In the “olden days,” writing with the goal to be published was a lot harder. Everything had to be typed on a manual or electric typewriter. Correction tape or white correction liquid was a must. It was beyond cumbersome. Of course, if you went to college, you became used to typing all of your work. There was no such thing as the internet or home computers. Once the home computers became the norm, publishing houses still didn’t allow people to submit their work electronically. It had to be sent through the mail as a printed manuscript, doublespaced and correctly formatted to what ever parameters were required for each company. A SASE was also required. I’m sure that most young people have no idea that this acronym stands for self- addressed stamped envelope. I had a file box with the dates I sent the manuscript, the address of the publishers, and the dates that I could expect a reply—usually several months. If the pugblisher specified they wouldn’t take simultaneous submissions, it was a long wait for the rejected manuscript to be returned, hopefully with no marks or notes on it so it could be sent out yet again.
I was terribly excited when Bluebell Skinks Wheelchair Kid garnered the interest of a large publishing house. I had sent a query letter, introducing the basic plot, which was the first step in a very specific list that one had to follow in order for a book to be considered. After a long while, somebody apparently chose my letter from their “slush pile” and send me a letter asking for the first chapter of my book. A few months after I sent them the lonely chapter, they wrote to me again, this time asking for three chapters. Finally, several months later they asked for the whole book. I was giddy with excitement. Surely they were going to publish my book. Sadly, a rejection letter was the next and only communication I received. Dang! I was so close.
Interestlingly enough, when I reread my manuscript, I found enough big holes in the plot to drive a tanker truck through. Of course it was too late for this publisher. No second chances were given, and no feedback is provided either. However, it was clear to me why they rejected it. I vastly improved my work, and resubmittedit to other companies. All of them sent polite rejection letters.
Flash forward twenty-five-plus years. (I don’t remember exactly how many.) By this time, I had switched carreers and was working as a teacher, resource teacher, and finally the reading/writing supervisor for my school system. After having had a lot of experience teaching kids critical writing skills, I felt more confident in taking a hard look at my Bluebell manuscript and fixing the weak areas. I also needed to update it. After all, nobody uses filmstrip projectors anymore. A nice plus was also the fact that it was possible to do all of the work on a word processer, which was like a miracle.
In any case, a diagnosis of Stage-3 cancer caused me to dig out the story and self-publish. My rationale for doing this was that I really liked the story and felt that if I didn’t self-publish it, it might never see the light of day. I was concerned, quite frankly, that I might not be alive long enough to go through the combersome process of finding a traditional publisher interested in taking on this project. My book did marginally well after I self-publsihed and the two others in the series were well-received and thanks to the brilliant staff and docs at Georgetown Hospital Lombardi Cancer Center, I not only beat the cancer, but am completely cancer-free.
Bluebell and the two other books caught the attention of the American Fund for Blind Children and Adults, a non-profit with ties to the National Federation of the Blind. They published all three books in Braille and sent them to 4,000 blind children in the US for free in 2021-2022. This was very exciting.
Today, I am happy to announce the Lightswitch Learning, a fine educational publishing company whose main customers are the largest school systems in the United States, have bought the rights to the Potts-Abilities Series and will publish and sell them. I had to give up the right to sell them on my own, therefore they are no longer available on Amazon, even though they are still pictured on the Amazon website.
Bluebell Skinks and the other books in the Potts-Abillities Series will be available for purchase directly from Lightswitch Learning. There will be a direct link on my website to the Lightswitch Learning sales page as soon as the books are printed and ready to sell. The planned re-release date is Spring 2023.
Liz Cooper is the author of The Potts-Abilities series as well as a variety of other high-interest humorous books for children and is deeply interested in disability awareness, literacy, and the promotion of high-quality literature for children.
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