Welcome to Tuesday Debut, everyone!
Today’s guest we has written and illustrated a fun story in rhyme that also includes interesting, educational, nonfiction back matter. And she self-published. Talk about doing it all!
I know we’re all going to learn a lot, so let’s get right to it and meet today’s debut-ess, Nancy Derey Riley, and have a look at Curiosity’s Discovery!
written and illustrated by Nancy Derey Riley
Self-published/print-on-demand through IngramSpark – Rolling Prairie Publishing LLC
November 10, 2020
Rhyming fiction with NF back matter
For ages 4-8
CURIOSITY’S DISCOVERY takes the reader on a mystery adventure on Mars as the trusty rover hears an unknown radio signal. She discovers an older rover, Spirit, just as his batteries crash and his transmission ends. Now, she must revive him if she has any chance of having a friend.
SUSANNA: Welcome, Nancy! We are so thrilled to have you here today to share your journey to publication! As you know, I am especially fond of this story for a reason I know you’re about to explain 😊, and because I share your interest in the Mars missions and have a Mars book of my own! Where did the idea for this book come from?
NANCY: The idea for this story came from you, Susanna, and Valentiny! Last year’s 2020 Valentiny Contest rules were: write a child-friendly Valentine’s story, no more than 214 words, and show someone or something being curious. I immediately thought of Curiosity, the Mars rover—nothing more curious than Curiosity, right? Well, I wrote a rhyming story entitled, Finding a Friend, and miracle of miracles, I came in 4th! I was so excited.
I find writing contests for kid-lit writers help me generate ideas for stories beyond just a particular contest. Plus, there are prizes, often critiques from published authors and, even, agents. These critiques have helped me polish my stories for submission to agents and publishers.
SUSANNA: How long did it take you to write this book?
NANCY: After basking in my 4th place finish for a few days, I decided to transform it into a complete picture book manuscript. Since it is a rhyming story, this took me a couple of weeks. In March 2020, as the pandemic was beginning, it was critiqued by all my critique partners (I’m in three different groups, one is dedicated to rhyming picture books).
SUSANNA: Did you go through many revisions?
NANCY: I didn’t go through many revisions, certainly not major rewrites or anything. The back matter took much longer to decide what to put in and what to leave out. The moment I discovered your website and your books, Susanna, I loved the idea of back matter at the end of a fictional tale. Since I’m a biologist, I wanted to include facts on Mars, the rovers, and, for this story, Morse code.
SUSANNA: It’s really an added value for young readers and for their parents and teachers! And something I haven’t seen as much in self-published titles. So kudos to you! When did you know your manuscript was ready for publication?
NANCY: In the middle of April 2020, after a final review by my rhyming partners, I submitted query letters to nine publishing houses that accept unagented manuscripts. In June, I subbed to 13 agents who were open to submissions. Also, I participate in Twitter pitch contests as they come along, but I have yet to have any success with them.
SUSANNA: At what point did you decide to self-publish rather than submit to traditional publishers? Did you try traditional first? Or did you have specific reasons for wanting to self-publish?
NANCY: In May 2020, came a long road trip to visit my stepdaughter in Oklahoma and a LONG discussion with my husband about my writing journey. I’d been writing picture books for nearly four years and submitting to agents/publishers for three. I’ve only gotten a couple “champagne” rejections, the rest either form letters or no response at all. I told my husband that even if I got an agent in one day and that agent sold my manuscript to a publisher the next day (impossible, but I simplified it for the sake of our discussion), it could be two years before I held a book in my hands. I was 63 and not getting any younger. I’d researched independent publishing a little at that point. That is when I decided to self-publish this story. I did submit the story to agents in June figuring I would work both ends and see what happened first—an agent or a book in hand.
SUSANNA: How did you find an illustrator?
NANCY: The smart aleck answer is, I looked in the mirror. I’m very left-handed and right-brained. I love to draw when I make the time. I did a lot of illustrations for handouts and handbooks in my federal career. I’m even a sometime silversmith. My husband says I’m a serial hobbyist! I have rough book dummies for several stories and I when I subbed to agents, I asked them to consider me as an author-illustrator. I did receive one response from an agent who liked my story and the rhyme (often hard to get a positive response), but my art style did not resonate with her AND she was ONLY taking on author-illustrators. Sigh.
So, I decided to try my own illustrations. I find humans hard to draw, so luckily, there are no humans in Curiosity’s Discovery! LOL!
SUSANNA: Since you illustrated your own book, I’m guessing you were able to talk your illustrator into working for a very reasonable price 😊 But were there any costs associated with illustrating?
NANCY: The biggest cost for me was buying the whole Adobe Creative Cloud package for a year. I started out trying to use watercolor pens, but decided that Photoshop was my best medium for these illustrations. That cost me around $360. I’m a member of the Colorado Independent Publishers Association and there are several service providers. One illustrator said his price is around $5000-$10000! One of my critique partners, who self-published, found an illustrator in eastern Europe, maybe Romania, and that was around $150 for the whole picture book. She was very pleased with the product. I believe she found her illustrator on Fiverr.com. I have heard mixed reviews about this service.
SUSANNA: How did you format your book for publication?
NANCY: It was written in Microsoft Word and then the sentences were added to the artwork Photoshop. Then the pages were converted into pdfs. I’ve been told that the NEXT time to create the pages in Adobe InDesign because it is even more compatible with the print service I use.
SUSANNA: How did you select a printing service?
NANCY: I read up and researched print-on-demand services, such as, Amazon’s KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing), IngramSpark, BookBaby, Draft2Digital, etc. I knew that I would not want to afford a printing company. IngramSpark prints both hardcover and paperback whereas KDP only does paperback. I also met another wonderful self-published author, Barbara Renner, online. I contacted her and asked if we could video chat about her publication process. She is beyond helpful.
SUSANNA: Did you do a print run so you’d have inventory, or is your book print-on-demand?
NANCY: My book is both. It is print-on-demand, but I can order my books at cost plus shipping so I do have a small inventory. My book is available online at: Amazon (around the world), Barnes & Noble, Walmart, Target, eBay, Waterstones (in the UK), and more. IngramSpark distributes their list to many outlets. Currently, the only physical place that has my book on consignment is the Fort Collins, Colorado Discovery Museum.
SUSANNA: How long was the process from writing through publication of your book?
NANCY: The story was started in mid-February 2020 for Valentiny. The full story was complete and critiqued by mid-April 2020. I spent last summer working on the illustrations and the publication date was November 10, 2020. So, around 11 months. There was a steep learning curve relearning Photoshop and getting the whole book formatted properly for IngramSpark.
SUSANNA: Were you able to get your book reviewed by Kirkus, SLJ, Hornbook, Booklist etc.?
NANCY: No, Kirkus is pricey, over $300. I’m not sure about the others. I did have it reviewed by Readers’ Favorite (for free!) and earned a 5-star review. Book review of Curiosity’s Discovery – Readers’ Favorite: Book Reviews and Award Contest I know this is a very small thing, but it still helps put the word out about my book.
Also, I entered the Colorado Book Awards and the SCBWI Spark Award. Fingers crossed!
SUSANNA: Describe any marketing/promotion you did for this book.
NANCY: I’m still figuring this out! I did have my website revamped and we had a countdown to release, trailer which we also put it on YouTube, word search, maze, and coloring pages available on my website. I tried to have a book launch or signing locally, but late November saw an upswing in Covid cases and stores stopped all in-person events. I didn’t know how or where to do a virtual event. I still have much to learn in the marketing arena.
The other place I want to reach are schools. I would love to do author visits and talk about the rover programs, Mars, space, whatever the kids dream up!
SUSANNA:Anything else you’d like to share about your book’s journey from inspiration to publication?
NANCY: I’m still smiling that I can hold this book in my hands! A pandemic is a funny time, but maybe the best time to try this! I haven’t given up on traditional publishing as well. Now I have a much better appreciation for what an agent and publishing company do for you! With that said however, I must toot my horn a little more.
This year I placed 3rd in the 2021 Valentiny with a story about the Perseverance rover landing on Mars. I’m working on a longer non-Valentine story for Percy and Ingenuity, the little helicopter that went with him. I will self-publish this one too because I want the art to match with Curiosity. Who knows, it might lead to a whole Mars series.
SUSANNA: Thank you so much for taking the time to chat with us today, Nancy! We’ve learned so much! I know I speak for everyone when I say we wish you the best of luck with this and future titles, and I think we’re all looking forward to the continuation of your Mars series!
NANCY: Thank you, Susanna for being such an inspiration to me and many others in the children’s literature field. Without your writing contests, I doubt this book would exist.
Facebook: Nancy Riley Novelist or Nancy Derey Riley (personal page)
Instagram . . . soon for an author site
ISBN-hardcover – 9781735737102
ISBN-paperback – 9781735737119
About Nancy: I’m a retired wildlife biologist living with my husband, dog, Scout, and our 2 horses on 35 acres north of Fort Collins, Colorado. I have a grown daughter, stepdaughter, and stepson, and two fantastic teenaged granddaughters. I split my time between writing, enjoying our land and life, and being a competitive adult figure skater.
Readers, if you have questions for Nancy, please post them in the comments below and if she has time I’m sure she’ll respond!
You may purchase Nancy’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)
Julie Rowan-Zoch – I’m A Hare So There (author/illustrator debut)