Saturday 17 March 2012

What does an author do before they become an author?

This is a very interesting question. Recently, my friend, Sue, came up with these possibilities:

Steven King - he was the nerd at the drive-in theatre concession that you knew just spit on everything.
Dr. Seusss - he was the teacher who worked with kids that only babbled.
Lemony Snicket - he wasn't the cook, for a restaurant that wasn't there, that would kill you if you ate the food.

Okay, on a more serious note.

What did I do before I became and author?

Well, for the most part, I was trying to become an author.

After I took my journalism courses and another two courses at the Institute of Children's Literature (6 years of correspondence), then I finally had time to do some writing.

Well, writing was the easiest part for me. The hard part was the constant research of the publishing markets, the endless query letters to publishers that might be interested in the story (this to publishers that plainly state they have an interest in this kind of story), and then the submission process to the interested publishers that usually comes back with a NO answer after several months. The worst part of this is when a publisher wants an exclusive submission, meaning you cannot send it anywhere else until they reply.  ????

Once in a while, I would receive a hand written note from the editor saying that this is a really good story, but they already have their dragon-princess-knight story for this year. Once, I received a possible publication notice if I could turn this story into a math adventure. Well, I couldn't nor did I want to.

It's all very frustrating work. I have had several potential books out on rotations to different publisher for the last 9 years.

At last, 9 years later, I receive a call that someone wants to possibly publish my book: Sir Princess Petra. 
But, they wanted it turned into a chapter book. This book was originally a picture story book entitled The Princess Knight. And as children book writers know, story pictures books and chapter books are two totally different concept of writing.

So, panicky me. My forte in my writing courses was picture story books! What's an author to do?


I did figure it out and I landed the contract. Whew!

Most contracts to produce a book are for one year, as was this one. This particular publisher was very bad at correspondence and left me in the dark most of the time. We did communicate once in a while and me being a newbie, thought this was all regular.

Alas, the lack of communication made more sense when the contract expired and there was no book. An e-mail message that said nothing more than something like: "Sorry, U.S. economy downturn has left us stranded with no funds to produce your book. Good Luck."

It's amazing how a publisher can get away with that, when an author would have their pants sued off for forfeiting the contract.

But you know, God works in mysterious ways, and if you just follow, He will guide you.  Everything that happened, happened for a reason. Shortly thereafter, I received another contract with a much bigger publishing house that can do a lot more for my book. This new publishing house was easy to work with. Now I know how the process is supposed to work.

And I've been flying since.

The next blog will be more on the topic of what I did before I became an author, and will include pictures of the dental missionary work I participated in, in Central America.

Diane M. Robinson


  1. Really enjoyed this post. I'm working with my own chapter book and had considered tossing it, due to my inability to find a publisher. Thanks for this post!

  2. I really like the background you put up. Very nice!! This blog is looking really good, for a first time blogger. :-)

    You go to my site, so I wanted to return the favor. I am following you, but gravatar will not send out my new picture. So I guess I am following you in disguise, spying on what it takes to be a kid's writer.

    Too bad blogger doesn't send out an email notice like wordpress does. It would be nice to know when you have a new post to enlighten me with. Nine years is a looong time to wait for a publisher to come to his senses and sign a contract with Petra and you.. I don't want to wait that long to know you've written a post.

    Petra as a math book. Hm. It could be done, but what kid doesn't want to know how much 1/2 cup white stardust plus 1/3 drams dragon scales minus 2 drats of gold essence equals. (We all know the answer is one nice, cold beer and one bottle of red wine, with two glasses on the side. Not for kid's anyway.).

    Love your posts. Keep on plugging.