Tuesday Debut – Presenting Pippa Chorley!

Aren’t Tuesdays wonderful? 😊

They are so full of excitement and anticipation because every Tuesday a whole bunch of brand new books make their way out into the world.

And although many of those books are written by seasoned, veteran authors, many of them are written by debut authors who are experiencing the thrill of seeing their words in print for the very first time.

There’s nothing like it.

It’s what we all dream about and what we all strive for, whether it’s our first book or (presumably – I don’t know from experience 😊) – whether we’re like Jane Yolen and it’s our 375th book or whatever she’s up to at this point! 😊

But today we’re sharing the joy with debut author Pippa Chorley!  Pippa’s book has debuted in Singapore and is available for pre-order in the US and UK.  (And if you’d like copies signed and posted direct you can contact Pippa through her website!)

Let’s have a look at her debut – a topic near and dear to my heart… 😊🐑

Title: Counting Sheep
Author: Pippa Chorley
Illustrator: Danny Deeptown
Publishing House: Marshall Cavendish
Date of Publication: April 5th
Fiction: Picture book / rhyming narrative
Age range: 3-7

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Synopsis: It all begins one dark stormy night when Sam can’t sleep and her mum suggests that she count some sheep. But how can Sam count them when one of the sheep can’t jump over the fence? Follow Sam and her flock in this fun farmyard tale as they try to help little Shep find a way over the fence.

 

SUSANNA: Welcome, Pippa!  Thank you so much for joining us today!  Where did the idea for this book come from?

PIPPA: It was on one of those nights where your mind goes a bit haywire and you find yourself tossing and turning all night that the idea came to me. I remembered my dad telling me to count sheep as a child and the first few lines came in a flash. The next morning on my way to work I couldn’t stop thinking about this story. I took out a pen on the bus and began writing down those initial lines. By the time I reached the office I had written another 8 lines and I couldn’t stop until I had finished, I simply had to get it all down and I spent probably the next 2 hours typing it up on my work computer … shhh!

 

SUSANNA: How long did it take you to write this book? Did you go through many revisions?

PIPPA: The first draft was almost like a stream of consciousness. It poured out in one sitting. However, and this is a big however, I lost it! A few years after writing it down my family and I left Singapore to live in India. I had all but forgotten about ‘Counting Sheep’ until another story began to form in my head. It reminded me of the one I had left behind on a work computer all those years ago. The funny thing was I still remembered almost half of it by heart. I wrote it down and began rewriting a new ending!

This version was redrafted a further 8 times in total, some of those were really big changes and some small but each one as important as the next.

My writing space

Here is a pic of my work space at home. I LOVE my desk as it is from our time living in India and feels an inspiring place to edit.

 

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

PIPPA: I have to admit that I didn’t completely know if it was ready or not. I knew I liked the story, I was even quite proud of it, but I am not sure if we can ever be 100% sure as a writer if something is going to spark the interest of an agent or publisher. It’s quite a subjective industry so all we can do is try!

 

SUSANNA: When and how did you submit?

PIPPA: I don’t have a literary agent so I actually submitted this story direct to the publisher Marshall Cavendish. As a result, this has all happened a little faster than usual I think.

Following a weekly SCBWI critique group meeting, I was advised by one of the group to submit this story to a contact she had there who was keen to find new talent. I held no high hopes of it being accepted but I felt it was at least worth a shot. I was lucky enough that the story sparked their interest and they wrote back to me a few days later asking for more information.

 

SUSANNA: When did you get “the call”?

PIPPA: Living in a small country definitely has its advantages so instead of a call I actually got an email requesting that I stop by the publisher’s offices in person. I have to admit I didn’t sleep much that night and on the way to the office my car broke down on the highway which made me twice as nervous. I had to abandon it to get a taxi there! When I arrived, it became clear that they really liked ‘Counting Sheep’ but what was more amazing was that they wanted to see other stories I had written too! It was definitely the best feeling ever!

 

SUSANNA: Did you have to make changes to the book in order to sell it?  Tell us about the editorial process…

PIPPA: I discussed quite a few changes with the editor of Marshall Cavendish including grammatical ones, layout issues as well as written content. But the biggest change was of my own doing. I originally had the little sheep solving the problem in the original version but I felt that it was too abstract for children to understand. I discussed changing it to Sam and was lucky that both my illustrator and editor agreed as I think the book is much stronger as a result of the change.

 

SUSANNA: How did you celebrate signing your contract?  (If you care to share 🙂 )

PIPPA: Ha ha! Unfortunately, 3 kids and a lively spaniel puppy didn’t leave much time for huge celebrations, however I have a bottle of champagne ready for the moment I first get to hold my published book in my hands. That for me will be the real time to celebrate!

One Muddy Jasper

Jasper (my English Springer Spaniel) is my muse on our dog walks together (where I often get my inspiration!)

 

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

PIPPA: I actually had no idea what to expect when they sent the contract through nor what to look for either. I was lucky enough to have a good friend who is a lawyer and understood contractual language and she was able to help me decipher some of the gobbledygook! On the most part it appeared fairly standard, however she did request that I firm things up with extra wording here and there to ensure it was watertight. Unusually in this industry my publisher does not give advances, however their royalties are a little higher than the average as a result and I was happy with this arrangement.

 

SUSANNA: Tell us about your experience of the illustration process…

PIPPA: This was the most wonderful part of the process for me as I was allowed to deal directly with my illustrator. I know this is a highly debated topic but for us it worked really well and I built a really strong friendship with Danny along the way.

He initially sent both myself and my editor thumbnail sketches for each page for approval. They were tiny and very rough but very helpful in giving me a sense of how it would look in the end. Even after seeing these tiny rough sketches I could tell that he was the perfect match for me and had totally captured the feel of the story. A few months later I got to see the full illustration drafts and even make comments on them, for example I asked if we could add an extra spot on the haybale scene. He was always open to discussion and when he sent through the final illustrations just a few months ago I couldn’t have been more delighted.

9_10

text copyright Pippa Chorley 2019, illustration copyright Danny Deeptown 2019, used by permission of Marshall Cavendish

 

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

PIPPA: The final version went to print at the end of February so it took only one month from then until I received an actual physical copy, which I think is quite amazing! I have to admit that I don’t know how many copies have been printed to date but as Singapore is a small country it is likely to be at the smaller end of the scale, between 2-5000 I would say.

 

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

PIPPA: I think it is fairly typical these days that unless you are an established author, publishing companies do not have as huge budget to spend on promoting you. They sent copies out to various review groups and organized a lovely launch at a local bookstore for me which was a great start. However, I have realized that much of our promotional success is down to our own input, which is why interviews like this one are so very important to us (thank you Susanne). (My pleasure, Pippa 😊)

 

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

PIPPA: I took a wonderful course run by Colleen Riordan at Wild Ink on marketing and what it means which I found immensely helpful and would highly recommend if like me self-promotion scares you! I bit the bullet though, and joined the modern world of social media, making sure I had a presence there both for my young readers on things like Instagram and my peers on platforms such as Twitter. I set up a website, which I am continually updating and improving as I go where I added colouring pages and craft activity ideas linked to my book. I also created a monthly book review blog which I really enjoy doing. In terms of SWAG, for my school visits and reading sessions I had bookmarks made which I think, although typical, is a great starting point for new authors.

 

SUSANNA: Wow!  I like the sound of that marketing course!  I think I could use that!  How long was it between the time you started writing seriously and the time you sold your first picture book?

PIPPA: I have had bursts of energy with writing stories throughout my life, literally since I was a young girl and I always took it seriously and held a deep desire to become professional. However, it wasn’t until I joined SCBWI and later 12X12 that I realized exactly what it meant to be a writer, the editing and ‘putting yourself out there’ bit. Once I’d made that leap it was remarkably fast for me. I know that is not always the case and for me the journey might not last forever but now I am on it I am determined to keep going. Writing is such a passionate activity, it is hard to stop once you start!

 

AnneValluy_PippaWeb-2

Author Pippa Chorley.  Photo taken in the Botanical Garden’s in Singapore where she loves to walk

 

Website: http://pippachorleystories.com
Twitter: @PippaChorley
Instagram: @pippachorley

 

SUSANNA: Pippa, thank you so much for joining us today and taking the time to share your experience with us!  I love these interviews because something new always comes up for all of us to learn from!  Thank you for giving us a peek at your process.  I know we all wish you the very best success with this and future books!

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

You may purchase Pippa’s book at:
(all links below are book-specific)
Amazon
Book Depository

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

– recommending them as visiting authors to our children’s schools and our local libraries

– sharing their books on social media

– reviewing their books on Goodreads, Amazon, 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

Megan Lacera – Zombie Don’t Eat Veggies!

 

 

 

Tuesday Debut – Presenting Megan Lacera!

Welcome to another edge-of-your-seat episode of Tuesday Debut, especially thrilling today because it involves ZOMBIES!!!

Don’t be scared 😊

My fierce guard dogs and I will protect you 😊

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This is a fun Debut because it’s a wife/husband author/illustrator team – something we haven’t seen here yet. Their book was also released simultaneously in English and Spanish – something else we haven’t seen here yet!  So without further ado, let’s welcome debut author Megan Lacera and her author/illustrator husband, Jorge Lacera!!!

ZOMBIES DON’T EAT VEGGIES!
LOS ZOMBIS NO COMEN VERDURAS (Spanish edition available simultaneously)

By Megan and Jorge Lacera
Illustrated by Jorge Lacera
Lee and Low Books/Children’s Book Press
April 2, 2019
Picture book/Fiction
Age Range: 4-8

 

SUMMARY

Mo Romero is a zombie who loves nothing more than growing, cooking, and eating vegetables. Tomatoes? Tantalizing. Peppers? Pure perfection! The problem? Mo’s parents insist that their niño eat only zombie cuisine, like arm-panadas and finger foods. They tell Mo over and over that zombies don’t eat veggies. But Mo can’t imagine a lifetime of just eating zombie food and giving up his veggies. As he questions his own zombie identity, Mo tries his best to convince his parents to give peas a chance.

 

SUSANNA: Thank you so much for joining us today, Megan and Jorge! Where did the idea for this book come from?

MEGAN: We wanted to create a zombie book. We love zombie movies, classic horror films. The idea of Mo Romero’s character came to us—a zombie kid who wasn’t sure he wanted to be a zombie. He didn’t fit “the mold.” We zeroed in on his food choices (he’s not into zombie cuisine…he loves vegetables!) because it felt like such a stark contrast to the rest of his world and provided great conflict. We were also very excited to explore Latin-inspired dishes…the result is a lot of puns that keep us (and kiddos) laughing.

mrsromero

 

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

MEGAN: From the very initial conception to the publication date…about five years. That is for a fully illustrated book.

 

SUSANNA: Did you go through many revisions?

MEGAN: Tons! On our own, we revised the manuscript dummy countless times. Because we are an author/illustrator duo, our process is very collaborative. We work on the text and art simultaneously, each influencing the other. Once we signed with our agent, we revised again before submission. After finalizing our publication deal with Lee and Low, we went through about ten rounds of revision. Most of these edits at this point weren’t major revisions, more about refinement.

 

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

MEGAN: When we loved it! We had put this story through so much…critiquing the heck out of it, tearing it apart and building it back up….until one day we felt it was ready to fly.

 

SUSANNA: When and how did you submit?

MEGAN: We are represented by John Cusick at Folio Jr. Interesting twist…we originally signed with his wife, Molly at Folio. A few months into the partnership, Molly moved away from agenting into book scouting and we transitioned to working with John. He handles the submission-to-editors process, negotiates the deals, and much more. He’s excellent.

 

SUSANNA: When did you get “the call”?  (Best moment ever! 😊)

MEGAN: From the time we went on submission, to the time we received the offer from Lee and Low, it was about several months. Our agent let us know that there was interest from a few editors, and that those editors would be bringing the project to their acquisition meetings. Oh, to be a fly on the wall at one of those meetings! (SUSANNA: yeah, seriously!)

We received the “call” over email—because the offer letter from our now editor (Jessica Echeverria) was forwarded to us. It was perfect; Jessica understood our vision and intentions for the book so clearly. She connected with the characters from the beginning. And she/Lee and Low offered us a two book-deal which was something we didn’t ask for, but definitely wanted.

 

SUSANNA: How did you celebrate signing your contract?

MEGAN: We went out to dinner with our son! We share a lot of we do with him (in age-appropriate ways, of course) and he was excited to celebrate “the big deal.”

zombiefamily

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

MEGAN: As the author and illustrator, we were happy with the contract terms as this is our debut book. The second book being included was great, because it means that we have the chance to build on all we’ve learned with the Lee and Low team on book 1.

For a few more specifics, the deal is for World Rights. We maintain the copyrights to our work. We receive royalty percentages for both the author and illustrator. We are afforded 20 author copies.

Our agent is entitled to 15%, which is the industry standard.

 

SUSANNA: What can you tell us about the editorial process?

MEGAN: As mentioned earlier, we went through about ten rounds of revisions with our editor. Many changes were about sharpening; either maximizing the power of a page turn or ensuring a character’s personality was coming through.

The biggest change was to the climax of the story. In our book, Mo Romero is a zombie kid who loves vegetables. He’s different from other zombies, like his parents. As we revised, it became clearer that Mo has to accept his own differences, whether his parents do or not.

 

SUSANNA: Please tell us about your experience of the illustration process. We’re especially interested because it is different from most authors’ sue to the fact that you work as a team!

MEGAN: We get to see everything! Being an author-illustrator team means that we collaborate very closely, which is not like the typical picture book process. Our submission was a fully illustrated dummy (though not final color), and we revised from there.

ZombiesDontEatVeggies_Eng_lowres_spreads_6

Because we submitted this way, we did not include art notes. We do work very closely together to create a cohesive vision for the book.

JORGE: As an artist, my perspective on art notes is to keep them very minimal. Only if there is something truly key to understanding the story that isn’t conveyed in the text. If you have a vision for something, definitely bring it up with your editor. But in general, I think you have to trust the artist and let them bring their own brand of visual storytelling to the project.

ZDEV Gif

 

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

MEGAN: We received a starred review from Kirkus about two months prior to publication. It was amazing! We were stunned and probably read it about 30 times, just to make sure it was real. The reviewer really seemed to get our sense of humor which felt wonderful.

 

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

MEGAN: Hm…nearly two years!

kaiwithzombies

Quality control – kid tested, kid approved by Megan and Jorge’s son 🙂

 

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

MEGAN: Lee and Low has sent ZOMBIES DON’T EAT VEGGIES! to multiple media outlets, reviewers, and promoted the book on their social media accounts. We don’t know everything they’re doing behind the scenes, though we can say that their marketing and publicity team is wonderful to work with.

 

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

MEGAN: We made our own book trailer—including the voice-over work! Travis Jonker (Elementary school librarian, writer of THE VERY LAST CASTLE) was kind enough to premiere it on his blog. You can watch the full trailer here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nz8PArUO5Cs

We’ve shared the trailer in many places and use it often when contacting booksellers, librarians, and media outlets. It took a lot of time and resources, but it’s been a great way to share the story. People love video!

Blog tours—yes, we’re happy to be a part of your blog today, Susanna! We’ve also appeared on several other blogs and will continue to share our story this way throughout the year.

Promotion is an on-going event. We reach out to out least one potential outlet each day…including local magazines, book influencers, pop culture-related sites and more.

We will be attending the Texas Library Association Conference the week of April 15th.  We will be doing a panel with several other authors on BIG EMOTIONS IN PICTURE BOOKS. It’s going to be a lot fun—if you’ll be there, we’d love to connect!

Over the coming months, we’ll be visiting schools to share ZOMBIES and our journey as professional creators. We’ll also be doing story times at bookstores and libraries…and more events in the works!

 

SUSANNA: WOW!  You guys are amazing with the marketing/promotion! One potential outlet every day?  I need to step up my game! 😊  How long was it between the time you started writing seriously and the time you sold your first picture book?

MEGAN: We’ve been working professionally in entertainment, gaming, and toys for about 15 years. During that time, we’ve always been collaborating on various projects so it’s a bit hard to say. As far as our picture book collaboration journey, it’s been about six years from initial exploration to publication.

 

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

MEGAN: The journey to publication is thrilling, challenging, gratifying, frustrating, and fulfilling. It’s a roller coaster—the highs are amazing and the lows can be quite low. We’ve learned to be patient and kind with ourselves—if you’re on this bookish journey too, prepare for adventure!

 

Megan and Jorge Lacera

Website: http://www.studiolacera.com

Twitter: @Jlacera @MeganLacera

Facebook: @MeganandJorgeLacera

Instagram: @jlacera

SUSANNA: Thank you so much for taking the time to participate in this series and paying it forward to other writers, Megan and Jorge! We all so appreciate it and wish you the best of success with this and future books!

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

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

Indiebound
Indiebound Spanish Edition
Amazon
Amazon Spanish Edition
Barnes&Noble
Barnes&Noble Spanish Edition

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

– 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

Tuesday Debut – Presenting Cathy Ballou Mealey!

Hurray! It’s Tuesday Debut time!

I have to tell you, I love doing these posts so much!  So many of the authors who are featured here are writers I have watched come along from their first early steps into the world of writing picture books to their moments of great accomplishment.  I have had the opportunity to see how hard they work to improve their craft, research the agent market, polish their work to submit to agents and editors… and to see them keep trying when things didn’t go their way the first… or the fifth… or even the fifteenth time.  So I am extra especially thrilled when I get to see their first books in print! 🙂

Today’s Tuesday Debut-ess is a case in point!  Talented, determined, and now finally and most deservedly 🌟 published 🌟, I’m delighted to introduce you to Cathy Ballou Mealey and her wonderful picture book, When A Tree Grows!

When A Tree Grows
Written by Cathy Ballou Mealey
Illustrated by Kasia Nowowiejska
Sterling Children’s Books, April 2, 2019
Fiction, ages 3-7

Book cover

WHEN A TREE GROWS is a rollicking read-aloud that follows a zany chain of events triggered by a broken tree, a cranky Bear, a nut-loving Squirrel and his loyal friend Moose.

 

SUSANNA: First off, how cute is that moose???!!! 🙂 But getting down to serious business now 🙂  where did the idea for this book come from?

CATHY: I was hiking in the woods with my family when we heard a distant creaky Crash! Was it a tree? An animal? We froze, and after a long silence, hiked on. I started wondering: What if that crash had scared a bear or frightened a deer?

Building on that “OR” question, I framed a madcap tale with two different possible outcomes, one rather expected and one funny, unexpected outcome. Readers will find that “OR” spotlighted on the bottom corner of each recto page with a clever curled paper art effect.

 

OR page turn

 

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

CATHY: My first draft took roughly 6 weeks to complete before I had a preliminary version to share with my critique group and some trusted writing friends.

Squirrel work buddy (1)

Cathy’s work buddy 🙂

 

SUSANNA: Did you go through many revisions?

CATHY: Yes! Those first critiques helped me tighten and distill my draft into a 32 page picture book format. I wrote ideas on sticky notes, plastering them on the back of my door and re-arranging them into funnier scene sequences. I cut sentence strips from my paper draft and pasted them into a book dummy with stick-critter sketches. Trying multiple revision strategies helped me trim text and focus on story.

 

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

CATHY: When writer friends kept asking “How is that TREE book coming along? Don’t sit on that too long. Send it out!” I trusted them!

 

SUSANNA: When and how did you submit?

CATHY: I used Querytracker to find agents accepting picture book manuscripts. My goal was to send out three new queries each week. At the same time, I was polishing two additional manuscripts to have ready in case an agent asked to see more stories.

 

SUSANNA: When did you get “the call”?

CATHY: The first “call” came in May 2015 when I signed with Liza Fleissig of Liza Royce Agency. After Liza submitted TREE to publishers, we got nice feedback and a request for revision. I revised for about a month, and the new version went to acquisitions at two houses. By December TREE was putting down roots at Sterling Books for Children with editor Meredith Mundy.

 

SUSANNA:How did you celebrate signing your contract?

CATHY: Since it was just before Christmas, I bought a special acorn ornament to hang on our tree.

2018 December Orange 004

 

 

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

CATHY: My agent was helpful in explaining technical contract bits that were important but unfamiliar. I also perused online resources for more information about publishing contracts. As others have mentioned, Hannah Holt’s author survey data – shared in her October 2018 Tuesday Debuts post – is current and extremely useful. I’d say my experience on the “business” side for TREE was on par with other debuts for advance, print run, author copies, etc.

 

SUSANNA: Tell us about the editorial process…

CATHY: The changes I had made during the R&R stage helped polish TREE to a high gloss. Specifically, the friendship angle between Moose and Squirrel deepened, and the visual humor was tweaked to a funnier level. I shared many illustration ideas both in manuscript art notes and by email with the editor and art director. See if you can find what I described as the “I Love Lucy” conveyor belt image!

 

SUSANNA: Tell us about your experience of the illustration process…

CATHY: I saw sketches and proofs throughout the process, which I never expected but found very exciting! I knew from the thoughtful questions art director Ryan Thomann posed that we shared a vision for how the final illustrations might look.

WATG interior

 

SUSANNA: Did you get to see advance reviews from Kirkus, SLJ, etc?

CATHY: Kirkus liked it – hooray! The review says “Laugh along as a story about a tree in the forest comes full circle, bringing three creatures along for a bumpy but fun ride.”

 

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

CATHY: Three years, four months. Once the PW announcement was released in March 2017, I could officially share the news with everyone that TREE was becoming a book.

 

SUSANNA: If your book has been out for at least one statement cycle, has it earned out yet?

CATHY: This interview is posting on TREE’s book birthday, so it is too soon to tell.

 

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

CATHY: Sterling sent TREE to reviewers and journals like Kirkus. They also promoted it to schools and libraries as part of National Parks Month in April with other Sterling titles.

 

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

CATHY: Three cheers for collaborative marketing efforts with my online debut PB groups, the marvelous Epic18’s and splendid Notable19’s. Through blogs, Twitter chats, Instagram, etc we are jointly boosting our debut releases to reach more young readers. I am also grateful to Danielle Davis whose amazing blog This Picture Book Life hosted my cover reveal in November, 2018.

 

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

CATHY: I wrote my first picture book in 2010 for the Cheerios “Spoonful of Stories” contest. I started to attend conferences, classes and workshops and joined SCBWI and the 2012 12X12 Challenge. I felt ready to query agents in 2015. So, approximately 3-4 years of learning and writing in earnest before selling my first book.

Cheerios (1)

 

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

CATHY: I’d like to thank YOU for giving me the opportunity to share some of TREE’s back story here. Ever since entering the very first Halloweensie contest in 2011, I’ve been truly fortunate to learn from, and connect with, like-minded kid lit writers, readers and reviewers right here through Perfect Picture Book Fridays, your seasonal contests, Would You Read It? and Oh Susanna! You have collated a treasure chest of material in your archives that are so helpful to writers. If my Tuesday Debut interview can add even a tiny tidbit to your resources, I am happy!

And you even provided photo-evidence for me that sometimes cute rodents DO stow away on vehicles bound for the city.

Susanna Hill Stowaway rodent

the stowaway mouse on Susanna’s car 🙂

 

 

SUSANNA: Cathy, it is absolutely my pleasure to provide anything I may have provided that helped you on your way, and I know your Tuesday Debut post will be more than just a “tiny tidbit” for writers who get to read it!  Thank you so much for joining us today and sharing your experience so we can all benefit!  I know I speak for everyone when I wish you the very best of luck with this book and the many others I’m sure will follow! 🙂

Cathy Mealey headshot

Author Cathy Ballou Mealey                                                                                                                    Please come connect and say hello! Tell me if you’ve seen a Moose in real life, or if you have ever rescued a friend from an adventure gone awry.

 

Cathy Ballou Mealey lives with her family north of Boston, where she delights in watching silly squirrel antics and is waiting patiently for a moose to appear. Her favorite nut is the hazelnut and her favorite cupcake is cardamom crème.

Website: https://cathyballoumealey.wordpress.com/about/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/CatBallouMealey

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/cathy.mealey

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/catballoumealey/

 

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

You may purchase Cathy’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

Tuesday Debut – Presenting BJ Lee!

Hello, Everyone!

It’s the first Tuesday Debut of Spring, and we’re headed for alligator territory down in Florida! 🙂

Today’s debut author is an accomplished poet whose work I have long enjoyed whenever I see it online or in my writing contests.  Not surprisingly, BJ Lee’s first published picture book is in rhyme.

Let’s have a look at Old Gator! 🙂

There Was an Old Gator Who Swallowed a Moth
Written By: B. J. Lee
Illustrated By: David Opie
Pelican Publishing
January 28, 2019
Fiction
Ages 2 – 8

Gator cover

Down in the southern swamps a hungry gator swallows a moth. Of course, he swallows a crab to get the moth! The gator predictably continues swallowing bigger and bigger creatures until the unexpected happens―all over the page!

 

SUSANNA: Welcome, BJ!  I am so thrilled to have you here today, at last celebrating the release of your first picture book!  Where did the idea for this book come from?

BJ: I had been working on several There Was an Old… parodies, when my husband and I saw a juvenile alligator riding waves in a local lake. He was completely cute and it struck me that the Gator would make a great MC. I went home and put the other parodies on the back burner.

 

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

BJ: It took about a year and a half to write this book. It took a while to figure out the right animals to use that had the best rhymes. Plus, it went through my critique group a few times.

B.J.'s Study Workspace

A glimpse of BJ’s work space…

 

 

SUSANNA: Did you go through many revisions?

BJ: I went through many, many revisions. Initially this book was called, There Was an Old Gator Who Swallowed a Skeeter. I really wanted it to have this title; however, I was less than pleased with the rhyme for Skeeter, which was “sweeter.” There was an old Gator who swallowed a Skeeter. What could be sweeter than a silly old Skeeter. I didn’t like this rhyme for two reasons:

  • It implied that the Gator ate the Skeeter. I didn’t want the connotation of eating, just swallowing.
  • It didn’t suggest any action. With “moth”, I had the slant rhyme “cough”, which would come in handy at the climax of the story.

 

 

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

 

BJ: I knew it was ready when I had the feeling that I always got when my college papers were ready – that feeling of I can’t work on this anymore. It’s as good as it can be and I believe I will get an “A.”This feeling that I had in college usually resulted in an “A.”

 

BJ and Bijoux

…and a glimpse of her work buddy, Bijoux 🙂

 

SUSANNA: When and how did you submit?

BJ: I submitted this directly to one publisher, Pelican Publishing, because I felt that it had the best chance of getting published with Pelican.

 

SUSANNA: When did you get “the call”?  (Best moment ever! 🙂 )

BJ: I sent this manuscript to Pelican Publishing on March 3, 2016 via snail mail. Fairly quickly, I heard back from them asking me if there were any other Florida versions of the story that I knew of. After researching this, I told them that I did not know of any other Florida versions. But no acceptance came.

On July 28, 2016 I heard back from them asking me about school visits that I had done. I replied to this but still no acceptance.

They kept coming back to me with questions about my platform, why my blog was “quiet” (it was quiet because I was taking a hiatus and doing a lot of guest blogging). After each one of these questions was answered, it had to go back into the owners’ meeting for discussion. It was taking a long time. They were checking me out!

On November 1, 2016, Pelican told me that they wanted three months exclusivity. I agreed to this because I could see they were very interested, and because this book had such a regional flavor, I thought I had the best chance for getting it published with Pelican.

I status queried on February 1, 2017 and received an acceptance on April 15, 2017.

I received the acceptance by email and opened the email just as my husband was coming in the door from work. I was trying to scream out, “Gator, gator!” but the only thing coming out of my mouth was a croak. My husband rushed in because he thought something was wrong with me. There was! My debut picture book had at last been accepted. What a moment!

SUSANNA: Wow!  That is very interesting. I think you’re the first author I’ve run into who has been quite so thoroughly checked out as to your school visit potential and social media presence before a manuscript acceptance.  Now I’m curious as to how regular this is, and/or whether it’s specific to regional publishers!

 

SUSANNA: How did you celebrate signing your contract?

BJ: My husband and I went out to a local restaurant that serves alligator – Café on the Bayou –  but I couldn’t bring myself to *swallow* any alligator as I am mostly vegetarian, or at least I was at the time.

 

SUSANNA: I think I’m glad you didn’t swallow any gator 🙂  Was the contract what you expected in terms of advance, royalty percentage, publication timeline, author copies etc.?

BJ: Yes, the contract is what I expected as a debut author. I’m not comfortable discussing my advance or royalty structure but I can tell you I received five author copies plus Pelican will send out five or more copies as giveaways.

 

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

BJ: There were no changes to the story, except punctuation. Yes, I felt that the editor had a great vision for the story.

 

SUSANNA: How was your experience of the illustration process?

BJ: Because Pelican had taken a year to accept this book, they offered to let me suggest an illustrator. I gave them two suggestions but neither one of them worked out because the illustrators were not available due to contractual obligations. As this process was going on, Pelican told me they thought they had found the perfect illustrator. When they sent me David Opie’s name and I looked at his website and saw all the alligators he had drawn, I was glad that the illustrators I suggested had not been available because David Opie was perfect for this project.

I got to see the character sketch first, which was very valuable to me because I could see that Pelican’s vision and the illustrator’s vision aligned with my own for the book. After that, I got to see all the sketches, which pretty much blew me away. I also got to see proofs and the final e-galley.

I appreciate that David Opie got my humor and nailed the character of Old Gator. He’s an extraordinary visual storyteller. I couldn’t be happier and there is nothing I would change.

I did not have any art notes in the manuscript.

There Was An Old Gator (1)_Page_26

No wonder BJ loves her illustrator! 🙂

 

SUSANNA: Did you get to see advance reviews from Kirkus, SLJ, etc?

BJ: I did not get to see any advance reviews.

 

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

BJ: It took approximately one year and 10 months from offer to first copy in hand, although it took over a year to get the acceptance.

 

 

SUSANNA: What kind of marketing and promotion has your publisher done for this book?
BJ: I know that they are sending out books for reviews and contacting bookstore reps. Honestly, I don’t know all of what they are doing. Thank you for reminding me to touch base with my publicists about it.

 

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

BJ: I have done a ton of marketing for my book. I have made bookmarks, postcards, coloring books, individual coloring pages, an alligator craft, mini-posters, mini-notebooks, and business cards with the book cover on them which I hand out liberally to people I meet. I have done and am still on my blog tour. I stretched it out rather than do it all in one week or two weeks. I have done giveaways. But perhaps most importantly, I arranged a wonderful book launch at Boyd Hill nature preserve with the help of my local bookstore, Tombolo Books. It was a lot of work but it was definitely worth it and the illustrator, David Opie, was here for the event, which happened on March 10, 2019. I have also had two radio interviews.

 

 

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

BJ: It’s taken me 10 years to get a picture book accepted for publication since I started writing seriously for children. However, I have had poetry published/forthcoming in 17 poetry anthologies from such publishers as Bloomsbury, Little, Brown, National Geographic and Wordsong, to name a few and eight adult poetry anthologies.

 

 

SUSANNA: BJ, thank you so much for joining us today and taking the time to share your experience with all of us!  I know I speak for everyone when I wish you the very best with Old Gator!

Lee_B.J.-235x321

Author BJ Lee

Here is my website and also my social media links:

childrensauthorbjlee.com

facebook.bjaylee.com

twitter @bjlee_writer

 

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

You may purchase BJ’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 to our children’s schools

– 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

Tuesday Debut – Presenting Danielle Dufayet!

Hello again, Picture Book-Loving Friends!

I’m so happy to announce today’s Tuesday Debut: Danielle Dufayet and her beautiful and important book, You Are Your Strong!

I always say that picture books are about big emotion for little people (a quote I heard somewhere and can never remember who to attribute it to! but it’s so true.)  Danielle’s book takes that quite literally.  It is all about showing children how to manage some of their more negative emotions – fear, sadness, worry, anger –  when they threaten to become overwhelming.  I think all of us – even adults – can benefit from a little help in that department.  We all struggle sometimes.

And as writers and artists who, some might argue, face more than the average amount of rejection… 🙂 we can all benefit from finding and embracing our strong!

You Are Your Strong
Written by Danielle Dufayet
Illustrated by Jennifer Zivoin
Magination Press
March 19, 2019
ages 4-8

YouAreYourStrong-Cover-RGB-72dpi

YAYS: Finding your inner strength to manage big emotions.
You Are Your Strong reassures kids that they can handle big emotions and highlights the benefit of developing inner strength and confidence in oneself.

 

Susanna: Where did your idea come from for You Are Your Strong? 

DanielleThe idea came from: three things: Leaving an unhealthy marriage, being asked what keeps me so strong and, watching the movie Room, where 5 year old Jack (held hostage with his mom in a room) said that he didn’t want his mom to cut his long hair because his hair was his strong. It gave him strength and courage. I thought that was beautiful. It made me want to know what my strong is and other people’s strong. I knew I had a book!

 

Susanna: How long did it take you to write?

DanielleThis manuscript was written fairly quickly. I’d say maybe 6 months from start to final ms. – which is not typical!

 

Susanna:  Did this manuscript require many revisions?

DanielleMaybe around 15 or so – not my usual 30 or more.

 

Susanna: When did you know it was ready for submission?

DanielleI knew it was ready when I had reduced it to the simplest expression I could, and when I had included as many literary devices as necessary for the flow and rhythm. It’s also an internal knowing, an intuition.

 

Susanna: How did you celebrate getting the contract?

DanielleI couldn’t stop smiling for a week. I celebrated with a nice dinner!

 

Susanna: What was the editorial process like?

Danielle: The editing process went so smoothly. My publisher didn’t want to change hardly anything, so that made it easy. We went a little back and forth on the illustrations, however. Magination Press is a dream publisher in my opinion!

 

Susanna: Is there anything else you’d like to share about your journey to publication?

Danielle: I believe in order to be a published author, you have to be disciplined. I knew I had to keep revising, keep submitting, and knowing I would probably get rejected. You have to want it more than anything. You have to push through the doubt and fear and keep moving forward through honing your craft, building relationships, critiquing, reading, etc. etc.

To improve your writing you have to have a thick skin. You have to read your critiques (assuming you’re in a good critique group!) with an open mind. There’s usually always a nugget of truth to ponder –even if you don’t agree with the comment. But, if the feedback doesn’t resonate at all with you, brush it off. Remember, only you can write the story – don’t let the critique derail you from finding it! Stay true to your vision.

The one thing everyone can expect is rejection and that’s the hardest part of the process. Your story may be rejected even if it’s really good –it just may not be the right fit for that publication. You have to discipline your mind to stay on course and remain positive and hopeful that one day your time will come.

I think the one lesson I can impart is this: don’t compare yourself and your journey with anyone else. I used to get mad when I saw a published picture book that I thought was poorly written. I would think to myself, How did this get published and not my book?  Or I’d get discouraged when I’d read a really good picture book. I’d think, I’ll never be that good. All these thoughts are irrelevant, distracting and emotionally draining. I finally learned that all I can do is be the best writer I can be and focus only on that! (That’s not to say mentor texts aren’t the bomb!)

 

Susanna:  Thank you so much for joining us today, Danielle!  We all so appreciate you sharing your knowledge and expertise with us!

Danielle: Thank you so much for the interview, Susanna!!

D.Dufayet Author

Author Danielle Dufayet

Website: https://www.danielledufayetbooks.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/danielledufayet\
Twitter: https://twitter.com/danielledufayet
Art Website: https://www.danielledufayet.com
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/ddaniwriter/
Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/danielledufayet

 

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

You may purchase Danielle’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

– 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

Tuesday Debut – Presenting Wendy Greenley!

It’s time for another thrilling installment of Tuesday Debuts!

Are you ready to meet today’s talented debut-ess?

Please join me in welcoming the wonderful Wendy Greenley as we celebrate her inauguration into the Published Picture Book Author’s Club and get a glimpse of her beautiful book!

Title: Lola Shapes the Sky
Author: Wendy Greenley (!)
Illustrator: Paolo Domeniconi
Publisher: Creative Editions
Date of Publication: March 12, 2019
Fiction with Nonfiction backmatter
Age range: For ages 3-8  (Amazon says 4-8)

Wendy1

Synopsis:There’s a new playful, artistic cloud in the sky. Unfortunately, one loud bossy cloud wants Lola to focus on making weather.  LOLA SHAPES THE SKY embraces every child’s magical experience of imagining whimsical shapes in the clouds with humor and a timeless theme of supporting what makes us each unique.

 

SUSANNA: Where did the idea for this book come from?

WENDY: I came up with the initial idea for this book during Tara Lazar’s PiBoIdMo (now known as Storystorm). I was brainstorming with my husband and son when Lola’s character was born. Talking out loud and bouncing ideas off other people helps me see ideas more clearly. However, while the character stayed with me, the initial plot bears no resemblance to the final product!

 

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

WENDY: This manuscript was a labor of love—with heavy emphasis on the labor. Initially, I wanted to turn cloud-watching on its head, with clouds people-watching and it took a workshop with multiple Caldecott-winning artists to convince me otherwise. Your picture book manuscript has to be illustratable after all! After working on it for two years, I put the manuscript in a drawer and didn’t work on it for another full year. During that time, I was able to see how to keep what was important in the manuscript, AND make it illustratable.

 

SUSANNA: Did you go through many revisions?

WENDY: Oh, so many revisions! My final revision was a complete re-envisioning. I completely changed the plot and tone and let go of a slew of sky/cloud jokes that made me laugh (Lola precipitating from embarrassment was a favorite!). Maybe someday some of the material will belong to another story.

 

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

WENDY: The best way I know if my manuscript is submission ready is to get fresh eyes on it. Honest critique partners who will tell you when something is good, and when something is awful, are essential!! I work on a manuscript as long as I can, letting it sit for a week or two after I think it’s done if I can control my impatience. Because it usually isn’t done, and time gives me the necessary distance to evaluate it more dispassionately. As a new writer I didn’t know anything about SCBWI, critique partners, or online classes and webinars. I was about a year into the process when I discovered these valuable resources. The kidlit community is generous!

 

SUSANNA: When and how did you submit? When did you get “the call”?  (Best moment ever! 🙂 )

WENDY: I submitted my initial manuscript to Karen Grencik at Red Fox Literary, LLC. And it was rejected. Two years later, I resubmitted the manuscript, acknowledging the earlier submission and the virtually complete rewrite, and this time it was a yes. That’s correct—I resubmitted the same manuscript to an agent that had rejected it. It was essentially a new manuscript, and I thought Karen might be a good fit so I took the leap of faith and it worked out. Karen submitted my manuscript to five publishers, one of which was Creative Editions. It was several months before we received the reply expressing interest, and then another six months before we received a contract, then another four months before I received the final countersigned contract. Publishing is a lesson in patience.

 

SUSANNA: How did you celebrate signing your contract?

WENDY: Telling my critique partners the good news was the best moment. They’ve supported me and my work and it felt like the sale was theirs too! I seriously can’t think of anything that has helped me along my journey more than the great writing friends I’ve made.

Wendy2

quilling courtesy of Stacy Stenberg Jensen!

 

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

WENDY: Creative Editions is a small independent publisher located in Mankato, MN. The house originally focused on books for the school market, and had just begun their trade imprint a year or two before we submitted to them. I received a traditional royalty paying contract and advance in line with the numbers reported in Hannah Holt’s extensive survey. (if you’re writing for kiddos and haven’t seen Hannah’s research—go here! https://hannahholt.com/blog/2017/9/25/writing-picture-books-a-look-at-the-number-part-2) I also received fifteen author copies. Two things I didn’t expect was that this publisher doesn’t allow book dedications, and how long it would be from the time the contract was signed (June 2016) until publication—almost three years!

 

SUSANNA: What can you tell us about the editorial process?

WENDY: My editor is the talented Amy Novesky, who is also the author of the gorgeous picture book, Cloth Lullaby. Amy and I went back and forth on several changes, but none of them significantly changed the story. Amy’s vision was in line with mine! The sales and marketing team asked for a list of possible titles—and ended up choosing my original.

 

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

WENDY: I didn’t see any of the illustrations until the proof stage. I had seen Paolo’s dreamy style on his website (www.domeniconi.it), but still wasn’t sure what to expect. I was pleasantly surprised to see how Paolo’s art interpreted my words. I didn’t include an art note, so the biggest surprise was the spread where Lola shapes “a pillowy billowy masterpiece.” Because Paolo lives in Bologna, Italy, he illustrated my words with a cloud Mona Lisa! So fun!

Wendy3

 

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

WENDY: Kirkus reviewed Lola Shapes the Sky at the end of January. It was thrilling! Until then, it hadn’t felt real in the sense that other people I didn’t know and might never meet could read my book. And I was relieved that the Kirkus reviewer liked it!

 

SUSANNA: What kind of marketing and promotion have you and/or your publisher done for this book?

WENDY: My publisher told me that they’re sending our book to book reviewers and bloggers, but I didn’t get a specific list so it’s a wee bit confusing. I know I’m late to the party—it’s already February as I’m writing this and I haven’t set up an extensive blog tour (thank you, Susanna for being my kickoff!!). Look for me on my Red Fox agency mate Lynne Marie’s blog The Word Playground sometime soon. The balance between family, writing and marketing time is a tricky one. I shared LOLA in my first school SKYPE read alouds in February for WRAD.

My official book launch will be March 23 from 11-2 at the Barnes and Noble in Montgomeryville, PA (stop by and say hi if you’re in the area!). The launch starts with a reading for the children’s story hour and finishes with time for book signings/meet & greet. I’m also scheduled for the NJ nErD Camp in May and the Chesapeake Children’s Book Festival in June. Let me know if there’s somewhere you’d like me to visit! I’ve guest lectured to the creative writing classes at my local community college too, so I enjoy all ages.

 

 

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

WENDY: I started writing stories for Chicken Soup for the Soul in the early 2000’s. After I sold six stories, I realized that I didn’t want to just write nonfiction (which is what Chicken Soup stories are). The computer that I was using 2004-2012 crashed, and nothing was recovered. So I know I started writing picture books sometime in that period, but no idea of an actual date! My online picture book critique buddies and I found each other five years ago.

 

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

WENDY: Keep writing!! This business is a combination of craft, marketing savvy, perseverance and luck. You can work on your craft, marketing savvy and persevere, but you can’t control the luck. Sometimes you work on a manuscript for two years and then just as you’re ready to submit a “big” name announces a project that could be the twin of yours. Remember that the heart of your story is yours alone. Get warm fuzzies from your writing friends then rewrite. Repeat.

You don’t need loads of space or fancy equipment. I’m including a shot of my sad little 34 inches of office space. There is a two drawer file cabinet tucked into another corner across the room. This is probably why there are papers strewn willy-nilly around our house . . .

Wendy5

Nothing fancy needed!  Wendy creates her wonderful stories in 34 inches of office space!

 

 

SUSANNA: Wendy, thank you so much for taking the time to participate in this series and paying it forward to other writers! I know I speak for all of us when I say how grateful we are for the wisdom and experience you shared today, and we wish you the very best success with your lovely book!

 

Wendy4

Author Wendy Greenley

 

Blog: https://www.wendygreenley.com
Find me on FB: https://www.facebook.com/wendy.greenley.3
Twitter @wendygreenley

 

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

You may purchase Wendy’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

– 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

Tuesday Debut – Presenting Margaret Chiu Greanias!

Welcome to the first Tuesday Debut of March!

Even though we just had a huge snowstorm and are now expecting days of temperatures in the single digits or worse, March holds the promise of spring!  Even if it’s only teasing 🙂

I’m thrilled to introduce today’s debut author, a Making Picture Book Magic graduate and a very talented writer, Margaret Chiu Greanias!

Welcome, Margaret, and congratulations on your villainous debut!

“Maximillian Villainous”
Margaret Chiu Greanias
Illustrated by Lesley Breen Withrow
Running Press Kids
August 28, 2018
Fiction, Ages 4-8

MAX_cover

Synopsis: Maximillian Villainous doesn’t have the heart to be a villain, even though he comes from a long line of famous villains. When he brings home a bunny to be his sidekick, his disapproving mother challenges him and the bunny to become a devious duo… otherwise, the bunny hops.

 

SUSANNA: Where did the idea for this book come from?

MARGARET: The idea for “Maximillian Villainous” came from my kids watching the movie, “Despicable Me.” They were enamored with the characters, and I loved how fun and creative villains could be—the freeze rays, the fart guns, the shrinking down and stealing of landmarks, etc. At the time, I couldn’t recall a picture book about villains. Once I decided my characters would be villains, I gave the main character a quality that would lead to a natural conflict—in this case, having a heart of gold. From there, I chose a problem that would be exacerbated by this quality.

 

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

MARGARET: The first draft came relatively fast. However, less than 10% of the words from the first draft made it into the version that was eventually acquired. Ultimately, it took one year and nine months (revising on and off) to get to submission-ready.

workspace

Margaret’s work space

 

SUSANNA: Did you go through many revisions?

MARGARET: I knew from the start that this story might be “the one” for me. People seemed enthusiastic about it and it felt lively and fun. However, something about it wasn’t right (turns out multiple somethings). It took over 30 revisions, including a few complete re-writes, one freelance editor, an agent critique, and an editor workshop to finally get it to submission-ready.

 

SUSANNA: Wow!  That was a lot of hard work!  When did you know your manuscript was ready for submission?
MARGARET: It was after I took an editor workshop through SCBWI mid-South. The format was ideal—the editor critiqued our manuscripts, and then we had the chance to revise for another critique. I did almost a full re-write based on the editor’s first critique and tweaked again based on her second critique. It really helped me to follow the feedback from one trusted source—at that point, I had had so many critiques, and they sometimes conflicted (not everyone shares the same vision for a text), which was hard. I now know to delve deeper into the comments and determine why particular feedback was given. After that workshop, the story just felt ready—there was nothing else I wanted to change.

 

SUSANNA: That is a good point about multiple critiques – it can get confusing – and good advice about having a single trusted source.  When and how did you submit?

MARGARET: Like many others, I began querying too early. I queried in a mish-mosh of ways—testing the waters through contests, twitter pitches, conference submissions, 12×12 submissions, etc. For the query round that got my agent, I cold queried.

 

SUSANNA: When did you get “the call”?  (Best moment ever! 🙂 )

MARGARET: It took about three months for us to get an offer on the story—but even though my manuscript was ready, it wasn’t until six months after I signed with my agent at the time that we went on submission. So patience was important!

My agent thought that I, as a debut, would have better odds if we submitted with an illustrated dummy. We picked the wonderful Lesley Breen Withrow as the illustrator. She has a very bright and happy style to balance my manuscript which was a bit darker. Once she finished the rough dummy, we went on submission and got an offer within 3 months.

IMG_3442

text copyright Margaret Chiu Greanias 2018, illustration copyright Lesley Breen Withrow 2018

 

SUSANNA: How did you celebrate signing your contract?
MARGARET: Of course, I squealed and danced when I first heard we got an offer. After I signed the contract, one of my dearest critique partners arranged an amazing celebration including old and current critique group members (we’d been in a group for 5 years at this point). It was a very sweet way to celebrate.

 

 

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

MARGARET: I didn’t know what to expect, but I was happy with what my agent negotiated for me.

 

SUSANNA: What was the editorial process like for you?

MARGARET: We did two rounds of revisions, and my manuscript was definitely better for it. Many changes had to do with simplifying my text so it would be easier for young children to understand. My editor also made a suggestion which helped give the story that “aww” ending.

 

SUSANNA: Can you tell us a little about your experience of the illustration process?

MARGARET: I did get to see the illustrations just before they were finalized. My editor was really great about sharing, asking my opinion, and bringing it back to the team. I tried to limit my suggestions to a few, and while they didn’t use all of them, I felt like my opinion was valued.

Also, because Lesley was on board before the story was submitted to publishers, I had a say in the how the characters were illustrated (which may not have been ideal since I didn’t have a strong vision for how Max and his family should appear). In my opinion, the strength of having a separate illustrator is their interpretation and vision of the text. I had vaguely envisioned the characters being human, and they ended up being monsters, which I LOVE!

MV_rainbow spread

text copyright Margaret Chiu Greanias 2018, illustration copyright Lesley Breen Withrow 2018

 

SUSANNA: Did you get to see advance reviews from Kirkus, SLJ, etc?

MARGARET: My editor sent me advance copies of SLJ and Booklist reviews, which was very nice.

The Publishers Weekly review was unexpected. But it was the first review to come out and I was so relieved when I saw it.

My book didn’t get a review from Kirkus…maybe that was lucky?

SUSANNA: Maybe that was lucky! A lot of people seem to have had less than flattering reviews from Kirkus 🙂 How long did it take from offer to having the first copy in your hand?

MARGARET: About 1 year and 8 months which is very quick—but we had Lesley lined up plus a dummy already made.

I think 2-3 years is more normal.

 

 

SUSANNA: If your book has been out for at least one statement cycle, has it earned out yet?

MARGARET: I haven’t gotten a statement yet.

 

 

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

MARGARET: Some examples of marketing and promotion that my publisher did included sending review copies to major trade publications and sending pitches to other media including bloggers and instagrammers.

 

 

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

MARGARET: By far, the best marketing/promotion I did for my book (and my sanity) was to join a debut group, the Epic 18’s. I learned so much from the other debut authors, especially those whose books launched before mine. I found it very valuable to have this peer community for advice and moral support.

  • We passed ARCs around so we could review each other’s books.
  • We suggested each other’s books for purchase from our libraries.
  • We also held a couple of group promotions including an end of year giveaway and Twitter chat hosted by Matthew Winner.
  • We exchanged information on swag.
  • We promoted each other on social media.
  • I hired a marketing consultancy, Curious City, which I learned about from a fellow Epic 18-er. I paid for a 1-hour consultation and got great ideas for marketing and more interactive book readings.

 

Other marketing/promotion I did:

  • Classroom Discussion Guide
  • Activities, crafts, and coloring pages for my web site
  • Swag—bookmarks, temporary tattoos, postcards, bookplates, stickers
  • Social media promos revolving around the holidays

 

This year, I’m starting to schedule school visits and will be at a local book festival in a couple of months.

bart

Puppet Margaret made of the bunny character from her book to take on school visits!

 

SUSANNA: How long was it between the time you started writing seriously and the time you sold your first picture book?
MARGARET: About 5.5 years.
SUSANNA: Margaret, thank you so much for taking the time to participate in this series and paying it forward to other writers! We all so appreciate you being here today!

margaret-4430_media

Author Margaret Chiu Greanias

 

Website: margaretgreanias.com
Social media:
https://twitter.com/MargaretGreania
https://www.instagram.com/margaretgreanias/
https://www.facebook.com/MargaretGreaniasAuthor/

 

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

You may purchase Margaret’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

– 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

Tuesday Debut – Presenting Natalee Creech!

It’s Tuesday!

And you know what that means!

Time to meet a brand new picture book author and get a glimpse of her beautiful book!

One small note before we begin:

The finalists for the Valentiny Writing Contest were posted yesterday! If you haven’t had a chance to read the top twelve and place your vote, please go over when you have sec and do so.  We need lots of readers and voters! If you know anyone who would enjoy reading and voting, please spread the word – parents, teachers, classrooms, libraries – anywhere there are readers of kid lit! 🙂

Now then! Welcome, Natalee! And thank you so much for joining us today to share your publication experience! Let’s have a look at your gorgeous book!

WHEN DAY IS DONE
Written by Natalee Creech
Illustrated by Robert Dunn
Beaming Books, Feb. 12, 2019
Fiction, ages 3-5

whendayisdonelg

When Day Is Done is a soothing bedtime book with child-friendly poetry, perfect for calming down after a busy day.

 

SUSANNA: Where did the idea for this book come from?

NATALEE: One day when I was writing, the line “We sleep when day is done” popped into my head. I liked it and decided to see how I could build upon that.

 

 

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

NATALEE: After the first line, I completed the first verse right away and worked on parts of a few others. I “finished” it over a couple of months but revisited it over the course of a year making tweaks.

 

SUSANNA: Did you go through many revisions?

NATALEE: Looking back I found only four complete drafts of When Day Is Done, but I know there were many small-scale changes that I made without creating an entirely new draft.

Some things I do when revising, particularly poetry:

  • Write on paper first, then move to the computer. Go back to paper if I’m stuck.
  • Have my children read it to me so I can see where they stumble.
  • Read it aloud.
  • Work out problem stanzas while exercising or taking a shower.
  • Keep rejected lines of poetry in a table at the end of the document. Sometimes I second-guess myself or make other changes in the verse which then make the first version of the line a better fit.

I tend to work through these steps, though they overlap.

  1. Write something.
  2. Improve what I say. (content)
  3. Improve how I say it. (execution) The overall sound of the words is crucial with poetry, so this is where most of the reading aloud and playing with word choice comes in – adding alliteration, assonance etc.

 

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

NATALEE: I knew it was ready when I stopped making any real changes and was just fiddling – trying something and then going back to my original word choice.

 

 

SUSANNA: When and how did you submit?

NATALEE: I am fortunate to have an agent, whom I found through a Twitter pitch called #Faithpitch. WHEN DAY IS DONE was one of the manuscripts I sent her when she asked to see more of my work.  We were actually in the process of submitting the original manuscript I queried her with when a publisher asked to see some companion manuscripts I had written. My agent sent those and included WHEN DAY IS DONE to showcase a different side of my writing. The publisher continued to consider the original manuscript (eventually passing) but in the meantime they quickly made an offer on WHEN DAY IS DONE.

 

SUSANNA: When did you get “the call”?  (Best moment ever! 🙂 )

NATALEE: I got a call about a week later while I was out eating lunch prior to an orthodontist appointment with my son. I felt like sharing the news with the whole orthodontist’s office, but I think I just called my husband instead!

 

SUSANNA: How did you celebrate signing your contract?

NATALEE: I don’t remember doing anything special!

 

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

NATALEE: Yes. The advance was typical. The contract was for world rights and included escalating royalties and a generous number of author copies. I was happy to have an agent handling everything for me! I signed the contract in fall of 2017 and the publication timeline was spring of 2019.

 

SUSANNA:  How was the editorial process?

NATALEE: I wasn’t asked to make any changes or edits to WHEN DAY IS DONE.

In contrast, my second book, NOTHING, which releases in April, underwent considerable changes.

Nothing_FinalFrontJacket2[4] (1)

I spoke with the editor before signing a contract and she asked me how I felt about making some revisions. Of course I said I was open to them. Initially she emailed me some notes which I used to revise, however, I overcorrected! We then decided a phone call might be easier, clarified things over the phone, and I revised again. Later the art director asked to add back in a verse we had removed, and the editor and I agreed. The final version is much stronger and more kid-friendly than what I originally submitted and I’m so glad the editor saw the potential and helped me make those changes. This spread shows the verse that got added back in.

spread submarine nothing

From Nothing, written by Natalee Creech, illustrated by Joseph Cowman. Published by WorthyKids, an imprint of Hachette Book Group. All rights reserved.

From Nothing, written by Natalee Creech, illustrated by Joseph Cowman. Published by WorthyKids, an imprint of Hachette Book Group. All rights reserved.

 

SUSANNA: Can you tell us about your experience of the illustration process?

NATALEE: With the two books the process was similar, but the timeline was much faster with NOTHING. My agent added language to both contracts that allowed some input on my side with final decisions to be made by the publisher.

  • I did not provide any art notes for either book.
  • The second editor asked about my illustration preferences during our initial phone call and I told her I could picture a style similar to Peter Reynolds’ but didn’t have anything particular in mind for illustrations.
  • Both publishers asked my thoughts about the illustrator they had selected, and in both cases I loved their choice.
  • The second publisher shared rough sketches and a couple of full color spreads very early in the process – within a month or two of signing the contract.
  • Both publishers asked for notes/input before finalizing the illustrations.

 

spread birds WDID

From When Day Is Done, written by Natalee Creech, illustrated by Robert Dunn. Published by Beaming Books. All rights reserved.

 

SUSANNA: Did you get to see advance reviews from Kirkus, SLJ, etc?

Unfortunately, not yet!

 

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

NATALEE: WHEN DAY IS DONE: I signed the contract in September of 2017 and it was released February 12, 2019 – about 17 months.

NOTHING: I signed the contract in April of 2018 and it will be released April 23, 2019. – about 1 year.

 

 

SUSANNA: If your book has been out for at least one statement cycle, has it earned out yet?

NATALEE: WHEN DAY IS DONE has just been out a few weeks, so although I hope it’s doing well, I doubt it’s anywhere near earning out yet!

 

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

NATALEE: Shortly after signing the contract the publisher sent me an author questionnaire to complete with a long and short author bio, interview questions I’d like to be asked, reviewers or websites I’d like the book to be sent to, a short summary of the book and various other questions. They used the information from my answers on the book itself, on online sites, for sell sheets etc. Later they provided me with an Author Publicity Packet that detailed steps they would take and suggested steps for me to take. On their side, it listed many things such as SEO, social media, press kits & press releases, book fairs, etc.

 

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

NATALEE: I made a book trailer, am printing bookmarks and have been doing various interviews on blogs. I’ve had to forego marketing that involves mailing swag or books because it’s prohibitively expensive from South Korea. Joining a debut author group has been a tremendous help in countless ways. I would highly recommend it for any debut author.

 

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

NATALEE: I would consider the time I started writing seriously to be the date I joined the SCBWI in February of 2015. Paying for that membership was me declaring to myself and my family that I wanted to write books, and also an admission that I needed help to do it. From that time until I signed my first contract was about 2.5 years. However, children’s books and writing have always been a part of my life. I was the teacher who had a children’s book for everything, and in fact, when I was in elementary school my dream was to be a librarian! I worked as a public librarian for several years until we moved back to South Korea. I think these things gave me a head start, otherwise, I’m sure the journey would have been much longer!

Grade 4

From grade 4. Keeping it real, folks – I’m pretty sure my mom cut my hair! (Love you, Mom!)

About Me booklet grade 4 librarian

 

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

NATALEE: This is not so much about a book’s journey as about a writer’s journey. When you are taking steps toward publication you have no idea when you will make “real progress.” (Meaning find an agent or get published, to most of us.) I find it helpful to keep in mind that any effort you are making – to learn, to write, to make connections, is bringing you closer to your goal. Even things that initially look like setbacks could be catalysts pushing you closer to publication. Look for what you can learn in any situation!

 

SUSANNA: Natalee, thank you so much for taking the time to participate in this series and paying it forward to other writers!

NATALEE: Thank you so much for having me, Susanna! This series has been very helpful for many people, including myself.

Natalee Creech author-2-2

Author Natalee Creech

My website is nataleecreech.com. You can find me on Twitter at @nataleecreechand Facebook at @nataleecreechauthor.

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

You may purchase Natalee’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

– 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

Tuesday Debut – Presenting Matthew Lasley!

Welcome to another exciting installment of Tuesday Debut!

I realize we’re a little bit interrupting the Valentiny Contest.  That is because the people in charge of scheduling around here are donut heads!  But if you haven’t had a chance to read all the amazing entries, pop over and treat yourself!

Also, this past weekend, when I was supposed to be judging, turned into an extended involved family time (it was a holiday weekend) so I did not accomplish the work I intended to.  Therefore, I will do my best to get the finalists up tomorrow as promised, but it may be another day or two. Meanwhile, since we were looking through boxes and boxes of ancient photos at my parents’ house, I will entertain you with a picture from my misspent youth 🙂

fullsizeoutput_15a7

in case you can’t tell, I’m the one in the middle 🙂

Ok.  I’m done with excuses 🙂

Time to introduce you to today’s Debut Author: Matthew Lasley!!!

Welcome, Matthew! Thank you so much for joining us today! I am particularly interested in this book because my grandparents lived in Placer County, California and we used to go out and “pan for gold” with them when we were kids :). It’s also a nice example of finding the exact right publisher for the story you’ve written.

Pedro’s Pan: A Gold Rush Story
By Matthew Lasley
Illustrated by Jacob Souva
Alaska Northwest Books, an imprint of Graphic Arts Books (now West Margin Press)
February 19, 2019
Historical Fiction
Ages 5-8

Matthew 5

Pedro and his trusty gold Pan are on the search for gold. The journey is not always easy, and Pan learns there are some things more valuable than gold.

SUSANNA: Where did the idea for this book come from?

MATTHEW: This story came from my childhood. I grew up gold mining in Alaska and the Klondike with my family. I also heard stories about the early prospectors and wanted to tell one of their stories. I originally wrote this story as a biography, but it was Pan’s voice that convinced me to tell his story with the original biography providing back matter.

Matthew 6

Matthew panning for gold in Pedro Creek

 

Matthew 3

…and some gold he panned!

 

 

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

MATTHEW: To be honest, it was about six months. I wrote this story in July, 2016 and submitted it to our local SCBWI conference in September. It was received well, but I was new. I read and learned more about picture book writing as I had only started in June of that year.

In January of 2017, I signed up for a writer’s spring retreat through my local SCBWI chapter. I took out the story and rewrote it. That is when I heard Pan’s voice. The story flowed out. I had it critiqued and submitted it to be reviewed by a local Alaskan children’s book author. She loved it and gave me the contact information of someone at Graphic Arts Books and sent her an email of recommendation.

I must emphasize that this is not normal. I know of many talented authors who have written a lot longer than I have that are still not published. There are three things to take from this though: Write what you know and are passionate about. Learn, read and critique. Take chances, you never know, you might find someone who will champion your work.

 

SUSANNA: Did you go through many revisions?

MATTHEW: I went through three revisions, two pre-contract, one post. There was a lot of critiquing and help from people far better at writing than I. There were small changes as I learned and got feedback, but two major revisions.

The first major revision came post conference when I was politely, and in not so many words, told that I was a newbie. After giving the story rest (which is great advice), the second major revision happened when I discovered the voice for my story. I will admit I fought it at first as I tried to make it my voice, but realized it was not my voice, but my style and that I needed to listen to Pan.

When I did, his story flowed onto the paper.

 

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

MATTHEW: After submitting my story to the spring retreat, we received a typed manuscript review. I perused mine, but wanted to wait until my wife and I were back in our cabin. I read it and was like, “there isn’t a whole lot here.” I had not fully read the note attached. I did not have very high expectations.

My wife asked to look at it and she got all excited. She read the note to me and I realized that I had received very good news. I was able to meet with the reviewer, Tricia Brown, who recommended that I submit it to Graphic Arts Books.

I wish all manuscripts got the green light so easily. In truth, it takes a lot to know when. And no one really “knows.” It is always a risk.

The best piece of advice I have heard is that you write a story. Then rewrite the story, have it critiqued over and over. Then revise it. Critique again. Let it rest. Rewrite it. Get fresh eyes on it. And repeat this until you think you can’t do any more, then do it one more time.

 

SUSANNA: When and how did you submit?

MATTHEW: I had submitted to my local SCBWI conference. I can not stress how important doing this was because it provides opportunities for you to get fresh eyes on your work from professionals in the industry. The nominal fee is well worth the time and feedback you get.

I then submitted again to our writer’s retreat. Again, this opportunity was invaluable. Conferences can be big and daunting and face paced. The writing retreat was small and more intimate.

After getting the positive feedback from the retreat, I rewrote my story and Tricia Brown graciously offered to look over my revisions and help me with my query letter.

I submitted my manuscript in the middle of June to Graphic Arts Books.

 

SUSANNA: When did you get “the call”?  (Best moment ever! 🙂 )

MATTHEW: Graphic Arts Books (which has recently updated its name to West Margin Press) had just reorganized and was opening up their imprint, Alaska Northwest Books, which had gone dormant a couple of years prior. They were bringing in a new editor, so my story actually went to the marketing director who held on to it until an editor could be brought on board.

The marketing editor was very excited for the project, but I had to wait. I did not get a “call” but an email at the end of August, 2017. A more formal email came a couple of weeks later and my contract was sent to me at the beginning of October.

They loved my book. First manuscript. First submission to an editor. First sale. That is unheard of. That is like buying your first lottery ticket and hitting all your numbers.

 

SUSANNA: How did you celebrate signing your contract?

MATTHEW: My wife and I took Tricia and her husband to dinner to celebrate the official signing. And I ate cheesecake which is what my wife and I decided would be our consolation prize if we got rejected and our victory prize if we won. It was a win/win situation.

 

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

MATTHEW: This book was not about money. It is about completing a dream, seeing my name on a book on a shelf at my local store or library.

Graphic Arts Books is a small regional publisher, so I did not expect much. I received less than a $1000 in an advance, but my book was immediately put into production. The original release date was April of 2019, but to meet the local tourist market and the fact that my illustrator Jacob Souva did a fantastic job, they moved up production to February.

In my contract, I am receiving 5 author copies. Per my contract, I am not allowed to divulge percentages, but after talking amongst other authors with similar publications, my contract is pretty standard. They hold all rights with a 50/50 split should they sell them.

 

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

MATTHEW: My editing process went quickly. I did three edits with my editor. We finished it in two days. Most of the changes were nominal and I trusted my editor. I had already put in mind things I was willing to fight for, and she only touched one. I explained why I wanted that, and she agreed.

The biggest struggle was with the ending. It wasn’t bad, just not quite the punch. We finally settled on an ending and to be honest, it is the only thing I wish we might have spent more time on. I should have set it aside and let it rest, but to be honest, I have not found a better ending line.

SUSANNA: What can you tell us about your experience of the illustration process?

MATTHEW: My illustrator, Jacob Souva, is amazing. I was told I would get to see the first set of thumbnails and the color pallet. Jacob did not send thumbnails, but rough sketches for the whole thing!

Matthew 2

illustration copyright Jacob Souva 2019

I did not give many author notes, but I did inform the publisher in my query as well as in the contract portion that I wanted to honor the memory of the guy who this story was about. They agreed with me and passed those on to Jacob.

I was consulted on the authenticity of the pictures. I was thankful they entrusted this to me and I tried to keep in mind what my job was. I did not work directly with Jacob and was careful to not converse directly with him until the process was done. I gave my suggestions, keeping in mind what I was looking for, to my editor who passed on to Jacob what she thought was pertinent.

I have heard stories where authors did not see anything until proofs of their book came out, so I am thankful that I was kept appraised as things changed. It is an advantage of working with a smaller press.

My illustrator notes were nominal within the text. I did give them a picture of Felix Pedro, the man who Pedro was modeled after. I also did italics for actions or sounds and it was decided to add those to the illustrations since they typically happened prior to a note. For example: Crackle sizzle pop.(Illo: Pedro cooks beans and bacon in Pan) – (see below)

Matthew 1

illustration copyright Jacob Souva 2019

 

 

SUSANNA: Did you get to see advance reviews from Kirkus, SLJ, etc?

MATTHEW: I received my first review from a local publication, North of 60 Mining. I was given a favorable review with a positive focus on the STEM side of things.

I was blown away by my Kirkus review. I was expecting a blurb and was hoping it was positive. It was paragraphs long! And glowing!

I also received a review from Foreward. It too was very positive and was featured in the January/February issue.

 

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

MATTHEW: So here is where it gets crazy. From signing to ARC (Advanced Reader Copy) almost a year. From signing to book in hand, 15 months. From signing to release, 16 months!

Not normal under any circumstances!

I believe my first print run is 2500 books.

 

SUSANNA: If your book has been out for at least one statement cycle, has it earned out yet?

MATTHEW: It debuts today! With any luck, it will earn out today, but I am not holding my breath. Most sales won’t happen until tourist season. (June-August)

 

 

SUSANNA: I love your attitude, Matthew!  I hope you earn out today too!! What kind of marketing and promotion has your publisher done for this book?

MATTHEW: They have been promoting it through social media. My wife designed small buttons and they paid for those. Marketing has been promoting it at conferences and conventions. The local tourist trade shows are happening right now and I know that they have a booth at them to promote my book and a couple others coming out.

I was informed they will have a booth at the National Library Association Convention as well as the Alaska Library Association Convention.

 

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

MATTHEW:  Whenever I received the pictures for the books, I created a book trailer. I also created a website (www.matthewlasley.com) and have built up my media following on Facebook and Twitter.

My wife designed pins which I took to conferences and plan to take to schools. I also designed bookmarks to hand out.

I took a road trip to Fairbanks, the place the Felix Pedro discovered gold and made contacts there to promote my book this summer.

I got an article in North of 60 Mining which is a small publication that has readership worldwide within the mining industry.

I have been doing a blog tour (thank you Susanna), though smaller than I had originally hoped for.

I am a teacher, so my school’s PTA is doing a book launch party in association with their literacy night. I also plan to do a fundraiser on February 23rdat Barnes and Noble to help raise money for my school’s library.

I have also done a couple of giveaways. You can still get in on my latest which closes on February 23rd. Go to my website for more information.

 

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

MATTHEW: I have been writing for a long time, but I seriously took up picture book writing in 2016. Between writing my first picture book (which was bad, by the way) to selling my first manuscript, 15 months.

Again, I want to stress that this is not normal. I had the right story, in the right place at the right time.

And most importantly, I had my champions. I had my wife, who taught, supported and encouraged me. I had my critique group who guided me. I had an author who believed in me enough to put her reputation on the line. And I had a marketing agent that was willing to take up the cause.

Remember, writing can be a lonely endeavor, but the journey does not have to be done alone. Find your champions and just as important, be a champion to someone else.

Matthew 4

Author Matthew Lasley

www.matthewlasley.com

blog at: https://matthewlasley.wordpress.com
Twitter: @Lasley_Matt
Instagram: @lasley_matt
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/matthew.lasley

Thank you so much, Matthew, for taking the time to participate in this series and paying it forward to other writers!

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

You may purchase Matthew’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

– 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

Tuesday Debut – Presenting Laura Roettiger!

Welcome to another exciting episode of Tuesday Debut!

Today’s author has some very interesting information to share in terms of illustration as her publisher only accepts illustrated manuscripts.  So let’s jump right in!

Welcome, Laura!  And congratulations on the publication of your first picture book! 🙂

ALIANA REACHES FOR THE MOON
written by Laura Roettiger
illustrated by Ariel Boroff
Published by Eifrig Publishing
(Fiction ages 4-8)

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Synopsis: Aliana loves observing everything in nature. When she notices how bright the light of the full moon shines into her room, she spends time learning about the moon and experimenting with light.

SUSANNA: Where did the idea for this book come from?

LAURA: When I wrote the first draft of the book it included so many elements that have been cut through revision. The ideas that remain, the brightness of the full moon and a creative girl experimenting with light were always there. I started writing this after moving to Colorado. I live in an area with little light pollution and at 8200 ft. I’m in awe of the moon in ways I never was living in Chicago and the suburbs. Aliana’s creativity is inspired by my daughters. Her name is a combination of two first graders who made me smile every day in my last year teaching in Chicago. Their names are Valentina and Ariana and the family is based on the Latinx families of Carlos Fuentes Charter School who I also wanted to honor in my writing.

moon

Full Moon from Laura’s balcony

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

LAURA: I began writing in August, 2016. The main revisions took place at the Southampton’s Writers Conference with Emma Walton Hamilton, July 2017. Her feedback focused on things others had said before but I was finally ready to listen. She explained how I was trying to write three books in one and I needed to choose which story I really wanted to tell.

 

I have described that revision as performing surgery on my child. It was painful and messy. I was worried, but the result is that the patient (my manuscript) not only survived, but was improved in the process.

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

LAURA: Actually, I submitted this book before it was ready and I wouldn’t recommend that. I did things backwards and if I could go back in time, I would have joined SCBWI and 12×12 with Julie Hedlund as soon as I began writing seriously.

SUSANNA: When and how did you submit?

LAURA: I submitted to a few agents who all rejected the book even though they liked the character. A few gave me advice which I took to heart, and have worked on my craft in many ways since then. I also had a list of publishers who take unagented work and sent it out to five of them, including Eifrig Publishing, that I thought were a good fit. The Eifrig Publishing website has a mission statement that aligns with my beliefs of environmentalism and empowering children. My query letter explained why I thought we were a good match and I proposed a series with my characters and six different stories I wanted to write. Penny Eifrig emailed back that she was interested. She saw the promise of my writing, even though we needed to go through major revisions at that point.

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Laura’s writing buddy – Charlie 🙂

SUSANNA: What can you tell us about the editorial process?

LAURA: From the original manuscript I sent to Eifrig to the book I now have in my hands, there were more changes than I can count. Eifrig only accepts illustrated work. I don’t mean to brag, but I am famous for drawing stick figures, obese hummingbirds, and the Northside of an elephant facing south. Unfortunately, that didn’t qualify me to illustrate. Fortunately, I had a local artist ask if she could illustrate my book. We talked about vision, she showed me her portfolio, and we agreed on collaborating. After a year that included many writing revisions and the artist creating a dummy and a few full water color illustrations, we were on our way. Sadly, the illustrator ended up backing out due to work constraints from her “real job.”

 

I didn’t want to hire an illustrator and pay them outright because I wanted a partner in the marketing process and that had always been our vision with the first artist. I reached out to my former colleague and art teacher where I taught in Chicago who connected me to Ariel. I emailed her the text, some art notes from my work with the first artist, and photos of my students at Carlos Fuentes Charter School who I wanted Aliana and Gustavo to look like. We had several conversations (she lives in California) and she started with character sketches and painting backgrounds. She shared her work along the way so I could see it and occasionally give feedback. Her work is amazing and seeing my story come to life through her artwork has been incredible.

Screen Shot 2019-02-10 at 12.14.02 PM 

In the spring, I was able to meet her in person while visiting a friend who also lives in the Los Angeles area. Like the first illustrator, Ariel has had conflicts with time because she works as a costumer on a TV show (Station 19, a Gray’s Anatomy spinoff set in a firehouse.) The fact that Aliana’s dad is a fireman added to our excitement about collaborating. One of the other books, if this becomes a series, is about forest fires, which is something we both have firsthand experience with. When I was moving to Colorado in July 2016, the day we were packing up the truck in Chicago, I received a reverse 911 call that we were being evacuated from the house I owned but had not yet moved into.

SUSANNA: Did you get to see advance reviews from Kirkus, SLJ, etc?

LAURA: So far we haven’t had any industry reviews, but we have two STEM/STEAM professionals write endorsements for our book. The day I read the first one, written by Grace Wolf-Chase, PhD; Astronomer at Adler Planetarium in Chicago I thought my heart would explode. It was gratifying to see that someone who didn’t know me and had a career in the field of Astronomy understood everything I was hoping the book would impart.

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Young Laura, in practically the same pose as Aliana on the cover, as happy then as grown-up Laura is now about her book!

“This short children’s book imparts many pearls of wisdom about the qualities of a scientist, while telling an engaging story about a girl’s caring relationship with her younger brother. Using her ingenuity, imagination, and ordinary household materials, Aliana creates a special experience for Gustavo’s 5thbirthday. Aliana Reaches for the Moonencourages all children – and especially girls – to read, explore, experiment, and to take notice of the natural world. There’s even an important message for parents – doing science can be messy!”    ~ Grace Wolf-Chase, PhD; Astronomer, Adler Planetarium

We also received a glowing endorsement from Linda Schwab, Flight Director at the Challenger Learning Center of Northwest Indiana. I wasn’t even aware these amazing educational centers existed until now. They provide hands on learning and exploration for children and resources for teachers dedicated to the memory of those who died in the Challenger shuttle tragedy on January 28, 1986. For more information go to challenger.org 

 

Curiosity and imagination, paired with research and experimental play, help Aliana bring her unique idea to life. Aliana Reaches for the Moon will inspire readers to use science, imagination, and experimental play to create their own innovations.”   ~Linda Schwab, Flight Director,  Challenger Learning Center of Northwest Indiana

 

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

LAURA: The time between when I started writing and when I received the contract was exactly two years. Again, our situation is different from most because the publisher had already shown interest in early 2017 when I sent her the series proposal and the dummy and 2 illustrations from the first artist. From contract to proof/hard copy was about 10 weeks and then another two and a half months to our release date.

 

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

LAURA: Penny is wonderful, but Eifrig is a small house and I knew from the beginning that much of the marketing and promotion would be my responsibility. She has sent the book to professional reviewers and is working to have it carried in museums and planetariums. She’s also supported my goal of participating in author events at CCIRC and The Children’s Festival of Stories to make sure the book will be available.

 

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

LAURA:  Ariel has made coloring pages and designed a bookmark. We have a mini 20 second teaser trailer and a longer one that runs about a minute. I hired a former student who is now finishing a degree in animation. I plan to use the trailers and swag as part of my school visit presentations.

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Laura Roettiger and her book! 🙂

https://lauraroettigerbooks.com/

Laura, thank you so much for taking the time to join us today and share your experience, expertise, and book journey to publication!  We all so appreciate it!

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

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

Indiebound (N/A)
Amazon
Barnes&Noble (N/A)
Eifrig Publishing

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

– 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