I truly hope this morning’s post finds you and your loved ones all healthy and well!
We are certainly in unusual times. A lot of sad and scary things are happening in the world. But at the same time, trouble seems to bring out the good in people and there are shining examples of love and kindness, people helping other people, all over the world. In New York City at 7 PM each evening, a cheer goes up to thank all the health care professionals who are working so tirelessly and selflessly to help everyone – a moment of gratitude and solidarity that is profoundly uplifting. (Turn your sound up so you can really hear the clapping and cheering, the clanging and cowbells and whooping!)
And that is just one example of so many around the world.
Here in the world of children’s literature, we have our own little moments. For many debut authors whose are books are coming out between today and the end of June, the excitement of launching their very first picture books has been dampened by current events. Bookstores and libraries are closed, so launch events have been cancelled. Book festivals of all kinds have been postponed. There can be no in-person publicity or promotion. It doesn’t feel like much of a celebration of something they have worked so hard for.
So let’s pull together and do everything we can to help today’s debut author and all the others who will be introduced to you in the coming weeks celebrate and find joy in their launches. Let’s help them spread the word. Let’s cheer them on online through social media and to our friends and relatives over the phone. Let’s help them enjoy this most wonderful moment in their lives and get their books the attention they deserve!
Without further ado, I am thrilled to present to you today’s debut author, Susi Schaefer, a talented writer and illustrator, a graduate of Making Picture Book Magic, and a fellow member of our kid lit community who needs our help to show off her book, which releases next Tuesday on April 7!
Written & Illustrated by Susi Schaefer (Author/Illustrator)
Published By Abrams Books For Young Readers
April 7th 2020
Fiction Picture Book
This witty picture book explores the loving bond between a cat and her humans.
SUSANNA: Welcome, Susi! Thank you so much for joining us today to share your journey to publication so we can all learn! Where did the idea for this book come from?
SUSI: Thank you for having me on your blog, Susanna! Here is a little background story on how CAT LADIES came to be.
My dad’s cousin, Maridl, lives in the Austrian Alps (where I was born and raised). Maridl has a semi-feral cat that chose her garden as her ”home”, and Maridl took on the task of feeding her. She named the cat Poppele, and the two have a loving bond. But when Maridl, who is in her 90s, experienced some health challenges, she had to move into a care home. Now my parents have taken over the cat’s care, and they still bring Maridl to the house often to visit with her beloved Poppele!
I was trying to imagine what it would be like if Poppele would have been able to go with Maridl to the care home. What would her life be like? What would matter to her, and what wouldn’t? How could I turn this into a story?
SUSANNA: How long did it take you to write this book?
SUSI: I started the manuscript in late 2017, and publication is on April 7th, 2020. While I always knew the POV, I wasn’t sure if first person or third person would be stronger. Also, since I’m the illustrator as well, I put together a dummy with several finished illustrations. So, that took some extra time.
SUSANNA: Did you go through many revisions?
SUSI: I went through a fair amount of revisions, but I don’t mind the process. I wrote the first draft in literally a day and also created a couple of initial illustrations. It was so much fun; I still smile thinking about that day. When I showed the idea to my family, critique partners, and illustrator friends, I knew that I had something worth pursuing further. Once I got the story to a point that felt substantial, I sent the project to my agent. He shared my enthusiasm and, with his editorial prowess, he made the story a lot stronger. And, after CAT LADIES was acquired, it was made even better by the fantastic notes of my editor, art director, and book designer.
SUSANNA: When and how did you submit?
SUSI: As I mentioned, I work with an agent and he sent the dummy to a list of houses that felt like a good fit.
SUSANNA: When did you get “the call”? (Best moment ever! 😊)
SUSI: The book was picked up quickly, and I was thrilled that more than one publisher was interested in CAT LADIES. It ended up selling at auction.
SUSANNA: How did you celebrate signing your contract?
SUSI: I volunteer for a cat rescue, so I gave all the cats extra treats that week.
SUSANNA: Oh! I love that! What a special way to celebrate! Can you tell us a little about the editorial process?
SUSI: My editor didn’t have any big changes, just some logistical input. I was happy to implement everything because it made the story more streamlined. Plus, I am a firm believer that the book creating process is a team effort.
SUSANNA: Please tell us about illustrating – something that is a bit of a mystery to many of us!
SUSI: As the illustrator, I got to work closely with the art director. The notes I received were pretty minor, so the whole process went smoothly. I didn’t use art notes for CAT LADIES, but overall I find them useful and include them whenever I show a new manuscript to my agent. The trick is to keep them short and sweet, like (Art Note: Chases balloon).
SUSANNA: Did you get to see advance reviews from Kirkus, SLJ, etc? What was that like?
SUSI: Yes! It was exciting and, naturally, a little nerve-wracking. But reviews are a great tool to help promote a book, so it’s par for the course.
SUSANNA: How long did it take from offer to having the first copy in your hand?
SUSI: It took about two years to receive my advance author copy.
SUSANNA: What kind of marketing and promotion has your publisher done for this book?
SUSI: My publisher has been promoting my book on social media, has sent it out for reviews, and brought it to literary conventions, amongst other things. However, several events had to be canceled due to the COVID-19 crisis.
SUSANNA: Describe any marketing/promotion you did for this book.
SUSI: I created a book trailer, some coloring sheets and scheduled blog interviews (including this fabulous one). In addition, I hosted a giveaway on Twitter and Instagram. I also have a YouTube channel where I post free drawing tutorials for artists of all ages, including a tutorial for Princess, the cat from my book.
Sadly, my in-person events had to be put on hold for now, to keep everyone safe.
SUSANNA: We will certainly all do what we can to help you out, Susi! How long was it between the time you started writing seriously and the time you sold your first picture book?
SUSI: I started writing seriously in 2014, and I sold CAT LADIES in 2018.
SUSANNA: Anything else you’d like to share about your book’s journey from inspiration to publication?
SUSI: I had a lot of help, motivation, and inspiration along the way by joining the SCBWI, participating in Storystorm, Twitter chats, and Instagram prompts. Also, online courses like Making Picture Book Magic and SVS Learn helped me grow, both as an author and illustrator.
CAT LADIES is a story I would have told whether it ended up published or not. It brought me so much joy to tell, even if only my family and friends would have seen it. I find it rewarding to write for the love of storytelling. Luckily, my agent and publisher felt the same way I did about this book 😊
SUSANNA: Thank you so much for taking the time to participate in this series, Susi, and paying it forward to other writers! We wish you all the best of luck with this and future books!
Readers, if you have questions for Susi, please post them in the comments below and if she has time I’m sure she’ll respond!
You may purchase Susi’s book and have it in your hot little hands on publication day 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
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!
Karen Kiefer – Drawing God (religious market)
Theresa Kiser – A Little Catholic’s Book Of Liturgical Colors (religious market)
Lindsey Hobson – Blossom’s Wish (self pub)