My goodness! It’s been some time since we had a Tuesday Debut, hasn’t it?!
I have missed getting to showcase new authors! Please remember (and spread the word) that if you have a debut picture book coming out I’d be delighted to feature you. Just email me (contact form in the menu bar) and we’ll choose a date!
Today I am thrilled to introduce a talented writer whose early publication was as an essayist, but who recently came to picture book writing. I had the opportunity to read this book before it was even submitted and I loved it from the beginning, so I encourage all of you to get your hands on a copy and enjoy it! In fact, one of you could win a copy from Patrice! Leave a comment below by Sunday June 19 at 9PM Eastern and you will be entered in a random drawing for your very own copy! (USA addresses only, sorry!) Please join me in welcoming Patrice Gopo as she shares her journey to publication with her lovely picture book, ALL THE PLACES WE CALL HOME!
Title: All the Places We Call Home
Author: Patrice Gopo
Illustrator: Jenin Mohammed
Publishing House: WorthyKids/Hachette Book Group
Date of Publication: 14 June 2022
Fiction or Nonfiction: Fiction
Age Range: 4-8
SUSANNA: Welcome, Patrice! Thank you so much for joining us today! We’re very excited to hear all about your journey to publication with this beautiful, lyrical book! Where did the idea come from?
PATRICE: Years ago, my oldest daughter took a nap on her great-grandmother’s bed in rural Zimbabwe. That day I remembered a childhood nap I had once taken on my grandmother’s bed in rural Jamaica. I recognized how my daughter’s story would, in many ways, mirror my story: a child who lives in one place but has cultural ties to other parts of the world.
I shaped that experience into an essay called “Before” (part of my first collection of essays, All the Colors We Will See). One day, as a friend was telling me about her picture book project, I had one of those moments when a lucid idea showed up, saying, “Here I am. Pay attention to me.” The idea: the essay “Before” would make a great picture book!
Honestly, I love how this idea came into being. There is so much space for us to re-imagine our creative pursuits in other forms such that new creations spring forth.
SUSANNA: How long did it take you to write this book?
PATRICE: This idea to turn the essay into a picture book manuscript came to me in the summer of 2019. The challenge for me, though, was that beyond having read tons and tons of picture books to my children, I didn’t know much about the craft of writing picture books. I knew quite a bit about the craft of writing, but not specifically picture books. So, I needed to learn. I began studying craft books and eventually signing up for Susanna’s MAKING PICTURE BOOK MAGIC course.
I came to the page with a desire to illuminate how family stories of far-off lands help shape children, help form their identity, and help connect them with their broader world. However, up until taking Susanna’s course, I was struggling with how to use the ideas from my essay and transform that into a picture book. Susanna’s daily lessons gave me tools and empowered me with ways to bring forth a gorgeous manuscript! After several rounds of revisions, I completed my manuscript in the summer of 2020.
No matter how long we’ve been writing, I think there is always space to learn something more!
SUSANNA: Did you go through many revisions?
PATRICE: I did go through multiple revisions. Probably 6-8 before my agent sent my manuscript out on submission. And then a few more revisions with my editor. As I mentioned earlier, I’m a personal essayist as well. When I write essays, one of my favorite parts is revision. I find the generation process/the blank page a little frightening at times. But with revision, you already have the words there.
A technique I love to use in the revision process is cutting the essay apart into paragraphs so that I can physically rearrange as I sit on the floor. I brought that revision technique to revising All the Places We Call Home (and additional manuscripts I’ve written since then). There is something wonderful about cutting apart paper, moving sections around, and seeing what that will do to your story.
Ultimately, each round of revision gets us closer to what a story wants to be.
SUSANNA: When did you know your manuscript was ready for submission?
PATRICE: My agent told me that it was ready for us to go out on submission. Honestly, I wasn’t sure myself, so I appreciated the outside opinion. As writers, we can get so caught up in the number of times we’ve read a manuscript, and it can be helpful to receive input from someone with more distance. I should mention that I had a pre-existing agent because of my work for adults, my essay collection, etc.
SUSANNA: When and how did you submit?
PATRICE: My agent submitted my manuscript to a handful of editors.
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”?
PATRICE: I actually didn’t find out that my book was going to acquisitions. My agent did let me know that we had interest in the manuscript. And about five weeks later, I received an offer. That was an excruciating time of waiting, knowing that someone was interested and then not knowing.
SUSANNA: When did you get “the call”, which these days is more likely to be “the email”? (Best moment ever! 😊)
PATRICE: I did have to wait a bit as I mentioned above. However, I know this manuscript was picked up quickly when I compare to other stories I’ve heard.
SUSANNA: How long was it between getting your offer and getting your contract to sign?
PATRICE: This did take a while. About 5-6 months (this included several rounds of contract revision before I received the version to sign)
SUSANNA: How did you celebrate signing your contract?
PATRICE: Ice cream!!!
SUSANNA: Was the contract what you expected in terms of advance, royalty percentage, publication timeline, author copies etc.?
PATRICE: I found Hannah Holt’s “Writing Picture Books: A Look at the Numbers” blog post extremely helpful (hannahholt.com/blog/2017/9/25/writing-picture-books-a-look-at-the-number-part-2). WorthyKids is an imprint of Hachette Book Group, so a large press. According to Hannah’s statistics, my advance fit right within the average and aligned with what I expected. Same with the royalty rates. I will mention that I asked for additional author copies beyond what the initial contract offered. I think that’s a wonderful place to negotiate, particularly if you plan to use copies of the book in your marketing and promotion efforts.
SUSANNA: I agree, that can be ver helpful! Great tip! Can you tell us a little about the editorial process?
PATRICE: I decided to sign with my editor because she had both a passion for the story and a sense of what else it needed. We went through a couple of rounds of revisions, and I was thrilled to consider her input. One of the big elements I added was a third moment of “travel” in the book. Originally there were two, and that just felt incomplete (hello, rule of 3!!).
SUSANNA: What was your experience of the illustration process like?
PATRICE: I have been so pleased with the illustration process!!! Jenin Mohammed is fabulous. While I did not have much input about the actual art (and I didn’t expect to have input), my editor and the art director cared about matching the right illustrator with this project. Since this book is based on a personal story rooted in my cultural experience, the editor and the art director were committed to choosing an illustrator who also had some connection to the story. Jenin Mohammed was the perfect choice. And her illustrations brought this story to life in ways I could have never imagined. I had an opportunity to see sketches along the way; those were such special moments, seeing your words become something more. The first time my editor showed me an image of the mother and daughter, I started to cry.
I don’t think Jenin’s vision departed from mine. Instead, I think Jenin could imagine so much more than I could. I just love the sense of color and movement I see in the spreads. I could never have dreamed of that, but they are exquisite.
I didn’t include any art notes. One thing, though, is that I asked for my contract to include a specification that the illustrations would be of a Black mother and daughter.
SUSANNA: Did you get to see advance reviews from Kirkus, SLJ, etc? What was that like?
PATRICE: At this point, I have not seen any advance reviews.
SUSANNA: How long did it take from offer to having the first copy in your hand?
PATRICE: The offer came in July 2020, and my editor sent me an early printed copy in February 2022. Such a special moment, opening that copy, sitting with my daughters, and reading this story to them!!
SUSANNA: What kind of marketing and promotion has your publisher done for this book?
PATRICE: My marketing team has been amazing. I’ll share some of what they’ve been doing, but I know that they’ve been doing even more that I’m not even aware of. (If you want to know more about marketing, I watched this great SCBWI webinar that was so helpful: www.scbwi.org/digital-workshops-video-archive/ | the video for April 21st | I believe you need to be a member to watch)
Some things they have done:
- Creating shareable graphics (and a timeline for when I should share)
- Sending out targeted email blasts
- Placing targeted ads for the book (along with other titles from their catalogue)
- Creating an Amazon keyword ad campaign
- Working with a publicist to pitch the book, etc.
- Creating gifts for the pre-order campaign
- Giving away influencer copies of the book
- Developing an educator guide for the book
- Just being kind, friendly, wonderful, supportive and clearly loving this book!! I’m so grateful for my marketing team!!
SUSANNA: Describe any marketing/promotion you did for this book.
PATRICE: I’ve also been working hard promoting this book. Many of these ideas came from either my marketing team’s suggestions or what I did when I promoted my previously published essay collection.
- Reaching out to podcasts I’ve previously been on and pitching me/the book as a return guest
- Writing guest blog posts for places I have connections
- Reaching out to my network and letting them know about the book, encouraging pre-orders, etc. (I primarily utilize my newsletter for this, but I also post on Facebook)
- Reaching out to indie bookstores where I have connections (and some where I don’t) to let them know about the book
- Asking my network to suggest that their library system purchase the book
- Teaching classes
- Regularly posting about the book on Facebook
- Booking several local events
- Booking a couple of summer camp visits
- Ordering stickers to distribute during events
- Developing a downloadable simple activity for children (separate from the educator’s guide)
I know stepping into marketing can have its challenges for us authors who might feel more comfortable writing the stories. However, I believe that our words can impact a child’s life. Participating in marketing and promotion is one of the beautiful ways of connecting our stories with children.
SUSANNA: How long was it between the time you started writing seriously and the time you sold your first picture book?
PATRICE: 11 years (I started writing in 2009 and sold my first PB in 2020; however, it is important to note that I didn’t seriously start writing picture books until 2019)
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?)
PATRICE: Know yourself and know the story you are meant to tell/trying to tell. Over the past couple of years, I’ve received helpful feedback on this manuscript and other manuscripts. One thing, however, that stands out to me is the truth that people have subjective opinions. What someone doesn’t like, another person might love. Honestly, I find this somewhat confusing as I process feedback. Because of this, I think it matters that we have a deep sense of what the story is that we’re trying to tell. This deep knowing will help us weed through feedback, particularly if someone suggests a complete overhaul of our story. Of course, this doesn’t mean that a complete overhaul might not be the right thing at some point. However, I think if we know the purpose for why we are writing a story, we are better able to sift through feedback and determine what we let stick and what we should release.
SUSANNA: That is very good advice. Anything else you’d like to share about your book’s journey from inspiration to publication?
PATRICE: Recently, I came across a note I had jotted down many years ago—back when I was pregnant with my first child and before I knew that I would one day become a writer. I had written, “Write a children’s book about my child exploring their cultural background.”
I didn’t stick this note in a prominent place to guide my goals and return to, letting the idea imprint deeply upon my brain. Instead, a couple of scrawled words, almost throwaway words, and certainly long-forgotten words. However, I know All the Places We Call Home truly began as far back as there—and maybe even earlier. Whether or not my conscious mind knew this book would come to pass, something deep within was always aware.
I believe the stories we want to tell are within, taking root, waiting for just the right time to join the world!
SUSANNA:Thank you so much for taking the time to participate in this series and paying it forward to other writers! We so appreciate your time and expertise, and wish you all the best with this and future titles!
PATRICE: Thank you so much for inviting me to take part, Susanna. It’s been a real privilege sharing a bit of my journey. Thank you for all the ways you support picture book writers!!
Please visit my website: www.patricegopo.com
You can also find me on my Facebook page: www.facebook.com/patricegopowrites
You can subscribe to my newsletter here: www.patricegopo.com/subscribe
Readers, if you have questions for Patrice, please post them in the comments below and if she has time I’m sure she’ll respond!
You may purchase Patrice’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)
Karen Condit – Turtle On The Track (hybrid publishing)
Renee LaTulippe – The Crab Ballet (picture book poem)
Amy Duchene – Pool Party (collaboration/co-writing)