Welcome to another thrilling edition of Tuesday Debut!
I hope you’re enjoying these interviews as much as I am! I love getting to see our authors’ unique stories as well as getting to see the areas where their experiences overlap. Fiction and nonfiction. Large publishing houses and small. Art notes or back matter for some, none for others. A terrific array of different marketing and promotion ideas they’ve come up with. But everyone draws strength and inspiration from their work, lives, and families. Everyone discovers that even published authors have to vacuum and do the dishes 🙂 And no one seems quite sure exactly how they know when a manuscript is ready to submit, or to have gone into signing a contract with much idea of what the norm is. Thankfully, by sharing their experiences here, these generous authors are helping all of us to be better prepared for what lies ahead, as well as showing us some tools that worked for them that may help us get there!
So without further ado, I’m delighted to introduce today’s debut author, Laura Renauld, and her book, PORCUPINE’S PIE!
by Laura Renauld
illustrated by Jennie Poh
October 9, 2018
Porcupine can’t wait to share Fall Feast with her woodland friends, so when everyone she greets is unable to bake their specialty due to a missing ingredient, Porcupine generously offers staples from her pantry. When Porcupine discovers that she, too, is missing a key ingredient, the friends all work together to create a new Fall Feast tradition.
SUSANNA: Thank you so much for joining us today, Laura! I know I speak for everyone when I say we can’t wait to hear about your journey to publication! Where did the idea for this book come from?
LAURA: I have been an enthusiastic participant in Tara Lazar’s Picture Book Idea Month (now Storystorm) since 2011. I highly recommend this to writers at any point in their career. During the month of January, Tara offers daily guest posts that are intended to stimulate new ideas, with the goal of collecting 30 ideas in 30 days. Check it out here!
I was inspired by Tammi Sauer’s post during PiBoIdMo 2014, which challenged writers to frame a story as a How-To Book. My brainstorming that day included this jot in my notebook: “How to make porcupine pie (or a pie for a porcupine)”. Even though it did not evolve into a How-To Book, that was the humble beginning of PORCUPINE’S PIE!
SUSANNA: How long did it take you to write this book?
LAURA: This story took shape rather quickly. Four days after my initial idea, I brainstormed plots using a basic template that helped me think through the main character’s problem, obstacles, and solution. I came up with two possible angles and I drafted one of them that same day.
SUSANNA: Did you go through many revisions?
LAURA: As I look back at my timeline, I can’t believe that I did this, but I revised it twice and then sent it off to Rate Your Story only three days later! (I do not move that quickly with my manuscripts anymore! I write them, I let them sit, I revise them, I bring them to my critique groups, I revise some more. Repeat, repeat, repeat!) I got a good rating, though. 3: Good story! Get a critique or two and polish before submitting. This gave me confidence that I was on the right track, so I kept revising. Something in the judge’s comments caused me to shift the plot in a significant way. And that is the version that clicked.
SUSANNA: When did you know your manuscript was ready for submission?
LAURA: I still have a really hard time knowing when a manuscript is ready to submit! Sometimes, if I’ve gotten positive feedback from writing partners and I feel it’s the best it can be, I just go for it.
SUSANNA: When and how did you submit?
LAURA: At the time, I was unagented so I was open to a variety of submission opportunities. I submitted PORCUPINE’S PIE for the first time in February 2015 to an editor who spoke at the Fall 2014 SCBWI conference I attended. And then… crickets. I never did receive a response.
I set the manuscript aside for several months before sharing it with my critique group. I revised a couple more times in 2015 and then I didn’t touch it again until submitting it to the first annual Sparkhouse Family (now Beaming Books) Picture Book Contest in November 2016. And I won! I’d like to give a shout-out to Sub It Club, which posts an awesome contest calendar. That is where I heard about this opportunity.
Fun Fact: I tweaked my fall-themed story so that I could enter a pared-down version of it in Susanna’s 2016 Valentine-y contest!
SUSANNA: And all this time I thought the picture book came from the Valentiny Contest entry! I guess it was the other way around!
SUSANNA: When did you get “the call”? (Best moment ever! 🙂 )
LAURA: Just over a month after I submitted my story to the contest, I received the email from Sparkhouse Family that I had won and they would like to publish my book!
SUSANNA: That must have been so amazing! How did you celebrate signing your contract? (If you care to share 🙂 )
LAURA: With lots of hugs and phone calls. 🙂
SUSANNA: Was the contract what you expected in terms of advance, royalty percentage, publication timeline, author copies etc.?
LAURA: I didn’t know what to expect with the contract. I relied heavily on SCBWI’s THE BOOK to negotiate a few contractual changes.
SUSANNA: Are you able to share any of the contract details? It is clear from all our Tuesday Debut Authors’ answers to this question that most of us had no idea what to expect, so any light you can shed on specifics will be welcome so that when our readers get to their first contracts they will have some idea what to expect!
LAURA: Beaming Books is a small publisher. They hold an annual writing contest to generate interest and excitement for their house and brand. This is a clever way to encourage submissions during a certain period of time and to entice writers with prize money. Porcupine’s Pie won the first annual contest which offered a $5000 prize. It turned out that the prize money was actually my advance. And really, the biggest prize I was hoping for was to have my story published. The royalty ranges from 5%-7% as the number of copies sold increases. One thing that I did not know going into a book contract was that the listed royalty is split between author and illustrator. So if you are an author/illustrator, you’ll get the full 10% standard royalty. But if you are just an author, like me, you’ll receive 5% and your illustrator will receive 5%.
SUSANNA: Did you receive author copies?
LAURA: Yes, I received 10.
SUSANNA: Do you know what your initial hard cover print run is?
LAURA: The initial print run is 3,000 copies.
SUSANNA: Thank you so much for being willing to provide such detail, Laura! I know readers will be grateful for it!
SUSANNA: Tell us about the editorial process…
LAURA: Only minor revisions were made during the editorial process, mainly to align the text and the illustrations. For example, I originally had Porcupine wearing a shawl, but the illustration of a shawl full of quills looked awkward, so boots were suggested instead. And Porcupine looks good in her little blue boots!
SUSANNA: Tell us about your experience of the illustration process…
LAURA: I was pleasantly surprised when my editor asked me for styles of art that I like. I just happen to keep a Pinterest board of Illustrators I Admire, so I was able to share my tastes easily. When my editor informed me that Jennie Poh would be doing the illustrations, I was thrilled. I saw sketches of the woodland characters and was given a chance to comment. Then the cover was revealed, along with an internal spread in Fall 2017. Finally, I got to see a digital proof in May of this year. After a few more back-and-forths, the final digital proof arrived.
Jennie’s art is warm and whimsical. I love the color palette Jennie chose and Porcupine’s cozy den feels so inviting. The characters were friends in my text, but Jennie’s illustrations made those relationships believable.
SUSANNA: Did you get to see advance reviews from Kirkus, SLJ, etc?
LAURA: Foreword Reviews published a review of Porcupine’s Pie in their Sept./Oct. issue. It was a bit surreal!
SUSANNA: How long did it take from offer to having the first copy in your hand?
LAURA: 21 months. Fun fact: That’s about how long an elephant mama carries her baby before it is born!
SUSANNA: What kind of marketing and promotion has your publisher done for this book?
LAURA: My publisher purchased ad space in Foreword Reviews in the form of an author interview to complement the review in the same issue. They also plan to promote my book on the Beaming Books blog.
SUSANNA: Describe any marketing/promotion you did for this book.
LAURA: Before my book launched, I promoted it with a ‘Preorder Campaign’ where those who preordered would get a signed bookplate and be entered to win a pie-making kit. I also planned a launch party with children’s activities and a blog tour, stopping at various kidlit and mommy blogs. I decided not to invest in a book trailer, but I did have bookmarks and stickers printed. I also canvassed the neighborhood with launch party invitations!
SUSANNA: How long was it between the time you started writing seriously and the time you sold your first picture book?
LAURA: I started writing a bit and taking some kidlit workshops about ten years before PORCUPINE’S PIE won the Beaming Books Picture Book Contest. But it wasn’t until I joined SCBWI in 2011 and made writing a priority during the few hours my kids were in preschool that I really began to improve my craft. It was energizing to see my own progress and humbling to realize I should never have submitted to agents when I did! From my conversations with other writers, five to ten years to land a book contract is not unusual.
SUSANNA: Anything else you’d like to share about your book’s journey from inspiration to publication?
LAURA: If you have an idea for back matter that was not submitted with the original manuscript, pitch it to the editor! PORCUPINE’S PIE is a story with food at its core so it made sense to add a recipe at the end. I made a lot of trial pies, had friends and family taste test them, then created my recipe. And my editor ate it up! 🙂
Find Laura on the web at laurarenauld.comand on social media:
Twitter – @laura_renauld
Facebook – @kidlitlaura
Instagram – @laurarenauld
Thank you so much for a wonderful and very informative interview, Laura! On behalf of all our readers, I appreciate you including Storystorm and Sub It Club, the specific details of your contract, author copies and print run, and your excellent advice about back matter. So helpful!
Readers, you may purchase Laura’s book at:
We can help our debut authors successfully launch their careers by:
– purchasing their books
– recommending their books to friends and family
– recommending their books to our children’s teachers and librarians
– recommending their books to our local libraries and bookstores
– sharing their books on social media
Thank you all for stopping by to read today! Have a lovely, inspiration-filled Tuesday! Maybe today is the day you’ll write your debut picture book 🙂
Missed any previous Tuesday Debuts? Check them out!