Hey, Everybody! It’s Tuesday Debut time and we have such a treat today!
Our debut-ess for this week is none other than the lovely and talented Anne Appert, and because she is both author and illustrator, we’re going to get to see extra art to show us how illustrations evolve! While this may seem ho-hum to people who illustrate all the time, it is a thrill for those of us who can’t draw to save our lives (*raises hand* 😊). And I think it’s helpful for all writers to get a glimpse of the illustration process.
So let’s dive right in, shall we? Presenting Anne Appert and her delightful debut, BLOB!
written and illustrated by Anne Appert
HarperCollins, September 14th 2021
Fiction, ages 4-8
Blob is a creature of indeterminate kind. Blob can be a giraffe, cotton candy, and even an octopus. It’s not until a negligent (albeit well-meaning) narrator continuously calls them “Bob” that Blob starts to question who they really are.
After a series of funny yet enlightening discoveries about all the possible things they can be, Blob realizes that the best thing to be is . . .
(With the L.)
SUSANNA: Welcome, Anne! Thank you so much for coming to share your publication journey with us today! We’re so looking forward to hearing all about it! Where did the idea for this book come from?
ANNE: This book started as a joke when people kept mistaking my stylized animal drawings as animals they were not. For example, a skunk was confused for a badger, a squirrel for a cat, etc. I said to a friend, “ Nobody can tell what I’m drawing, but at least they are cute and blobby.” Then Blob popped into my head. Followers on social media responded well to this character, and I decided that I needed to write this story! Luckily for me, their story flowed easily on to the page. You never know when a random conversation will turn into a full fledged book idea.
SUSANNA: How long did it take you to write this book?
ANNE: I got the idea for the book in February/March of 2019, and by June had a full dummy ready for submission. This is not normal for my process. Usually I need to let a story sit for several months before I jump into illustrations and revisions, but this book just leapt out of my head. The first 6 pages of the book haven’t changed much since that first Instagram version of Blob. For me, it’s important to write the story first, then figure out what I am trying to say.
SUSANNA: Did you go through many revisions?
ANNE: I’ve realized that I keep telling people we didn’t revise Blob a lot. That’s not entirely true, it was simply an easy book to revise and thus didn’t feel like much. By letting that first draft flow instead of writing with a message in mind, I was able to approach revisions as the way to excavate what I was trying to say, then polish the text to make that message shine. I revised two times before submission and did one major revision with my editor. While the core of the story has remained the same, my editor’s revisions helped me find another layer of the story. We went back and forth on some final word choice decisions while I worked on the art.
SUSANNA: When did you know your manuscript was ready for submission?
ANNE: I worked with my agent to tweak the draft until the ending felt satisfying, which involved both text and art revisions. Usually, I go through a couple round of edits with my critique groups, then send to my agent. Once my agent gives me feedback, I don’t show it to my critique group again unless it needs a major rewrite. For Blob, I skipped the critique group step, because I felt that it was already in a good place and we already had a request from a publisher to see it.
SUSANNA: When and how did you submit?
ANNE: First my agent submitted to an editor who saw the original Blob on twitter and requested the story. At that moment, I only had a manuscript and some sample illustrations. We waited to submit more widely until I had finished a full dummy. My agent sent it to editors at various houses and we got several rejections (including from HarperCollins.) Then I went to a portfolio review in NYC through the Children’s Book Illustrator Group where I met my editor (from HarperCollins). When she reviewed my portfolio, she kept coming back to the page with Blob illustrations that I had included. She emailed my agent the next day to get the dummy.
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”?
ANNE: One week! After my agent sent the dummy, we found out the next day the editor wanted to take it to acquisitions. The next week they made an offer! I know this is not usually how speedy publishing is, so I was very excited.
SUSANNA: When did you get “the call”, which these days is more likely to be “the email”? (Best moment ever! 😊)
ANNE: As previously mentioned, I got the call a week after finding out it was going to acquisitions. (And yes it was a call, not an email!) The dummy had been on submission for 4-5 months before that.
SUSANNA: How long was it between getting your offer and getting your contract to sign?
ANNE: I received the initial offer in November 2019. Then, there were some conversations with my agent and the publisher so I think it was finalized in December. I received the contract in May 2020.
SUSANNA: How did you celebrate signing your contract?
ANNE: One of my mottos is celebrate everything. I shared a bottle of bubbly with the family I live with and I bought myself some new notebooks. I was fortunate that I shared the news with friends before the pandemic hit even though I hadn’t signed the contract, so they took me out to dinner to celebrate. And since I celebrate everything, I did get to celebrate the offer with more family before the pandemic.
SUSANNA: Was the contract what you expected in terms of advance, royalty percentage, publication timeline, author copies etc.?
ANNE: To be honest, I didn’t know what to expect. I found reading the contract very confusing and was very happy that I had an agent to walk me through it. The advance was more than I expected because I forgot that as an author/illustrator I wouldn’t split it. I got 25 author copies and 10% royalties on hardcovers. Most things seemed pretty standard according to my knowledge of the publishing industry. The one thing I was worried about is that my contract has the wrong title for the book! Before I signed it, I made sure I wasn’t committing to this title, and my editor assured me that we were on the same page regarding this.
SUSANNA: Can you tell us a little about the editorial process?
ANNE: We started editing the manuscript before I signed the contract. There were two significant changes to the original manuscript. The first was drawing out the name storyline. Originally, Blob didn’t insist on the narrator calling them the right name, and it was more of an afterthought. Thankfully, my editor realized that we needed to change this. We also changed the ending as the original version was vague and very open ended. We did one major round of revisions, and then did some word choice editing once we started working on the art. I feel so lucky that I had an editor who completely understood Blob, in some ways even more than I did.
SUSANNA: What was your experience of the illustration process like?
ANNE: The illustration process was both fun and challenging.
The dummy I submitted was 32 pages (This is standard for the industry). My editor expanded it to a 40 page book, which gave us more room to explore the various themes in the story. It did mean I had to create more art.
I worked with an incredible designer whose attention to detail really allowed Blob to pop off the page. I decided to use a limited palette for the book, so when I got to final art, I had to make some tricky decisions in order to make that work. (There are only four colors in the book plus black and white. I do use the colors transparently on some pages, which creates more colors as they overlap.)
I drew the work digitally which meant I kept my fingers crossed that the colors would print the way I hoped. Printers vary, so it’s hard to be 100% sure. When I saw the F&Gs, I was very happy with the color. My favorite surprise was the spot gloss on the front cover! (Notice the way the painted L, e, and glasses shine)
SUSANNA: Did you get to see advance reviews from Kirkus, SLJ, etc? What was that like?
ANNE: I was very nervous about what Kirkus was going to say which made it a huge relief when they gave BLOB a good review. I also got a review from the Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books. Both likened Blob’s looks to sweets, which I found amusing. I didn’t get my SLJ review until after the book publication date. It was a good one as well, but a little less scary since I already saw how readers were responding to BLOB.
SUSANNA: How long did it take from offer to having the first copy in your hand?
ANNE: I received the offer in November/December of 2019 and got my copies in August 2021. That was a surreal moment!
SUSANNA: What kind of marketing and promotion has your publisher done for this book?
ANNE: HarperCollins promoted it on their social media accounts on publication day. They also did an influencer outreach campaign where they sent the book to different book influencers to review. I believe they also did outreach to educators and librarians. I’m sure there is more behind the scenes then I realize!
SUSANNA: Describe any marketing/promotion you did for this book.
ANNE: For my own marketing, I reached out to several blogs to do a small blog tour (A Blob tour, if you will). I also created stickers and signed prints/bookplates for preorders. Because we are still in the midst of a pandemic, I didn’t do a launch event; however, I did team up with a local bookstore for signed preorders. (And you can still order signed copies from them if you would like! https://www.anneappert.com/books) In addition, I did a 10 day countdown with graphics I made for my social media accounts. Now I’m scheduling library visits. For these, I’ve created some activity sheets which I hope to add to my website soon.
SUSANNA: How long was it between the time you started writing seriously and the time you sold your first picture book?
ANNE: I went to college planning on pursuing writing for children afterwards. My degree is in illustration because, though I enjoyed making art, I felt I needed the training to be able to illustrate my books as well. I joined SCBWI soon after graduating, but it took a couple years for me to really get involved. While I was writing this entire time, I would say 2015 was when I started seriously learning and working at craft. in 2018 I signed with my first agent, and in 2019 I sold my first book. I do usually include my college years since it was always my plan to write and illustrate, which would make it 12 years from the time I started college to the time I sold my book.
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?)
ANNE: The most important thing for me was to get involved and make connections. The more people I met through organizations and groups like SCBWI, The Children’s Book Illustrator Group, 12×12, and the KidLitArt twitter chat, the more my craft grew in leaps and bounds. I quickly learned it wasn’t enough to be a part of these organizations, I had to participate and put myself out there. Through this, I was able to find critique groups, mentorship opportunities, and classes that led me to the connections that helped me sell my book. Most importantly, I found the people who are my friends. This industry has a lot of ups and downs, and having them to lean on has been the most invaluable part of this whole experience.
SUSANNA: Anything else you’d like to share about your book’s journey from inspiration to publication?
ANNE: In navigating the publishing journey, one of the best things for me has been asking a lot of questions along the way. Creating a book is a team effort, and everyone involved wants to make it the best book it can be. Don’t be afraid to ask your agent, editor, and designer (if you are an illustrator) questions!
Blob was very easy to write, and that was because there is so much of me in this character. The anxiety of having to decide what you will be when you grow up and getting called the wrong name over and over (I’m a twin) were two of the reasons I wrote this book. However, I didn’t discover this until after I had written the first draft. As Blob would say, be you, and you will find the right words to allow your message to shine, whatever that message may be.
SUSANNA: So much wonderful information and advice, Anne! Thank you so much for taking the time to participate in this series and paying it forward to other writers! We wish you all the best with this an future titles!
Readers, if you have questions for Anne, please post them in the comments below and if she has time I’m sure she’ll respond!
You may purchase Anne’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)
Rebecca Mullin – One Tomato (board book)
Cynthia Argentine – Night Becomes Day: Changes In Nature (illustrated with photographs)