In Paris, if I didn’t buy every guide book written in French for visiting Paris with children, I came pretty darn close. This was becoming a serious financial investment and a work out (those books get heavy).
I was headed full speed downstream, paddling furiously with the current and having a lot of fun enjoying the ride but I was making waves that were rocking my husband’s kayak.
His new mantra had become “Can’t you get those books at the library?”
He’d chant it as he looked fretfully at our bank account statements. He’d chant it again when trying to lift my carry-on bag. Then he chanted it when I started talking about building more bookshelves.
In the end, I gave in on the bookshelves –there didn’t turn out to be that many family guidebooks out there. But otherwise, I paid no heed. I knew that despite the mantra he was on board with the project. As I began actually writing my six sample chapters based on the research I’d done that summer, he sweetly dedicated hours to the dreary work of editing. Now that is love.
The time had come to find a publisher.
I’d need a research stipend if I was going to complete thirty more chapters.
Now what you may already know, dear reader, I did not: the internet mega-book stores and online book dealers, along with electronic texts, self-publishing and (I might aptly add) blogs, have change the world of publication.
Naïve to that fact, I made a list of probable publishers and ranked them according to the quality of their products and fit to my project. There were only ten contenders and one third of them produced books with such poor user appeal that I eliminated them from consideration immediately. (I had no intention of publishing an ugly book!) Another two were associated with big name guide companies that buried the author’s name on the copyright page: they were out. Of the five remaining one out-shone the rest: The Little Bookroom.
The books produced by The Little Bookroom were seductive. They felt good in your hand. They were made with quality paper in an appealing square-ish shape. The aesthetic was pretty gorgeous, especially compared to the others. The organization was user-friendly. As far as I was concerned, their books sung quality.
While other women may fantasize over the glossy images in Playgirl, I let my imagination run wild with daydreams about how alluring my words would look printed on the pages of a Little Bookroom publication. I wanted it. And, I wanted it badly.
So I did my research.
As luck would have it, The Little Bookroom was a small independent publisher that Angela Hederman started because she couldn’t find a good travel journal for children on the market and decided to fill the publishing gap herself. Perfect!
I looked for their submissions instructions and found only their address.
Having never before sent in a submission to any editor, let alone publisher, I knew I needed a few more guidelines.
This was the only publisher worth writing the book for (as far as I was concerned at the time), and I only had one chance to get her attention.
As a result, what did I do? Well, I went shopping of course!
I’m sure my husband groaned his mantra under his breath when I returned home with another bookstore bag. This time I’d bought “Think like your Editor”. I set to studying it arduously and quickly realized that writing a book proposal would be fun. (Okay, I might not be your average girl. I love work especially when it is challenging or competitive and can end in the thrill of winning.) Writing a book proposal is not unlike a grant proposal. And I love writing those.
I spent the next six months: perfecting two of my sample chapters, polishing my table of contents, and creating an expanded table of contents.
That was the year that my ninety-two-year-old grandmother slipped on the ice when going to the gym for her regular weight training and cardio-vascular workout. One of her vertebrae cracked, she liked to say she “broke her spine” and I must admit that has a lot more panache (but it wasn’t exactly accurate). To my amazement, the doctors were able to cement the fissure back together (Maybe that isn’t amazing but I don’t know anything about that kind of medicine so I was floored –especially by the word “cement” which conjures up industrial construction images in my head). Anyhow, unfortunately, the procedure had her laying down for weeks which made it hard for her to get back on her feet. Some of her favorite adages where “Use it or lose it.” and “Old age isn’t for wimps”.
After her physical therapy, my marvelous husband said he could manage our boys for a few weeks on his own. So I went and stayed with my grandma. I did her errands and cooked for her. We enjoyed chatting together over long meals, but mainly she needed to rest which left me with the incredible luxury of long stretches of uninterrupted hours to work on my submission packet. Pure self-indulgence!
Once I thought my proposal was finished, I had my own private personal editor (a.k.a. husband) take a look. It was returned for revisions and we repeated this back and forth three or four more times until I said “stop”… because let’s face it, one can always find ways to make improvements and at some point you just have to call it quits or no one else will ever get a chance to read your work.
Still, when the email was ready to submit with all the attachments in place, checked and double-checked, and I had the arrow hovering over the send button… well, I was filled with anxiety and doubt. Should I have done more?
This was my only chance.
I artfully guided the arrow away from the send button and did the most sensible thing possible: I delayed. I wrote a simple message to inquire if they accept submissions “directly” (that is to say without going through an writer’s agent) before I sent in my submission directly. Angela Hederman wrote back, herself, to confirm that she did.
It was like getting a message from a rock star!
I went around telling everyone… and everyone politely pretended to be excited for me. “Great!” They said. But, the blank looks in their eyes make me suspect that in their heads they were thinking “who the heck is this Hederman? And, why is she such a big deal?”
I crossed my fingers and sent my proposal.