Getting published off of my first submission
In 2020 I submitted my first picture book manuscript to a publisher, and a few weeks later I signed my first publishing agreement. Despite what my very proud mum will tell you, I do not have unprecedented and unbounded talent. I didn’t get published because my publisher thought my writing was the work of an untapped genius.
What I did have was a relatively original idea that I spent a lot of time polishing and refining, and – just as importantly – I submitted it to the right publisher. My story was a good fit with their brand and their existing catalogue. This meant that they were willing to work with me to edit my story, before and after my contract was signed, to turn something that was ‘almost there’ into a really strong story that they were excited to publish.
Although this was my first submission, I have spent many years dreaming about being an author, dreaming up stories, and even a small amount of actually writing stories (like many writers I am a top-notch procrastinator). I do have a good foundation of transferable skills though, having completed a Masters of Arts (Professional Writing), a Juris Doctor, and having worked as a freelance writer for over 10 years. Writing in any genre and medium is fantastic way to hone your writing skills. Purposeful writing and editing helps you to start thinking critically about things like writing with clarity, persuasive techniques, finding a voice and writing with your audience in mind.
I am also an avid reader. (To the point that I am often distracted by books between stepping out of the shower and getting dressed… much to the frustration and amusement of my partner – Why are you reading naked again?). I would have assumed that this was a prerequisite for any aspiring writer (a love of reading, not necessarily in the nude) however I have heard many industry professionals discuss the surprising amount of writers who pitch to them who claim to not like reading or to have no interest in reading in the genre in which they are hoping to be published.
It might be tempting to assume that if not extreme talent, then an abundance of luck must be the reason authors get signed off of their first submission. There is certainly an element of the right story in the right place at the right time (there are lots of great writers and stories out there that are yet to find a publishing home). However, there are lots of things a writer can do to influence the factors that are within their control. This includes self-editing; self-education by engaging with industry podcasts, courses and events; researching and reading work from your ideal publishing home; and reading widely and critically. Over the next few months I will be sharing the details of my publishing journey.
Keep an eye out for my next post where I will share my process from idea to signing a contract.