Hey there, everyone! Welcome to another exciting episode of Tuesday Debut!
Today I’m delighted to introduce you to debut author Teresa Krager, whose beautiful picture book, Before Your Birth Day, gives children a glimpse of all the special ways they were becoming themselves before they were even born.
Take it away, Teresa! 😊
Before Your Birth Day
By Teresa Joyelle Krager
Illustrated by Thalita Dol
Elk Lake Publishing, Inc.
July 11, 2020
This celebration of life in the womb traces the miraculous milestones of development in lyrical rhyme as each precious child is wonderfully woven by God.
SUSANNA: Welcome, Teresa! Thank you so much for joining us today to share Before Your Birth Day‘s journey to publication! Where did the idea for the book come from?
TERESA: The idea came in May 2018, a few months after I learned my daughter-in-law was expecting. I began to follow a pregnancy app and was amazed at the incredible amount of scientific information available. Inspired to learn more, I researched what was happening during each week of her pregnancy and finally had to record my findings. As a 27-year veteran of teaching K and 1st grade, the story was ‘birthed’ in rhythm and rhyme, thanks to Dr. Seuss!
SUSANNA: How long did it take you to write this book?
TERESA: Initially, the book took about four months to write. I researched a few different websites to make sure I was getting accurate information. Of course, it was still far from its final version.
SUSANNA: Did it go through many revisions?
TERESA: I continued revising and tweaking the manuscript with the help of my SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) local critique group. I also paid for a one-on-one mentorship at a writer’s conference. Revisions continued even after I had sent the book off to publishers and had signed a contract. It’s amazing what we see after setting a manuscript aside for a time and then looking at it again with fresh eyes. I think my last revision was just a couple of weeks prior to it being sent to the distributor.
SUSANNA: When did you know your manuscript was ready for submission?
TERESA: I sent the manuscript off ten months after the idea was ‘conceived’. To the best of my knowledge and based on the response of my SCBWI friends, I thought it was ready.
SUSANNA: When and how did you submit?
TERESA: In the spring of 2019, I submitted to two small publishers who accepted unsolicited manuscripts. One answered with an automated message that they would contact me within six weeks if they were interested. Crickets. The second was super interested. After six weeks of discussions, however, they admitted the cost of the project was beyond what they could afford at the time, but encouraged me to contact them in a year or two if I was still looking to be published. Overall, this was a good learning experience as they asked for comparisons with similar books, marketing ideas, and my vision of illustrations. It forced me to start brainstorming and gathering that information.
In the summer of 2019, while attending a writer’s conference, I made an appointment with an editor from Elk Lake Publishing, Inc. She encouraged me to send in my manuscript. After finding their proposal requirements online, I set about the task of putting the multifaceted proposal together. Of course when I sent it in, I mentioned the name of their editor who encouraged me to submit my manuscript.
SUSANNA: When did you get “the call”? (Best moment ever!)
TERESA: I received “the call” by email just over an hour after submitting the proposal. I was shocked and elated!!! (Imagine ‘happy dance’ emoji here.) They wanted to offer me a contract, but wanted me to have an agent first. They recommended agent Karen Neumair from Credo Communications and I signed with that agency the following week. A month later, I signed with Elk Lake Publishing, Inc.
SUSANNA: How did you celebrate signing your contract?
TERESA: My husband and I went out to dinner and stopped to buy a beautiful flower arrangement. On an amazing note, I received the executed contract from the publisher the same day my new grandson, who inspired this book, turned one-year old!
SUSANNA: How wonderful! So serendipitous! Was the contract what you expected in terms of advance, royalty percentage, publication timeline, author copies, etc.?
TERESA: From my contract it was perfectly clear that this small publishing house did not offer an advance or author copies. Because of this, the royalty percentage was better than most. The publisher also allowed the author to purchase copies at a significant discount since the author is doing most of the sales. The publication timeline moved right along and was mostly dependent on my illustrator and her pacing.
SUSANNA: What can you tell us about the editorial process?
TERESA: The editorial process was better than I could ever have imagined. My editor gave guidelines up front and we worked really well together. She asked for only a couple minor changes and was flexible with some of the formatting. She updated documents in our Dropbox regularly after receiving completed panels from my illustrator.
SUSANNA: What can you share about your experience of the illustration process?
TERESA: My publisher gave me the option of choosing one of the artists they work with (most of whom would evenly split royalties with the author) or hire an independent contractor. I chose the latter. I found Thalita Dol’s portfolio on the SCBWI website when I was specifically looking for artists who illustrated the pre-born. I checked out her website and contacted her directly. Before starting the project a few months later, we were able to meet in person and I was able to share my vision for the book.
My working relationship with Thalita has been exceptional. In the beginning, she provided thumbnail sketches which were far better than any of my ideas and which later became full panels. She considered each of my suggestions/questions and we dialogued well together by email (since she lives in Canada). Thalita would typically complete a panel or two each week, would send me the digital file for ‘approval,’ and then forward it to my editor who would add text and place it in our Dropbox. Thalita provided a contract and I agreed to pay her per panel, plus the cover. I am blessed to say we have become lifelong friends.
The main art notes I provided were those describing the age and average size of each pre-born, just to maintain accuracy. Thalita also included an illustration of my husband and I as grandparents imagining our future grandbaby, where I am holding a sweater I knit for him. The illustrator’s family and my grandson are also included on special pages.
SUSANNA: Did you get to see advance reviews from Kirkus, SLJ, etc? What was that like?
TERESA: I have not received any reviews. To do so, I will need to send the book or ebook to reviewers. My publisher does not do that.
SUSANNA: How long did it take from offer to having the first copy in your hand?
TERESA: Nine months, of course … or close to it, if I count from the date I received the executed contract from the publisher to when the book was released. The ebook was released first on Amazon and there will also be an audiobook, which I was able to record. I am currently waiting to receive real live books from the distributor (although they are available on Amazon).
SUSANNA: Wow! That’s really cool that you got to record your own Audiobook! What kind of marketing and promotion has your publisher done for this book?
TERESA: Elk Lake Publishing, Inc. will mention the book on Facebook and their blog. 95% of the marketing is done by the author.
SUSANNA: Describe any marketing/promotion you did for this book.
TERESA: A few months ago, I created a new author website and have posted an update on Facebook. I have sent emails letting family and friends know of the upcoming release. Later this month, I will be posting a devotional on a fellow author’s website and she will promote the book as well. Once I have the books in hand, I am sure I will be busy making contacts, letting everyone know my book is available.
SUSANNA: How long was it between the time you started writing seriously and the time you sold your first picture book?
TERESA: I started focusing more on writing once I retired from teaching (K/1st grade) in 2015. So, it took about four years to get my first book offer.
SUSANNA: What is the most important/helpful thing you learned on your way to publication?
TERESA: Be brave, invest in your book, and go to conferences. While there, take advantage of the workshops. Pay for critiques and mentorships if possible. The one-on-one mentorship I paid for was someone whose prices were for longer manuscripts. Since picture books are short, I asked if he would critique two for the price of one and he did. (It never hurts to ask!) Memorize your pitch and be ready to promote your book. The connections you make could change everything.
Also, join a writer’s group. This is where you can learn, grow, and be mentored.
Finally, always check the publisher’s website to see what and how they want you to submit. Follow their guidelines to the tee! (It’s like they test you to see if you can follow directions.)
SUSANNA: Anything else you’d like to share about your book’s journey from inspiration to publication?
TERESA: As a Christian, I believe this book was inspired by the Lord. The facts about life in the womb are often denied and I have a passion to get the truth out. For support, I have a couple of friends who pray for me and this project regularly. I call them my Prayer Pair.
SUSANNA: Thank you so much for taking the time to share your experience with us today, Teresa! We so appreciate the opportunity to learn! Wishing you the very best with this and future titles!
Readers, if you have questions for Teresa, please post them in the comments below and if she has time I’m sure she’ll respond!
You may purchase Teresa’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
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)