Aren’t Tuesdays wonderful? 😊
They are so full of excitement and anticipation because every Tuesday a whole bunch of brand new books make their way out into the world.
And although many of those books are written by seasoned, veteran authors, many of them are written by debut authors who are experiencing the thrill of seeing their words in print for the very first time.
There’s nothing like it.
It’s what we all dream about and what we all strive for, whether it’s our first book or (presumably – I don’t know from experience 😊) – whether we’re like Jane Yolen and it’s our 375th book or whatever she’s up to at this point! 😊
But today we’re sharing the joy with debut author Pippa Chorley! Pippa’s book has debuted in Singapore and is available for pre-order in the US and UK. (And if you’d like copies signed and posted direct you can contact Pippa through her website!)
Let’s have a look at her debut – a topic near and dear to my heart… 😊🐑
Title: Counting Sheep
Author: Pippa Chorley
Illustrator: Danny Deeptown
Publishing House: Marshall Cavendish
Date of Publication: April 5th
Fiction: Picture book / rhyming narrative
Age range: 3-7
Synopsis: It all begins one dark stormy night when Sam can’t sleep and her mum suggests that she count some sheep. But how can Sam count them when one of the sheep can’t jump over the fence? Follow Sam and her flock in this fun farmyard tale as they try to help little Shep find a way over the fence.
SUSANNA: Welcome, Pippa! Thank you so much for joining us today! Where did the idea for this book come from?
PIPPA: It was on one of those nights where your mind goes a bit haywire and you find yourself tossing and turning all night that the idea came to me. I remembered my dad telling me to count sheep as a child and the first few lines came in a flash. The next morning on my way to work I couldn’t stop thinking about this story. I took out a pen on the bus and began writing down those initial lines. By the time I reached the office I had written another 8 lines and I couldn’t stop until I had finished, I simply had to get it all down and I spent probably the next 2 hours typing it up on my work computer … shhh!
SUSANNA: How long did it take you to write this book? Did you go through many revisions?
PIPPA: The first draft was almost like a stream of consciousness. It poured out in one sitting. However, and this is a big however, I lost it! A few years after writing it down my family and I left Singapore to live in India. I had all but forgotten about ‘Counting Sheep’ until another story began to form in my head. It reminded me of the one I had left behind on a work computer all those years ago. The funny thing was I still remembered almost half of it by heart. I wrote it down and began rewriting a new ending!
This version was redrafted a further 8 times in total, some of those were really big changes and some small but each one as important as the next.
SUSANNA: When did you know your manuscript was ready for submission?
PIPPA: I have to admit that I didn’t completely know if it was ready or not. I knew I liked the story, I was even quite proud of it, but I am not sure if we can ever be 100% sure as a writer if something is going to spark the interest of an agent or publisher. It’s quite a subjective industry so all we can do is try!
SUSANNA: When and how did you submit?
PIPPA: I don’t have a literary agent so I actually submitted this story direct to the publisher Marshall Cavendish. As a result, this has all happened a little faster than usual I think.
Following a weekly SCBWI critique group meeting, I was advised by one of the group to submit this story to a contact she had there who was keen to find new talent. I held no high hopes of it being accepted but I felt it was at least worth a shot. I was lucky enough that the story sparked their interest and they wrote back to me a few days later asking for more information.
SUSANNA: When did you get “the call”?
PIPPA: Living in a small country definitely has its advantages so instead of a call I actually got an email requesting that I stop by the publisher’s offices in person. I have to admit I didn’t sleep much that night and on the way to the office my car broke down on the highway which made me twice as nervous. I had to abandon it to get a taxi there! When I arrived, it became clear that they really liked ‘Counting Sheep’ but what was more amazing was that they wanted to see other stories I had written too! It was definitely the best feeling ever!
SUSANNA: Did you have to make changes to the book in order to sell it? Tell us about the editorial process…
PIPPA: I discussed quite a few changes with the editor of Marshall Cavendish including grammatical ones, layout issues as well as written content. But the biggest change was of my own doing. I originally had the little sheep solving the problem in the original version but I felt that it was too abstract for children to understand. I discussed changing it to Sam and was lucky that both my illustrator and editor agreed as I think the book is much stronger as a result of the change.
SUSANNA: How did you celebrate signing your contract? (If you care to share 🙂 )
PIPPA: Ha ha! Unfortunately, 3 kids and a lively spaniel puppy didn’t leave much time for huge celebrations, however I have a bottle of champagne ready for the moment I first get to hold my published book in my hands. That for me will be the real time to celebrate!
SUSANNA: Was the contract what you expected in terms of advance, royalty percentage, publication timeline, author copies etc.?
PIPPA: I actually had no idea what to expect when they sent the contract through nor what to look for either. I was lucky enough to have a good friend who is a lawyer and understood contractual language and she was able to help me decipher some of the gobbledygook! On the most part it appeared fairly standard, however she did request that I firm things up with extra wording here and there to ensure it was watertight. Unusually in this industry my publisher does not give advances, however their royalties are a little higher than the average as a result and I was happy with this arrangement.
SUSANNA: Tell us about your experience of the illustration process…
PIPPA: This was the most wonderful part of the process for me as I was allowed to deal directly with my illustrator. I know this is a highly debated topic but for us it worked really well and I built a really strong friendship with Danny along the way.
He initially sent both myself and my editor thumbnail sketches for each page for approval. They were tiny and very rough but very helpful in giving me a sense of how it would look in the end. Even after seeing these tiny rough sketches I could tell that he was the perfect match for me and had totally captured the feel of the story. A few months later I got to see the full illustration drafts and even make comments on them, for example I asked if we could add an extra spot on the haybale scene. He was always open to discussion and when he sent through the final illustrations just a few months ago I couldn’t have been more delighted.
SUSANNA: How long did it take from offer to having the first copy in your hand?
PIPPA: The final version went to print at the end of February so it took only one month from then until I received an actual physical copy, which I think is quite amazing! I have to admit that I don’t know how many copies have been printed to date but as Singapore is a small country it is likely to be at the smaller end of the scale, between 2-5000 I would say.
SUSANNA: What kind of marketing and promotion has your publisher done for this book?
PIPPA: I think it is fairly typical these days that unless you are an established author, publishing companies do not have as huge budget to spend on promoting you. They sent copies out to various review groups and organized a lovely launch at a local bookstore for me which was a great start. However, I have realized that much of our promotional success is down to our own input, which is why interviews like this one are so very important to us (thank you Susanne). (My pleasure, Pippa 😊)
SUSANNA: Describe any marketing/promotion you did for this book.
PIPPA: I took a wonderful course run by Colleen Riordan at Wild Ink on marketing and what it means which I found immensely helpful and would highly recommend if like me self-promotion scares you! I bit the bullet though, and joined the modern world of social media, making sure I had a presence there both for my young readers on things like Instagram and my peers on platforms such as Twitter. I set up a website, which I am continually updating and improving as I go where I added colouring pages and craft activity ideas linked to my book. I also created a monthly book review blog which I really enjoy doing. In terms of SWAG, for my school visits and reading sessions I had bookmarks made which I think, although typical, is a great starting point for new authors.
SUSANNA: Wow! I like the sound of that marketing course! I think I could use that! How long was it between the time you started writing seriously and the time you sold your first picture book?
PIPPA: I have had bursts of energy with writing stories throughout my life, literally since I was a young girl and I always took it seriously and held a deep desire to become professional. However, it wasn’t until I joined SCBWI and later 12X12 that I realized exactly what it meant to be a writer, the editing and ‘putting yourself out there’ bit. Once I’d made that leap it was remarkably fast for me. I know that is not always the case and for me the journey might not last forever but now I am on it I am determined to keep going. Writing is such a passionate activity, it is hard to stop once you start!
SUSANNA: Pippa, thank you so much for joining us today and taking the time to share your experience with us! I love these interviews because something new always comes up for all of us to learn from! Thank you for giving us a peek at your process. I know we all wish you the very best success with this and future books!
Readers, if you have questions for Pippa, please post them in the comments below and if she has time I’m sure she’ll respond!
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
– recommending them as visiting authors to our children’s schools and our local libraries
– 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!