Monthly Column


From the Inside Out - Confessions of a Creative Professional

By Shane DeRolf

When I was trying to sell my first children’s book, I was absolutely clueless as “how” to go about doing it. Mistake #1.

But, through a friend, I was introduced to an agent who said she’d take care of “everything” if I would sign an exclusive deal with her to represent me.

So I did.
Mistake #2.

Little did I know, before I had even set foot in a publisher’s office, I had already made my first two big mistakes in publishing.

1. I was completely ignorant about the business that I wanted to succeed in.
2. I trusted someone else to look after my best interests.

Let me address the second mistake first, because I don’t want anyone to get the wrong impression. I happen to believe that most literary agents are honest, hard-working professionals committed to their client’s best interests. The fact that mine had a slightly different agenda was the exception, not the rule. My agent was committed to my best interests as long they were in her best interest. When they weren’t, guess who won?

But it’s my fault, not hers.
In my zeal to be published, I made a bad deal with a marginally ethical person.

But I learned my lesson.
I paid the price.
And life goes on!

Interestingly enough, five years later, she’s out of business and I’m president of Random House Entertainment, working on my sixth children’s book and second television series.

Living well really is the best revenge!

But Mistake #1, being completely ignorant about the business I wanted to succeed in, was just plain DUMB.

I could say I was young and naïve, but that’s no excuse. In reality, I just never took the time to understand how a publisher “thinks” because I honestly thought that, because my work was good, everybody would want to publish it. Duh. Earth to Shane.

Was I foolish?
Because I never considered this simple fact:

Writers write because we have something to say.
Publishers publish because they have something to sell.

Never forget that.
It’s the best free advice I can give you.

Part of your job, as a writer, is to understand how to marry the two so that everyone can get what they want. When you do that, you will be miles ahead of the pack.

And don’t be like me – learn how to do this BEFORE you meet with your first agent or editor.

You’ll be glad you did!


NEXT MONTH: How to Think Like a Publisher

Shane DeRolf is a college drop-out turned children’s book author, award-winning television producer, and founder of several successful companies, including president of Random House Entertainment. For more information on Shane and his work helping writers become successful, visit



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