Monday, September 7, 2020

My First Picture Book

This is the first picture book that I ever wrote and sent out. The story itself stands up to scrutiny after nearly two decades but not my cover letter. I can use this as a teaching tool. Let's spot all the ways how one ought not to write a cover: 

Dear ____

The tender friendship between my cat and son from birth through two years is documented in candid photographs.  I am sending a manuscript (180 words) and a rough dummy for a 32-page picture book titled, Kali and Baby Max based upon it. [In another letter I offer to let the illustrator use my pictures as inspiration for art.]

Kali and Baby Max is targeted for the youngest readers (age 1-5).  It shows the joy of having a pet.  Although there are many books on the market with this theme, I have not found a picture book that is as realistic as mine.  And it is the reality of the antics that Kali and Max do together that is so fresh and appealing. [Any more adjectives?]

My professional background is in the sciences (B.Sc. Microbiology; Ph.D. Biochemistry) and I have published in scientific journals.  I write stories and poems for my children and take writing courses and believe that I will succeed in this new venture. [Brimming with confidence! What relevance does a PhD have for a book for with babies and toddlers, I have no idea.]

I am submitting Kali and Baby Max to other publishing houses but I will promptly notify you if I hear from the others.  I appreciate your time and consideration and look forward to your reply. 


I received lovely rejection letters with compliments for having a cute baby and cat. They all encouraged me to continue writing. I'm so grateful my silly submission was rejected because Midnight and Baby Max is way better! My homemade books (I wrote several) were a favorite with my kids along with books by Eve Bunting, Eric Carle and Leo Lionni. But as the children grew, they went on to read other books. And I went on to writing magazine stories and other books for the school and library market. They were fun to write and taught me so much. I didn't pull this baby out again until I started compiling some short stories for my EZ book, Max and Dagny. And the story holds up. So, after a few tweaks to the text, I published it myself. I learned so much, not just about story, but choosing trim size so as to make it affordable. Color printing is expensive. I don't know how people will find this book in the sea of books but I do hope parents find it and read it to their children, delighting in their delight. I love the flexibility of self-publishing especially for highly self-indulgent projects like these. Please note that my pictures are not even close to being professional. Perhaps I should take my own advice that I wrote to a few editors. Alas, I'm no artist so the photos remain as they are, untouched. 

I know many writers will not look back on their old work, but I'm discovering that many of my early works, though not polished, have tremendous heart and soul. I'm always chasing the next new idea but I think it's good to return to old stories when they bring themselves to the forefront and give them a spit-shine. I've actually sold many old stories, simply because it was the right timing. I saw a call for a certain type of story and voila! 

Let's talk about old stories. What do you do with yours?  


Mirka Breen said...

I have a bunch of homemade books I wrote and illustrated (not very well IMO, for the illustration part) for my kids way back when. Brava to you for publishing. I never considered it.

Jenni said...

I have often looked back at old stuff and revised. In fact, I'm revising my very first MG novel right now. I agree with you about the heart in some of my older stuff. I think it's because I wasn't that knowledgeable yet about the publishing industry, so I just wrote for myself.
Congrats on your PB release! It looks adorable!

Vijaya said...

Thank you, Mirka. I can imagine how much your children loved your homemade books. These are so special. When my kids got older, they didn't care for my stick-figure drawings. But the photo-based books have been a huge hit.

Jenni, you're so right about the correlation between not knowing all the rules and letting the muse lead the way producing words that are truer. Whenever I've done multiple revisions, I often return to the first draft to capture the voice that began it all. I hope your revisions go well. Thanks so much for celebrating with me.

Michael Seagriff said...


I always leave your site with a joyful heart! Thank you for that ever-present gift! Praying you and your family are well!

Vijaya said...

Michael, how good of you to visit, share in the joy. We are well, thanks be to God. Happy Feast Day!

Faith said...

My children have been enjoying this so much! :) <3

Vijaya said...

Faith, that makes me so happy!

Barbara Etlin said...

Although I'm grateful for all that I've learned about writing and publishing over the years, part of me wishes I recapture that innocence when I didn't know the rules and my writing was full of joy and spontaneity.

Good for you for revising, improving, and self-publishing your first book!

Vijaya said...

Oh Barb, I miss that too. I found a terrific book to help me regain some of it: Writing into the Dark by Dean Wesley Smith. Also, Write Your Great Novel Course by David Xavier--it's mistitled. It's just a short little book with great tips/quotes that's really inspiring.