From the Desk of: Melissa Rooney, Author of Eddie the Electron
Much of my experience with scientific editing is tedious and relatively uninteresting. Don’t get me wrong, I still benefit from and enjoy it. Among other things, it’s a constant reminder of the importance of brevity in writing of any kind, and provides me with ongoing exercise in this regard. In addition, every now and again, an article really sparks my interest.
One that constantly comes to mind is a study that compared product sales worldwide (but particularly in America) to determine what sells best and why. One line of discussion was the shift in global market preference from cheap and short-lived products to higher-priced longer lasting products. That this is happening was not really surprising. What was surprising was that it was being reported in a scientific journal. I wondered, “Which came first, the study or the shift?” After all, the article argued (using lots of statistical calculations) that it is now no longer necessary to make and sell cheap products in order to have the financial edge. If the market took the article seriously, the simple consequence of high-quality products replacing cheap products on the shelves would mean more people would purchase high-quality products.
This got me thinking about the corporate publishing world and its effect on the writing that is available on a large scale to the American public.
Many years ago, I attended a weekend-long children’s writing workshop that benefits me to this day. Among other things, it solved the frustrating mystery as to why my work, along with so many others, wasn’t being given a second glance. Even large independent publishers who accept unsolicited manuscripts generally know what they are looking for before they open any submission. In fact, the main purpose of the writer’s workshop was to teach its attendees exactly what such publishers were looking for so that we could write accordingly, thereby meeting our goal of getting our work published.
I found myself wondering again at the similar counting, phonics, and simple plot books that, year after year, my husband and I checked out of the library to read to our children. “How did this book get published?” we often asked each other.
I’m satisfied that, just as we writers are trained to know what editors are looking for, editors are trained to look for it. I’m not saying that these editors aren’t talented, can’t think for themselves, or won’t recognize the next Shel Silverstein when they read him. I’m just saying that work that doesn’t fit the mold (that is, what publishers think will sell best in a country of 320 million) has a much harder time of it.
At a subsequent writing workshop, I was told by way of consolation that Dr. Seuss would have a hard time getting published today. His books are too wordy, for one thing. I was immediately saddened by the prospect of never having read The Lorax, Oh, the Places You’ll Go! or My Many Colored Days, and was grateful that Dr. Seuss had not been born during my lifetime. But then I figured that Theodor Geisel would have found his place in history one way or the other. I mean, the guy worked for 15 years in advertising for Standard Oil before he got his first children’s book published, and then only after as many as forty-three publishers rejected it.
Indeed, our own generation’s J.K. Rowling was so dedicated to her writing that she and her young daughter were "poor as it is possible to be in modern Britain without being homeless,” when Harry Potter was completed and published. Now I’m not saying I’m Shel Silverstein, Dr. Seuss or J.K. Rowling, although ‘“you should never, never doubt something that no one is sure of” (Roald Dahl). But I am certain that my work deserves serious consideration from publishers, and I’m determined to keep beating on the doors until they open.
So, I was doubly excited when Amberjack Publishing contacted me last summer about Eddie the Electron. First and most immediately, a publisher wanted to publish my work without requiring me to pay for the privilege. But second and perhaps more importantly, I would be writing for an independent small press that thinks outside the box and is enthusiastically open to new and original authors like me. The synergy between my priorities and Amberjack’s made the decision to sell them Eddie the Electron a no brainer, and we are already working on a sequel!
I’m happy to say that now, as I participate in book festivals and science exhibits, it’s not only Eddie’s and my future I have in mind but Amberjack’s as well.
Be a part of Amberjack’s and Melissa’s journey by visiting the Amberjack website for updates and, if you are a writer, by submitting your well-vetted work (even if only by sincere and candid friends and family) to Amberjack for consideration.