It’s not always predictable where one short, incidental conversation can lead. Several years ago, when my husband was in aveilus, I got a ride to a wedding with my neighbor and friend, Becky Perlowitz. Morah Becky is a beloved ganenet and a prolific author of several wonderful children’s books. On the way home, we somehow got to talking about her books and her experience of the publishing process. I’ve written many articles for various magazines and newspapers, but in my life, I never considered writing a book. With one small exception. When I was single, I thought that once married, I would write a book about my memorable dating horror stories adventures. I was going to call it Have a Nice Life! and dedicate it to my dear husband who rescued me from all the craziness, but I never pursued the idea because I didn’t think anyone would actually believe the outlandish stories I would have written about. (Truthfully, I wouldn’t have believed them myself had they not happened to me. But they did happen and I consider myself very lucky to have escaped the whole dating situation in one piece.) The conversation with Becky sparked my interest and inspired me to try my hand at writing a children’s book. I was also motivated by the thought that b’ezrat Hashem I would one day be able read to my book to my future grandchildren.
So, I had an idea for a story and worked on putting it into words and onto paper. I actually used a pen and paper to write the first draft of my manuscript and took this paper with me everywhere I went, since I never knew when inspiration would strike and new ideas would start flowing through my head. My husband and I went away overnight during this phase, and I took my paper with me. When he ran into the makolet, I scribbled a few lines. When he filled the car with gas, I jotted down a few more. I really enjoyed the process of writing the story, especially putting it into rhyme. My friend Becky was kind enough to critique my manuscript and gave me some very practical suggestions. I added, cut, tweaked, and polished until I felt my manuscript was ready for submission.
I located a list of frum publishers, followed their specific submission guidelines, and sent off my manuscript to a few of them. Then it was time to sit back and wait for responses. Each publishing company has its own way of doing things. Some respond within a week or two. Some acknowledge receipt of submission and give an answer at a later date. And some don’t respond at all. I was absolutely shocked when one publisher responded almost immediately. He gave me some very positive feedback about my manuscript but said that there already exists a book with the same name. He suggested that I look into that issue. Hmmm. That certainly gave me pause.
It turns out that there are two other books with similar titles to mine, but the focus, angle, and style are not at all the same as mine. However, as a newbie in this field, I didn’t want to take any chances, so I met with a rav who is a respected talmid chacham as well as a publisher. He reviewed the two books in question along with my manuscript and assured me that publishing my book would pose no halachic or legal problems; I just needed to change my title. What a relief!
Some publishers politely thanked me for my submission and wished me well publishing it elsewhere. Thank you very much. One publisher expressed interest but asked that I make some changes and additions. Once I complied, they accepted my manuscript and I signed a contract. Then came more work on the text. The editor did some chopping (ouch) and asked me to make some further changes, most of which I was able to come to terms with. Some of the changes were a bit more difficult to swallow but we worked together and tried to find wording that we both found acceptable. Then the manuscript was handed over to the illustrator who prepared the illustrations in stages.
First the illustrator was given a free hand to draw up some rough sketches; this way, her creativity was able to flow unhindered. Once the illustrator presented her sketches there was some give and take regarding how the illustrations would look on each page. Then the illustrator did line work, drawing an outline of the actual illustrations. And finally, she finished with the coloring stage. At that point, the publisher sent me the file of the book. That was really exciting! I was finally able to see what the pages of my book were actually going to look like. I wrote up my dedication and acknowledgements, and my book was off to the printer. The books were delivered to the publisher at the end of August and they were released to the stores in the beginning of October. Although I have yet to see one of my books and hold it in my hand - since it has not yet arrived in Israel - it is very exciting to see that it is available in stores in the US and online.
Some liken publishing a book to having a baby. An author invests a lot of thought, time, energy, and often money into their “baby.” They accompany it through the publishing process, from the spark of an idea to book distribution. There is even a publisher that calls himself the book doula (labor coach). The publishing process can take many months and even years until the book is “born,” with many bumps and hurdles along the way. But when the book is released, people actually wish a mazal tov! And I totally agree that this is cause for celebration and a time to thank Hashem and all the people who helped me give birth to my first book.
Suzie (nee Schapiro) Steinberg grew up in Kew Gardens Hills. She works as a social worker and lives with her husband and children in Ramat Beit Shemesh.