It’s time for Tuesday Debut, and today’s debut is very nearly a double!
We have our lovely and talented debut author, Sarah Hoppe, and her debut picture book is one of the earliest to be released by the brand new Blue Whale Press, owned and operated by Alayne Christian and Steve Kemp. Be sure to check out their site and submissions page!
But first, let’s have a look at Sarah’s beautiful book!!!
Who Will? Will You?
Author: Sarah Hoppe
Illustrator: Milanka Reardon
Date of Publication: August 2019
Fiction, Picture Book
Age Range: 4-8
Lottie’s discovery of an extraordinary pup on the beach leads her to search all over town for someone to help. It takes someone special to care for this very special pup.
SUSANNA: Welcome, Sarah! Where did the idea for this book come from?
SARAH: The idea came to me, in part, due to my son’s love of nonfiction. He always has a stack of nonfiction by his bed, for pre-bedtime perusal. He loves animals and had a seal book he shared with me one evening. A baby seal is called a pup, and so are some other baby animals. I started thinking about a case of pup confusion and the story fell into place in my head.
SUSANNA: How long did it take you to write this book?
SARAH: Though this is a work of fiction, it has a lot of animal facts within the story. The story structure was there, but it took a while to research the animals I wanted to include. I also wrote some back matter. It was important to me to make the back matter fun, engaging, and most importantly, true. I got books from the library, I poured over the internet. It was fun, but I would get burnt out and take breaks. That process took a while, working on and off with other things as well.
SUSANNA: Did you go through many revisions?
SARAH: My story went through a few revisions. Who Will? Will You? is different from my other manuscripts, in that it had a definite outline right from the beginning. I’m usually a lot looser when I write, but with this story, I knew a had to happen, then b, then c. But, this is the one getting published, so maybe I should outline more!
SUSANNA: When did you know your manuscript was ready for submission?
SARAH: I knew it was ready when all the facts were there, the repetitive lines made sense, and I addressed the feedback from critique partners.
One of the many things critique partners are great for is bringing new mindsets. Sometimes you don’t even see what’s wrong in your story. My opening lines have changed, but the main character was initially racing while crab-walking. I thought it was so cute, and showed off her spunky, daring nature. Several people who read it thought the main character was a crab. I thought something like, Where on earth did you get that idea? Then I re-read it with fresh eyes and realized I had written an ill-worded confusing paragraph.
SUSANNA: That is such a good point, Sarah. We live with our stories in our heads – we’re the ones that invented everything – so it all makes sense to us! It takes objective readers to show us where things might not be clear! When and how did you submit?
SARAH: I am currently seeking an agent. It is awesome, though, that are a lot of publishers who will accept unagented submissions.
I’ve sent many submissions directly to publishers through my writing journey. I submitted Who Will? Will You? plus a query letter directly to the publishing house as well, through a writer’s group called 12×12. Julie Hedlund’s 12×12 Picture Book Writing Challenge is a fantastic group to be in. I’d consider it a must for new writers. So, some members of the group get a chance to submit through 12×12, and you bypass the slush pile. That’s what happened to me with Blue Whale Press.
SUSANNA: I second a hearty two-thumbs-up recommendation for 12×12! When did you get “the call”? (Best moment ever! ☺)
SARAH: I had received a couple of rejections, and the manuscript was out on multiple submissions when I got an email from Blue Whale Press. They wanted to set up a phone call. Well, I didn’t want to be overly optimistic, but I thought they wouldn’t call if they weren’t interested. They weren’t going to call to tell me how horrible it was, right? Right?! Well, maybe they wanted me to revise and resubmit. Either way, I was a ball of nerves.
But Alayne Christian at Blue Whale was so nice! Blue Whale Press is a small publisher, and I felt that was perfect for my first book. I knew I wouldn’t get lost in the shuffle. It has been a wonderful experience.
SUSANNA: Alayne is amazing! I know you’ll have a great experience with her! How did you celebrate signing your contract?
SARAH: I called my mom! Then I called my sister and my husband. Then I danced around with my dogs.
SUSANNA: Was the contract what you expected in terms of advance, royalty percentage, publication timeline, author copies etc.?
SARAH: I don’t have an agent and didn’t know what to expect in a contract. I became a member of The Author’s Guild and used their resources to study my contract before I signed. It was the right move for me and I’m excited about the results.
SUSANNA: Can you tell us about a little about the editorial process?
SARAH: There will always be revisions, but most of mine were pretty minor. They asked for an extra (small) scene and made a couple of wording changes. The back matter was shortened.
The most significant change was the title. It’s completely different! I submitted it with the title Little Lost Pup. I honestly didn’t love it, but couldn’t think of a better replacement. Well, they didn’t love it either and gave multiple suggestions. I was strangely attached to something I didn’t really like. I think it had been Little Lost Pup for so long, that it was hard to imagine it any other way. Alayne was extremely patient with me. She explained why she felt it needed a new title, and I agreed. Then it became easier to let it go.
SUSANNA: I love the title you came up with, so, well done! What was your experience of the illustration process like?
SARAH: One benefit of working with a small press is the amount of feedback I was able to give. Alayne and I looked through artists’ portfolios together (via email) and picked our favorites. I’ve seen sketches, rough copies and finished digital files. I was asked my opinion on the look of the people and animals in the story. I’ve been included and valued every step of the way.
When I read a book, images just pop into my head. Yes, Sarah, that’s the magic of books, you know. Even if the author says a character looks one way, I have some image already there and it’s not leaving.
That’s how it was with Who Will? Will You? For reasons unknown to me, in my head, the illustrations looked like Felicia Bond’s work in the If You Give a Mouse a Cookie books.
I had looked at Milanka Reardon’s portfolio. I knew her work was beautiful and I knew it was different from Felicia Bond’s style. Still, I wasn’t ready for the main character, Lottie, to come to life like she did.
Both Felicia and Milanka are talented illustrators, but Milanka was truly meant for this text. She created a world of pastel backgrounds and detailed expressions. It was nothing like I thought but better than I imagined.
I didn’t submit the story with art notes, other than to specify the kind of pup at the beginning. The reader won’t know what it is, but the illustrator needed to.
SUSANNA: How long did it take from offer to having the first copy in your hand?
SARAH: About one year.
SUSANNA: What kind of marketing and promotion has your publisher done for this book?
SARAH: Blue Whale has arranged interviews on blogs for me. They’ve created a beautiful book trailer. Alayne featured it at an SCBWI event. And they have been submitting copies for reviews as promised.
SUSANNA: Describe any marketing/promotion you did for this book.
SARAH: I’ve really tried to up my social media game. I’ve sought and completed blog interviews. I will do some local book tours next school year when the book is out. I will reach out to the local writing group and the local library.
SUSANNA: How long was it between the time you started writing seriously and the time you sold your first picture book?
SARAH: About two years.
SUSANNA: Thank you so much for taking the time to participate in this series and paying it forward to other writers, Sarah! It was generous of you to share your writing experience with us! We all wish you the best of luck with this and future books!!!
Readers, if you have questions for Sarah, please post them in the comments below and if she has time I’m sure she’ll respond!
As yet, there are no links for purchase or pre-order, but please keep an eye out! The book is due for publication in August!
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
– suggesting them as visiting authors at our children’s schools and our local libraries
– 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!