Welcome to the first Tuesday Debut of March!
Even though we just had a huge snowstorm and are now expecting days of temperatures in the single digits or worse, March holds the promise of spring! Even if it’s only teasing 🙂
I’m thrilled to introduce today’s debut author, a Making Picture Book Magic graduate and a very talented writer, Margaret Chiu Greanias!
Welcome, Margaret, and congratulations on your villainous debut!
Margaret Chiu Greanias
Illustrated by Lesley Breen Withrow
Running Press Kids
August 28, 2018
Fiction, Ages 4-8
Synopsis: Maximillian Villainous doesn’t have the heart to be a villain, even though he comes from a long line of famous villains. When he brings home a bunny to be his sidekick, his disapproving mother challenges him and the bunny to become a devious duo… otherwise, the bunny hops.
SUSANNA: Where did the idea for this book come from?
MARGARET: The idea for “Maximillian Villainous” came from my kids watching the movie, “Despicable Me.” They were enamored with the characters, and I loved how fun and creative villains could be—the freeze rays, the fart guns, the shrinking down and stealing of landmarks, etc. At the time, I couldn’t recall a picture book about villains. Once I decided my characters would be villains, I gave the main character a quality that would lead to a natural conflict—in this case, having a heart of gold. From there, I chose a problem that would be exacerbated by this quality.
SUSANNA: How long did it take you to write this book?
MARGARET: The first draft came relatively fast. However, less than 10% of the words from the first draft made it into the version that was eventually acquired. Ultimately, it took one year and nine months (revising on and off) to get to submission-ready.
SUSANNA: Did you go through many revisions?
MARGARET: I knew from the start that this story might be “the one” for me. People seemed enthusiastic about it and it felt lively and fun. However, something about it wasn’t right (turns out multiple somethings). It took over 30 revisions, including a few complete re-writes, one freelance editor, an agent critique, and an editor workshop to finally get it to submission-ready.
SUSANNA: Wow! That was a lot of hard work! When did you know your manuscript was ready for submission?
MARGARET: It was after I took an editor workshop through SCBWI mid-South. The format was ideal—the editor critiqued our manuscripts, and then we had the chance to revise for another critique. I did almost a full re-write based on the editor’s first critique and tweaked again based on her second critique. It really helped me to follow the feedback from one trusted source—at that point, I had had so many critiques, and they sometimes conflicted (not everyone shares the same vision for a text), which was hard. I now know to delve deeper into the comments and determine why particular feedback was given. After that workshop, the story just felt ready—there was nothing else I wanted to change.
SUSANNA: That is a good point about multiple critiques – it can get confusing – and good advice about having a single trusted source. When and how did you submit?
MARGARET: Like many others, I began querying too early. I queried in a mish-mosh of ways—testing the waters through contests, twitter pitches, conference submissions, 12×12 submissions, etc. For the query round that got my agent, I cold queried.
SUSANNA: When did you get “the call”? (Best moment ever! 🙂 )
MARGARET: It took about three months for us to get an offer on the story—but even though my manuscript was ready, it wasn’t until six months after I signed with my agent at the time that we went on submission. So patience was important!
My agent thought that I, as a debut, would have better odds if we submitted with an illustrated dummy. We picked the wonderful Lesley Breen Withrow as the illustrator. She has a very bright and happy style to balance my manuscript which was a bit darker. Once she finished the rough dummy, we went on submission and got an offer within 3 months.
SUSANNA: How did you celebrate signing your contract?
MARGARET: Of course, I squealed and danced when I first heard we got an offer. After I signed the contract, one of my dearest critique partners arranged an amazing celebration including old and current critique group members (we’d been in a group for 5 years at this point). It was a very sweet way to celebrate.
SUSANNA: That does sound nice! Was the contract what you expected in terms of advance, royalty percentage, publication timeline, author copies etc.?
MARGARET: I didn’t know what to expect, but I was happy with what my agent negotiated for me.
SUSANNA: What was the editorial process like for you?
MARGARET: We did two rounds of revisions, and my manuscript was definitely better for it. Many changes had to do with simplifying my text so it would be easier for young children to understand. My editor also made a suggestion which helped give the story that “aww” ending.
SUSANNA: Can you tell us a little about your experience of the illustration process?
MARGARET: I did get to see the illustrations just before they were finalized. My editor was really great about sharing, asking my opinion, and bringing it back to the team. I tried to limit my suggestions to a few, and while they didn’t use all of them, I felt like my opinion was valued.
Also, because Lesley was on board before the story was submitted to publishers, I had a say in the how the characters were illustrated (which may not have been ideal since I didn’t have a strong vision for how Max and his family should appear). In my opinion, the strength of having a separate illustrator is their interpretation and vision of the text. I had vaguely envisioned the characters being human, and they ended up being monsters, which I LOVE!
SUSANNA: Did you get to see advance reviews from Kirkus, SLJ, etc?
MARGARET: My editor sent me advance copies of SLJ and Booklist reviews, which was very nice.
The Publishers Weekly review was unexpected. But it was the first review to come out and I was so relieved when I saw it.
My book didn’t get a review from Kirkus…maybe that was lucky?
SUSANNA: Maybe that was lucky! A lot of people seem to have had less than flattering reviews from Kirkus 🙂 How long did it take from offer to having the first copy in your hand?
MARGARET: About 1 year and 8 months which is very quick—but we had Lesley lined up plus a dummy already made.
I think 2-3 years is more normal.
SUSANNA: If your book has been out for at least one statement cycle, has it earned out yet?
MARGARET: I haven’t gotten a statement yet.
SUSANNA: What kind of marketing and promotion has your publisher done for this book?
MARGARET: Some examples of marketing and promotion that my publisher did included sending review copies to major trade publications and sending pitches to other media including bloggers and instagrammers.
SUSANNA: Describe any marketing/promotion you did for this book.
MARGARET: By far, the best marketing/promotion I did for my book (and my sanity) was to join a debut group, the Epic 18’s. I learned so much from the other debut authors, especially those whose books launched before mine. I found it very valuable to have this peer community for advice and moral support.
- We passed ARCs around so we could review each other’s books.
- We suggested each other’s books for purchase from our libraries.
- We also held a couple of group promotions including an end of year giveaway and Twitter chat hosted by Matthew Winner.
- We exchanged information on swag.
- We promoted each other on social media.
- I hired a marketing consultancy, Curious City, which I learned about from a fellow Epic 18-er. I paid for a 1-hour consultation and got great ideas for marketing and more interactive book readings.
Other marketing/promotion I did:
- Classroom Discussion Guide
- Activities, crafts, and coloring pages for my web site
- Swag—bookmarks, temporary tattoos, postcards, bookplates, stickers
- Social media promos revolving around the holidays
This year, I’m starting to schedule school visits and will be at a local book festival in a couple of months.
SUSANNA: How long was it between the time you started writing seriously and the time you sold your first picture book?
MARGARET: About 5.5 years.
SUSANNA: Margaret, thank you so much for taking the time to participate in this series and paying it forward to other writers! We all so appreciate you being here today!
Readers, if you have questions for Margaret, please post them in the comments below and if she has time I’m sure she’ll respond!
You may purchase Margaret’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
– reviewing their books on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes&Noble, and other sites where people go to learn about books.
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!
Christy Mihaly – Hey! Hey! Hay! A Tale of Bales And The Machines That Make Them
Jessie Oliveros – The Remember Balloons
Beth Anderson – An Inconvenient Alphabet: Ben Franklin And Noah Webster’s Spelling Revolution
Hannah Holt – The Diamond And The Boy
Laura Renauld – Porcupine’s Pie
Annie Romano – Before You Sleep: A Bedtime Book Of Gratitude
Melissa Stoller – Scarlet’s Magic Paintbrush
Sherry Howard – Rock And Roll Woods
Kate Narita – 100 Bugs! A Counting Book
Vivian Kirkfield – Pippa’s Passover Plate
Laura Roettiger – Aliana Reaches For The Moon
Matthew Lasley – Pedro’s Pan: A Gold Rush Story
53 thoughts on “Tuesday Debut – Presenting Margaret Chiu Greanias!”
Congratulations, Margaret! I love this character and look forward to reading your delightful book.
Isn’t Maximillian awesome, Dee?! Such a great idea!!!
Thank you! I hope you enjoy Max and his villainous family!
I can’t wait to read this book! I love love love that you knew it might be the one from the very beginning and then worked really hard to make it the one!!!
Thank you, Sarah! Yes, I was not giving up on this story. I just had a feeling (and luckily, I never got tired of revising it)!
Congratulations! Your book was a Christmas gift for my son and he enjoys it very much.
Thank you, Ashley! I’m so glad your son enjoys Max! 🙂
And thank you for sharing the journey of your book. It’s helps knowing how many revisions it went through to get published. And every time I see your book I feel like it’s a children’s animated series.
I love this interview with my critique partner!! It’s true in this business that nice people do find success. Wishing much more for Margaret.
Aw, thank you, my friend. I’m so glad we are critique partners.
Nice interview! I didn’t know you had the illustrator before submitting. Fun.
Thanks Tina! Yeah, it’s a different way to go, although I have heard of others who’ve taken this route. I think it is probably less rare for manuscripts where the illustrations might be more difficult to envision.
Margaret, such an instructive interview for those o f us who are still pre-pubbbed. I can really identify with your comments on too many critiques with so many comments. I’ve scaled that back, myself. Your bunny stuffy for school visits is so very cute. Thanks for sharing your journey and CONGRATS…you are an AUTHOR.
Thanks Kathy! Yes, sometimes it’s true that too many cooks in the kitchen do spoil the broth. One thing I do now is to think about whether the person giving the critique seems to have the same vision as me. Another is, like I mentioned in the interview, to try and figure out the reason behind the feedback in question.
Margaret I loved your publication story. I am in a quandary about changes to a manuscript. I had an agent but he retired due to illness. I want to submit to some agents but want the manuscript perfect. Can you suggest someone I can hire to critique?
Hi Katherine, I’m sorry to hear about your agent. I honestly don’t think that any agents expect queriers to pay for professional critiques. But with that said, there are plenty of great critiquing options depending on what you are looking for. Danielle Davis gives a great quick and dirty critique (although I’m not sure if she still gives paid critiques). Marcie Colleen is super knowledgeable about picture books (full disclosure: Marcie is one of my critique partners) as is Miranda Paul who gives a very thorough critique. Last year, I joined Inked Voices to take advantage of their agent and editor workshops. I personally would pick someone who “gets” your style of writing (i.e. if I write humor, I would pick a critiquer that also writes or likes humor). Hope this helps!
So excited to see this feature here as I loved this book and just featured it on Susanna’s Perfect Picture Book Friday: https://literallylynnemarie.blogspot.com/2019/02/ppbf-maximillian-villainous-by-margaret.html
Thank you so very much, Margaret for sharing your story — I enjoyed finding out more about it! Best of luck and success to you!
Thank you, Lynne Marie! And thanks for featuring Maximillian Villainous on your blog!
I loved learning that you and your illustrator were paired in advance of submitting to publishers. What a unique model!
Cheers to you and all Epic 18 debuts! A team of rockstars for certain.
Thanks Cathy! Yes, I agree–not a common approach although surprisingly I have heard of a few pre-submission pairings since I sold my book. Looking forward to your book coming out this year!
Congratulations! Every author has a unique journey and it was a pleasure to read yours. 🙂
Thank you, Angie!
Thank you, my friend. 🙂
Love this book! Congrats on making it through the process! And wow, the whole idea of having an illustrator create a sketch dummy is new to me. Very interesting. I’m wondering what would have happened if the publisher wanted to assign a different illustrator to the project? Did the illustrator get paid a fee for the original dummy, knowing that there was a chance the publisher could go either way?
Thanks Jilanne! There are risks to illustrating a project on spec, and not everyone is willing to do it (it is a lot of work with the potential of not getting paid). My agent at the time asked his art agent contact which of her clients might be open to the idea, and she sent us a list of illustrators to pick from. Then, we sent the manuscript to Lesley (our pick) for review. Of course, she had to love the project to take it on.
Another great interview, Susanna! It’s so interesting how many different paths can lead to publishing. I really enjoy these weekly sneak peeks into the process.
Margaret, I think you already know how much I love your book and enjoyed sharing it with my students. I have a critique partner who had written her book with humans (her own children) in mind as the two characters. When it was illustrated, they were animals. She said she was surprised but felt it worked well.
Thank you, Laura! I loved seeing my characters come to life through Lesley’s illustration and they are so much cuter than I imagined! btw, congratulations on your recent debut! Hope you are soaking it all in. 🙂
Thank you, it’s been surreal and I’m definitely enjoying it.
School visits will be the best part of all of this. At least they were for me! Good luck! Looks like a fun read-aloud.
Oh yes, so far they have been very rewarding! Kids are the best. 🙂
It’s so encouraging to read about Margaret’s journey to publication. The book looks super cute. Thanks for sharing!
Lovely read about how Maximillian came to be, Margaret! Keep up the great work & I look forward to reading more of your books in the future 🙂
Thanks, Jenny! Looking forward to your debut!
I love your debut PB, Margaret! Congrats! And thanks to you and Susanna for a fabulous interview. And I love the idea of joining a debut group; that sounds like a fantastic way to make marketing more doable and fun.
Thanks Gabi! The debut group was the best thing I did for both marketing and community purposes. It was key in helping me get through my debut year, and we are keeping it going so those connections I hope to have for the long haul.
Another fantastic interview. I get so much out of them, Susanna. Congratulations, Margaret on your wonderful book!
Thank you, David!
Inspirational for sure!
Oh yay! So glad you were inspired. 🙂
Congratulations Margaret! We know how much kids love your book ; )
I’m happy to read about your journey to get this book pubbed. I wanted to ask most of these questions when you did the Skype author visit but there wasn’t time! LOL
So thank you, Susanna, for inviting Margaret over to your blog!
LOL. Glad you got your questions answered, Lisa. I so enjoyed my Skype visit with your kinders.
Congratulations Margaret! Thank you for sharing a picture of your work space and the number of revisions you made. You put in so much hard work and it really paid off. We absolutely adore this original and fun story in our house!
Thank you, Nicole! I’m so tickled that you adore the story.
Love your book, Margaret. And really find the one trusted source idea helpful. Getting conflicting critiques gets so confusing after a while. Digging deeper into those comments and trying to figure out what prompted them is a great piece of wisdom.
Thank you, Marty. I’m so glad you got a little nugget of info out of my interview. Yes, for sure–figuring out what is prompting comments helps to clarify what the problems actually are. Then you can figure out how you want to solve them.
This looks like a great book, congrats & thank you for sharing your journey!
Thank you, Marla!
Congratulations Margaret and thank you both for sharing the detailed interview. It is always helpful to see the varied paths these journeys can take.
Thank you, Lauri!
Margaret, I appreciate reading about the many revisions, rewrites, ups and downs, and ins and outs of Maximillian journey. Congratulations! I love Max!
Thanks again, Susanna!