How to get published as a first-time author

  • by Teigan Margetts

Variously described as an ‘oasis of calm’ and ‘a time capsule of special moments,’ our captivatingly beautiful new title, April’s Window, has already won many fans and will no doubt win many more. And given how truly gorgeous and special it is, you would think that the talented lady behind it has never had anything but high praise from publishers. 

But you would be wrong. 

World traveller, preschool teacher and talented writer Gigi Le Flufy may have the coolest name ever, but her journey to being published has been anything but easy. The team at Ethicool HQ are secretly grateful for this though, because we couldn’t be prouder that we’re the ones who get to bring April’s Window to life and eternally appreciate it in all of its glory.

So Georgina, you’re now a published children’s book author! Can you tell us a bit more about yourself?

I am very excited! Thank you very much. My background is quite interesting, as I’ve lived in many different countries. I’m actually from England originally, but I moved to Canada about ten years ago. In between leaving England and moving to Canada though, I lived in Australia for a year! Funnily, people here can’t always discern my accent and ask if I’m Australian. 

Right now, I live on the West Coast of Canada with my husband, step kids, and adorable yorkie pup. I manage a local preschool, and have been working with children intensively as an educator for about six years. Before working with kids, I’d had many different jobs: I’d done everything from film production, to real estate, and even recruitment! I’ve travelled extensively, and worked for a few years as a nanny and an au pair, which is how I ended up in Australia. I love the beach, and am fortunate that I live near one now! 

For as long as I can remember, writing has been a part of my life. I wrote my first chapter book when I was six. That didn’t go too far though, as it was only two chapters long! 

In the last decade though, I have been more seriously focusing on my writing career. In that time, I’ve sent out over 20 manuscripts … and received several hundred rejections.  As any writer will know, putting yourself out there is a little nerve racking, and getting rejected can be so hard. I have tried to not let it deter me, though, and I’ve continued to write. 

I like writing a variety of different things, but my favourite thing to write are children’s picture books. It’s a curious but exciting combination I think, as you’re writing for a 3 year old, but you’re also writing for the adult who reads it. I enjoy the challenge of the dual audience and I couldn’t be prouder that my work has finally come to life. 

You manage a preschool, which is so lovely! How has working with kids every day influenced your picture book writing?

Working with children has been the ultimate testing ground for me when it comes to picture books, which is great!

I read children books every day, and they are very opinionated on which books they love, and which ones are boring (the ultimate rejection!).

It is amazing to see children connect with books, and understand why and how. From my perspective, the things I see them like most are intriguing illustrations, relatable characters, animal stories and funny stories. Interestingly, you can lose a child’s attention with one word - if they don’t understand it, they won’t follow along and then all of a sudden, that book is ‘boring’ to them. For this reason, the classics such as the Dr. Seuss books will always have a place as they exemplify simplicity in language. 

Another interesting thing I’ve noticed is that children respond to books that adults seem to enjoy, as a big part of the story is how you tell the story. If you’re interested and engaged in a book, your child will be. 

One of the things I love most about children is that they remind you to see things from a different perspective. To children, the trees are taller, treasures are found everywhere, the smallest of spaces can be called a home - every day brings something exciting and it’s really inspiring to watch that. And I think as authors, we can all bring a bit of that magic to children through our books.

I’d like to go way back now. Many authors say their inspiration to write started when they were quite young. Is there anything from your childhood that comes to mind here?

My family are a huge influence in my life and writing career. My grandfather was a headmaster and teacher. When he passed he left us all with his own collection of children's stories called "ToyBox". These really encouraged me to write children's stories. 

When I was young, I was lucky in the sense that both my parents worked full time and long hours, but one of them would always read to us at night. My parents didn't like us watching TV, they always preferred us to read. 

I have so many great memories of both of my parents reading to me.

Dad was the best storyteller because he always did the voices! My mum was so tired doing shift work at the hospital that she'd usually fall asleep half way through a story, or she’d tried to skip a few pages. This was never satisfactory to her though, and we’d always make her go back or we’d wake her up. Poor mum, thank you for that!  

At school, English and History were the only classes I liked. I had a rough time at school and that affected my home life. I was diagnosed with ADHD and a learning disability as an adult. As a kid you just learn to adapt, so it didn't change much being diagnosed but it did explain some of my difficulties. Stories and storytelling was always my way of understanding, processing, and enjoying the world around me.

And now you’re able to get your first ever story out there, which is so exciting! I know you’ve been trying to get published for a while. Do you have any advice for other writers about how to get published as a first-time author?

With children’s book authoring, just like any industry, it is really hard to get your foot in the door at the beginning of your career. If you haven't won any competitions, if you haven't been published, if you haven't met someone at a conference, or you don't know anyone in the industry, it’s a real challenge. To get through that challenge, I’d recommend the following:

1. Be prepared to wait

Getting published requires a lot of patience as there is also A LOT of waiting in limbo. Most big publishing companies take up to 6 months to respond to queries (if they do get back to you, which many cannot) and agents take up to 3 months (again, if they can). Be prepared for the waiting and try to be patient!

2. Don't take things personally 

When you’ve written something you think is a masterpiece, it can be crushing when you don’t hear back. But you have to remember to not take things personally. A Vancouver publisher put this into perspective when he said, 'you may have written a fantastic book about a crocodile, but they may have just published a fantastic book about a crocodile.' So I I think it’s important to remember that your story might be a masterpiece, but just not the masterpiece that that publisher requires at that time.

3. Keep going and keep learning

As hard as it is when you’ve faced numerous rejections, you need to remember to just keep going and keep learning. You will move forward from the frustrations and let downs, and rewrites and rejections. It is all just a feeling, it will pass. Find new ways to write and always remember to read more. 

If you get stuck, go for a walk, go for ten walks! Always look for other perspectives, be confident enough to change yours, and kind enough when sharing it. Not everyone will like your story. Learn to take rejection, take advice, question advice, rewrite the advice, but always learn more.

4. Read your story out loud

As a children’s book, your story will always be read out loud. So before you send it, make sure you read it out loud, and then give it to some else to do the same. See what it sounds like and whether you need to make any other changes.

5. Know the process will always feel a bit like a rollercoaster 

For me, the whole process of seeking to be published is a bit like going to the theme park. You wander around for a bit, get some snacks, play some games, then decide going on the rollercoaster is a great idea. You then spend the whole ride in a confused state of excitement/anticipation/panic/and stomach turning anxiety, before getting off and saying to yourself, 'that was fun! Let's do that again!'

Your debut title, April’s Window, has now been released! Can you tell us a bit more about it?

It's a story about curiosity, and finding adventure and connection to others in the community. I wrote this story during the first COVID lockdown back in March, when many people were trying to connect and share their stories from the windows of their houses.

The story is told from the perspective of a young child who takes us on a journey through her town as shares all the different scenes she sees in people's windows and thanks those who keep us safe. 

I think curiosity and imagination is an important skill for young children to develop. It helps them to imagine a different world, a better world, and helps them understand other people's circumstances and connect with them.

April’s Window has been described as beautifully poetic, but also deeply meaningful. Can you tell us a bit more about the creative process behind it?

That is so lovely to hear! Someone once told me that writing meaningful poetry in rhyme is difficult, so I am happy my work is connecting with others.

The creative process is much like the publishing process: an emotional rollercoaster! I think of my idea and write down my idea and then I almost immediately doubt, question, and argue with my idea. I then write a first draft and try to find the rhythm of the story, and then after I find the rhythm, I think too much about it and lose it, as well as get a little lost in the story I am trying to create! 

After that, I usually go for a walk and return with a fresh perspective, and the rewriting process continues. This iterative process goes on for a number of drafts until I feel like I have a story. I then read it out loud to myself, as well as get others to read it, and redraft when necessary. 

One thing I deliberately do is try to create a particular image or snapshot in each stanza or sentence. In April's Window I redrafted the story a few times after lockdown ended to engage audiences on a more global platform. We truly do live in a global community and I wanted April's Window to be representative of this. 

Ethicool Books is a special publisher that promotes understanding of the issues that matter. What is the issue you hoped to highlight with April’s Window? Why is that particular issue important to you?

I wanted to connect people and show children that they live in a community - a global community - where people work hard to help support others and where our shared experiences and perspectives are much more similar than they are different.

Why do you think that April’s Window is a must-read for every child?

Every child's imagination should be fostered, and every child should have the opportunity to see through the different windows of life. Developing a sense of wonder is the foundation for growth. 

Francisco's illustrations are truly beautiful and children will love discovering new aspects of each illustration every time they read it.

And finally, if you could inspire the next generation of kids to do just one thing, what would it be?

Be curious, the cat is still alive ;)

Georgina's gorgeous debut title April's Window is now exclusively available online via Ethicool Books.

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