So what if it’s snowing again! It’s time for Tuesday Debut, and it always makes the day wonderful to celebrate one of our own achieving publication – that pinnacle of success we all strive for whether it’s our first book or (I presume) our 50th – I’ll let you know if I get there! 😊
I am so thrilled to introduce today’s debutess, Julie Rowan-Zoch! You had the opportunity to meet her last fall when she made her illustration debut, but this time she is debuting her writing and art together!
And today is her book’s actual birthday, so feel free to have some cake 😊
I’M A HARE, SO THERE!
story and pictures: Julie Rowan-Zoch
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers (HMHKids)
rel. date: March 16, 2021
Pre-K – 3 (4-7yrs)
Exasperated hare puts a plucky squirrel in his place as they stroll through the desert comparing similar-not-same animals – while oblivious to predators! This hare may call the squirrel Chippie, or a tortoise a turtle, but Jack is NOT a rabbit!
SUSANNA: Thank you so much for coming to visit with us today, Julie! We are all so thrilled to have you here (again!)! I may be wrong, but I think you’re the first author/illustrator debutess we’ve had, and I know you’re the first person we’ve had who had an illustrator debut and then also an author/illustrator debut! We can’t wait to hear your unique perspective! Where did the idea for this book come from?
JULIE: I have your illustration contest to thank for the character, Susanna! That was the first drawing I made, but a few more followed and my agent soon asked, “What is his story?” Having a character with a bit of attitude helped “walk” the story, at least especially after researching where one would even find jackrabbits! It has gone through a number of revisions, including rhyme, but I recall the process as being easy (or Corona really has done a number on my brain!)
SUSANNA: Haha 😊 I think Corona has done a number on all our brains! But I have to say, I have loved that jackrabbit from the first moment I saw him, and I’m glad you were encouraged to tell his story! How long did it take you to write this book?
JULIE: According to the files I could find, about 3-4 weeks – NOT my norm!
SUSANNA: Did you go through many revisions?
JULIE: I (used to) re-number every draft, no matter how small the revision, and I believe it was about 15. I don’t have a real process for revision. I’m a pantser through and through!
SUSANNA: When did you know your manuscript was ready for submission?
JULIE: It felt good after running it by my critique groups numerous times. Then I showed it to my agent and we made one major change to the ending (let the main character live!). But we didn’t submit it for some time. I had some personal issues which brought life to a long halt! We finally offered it as an exclusive to the editor I worked with illustrating Tom Lichtenheld’s book, LOUIS.
SUSANNA: When and how did you submit?
JULIE: We submitted exclusively shortly after work on LOUIS had begun in 2018. After a week the editor asked for another week (!) then asked if I would be willing to add back matter. I agreed, though I was completely unsure about it – I had not expected that request!
SUSANNA: When did you get “the call”? (Best moment ever! ☺)
JULIE: My agent informed me via phone call after a deal was made, and yes, it felt great to sell my own writing!
SUSANNA: How did you celebrate signing your contract?
JULIE: I was lucky to celebrate with my dear friend and fellow writer, Julie Hedlund at our favorite hangout, about halfway between our homes in Colorado. There was champagne!
SUSANNA: Was the contract what you expected in terms of advance, royalty percentage, publication timeline, author copies etc.?
JULIE: I was very pleased with the offer, which my agent managed to bump up from the original a bit! It’s embarrassing, but I have no head for contract details – but I did get 20 author copies!
SUSANNA: What can you tell us about the editorial process?
JULIE: The editor and art director asked if I would be open to including a few more similar-but-not-the-same animals in the illustrations, which really made the book better! There was one revision request in the text but it was minor. There were a lot more requests after the initial sketches, lots of revision work on continuity and composition, even after the final artwork was submitted and color proofs came through! My experience was completely positive. I have to say, coming from graphic design, I find the collaboration in publishing with people who want to support you and produce really good books out of passion, well, you can guess – it’s much more satisfying!
SUSANNA: Did you get to see advance reviews from Kirkus, SLJ, etc?
JULIE: Actually, I found the (very nice!) reviews myself and shared them with my agent and the team. Maybe because we were knee deep in Corona-time? I was also the one to notice when HARE was chosen as an Editor’s Pick for best books in March for the 3-5yr age bracket. I feel very lucky to receive that kind of exposure for the book!
SUSANNA: I think it is very well deserved! 😊 How long did it take from offer to having the first copy in your hand?
JULIE: About 2yrs. Print run is 30K.
SUSANNA: What kind of marketing and promotion has your publisher done for this book?
JULIE: My publicist helped me with adding images to the book’s Amazon page, and facilitated an interview with Mr. Schu, but the rest has been up to me.
SUSANNA: Describe any marketing/promotion you did for this book.
JULIE: I am very fortunate to belong to the Soaring20’s promotional group, as well as Picture Book Playground. Even if I were not debuting (twice!) in a pandemic, I would highly recommend finding such a group for the camaraderie and emotional support. And for the help with marketing, but honestly, that feels like less of a priority considering COVID. As you well know, it is the community which makes our little world go ‘round!
SUSANNA: How long was it between the time you started writing seriously and the time you sold your first picture book?
JULIE: For writing: 8.5yrs. I mentioned personal struggles along the way earlier, which slowed me down, but somehow I still feel lucky to be debuting right now. More likely I am just so happy to have this particular joy during these trying times!
SUSANNA: It certainly is a welcome bright spot – for you as creator and for us who get to enjoy your book! What is your most helpful piece of advice for up and coming writers?
JULIE: Everyone knows how important it is to engage with newer books on the market. But the current market shows you the current market, not necessarily great books. Yes, it’s very important to know what is selling, but I have found so many gems beyond the familiar classics over the last few years which feel as fresh today as when they were written in the 70’s, 80’s 90’s. For a book to have that kind of longevity they HAVE to have the rock-hard quality to stand the test of time. It may not be everyone’s goal, but I want to be reading my own books to kids for many, many years – and still enjoy it! Read the gems, write them out, read them again! Oh, and once you feel like you’ve got the basics down, don’t be afraid to break some rules! (For anyone interested in some of those old gems I heartily invite you to scroll around on my blog!)
SUSANNA: Anything else you’d like to share about your book’s journey from inspiration to publication?
JULIE: Maybe it’s the pandemic, and maybe it’s the kind of books released over the last few years (and I read A LOT as a bookseller), but I am starving for more humor in picture books and value a good find now more than ever before!
*Also, I have become extremely choosy in books for adults and I attribute it all to the concise writing and reading of picture books!
SUSANNA: Thank you so much for taking the time to participate in this series and paying it forward to other writers, Julie! We are so grateful to have gotten the opportunity to learn from you today, and wish you all the best with LOUIS, I’M A HARE, and all future titles!!!
JULIE: Thank YOU, Susanna!
Readers, if you have questions for Julie, please post them in the comments below and if she has time I’m sure she’ll respond!
You may purchase Julie’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!)
Gnome Road Publishing (publishing house debut)