Tuesday Debut – Presenting Phyllis Harris! PLUS A Giveaway!

Hello, my friends!

It’s Tuesday Debut Day once again!

If you haven’t voted for your favorite HALLOWEENSIE CONTEST FINALIST yet, you still have until 7 PM Eastern this evening! Please hop over HERE and vote – we need all the votes we can get to break ties!

Thanksgiving is behind us and the holidays are coming which is just perfect for today’s debut picture book, THE GIFT SHOP BEAR, and debut author/illustrator Phyllis Harris, who has graciously come by to share her journey to publication with us (including a glimpse of her lovely work space which will have you all goggle-eyed with envy 😊)

So let’s meet Phyllis and have a look at this sweet holiday book! She is kindly offering a giveaway copy (US residents only) so if you leave a comment on this post, you could be a winner!!!

GIVEAWAY WINNER DRAWN DECEMBER 6 – ELEANOR ANN PETERSON!

THE GIFT SHOP BEAR
Author/Illustrator, Phyllis Harris
WorthyKids/Hachette Book Group
Published 10/26/22
Fiction for ages 4-7

All year long, Bear watches from his spot in the attic as the seasons change, waiting for the first snowflakes that signify Christmas is coming. You see, at Christmastime, Bear gets to join his special friend, Annie, in the festivities in her grandma’s gift shop. But this year is different–the gift shop is closing and Bear’s future seems uncertain. Will Bear see Annie and Nana again?

SUSANNA: Thank you so much for joining us today, Phyllis! We are thrilled to have you and your beautiful debut picture book which is so perfect for this time of year! Where did the idea for this book come from?

PHYLLIS: I was babysitting my granddaughter when she was 3 or 4 years old and we were looking through her mother’s old toybox and came across her old teddy bear. She immediately felt so sad for this bear because her had been left alone in this dark box for all these years with no one to love and care for him. At that moment, I knew I had a new story idea!

SUSANNA: How long did it take you to write this book?

PHYLLIS: The story idea came about when my granddaughter was 4 and it was just published last October when she was 8 years old so it took about 4 years to publication. However, that also included finding and signing with my agent, Adria Goetz and then us working through edits to prepare it for submission. Once it went out on submission it took 10 or 11 months before we got the offer.

SUSANNA: Did you go through many revisions?

PHYLLIS: The actual writing process included many rounds of revisions with the help of my critique partners. Also, it didn’t start out as a Christmas book.  The original setting was a book store but when I realized the store would be closing, it was too depressing to have a book store go out of business so I changed it to Nana’s Gift Shop closing because of her retiring which made for a much kinder plot and that’s when I realized it had to be a Christmas book!

Phyllis’s gorgeous work space and her work buddy, Brinkley. (Named after the dog in her favorite movie, YOU’VE GOT MAIL. 😊

SUSANNA: When did you know your manuscript was ready for submission?

PHYLLIS: I knew it was close to being ready when I got the interest of my agent on a Twitter contest. That gave me the boost of confidence I needed and then after I signed with her, we tweaked it a bit more before it went out on submission.

Phyllis working in her art studio

SUSANNA: When and how did you submit?

PHYLLIS: My goal was to be an author/illustrator of picture books, so when I had a few stories ready in book dummy form, I decided to try some of the Twitter contests. I entered #PBPitch and #FaithPitch since one of my books was faith based. Fortunately, I had some interest from a few agents and an editor and that’s when my agent first showed interest in my faith-based book and wanted to see what other books I had to offer so I sent her the book dummy for THE GIFT SHOP BEAR and she loved it. She didn’t offer representation right then but gave me the invitation to send her more once I had more to offer. Eventually a year or so later, I did have more to offer and after getting interest from 3 agents, I decided Adria Goetz was the perfect fit for me.

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”?

PHYLLIS: We got an email from Peggy Schaefer, Associate Publisher of WorthyKids, asking if it was still available on June 10th and then were told it was being submitted to the next acquisitions meeting and we got an offer July 22.

SUSANNA: When did you get “the call”, which these days is more likely to be “the email”?  (Best moment ever! 😊)

PHYLLIS: It truly was the best moment ever! My agent called with the news of the offer and I remember seeing her name come up on the caller ID and trying not to lose it when I answered.  She had previously shared with me via email that it had gone to acquisitions but I also knew that lots of books go to acquisitions and don’t end up getting acquired so I was trying to prepare myself for whatever the outcome would be.

Peggy Schaefer, Associate Publisher at WorthyKids had shown interest the previous year but couldn’t make an offer then because they weren’t ready to start acquiring for their new list yet and she didn’t want to hold me up in case I had other interest. I had illustrated several books for WorthyKids over the years, including ON CHRISTMAS DAY by Margaret Wise Brown and MAVERICK AND ME by Katherine Schwarzenegger so I already had a wonderful relationship with them as an illustrator.

I also had a request for a revise and resubmit from Little Brown during the submission process and even though I didn’t get an offer from them, I feel like the book became even better because of the revision request.

SUSANNA: How long was it between getting your offer and getting your contract to sign?

PHYLLIS: We got the offer in July and signed the contract 5 months later in December.

SUSANNA: How did you celebrate signing your contract? 

PHYLLIS: My husband had purchased “good” champagne previously and was saving it to celebrate my debut offer as author. He thankfully had confidence in the story, too. We shared that bottle with our daughter and son-in-law and of course our granddaughter had the non-alcohol version. 😊

SUSANNA: Was the contract what you expected in terms of advance, royalty percentage, publication timeline, author copies etc.?

PHYLLIS: This is when it is so helpful having an agent who has your best interests in mind to handle all of the negotiations. Adria is so wonderful at getting the best possible terms for her clients and is so knowledgeable about all involved in the contract.

WorthyKids offered very fair terms and I was pleased with their final offer.

SUSANNA: What was your experience of the illustration process like?

PHYLLIS: Since this was my debut as author- illustrator, this was unique experience for me.

I had submitted a book dummy with all of the illustrations roughed out so I already had the overall vision for the book in place. I eventually added a few new illustrations and a new cover design to fit in with any new edits but overall, the art ideas did not change too much. I then went on to create each piece in final art form where I used traditional materials such as watercolor and some charcoal pencil and then scanned them in and added digital touches. Normally, art directors want to do the scans in house but since I had worked with this publisher before, they were aware that I provided quality scans and so they trusted the final files regarding the resolution, etc. Many artists don’t have good enough scanners to be able to do this so it may  vary for others.

text and illustration copyright Phyllis Harris 2021, Worthy Kids

SUSANNA: Did you get to see advance reviews from Kirkus, SLJ, etc? What was that like?

PHYLLIS: This was one of the only disappointments besides having my book launch during a pandemic. I didn’t get any book reviews from Kirkus, SLJ or Horn. Possibly because it was a Christmas book from a smaller publisher.

SUSANNA: How long did it take from offer to having the first copy in your hand?

PHYLLIS: My book was actually published a lot quicker than most in traditional publishing these days. Since I was both author and illustrator and it was a Christmas book, once we worked out the schedule, I started working on final art during the peak of the pandemic which was so wonderful to have something to work on while in lock down. If possible, the publisher wanted to fast-track it if I were comfortable with the schedule and I was. I didn’t want to wait another entire year for its release so I buckled down and got it accomplished.

Even with the pandemic shipping problems, which delayed my release date by 3 weeks, I had my first author copy about one year after I got the offer. The initial print run was 11,000 which I thought was great for a first-time author.

SUSANNA: What kind of marketing and promotion has your publisher done for this book?

PHYLLIS: I was assigned a marketing team for my book and we had several zoom meetings talking about their strategies and plans for the marketing. They did a virtual booth at Picture Book Palooza, hosted by School Library Journal where I answered questions via live chat.

They reached out to bloggers and influencers from lists that I provided and posted on social media.

They also provided these fun activity sheets! https: //www.hachettebookgroup.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/Gift-Shop-Bear-Activity-Sheets-2.pdf

SUSANNA: Describe any marketing/promotion you did for this book.

PHYLLIS: I was planning on doing a book tour but because of the pandemic most book stores were not allowing in-person book signings. I have to admit, that was pretty disappointing.

I created a book trailer and posted it on youtube and shared it on social media. You can see it here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1AaRKWlsPik I also reached out to local newspapers and TV stations and was so excited that the KC STAR did a feature article.

SUSANNA: How long was it between the time you started writing seriously and the time you sold your first picture book?

PHYLLIS: Probably about 3 or 4 years. I dabbled with the writing for over 25 years but because I was so busy and invested with the illustration side of books, I never took the time needed to work specifically on my craft of writing. That is my one regret, that I didn’t take the time to really work on my writing craft, earlier.

The first time Phyllis saw her book on the shelves at a Barnes & Noble! 😊

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?)

PHYLLIS: If you want something bad enough, you have to put in the time. Take the writing workshops. Go to conferences. Find critique partners. Read, read and read more. Especially the kind of books you want to write. And most importantly, start writing, even if you feel it isn’t very good. We all have terrible first drafts and book ideas that remain in the drawer but the more we write, the more likely one of them will be the ONE that gets us going in the right direction. And you are never too old to dream a new dream! I am sixty, and I am just getting started!

Website: https://www.phyllisharris.com
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/phyllisharrisdesigns
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/phyllis.harris2
Twitter: https://twitter.com/PhyllisHarris

SUSANNA: Phyllis, thank you so much for stopping by today to share your journey to publication! We are all so grateful and wish you the best of luck with this and future titles! Readers, if you have questions for Phyllis, please post them in the comments below and if she has time I’m sure she’ll respond!

You may purchase Phyllis’s book at:
(all links below are book-specific)

Indiebound
Amazon
Barnes&Noble

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

June Smalls – Odd Animals ABC

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)

Susan Richmond – Bird Count

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

Susi Schaefer – Cat Ladies

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

Sarah Kurpiel – Lone Wolf

Vicky Fang – Invent-a-Pet

Lisa Katzenberger – National Regular Average Ordinary Day

Pam Webb – Someday We Will

Abi Cushman – Soaked!

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

Hope Lim – I Am A Bird

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

Ashley Belote – Frankenslime

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)

Patti Richards – Mrs. Noah

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!

John Bray – The End

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)

Gela Kalaitzidis – Ozzie & Prince Zebedee (author/illustrator)

Caroline Perry – The Corgi And The Queen (nonfiction)

61 thoughts on “Tuesday Debut – Presenting Phyllis Harris! PLUS A Giveaway!

  1. Norah says:

    This book looks adorable with a real magical feel. It reminds me of my childhood (which was nothing like that, but books were filled with magic back then. They still are too.).

  2. readmybook2002 says:

    A great gift for the Holiday. Excellent Illustrations. I have an older Steiff and one Gund bear from my mother’s side of the family. I need to have this book in the collection. Congrats & have a wonderful holiday.

  3. Ellen Leventhal says:

    I read this sweet story a while ago, and lucky me because I also got to virtually hang out with the talented and kind Phyllis during our launch months with Worthy Kids. Lovely book, Phyllis!

  4. Angie says:

    Loved the interview and this book looks so wonderful! I can’t wait to read it. Putting it on my Goodreads Want to Read list! Congratulations, Phyllis!

  5. Danielle Hammelef says:

    I love teddy bears and love how this talented artist got her idea for this heartwarming book. Brinkley is gorgeous and so is the work space he’s lounging in. Congratulations on this beautiful book!

  6. marty bellis says:

    Love the cover art. It definitely makes you want to open the book and read Annie and Bear’s story. What a sweet pair! This is the perfect new book for under the tree this year 🙂 Congrats!

  7. Karan Greene says:

    YOU’VE GOT MAIL is one of my favorite movies too…and your studio is gorgeous! Thanks for sharing your story’s journey with us!

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