It’s Tuesday, and you know what that means!
Time for another exciting installment of Tuesday Debut!
Today’s debut is a very special one! Not an author. Not an illustrator. But a brand new publishing company!
You have a unique opportunity here to learn about this new resource in children’s literature and get in on the ground floor. Publishers need manuscripts to turn into books, and you are the talented people who write them!
So without further ado, I’d like to introduce Sandra Sutter, Owner-Publisher, and the creative force behind debut Gnome Road Publishing!
SUSANNA: Hello, Sandra! We had you here on Tuesday Debut with your delightful picture book, THE REAL FARMER IN THE DELL, back in April of 2019, but we are delighted to welcome you again as Owner-Publisher and creative mind behind a brand new publishing company – Gnome Road Publishing! You are a published picture book author. What inspired you to start a publishing house of your own?
SANDRA: Gnome Road Publishing has been on the horizon for quite a while. I knew in my heart that becoming a publisher was my ultimate goal when I first began writing for children in 2017. I am a behind-the-scenes kind of person, and I love bringing ideas and people together. Once upon a time (in former lives), I was a counselor and a mediator, and those same skills and enjoyment found in collaborating with others seem to be at play. Now, with my experience in the publishing industry, I have the tools and information I need to finally move forward.
SUSANNA: How did you choose the name “Gnome Road Publishing” and what does it represent?
SANDRA: Little did I know when I chose the name (way back in 2019!) that gnomes would be as popular as they have been lately. I’m taking that as a sign of good things ahead. The name comes from a real place (an actual road) in the mountains of Northern Colorado, near where I grew up. It would be much more interesting if I had a story to tell about gnomes and how that relates to a publishing house, but the truth is I simply like the earthy, mythical, and somewhat mischievous nature of gnomes. And, the name reminds me of a childhood place associated with happiness and the outdoors. I think illustrator Wendy Leach, who I hired to design the logo and artwork for the website, was able to capture that feeling and history for me. I really love how it all turned out.
SUSANNA: What do you hope to accomplish/what are your goals/what is your mission as a publisher? (What do you want from authors and illustrators, and what do you hope to provide for readers?)
SANDRA: If you look on the GRP website, you will see two mission statements. One is for the (future) readers of our books, and the other for creatives that come to work with us. I feel a responsibility to not only produce books that children love and want to read time and again, but to also shine a light on the talented people who create these stories. My job as a publisher is to be a bridge that connects authors and illustrators together with children that love good storytelling and reading.
SUSANNA: Can you tell us about your staff members and staff structure? Associate editors, art director, art editors, etc?
SANDRA: Well, there is me at the very top. And then there is me at the very bottom. This is a small, start-up press so I am responsible for almost all aspects of the publishing process. However, that does not mean I work alone. I have a team of helpers, from members of my Acquisitions and Editorial Advisory Board to consultants on design and marketing strategies. And, this is a family-owned business, so I have hands-on support at home, too. As the company grows, I look forward to building a staff dedicated to furthering the GRP mission.
SUSANNA: What will you publish? Board books? Novelty books? Picture Books? Early Readers? Chapter Books? Graphic Novels? Middle Grade? YA? Fiction and/or Nonfiction? Please be as specific and detailed as you care to be – the more information the better 😊
SANDRA: Can I pick “D. All of the above?” I certainly wish I could publish them all! But starting out, my focus will be on picture books through early middle-grade and a select number of upper middle-grade and young adult novels. As much as I like board books, I am not actively seeking them. Long-term, I am interested in producing novelty books and items under the Gnome Wild! imprint. But all in good time.
SUSANNA: As owner/managing editor, what is your wish list for each category?
SANDRA: The GRP website has a wish list for each of the imprints which I hope provides guidance on what we are looking for (and what I particularly like as a publisher). But no matter the specific topic or style of writing, one thing a story must have is the “R” factor. Re-readability! I want to publish the story a child will pick out at bedtime three times a week, the one with the tattered corners and curled pages from being checked out and loved so much at the library, or the one a classroom of children beg the teacher to read at story-time. Please – send that story to me!
Another way to answer this question might be to share a few of our household favorites (picture books, in no particular order):
- Tyrannosaurus Rex v. Edna, the Very First Chicken by Douglas Rees (Illus. Jed Henry)
- They All Saw a Cat by Brendan Wenzel
- The Tree Lady by H. Joseph Hopkins (Illus. Jill McElmurry)
- The Legend of Rock, Paper, Scissors by Drew Daywalt (Illus. Adam Rex)
- The Oldest Student: How Mary Walker Learned to Read by Rita Lorraine Hubbard (Illus. Oge Mora)
- A Gift for Amma by Meera Sriram (Illus. Mariona Cabassa)
- Holy Squawkamole! by Susan Wood (Illus. Laura González)
- Caring for Your Lion by Tammi Sauer (Illus. Troy Cummings)
- The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires
- Mummy Cat by Marcus Ewert (Illus. Lisa Brown)
- Read the Book Lemmings by Ame Dyckman (Illus. Zachariah O’Hora)
- Just a Minute: A Trickster Tale and Counting Book by Yuyi Morales
- The Invisible Boy by Trudy Ludwig (Illus. Patrice Barton)
- There are no Bears in This Bakery by Julia Sarcone-Roach
- Teach Your Giraffe to Ski by Viviane Elbee (Illus. Danni Gowdy)
- Sophie’s Squash by Pat Zietlow Miller (Illus. Anne Wilsdorf)
- When Grandma Gives You a Lemon Tree by Jamie L.B. Deenihan (Illus. Lorraine Rocha)
- The William Hoy Story by Nancy Churnin (Illus. Jez Tuya)
- In the Sea by David Elliott (Illus. by Holly Meade)
- Predator and Prey by Susannah Buhrman-Deever (Illus. by Bert Kitchen)
- Alma and How She Got Her Name by Juana Martinez-Neal
There are so many more! A few of my older favorites are The Upstairs Cat, The Riddle Monster, and Calvin and Hobbes comic strips. And if you really want to get my attention, get your hands on a copy of This Room is Mine by Betty Ren Wright (Illus. Judy Stang) and send me something like it for today’s market.
SUSANNA: How many titles do you expect to start with and in what genres?
SANDRA: The plan is to start with 4 to 5 picture books, an early reader or chapter book (with series potential) and one or two MG or YA novels each year, with the first releases coming out at the end of 2022 or beginning of 2023. I would like to double that soon thereafter, but again, one step at a time.
SUSANNA: Will authors and illustrators receive an advance? What will the royalty structure be like?
SANDRA: Yes, authors and illustrators will be paid on an advance against royalties structure in a traditional publishing format. It should be no surprise that advances will not be as competitive as in a large publishing house, but I believe strongly in providing something upfront for work acquired at GRP.
SUSANNA: What kind of experience can an author or illustrator expect to have with Gnome Road?
SANDRA: I am glad you asked this, and I think it goes nicely with the last question on advances. We know we cannot fulfill our mission to readers without a list of talented creatives! Authors and illustrators can expect timely and straightforward communication from the earliest point in working together, through production, publication, and beyond. As an author myself, I know that feeling valued and appreciated is important to having a good experience in this industry.
Authors and illustrators will be working with me and the GRP team closely to make a book the best it can be, starting with an initial discussion about the overall story vision, what happens behind-the-scenes to turn a manuscript into a physical book, and how we plan to market and distribute the title. We expect authors and illustrators to work collaboratively to the best of their capabilities. I know what I am able to do as the publisher, but I also want to know what each of their strengths are and how that fits with our overall goal to get the book into the hands (and hearts) of young readers. We want to identify those strengths and help creatives to successfully continue down their publishing paths. And perhaps this is a good time to answer the next question . . .
SUSANNA: Will authors and illustrators be expected to have existing social media platforms and presence? How much will they be responsible for marketing and publicity?
SANDRA: Yes. No. Maybe. Is that a good answer? It’s 2021. There is steep competition for space on the shelf, whether that be in a store, a library, school, or someone’s home. Every bit of marketing and positive publicity helps. Although we will be working with a distributor and part of the budget for each title will include an allocation for marketing (and reviews), an author or illustrator should have (or plan to develop) a social media platform to assist in these efforts. Authors and illustrators will not have ultimate responsibility for marketing their book(s), but we encourage active involvement in this process. This can come in many forms – not just a social media platform. But having one is almost essential at this point.
SUSANNA: As a new publisher, how do you plan to tackle marketing and distribution?
SANDRA: “Tackle” is an appropriate word for this topic. Although I love the creative aspects of being a publisher, the fact is much of my time is devoted to making quality products (in a physical sense as much as in the stories told) and getting them into the hands of as many readers as possible. I made the decision early on that GRP would use offset printing rather than print-on-demand services. This provides a wider range of options for distribution and marketing, but it also requires more time and money upfront and greater financial risk. This is one reason advances are less attractive than those found at a large, traditional publishing house. It means I must be very selective about choosing manuscripts and take on a limited number of projects so that resources can be put towards finding book buyers and building the brand as a whole. It is a balancing act of trying to attract talent, making quality products, selling them, and also keeping workload manageable and finding help when needed. Interview me again in five years and ask if all of my hair has turned gray. Chances are it will, and largely because of this.
SUSANNA: Will you submit your titles for review by top reviewers (Kirkus, SLJ, Booklist, etc) and for awards?
SANDRA: Yes. I feel this is a core component of a marketing and publicity strategy. But I do not want to discount the importance of less formal reviews and publicity found through connections within the greater Kidlit Community. We will work with our creatives on identifying and creating opportunities for personal growth and publicity through avenues like blog tours, podcasts, online promotional groups, book fairs, school and library visits, honor and awards submissions, and bookstore and influencer relationships.
SUSANNA: Do you have any advice for authors and illustrators who are planning to submit to GRP?
SANDRA: Let’s call it “Words of Wisdom”. First, learn your craft, get critiques, and write a good query letter. If you submit no query at all with the manuscript, send a 900-word story for pre-school age children, or fail to use any type of standard formatting, it is almost certain that submission will end up in the “no” pile. Almost. I could be wrong, but why take that chance with your work? Make your submission the best it can be. My Acquisitions Team will always appreciate the effort!
Please come visit, get to know, and follow Gnome Road!
Submissions Info HERE
SUSANNA: Sandra, thank you so much for stopping by today to tell us about your wonderful new publishing company! It’s so exciting – for you and for us! I think I speak for everyone when I say we can’t wait to see what you will publish!
And thanks to everyone 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!)