Tuesday Debut – Presenting Jenna Beatrice! Along With Illustrator Erika Lynne Jones PLUS A Giveaway!

It’s Tuesday Debut time again, and we have a treat today!

We get to hear from the debut author AND the debut illustrator of a fabulous book!

Real quick before we get to the debut, though, I want to announce the winners of Stephanie Gibeault’s giveaway from a couple weeks ago, AND the winner of Nadia Ali’s giveaway from last week!

Stephanie very kindly offered winner’s choice of a picture book manuscript critique or a personalized signed copy of her brand new book, TOBY TOOTLES. And the winner of her giveaway is Cathy Sheafor!!!

Nadia generously offered a picture book manuscript critique (non-rhyming) and the winner of her giveaway is Jessica Milo!!!

Congratulations, Cathy and Jessica! Please email me so I can get your prizes organized for you!

AND, since we have turned into the land of gifts over here with all the incredibly generous authors and illustrators we’ve had lately, today’s author, Jenna Beatrice, is giving away a personalized signed copy of THE LOUD LIBRARIAN to one lucky randomly selected winner! Just leave a comment on this post by Monday May 15 at 3PM Eastern to qualify!

Now, without further ado, let’s meet debut author Jenna Beatrice and illustrator Erika Lynne Jones and hear all about how THE LOUD LIBRARIAN came to be!

Author: Jenna Beatrice
Illustrator: Erika Lynne Jones
Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing
Fiction, 4-8 ages

Penelope is perfect for the job of student-librarian. Friendly? Check. Helpful? Check. Book lover? Check. There’s just one snag. Penelope is…LOUD. Bookcases may topple and the ground may quake at the sound of her voice, but Penelope is determined to prove she’s perfect for the job and stay true to herself. 

SUSANNA: Welcome, Jenna and Erika! What a treat to have both of you here to tell us about your journey to publication with THE LOUD LIBRARIAN! Jenna, where did the idea for this book come from?

JENNA: I was brainstorming ideas one day and the thought occurred to me that it could be funny if a very loud student (so loud she could be heard in space!) was picked to be the student-librarian. The rest of the plot was developed over many, many revisions. I needed to let the character, Penelope, lead the way on where the story arc would go!

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

JENNA: I wrote the first draft of this story in April 2019 and it sold February 2021, so it took almost two years of writing and revising. I like to let stories “sit” for weeks or months so I can revise with fresh eyes. Returning to a story after being away from it helps me during the revision period the most. I’m able to see more clearly what is and is not working. 

SUSANNA: I feel the same way! It’s hard to see a story clearly when you’ve first written it. Did you go through many revisions?

JENNA: I honestly cannot tell you how many revisions – there were so many! Maybe it seems like an overwhelming number because when I revise, I never delete. I strongly encourage new writers to save all of your “outtakes” because you will be surprised how often you go digging back into those rejected scenes/lines/jokes.

SUSANNA: I agree. I save everything, just in case. Plus, it makes it easier to revise if you know you haven’t really gotten rid of it forever! When did you know your manuscript was ready for submission?

JENNA: As I mentioned, I like to sit on my manuscripts for a while so I can return to them with fresh eyes. After a few rounds, I realized I wasn’t doing any more substantial changes. Mainly, I was nitpicking a word here or there (which is important!) but that’s when I knew I had taken the manuscript as far as I could take it.

SUSANNA: When and how did you submit?

JENNA: The Loud Librarian‘s journey to publication is an example of how it takes a village to raise a book! I applied for a mentorship through #PBChat, founded by Justin Colón, and was incredibly lucky to be picked by the wonderful Lindsay Leslie. Lindsay donated her time to mentor me and to help make The Loud Librarian submission ready. Lindsay taught me so much about storytelling and I’m so grateful to her for believing in this story.

At the mentorship showcase, this story was requested by several editors and an offer was made by Atheneum/Simon & Schuster. It was an absolute dream come true! And would not have been possible without the generosity of the kidlit community.

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”?

JENNA: Very quickly – just two weeks!

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

JENNA: Seeing the email with the offer was an absolute dream come true. My husband was on a work call so I was jumping up and down until he could sign off and I could tell him the news. It was one of the happiest moments! Afterwards, I called my parents and then Lindsay to tell them the wonderful news.

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

JENNA: About 3 or 4 months from offer to signed contract.

SUSANNA: How did you celebrate signing your contract?

JENNA: I was about to give birth so the contract signing got a bit overshadowed. But we’ve made up for it with all the celebrations for the book release! I had a pizza launch party with my family and friends after a bookstore reading and it was absolutely lovely.

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

JENNA: I didn’t know what to expect in terms of a contract so I’m glad I had my agent looking over it and advising me. I’m a lawyer myself but this is not the kind of law I practice so I would advise anyone signing a contract to make sure someone who knows about author contracts takes a look before you sign the binding agreement. For example, without my agent, I wouldn’t have known to ask for an “elevator clause” which is when you ask for an increase in a royalty percentage if the book sells more than a certain number of copies.

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

JENNA: The editorial process was so fun! I loved working with my editors and getting their input on how to enrich the story and what details would be helpful to reader. There were two rounds of revisions in total and then it went off to Erika!  

SUSANNA: Erika, how did you get chosen to illustrate this book?

ERIKA: I believe that our editors, Kristie Choi and Reka Simon, saw my portfolio of work through my agency, Painted Words. It was my first offer for a book deal and it came at the end of my first educational illustration project I had done for Scholastic, Inc. The timing was perfect. I believe they liked my art style and the way I brought characters to life. I also had an illustration in my portfolio of a library scene – I believe all those things helped. They shared my art with Jenna and she approved. I wasn’t involved in those conversations at all so I may be simplifying the process a bit 🙂 

But my advice would be to curate your work and have things in your portfolio that you like to illustrate. It may not be as specific as a library, but if you enjoy stories featuring children, perhaps you have a playground scene or a classroom scene. If you like animal stories, perhaps you have more scenes featuring animals in the style that you like to draw them. I believe people pick up on the fact that you enjoyed making your art and it makes them feel joyful. And yes, I do recommend getting an agent if at all possible, but don’t let not having one stop you. Share your work on social media regularly and interact with editors and art directors in the business. Keep making and sharing, and your dreams will come true.

SUSANNA: What about the manuscript made you want to illustrate this book?

ERIKA: The fact that it was humorous was a big plus. I love using humor in my art. The fact that it didn’t end in a neat and tidy way where the main character, Penelope, solves her problem really stretched my imagination to what was possible in a picture book and so did the fantastical storytelling style Jenna used. So the opportunity felt expansive to me. Also I thought my love of books and libraries would shine through the illustrations. In hindsight I feel like I needed this book in my life and the book needed what I could bring – I call it total alignment!

text copyright Jenna Beatrice 2023, illustration copyright Erika Lynne Jones 2023, Simon & Schuster

SUSANNA: Jenna, what was your experience of the illustration process like?

JENNA: Erika and I didn’t interact during the illustration process, but I did get to see an early drawing of Penelope – and it was such a special moment. She was so cheerful and colorful, and I completely fell in love with her. Erika and the team kindly asked for my thoughts on Penelope’s hairpiece, so it was exciting for me to get to give a little input fashion-wise! I also got to see sketches of the interiors and then again when they were in color. It was absolutely thrilling to see it all come together!

text copyright Jenna Beatrice 2023, illustration copyright Erika Lynne Jones 2023, Simon & Schuster

SUSANNA: How do you go about taking someone else’s words and making them into art for the book?/What is your process?

ERIKA: I usually start with the character. It involves a lot of doodling and playing with shapes until I find a combination I love. I take cues from the manuscript about how the character should look and dress. When I have a couple I like, I submit them to the editorial team to review with the author. Once the main character(s) are agreed upon, I start thinking about the setting so I can incorporate that into my sketches. For inspiration on this setting, I actually visited libraries in my area that would allow it. It was tricky because many places still had restrictions due to the pandemic on who could visit and I couldn’t get into any school libraries at all.

Sketching usually starts with making notes on the manuscript of the first imagery that comes to mind. And that progresses to making a sticky note dummy of the book – that just means I put thumbnails on sticky notes for the whole book. I allow myself to just put shapes down that go with the story until the composition feels right. I move onto full out sketches on my ipad to create the next iteration of the dummy. Before turning my work in I like to make sure the emotion I intended to communicate on that spread is coming across effectively. Then I submit sketches to the editors to get their feedback.

After a round or two of sketch revisions, we go to final art. I like to provide a sample of a full spread and a spot illustration to make sure the team is all on the same page about how the art will look and feel. Also I love working with mixed media – acrylic paint, colored pencils and lots of hand textured cut paper. I collage things on paper, but I allow myself to do more layering and finishes in PhotoShop. I like having the flexibility to make changes to the art without starting from scratch.

text copyright Jenna Beatrice 2023, illustration copyright Erika Lynne Jones 2023, Simon & Schuster

SUSANNA: How long did it take you to illustrate the book and was there a lot of revision involved?

ERIKA: My timeline is a little bit foggy, but I believe I started sketching for the book in Spring of 2021 and turned in final art in the Spring of 2022, with final tweaks, title pages and the cover being done in Summer of 2022. Yes there were revisions, but I don’t feel like there were a lot of them. Most of my original ideas and concepts for spreads and spots stayed the same, but in some cases I might have needed to tweak a character’s position, or facial expression or placement of key elements on the page during the sketch phase. During the color phase, most of the tweaking was about making sure the colors were saturated and bright. Both the editors and art director were so easy to work with. The collaborative process just flowed.

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

JENNA: Seeing our first trade review really hit home that this was REAL. It was a wonderful moment to realize that the little story I had imagined was now a real book out in the world for everyone to read and enjoy. This really was the moment that it all sunk in.

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

JENNA: I received the offer in February 2021 and held the book for the first time in March 2023…so about two years. It was especially wild for me because I received the offer while pregnant with my son and now, he’s almost two years old! He loves to hold the book and turn the pages and show me the gorgeous pictures.

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

JENNA: Our publisher has been wonderful in promoting the book! They have been working hard for us on social media and at conferences and during National Library Week.

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

JENNA: Erika and I worked together on a blog tour and promoting the book on social media. I also did a Twitter giveaway and went to bookstores and libraries to hand out bookmarks I had made to share the news about the book. Once the book was out, I made stickers and bookmarks and activity sheets to hand out to students, friends, and family.

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

JENNA: I took my first official picture book class (Making Picture Book Magic!) in November 2018. That was the beginning of my picture book writing journey, and I continued to take additional classes and join writing communities and critique groups as I went along. It was about two and a half years from my first class to the book offer.

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?)

JENNA: The best advice I have is to read as many picture books as you can across genres. And while you read, analyze the book like you would have done in school for plot and characters. Then analyze it again for the emotional component. How does each scene make you feel? And why do you feel this way? I think asking yourself these kinds of questions really helps when it comes to incorporating heart into your own storytelling.

SUSANNA: Thank you both so much for taking the time to participate in this series and paying it forward to other writers and illustrators! We so appreciate the opportunity to learn from your knowledge and expertise, and wish you all the best with this and future titles!

Readers, if you have questions for Jenna or Erika, please post them in the comments below and if they has time I’m sure they’ll respond!

And remember, your comment on today’s post by Monday May 15th at 3PM qualifies you to be entered in the random drawing for a personalized, signed copy of THE LOUD LIBRARIAN!!!

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

BookShop (Indiebound)

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!

55 thoughts on “Tuesday Debut – Presenting Jenna Beatrice! Along With Illustrator Erika Lynne Jones PLUS A Giveaway!

  1. palpbkids says:

    Congratulations, Erika and Jenna!!
    This sounds like a book that will be read over and over again!
    And the text and illustrations, from what I can see on this page, look like a match made in heaven!

  2. authorlaurablog says:

    Wow! Congratulations Jenna, it sounds like a wonderful book journey with PBChat, Lindsay for a mentor. and a baby in the middle of it all makes it even sweeter because you’re creating an audience! I’ve seen your book but not yet read it and Erika’s illustrations are amazing!

  3. Patti Ranson says:

    Jenna, What a fun idea- I can’t wait to read it!
    Erika, What child could pass by that cover? Great eye-catching illos and colours!

  4. brilawyer says:

    I love these and learn so much every week! Because I’m not published yet, I love to read each book’s publishing journey to learn how it works. Thank you Susanna, Jenna, and Erika!

  5. Judy Sobanski says:

    Congratulations Jenna and Ericka! I just checked out your book from my local library and loved it! Such a fun read aloud and the illustrations are vibrant! Thank you for sharing your journey!

  6. kathalsey says:

    Love the entire idea of a “loud librarian!” Congrats, Jenna and Ericka! I also am a former #PBChat mentee of Lindsay Leslie. She is amazing. As a former school librarian, I can’t wait to get this book.

  7. CJ Penko says:

    How cool is this idea?! They can hear her from space, LOL! I shelved it on GoodReads and can’t wait to read it. Thanks so much for such a great interview. My writing process is very similar, and this was a very helpful post. Congratulations on such a beautiful book!❤️📢📚

  8. Laura Wippell says:

    Congrats Jenna and Erika! I love this idea, your book looks just adorable! Couldn’t agree more on how it takes a village to raise a book! Congrats again!

  9. Danielle Hammelef says:

    Congratulations! This book will be so much fun to read. Thank you for sharing this book’s path to publication–I didn’t know about an “elevator clause” before reading this post.

  10. Tomi Rockey Rues says:

    Thank you for sharing your journey with all of us. I am a former elementary school librarian and I sometimes (okay, often) have a loud voice, too!

  11. Pamela Swanson says:

    What a fun book! And a child librarian is such a great idea. I tutor in the library and go to read, and sometimes it is loud (not from the librarians), so it would be interesting to see what children think of a child being the librarian that is loud. Congratulations.

      • Pamela Swanson says:

        Ha, I agree. One little boy threw a fit so loud for half an hour we could hardly tutor, and the other day some boys were kicking a soccer ball around. Luckily,
        the librarian is a “loud” librarian and took care of the boys.

  12. Debbie Merlo Arnn says:

    Congratulations on your book debut, Ladies! I LOVE the premise of this book…and the illustrations are so bright and cheerful! Great job to your both!

  13. marty bellis says:

    Congrats, Jenna and Erika. Between the great title and the brightly illustrated cover, who wouldn’t want to read this one? Can’t wait to check this one out.

  14. Janet Frenck Sheets says:

    Another picture book mentorship success story! I am always amazed by the generosity of the writing community. It’s wonderful to hear how PB creators help each other.

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