Welcome back to Tuesday Debut!
We had a kind of a long stretch without any new debuts, but today’s marks the first of at least 9, so get ready to meet some great new authors!
Today I’m thrilled to introduce you to Amy Mucha, whose interview I’m sure you’ll enjoy. It’s entertaining and she has lots of interesting and helpful information to share.
Let’s start with a look at her beautiful book!
A Girl’s Bill of Rights
written by Amy B. Mucha
illustrated by Addy Rivera Sonda
February 2, 2021
Fiction, ages 4-8
In a world where little girls must learn to stand tall, A Girl’s Bill of Rights boldly declares the rights of every woman and girl: power, confidence, freedom, and consent. Author Amy B. Mucha and illustrator Addy Rivera Sonda present a diverse cast of characters standing up for themselves and proudly celebrating the joy and power of being a girl.
SUSANNA: Welcome, Amy! Thank you so much for joining us today! Where did the idea for this book come from?
AMY: I had written the original text years ago, purely for myself, as a pledge to help me be more assertive and confident. I had always heard that agents and editors wanted picture books with characters and plots, and that “concept books” were tough sells, so I never gave much thought to pitching it as a picture book. But when it came time for #PitMad I thought, heck, why not at least try? And go figure, the one that broke all the rules was the one that sold!
SUSANNA: How long did it take you to write this book?
AMY: The first version took only ten or twenty minutes, burbling out in a single churning flow of resolution. This was one of those books that seemed to know what it wanted to be and didn’t require much kneading or pushing. It’s always nice when that happens!
SUSANNA: Did you go through many revisions?
AMY: Very few. I had the original which I wrote for myself, and it only took one or two rounds to get it into picture book form (with the right number of pages, etc.). Then, after it was signed, the editor at Beaming Books asked me to rewrite the ending to make it more positive. The last line of my original draft was, “If you don’t like it you can go eat socks!” It made me laugh, but Beaming Books was absolutely correct; the new ending works SO much better. Once I rewrote it, I took it to my wonderful critique group who helped make sure it was polished and ready. And that was it!
SUSANNA: When did you know your manuscript was ready for submission?
AMY: Honestly, I didn’t give it too much thought. I had other manuscripts I was actively querying, and those I had spent plenty of time on to make sure they were submission-ready. But A Girl’s Bill of Rights was one I pitched more as a lark.
I should say that one thing I *did* do, and this was key, was hire Katie Frawley (https://katiefrawley.wordpress.com) to write the pitch. I’m dreadful at pitches, and she’s got a gift for them. Without her help I’m sure this never would have happened. I recommend her to everyone who struggles with pitching!
SUSANNA: When and how did you submit?
AMY: Because I’d been actively querying agents and purposefully NOT submitting directly to publishers, I always assumed my first offer would come through an agent. But because of that pitch event, it ended up happening the other way around. Thankfully I had been querying a middle grade novel at the same time that I received the offer from Beaming Books, and I was able to contact the agents who had shown interest in my work and let them know about the offer. That’s how, in what was one of the magical months of my whole life, I ended up signing with the fabulous Ginger Knowlton of Curtis Brown AND signing my first book contract, all within a few weeks. What a summer!
SUSANNA: When did you get “the call”? (Best moment ever! 😊)
AMY: I was fortunate to have it all happen in a few months. The pitch event was in early-June and I sent the manuscript within days of it being “liked”. A few weeks later I was sitting in the waiting room of my daughter’s dentist when I received the email from Beaming Books that there was a “strong possibility of acquiring” my book. I did a happy dance right there in the waiting room! It took another month to get the formal offer, then maybe two weeks later I was sitting on the runway in an airplane, having just landed, when I received an offer of representation from Ginger. They had just turned off the seat-belt light and I was so excited I was having joy conniptions in the aisle. Soon three rows ahead and behind me were clapping and congratulating me — I felt like I was in a movie!
SUSANNA: What a great story!!! 😊 How did you celebrate signing your contract?
AMY: I celebrated with strangers on an airplane, lol! It was wonderful.
SUSANNA: What can you tell us about the editorial process?
AMY: As I mentioned above, my editor at Beaming Books, Naomi Krueger, asked me to rewrite the ending to make it more positive, since the original manuscript ended with “If you don’t like it you can go eat socks!” I’ll admit I did have an initial brief pang. The sassiness of the line always made me laugh, and I had envisioned making “Go eat socks!” socks and tossing them out as prizes at school events. But as soon as I had the new ending come to me, I liked it so much better. And the socks? I decided to go ahead and make those anyway! Because who doesn’t want a pair of “Go eat socks” socks? (You can find them on my website: http://www.amybmucha.com.)
SUSANNA: Can you tell us a little about your experience of the illustration process?
AMY: It’s always such a nervous moment for any picture book writer, finding out which illustrator has been assigned to their work. I had the enormous luck of being matched with Addy Rivera Sonda. She is a dream! And because my book has no plot or characters, she had a harder job than most. I hadn’t included any art notes, since I’d been taught that the writer ought to leave all of that to the artist, so the task in front of her must have felt daunting. Take this page, for example:
The text says, “I have the right to say ‘STOP!’ and even the right to SCREAM it!”
Addy could have chosen any situation at all to illustrate this line, using any sort of characters. Choosing to draw a paper airplane being thrown on a school bus was perfect! It’s so relatable, and exactly the kind of situation where we’d want girls to stand up for themselves. It would have been easy to end up with a scenario that was too heavy and serious for the book, or too frivolous. In making perfect choices like this page after page, she turned what had started as a mere pledge or a creed into a complete story. And not only that, but she created an amazing array of diverse, stereotype-busting characters to boot. I will be forever grateful to her for making this book what it is!
SUSANNA: Did you get to see advance reviews from Kirkus, SLJ, etc? What was that like?
AMY: I saw the advance review from Kirkus less than a week ago, and — this is funny — you made me curious so I just now looked it up on Publishers Weekly, and it appears that they’ve posted a review as well! It’s never a guarantee that you’ll get a review from either, so I’m just glad for the notice. And the fact that both were quite positive makes it all the better! Phew!
Here are links if you’d like to read the reviews:
Publishers Weekly review: https://www.publishersweekly.com/978-1-5064-6452-7
SUSANNA: How long did it take from offer to having the first copy in your hand?
AMY: Let’s see… the offer came in July 2019 and I got my author copies on the last day of 2020. That’s not really fair, though, since my original pub date was delayed five months thanks to Covid. Without that it would have been only a year, which is quite fast in the publishing world.
SUSANNA: Describe any marketing/promotion you did for this book.
AMY: First, I created my website, adding activity guides for parents and teachers created by Debbie Gonzales (http://www.debbiegonzales.com). Then I created a line of merchandise (t-shirts, mugs, phone cases, etc.) with the goal of donating my portion of the sales to girl power organizations. I’m also donating a portion of my book earnings, though I haven’t figured out how to publicize any of this yet, so most people don’t know unless they happen to stumble across it on my website.
Probably where I’ve put most of my marketing energy so far is in reaching out to reviewers and interviewers. I made a huge spreadsheet of bloggers, reviewers, Twitter ARC-sharing groups, Instagrammers, YouTubers, local media, etc., then spent days sending emails, thankfully with great response so far. I’m also planning several book giveaways soon, including a “StoryGram” Instagram tour set for the first week of February.
Next on my list is to figure out how to contact independent bookstores and libraries to see if they’d be willing to stock my book. One advantage for those with a big-name publisher (one of the “big five”) is that bookstores and libraries are more likely to automatically stock their book, whereas with a smaller publisher you have to do more of the outreach yourself. I made postcards to mail and will be looking more into that next week.
Among the very wisest choices I made was joining a fabulous debut group (https://oneforthebooks.wixsite.com/2021). A good debut group isn’t just about boosting your book; it’s about sharing wisdom and creating community. I suggest to all writers that they start looking for one immediately after signing their first contract, since good groups fill up fast. They can be tricky to find, too. The best way is to be active on social media and start asking around.
There are a couple common marketing strategies I have NOT done yet. One is plan a book launch party, another is schedule school visits. Thanks, Covid! <eyeroll> Some authors are moving their school visits online, and I do have a couple of those lined up. If those go well and the kids seem to like them, I may add a “Author Visits” section to my website and give it a go.
SUSANNA: How long was it between the time you started writing seriously and the time you sold your first picture book?
AMY: Twelve years, but that was by choice. I spent the first ten in an amazing critique group, learning the craft, learning the industry, and making connections. I didn’t begin querying in earnest until a couple of years ago. From then to signing the offer was only around a year, I think.
SUSANNA: What is the most important/helpful thing you learned on your way to publication? (Or what is your most helpful piece of advice for up and coming writers?)
AMY: Instead of the most important piece of advice, here are several smaller bits:
- Join a critique group! Lots of critique groups have moved online. I recommend one of Susie Wilde’s groups if they’re not all filled. (http://ignitingwriting.com)
- Join SCBWI and once Covid lets up, go to some of the conferences in person.
- Don’t query a picture book until you have at least three polished and ready to submit.
- If you’re serious about getting published, get active on Twitter and Instagram, following your favorite writers, agents, and editors. Also join the KIDLIT411 and Sub It Club groups on Facebook.
SUSANNA: Thank you so much for taking the time to participate in this series and paying it forward to other writers! It’s such a valuable opportunity for all of us to get a chance to learn from you, and I know I speak for everyone when I say THANK YOU and wish you the best of luck with this and future titles!
AMY: Thank you Susanna! I really enjoyed this interview!
Readers, if you have questions for Amy, please post them in the comments below and if she has time I’m sure she’ll respond!
You may purchase Amy’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)
Julie Rowan-Zoch – Louis (picture book illustration debut!)