Good morning, everyone, and welcome to another exciting episode of Tuesday Debut!
Today’s debut-ess and I are clearly kindred spirits! Her book is being published by Nancy Paulsen, who has one of my books due out next year, her publication date is one of my daughters’ birthday, and her name is Rebecca, which is my sister’s name! There’s a pretty good chance we are twin princesses separated at birth 😊
So I am delighted to introduce you to Rebecca Kraft Rector and her fun-looking book, Squish Squash Squished! (I don’t have my copy as of the writing of this post but I hope it will be here soon!)
Squish Squash Squished
Written by Rebecca Kraft Rector
Illustrated by Dana Wulfekotte
Published by Nancy Paulsen Books, Penguin Random House
February 16, 2021
Fiction, ages 2-6
When Max and Molly complain about being squished in the back seat of their gracious-spacious automobile, Mom invites their animal neighbors to ride along. They’d better figure out what to do before they’re truly SQUISH SQUASH SQUISHED!
SUSANNA: Welcome, Rebecca! Thank you so much for joining us today! We’re excited to hear all about how Squish Squash Squished came to be! Where did the idea for this book come from?
REBECCA: Family car rides were a big part of my childhood. But the story was not inspired by us kids being crowded in the back seat, because we were very well behaved. 😊 In fact, SQUISH SQUASH SQUISHED grew out of another story I was working on. That story was about the car itself. Gradually I started focusing on the children and adding humor and word play. My most successful stories happen when I’m making myself laugh.
SUSANNA: How long did it take you to write this book?
REBECCA: I wrote and revised the story with the help of my critique group in about three months. It didn’t sell and I put it away. That was twenty years ago!
SUSANNA: Did you go through many revisions?
REBECCA: SQUISH SQUASH SQUISHED was revised at least 15 times before it was submitted.
I revise before sharing with critique partners and then I revise again. (and again) When I think a story is finished, I do a few more passes. I use Word to turn the text into a 4 x 8 table. It’s an easy process under Insert/Table/Convert Text to Table. Each cell of the table represents a page of a 32-page book. The table lets me see where page turns will fall, if one page will have more words than another, if I’m repeating things unnecessarily, etc. A new revision tool I use is Read Mode in Word. I can see the text spread across two pages, just like a book. And if I enlarge the font to 18 (or so) it has fewer words on the page, so it reads like a picture book. I also like to change the font size and color of the text. It gives me a totally new perspective on the story.
SUSANNA: When did you know your manuscript was ready for submission?
REBECCA: After many revisions and feedback from my critique group, I felt I had a solid story. It made me laugh and the words flowed smoothly when it was read aloud.
SUSANNA: When and how did you submit?
REBECCA: My agent submitted the story three times before we parted ways. Then I submitted to publishers that took unsolicited manuscripts. I put the story away when it was rejected and only pulled it out again, almost 20 years later, when I needed a story to work on for a workshop. Cecilia Yung, Art Director at Penguin Random House, saw the story at the workshop (text only since I can’t draw), loved it, and took it to editor/publisher Nancy Paulsen. A week later, I received an email from Nancy offering to publish the story!
SUSANNA: Was the contract what you expected in terms of advance, royalty percentage, publication timeline, author copies etc.?
REBECCA: This was my first picture book contract so I only had a vague idea of what to expect. The advance was divided into two payments—half on signing the contract and half on “delivery and acceptance of the manuscript.” I believe “delivery and acceptance” referred to a revised manuscript after editorial feedback. The number of author copies was negotiated from 10 to 24. The contract’s timeline for publication was 18 months after acceptance of text and illustrations. 18 months seemed a long, but reasonable time to wait. However, the timeline was actually about three and a half years. Publishing is sloooow.
SUSANNA: Can you tell us a bit about the editorial process?
REBECCA: The editorial process was wonderful. Nancy was awesome to work with—responsive and open to discussing any questions I had. Yes, I had to make some changes. But she really did listen to my concerns. One example is that she had revised the story so that the animals exited the car in one paragraph—the dogs got out at the puppy school, the ducks got out at the duck pond, and the pigs got out at the market. I really wanted to show the car gradually emptying—the dogs got out but Molly still had two ducks on her head quack-quacking and Max still had a pig on his lap oink-oinking. (Those lines are all paraphrased.) Nancy’s changes were made so that the story would fit into a 32-page picture book. After some discussion, she decided to go with a 40-page picture book so that we could include my original text!
SUSANNA: What was your experience of the illustration process like?
REBECCA: I was included in the illustration process from the start. I had input on illustrators and I was able to give feedback on sketches. I hadn’t included any art notes but I had pictures in my head, of course. It took a little time to adjust my vision when I saw the sketches. But they quickly grew on me. I was so lucky that illustrator Dana Wulfekotte came on board to create the world for SQUISH SQUASH SQUISHED. She even made some changes based on my suggestions.
SUSANNA: Did you get to see advance reviews from Kirkus, SLJ, etc?
REBECCA: Nothing yet.
SUSANNA: How long did it take from offer to having the first copy in your hand?
REBECCA: July 2017 to January 2021. Three and a half years.
SUSANNA: What was the initial print run for your book?
REBECCA: 10,000 copies.
SUSANNA: What kind of marketing and promotion has your publisher done for this book?
REBECCA: The associate publicist is pitching widely to national and regional media, targeting trade and book-interest sites, illustrator and educator media, and parenting media.
SUSANNA: Describe any marketing/promotion you did for this book.
REBECCA: I’m doing blog interviews and I’ve joined a debut picture book group—21 for the Books. It’s been a great, supportive group. We have a blog https://oneforthebooks.wixsite.com/2021 and we create graphics and interviews to publicize each other’s books.
SUSANNA: How long was it between the time you started writing seriously and the time you sold your first picture book?
REBECCA: It was a long time—at least thirty years.
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?)
REBECCA: The most important thing I learned was Don’t Give Up! Keep writing and keep trying. This might not be the right time for this story, but who knows? Maybe it’ll sell next year (or twenty years from now).
SUSANNA: Thank you so much for taking the time to join us today and give us a glimpse of your publication process, Rebecca! It is such a privilege to get to learn from you! I know I speak for everyone when I wish you the very best of luck with this and future titles!
Readers, if you have questions for Rebecca, please post them in the comments below and if she has time I’m sure she’ll respond!
You may purchase Rebecca’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!)