Monday, May 20, 2013

From Idea to Print: One Series' Tale, Part One (It's a long story)

I am the proud author of a series of children's craft books, published by Children's Press in 2002, known as the "Mania Craft" books. They were given this designation as each title in the series has the word "mania" in it, as in MILK CARTON MANIA, CRAFT STICK MANIA, EGG CARTON MANIA, PIPE CLEANER MANIA, PIE PAN MANIA, PAPER CUP MANIA, PAPER PLATE MANIA, and CARDBOARD TUBE MANIA.

Here's the story of their creation:

Once upon a time I dreamed about writing a series of children's craft books. Okay, it wasn't a fairy tale, although at times it seemed like one. I thought about writing a series of craft books for kids. My mom had always encouraged me to express my creativity by doing crafts such as knitting, sewing and crocheting. But, she also was an early supporter of recycling (this was in the 1960s) and making things with ordinary household objects, like the paper tubes that are used for paper towel and toilet paper, empty paper milk cartons, used aluminum pie pans, etc. So, I thought it would be a great idea to have a series of craft books that used ordinary, household objects so parents wouldn't have to go out and buy expensive things for their kids to do the crafts with.

My original idea was for a series of four to six craft books. They were aimed at ages 6-12, with the idea that the crafts would be interesting for the entire age group. The oldest children could do the crafts all by themselves, while the younger ones would need help from parents and/or siblings.

I did some research on publishers who might be interested in such a series. I had six publishers on my list. When I "queried" them, in January 1998, I sent a letter saying I had an idea for a series of children's craft books that would use everyday, ordinary household items and be targeted to 6-to-12-year-olds. I included a couple of titles for the series, as well as some craft ideas for one of the books, MILK CARTON MANIA.

A few weeks after I sent out my query letters, two publishers rejected my idea outright. One sent me a letter saying they did not accept unsolicited manuscripts or queries. One I never heard back from. And I withdrew my proposal from one because I had received a letter from Mark Friedman of Grolier, Inc. saying they were interested in my idea.

He wrote: "I do like your idea, and I am interested in pursuing the initial stages of development with you. I presented the basic idea today at an editorial meeting, and my staff greeted it enthusiastically. It is now obviously just a concept, and the next step would be for you to submit a more fleshed-out list of titles. For us to launch a series like this, we would need about five or six individual titles as a minimum (I do not see the series containing more than ten or 12 books)." 

He then asked me to send him:

* a list of possible titles in the series;
* a sample table of contents, showing all the craft projects that would be included in one of the titles;
* and two or three sample chapters showing the complete texts of a few projects themselves.

Needless to say, I was thrilled with the letter. A real, live editor from a major publishing company sent me a personal letter saying he not only liked my book proposal, he wanted to pursue the concept and see if it could work as a real series. Also, I was thrilled that I had a least a better-than-average chance of actually getting my ideas into print.

But, I knew from reading articles about other writers' experiences that just because a publisher likes your idea doesn't mean it will go anywhere. I also knew that even if I sent all the requested materials, Mr. Friedman could still reject the project if he didn't like what I sent him. And, I knew that even if he liked what I sent, that was just the first step in the process. I was very excited to receive such a letter, and thrilled to be given such a wonderful opportunity, but I was nervous about my ability to actually produce the series and scared that nothing would come of it after all my work.

But, I was optimistic. So I got right to work on the requested materials. No deadline was given, but I knew the sooner I sent it to him, the better.

The first book I had an idea for was MILK CARTON MANIA. So, I sent the publisher a list of 12 possible book titles for the series (so they'd have plenty to choose from), a sample table of contents with the names of 30 possible craft projects to make with milk cartons - bird feeder, cat, Halloween pumpkin, etc. - as well as the directions for five projects, complete with line drawings and step-by-step directions. I even included an introduction for the book.

to be continued...

1 comment:

Michelle Rose said...

How did you pick your final choices?