Tuesday Debut – Presenting Stephanie Gibeault PLUS A Giveaway!

It’s time for another episode of everyone’s favorite: Tuesday Debut!

🎶*Catchy Theme Music*🎶 (feel free to imagine anything you like 😊)

First things first!

I’m delighted to announce that the lucky winner of Suzy Levinson’s giveaway of a personalized signed copy of her beautiful book of is KATHY HALSEY!

Congratulations, Kathy! Please email me with your snail mail address and who you’d like your book signed to so we can get it out to you!

Now then! Onto another whirlwind adventure, heartpounding rollercoaster ride, riveting tale of publication success!

Today’s episode is brought to you by the letter O, and by the number 7!

Oh, wait, sorry, that’s Sesame Street.

Let’s try that again!

Today’s episode is brought to you by Stephanie, who is offering one lucky winner their choice of either a copy of her book or a picture book manuscript critique from her! Leave a comment on today’s post by Sunday April 23 at 9 PM Eastern to be entered in the random drawing!

Stephanie will be sharing her journey to publication with TOBY TOOTLES, recently released from Sleeping Bear Press!

Toby Tootles
written by Stephanie Gibeault
illustrated by Mary Sullivan
published by Sleeping Bear Press
March 15, 2023
A fiction picture book for ages 5 to 8.

When an unintended toot at his birthday party draws unwelcome teasing, Toby goes to visit his grandmother, but she’s a bit of a gasbag herself. It’s only when Toby faces another digestive episode that he realizes maybe it’s time to follow Grandma’s lead and not let little things get in the way of enjoying life. After all, gas happens!

SUSANNA: Welcome, Stephanie! Thank you so much for joining us today! We are all very excited to hear about your journey to publication with TOBY TOOTLES! Where did the idea for this book come from?

STEPHANIE: Thank you so much for hosting me on your blog, Susanna!

The idea of a gassy grandma was inspired by a conversation with an older friend. She mentioned how much harder it is to hold in your gas as you age, particularly when you bend over. And just like that, the concept was born. Give yourself permission to take inspiration from the people and conversations around you. Ideas can come from anywhere if you are open to letting them in.

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

STEPHANIE: I wrote the first draft of this story in July of 2017. Then it went through many rounds of feedback from several critique groups and even a paid critique from an editor at a big five publishing house. I finally had a draft ready for submission at the beginning of 2021. After the story was acquired by Sleeping Bear Press, I continued to revise with my amazing editor Barb McNally. Then it went to the publisher’s copy editors in July of 2022. So, it took five years to go from first draft to book ready!

SUSANNA: So take heart, everyone. It may take you 5 years too, but if you have the same outcome Stephanie did it will be worth it! Did you go through many revisions?

STEPHANIE: I wrote at least 14 drafts of this story before my agent saw it. Although the core of the story stayed the same, as I went along it changed from first person to third person, the time span got shorter, and scenes were added and deleted. Because I was newer to the process back then, I looked for critiques wherever I could get them. But I had to learn to filter the feedback so I remained true to the story I wanted to tell. It’s tempting to treat every comment with equal weight, but I think it’s important to listen to those that resonate and dismiss those that don’t. I also took a lot of breaks between drafts. It’s so helpful to look at your work with fresh eyes, and I can only do that if I put it away for at least a month.

Stephanie’s writing buddy, Heton – so important to have good help during all those revisions 😊

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

STEPHANIE: I thought my manuscript was ready for submission long before it truly was. I even submitted it to a few editors and agents. Oops! Of course, that only resulted in passes. It wasn’t until I had put more effort into improving both my craft and the manuscript that it was finally ready. When I showed it to my agent right after signing with her, she said, “this one just tickles my fancy.” She felt it was ready to go out to editors, so I knew I had done all I could to polish the story.

SUSANNA: When and how did you submit?

STEPHANIE: The incredible Jacqui Lipton at The Tobias Literary Agency is my agent. So, although I sent this out to editors on my own through conference submission opportunities before I signed with her, once I partnered with Jacqui, all submissions went through her. She sent the manuscript out to a group of editors at the beginning of March 2021.

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”?

STEPHANIE: The same day Jacqui submitted the manuscript, Barb McNally at Sleeping Bear Press responded to say she wanted to show it to the editorial group. I was amazed! Then a month later, I found out the manuscript was going to acquisitions. We got an offer three weeks later! Yay! It was a very short turnaround.

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

STEPHANIE: The manuscript was only on submission for just over eight weeks before I got “the email.” I felt extremely fortunate to sell my first picture book so quickly. I don’t remember what I was doing when I got Jacqui’s email, but chances are I was hitting refresh in Outlook because I had been doing that every few minutes ever since finding out about the acquisitions meeting. The waiting is such a challenge!

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

STEPHANIE: I received the offer at the end of April and the final contract arrived in August. Only three-and-a-half months to wait, which I have since learned is really short in publishing time.

SUSANNA: How did you celebrate signing your contract? 

STEPHANIE: I celebrated signing the contract with a glass of wine and a fancy dinner. I don’t make a big deal, but I do try to commemorate all the little successes along the way. There are many hills on the publishing roller coaster, so I think it’s important to ride out the downs and celebrate the ups.

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

STEPHANIE: As this was my first publishing contract, I had no idea what to expect. I relied on my agent’s wisdom and experience to walk me through it. And thank goodness I had her guidance because it was a lot more complicated than I had anticipated. Despite a summer job in a law office, my head was spinning. For example, I didn’t even know to expect author copies, but I got 20 of them in the contract.

SUSANNA: Can you tell us a little about the editorial process?

STEPHANIE: The editorial process with Barb was a dream. She understood exactly what I was trying to do, and her comments helped bring the story closer to my vision. She even suggested I add an author’s note. I was nervous to share my personal stories of embarrassment, but I think it adds so much value to the book. We did three rounds of revision, but thankfully they were all tweaks rather than rewrites. Our biggest dilemma was whether to keep the word “fart” or change it to “toot.” In the end, “fart” won out!

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

STEPHANIE: The illustration process was strange yet wonderful. Although Toby and his grandmother had always been human in my imagination, when I was told the brilliant Mary Sullivan was illustrating, I suspected she might choose animals over people. And when I saw my first sketch, Toby and Grandma were bunnies. And not cute, fluffy bunnies but bunnies riding a bicycle! I was delighted. I was also fortunate enough to be asked for my thoughts on the rough sketches for the entire book including which sketch to use for the author’s note. It was wonderful to watch the book take shape and to have my opinions valued. I didn’t see the art again until it was full color.

text copyright Stephanie Gibeault 2023, illustration copyright Mary Sullivan 2023, Sleeping Bear Press

As for art notes, I included six in the manuscript – all to explain things that weren’t obvious from the text. For example, “Grandma bends over to get the beans.” Five showed up in the final art, and the one about the squirrel ended up far better than I had suggested. Mary added so much to the story that wasn’t in the text like making Toby a dinosaur fan and the “explosive” art he draws at Grandma’s house.

text copyright Stephanie Gibeault 2023, illustration copyright Mary Sullivan 2023, Sleeping Bear Press

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

STEPHANIE: I saw positive advance reviews from Kirkus and Booklist. That was thrilling because both understood the point of the book. I had been worried about reviewers reacting negatively to the potty humor and missing the message about being comfortable in your own skin. I wasn’t expecting any stars for a fart book (and haven’t received any so far), but to know the humor and theme are appreciated is a joy.

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

STEPHANIE: My offer came on April 29, 2021, and my author copies arrived in the mail on January 30, 2023. So, I waited nearly two years for the finished product. But it was worth every second!

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

STEPHANIE: Carrlee Craig, the fabulous publicist at Sleeping Bear Press, has been helping me navigate the world of book promotion, including an Instagram lesson. She answers all my questions, provides feedback on my promotional materials, mails out all the giveaway copies of the book, and helps me with events. I know she’s also busy behind the scenes, along with marketing, doing all kinds of things to help get my book in readers’ hands. For example, the publisher has created activity pages for the book and arranged two book signings for me at the Texas Library Association Conference in Austin this week.

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

STEPHANIE: I’m so lucky that the illustrator, Mary, created a book trailer for our book. It’s adorable! You can see it on YouTube. For my part, I designed bookmarks, did a small blog tour, and participated in Storytime Sprint, an online book event run by Ryann Jones and Andi Chitty. I’m also a member of the promotion group Picture Book Gold. I’m grateful to have the support of the other members because self-promotion still feels awkward. I’m hoping that gets easier with time! I also revamped my website recently. And as the book only came out last month, I will continue to promote it with book events whenever I can.

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

STEPHANIE: I’ve always enjoyed writing, and in my previous career as a biologist I wrote academic papers. But I started writing for children in 2011 with a silly story I wrote for my niece and nephew. Like many people, I mistakenly thought writing for kids was easy. I even submitted that first manuscript to a few publishers. Cringe! I didn’t get serious about kidlit until the spring of 2016 when I attended my first writers’ conference. Only a few weeks later, I joined my first critique group, then it was a steady stream of courses, conferences, and critiques aplenty. I sold my first picture book in spring of 2021 – five years later.

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?)

STEPHANIE: One of the most helpful things I’ve learned is that everybody’s journey to publication is different. There’s no right or wrong way to get a book into the world. Don’t compare yourself to others. Just keep putting one foot in front of the other and celebrate every step that gets you closer to your goal.

SUSANNA: Anything else you’d like to share about your book’s journey from inspiration to publication?

STEPHANIE: I nearly didn’t show this manuscript to my agent because I was scared she wouldn’t respond to the potty humor. But this story has always made me laugh, from first draft to published book. I believed in what I had written, so I didn’t give up through all those revisions and early passes and took a chance by putting it out in the world. I want to urge other writers to do the same. Have faith in your stories. Do all you can to make them shine, then send them out. You never know who will connect with them.

SUSANNA: Thank you so much for taking the time to participate in this series and paying it forward to other writers! We so appreciate you taking the time to share your knowledge and experience with us and wish you all the best with this and future titles!

STEPHANIE: Thank you, Susanna!

Readers, if you have questions for Stephanie, please post them in the comments below and if she has time I’m sure she’ll respond! And don’t forget that your comment puts you in the running to be randomly selected to win Stephanie’s generous giveaway of either a copy of her book or a picture book manuscript critique from her – winner’s choice! Leave a comment on today’s post by Sunday April 23 at 9 PM Eastern to be entered in the random drawing!

Author Stephanie Gibeault

Bio: As a former biologist and certified professional dog trainer, Stephanie Gibeault loves writing about dogs and other animals including farting rabbits! She spends her days just outside of Toronto, Canada, convincing her cat Heton not to take over her keyboard. She’s the author of the picture book Toby Tootles (illustrated by Mary Sullivan) and the middle grade Can’t Get Enough Dog Stuff (co-authored with Moira Rose Donohue). And there are more books about animals to come including Calculating Chimpanzees, Brainy Bees, and Other Animals with Mind-Blowing Mathematical Abilities (Candlewick/MIT Kids Press, illustrated by Jaclyn Sinquett), Making Sense of Dog Senses: How Our Furry Friends Experience the World (Owlkids Books, illustrated by Raz Latif), and Dogs Versus Humans: Showdown of the Senses (Owlkids Books, illustrated by Bambi Edlund).

Website: stephaniejgibeault.com
Twitter: @GibeaultWrites
Instagram: @stephanie_gibeault

You may purchase Stephanie’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 HERE!

53 thoughts on “Tuesday Debut – Presenting Stephanie Gibeault PLUS A Giveaway!

  1. christinashawnbooks says:

    I am so glad the process has been “quick” for publishing for you! Congratulations on your book! My kids will love it.

  2. CJ Penko says:

    LOVE it! The grandma is hilarious! The illo of her bending over the handlebars of the bike is so funny! I just love everything about this. Well done, and congratulations! ❤️🤭

  3. Danielle Hammelef says:

    Thank you for sharing your path from idea to publication. I think I’ve been too rushed to send out my manuscripts and I need to read more mentor texts and receive more feedback on my writing. Congratulations on your book!

  4. horsewriterlady says:

    Thank you for sharing your story and the story behind the story! This looks like such a fun book. Congrats on all your books coming out! I would love to win a critique. I could always use a little help!

  5. Kristin M. says:

    This sounds like a hilarious book that reminds me of my own grandma! Can’t wait to read this to my kids! Congratulations!
    Thank you so much Susanna and Stephanie!

  6. stephaniemstories says:

    Love the “tootles”. How lucky that you had such a short turn around in the offer, doesn’t seem like the norm. Lesson learned…. flatulence sells! 😆

  7. heatherbell37 says:

    Love this story! And what a fantastic interview! I especially love the tip about filtering critique advice and staying true to the story. Thank you both for sharing and yay Toby! ❤

    • Stephanie Gibeault says:

      Thank you so much, Heather! I’m glad my thoughts about critiques were helpful. It was a tough lesson for me to learn.

  8. Janet Frenck Sheets says:

    I think adults often forget that young children can feel deeply embarrassed. It’s such a universal emotion! I’m sure kids will empathize with Toby’s troubles, even as they laugh at the humor in this book.

    • Stephanie Gibeault says:

      Thank you, Janet! I agree, embarrassment is universal. I hope this book helps kids learn how to move on from an awkward moment.

  9. Lauri Meyers says:

    Wow! I can see in your coming books how you are leveraging your background into books for kids. But I’m glad you were able to tackle tooting too! It does happen to all of us:)

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