Picture Books, Glaciers & Blackberry Banquet

In January 2007, I received an acceptance call from Sylvan Dell for Blackberry Banquet. Last week, I received a preview of the finished artwork for the entire story (publication date July 2008). Sorry folks, no sneak previews here, under strict orders from my publisher. However, I can say that the artwork is adorable. Dare I say it? Okay, I will—it’s CUTE! Very cute! I think preschoolers will love this book.

Seeing the artwork made me think about the time involved in creating this book. Consider this—I wrote the first draft of the story in the summer of 2002 and began subbing it to publishers in late 2003. Sylvan Dell accepted it in January ’07 and a year later I’m now viewing the finished artwork. It will take seven more months for the finishing design (editing, text layout, etc.) and printing. That’s six years from when my pencil touched the paper until the publication date. Yes, it takes time all right!

Once, three months after I’d stopped teaching and had begun writing, someone asked me if my first book was out yet. Heck, I was still learning how to format a manuscript! But herein lies the “problem.” I think it’s a common misconception that picture books are easy to write, easy to draw and easy to publish. Uh…pardon me while I go pound my head against the wall.

I often say that this business works in glacial time. During a recent visit to Yosemite National Park, I pondered the glacially carved granite walls of Yosemite Valley and thought about the publishing business–how it too involves great amounts of time in the creation of something amazing. It takes months to years to write a picture book and sell it to a publisher. The average time from acceptance to published book can range from one year (which is very fast) to three years or more, in some cases (I currently have an easy reader that is now at four years after acceptance with no pub-date in sight).

Why such a long production period? A few reasons, actually. First, how long it takes the publisher to determine the right illustrator for the project (matching art style to story is key). Second, how quickly the illustrator can get to the project (successful/popular illustrators might be booked with other projects for months or years). Third, how quickly the illustrator can finish the project (creativity takes time). Fourth, how fast the publishing company itself works. Fifth, the baseball factor (whether the sun gets in your eyes, the grass is too tall or your mitt is too tight)—meaning, all of the other extraneous things that can happen to slow things down.

But the good news is, approximately five thousand children’s books are published annually, so despite global warming, the kid-lit glacier is still inching forward. And with that movement is the hope that your story will become one of them. It may take some time, but it can happen!

Good luck in 2008 for finding your publishing successes!

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