Hello, my friends!
I realize that we’re still kind of in the middle of Halloweensie, since, due to unforeseen circumstances I have not been able to devote myself to the judging as I should (though I PROMISE I am working on it – do not blame my fellow judges, it is all me holding up the works!) But meanwhile, Tuesday has rolled around and so I have to bump Halloweensie from the top of my blog to make room for today’s wonderful Tuesday Debut. I put links on all the mentions of Halloweensie so you can hop yourself back to it easily if you still want to read entries!
But for the moment, let’s take a little Halloweensie break. I am thrilled to introduce today’s debut-ess, Gela Kalaitzidis, and her gorgeous debut picture book, OZZIE & PRINCE ZEBEDEE!
Title: OZZIE & PRINCE ZEBEDEE
Publishing House: Flamingo Books
Release date: Oct. 11, 2022
Age Range: 3-7
Ozzie & Prince Zebedee is a tale about the burpy repercussions that arise when you accidentally swallow your best friend in anger and a story of love, forgiveness, and empathy.
SUSANNA: Welcome, Gela! Thank you so much for joining us today. I got one small peek at your art on Instagram one day and was instantly smitten, so I’m delighted to have you here to show your work to everyone! Where did the idea for this book come from? / How long did it take you to write/illustrate this book?
GELA: In one way, I would say it took me 33 years to write this book. When I was around 16 years old, I wrote a similar story. It was about a boy suffering from insomnia and while he was walking around at night, he ran into different creatures. Among them were a dragon and a prince. Many years later I remembered that story and rewrote it. My critique group helped me see that the heart of the story was with the bickering side characters, and slowly the manuscript evolved into what it is today.
(An illustration sample from 1989 and the final spread in 2022)
SUSANNA: Did you go through many revisions?
GELA: This book has been through hundreds of revisions. I’ve taken the manuscripts to endless amounts of writing classes, retreats, critique groups, and conferences. I also paid for a six-month mentorship with Giuseppe Castellano through the Illustration Department. I believe it was money well spent having a professional Art Director guiding me through my first picture book. When I finally sold the dummy to Flamingo Books (Penguin Random House) there were almost no changes. My editor (Margaret Anastas) had a few brilliant ideas for some text changes and my art director (Kate Renner) added one spread, but that was about it.
text and illustration copyright Gela Kalaitzidis 2022, Flamingo Books
SUSANNA: When and how did you submit?
GELA: My agent Deborah Warren at East West Literary Agency found my art portfolio at the SCBWI summer conference 2019. A week after the conference she contacted me and asked to represent me as an illustrator. It took me a while to show my dummy to her, I wanted it to be perfect before sharing it. Nowadays I submit more unfinished work and we brainstorm together around the manuscript and illustrations.
SUSANNA: When did you get “the call”, which these days is more likely to be “the email”?
GELA: Deborah Warren sent the dummy to maybe eight/nine publishers before I got the final YES! I don’t recall ever giving up hope on the book. A lot of the rejections were very thoughtful and inspiring. I was already working on other projects so Ozzie & Zeb’s submission process almost felt like their own journey, not mine. That’s why I was so surprised when Flamingo Books and Margaret Anastas finally gave me an offer.
SUSANNA: How long was it between getting your offer and signing your contract? And how did you celebrate signing?
GELA: I got the offer in October 2020 and signed the contract on March 2021. If I remember right, I think there was a bottle of something bubbly shared with my husband to celebrate. It was a big party for the whole family!
SUSANNA: Was the contract what you expected in terms of advance, royalty percentage, publication timeline, author/illustrator copies etc.?
GELA: I had worked so hard on the creation of the book so I had never really given a future contract a thought. I’m very glad that I’m represented by such an experienced and talented agent as Deborah Warren. I know that she fought for the best deal a debut author could expect. The original delivery date happened to coincide with an important family event so I asked Deborah to renegotiate the deadline. She also did some changes in the contract to royalties, foreign world rights, etc. I was included in all the negotiations but had very little input. I was just happy to get my book out in the world.
SUSANNA: Did you get to see advance reviews from Kirkus, SLJ, etc? What was that like?
GELA: My agent and editor shared the Kirkus review slightly before it was published and I was beyond happy. Getting positive feedback from the picture book industry felt like a major accomplishment.
SUSANNA: How long did it take from offer to having the first copy in your hand?
GELA: I got the offer in October 2020 and held the first copy in my hand exactly two years later. The print run was announced at 50,000 copies. Since it’s my first book I have nothing to compare these numbers with. It sounds like a lot of Ozzies and Zebedees to me.
SUSANNA: What kind of marketing and promotion has your publisher done for this book? / Describe any marketing/promotion you did for this book.
GELA: The marketing and promotion were a complete mystery to me. I never had a meeting with a publicity team so I created my own little animated book teaser, I made a batch of small online banners that I used through different platforms. I also posted behind-the-scenes photos and tried to be seen and heard online as much as I could in the months leading up to the book’s birthday. I had the most fun with two cut-outs of Ozzie and Prince Zebedee that I kept with me on my summer vacation. I posted small social media updates with my main characters “on tour”, it was very well received. But the biggest marketing efforts probably happened on PRH’s side I just never really knew what they were doing. Somehow, my book reached the Barnes & Noble best picture book of the 2022 list. That was huge!
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 artists?)
GELA: I’m pretty sure that Ozzie & Prince Zebedee would never have reached the bookshelves if it wasn’t for my amazing critique group. I believe sharing your work with friends and family who can give you honest and supportive advice is one of the most valuable things in this career. Another lesson has been to focus on what I can do, and not to stress about the things that are out of my control.
Author/Illustrator Gela Kalaitzidis
IG & Twitter Handles: @gelakalaitzidis
SUSANNA: Thank you so much for spending some time with us today and sharing your journey to publication, Gela! Such a wonderful opportunity for everyone to learn! Here’s wishing you all the best with this and future titles!
Readers, if you have questions for Gela, please post them in the comments below and if she has time I’m sure she’ll respond!
You may purchase Gela’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
– reviewing their books on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes&Noble, and other sites where people go to learn about books.
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!
Christy Mihaly – Hey! Hey! Hay! A Tale of Bales And The Machines That Make Them
Jessie Oliveros – The Remember Balloons
Beth Anderson – An Inconvenient Alphabet: Ben Franklin And Noah Webster’s Spelling Revolution
Hannah Holt – The Diamond And The Boy
Laura Renauld – Porcupine’s Pie
Annie Romano – Before You Sleep: A Bedtime Book Of Gratitude
Melissa Stoller – Scarlet’s Magic Paintbrush
Sherry Howard – Rock And Roll Woods
Kate Narita – 100 Bugs! A Counting Book
Vivian Kirkfield – Pippa’s Passover Plate
Laura Roettiger – Aliana Reaches For The Moon
Matthew Lasley – Pedro’s Pan: A Gold Rush Story
Natalee Creech – When Day Is Done
Margaret Chiu Greanias – Maximillian Villainous
Wendy Greenley – Lola Shapes The Sky
Danielle Dufayet – You Are Your Strong
B.J. Lee – There Was An Old Gator Who Swallowed A Moth
Cathy Ballou Mealey – When A Tree Grows
Pippa Chorley – Counting Sheep
Sandra Sutter – The Real Farmer In The Dell
Jill Mangel Weisfeld – Riley The Retriever Wants A New Job (self pub)
Kathleen Cornell Berman – The Birth Of Cool: How Jazz Great Miles Davis Found His Sound
Eleanor Ann Peterson – Jurassic Rat
Sarah Hoppe – Who Will? Will You?
Marla LeSage – Pirate Year Round
Stacey Corrigan – The Pencil Eater
Shannon Stocker – Can U Save The Day?
Nadine Poper – Randall And Randall
Christine Evans – Evelyn The Adventurous Entomologist
Karen Kiefer – Drawing God (religious market)
Dawn Young – The Night Baafore Christmas
Heather Gale – Ho’onani: Hula Warrior
Ciara O’Neal – Flamingo Hugs Aren’t For Everyone (self pub)
Theresa Kiser – A Little Catholic’s Book Of Liturgical Colors (religious market)
Lindsey Hobson – Blossom’s Wish (self pub)
Kirsten Larson – Wood, Wire, Wings: Emma Lilian Todd Invents An Airplane
Valerie Bolling – Let’s Dance!
Janet Johnson – Help Wanted: Must Love Books
Heather Kinser – Small Matters: The Hidden Power of the Unseen
Kelly Carey – How Long Is Forever?
Mary Wagley Copp – Wherever I Go
Nell Cross Beckerman – Down Under The Pier
Claire Noland – Evie’s Field Day: More Than One Way To Win
Sharon Giltrow – Bedtime, Daddy!
Gabi Snyder – Two Dogs On A Trike
Lisa Katzenberger – National Regular Average Ordinary Day
Teresa Krager – Before Your Birth Day
Lindsay H. Metcalf – Beatrix Potter, Scientist
Nancy Roe Pimm – Fly, Girl, Fly! Shaesta Waiz Soars Around The World
Jolene Gutiérrez – Mac And Cheese And The Personal Space Invader
Julie Rowan-Zoch – Louis (picture book illustration debut!)
Janie Emaus – Latkes For Santa
Amy Mucha – A Girl’s Bill Of Rights
Melanie Ellsworth – Hip,Hip…Beret!
Rebecca Kraft Rector – Squish Squash Squished
Gnome Road Publishing (publishing house debut)
Sue Heavenrich – 13 Ways To Eat A Fly
Julie Rowan-Zoch – I’m A Hare So There (author/illustrator debut)
Nancy Derey Riley – Curiosity’s Discovery (author/illustrator self-published debut)
Moni Ritchie Hadley – The Star Festival
Sita Singh – Birds Of A Feather
Ann Magee – Branches Of Hope: The 9/11 Survivor Tree
Amanda Davis – 30,000 Stitches: The Inspiring Story of the National 9/11 Flag (nonfiction)
Jennifer Buchet – Little Medusa’s Hair Do-lemma
Michelle Vattula – The Stalking Seagulls
Christine Van Zandt – A Brief History Of Underpants (nonfiction)
Candice Marley Conner – Sassafras And Her Teeny Tiny Tail
Becky Scharnhorst – My School Stinks!
Darshana Khiani – How To Wear A Sari
Ana Siqueira – Bella’s Recipe For Success
Kate Allen Fox – Pando: A Living Wonder Of Trees (nonfiction)
Jenna Waldman – Sharkbot Shalom
Karen A. Wyle – You Can’t Kiss A Bubble
Rebecca Mullin – One Tomato (board book)
Cynthia Argentine – Night Becomes Day: Changes In Nature (illustrated with photographs)
Karen Greenwald – Vote For Susanna: The First Woman Mayor (nonfiction)
Anne Appert – Blob (author/illustrator)
Dianna Wilson-Sirkovsky – James’ Reading Rescue
Karen Condit – Turtle On The Track (hybrid publishing)
Renee LaTulippe – The Crab Ballet (picture book poem)
Amy Duchene – Pool Party (collaboration/co-writing)
Kimberly Wilson – A Penny’s Worth
Candace Spizzirri – Fishing With Grandpa And Skye
Carrie Tillotson – Counting To Bananas
Patrice Gopo – All The Places We Call Home
Rebecca Gardyn Levington – Brainstorm!
Jocelyn Watkinson – The Three Canadian Pigs: A Hockey Story
Katie Mazeika – Annette Feels Free: The True Story of Annette Kellerman, World-Class Swimmer, Fashion Pioneer, and Real-Life Mermaid (nonfiction)
Shachi Kaushik – Diwali In My New Home
Carrie Sharkey Asner – Blueberry Blue Bubble (self published)
13 thoughts on “Tuesday Debut – Presenting Gela Kalaitzidis!”
Thank you for sharing the journey. I think your experience is more typical but people often hear about these unicorn debut of “very few revisions”, “publication was fast” and it creates a false expectation.
That you for the story of your story. It looks darling
I think you’re right about that, Reed! The slow route is more typical, but the unicorn debuts are the ones we seem to hear about more somehow! And isn’t the art just so appealing? I love that dragon! 😊
Congratulations to Gela! Certainly an exciting time. I appreciate hearing about stories like this! I love those illustrations! Thanks for sharing the interview, Susanna!
What a great story. Persistence pays off. I’m constantly making revisions to my manuscripts. I love the illustrations!
Your art is wonderful! Thanks for sharing.
This sounds like a great book, and the illustrations look incredible.
Karen J Moore
Love the journey and can’t wait to read this story! Congrats Gela! Your illustrations charmed me!
Thanks for the great story and esp. for using the word ‘countless’ when describing your publishing journey. I can relate. I can’t wait to hold this book in my hands!
Oh, the personality that Ozzie presents in the illustrations! I can’t wait to meet her in your book!
Thanks so much. Gela for sharing your story ! The artwork is amazing. Looking forward to “meeting ” OZZIE AND PRINCE ZEBEDEE!
Thanks ,Susanna for another great post! 🙂
Looking forward to reading this. Such an intriguing title and cover. Congrats, Gela! And thanks for sharing the development of this story.
Congratulations on being selected to the Barnes & Noble best picture book of the 2022 list! Your story and illustrations are breathtaking!
Wow! A print run of 50,000!!! That’s amazing for a debut, but they knew a great book when they saw it. The illustrations are magical. Looking forward to reading it. Congrats, Gela!