Welcome to another exciting installment of Tuesday Debut!
I realize we’re a little bit interrupting the Valentiny Contest. That is because the people in charge of scheduling around here are donut heads! But if you haven’t had a chance to read all the amazing entries, pop over and treat yourself!
Also, this past weekend, when I was supposed to be judging, turned into an extended involved family time (it was a holiday weekend) so I did not accomplish the work I intended to. Therefore, I will do my best to get the finalists up tomorrow as promised, but it may be another day or two. Meanwhile, since we were looking through boxes and boxes of ancient photos at my parents’ house, I will entertain you with a picture from my misspent youth 🙂
Ok. I’m done with excuses 🙂
Time to introduce you to today’s Debut Author: Matthew Lasley!!!
Welcome, Matthew! Thank you so much for joining us today! I am particularly interested in this book because my grandparents lived in Placer County, California and we used to go out and “pan for gold” with them when we were kids :). It’s also a nice example of finding the exact right publisher for the story you’ve written.
Pedro’s Pan: A Gold Rush Story
By Matthew Lasley
Illustrated by Jacob Souva
Alaska Northwest Books, an imprint of Graphic Arts Books (now West Margin Press)
February 19, 2019
Pedro and his trusty gold Pan are on the search for gold. The journey is not always easy, and Pan learns there are some things more valuable than gold.
SUSANNA: Where did the idea for this book come from?
MATTHEW: This story came from my childhood. I grew up gold mining in Alaska and the Klondike with my family. I also heard stories about the early prospectors and wanted to tell one of their stories. I originally wrote this story as a biography, but it was Pan’s voice that convinced me to tell his story with the original biography providing back matter.
SUSANNA: How long did it take you to write this book?
MATTHEW: To be honest, it was about six months. I wrote this story in July, 2016 and submitted it to our local SCBWI conference in September. It was received well, but I was new. I read and learned more about picture book writing as I had only started in June of that year.
In January of 2017, I signed up for a writer’s spring retreat through my local SCBWI chapter. I took out the story and rewrote it. That is when I heard Pan’s voice. The story flowed out. I had it critiqued and submitted it to be reviewed by a local Alaskan children’s book author. She loved it and gave me the contact information of someone at Graphic Arts Books and sent her an email of recommendation.
I must emphasize that this is not normal. I know of many talented authors who have written a lot longer than I have that are still not published. There are three things to take from this though: Write what you know and are passionate about. Learn, read and critique. Take chances, you never know, you might find someone who will champion your work.
SUSANNA: Did you go through many revisions?
MATTHEW: I went through three revisions, two pre-contract, one post. There was a lot of critiquing and help from people far better at writing than I. There were small changes as I learned and got feedback, but two major revisions.
The first major revision came post conference when I was politely, and in not so many words, told that I was a newbie. After giving the story rest (which is great advice), the second major revision happened when I discovered the voice for my story. I will admit I fought it at first as I tried to make it my voice, but realized it was not my voice, but my style and that I needed to listen to Pan.
When I did, his story flowed onto the paper.
SUSANNA: When did you know your manuscript was ready for submission?
MATTHEW: After submitting my story to the spring retreat, we received a typed manuscript review. I perused mine, but wanted to wait until my wife and I were back in our cabin. I read it and was like, “there isn’t a whole lot here.” I had not fully read the note attached. I did not have very high expectations.
My wife asked to look at it and she got all excited. She read the note to me and I realized that I had received very good news. I was able to meet with the reviewer, Tricia Brown, who recommended that I submit it to Graphic Arts Books.
I wish all manuscripts got the green light so easily. In truth, it takes a lot to know when. And no one really “knows.” It is always a risk.
The best piece of advice I have heard is that you write a story. Then rewrite the story, have it critiqued over and over. Then revise it. Critique again. Let it rest. Rewrite it. Get fresh eyes on it. And repeat this until you think you can’t do any more, then do it one more time.
SUSANNA: When and how did you submit?
MATTHEW: I had submitted to my local SCBWI conference. I can not stress how important doing this was because it provides opportunities for you to get fresh eyes on your work from professionals in the industry. The nominal fee is well worth the time and feedback you get.
I then submitted again to our writer’s retreat. Again, this opportunity was invaluable. Conferences can be big and daunting and face paced. The writing retreat was small and more intimate.
After getting the positive feedback from the retreat, I rewrote my story and Tricia Brown graciously offered to look over my revisions and help me with my query letter.
I submitted my manuscript in the middle of June to Graphic Arts Books.
SUSANNA: When did you get “the call”? (Best moment ever! 🙂 )
MATTHEW: Graphic Arts Books (which has recently updated its name to West Margin Press) had just reorganized and was opening up their imprint, Alaska Northwest Books, which had gone dormant a couple of years prior. They were bringing in a new editor, so my story actually went to the marketing director who held on to it until an editor could be brought on board.
The marketing editor was very excited for the project, but I had to wait. I did not get a “call” but an email at the end of August, 2017. A more formal email came a couple of weeks later and my contract was sent to me at the beginning of October.
They loved my book. First manuscript. First submission to an editor. First sale. That is unheard of. That is like buying your first lottery ticket and hitting all your numbers.
SUSANNA: How did you celebrate signing your contract?
MATTHEW: My wife and I took Tricia and her husband to dinner to celebrate the official signing. And I ate cheesecake which is what my wife and I decided would be our consolation prize if we got rejected and our victory prize if we won. It was a win/win situation.
SUSANNA: Was the contract what you expected in terms of advance, royalty percentage, publication timeline, author copies etc.?
MATTHEW: This book was not about money. It is about completing a dream, seeing my name on a book on a shelf at my local store or library.
Graphic Arts Books is a small regional publisher, so I did not expect much. I received less than a $1000 in an advance, but my book was immediately put into production. The original release date was April of 2019, but to meet the local tourist market and the fact that my illustrator Jacob Souva did a fantastic job, they moved up production to February.
In my contract, I am receiving 5 author copies. Per my contract, I am not allowed to divulge percentages, but after talking amongst other authors with similar publications, my contract is pretty standard. They hold all rights with a 50/50 split should they sell them.
SUSANNA: Can you tell us a little about the editorial process?
MATTHEW: My editing process went quickly. I did three edits with my editor. We finished it in two days. Most of the changes were nominal and I trusted my editor. I had already put in mind things I was willing to fight for, and she only touched one. I explained why I wanted that, and she agreed.
The biggest struggle was with the ending. It wasn’t bad, just not quite the punch. We finally settled on an ending and to be honest, it is the only thing I wish we might have spent more time on. I should have set it aside and let it rest, but to be honest, I have not found a better ending line.
SUSANNA: What can you tell us about your experience of the illustration process?
MATTHEW: My illustrator, Jacob Souva, is amazing. I was told I would get to see the first set of thumbnails and the color pallet. Jacob did not send thumbnails, but rough sketches for the whole thing!
I did not give many author notes, but I did inform the publisher in my query as well as in the contract portion that I wanted to honor the memory of the guy who this story was about. They agreed with me and passed those on to Jacob.
I was consulted on the authenticity of the pictures. I was thankful they entrusted this to me and I tried to keep in mind what my job was. I did not work directly with Jacob and was careful to not converse directly with him until the process was done. I gave my suggestions, keeping in mind what I was looking for, to my editor who passed on to Jacob what she thought was pertinent.
I have heard stories where authors did not see anything until proofs of their book came out, so I am thankful that I was kept appraised as things changed. It is an advantage of working with a smaller press.
My illustrator notes were nominal within the text. I did give them a picture of Felix Pedro, the man who Pedro was modeled after. I also did italics for actions or sounds and it was decided to add those to the illustrations since they typically happened prior to a note. For example: Crackle sizzle pop.(Illo: Pedro cooks beans and bacon in Pan) – (see below)
SUSANNA: Did you get to see advance reviews from Kirkus, SLJ, etc?
MATTHEW: I received my first review from a local publication, North of 60 Mining. I was given a favorable review with a positive focus on the STEM side of things.
I was blown away by my Kirkus review. I was expecting a blurb and was hoping it was positive. It was paragraphs long! And glowing!
I also received a review from Foreward. It too was very positive and was featured in the January/February issue.
SUSANNA: How long did it take from offer to having the first copy in your hand?
MATTHEW: So here is where it gets crazy. From signing to ARC (Advanced Reader Copy) almost a year. From signing to book in hand, 15 months. From signing to release, 16 months!
Not normal under any circumstances!
I believe my first print run is 2500 books.
SUSANNA: If your book has been out for at least one statement cycle, has it earned out yet?
MATTHEW: It debuts today! With any luck, it will earn out today, but I am not holding my breath. Most sales won’t happen until tourist season. (June-August)
SUSANNA: I love your attitude, Matthew! I hope you earn out today too!! What kind of marketing and promotion has your publisher done for this book?
MATTHEW: They have been promoting it through social media. My wife designed small buttons and they paid for those. Marketing has been promoting it at conferences and conventions. The local tourist trade shows are happening right now and I know that they have a booth at them to promote my book and a couple others coming out.
I was informed they will have a booth at the National Library Association Convention as well as the Alaska Library Association Convention.
SUSANNA: Describe any marketing/promotion you did for this book.
MATTHEW: Whenever I received the pictures for the books, I created a book trailer. I also created a website (www.matthewlasley.com) and have built up my media following on Facebook and Twitter.
My wife designed pins which I took to conferences and plan to take to schools. I also designed bookmarks to hand out.
I took a road trip to Fairbanks, the place the Felix Pedro discovered gold and made contacts there to promote my book this summer.
I got an article in North of 60 Mining which is a small publication that has readership worldwide within the mining industry.
I have been doing a blog tour (thank you Susanna), though smaller than I had originally hoped for.
I am a teacher, so my school’s PTA is doing a book launch party in association with their literacy night. I also plan to do a fundraiser on February 23rdat Barnes and Noble to help raise money for my school’s library.
I have also done a couple of giveaways. You can still get in on my latest which closes on February 23rd. Go to my website for more information.
SUSANNA: How long was it between the time you started writing seriously and the time you sold your first picture book?
MATTHEW: I have been writing for a long time, but I seriously took up picture book writing in 2016. Between writing my first picture book (which was bad, by the way) to selling my first manuscript, 15 months.
Again, I want to stress that this is not normal. I had the right story, in the right place at the right time.
And most importantly, I had my champions. I had my wife, who taught, supported and encouraged me. I had my critique group who guided me. I had an author who believed in me enough to put her reputation on the line. And I had a marketing agent that was willing to take up the cause.
Remember, writing can be a lonely endeavor, but the journey does not have to be done alone. Find your champions and just as important, be a champion to someone else.
Thank you so much, Matthew, for taking the time to participate in this series and paying it forward to other writers!
Readers, if you have questions for Matthew, please post them in the comments below and if he has time I’m sure he’ll respond!
You may purchase Matthew’s book at:
(all links below are book-specific)
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!