Welcome to our first Tuesday Debut in awhile!
I’m thrilled to introduce you today’s debut-ess, Karen Condit, who has written a lovely book about mindfulness and taking the time to slow down – advice I think we can all benefit from 😊 She is the first author we’ve had on Tuesday Debut who chose a hybrid publishing model, so for those of you interested in that, you may gain some insight, and you have the opportunity to ask her questions in the comments!
Let’s jump in and have a look at her beautiful book!
Turtle on the Track
written by Karen Condit
Illustrator, Mollie Ginther
Orange Hat Publishing
Release date: February 2, 2022
Themes: Mindfulness – Patience – Emotional Wellness
When the restless, impatient passengers on the Scurryville Express are forced to wait when a turtle crosses the tracks, they can’t help but blow off a little steam! Can Oscar come along to help them slow down and enjoy the ride? Only time will tell!
SUSANNA: Welcome, Karen! Thank you so much for joining us today! Where did the idea for this book come from?
KAREN: I was walking along our country-side property close to the railroad tracks that ran along the Mississippi when I spotted a snapping turtle on the dirt road. I knew snapping turtles made their way to dry land to lay eggs so I was intrigued to watch this creature and see what she would do. As I watched, I was pulled into the beauty and quiet of my surroundings and it made me pause—It’s time I slowed down, too. I’ve always been more of an energizer bunny. I knew I needed to change my pace and live a slower, more intentional life. Coming across this turtle was the seed for this story.
SUSANNA: How long did it take you to write this book?
KAREN: It didn’t take me long to write the bare bones of the story—a few days. From our home, we could hear the trains along the river which helped me set the scene. The story flowed easily and most of what is written today came from those first few days. As with most of my stories, I don’t have a particular ending in mind, but I do stay focused on the theme. The theme of slowing down was easy to keep in mind because my experience had been so personal.
SUSANNA: Did you go through many revisions?
KAREN: Yes! Turtle went in and out of revision while I continued writing other stories. It’s never been a waste of time for me to put a story away for a while. I’m always amazed at what needs attention when I get it out again! I worked mainly on character development and after dummying out the story, I found some weak spots in the story arc. Paginating a manuscript has always been a great revision tool for me. Of course, everything I write is shared with my two critique groups who are committed to helping me, not humoring me—all with grace. 🙂 Turtle also received several critiques from on-line writing communities and at writing conferences.
SUSANNA: When did you know your manuscript was ready for submission?
KAREN: I’ve a hard time knowing when a manuscript is truly ready. It’s much easier to tell if it’s not ready! If I’ve given the manuscript enough time to percolate, and still believe in it after all the rounds of revision from those that know more than me, I’m ready to submit. It had been two years since I wrote the first draft. It was time.
SUSANNA: When and how did you submit?
KAREN: At first, I sent the manuscript to a handful of publishers on my own. When a writing conference came up, I decided to pitch it to agents and editors. I guess Turtle was ready—I landed an agent! Publication here I come! Not quite. After two years, Turtle had been rejected 29 times, only a few more than Dr. Suess’ 27 rejections of his first book, And To Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street! That made me feel a little better. A little. I was discouraged. A short time later, I made the hard decision to end the relationship with my agent . . . but not with Turtle. 🙂
During the next two years I continued writing and submitting while Turtle took a rest. I was working on other manuscripts when I heard about Orange Hat Publishing—a small indie-publisher that offered both hybrid and traditional publishing. After checking their website, I thought they’d be a good fit, so Turtle came back out of her shell. 😉
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”?
KAREN: I submitted Turtle on the Track on December 7, 2020 and received an email on January 12, 2021, saying they were interested in considering my manuscript for a hybrid contract.
SUSANNA: How long was it between getting your offer and getting your contract to sign?
KAREN: I love to share this part of my story . . .
When I received an email from Orange Hat Publishing requesting a phone meeting, my husband was going through a very difficult time with his health. In many ways, the timing couldn’t have been worse. I hesitated. No—I cried. Why now? I couldn’t possibly think straight. I had no room on my plate for anything more, not even a phone call. Then my daughter sat me down. “Mom, this may be just the right time. Don’t let this go.” I made a phone appointment several weeks out thinking things may settled down by then but as the time approached, I felt more uneasy. I wanted to be on top of my game. A day before the scheduled call I decided to contact the office and cancel the appointment explaining my situation. When I called, they offered to do a conference call with the team that was already gathered in one place. AHHH! Before I knew it, I was sharing about my writing journey, my goals as an author and learning about their offer. After a 45-minute conversation I decided to consider a hybrid contract even though I was hoping for a traditional contract. One team member said, “Perhaps, this will be a light in a dark place for you right now.” After our call ended, I had a feeling it very well could be. They sent the contract, and after a careful review, I signed.
SUSANNA: How did you celebrate signing your contract?
KAREN: I didn’t. Unless you’d call sitting alone at my desk and letting out a huge sigh of gratitude is celebrating. There was no fanfare. I’m saving that for later!
SUSANNA: Was the contract what you expected in terms of advance, royalty percentage, publication timeline, author copies etc.?
KAREN: Hybrid contracts do not offer up-front royalties; however, one big benefit is that royalties on book sales are higher (50-60%) than with traditional publishing arrangements (5-10%). These are sales directly through the publisher and me. Profits from a retail distributor like Amazon and Barnes and Noble are less (1-4%). As with all hybrid arrangements, there’s a publishing fee and an investment in hiring an illustrator. I invested approximately $2000 in the publishing fee and considered illustrators whose fees ranged from $70-130 per page.
For some more information on hybrid publishing, I found this to be a fair article on Hybrid vs Vanity Press publishing. https://www.liminalpages.com/how-to-tell-the-difference-between-a-hybrid-and-a-vanity-press
Even though this article is written by Dudley Court House, a hybrid press, I found it true to my experience
I found this to be true . . . ” . . . hybrid presses genuinely care about their authors’ success.”
SUSANNA: Can you tell us a little about the editorial process?
KAREN: The editor suggested some minor edits, all of which I agreed. The pagination also had a few revisions regarding page turns and book length.
SUSANNA: What was your experience of the illustration process like?
KAREN: This was the most fun and inspirational part of the project!
I hired my illustrator through Orange Hat Publishing. They provided me with over 10 portfolios of different artists within their company. I was given a character sketch from my top two favorites to help me make a final decision. After looking at many artists, I decided on Mollie Ginther. She was an author/illustrator herself! I loved her style and admired other books she had illustrated. I also love watercolor. We were ready to go! So I thought. The day after Mollie accepted the job, she withdrew because a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity came through she thought had passed her by. I was back to reviewing portfolios.
After seeing Mollie’s work, I had a hard time settling on another illustrator so I asked if we could delay the project so Mollie could do the job when she was available. What? Whoever asks the publisher to hold up the show? I’m sure they wondered about me. 🙄 Thankfully, they agreed and the project was held for four months. Now I had a little breathing room to tend to the cares at home and I had my first-choice illustrator! Delays can be gifts.
When Mollie was ready to begin, we face-timed and discussed every page of the manuscript. I included only one art note, so she wanted to hear my ideas. I was delighted to discover we had a similar vision for the story. The greatest moment was when she said, “I really connect with this story. This is going to be fun!” A light in a dark place.
I reviewed early sketches, uncolored drafts, the painted drawings through .jpeg files.
If I had a new idea, I’d run it by Mollie. For example, I thought it would be fun to have a little mouse family riding along with the passengers. She loved the idea. She also was willing to hide a little turtle on each page so kids could have fun searching for it. She also added a coloring page and a dot-to-dot page at the back of the book. Throughout the process she let me know what would work and what wouldn’t. (She was very patient with me.) I learned so much! There were no surprises when the full final interior was sent to me. All around it was a great experience!
Here’s a short time-lapse video of Mollie at work:
There was an art editor who worked mainly on formatting text, cover design, and other details before final edits. The illustration process wasn’t really left up to me but I was able to give input, especially in our initial meeting. I was also able to view two rounds of drafts before finals were decided. These parameters were stated in the contract. The illustration process took about two months.
SUSANNA: How long did it take from offer to having the first copy in your hand?
KAREN: From when I got the call, to having the first copy in my hand was almost a year to the day. But remember, we delayed the project. The process from start to finish was about five months. Release date: 2-2-2022! Can’t get ‘2’ much better than that! 😆
SUSANNA: What kind of marketing and promotion has your publisher done for this book?
KAREN: My publisher helps by creating promotional materials, registering the book with major online distributors, arranging distributions through special orders, assisting in book launches if requested, and, of course, listing and promoting the book on their website. They’ve given me encouragement and support along the way. It was obvious they truly care about my success as an author.
SUSANNA: Describe any marketing/promotion you did for this book.
KAREN: I’m doing the same type of marketing that my friends are doing who are traditionally published. I’m using social media, my website, and relationships with indie bookstores. I have a podcast opportunity coming up, was interviewed with our local community event magazine, and I’m planning an in person Launch Party. I also have several school visits set up for the spring. As a retired teacher, this will be the most fun of all! And last, but certainly not least, I thank Susanna for featuring me in this Tuesday Debut post! Thank you, Susanna!
(a couple of activities to go along with the book)
SUSANNA: Absolutely my pleasure, Karen! 😊 How long was it between the time you started writing seriously and the time you sold your first picture book?
KAREN: Nine years. I started writing seriously when I retired from a 25-year teaching career as an elementary teacher and reading specialist. My goal has always been to publish but I knew the chances were slim since I started later in life. But wasn’t it Laura Ingalls Wilder who published her first book, Little House on the Prairie, at the age of 65? Let’s just say, I’m in good company!
If you’ve been counting, it took about six years before Turtle was accepted for publication.
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?)
KAREN: Oh, my . . . THE most important thing? I’ve learned so much! May I share three? Thanks! 😉
-The work to be done on learning the craft is as vital as the work to be done on growing emotional stamina for the journey. Find your people to keep going.
-Writing is more than an ISBN number—it’s the people you meet; it’s the learning; it’s what feeds your heart! Be watchful for all the ways you’re being “paid.” It can be soooo frustrating, but it’s a wonderful life!
-Don’t compare your journey to anyone else’s. Comparison only deflates desire and robs joy. Someday you’ll have your story to tell . . . and it will be wonderful!
SUSANNA: That is very good advice! Anything else you’d like to share about your book’s journey from inspiration to publication?
KAREN: Take a lesson from a turtle: Your speed doesn’t matter; forward is forward.
SUSANNA: Karen, thank you so much for taking the time to participate in this series and paying it forward to other writers! We so appreciate you sharing your knowledge and experience – such a wonderful opportunity for us to learn! I know I speak for everyone when I wish you all the best with this and future titles!
Readers, if you have questions for Karen, please post them in the comments below and if she has time I’m sure she’ll respond!
You may purchase Karen’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)
Anne Appert – Blob (author/illustrator)