Welcome to Tuesday Debut, Everyone!
Today I’m thrilled to introduce Caroline Perry whose debut picture book is exceptionally timely. THE CORGI AND THE QUEEN, releasing today, was written and in production long before the sad event of September 8, 2022, but with the Queen’s passing this lovely book is an uplifting tribute to her and her beloved dogs.
The Corgi and the Queen
written by Caroline Perry
illustrated by Lydia Corry
publication date 11/22/22
Even a monarch needs a best friend and Queen Elizabeth II found one in a corgi pup she named Susan. From princesshood to queendom the pair forged an unbreakable bond, with Susan even participating in Elizabeth’s wedding day and joining her on honeymoon with Prince Philip. Over the course of her remarkable seventy-year reign the Queen had more than thirty corgi companions, and almost all were direct descendants of her cherished Susan.
SUSANNA: Welcome, Caroline! Thank you so much for joining us today. We’re really looking forward to hearing about this book! Where did the idea for it come from?
CAROLINE: Everyone knows that the Queen adored corgis, and that she had many corgi companions throughout the course of her life. I’ve been a journalist for many years so I always look for the ‘why’—what was it that made Elizabeth love these dogs so much? What was the defining moment or relationship that formed this incredible attachment? When I started my research it wasn’t long before the ‘aha’ moment struck. The story of the young Princess Elizabeth and Susan was utterly enchanting, and it answered the ‘why’ quite succinctly!
SUSANNA: How long did it take you to write this book?
CAROLINE: Many months! I really immersed myself in the story, researching Queen Elizabeth’s young life in particular. Susan was by Elizabeth’s side for so many of the defining moments in her life—during World War II, when the princess served in a women’s regiment; when Elizabeth married Prince Philip; when her beloved ‘Papa’, King George VI, died, and when she was crowned Queen at the age of 25. Susan was also there when Elizabeth gave birth to her first child, who is now King Charles III. I really sought out the ‘heart’ of the story, and for me, this was Susan being hidden in one of the carriages Elizabeth and Philip rode in on their wedding day, and Susan joining the newlyweds on honeymoon. From here, the rest of the story flowed very naturally as the ‘heart’ is like the book’s North Star.
SUSANNA: Did you go through many revisions?
CAROLINE: I always thought that the concept of a story ‘finding you’ was a myth but in this case, it grabbed hold of me and wouldn’t let me go. Of course I had several critiques on the manuscript, and I made many edits along the way, but the version in the book is not hugely different from my original draft. This story really let me know how it wanted to be written!
SUSANNA: When did you know your manuscript was ready for submission?
CAROLINE: When I knew that it was a story that I would love to read to my children! As it’s a longer picture book, I had also asked for ‘beta reads’ from a librarian, and from some older elementary-aged kids (not friends, who will always tell you that your work is great, even when it isn’t). The feedback I received was, overwhelmingly, “we want this to be a book, so please make sure that it becomes one!” At this point I knew that it was ready to be sent out into the world.
SUSANNA: When and how did you submit?
CAROLINE: I submitted the manuscript to a handful of agents. Allison Remcheck at Stimola Literary Studio replied very shortly after she received it, and she asked if we could set up a chat. She was so enthusiastic about the book, and I loved her personality and the way that her vision for the book was exactly aligned with mine. I knew that she would be the perfect partner so even though I had interest from another agent, I was absolutely delighted to accept Allison’s offer of representation!
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”?
CAROLINE: We got an expression of interest from my editor, Laura Godwin, a day or two after the manuscript had been subbed. This was in December, when publishing pretty much shuts down, so I knew that nothing would happen over the holidays. In early January we were told that the manuscript was going to acquisitions, and on Friday of that same week, the offer came in!
SUSANNA: When did you get “the call”, which these days is more likely to be “the email”? (Best moment ever! 😊)
CAROLINE: I will never forget “the call” as it happened on what had been an incredibly difficult day. My husband works as a travel agent, and his business was decimated by the pandemic. On this particular day we’d had some really bad news and I was trying very hard to hold it together for my three young kids, who were all being homeschooled at the time. A local playground had just re-opened after many months of closure so I took the children there, hiding my sadness behind oversized sunglasses (and a mask, of course). When my phone rang and I saw my agent’s name on the screen, I think the world stopped spinning on its axis for a moment or two. Allison told me that we had an offer, and this time my tears were happy ones!
SUSANNA: How long was it between getting your offer and getting your contract to sign?
CAROLINE: It was six months between accepting the offer and signing the contract.
SUSANNA: How did you celebrate signing your contract?
CAROLINE: Takeout pizza with my kids, and a glass of something fizzy when they went to bed!
SUSANNA: Was the contract what you expected in terms of advance, royalty percentage, publication timeline, author copies etc.?
CAROLINE: I’d spoken to a few published authors before my contract arrived so I knew roughly what to expect from a Big 5 house. My agent is brilliant at negotiating and this is an area where good agents are worth their weight in gold. Book contracts are long, complex and wordy and I was very grateful to have her deal with that side of things!
SUSANNA: Can you tell us a little about the editorial process?
CAROLINE: My editor didn’t request any specific changes. We made some tweaks but there were no significant revisions. Laura had a wonderful vision for the book and she loved the story as it was, which was incredible!
SUSANNA: What was your experience of the illustration process like?
CAROLINE: Before Lydia was brought on board I was shown some of her sample sketches. Within seconds of laying eyes on her work I said, ‘yes!’ I absolutely loved her illustration style and I felt so lucky to have an opportunity to work with her. A few months after signing the contract I got to see some of Lydia’s rough sketches, which really blew my mind! I only had a couple of very minor suggestions for changes, which the editor agreed with, but I honestly couldn’t have been happier with the work that I saw. About six months before publication I received a printed ARC in the mail, and seeing mine and Lydia’s book laid out, with the text and stunning color illustrations, was an experience I will never forget.
I don’t think I included a single art note in this manuscript! As it’s a biography, I knew that the illustrator would want to do her own research into the aesthetics of the people and places in the book.
SUSANNA: Did you get to see advance reviews from Kirkus, SLJ, etc? What was that like?
CAROLINE: I actually stumbled across my Kirk-us review by accident! I was very happy to see that it was positive. And I just found out that I got a lovely Booklist review, too!
SUSANNA: How long did it take from offer to having the first copy in your hand?
CAROLINE: My publication date was brought forward twice so I was lucky to get it earlier than I had anticipated! It was only 23 months between offer and ‘on sale’ which is a pretty short timeline in picture book publication.
I don’t actually know how many copies are in the first run printing!
SUSANNA: What kind of marketing and promotion has your publisher done for this book?
CAROLINE: They’ve sent digital ARCs to book bloggers and reviewers, and liaised with various trade publications. They sent out a press release and set up an interview with People.com that was picked up by Vanity Fair and a host of other news websites!
SUSANNA: Wow! That is amazing! Describe any marketing/promotion you did for this book.
CAROLINE: I’ve really thrown myself into the book promo! Lydia Corry and I worked together to make a book trailer. We shared some very emotional moments in the aftermath of the Queen’s death, when we had to change the trailer text to past tense. I have also printed bookmarks and stickers (designed by the amazing Lydia!) and I learned how to design and print posters, vinyl signs, headers for bags of dog treats, and an array of materials for an event called ‘SoCal Corgi Beach Day’. I hired a booth, set up some really fun photo props, and offered a ‘Wheel of Paw-tune’ spin for people who pre-ordered the book. It was a LOT of work but so much fun, too. I got to cuddle dozens of corgis, and speak to some wonderful people who love the breed as much as the Queen did. I have also designed a website, set up author accounts on Instagram and TikTok, and become something of a whiz on Canva! I’ve organized interviews and podcast chats, and arranged a few book signing events in Los Angeles. I’m really excited about those!
SUSANNA: How long was it between the time you started writing seriously and the time you sold your first picture book?
CAROLINE: I’ve been writing professionally for the entirety of my adult life—I had my first piece published in a national British newspaper during my second year at college. I submitted an article (via fax!) to an editor and it was published, but with someone else’s byline. When I contacted the editor to gently point out the mistake I was offered an unpaid internship by way of an apology, and I grabbed that opportunity with both hands. I started at the very bottom of the chain, cleaning out filing cabinets, picking up editors’ dry-cleaning and delivering mail to senior journalists. It was very high-stress environment with long hours with no time for mentorship but I always made myself useful, staying later than I needed to, and I let all the editors know that I would be more than happy to cover any event that nobody else wanted to go to. An arts editor finally agreed, and allowed me to review a very obscure play in a tiny theater above a pub in North London. I haven’t stopped writing since!
In terms of picture book writing, I started in earnest way back in 2014, when my eldest child was four. I was reading so many picture books to him, and I just fell in love with the genre. I was curious to see if I could translate my writing skills to the picture book format so I devoured the contents of my local library’s picture book shelves and wrote, wrote, wrote… I had a couple of ideas which became manuscripts and I sent one out to half a dozen agents. I got a champagne rejection from one of these agents, but the rest were bog-standard form passes. Once the initial stings had subsided I realized that I had made that classic ‘new writer’ mistake: I’d just gone out too soon. I hadn’t found critique partners yet, and the story I’d queried was cute, but it wasn’t new or fresh enough to make it stand out. I took all of this on board and stepped back for a while to deal with some life ‘stuff’, and to have my younger two children! All the while, I continued reading picture books as if it was my job to do so. I returned to PB writing seriously in 2018, when my youngest kiddo was two. I signed up for Susanna’s (brilliant!) course, joined the 12×12 community, and found some fantastic critique partners. It took me around 18 months to write and develop three manuscripts that I believed were query-ready. If you include my ‘gap’, it’s been an eight year journey.
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?)
CAROLINE: Gosh, so many things. I’ve learned that you need rhino hide skin to cope with all the rejections. You need the patience of a dozen saints, as publishing moves very slowly (even more so since the pandemic). And even if you think you’ve written the best manuscript of all time, you need to KEEP WRITING! I also think that all up and coming writers should console themselves with the fact that there is a ‘sliding doors’ element to this business. Talent and great ideas are, of course, paramount, but sometimes it’s also about landing in the right inbox at the exact right time. It’s really hard to know what a particular agent or editor is looking for at any given moment, or to second-guess what they need to fill a hole in their lists. They might just have signed someone who wrote a book with a similar theme yours, or perhaps they’ll pass on your manuscript as they’re allergic to dogs, or don’t like lyrical books, or they’ve got too many titles with animal protagonists? Rejections aren’t always personal, or a judgement of the quality of your work, sometimes it really is just the market at that precise time. Also, I would caution authors against writing to trends, as by the time your manuscript has landed you an agent, and then been considered by an editor, and gone through the (often lengthy) acquisitions process, it’s likely that that trend will have passed, or that the market will be saturated with books written by people who had a head start on that zeitgeisty idea. Write what you know, and write with your 4-8-year-old audience in mind. Will they find your manuscript interesting? Informative? Moving? Hilarious? What is it about your book that will make it stand out on a crowded display, and compel a customer to spend $18.99 (plus sales tax!) on it? It’s a very competitive market, so read hundreds of recent picture books (yes, hundreds, or however many your library has in stock!) Make use of the ‘book request’ feature, most libraries are very accommodating when it comes to acquiring titles that users suggest, and see what has caught editors’ eyes in the past three years or so. ‘Classic’ books are wonderful, but many of them would never be published today. Bear this in mind when you’re reading for research.
SUSANNA: Anything else you’d like to share about your book’s journey from inspiration to publication?
CAROLINE: It’s been a long journey and I have definitely allowed imposter syndrome and feelings of ‘compare/despair’ to take up residence in my head sometimes. The best way to banish these thoughts is to keep writing, keep improving, and keep going! I have dreamed of seeing my name on the front of a book since I was a new reader myself, and I still can’t believe that I’m lucky enough to be a published author.
SUSANNA: Well, published you are! And by the looks of it, you’re off to a great start! Thank you so much for sharing your journey to publication with us, Caroline. I know we all learned a lot. And I speak for all of us when I say best of luck with this and future titles!
Author Caroline Perry
SUSANNA: Readers, if you have questions for Caroline, please post them in the comments below and if she has time I’m sure she’ll respond!
You may purchase Caroline’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)
Carrie Sharkey Asner – Blueberry Blue Bubble (self published)
Gela Kalaitzidis – Ozzie & Prince Zebedee (author/illustrator)