Hang in there
When I started out looking for a picture book publisher I was young and naive, and I think this stood me in good stead. I thought publishers would be glad to see my lovely sketchbooks full of messy drawings of farm buildings, tractors and scrap yards, and want to snap me up immediately. That didn’t happen, but I wasn’t easily put off.
I would sit on my bedsit floor, beside my phone (only landlines then) with a copy of the Writers and Artists Yearbook and ring art directors and editors. I ignored the bits in the Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook where it said ‘no unsolicited material’, and sent samples of my artwork anyway. I’m not sure if I’m advising you to do that; I don’t want lots of irate editors banging on my door.
Sometimes I’d hear nothing for a few months, then I’d get four calls from different publishers in one day. I just lived for those moments, it was so exciting when someone wanted to see my folio. My tutor at Glasgow School of Art, Mick Manning, had once given us a piece of advice,
“The most important thing to do at publishing meetings is to smile.”
So I did lots of that. The quality of your work is important, but so is being friendly and meeting deadlines.
I found that art directors liked my work, and would be keen to find me a text to illustrate. But months passed by and no text came along. Then one publisher suggested I write my own text, so I did, and that is where my writing career started.
But it wasn’t all plain sailing in those early days, there were lots of knock-backs. I had a brief time being represented by an agent, but I had some problems with her and we parted company acrimoniously (she told me she had lots of contacts in publishing and I would never work again.) Then there was a project that I did and never got paid for… and a publisher who went bankrupt and had my original artwork, the late nights trying to meet deadlines, trying to fit in work between part time jobs, and the time I was dropped from a project because they accused me of faking some samples, which of course I hadn’t. Lots of trials and tribulations, but I just kept on going, doggedly hanging in there.