Society of
Children's Book Writers
and Illustrators

Monthly Meeting – July 2021: Authors Christine Van Zandt and Moni Ritchie Hadley

  • July’s meeting on Zoom featured two picture book authors discussing their paths to traditional publishing while being unagented.

Christine Van Zandt

Moni Ritchie Hadley

Christine Van Zandt’s Path: A BRIEF HISTORY OF UNDERPANTS, (April 2021, becker&mayer! kids)
—Book fair volunteering, along with inspiration from her third grade daughter to write about underwear, led to a first draft.
—After 235 days of research and drafts, a #PitMad Twitter pitch event attracted a publisher, to whom Christine then sent a query letter essentially saying, “you liked my pitch on #PitMad…”
—From offer to published book in her hands, it took seven months including fact checking, which is lightning fast in this industry. There were an additional two months of delays due to the pandemic.
—Changes with the publisher: book went from being 1,200 words, 32 pages to 1,500 words, 48 pages, including history back to the beginning of time and all around the world.
—One hook for this book is the cover has an interactive wheel to turn, changing out different underpants!

Moni Ritchie Hadley’s Path: THE STAR FESTIVAL (April, 2021, Albert Whitman)
—The first draft was a much more stylized and streamlined version of the the final story.
—Two months after the first draft, enrolling in The Children’s Book Academy led to an online pitch, which attracted an editor.
—After receiving an invitation to submit, the process of revising & resubmitting a new, very different manuscript evolved.
—Next, a creative team and illustrator were found.
—Then, an acquisitions meeting produced an offer memo.
—Hiring a lawyer helped finalize negotiations.
—By one year later, initial sketches were reviewed.
—Announcements in Publisher’s Marketplace and Publisher’s Weekly were requested.
—Three months after initial sketches, interior art followed by cover and jacket flap were reviewed.
—The entire process took from May 5, 2019 (first draft) to April 1, 2021 (publication).

Advice from both authors included:
—Being an author is a business, not a book.
—Join a critique group.
—Proactively promote pre-orders.
—Build a social media presence.
—Help other authors (write a book review; check out authors’ books from the library; subscribe to author mailing lists or newsletters; attend author events and buy their books).
—Buy your domain name and set up your own author website.

—Some publishers work directly with authors if you connect through querying them directly or through events such as conferences, pitchfests and organizations.
Pros: no commission to agent (15% forever); eliminates the middleman; author has control over certain factors
Cons: difficult to reach large houses unagented; may need to spend more time submitting versus the agent handling submissions so you can focus on writing

Christine, (twitter link) a literary editor who owns Write for Success Editing Services, also writes for “Highlights” and “High-Five” magazines. Moni, (twitter link) a former home/hospital teacher for students with medical needs, is also published in “Highlights” and has just recently signed with an agent.