Good Morning, Everyone!
It’s time to BYOC (Bring Your Own Coffee, Bring Your Own Chocolate, Bring Your Own Chair 🙂 ) and settle in among friends for today’s exciting edition of Tuesday Debuts!!!
I am thrilled to introduce to you for the first time in Picture Book Authorship, Annie Romano and her debut picture book, BEFORE YOU SLEEP: A BEDTIME BOOK OF GRATITUDE.
Welcome, Annie, and congratulations!!!
Before You Sleep: A Bedtime Book Of Gratitude
by Annie Cronin Romano
Illustrated by Ioana Hobao
Page Street Kids
October 16, 2018
This winsome bedtime book has the makings to become a classic and an important part of families’ nightly rituals. Reflecting on various activities through each of the five senses, detailed poetic text and illustrations show memorable scenes.
SUSANNA: Thank you so much for joining us today, Annie! We are excited for you and thrilled to have you here to tell us about your journey to publication! Where did the idea for this book come from?
ANNIE: I worked for nearly 15 years as a speech-language pathologist. One exercise I would do with some of my students involved describing items using the five senses. One night I was having difficulty sleeping. The phrase “before you sleep, before you dream” popped up in my mind (probably because sleep was eluding me), and I wrote it down as a potential refrain for a story. The next day, I played around with the phrase and eventually linked it with the five senses exercise I used with my students. It blossomed from there and became a lyrical bedtime story with a theme of gratitude structured around the five senses.
SUSANNA: How long did it take you to write this book?
ANNIE: Once I had the idea for BEFORE YOU SLEEP in mind, I wrote the extremely rough draft in one weekend. It was by no means finished. I sent it off to my critique group and let them sink their editorial teeth into it.
SUSANNA: Did you go through many revisions?
ANNIE: Yes, I tend to use a combination of critiques and time when revising. Once I’ve reviewed the feedback I receive from my critique group and incorporated what makes the story stronger, I put the manuscript in a drawer for a while I work on other projects. This could be a few weeks or many months, depending on the project. I find this “let it sit” technique helpful as I can look at the story with a fresh perspective after not reading it for a while. For BEFORE YOU SLEEP, I also drafted a non-rhyming version while the rhyming version was in the drawer. My critique group critiqued that one, too, but ultimately it didn’t come together as well and I returned to the original version. I expanded the verse manuscript based on additional feedback. All in all, the manuscript went through about six drafts over two years. This doesn’t include the revisions I did for the publisher once I sold it.
SUSANNA: When did you know your manuscript was ready for submission?
ANNIE: Once I’d gone through several passes with my critique group and have let the manuscript sit so I could get that “fresh eyes” perspective several times, then I started submitting.
SUSANNA: When and how did you submit?
ANNIE: Despite loving this manuscript, I was hesitant to query BEFORE YOU SLEEP because I thought it was far too quiet for the current market. But I researched agents who were open to queries and ultimately sent it to five agents I thought would be a good fit. I received three positive personalized rejections with helpful feedback, which is unusual, so I felt something was definitely working. I revised it based on some of the feedback. I then posted a pitch for it in February 2017’s #PBPitch Twitter event. I got a “like” from Kristen Nobles, an editor at an independent publishing company named Page Street that was adding a children’s division. Because I don’t have an agent, I communicated directly with Kristen.
SUSANNA: When did you get “the call”? (Best moment ever! 🙂 )
ANNIE: Just three days after I sent Kristen Nobles my manuscript, she emailed me to ask about discussing the possibility of publication. That turnaround time is highly unusual, but because Page Street was just launching its children’s division, they didn’t have a backlog of projects. By early April, I had a signed contract.
SUSANNA: That is amazing! You must have been over the moon!
SUSANNA: How did you celebrate signing your contract? (If you care to share 🙂 )
ANNIE: My husband and kids actually planned a surprise celebration for me and took me for a getaway in Boston. We live about 45 minutes from the city and it’s one of our favorite places to explore, so it was wonderful to spend some quality time with my family in the city we enjoy so much. We went to the Museum of Fine Arts, which I love visiting!
SUSANNA: Was the contract what you expected in terms of advance, royalty percentage, publication timeline, author copies etc.?
ANNIE: Because it was my first book contract, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I did a lot of research online and asked a few friends who were already published for some guidance. Then I had a lawyer who specialized in publishing review the contract. She made a few suggestions and adjustments, but overall she reported that it was an honest and straightforward contract, so once a few items were revised, I felt confident moving forward. I recommend having a lawyer with experience in publishing review your contract. She had a much better idea of what was a solid offer in terms of royalty percentages and author copies than I did as a debut author.
I don’t have many contracts of my own to define “normal,” but based on the feedback my attorney gave me and what I’ve learned via research, my contract was fairly standard. From speaking with other debut picture book authors working with small to mid-size publishers, most seem to get an advance ranging from $1000 to $5,000, and mine was in that range. You want a decent advance, but you also want to be able to earn out in a reasonable amount of time. Standard royalties hover around 5% on hardcover. And most debut authors I know received between 10-20 author copies of their books.
SUSANNA: Tell us about the editorial process…
ANNIE: Most of my revisions took place after the initial sketches were done, and there were no major revisions. We changed a few words and phrases for pacing and flow, and a few minor changes were made to keep the text timely and to reflect an illustration choice.
SUSANNA: Tell us about your experience of the illustration process…
ANNIE: Page Street allowed me to have a say in who would illustrate my book, which was a terrific experience! They sent me several portfolios to consider and invited me to put forth names of illustrators whose work I thought might be a good match. When I received the portfolios, I knew from the styles that the publisher’s vision for the book was in line with mine. I was kept in the loop throughout the process, from initial sketches to final proofs, and they asked for my feedback. I adore Ioana Hobai’s illustrations. She captured the essence of BEFORE YOU SLEEP beautifully, and I couldn’t be happier with how the artwork came together with the text!
SUSANNA: Did you include any art notes with your manuscript?
ANNIE: For BEFORE YOU SLEEP, I didn’t include any illustration notes because they weren’t necessary for that text. I do have some manuscripts that contain minimal (one to two) illustration notes, but in general I try to avoid using them unless that note is necessary to the plot and can’t be inferred from the text.
SUSANNA: How long did it take from offer to having the first copy in your hand?
ANNIE: It was about 18 months. I think that’s fast, but again, my book was on Page Street Kids’ first list, so there wasn’t a backlog of projects. I think it would be longer now.
SUSANNA: What kind of marketing and promotion has your publisher done for this book?
ANNIE: I am fortunate to be on Page Street’s inaugural children’s list, so they’ve been doing a good amount of marketing for a small publisher. My publisher has sent out introductory mailings and F&G’s (folded and gathered) to reviewers, librarians, and key industry professionals. They also featured their titles at the New England Independent Booksellers Association conference in September, and they’ve had some events to introduce their children’s line to booksellers and librarians. They’re doing social media publicity as well.
SUSANNA: Describe any marketing/promotion you did for this book.
ANNIE: My marketing consisted mainly of social media posts and scheduling signings and story time events. I didn’t make a book trailer. I created book plates to hand out at my launch and signings, and I did a Facebook event page for my book launch. I plan to run some giveaways on Goodreads and Twitter once the book is released, and I am doing guest blogs and interviews.
SUSANNA: How long was it between the time you started writing seriously and the time you sold your first picture book?
ANNIE: It was about fifteen years, but I also had three young children during the early years, so my writing productivity was definitely slower during that time.
SUSANNA: How many copies did your house do for first printing (if you know… and care to share)? The differences between large and small houses can be interesting.
ANNIE: My initial print run was under 10,000, which I think is to be expected for a debut author and a smaller publishing house launching its first children’s list. I hope my book finds its way into many people’s hands and we’ll need a second printing! Fingers crossed!
Thanks so much for having me, Susanna! My website is www.anniecroninromano.com. I can be found on Twitter at @AnnieCRomano and Instagram at anniecroninromano.books.
Thank you so much for taking the time to participate in this series and paying it forward to other writers, Annie! We are all very grateful for your time and expertise and wish you the very best success with your book!
Readers, if you have questions for Annie, please post them in the comments below and if Annie has time I’m sure she’ll respond.
You may purchase Annie’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!