I am so grateful to author Miranda Paul and her hard-working reviewers at Rate Your Story. They had an important part in the publication of my first nonfiction trade book, The Hole Story of the Doughnut.
Here’s the behind-the-scenes timeline:
January 10, 2013 - I was a new member when I read Lori Degman’s post on Julie Hedlund’s 12 x 12 FB group. Lori introduced us to Rate Your Story and its amazing offer to critique stories at no charge. I had a historical fiction story ready to send to Highlights for its annual fiction contest. Perfect timing! Off it went.
January 13 – My story rating came back: 3: “Good Story—Get a critique or two and polish before submitting.” Some helpful suggestions were included.
I had no critique group, and the deadline was two weeks away. Luckily, I saw this at the end of the RYS rating: “Want a more in-depth, professional critique? Visit the RYS Professional Critiques page to hire a published writer to help make your manuscript better!” (page here).
January 14 - I read all the RYS reviewer bios and chose Jill Esbaum. Jill is the author of twelve books for kids and former instructor for the Institute of Children’s Literature. We worked out a fee and Jill said she could turn it around well before the Highlights deadline.
January 23 - True to her word, Jill got her comments back to me. I made changes based on some of her feedback, and got my story off to Highlights just before deadline.
February 1 - For the first time, Julie’s 12 x 12 offered the opportunity to submit a manuscript to an agent for review. I rewrote my story as a nonfiction biography. Jill and I arranged another critique, and her responses helped me re-examine some parts. A few days later, at the SCBWI-Austin conference, I won a hotly contested silent auction prize—a critique from Newbery-honor winner Kathi Appelt. She also took a look at Hole Story and made suggestions.
February 26 - I submitted my NF bio, The Hole Story of the Doughnut to 12 x 12’s first agent Stephen Fraser. In two hours, he replied that he liked my story! Could I make a couple of small changes and resubmit? Of course!
April 1 - Stephen wrote “I would be interested in representing this manuscript if you can add one more sentence.” And it wasn’t an April Fool’s joke! He called me the next day, and I can report that I did not squeal like a pre-teen. At least, not until I hung up.
April 2 – I withdrew my story from the Highlights Fiction Contest.
July 19 – Stephen wrote, “Houghton Mifflin Harcourt would like to publish The Hole Story of the Doughnut! I'll keep you posted.” More squealing.
March 21, 2014 – I heard from Kate O’Sullivan, Executive Editor at HMH. She said she was excited about my “excellent story” and that the search for an illustrator would begin in the near future.
May 30 – Kate suggested several illustrators and asked me to submit some suggestions. Really?!
September 8 – From Kate: “Excellent news: Vincent X. Kirsch is on board to illustrate DOUGHNUT”
May 12, 2015 – Kate sent “the mechanicals”, a color copy of the book pages as they would be sent to the printer.
July 23 – From Kate: “DOUGHNUT is on our spring ’16 list.”
November 2 – From Kate: “Great news: HOLE STORY is a Junior Library Guild Selection!”
May 3, 2016 – The Hole Story of the Doughnut makes its debut!
For more about Pat Miller, visit www.patmillerbooks.com.