The idea of Ramone began in September 2014 after jotting down a few lines of rambling, rhyming text. Over the years, these few lines would be revised numerous times in the hopes of creating a story worthy of being published.
The story of Ramone was not my first attempt at writing a children’s picture book. I had another story sitting on the shelf unfinished when Ramone began to take shape, but more about writer’s block in another post. ☺ As the rambling text began to morph into an actual story, I realized I needed another set of eyes to help me find the holes within the story.
My first instinct was to contact my kindergarten teacher, Miss Cathy Gust, to ask if she would provide constructive criticism on where the manuscript stood. Afterall, she was a phenomenal kindergarten teacher and winner of the Pennsylvania State Teacher of the Year in 1989. Lucky for me, she was more than happy to read the story and provide feedback. I am not sure how many revisions she has gone through with me, but I do remember the day she wrote and said she thought it was finished. What an amazing sense of accomplishment I felt! To this day she is still a sounding board on my other stories and a trusted resource that helped make this dream come true.
With this sense of accomplishment and a finished story, what next? How exactly does one go about getting a story published? Publishing is a very difficult business to break into and be successful. The number of rejection letters can start to take a toll; after all, 90% of query letters are rejected daily, and I’ve experienced my share of rejection letters and kept each one.
I created and sent query letters to children’s book agents, hoping if I got an agent, they would represent me at the publishing houses. In some cases, my query letter was never replied to at all because the agent just wasn’t interested. My spreadsheet tracked each and every “not interested” which caused me to doubt my ability and whether I could make this dream a reality.
There were times when life got too busy so I would take a break from the book submission process and set it to the back burner. After all, I had a job that actually helped pay the bills, a husband, and two kids who I wanted to enjoy spending time with. Sometimes after months of doing nothing with the book, I would submit new queries and wait for the response, which was always a “no.”
In 2018 I found out from a family friend, Chuck Rineer, author of Wolf Sanctuary: The Wolves of Speedwell Forge, that I could submit directly to the publisher instead of trying to find an agent to represent me. I had no idea this was possible and it revived my determination to make this dream a success. Chuck’s book had been published by Schiffer Publishing and suggested I review the requirements for submission and give it a try. After realizing I needed illustrations and a storyboard for the submission requirements, I was on the hunt for an illustrator.
Through a mutual acquaintance, I was introduced to Angie Hohenadel. We met at a local coffee shop and I pitched my story about Ramone. Angie connected to the story and asked for a few days to come up with some sketches. After receiving her sketches of Ramone and a layout of where the story could go visually, I contacted Angie and we started generating everything necessary for the submission. Our book proposal was delivered to Schiffer Publishing on October 18, 2018. One week later we heard from our contact at Schiffer that the team loved the book and they were planning on discussing it at the acquisitions meeting. Needless to say, I was completely overwhelmed by the possibility of someone wanting to publish Ramone’s story. By November 1, 2018 we were told Schiffer Publishing wanted to offer us a book contract! Blown Away!