Tuesday Debut – Presenting Ciara O’Neal!

Hi Everyone!

Wow!  It’s been a while since we had a Tuesday Debut, hasn’t it?!

That is partly because of the writing contests and the holidays, but also partly because I only have Tuesday Debut posts when people want to share their first-ever brand new picture books.  (That said, I have a lot of availability in the coming weeks, so if you’ve got a debut picture book you’d like to get a little attention for, email me! 🙂 )

But we’ve got one today – the second self-published one we’ve had the opportunity to learn about here – so some interesting and different information.

Please help me welcome Ciara O’Neal as she shares her debut picture book Flamingo Hugs Aren’t For Everyone!


Flamingo Hugs Aren’t For Everyone
Written by Ciara O’Neal
Illustrated by Alicia Young
Published November 2019
Fiction, ages 6-10

Flamingo Hugs Cover Painting_font2

Hugs are hard for a clumsy flamingo. But with daring disguises, delightful dances, and a few more tricks up her feathers, this bird is determined to win a little love from zoo-goers everywhere!  

SUSANNA: Welcome, Ciara!  Thank you so much for joining us today!  We’re delighted to have you and opportunity to learn a thing or two about the self-publishing process for picture book writers!  Where did the idea for this book come from?

CIARA: Flaminga’s story arose during a very loooooong trip to the ER with my daughter. After rejecting kisses from my stuffed flamingo keychain, our star was born! My daughter and I whiled away the endless hours by brainstorming all the different ways a flamingo might try to win affection. And, voilà Flamingo Hugs came to life. I still have my daughter’s first sketch of Flaminga in her hat. Alicia drew a wonderful rendition of it in our book!

Idea generation is one of my favorite phases in the whole process of creating picture book magic. I find that I am a very visual person. So whenever I want to find inspiration, I take a walk around my corner of the world. I try to look at ordinary things from odd perspectives. Sometimes, it’s hunkering down in the grass or leaning against a tree. (There might have been that time I flipped upside down on my kids’ playground. But we won’t talk about that.)

SUSANNA: How long did it take you to write this book?

CIARA: Some stories demand I tell them from beginning to end in one sitting. Flamingo Hugs and many of my other picture books materialized in a matter of hours. But that being said, NONE of those stories look anything like the original draft. Especially not once my incredible critique partners got to them. (Love my critique partners!)

SUSANNA: Did you go through many revisions?

CIARA: All of my stories go through MANY rounds of revision. But I think my favorite stage is probably my second round of revisions. (My first round always focuses on plot, stakes, and character development.)

During the second round, I research. I find picture books with similar themes, Youtube videos, and Pinterest pins to help me develop my language. I create a list of verbs, nouns, and adjectives that fit my manuscript. I begin playing with the words, generating jokes, and flushing out “the world” in my story.

SUSANNA: When did you know your manuscript was ready for publication?

CIARA: This question is SO difficult to answer. I’m not sure there is a right one. I feel most confident about my story when my critique partners only give me words to tweak as opposed to fixing plot holes, etc.  Once I reach that stage, I have done several paid critiques.

SUSANNA: At what point did you decide to self-publish rather than submit to traditional publishers?  Did you try traditional first? Or did you have specific reasons for wanting to self-publish?

CIARA: A little over a year ago, I decided I wanted to finally chase my dream of being an author. I wrote my first few manuscripts and began querying agents and traditional publishers. During that time, I started sharing my stories with my dad.

We had so much fun brainstorming and dreaming up what characters would do. One day, he told me he believed in my stories and wanted to help make my dream a reality.  Together, we decided my clumsy flamingo needed a little self-publishing love, and here we are!

SUSANNA: How did you find an illustrator?

CIARA: I found my first illustrator, Alicia Young, after searching the SCBWI page. I saw her illustrations and fell in love!

SUSANNA: Did you and the illustrator have a contract of any kind?  What types of items did it address?

CIARA: Alicia and I did have a contract. I did a mini-interview with her before we agreed to work together. During the illustration process, we spoke often. It was important to me to find someone that I clicked with and shared my vision for the story.

SUSANNA: Are you able to give a ballpark figure of any kind about the cost of the illustrator?

CIARA: Illustrators are fabulous people! But they have to eat too! When it comes to cost, you will get what you pay for. Spot illustrations can cost anywhere from $20-$45. Elaborate full spreads can cost even more depending on the time needed to complete the page.  It’s hard to give a ballpark figure because each story calls for a different number of spot illustrations and spreads. So needless to say, self-publishing with great illustrations can be costly.

SUSANNA: What was the illustration process like since you were directing it? Any particular challenges?  Anything you particularly enjoyed?

CIARA: The illustration process was thrilling. Each email from Alicia was like Christmas morning. She is so creative and such a joy to work with. That’s not to say we didn’t do our fair share of revision, both my words and her illustrations. But it was one of my favorite parts of this journey!

SUSANNA: How did you format your book for publication?

CIARA: My beautiful illustrator formatted my story. Most illustrators I’ve had contact with an offer this as part of their services.

SUSANNA: How did you select a printing service?

CIARA: Alicia also helped me find our printing service. She had published with them previously. We were both impressed by the price, quality, and turn around time.

SUSANNA: Did you do a print run so you’d have inventory, or is your book print-on-demand? (And where is your book available – online bookstores? brick and mortar bookstores?)

CIARA: I did a print run.  My book is also available on Amazon and through my personal website. I have it for sale in a few indie bookstores. I also tote around a few copies to sell at fairs, schools, etc. I even had it for sale at Christmas Tree farm. 🙂

SUSANNA: How long was the process from writing through publication of your book?

CIARA: For Flamingo Hugs, the whole process took about eight months.

SUSANNA: Describe any marketing/promotion you did for this book.

CIARA: I have a book trailer that I created. Here is the link, https://ciaraoneal.weebly.com/flamingo-hugs-arent-for-everyone.html

I also created an educational guide to accompany my book. It is on the link above as well. Feel free to check it out. In my guide, there are coloring pages, word searches, stationery, and lesson ideas.

Aside from the trailer and guide, I have visited several blogs, sent out postcards to schools, and visited fairs. Near Valentine’s Day, I will be having a little giveaway. It’s all very exciting.

SUSANNA: Anything else you’d like to share about your book’s journey from inspiration to publication?

CIARA: I would love to definitely thank you. Last October, I found your “Would You Read It?” It was my first foray into the “critiquing” world. Your supportive community gave me the confidence to keep writing and dreaming!

Ciara Logo_yellow swirl background

Social Media-
Twitter- @ciaraoneal2
Instagram- authorciaraoneal
Personal Website- ciaraoneal.weebly.com



SUSANNA: That is really wonderful to hear, Ciara – that Would You Read It helped you in your writing pursuits!  Thank you to all our generous, helpful readers for their part in that.  And to anyone who is considering submitting a pitch to Would You Read It, maybe this will give you a little incentive 🙂  Thank you so much for joining us today, Ciara, and for sharing all your helpful advice!  We so appreciate it and wish you all the best with this and future books!

Readers, if you have questions for Ciara, please post them in the comments below and if she has time I’m sure she’ll respond! (And if you’re interested in the other self published Tuesday Debut, please see HERE)

You may purchase Ciara’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

– 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, 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

Natalee Creech – When Day Is Done

Margaret Chiu Greanias – Maximillian Villainous

Wendy Greenley – Lola Shapes The Sky

Danielle Dufayet – You Are Your Strong

B.J. Lee – There Was An Old Gator Who Swallowed A Moth

Cathy Ballou Mealey – When A Tree Grows

Pippa Chorley – Counting Sheep

Sandra Sutter – The Real Farmer In The Dell

June Smalls – Odd Animals ABC

Jill Mangel Weisfeld – Riley The Retriever Wants A New Job (Self Published)

Kathleen Cornell Berman – The Birth Of Cool: How Jazz Great Miles Davis Found His Sound

Eleanor Ann Peterson – Jurassic Rat

Sarah Hoppe – Who Will? Will You?

Marla LeSage – Pirate Year Round

Stacey Corrigan – The Pencil Eater

Shannon Stocker – Can U Save The Day?

Nadine Poper – Randall And Randall

Christine Evans – Evelyn The Adventurous Entomologist

Karen Kiefer – Drawing God

Susan Richmond – Bird Count

Dawn Young – The Night Baafore Christmas

Heather Gale – Ho’onani: Hula Warrior


30 thoughts on “Tuesday Debut – Presenting Ciara O’Neal!

    • ciaraoneal says:

      Thank you, Sandra! Flaminga is huggable. But according to a zookeeper I talked with recently, they won’t be allowing me to hug any flamingos any time soon!!! Ha! I guess I will have to stick to the stuffed ones!

  1. David McMullin says:

    Ciara, I am so impressed. There is so much work and bravery in taking a book from idea to print all on your own. I wish you so much success. Thanks, Susanna for sharing the self-publishing perspective.

    • ciaraoneal says:

      David, thank you for your well-wishes and kind words! It has been a fun journey but you are right. It can be scary. I am SO appreciative of all my friends in the writing community and their support.

  2. rosecappelli says:

    Congratulations, Ciara! I am definitely going to check out this book! I appreciate your sharing the process involved in self-publishing. What a wonderful journey. And you’ve inspired me to submit something for “Would You Read It?” I’ve been timid about putting myself out there, but I do think I need help on pitches.

  3. Cathy Ballou Mealey says:

    Love the clever way of spelling out the title in flamingo body language – Adorable!
    Congrats on your debut!

  4. Laurie Carmody says:

    Congratulations on FLAMINGO HUGS AREN’T FOR EVERYONE, Ciara! It looks adorable, and I loved reading about how playing with your daughter inspired it.

      • Angie says:

        Oh, the things my neighbors have seen me doing…I’m glad they don’t seem technologically interested or my escapades might end up as lessons in DON’T do this. LOL

  5. Kaitlyn Leann Sanchez says:

    I love hearing about each email from Fkaminga’s illustrator was like Christmas morning!!❤️

    Speaking of Christmas, I hope your Christmas book sold well, Susanna ❤️

    Thanks for this wonderful interview ladies

  6. claireannette1 says:

    I love everything about this post – flamingos, your dad, your illustrator, and a wonderful story! I admire you for being so brave to self publish and I am glad you got your book out into the world.

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