My first book that was accepted by a publisher was titled:” Trouble on the farm”. It was children’s story about a farmer who went on holiday and left a caretaker to look after his animals. The animals felt that their new caretaker was abusing them so they staged a protest. The cock did not crow, the cat did not catch mice and the dog did not bark at strangers.
I was barely into my twenties, still naïve enough to believe that I could easily become a famous writer and making a fortune. All I needed to do was to continue writing stories and sending them to publishers.
After I danced around the house in excitement, phoned all my friends and family members to tell them about my good fortune, I sat down to go through the contract.
It never occurred to me that I should ensure that the terms were fair. Firstly because I thought the publisher was doing me a favour by considering publishing my work. I was not going to be demanding enough to change his mind.
Secondly, even if I could consider asking for some revision of terms, I didn’t know what was unfavourable and what to ask for. The idea of finding a lawyer a layer to evaluate the contract for me was even more remote than the idea of trying to change some of the terms.
In the end, I just signed the contract, asked a neighbour to witness it (it didn’t hurt my credibility as a writer to ask her to witness a book contract), then I mailed it back to the publisher, keeping a copy.
Soon, I received a letter acknowledging receipt of the contract. The book was scheduled for publication in a year, the letter said.
A couple of months later, I received another letter from the publisher. The letter regretfully informed me that the publishing company has to close down due to financial problems. As a result, my book would not be published as scheduled. The writer of the letter suggested that I approach other publishers who are interested in children’s books and submit my story to them.
She said that I was a talented writer and my story was of an excellent quality showcasing South African talent. I have since learnt that the story was not as original as I thought. I was inspired by protests against apartheid and I thought, what if the animals also began to protest against the way we treat them? I was never able to place the story with another publisher.
Reading the story after all these years, I suspect the reason I couldn’t place the story is because it was not as original as I thought. Also, there’s something missing in the story development – one of these days I’ll find out and maybe do another version. In the meantime, I’ve decided to post the original version on the blog. Enjoy!