So apparently this is the last Tuesday Debut on the schedule for about 6 weeks – must be summer! 😊 But that’s okay. I think we can all use a break to lie on the beach and work on our tans (and by that of course I mean slather ourselves in SPF 1000 and chase around after the kiddos from dawn til bedtime 😊)
I’m thrilled to be sharing today’s author/illustrator and picture book because the book had at least some of its origins in the writing contests I run here on my blog! How cool is that?
Marla entered two contests with stories that centered on the same wonderful character. She placed in the 2015 Halloweensie Contest with Pirate Prepares For Halloween, and in the 2016 Valentiny Contest with Pirate Gets A Valentine, (in addition to placing and receiving honorable mention in several other contests over the years with other stories.) Eventually, she came to submit versions of those stories and lo and behold, this terrific picture book came to be! When you read it, I’m sure you’ll be as glad as I am that she entered those contests! Who knows? The stories might not have been written without the contests! 😊
Pirate Year Round
Written & Illustrated by Marla LeSage
Acorn Press, May 31, 2019
Fiction ages 4 – 8
In four seasonal stories Pirate faces her fear of the water, chooses a Halloween costume, gets through winter with the help of her friends, and steals the show!
SUSANNA: Welcome, Marla! So glad to have you aboard! 😊 🏴☠️ Where did the idea for this book come from?
MARLA: When my son was about 4, he didn’t want to go to swimming lessons and told me, “I’m a pirate and pirates don’t swim!” It was such a great line I knew I had to use it in a story. I was still struggling to write a first draft when I came across your Halloweensie contest. The prompt: a halloween story for kids under 100 words using the words costume, dark, and haunted. I abandoned my idea for a pirate who didn’t swim and decided to use the pirate for my Halloweensie story instead. I thought it might be fun to have the pirate dress up as a ballerina. I was imagining a male pirate but in then end decided to make her a girl. My daughter was taking ballet lessons at the time and I suspect that influenced my choices. The story tied for 3rdin the contest! A few months later, you ran your Valentiny story contest and I was so in love with Pirate that I wrote a second story which placed 7thin the contest. But at that time I was not imagining Pirate in a book.
SUSANNA: How long did it take you to write this book?
MARLA: Pirate Year Round contains four stories in one picture book which is a somewhat unusual format for the genre. It took me about two weeks to write each story. So about eight weeks total but the last two were written 2-3 years after the first two. It usually takes much longer for me to write a picture book manuscript. I have a few manuscripts I’ve been working on for years! But I think it really helped to have a prompt and a deadline.
SUSANNA: Did you go through many revisions?
MARLA: Revising is writing, so yes, many, many revisions! To make your deadline, have good rhyme and meter, and a good story I thought about my entry all day long. I think I spent the two weeks with a paper and pencil in hand revising. When writing in rhyme I also keep the following handy: a rhyme dictionary, dictionary.com, and a highlighter to mark stressed beats. Keeping the manuscript or a scrap of paper on the bedside table helps too – the answer to plot or meter problems often reveals itself just as you’re about to fall asleep!
SUSANNA: When did you know your manuscript was ready for submission?
MARLA: I didn’t! The Halloween & Valentine stories were well polished but I had no intention of submitting them for publication, they were just fun stories that I’d written for your contests.
SUSANNA: When and how did you submit?
MARLA: Because I am an illustrator I’d also taken advantage of the contest prompts to build my portfolio. I’d even used Pirate on a self-promo postcard that I sent out to publishers. I honestly don’t know if it was the Pirate postcard or another postcard that caught the eye of my publisher but based on the timing I suspect it was another postcard. Terrilee Bulger of Acorn Press contacted me about illustrating another author’s manuscript but mentioned that she’d noticed Pirate in my portfolio as well as the two stories on my blog and expressed interest in publishing them. I didn’t think too much of it at first but agreed to look at the manuscript she had contacted me about. When that project didn’t pan out she asked again about the Pirate stories. I sent the manuscripts and she liked them but asked if I envisioned them as separate stories or as four stories in one book. After some careful consideration and research I suggested that if it were to be a volume of stories, I would prefer to have four seasonal stories rather than two and pitched a spring and summer story. (In the summer story Pirate would rather do her chores than swim!)
SUSANNA: When did you get “the call”? (Best moment ever!😊)
MARLA: It really felt like it took forever to get the acceptance email! We’d been back and forth for months, I think, on the project she’d initially contacted me about. After I pitched the additional two stories the yes was fairly quick but then I had to write the stories and wait again for an official acceptance. Once I finally sent in the text for all four stories, the response was fairly quick – maybe a month? I’m not sure though – I accidentally deleted all the emails! It took a while after that to get the contract. At least it felt that way, but I think it was relatively quick for the publishing industry.
SUSANNA: Hahaha! You made me laugh out loud with that comment about deleting all the emails! Isn’t that just the way of things sometimes?! 😊 How did you celebrate signing your contract?
MARLA: I did a little happy dance, told my family & closest friends. Nothing big though! I guess I waited to have the book in hand to really celebrate – my daughter insisted I buy a cake for the book birthday & I have some locally brewed strawberry apple cider that I’m saving for after the book launch.
SUSANNA: Was the contract what you expected in terms of advance, royalty percentage, publication timeline, author copies etc.?
MARLA: Based on feedback from fellow Canadian author/illustrators the contract was pretty standard. I had a generous timeline for completing the artwork and the royalties were standard for an author/illustrator (10%). The advance was small but adequate/fair. The contract was accidentally sent with an advance listed lower than we had agreed too but when I pointed it out, my publisher was very quick to respond and correct the error.
SUSANNA: Tell us about the editorial process.
MARLA: There were no suggested changes to the story.
SUSANNA: Tell us about your experience of the illustration process…
MARLA: This is my writing and illustrating debut but I didn’t have a dummy when I submitted the manuscript, only 6 sample illustrations. And my sample illustrations were older. I felt that my skill had grown and my style had evolved so after receiving my contract I started the illustration process from scratch. Well, almost from scratch. I’d thumbnailed out the four stories to see how they might fit into a single picture book before pitching it as that. After I’d received the advance, I sent in a very rough dummy for approval and ended up asking for more pages to improve the pacing.
It was really fun to complete my first fully finished illustration project. But I when I got to page 32 of painting I kept thinking – if you’d stuck with 32 you’d be finished by now! The book is 48 pages… Other than that little voice in my head it was perfectly manageable.
The only surprise was the book cover. I’d drawn a white banner with a hand-lettered title & when I was sent the digital proof, the designer had made my banner bigger & red. He also added Year Roundusing the style of text I’d created. I was really surprised but I absolutely love it. It really pops now!
SUSANNA: Did you get to see advance reviews from Kirkus, SLJ, etc? What was that like?
MARLA: I haven’t seen any reviews yet.
SUSANNA: How long did it take from offer to having the first copy in your hand?
MARLA: From the date I signed the contract to the publication date was 11 months.
SUSANNA: What was your print run?
MARLA: The initial print run is 2000 copies.
SUSANNA: If your book has been out for at least one statement cycle, has it earned out yet?
MARLA: It hasn’t been out that long yet!
SUSANNA: What kind of marketing and promotion has your publisher done for this book?
MARLA: I’m not certain, honestly. They offered to print bookmarks and invitations/posters for my book launch. And they do have someone who does promotion.
SUSANNA: Describe any marketing/promotion you did for this book.
MARLA: I made a book trailer – I’m not sure how effective that is for marketing purposes. For me it was more about doing a fun project with my kids. You can check it out here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ubKpDA4vEes Did you notice that the cat looks just like Pirate’s cat?
I’ve done a couple of blog posts like this but with the goal of giving back to the writing community by sharing my journey. I do plan to do a blog post soon about Pirate’s cat (he’s based on a foster cat rescued from a feral cat colony). I also had an article about my debut in the Canadian Military Family Magazine – that was fun!
I’ve done a few school visits already & plan to do more this fall through my local Writers in Schools Program/Literary Festival.
A friend suggested I contact boutiques/stores in the province who might be interested in carrying my book – seaside towns especially. Life has been a bit hectic for me lately and my dedicated art/writing time is much tighter than I like so I’ve done it yet. But I still hope to if it’s not something my publisher has already taken care of.
SUSANNA: How long was it between the time you started writing seriously and the time you sold your first picture book?
MARLA: Five years!
SUSANNA: Anything else you’d like to share about your book’s journey from inspiration to publication?
MARLA: While my submission story is not what we expect when we start out on this journey, it is not uncommon and just goes to show how much luck is involved. It also shows that we have to be ready for that lucky moment – get yourself out there and be ready for luck to find you!
SUSANNA: Thank you so much for taking the time to participate in this series and paying it forward to other writers, Marla! We all so appreciate it and wish you the very best of luck with this and future books!!! 😊
Readers, if you have questions for Marla, 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
– suggesting them as visiting authors at 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!