When pre-published writers ask me about my transition to first-time author, they always want to know the “secret” to landing a book contract. The trick is this: there is no trick.
I honestly believe it all comes down to luck, timing, and the power of the gods.
There’s nothing particularly stunning about my little picture books that sets them apart from millions of others that are written across the world every year. So what made mine catch the eye of a fabulous agent and ultimately the largest Christian publishing house in today’s market? I honestly don’t know.
I do know I spent quite a bit of time making the query and follow-up proposal as perfect as possible. Here are a few things I did that may help when you submit your soon-to-be-in-bookstores-everywhere bestseller.
1. I thoroughly researched children’s books.I not only spent hours upon hours perusing bookstore shelves, I pulled journal articles regarding children’s preferences and discovered they prefer realistic photographs to illustrations. That was my first stroke of luck — given I can’t draw a stick figure. I desperately wish I was a talented illustrator with a Caldecott honor awaiting me in the near future, but reality doth protest too much. And so I was thrilled to discover evidence that kids don’t really mind my lack of artistic ability. In fact, they preferred it! Wow…see why I love children?!
2. I spent months choosing the perfect photos. If money were no option, those photos would still be in the books, which makes me a tad bit sad…BUT — they obviously served the purpose at the time and netted a captive audience that passes on countless submissions each day. Again — Lucky!
3. I provided a detailed market analysis, comparing and contrasting tons of other books that related to mine in any way possible (photo books, books about fear, books about God, Christian vs. secular markets, etc. etc.) I gave them proof that there was not only a niche to fill in today’s Christian market, but a way to link Christian books to the mainstream audience. Modern. Universal. Simple. Folks like it.
4. I detailed a specific marketing plan, emphasizing the fact that I was willing and able to put the time and energy behind sharing these stories with kids across the country. I outlined definitive strategies that I have in fact put to use since the books were released in March.
5. Having worked as a freelance writer for nearly a decade, I was able to cite numerous publications, particularly those written for the target market audience – families with young children.
6. I followed every single suggestion/guideline my agent provided on his website and did not stray one bit from his proposal template.
7. I carefully selected the best agent for me, and started at the top. Again, I got lucky and the fabulous Mr. Greg Johnson gave me a call. What an incredible experience that was for me — and the excitement continues!
While my agent, Greg Johnson, is no longer accepting manuscripts from unpublished authors, his agency, Wordserve Literary, is growing steadily and his partners are actively accepting submissions. You can learn more on his website, where you’ll see I’m grateful (and again very lucky) to be in amazing company.
So if you’re an aspiring author, I sincerely hope this helps you find your way to a life-changing book contract soon. I’d love to hear from you and wish you great success!