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!