Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Otto Grows Down: Rough Road to Publication

By Guest Blogger- Michael Sussman

By the time my son Ollie turned six, I had read him piles and piles of picture books. Although a few were excellent, I was amazed at how many were mediocre or worse: mundane, unimaginative, and condescending to children. I decided I could do better.

Otto Grows Down was my second or third attempt at a picture book. After some rewriting based on feedback from my writer’s group, I submitted to at least 20 or 25 editors. Not a bite, despite the fact that I’d already published two nonfiction titles for adults.

I decided to spend some money and hire a freelance editor to critique the manuscript, and this turned out to be extremely helpful. I realized that I’d basically written a one-joke story about a boy who becomes trapped in backwards time. What was lacking was emotional depth.

Like Archimedes, my eureka moment arrived in the bath tub. What if time turns around because Otto makes a birthday wish that his baby sister was never born! I was so excited by the resulting rewrite that I had visions of a vicious bidding war among dozens of editors! It didn’t happen.

Once again, roughly 20 editors rejected the story. One editor at a major house loved it, but the manuscript didn’t make it through the acquisitions meeting—some of her colleagues deemed the story too complex and potentially scary for young children.

Finally, returning from a writer’s retreat, I discovered a phone message from Frances Gilbert at Sterling Publishing. She was prepared to offer me a contract, which I eagerly signed. She turned out to be a wonderful editor, and Sterling did a magnificent job producing the book, with fabulous illustrations by Scott Magoon. Today, Otto Grows Down is face-out in every Barnes & Noble in the country!

20 comments:

Corey Schwartz said...

Thanks so much, Michael! I really enjoyed reading about your experience, especially your eureka moment! (Guess I'll have to give up showers and take baths from now on :)

Casey McCormick said...

Love your story, Michael. I get a lot of eureka moments in the shower!

Tess said...

Great journey. I'd venture to say this is a fairly typical road to publication rather than a rough one :) Arent they all pretty rough? lol.

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

Thanks Michael (and Corey) for this wonderful post. I've heard before that a writer needs to be tenacious and believe in the work, and you certainly prove it with this road to publication.
The thing about eureka moments is they can come anywhere, anytime as is the nature of discovery. But so often it seems to be when we are relaxed, perhaps that loosens things up.

Lazy Writer said...

Thanks for sharing! I love hearing success stories.

storyqueen said...

Great post! Every writer should believe in his/her work as much as you do!

And, be willing to put in the work that you did to make the story shine.

Congratulations on your success!

Shelley

Amy Tate said...

Oh how wonderful! Thank you for sharing your journey with us. I needed to hear that. I've put this book on my B&N list. I'm going later this week, - can't wait to read it!!!

T. Anne said...

Big congrats Michael! I hope you do the happy dance all day. I can't wait to get my hands on your new book!!!! My kids are going to love this. Sounds like something I can buy multiples of and give out for Christmas too! Bless you.

MG Higgins said...

An inspirational story. Thank you for sharing it!

Kelly H-Y said...

Thank you, thank you! I loved reading this ... very inspirational!!! And ... it's a fantastic book premise!

Lisa and Laura said...

Congratulations! What an inspiring story.

Sarah said...

Congrats Michael! It truly is inspiring. Thanks for sharing. :)

taralazar said...

I love it when books I love finally get the recognition they deserve. Like I wrote in my review, I bet every editor who sent you a rejection now wishes time would move in reverse, too.

Michael Sussman said...

Thanks Tara and Corey & all you well-wishers--I appreciate it!
Getting published is tough--but if you commit yourself to writing and keep believing in your work, you can make it happen!

Shelli said...

congrads Michael.

Stephanie Faris said...

How exciting. I love stories like this! And his title and illustrations are very eye-catching.

Lori Degman said...

Great story Michael - thanks for sharing!

Hardygirl said...

This looks great!

sf

Angela said...

Great story! Congrats on your success!

Jean Reidy said...

Great post, Michael. You gotta love those bathtub epiphanies.