Today’s installment of Tuesday Debut will be of special interest to those of you who want to write for youngest audiences. Although we usually feature picture books, today’s debut is a board book. I thought we might all learn a thing or two from debut-ess Rebecca Mullin about first-time publishing in this fun and wonderful format.
Rebecca has generously provided a copy of her book as a giveaway, so one lucky commenter will be randomly chosen to win the book! Please comment on this post by Sunday September 19 at 9PM Eastern to qualify for the random drawing!
And now, without further ado, please join me in welcoming Rebecca Mullin as she kindly shares her journey to publication of ONE TOMATO – a book she wrote for her daughter and which was illustrated by her niece!
Written by Rebecca Mullin
Illustrated by Anna Mullin
Rubber Ducky Press, May 1, 2021
Counting board book for 2-6 year olds
Count the vegetables as you harvest the garden beginning with one ripe tomato! Ants, moles, bees and other garden friends join in the fun. Watch for the sneaky yellow dandelion. Learn about growing healthy foods while counting to ten in One Tomato!
SUSANNA: Welcome, Rebecca! Thank you so much for joining us today. We’re all excited to hear about publishing a board book. Where did the idea for this book come from?
REBECCA: One night while cooking dinner I asked my daughter to pick a zucchini from our garden. She came back with a cucumber! We needed some help with vegetable identification! So, I contacted my niece, Anna Mullin, to make a poster of the vegetables we grew in our garden. At the time, Anna was a senior biology major at Earlham College and had a side-hustle doing commission artwork from her website, ANNAEM.com. She created several beautiful posters which I hung in my kitchen. Now that would be the end of the story except that my mom, who owns Kids Ink Children’s Bookstores in Indianapolis saw the posters and said “that looks like a board book.”
SUSANNA: How long did it take you to write this book? And how long was it between the time you started writing seriously and the time you sold your book?
REBECCA: The initial writing of One Tomato took a couple of weeks. But in reality I spent my whole life working on One Tomato. I’ve been an avid gardener and reader my whole life. I began working in my mom’s bookstore in 8th grade and have since logged thousands of hours buying books for the store, selling books to customers, reading at storytimes, hosting author events, writing book reviews, and of course packing, unpacking, and lifting lots and lots of boxes of books (not sure how the manual labor piece helped in writing – but I sure do remember the back aches!)
SUSANNA: When did you know your manuscript was ready for submission?
REBECCA: Honestly, I never thought it was truly ready for submission. At some point I just couldn’t see how to make any improvements so decided I’d just give it a try!
SUSANNA: When and how did you submit?
REBECCA: I submitted directly to Rubber Ducky Press without an agent or query.
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”? When did you get “the call”, which these days is more likely to be “the email”? 😊
REBECCA: The “yes” came slowly. I submitted by email and got a reply within days that the publisher was “interested.” We spoke on the phone a few weeks later at which point I understood that my book needed some significant changes to fit within the Rubber Ducky brand. I submitted a revised edition several months later and was subsequently invited to visit the publishing house. (Covid delayed this visit by 3 months.) The “yes” came when I met with the publisher, distributor, editor, sales manager and probably a few others…it was such an exciting blur!
SUSANNA: How long was it between getting your offer and getting your contract to sign?
REBECCA: Three weeks.
SUSANNA: Was the contract what you expected in terms of advance, royalty percentage, publication timeline, author copies etc.?
REBECCA: Standard royalty contract and 10 copies of the book included.
SUSANNA: Can you tell us a little about the editorial process?
REBECCA: After signing the contract I thought the book was finished….rookie mistake! The editor asked for several major changes that required re-writing and re-illustrating. Honestly I thought the changes were outrageous. You want to substitute corn for spinach? You want pumpkins instead of dandelions? But once the changes were made it undeniably made the book better.
SUSANNA: What was your experience of the illustration process like?
REBECCA: Of course, my experience with the illustration process was unusual because I worked with my niece! We met several times and layed out all the pages of the book across a table to see the flow of the story. Anna sees color and composition in an entirely different way, I learned so much working with her!
SUSANNA: How long did it take from offer to having the first copy in your hand?
REBECCA: The initial interest in the book was in December 2019 and the publication date of One Tomato was May 1, 2021. However, the book was delayed by shipping and customs issues and did not arrive until the end of July! Boy was that an agonizingly long wait! The print run was 3,000.
SUSANNA: What kind of marketing and promotion has your publisher done for this book?
REBECCA: Rubber Ducky Press has an incredible sales team and marketing staff. One Tomato is now available in bookstores, libraries, Ingram warehouses, and Amazon.
SUSANNA: Describe any marketing/promotion you did for this book.
REBECCA: I’ve found some great gardening items to promote One Tomato! I had custom tomato seed packets printed and paired these with a child sized watering can with a One Tomato image to use as a giveaway at the book launch. Also, I’ve printed stickers and postcards for promotional purposes and my publisher produced a really nice sell sheet for gardening and book stores. Additionally, I’ve reached out to gardening centers and seed catalogs as another avenue to sell One Tomato.
SUSANNA: What is the most important/helpful thing you learned on your way to publication?
REBECCA: Read everything available in the genre and age range for which you are writing.
Link to publisher product page:
SUSANNA: Thank you so much for taking the time to share your knowledge and expertise in board book publishing with us today, Rebecca! We so appreciate the opportunity to learn from your experience! I know I speak for everyone when I wish you every success 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! And don’t forget to comment on this post by Sunday September 19 at 9PM Eastern to qualify for the random drawing! Someone will win a copy of this cute book!
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!)
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)
Kate Allen Fox – Pando: A Living Wonder Of Trees (nonfiction)