How I got my first book published …and what I learned.

Back in 2011, I was in a meeting with my boss when my phone rang embarrassingly in my pocket. Realising I should have switched it to silent, we both waited awkwardly until it rang out. Thirty seconds later, the familiar ding of a message came through.

After the meeting, I looked at the number, it was from Queensland. Who would be calling me from there? I played the message back and started shaking.

‘Hi Josh, this is Diane from Big Sky Publishing. We’re really interested in your manuscript; can you call me back.’

After a few deep breaths, I dialled her number. ‘We love the concept of the Frog and The Well book, we even think there could be an opportunity for a series of books like these’, Diane told me. The rest of the day was a blur.

My rather ambitious experiment to see if I could get a book published with my quirky philosophical stick figures had paid off.

Only a few months before, I’d noticed that I was getting good reactions on my Frog and The Well Facebook page (now Josh Langley Author) and my blog, and I had the crazy idea to make them into a book. Why the hell not? Not being in the publishing industry, no-one told me how hard it was to get published. Ignorance is bliss.

The pitch

I researched how to pitch to a publisher and stumbled across the pitch that Bradley Trevor Greive had written for his first best seller, The Blue Day Book. I used that as a template and gathered a list of potential publishers. I stapled together a bunch of cartoons to give an idea of how I saw the book looking, printed off the pitch and headed to the post office.  I then got on with life.

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My original manuscript

 

 

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Screen shot of part of the my book pitch for Frog and The Well

 

I was rejected by Fremantle Press, Allen and Unwin and literary agents Curtis Brown. I celebrated this achievement with a glass of cheap champagne, because that’s what you do when you’re brave enough to put yourself out there. Then on my 4th submission, I got that call from Big Sky Publishing.

The timing was right. Normally publishing military and historical titles, acquisitions editor Diane had been looking for something unique to take on, something different to add to the stable of Big Sky titles. Then I came along with a manuscript for a very quirky book and the rest they say is history.

 

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My original manuscript side by side with the published version

Seven years and six more books later, I’m still with Big Sky Publishing and this year I won the ABIA Small Publisher’s Children’s book of the year.

 

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Believe in your work but hold the dream gently in your hand.

Texting while driving is a matter of life and death, but submitting to a publisher is not. We think our identity is in our work, but it’s only an expression of us. Enjoy the process of making something and then let it free to see what happens. When you put too much of your own expectation on your work, you only hold it back from being what it potentially can be. I never anticipated all that has happened since Frog and the Well was released and I’m truly grateful it’s gone way beyond my initial expectations.

Believe in your work but hold the dream gently in your hand.

I dive deeper into what I call the ‘Creative Cycle’ and talk about how my life changed since Frog and the Well in the my new book Find Your Creative Mojo How to overcome fear, procrastination and self-doubt to express your true self which comes out in October.  You can preorder now.

Meanwhile, keep writing, keep creating, keep pushing through. The rewards are awesome!

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