HI everyone! Welcome to today’s episode of Tuesday Debut!
I love books that introduce me to something I previously knew nothing about, and that’s what PANDO: A LIVING WONDER OF TREES has done. If you’re new to Pando as well, you’re going to love this! So I’m thrilled to welcome our debut-ess, Kate Allen Fox, who wrote this wonderful book!
Pando: A Living Wonder of Trees
written by Kate Allen Fox
illustrated by Turine Tran
August 15, 2021
Nonfiction, ages 8—11
Pando is an inspiring tribute to a Utah grove of quaking Aspen trees connected by their roots to form one of the world’s oldest and largest living things.
SUSANNA: Hi Kate! Thank you so much for joining us for a little chat today. We’re so glad you’re here, and grateful to have the opportunity to hear about your journey to publication. Where did the idea for this book come from?
KATE: I was driving home after a hike when I remembered something I had read or heard about trees connected by their roots. When I got home, I Googled it and became absolutely fascinated. Walks in nature often allow my brain to find creativity (as does driving). Both activities are supposed to activate the “default network” of your brain, allowing you to work out problems, and they definitely work for me!
SUSANNA: How long did it take you to write this book?
KATE: It took about two or three months to write and revise (with a lot of feedback from critique partners and the 12×12 forum). During that time, I changed it from informational fiction to nonfiction and consulted with an expert on the topic. This is unusually fast for me, but I was very inspired and single-minded about it. I had a feeling that was the manuscript that would breakthrough for me.
SUSANNA: Did you go through many revisions?
KATE: So many! I started with an anthropomorphized tree in a fictionalized version. That version just didn’t work, but somehow I couldn’t put the story down. I asked myself, what about this concept is intriguing to me? I realized it really was the nonfiction aspects of the tree.
Asking that question led me to the right structure for my story, and I still ask myself that when I’m wrestling with how to approach a manuscript.
SUSANNA: When did you know your manuscript was ready for submission?
KATE: People on the 12×12 forum and critique partners started saying things like “this will be a book!” I hadn’t heard that from other writers before, so I assumed it was ready to go. And, it was close!
SUSANNA: When and how did you submit?
KATE: I was unagented, so I focused on submitting to agents. I entered contests and didn’t win, but contests helped me hone my manuscript and research agents. I saw agents looking for lyrical nonfiction, submitted, and started getting positive responses within a few weeks.
SUSANNA: How long after you found out about your book going to acquisitions (if you did) or after you submitted were you told it was a “yes”?
KATE: The acquisitions meetings at the publisher were cancelled or rescheduled a couple of times so it took about two months.
SUSANNA: When did you get “the call”, which these days is more likely to be “the email”? (Best moment ever! 😊)
KATE: I got the email about 5 months after we went on sub. It went to several houses and sold without revision. I got the email while playing with my sons. It all felt pretty surreal.
SUSANNA: How long was it between getting your offer and getting your contract to sign?
KATE: About 3 months.
SUSANNA: How did you celebrate signing your contract?
KATE: I didn’t. This is something I need to work on! I did donate a portion of my advance to the Western Aspen Alliance to support Aspen conservation, which felt like a meaningful marking of the book becoming “real.”
SUSANNA: Was the contract what you expected in terms of advance, royalty percentage, publication timeline, author copies etc.?
KATE: My advance was under $5,000 with royalties of 7% of net sales for hardcover and paperback, and 18 author copies. Publication was required within 24 months (though it ended up being a fair bit less than that). I didn’t have many expectations going in (I knew several people who had received no advance), and I was (and am) happy with my contract.
SUSANNA: Can you tell us a little about the editorial process?
KATE: We did two rounds of edits. The text stayed mostly the same, but some things changed, particularly after illustrations started. For example, I had a spread where I compared the weight of Pando to polar bears and other creatures, but the art director noticed that it looked strange to have polar bears on the same spread as a forest. We also converted the backmatter into text boxes, added a timeline, and added some new backmatter. I absolutely love all the changes and am so grateful that a wonderful team brought this book to life. It’s so much more than I ever imagined.
SUSANNA: What was your experience of the illustration process like?
KATE: I saw the beginning sketches and then color spreads later in the process. From the very start, I was absolutely blown away by Turine Tran’s art.
My editor shared those two rounds of illustrations with me along with her comments and comments from the art director, asking if I had anything to add. I saw my job as ensuring the illustrations were as accurate as the text, but it was already so wonderful (and accurate) that I didn’t have much to add.
I don’t think I included any art notes, and I’m so glad I didn’t. Turine and the art director came up with things I couldn’t have even imagined.
SUSANNA: Did you get to see advance reviews from Kirkus, SLJ, etc? What was that like?
KATE: I haven’t seen any yet, but hope to soon!
SUSANNA: How long did it take from offer to having the first copy in your hand?
KATE: About 18 months.
SUSANNA: What kind of marketing and promotion has your publisher done for this book?
KATE: Capstone has created marketing videos, submitted me to present at conferences, and obviously marketed it to bookstores, libraries, and schools.
SUSANNA: Describe any marketing/promotion you did for this book.
KATE: I’m doing a blog tour, working with organizations focused on Aspen conservation, and scheduling events with bookstores. I’m also part of the wonderful promotion group, the Picture Book Scribblers, which has been a wonderful experience for me to learn with other debut authors and from more experienced authors.
SUSANNA: How long was it between the time you started writing seriously and the time you sold your first picture book?
KATE: Less than a year. I realize that’s quick. I think when I found picture books (and then lyrical nonfiction), I found a genre and form that fit my voice, and things fell together quickly.
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?)
KATE: I think it’s important to keep experimenting and finding joy in the process. If you aren’t feeling inspired, try other genres or forms until you find a “spark” that makes you want to keep going.
SUSANNA: If your book has been out for at least one statement cycle, has it earned out yet?
KATE: It’s not out yet, but I’m hoping this happens!
SUSANNA: Anything else you’d like to share about your book’s journey from inspiration to publication?
KATE: Writing is a team sport. I wouldn’t be here without the support of other writers, and I have found so much community in the process. If you don’t have a critique group, find one, even if it’s just to have someone to commiserate with when publishing is hard.
SUSANNA: Thank you so much for taking the time to participate in this series and paying it forward to other writers, Kate! We so appreciate you sharing your time and expertise, and wish you all the very best of luck with this and future titles!
Readers, if you have questions for Kate, please post them in the comments below and if she has time I’m sure she’ll respond!
You may purchase Kate’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)
Nancy Derey Riley – Curiosity’s Discovery (author/illustrator self-published debut)