Author Hans Wilhelm and I have some things in common:
What we don’t have in common is our entrée into publishing. Here is mine. Here is his, in his own words:
- Connecticut (he lives there, I was born there)
- Germany (he was born there, my wife was)
- bad reviews
- four-letter first names with an “a” the only vowel and second letter
I got published in America because of my accent.
When I arrived in USA some 35 years ago, I had some ideas for children’s books that I’d collected when I lived in the South Pacific. I didn’t know any U.S. children’s book publishers. But somebody suggested to start at the top and go to Random House.
When I arrived at their office, I said to the receptionist, “Hi, I am Hans Wilhelm and I came to show some of my children’s book ideas to your editors.”
The receptionist looked at me. Then she said, “Could you please say that again?”
I repeated it.
“I am sorry; nobody can see an editor without a prior appointment,” she said. “But I love your accent!” Then she added, “Well, let me see what I can do.”
She disappeared behind a door and came back soon with a broad smile. “Mr. Ole Risom said he has five minutes for you. He is the editor-in-chief. Just go right into his office.”
And five minutes later, Ole Risom bought my first children’s book. When I got home, this was attached to my door:
The only reason why I got to see the top editor in the children’s book market at that time was my accent. Without it, I might still be struggling.
I was told that my accent has gotten worse since then, which may explain why I was able to publish over 200 children’s books.