looking for an Ohio writer to pen the Buckeye State version.   
Hidden Ohio was such an amazing introduction into the world of being a children’s book author. Well received by educators, librarians and families alike, Hidden Ohio was featured as the 2012 Ohio Arts Council Governor’s Awards Book.   

It taught me how much I enjoyed researching and presenting material in a way that children and families would enjoy.
I continued to write, conduct school visits, created a social media presence, joined a critique group, and all the other steps one needs to do to become published, even after the fact.
I met Michelle Houts at the reception prior to the 2009 Books by the Banks book festival in Cincinnati. She had just had her first book published as well, and after becoming instant friends, vowed to help each other from becoming one-hit wonders.
Michelle and I connected once again at the Northern Ohio section of SCBWI the fall of 2013. I was in the midst of seeking re-election to our City Council (I was approached to serve a year before. I did not actively seek this role originally. Are you sensing a theme here?) and trying to establish a succession plan to Claire’s Day.       
Michelle told me about an exciting new series for middle grade readers. Ohio University Press was seeking proposals for their biographies for young students. I responded, “Wow, that sounds like something I’d be interested in.” Michelle thought I’d be perfect for the project, and provided me with the initial contact information.
I walked away from the conversation thinking, “What the heck did I just get myself into? I’ve never written middle-grade, much less a project of this magnitude.”
Once again, I jumped in, with every ounce of my being.
Missing Millie Benson: The Secret Case of the Nancy Drew Ghostwriter and Journalist was released last fall. I’ve enjoyed nice reviews and feedback from critics and readers of all ages.   

I’m under contract for two more works with the series. One is in the midst of edits, the other due this December. I’m revisiting a YA manuscript and other PB and MG works that have sat latent on my computer for years, just waiting for me to bring the characters out of cyberspace.
Claire’s Day has successfully merged with Read for Literacy, I’m enjoying my third year on Council, and have awesome, loving relationships with Brad and our two children, now starting their own lives. They’ll both come join us at Claire’s Day, helping to hand out awards in their sister’s name.
It is no surprise to me that as I wrap this up, my Pandora cranks up with Lucky by Jason Mraz and Colby Caillat.
I am. And blessed.

Julie K. Rubini is the Founder of Claire’s Day, children’s book author and serves on Maumee City Council. She is the recipient of a Jefferson Award, the YWCA Milestone Award, and UT Distinguished Alumni Award for her efforts to promote literacy and create lifelong readers. For further information, feel free to visit and