Tuesday Debut – Presenting Janet Johnson!

Hi Everybody!

Tuesday Debut is always a fun and exciting day, but it’s especially fun and exciting when the debut-ess is a hackey-sack queen and a personalized license plate fan 🙂

I am thrilled to introduce you to Janet Johnson and her debut picture book!

Help Wanted, Must Love Books
Written by: Janet Sumner Johnson
Illustrated by: Courtney Dawson
Published by: Capstone
Fiction, ages 4-7
March 1, 2020

Cover.Help Wanted Must Love Books.small

When Shailey’s dad starts a new job, and it gets in the way of their bedtime story routine, Shailey takes action! She fires her dad, posts a Help Wanted sign, and starts interviews immediately.

SUSANNA: Welcome, Janet!  Thank you so much for joining us today!  We are so excited to have you!!!  Where did the idea for this book come from?

JANET: This story idea came from my husband and daughter’s own bedtime story routine. One night, my then-7-year-old came in and announced it was time for bedtime stories. My husband had a work presentation the next morning and lots to prepare, so he told her he couldn’t. My daughter didn’t beg. She stomped her foot and said, “I’ll read my own story!”

I laughed, and said, “I think you just got fired!” And boom! The idea struck. It wasn’t fully formed, but over the next hour, I asked myself a bunch of questions: If she fires her dad, what will she do next? And if she puts up a help wanted sign, who can actually apply for the job? Siblings? Mom? Neighbors? I didn’t like those ideas, so I kept digging until I stumbled on the idea of book characters. That led to brainstorming a list of possible candidates, and what problems they would each bring to the story.

 

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

JANET: My first draft went fast. I had it done in about an hour. That is unusual for me. What really helped was that I had a great model for who my character was (through my daughter). I knew what my character’s problem was. I knew what she would do to try to fix the problem. And I knew how I wanted it to end. By answering those questions before I began writing, the actual writing went very quickly.

Revision took much longer.

 

SUSANNA: Did you go through many revisions?

JANET: Haha! Yep. Lots of revision. First, I had several rounds with my critique partners. They pointed out some problems I hadn’t thought of. For example, while Shailey put up the help wanted sign, she didn’t really do anything else in that first version, so I needed to make her more pro-active.

It was hard to hear, because I loved what I’d written, but I turned off that urge to argue, and instead worked on finding a solution. That took some more brainstorming. I had to re-organize my characters, and find some new ones that would work with the new structure. And amazing, I liked that new version even better!

My agent also asked for several revisions. She pointed out some characters who might be too obscure for kids. She also pointed out inconsistencies with who I’d chosen. For example, in that earlier draft, one candidate was the monster in her closet, who, she rightly pointed out, was not a book character. That meant more brainstorming to find more characters.

The key to good revision is listening. Readers could see things I couldn’t because I was too close to the story.

 

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

JANET: When my agent had no more comments on my draft! I’m a huge proponent of agents, and critique partners. If it had just been me, I would have sent that first draft because I loved it so much. If that had happened, it would not be a book now.

 

 

SUSANNA: When and how did you submit?

JANET: I have an agent, so when the manuscript was ready, my agent sent me a list of publishers she was sending it to. She forwarded responses as she got them, and my main job was to sit back, forget all about it (haha!), and write the next thing.

 

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

JANET: The whole submission process was quite the ride. We went out in January, and in February, I got an R&R. The editor really liked it, but felt the ending was too obvious. I talked with my agent about it, and we decided to go for it, because we had ideas. This isn’t typical, but my agent decided to send the change to every editor who had it.

Once we did that, I had a lot of interest. My book went to several acquisitions meetings (some with the old ending, and some with the new), and I had a lot of close calls, but in the end, none of them offered. That was really hard.

By July, my agent and I had moved on to submitting the next book. So, when she called, I had zero expectations. I was in the kitchen, texting with some author friends, glumly reporting that I had nothing to report. And then everything changed with those four magic words: “We have an offer!”

And because I’m guessing some of you are curious, my editor allowed me to choose my preferred ending. I went with the original which she confessed was her favorite, too. Writing really is so subjective!

 

SUSANNA: Those words, “We have an offer!” really are magical, aren’t they?  There is nothing like them (except for maybe it’s a girl! or it’s a boy! 🙂 ) How did you celebrate signing your contract?

JANET: I went out to dinner with my family. (After an impromptu dance party in the kitchen!)

 

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

JANET: Because I had already published a middle grade book with my publisher (Capstone), my expectations were pretty grounded. However, the advance was significantly lower than I expected (under 5K) because they had recently gone through a re-organization.

We sold World Rights and negotiated royalties to 6% for hard cover and paperback, 12% for digital products, and 5% for audio. They were willing to negotiate on percentages, but not on the advance, which I found interesting. I will receive 20 copies as the author, and my agent will receive some as well.

Some other interesting contract things: we negotiated the non-compete clause to make it more narrow. We negotiated how much say I would have on images and cover (spoiler alert, not much, but more than zero!). And the contract included deadlines for both the publisher and me. It was a pretty straight-forward contract.

 

 

SUSANNA: What was the editorial process like for you?

JANET: The editorial process really surprised me. I had an initial chat with my editor, who had almost no changes for me at the time. They wanted a new title, and we discussed adding back matter. I spent a month working on that.

Over the next several months, I got periodic emails with suggested changes—some big, some small. Often, they came because of feedback from another department (like marketing). This continued up until the day it was being sent to print (we literally made the last change that day!).

I considered all the comments thoughtfully, but there were times I still didn’t agree. When that happened, I would share my concerns with my editor, and explain why I disagreed. At that point we could talk it through and come to a solution we both felt good about—sometimes that meant we left it as it was, and sometimes that meant changing it.

I think communication is so important. There is so much give and take in the process—as an author you need to both listen and speak up for yourself. It can be a delicate balance. It helped to remember that we both loved the book and had the same goal of making the best story possible.

 

Captain Hook

 

SUSANNA: I have to say that the back matter in your book is one of my favorite parts – so entertaining! 🙂  Can you tell us a little about your experience of the illustration process?

JANET: As per my contract, I got to see the sketches and give input. However, in the case we disagreed, the publisher had the final say. Everything was sent digitally, so no F&Gs.

For the most part I loved what I saw. We were all definitely on the same page in terms of vision. However, I did have some concerns.

The publisher made a few changes based on my comments, but also chose not to make others. Some of that came down to cost, which I can respect. But it also meant that I had to change some of the text to work a little better with the images. I definitely hadn’t expected that! Still, I love how the book turned out.

My manuscript had quite a few art notes, and to my surprise, my editor made a point to thank me for having as many as I did. Here is one example of how my art note went from text to image:

This arrangement worked perfectly . . . until her dad got a new job.

[ART: Dad on cell phone; Dad studying a book; Dad tapping at laptop; Dad snoring on couch]

 

Janet's Favorite Spread

 

This is probably my favorite spread! I’m so happy with how it turned out.

 

 

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

JANET: The marketing department sends me all the advance reviews shortly before they publish. I’ve had some not-so-nice reviews in the past, so I have mixed feelings about this. I have to let those emails sit while I build up the courage to look.

When the reviewers like your book, it’s fabulous. And since they don’t review everything, it’s a really happy thing when they do. But the not-nice reviews are tough. I remind myself that not everyone will like my book, and that it’s not a critique of me personally.

 

 

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

JANET: From offer to copy in hand (I’m estimating, because I don’t actually have one yet!) was about 20 months. For a picture book, that feels really fast. The publishing date changed a couple of times and ended up being faster than expected.

 

 

 

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

JANET: My publisher offered advanced copies at ALA in 2019, and also put it on NetGalley. That’s made a huge impact on getting the word out about my book. They sent ARCs to bloggers and review groups, as well as to the industry reviewers like Booklist and Publisher’s Weekly. They regularly post about it on their social media accounts, and they also support my tweets. Recently they hosted a free webinar for teachers and librarians, and they book-talked all their upcoming titles, including mine.

One thing I’m really excited about is that they’re making a book trailer! It should be out soon.

 

 

SUSANNA: Ooh!  I can’t wait to see the book trailer!  Describe any marketing/promotion you did for this book.

JANET: Marketing and promotion is something I’m constantly learning. One of the best things I’ve done is join a debut group for picture books: the Debut Crew 2020. We work together to promote each other’s work and to find opportunities to build our platforms. It’s been super helpful!

In addition, I had bookmarks made, and still plan to make some stickers and other swag for future events. I also hope to get some coloring pages made, as well as an activity guidebook.

While I’m not doing an official blog tour, I’ve been fortunate to be invited to interview or write a guest post on several blogs in the weeks surrounding my book’s release.

I’ve also booked several in-person events over the next few months: a book launch, bookstore signings, school visits, book festivals, conference presentations, and NerdCampSoCal. You can see the full list on my events page. I’m excited to have so many opportunities to make connections and promote my book.

A lot of these opportunities have come because of connections I’ve made with people at previous events or through online discussions. Others have come from participating in groups on social media where others have shared calls for proposals or information about upcoming events. Making connections is key.

 

 

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

JANET: It took about 8 years to get that first picture book deal. Granted, I was focusing on middle grade for a lot of that time, but I’ve had the dream of getting a picture book published from the beginning. It’s still hard to believe I’m a published picture book author!

Thanks so much for having me, Susanna! Your classes made such a difference for me!

JanetJohnson.AuthorPic

Author Janet Johnson

Social Media Links:

Website: http://janetsumnerjohnson.com/
Twitter: @MsVerbose
Instagram: @janetsumnerjohnson
Facebook: @janetsumnerjohnson

 

SUSANNA:  Thank you so much for joining us today and sharing your experience, Janet!  It was so interesting and enlightening – a real benefit for our readers!  I know I speak for all of us when I wish you all the best with this and future books!

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

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

Indiebound
Amazon
Barnes&Noble

We can help our debut authors successfully launch their careers by:

– purchasing their books

– recommending their books to friends and family

– recommending their books to our children’s teachers and librarians

– recommending their books to our local libraries and bookstores

– suggesting them as visiting authors at our children’s schools and our local libraries

– sharing their books on social media

– reviewing their books on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes&Noble, and other sites where people go to learn about books.

Thank you all for stopping by to read today!  Have a lovely, inspiration-filled Tuesday!  Maybe today is the day you’ll write your debut picture book 🙂

 

Missed any previous Tuesday Debuts?  Check them out!

Christy Mihaly – Hey! Hey! Hay! A Tale of Bales And The Machines That Make Them

Jessie Oliveros – The Remember Balloons

Beth Anderson – An Inconvenient Alphabet: Ben Franklin And Noah Webster’s Spelling Revolution

Hannah Holt – The Diamond And The Boy

Laura Renauld – Porcupine’s Pie

Annie Romano – Before You Sleep: A Bedtime Book Of Gratitude

Melissa Stoller – Scarlet’s Magic Paintbrush

Sherry Howard – Rock And Roll Woods

Kate Narita – 100 Bugs! A Counting Book

Vivian Kirkfield – Pippa’s Passover Plate

Laura Roettiger – Aliana Reaches For The Moon

Matthew Lasley – Pedro’s Pan: A Gold Rush Story

Natalee Creech – When Day Is Done

Margaret Chiu Greanias – Maximillian Villainous

Wendy Greenley – Lola Shapes The Sky

Danielle Dufayet – You Are Your Strong

B.J. Lee – There Was An Old Gator Who Swallowed A Moth

Cathy Ballou Mealey – When A Tree Grows

Pippa Chorley – Counting Sheep

Sandra Sutter – The Real Farmer In The Dell

June Smalls – Odd Animals ABC

Jill Mangel Weisfeld – Riley The Retriever Wants A New Job (self pub)

Kathleen Cornell Berman – The Birth Of Cool: How Jazz Great Miles Davis Found His Sound

Eleanor Ann Peterson – Jurassic Rat

Sarah Hoppe – Who Will? Will You?

Marla LeSage – Pirate Year Round

Stacey Corrigan – The Pencil Eater

Shannon Stocker – Can U Save The Day?

Nadine Poper – Randall And Randall

Christine Evans – Evelyn The Adventurous Entomologist

Karen Kiefer – Drawing God (religious market)

Susan Richmond – Bird Count

Dawn Young – The Night Baafore Christmas

Heather Gale – Ho’onani: Hula Warrior

Ciara O’Neal – Flamingo Hugs Aren’t For Everyone (self pub)

Theresa Kiser – A Little Catholic’s Book Of Liturgical Colors (religious market)

Lindsey Hobson – Blossom’s Wish (self pub)

Kirsten Larson – Wood, Wire, Wings: Emma Lilian Todd Invents An Airplane

Valerie Bolling – Let’s Dance!

 

 

 

Tuesday Debut – Presenting Valerie Bolling!

Hi there, everyone!  It’s time for another exciting episode of Tuesday Debut!

As writers, I think we’ve all had the experience of getting a fantastic idea, writing the story . . .and then finding out that someone else has beaten us to it!  Great minds think alike, right?

But great minds may also begin at the same starting point and go in divergent directions.

I have a manuscript I love in my haven’t-got-it-quite-right-to-submit-yet file (and I’m not even going to tell you how many years it’s been sitting there waiting for the spark that will make it work 🙂 ) that has the same title as today’s debut, but is a completely different story!  Funny how that works!

It just goes to show how we all bring our own unique twist to ideas.

Today, I’m happy to introduce you to debut author Valerie Bolling and her unique and delightful twist on Let’s Dance!

Title: Let’s Dance!
Author: Valerie Bolling
Illustrator: Maine Diaz
Age Range: 3 – 7 years
Publisher: Boyds Mills & Kane
Release Date: March 3, 2020

Book Cover

Let’s Dance! celebrates dances from around the world and the diverse children who enjoy them.

 

SUSANNA: Welcome, Valerie!  Thank you so much for coming to chat with us today!  Where did the idea for this book come from?

VALERIE: I have noticed that whenever music is played, most children start to dance. Babies who can barely walk will sway and /or raise their hands. Whenever music is played, my nieces dance. When they were two and four, they even danced while brushing their teeth. Now at ages five and seven, they still love to dance! They definitely inspired this book.

I thought it would be fun to write the book in rhyme to mimic the rhythms of music and dance movements.

 

 

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

VALERIE: I wrote the first draft in May 2017 and continued to revise the book throughout the year.

An earlier draft was entitled I Love to Dance, as this line was repeated between stanzas. Marianne McShane, a friend who is a writer, storyteller, and retired librarian, suggested I read Summer Wonders by Bob Raczka as a mentor text and that I start the story with a line that appeared later in the text: “Tappity-tap/Fingers snap.” Her recommendations helped significantly in revising the book.

 

 

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

VALERIE: I felt it was ready when my scansion was tight. Scansion must be perfect for rhyming picture books.

 

Desk.2.

Valerie’s work space

 

SUSANNA: When and how did you submit?

VALERIE: I sent my first query on Jan. 1, 2018 – what a way to start the year, huh?! I sent two more queries on Feb. 25, 2018, and an agent was interested in the story! She requested I send her two more manuscripts, but when I did, she wasn’t as interested in those stories, saying, “I foresee a harder sell for the other projects.” Thus, she decided to pass. I continued to submit queries and also participated in two Twitter pitches in June. I received a “like” in #PitMad that was turned down when I sent the manuscript, and I received another “like” later in the month during #PBPitch. When I sent the manuscript to Jes Negrón at Boyds Mills & Kane on June 18, 2018, she emailed me two weeks later on July 2, requesting to have a conversation. During that phone call, I learned that Jes was interested in acquiring the story!

I do not have an agent. I started with query letters. I had already been querying other stories since June 2017, so I was not new to querying when I started with Let’s Dance! I submitted to agents, editors, and publishing houses that accepted unsolicited manuscripts. I entered Twitter pitches but didn’t submit this story to contests, though, more recently, I have submitted other stories to contests.

 

 

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

VALERIE: My editor is connected directly with a publisher, so there was no “shopping around.” The original publisher was StarBerry, an imprint of Kane Press. In May 2019 I received an email from the publisher that Kane Press had merged with Boyds Mills. My book would now be published by Boyds Mills & Kane.

 

 

SUSANNA: How did you celebrate signing your contract?

VALERIE: I didn’t celebrate, per se. I did share the news with family and friends who were all excited for me. My gratitude and their congratulations were celebration enough.

 

 

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

VALERIE: I honestly didn’t know what to expect in a contract. When I received the deal memo, the precursor to the contract, I reached out to author friends who I believed could offer some advice. One friend, Ramin Ganeshram, suggested I join the Authors Guild because that organization has lawyers who would read my contract and offer advice. I also reached out to SCBWI, and Stephen Mooser read through my contract. I was told by him and by the Authors Guild that my contract was fair for a debut author. I did negotiate a couple of things, like my percentage (after selling 20,000 books, my royalty percentages will increase by 1%), and I was able to get 25 author copies instead of 10. There may have been a couple of other changes, but I don’t recall now.

 

 

SUSANNA: How did you find the editorial process?

VALERIE: My editorial process was atypical. It’s remarkable that my editor, Jes, changed not ONE word of my manuscript. I did have to delete two stanzas to fit within the 32-page format though.

Jes had a vision for my story that I did not originally have, but I was thrilled with her ideas! She asked me to write illustrator notes next to each stanza to signify what type of dance my words described. I hadn’t connected all of my words to particular dances, so this was an interesting exercise. I shared with Jes that “I want a lot of brown kids in this book!” Jes assured me there would be. I also said I wanted children of differing abilities and from diverse backgrounds. I said I wanted the ballet spread to have a boy in a tutu, and Jes agreed. (In the end, I got something even better, a child in a blue tutu whose gender is indiscernible.) In October 2018, Jes shared that she thought we were missing out on an opportunity to make the story more global. She recognized that some of my words could describe cultural dances. For instance, where I saw “Tappity-tap/Fingers snap” as tap dance, Jes imagined flamenco from Spain. I envisioned the electric slide for “Glide and slide/Side to side,” but Jes suggested long sleeve dancing from China. I am thrilled to have this added layer of cultural representation in my book!

Jes later requested that I write two descriptive sentences about each dance to be included in the book as back matter. This wasn’t an enjoyable exercise for me, but I’m so glad that this is a component of Let’s Dance!, which, I believe, may add to its appeal and marketability.

 

 

SUSANNA: I love that you and your editor insisted on diversity and representing all different kinds of kids in dance!  What was your experience of the illustration process like?

VALERIE: Jes allowed me to weigh in on the selection of an illustrator, and she also shared sketches with me two or three times throughout the process and considered my feedback – even making changes based on it. I am aware that this does not usually happen. When I received the PDF of Let’s Dance!, before the F & G, I was THRILLED! Maine Diaz is such a talent. She brought my words, my vision, and Jes’ vision to life. Her gorgeous, energetic illustrations truly make my book dance!

One example:

My note:

Turn, twirl.

Twist, whirl. [Partner dancing, maybe ballroom but not sure how many young children do that; a child/ren could be looking over his/her/their shoulder as his/her/their body spins in the opposite direction]

 

Jes’note:

Turn, twirl.

Twist, whirl. [Kathak, Indian dance]

 

And here’s how the spread looks in the book:

Screen Shot 2020-03-02 at 12.32.34 PMScreen Shot 2020-03-02 at 12.32.48 PM

text copyright Valerie Bolling 2020, illustration copyright Maine Diaz 2020
Boyds Mills & Kane

 

 

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

VALERIE: The publisher will share all reviews with me. So far, I’ve seen only one review from Kirkus. I was pleased to have Kirkus review Let’s Dance!, and it was mostly positive. The reviewer said, “Bolling encourages readers to dance in styles including folk dance, classical ballet, breakdancing, and line dancing. Read aloud, the zippy text will engage young children.” Also, “The snappy text will get toes tapping …”

There were two aspects of the review with which I disagreed, but I know that all reviews are subjective. Overall, I’m happy with my first official review. What has meant even more to me, however, is the enthusiastic reaction of librarians and bookstore personnel.

 

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

VALERIE: As I said, the book was picked up on July 2, 2018; I received two F & Gs on Nov. 21, 2019. I shared one with my husband that evening and took it to work the next day to share with my colleagues and boss. On January 27, 2020, I received my 25 author copies!!!

 

 

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

VALERIE: My publisher sent me an email in July 2019, detailing the marketing plan. I was also requested to complete a questionnaire with contact information for local libraries, bookstores, media, and my alumni magazines. Those are the contacts that have received F & Gs of Let’s Dance!

 

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

VALERIE: I have a website; I have emailed over 130 bloggers requesting reviews and/or interviews; I have an email list; and I’m trying to remember to tell everyone I know or meet about my book. I really want to spread the word. It’s a delicate balance of sharing news about the book but not sounding as if I’m boasting or as if my book is the only thing I can talk about.

I have already had several articles written about Let’s Dance!, and/or myself. Feel free to look at the bottom of this page to see them. I’ve done a podcast and have several school and library events already planned.

Lisa Stringfellow, a friend and fellow author, created a beautiful flyer for my book launch event that I emailed and posted on social media. In addition, the library where I’m hosting my event, will display their own flyers. The publisher created postcards for me; I plan to pass them out to dance studios and stores that sell dance apparel. My editor also designed a coloring sheet, using the end pages of the book, which I can give to children at my launch event as well as school, library, and bookstore events. I decided that I would share information about my book, where to purchase it, and how to make contact with me on the back of the coloring sheet, making use of both sides of the paper.

Let’s Dance! Coloring Sheet

 

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

VALERIE: I wrote two PBs in December 2016; each featured one of my nieces as the main character. I wrote other stories in 2017, and Let’s Dance! was acquired in July 2018. Therefore, it took a year and a half from the time I started writing seriously to the time I sold my first picture book.

 

Author Photo

Author Valerie Bolling

My social media links are:

Website: http://valeriebolling.com

Twitter: @valerie_bolling 

Instagram: @valeriebollingauthor and @letsdancebook.

 

 

SUSANNA: Thank you so much for taking the time to participate in this series and pay it forward to other writers! We so appreciate your time and expertise and wish you all the best with this and future books!

VALERIE: THANK YOU for your willingness to feature me in a Tuesday Debut!

 

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

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

Indiebound
Amazon
Barnes&Noble

We can help our debut authors successfully launch their careers by:

– purchasing their books

– recommending their books to friends and family

– recommending their books to our children’s teachers and librarians

– recommending their books to our local libraries and bookstores

– suggesting them as visiting authors at our children’s schools and our local libraries

– sharing their books on social media

– reviewing their books on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes&Noble, and other sites where people go to learn about books.

Thank you all for stopping by to read today!  Have a lovely, inspiration-filled Tuesday!  Maybe today is the day you’ll write your debut picture book 🙂

 

Missed any previous Tuesday Debuts?  Check them out!

Christy Mihaly – Hey! Hey! Hay! A Tale of Bales And The Machines That Make Them

Jessie Oliveros – The Remember Balloons

Beth Anderson – An Inconvenient Alphabet: Ben Franklin And Noah Webster’s Spelling Revolution

Hannah Holt – The Diamond And The Boy

Laura Renauld – Porcupine’s Pie

Annie Romano – Before You Sleep: A Bedtime Book Of Gratitude

Melissa Stoller – Scarlet’s Magic Paintbrush

Sherry Howard – Rock And Roll Woods

Kate Narita – 100 Bugs! A Counting Book

Vivian Kirkfield – Pippa’s Passover Plate

Laura Roettiger – Aliana Reaches For The Moon

Matthew Lasley – Pedro’s Pan: A Gold Rush Story

Natalee Creech – When Day Is Done

Margaret Chiu Greanias – Maximillian Villainous

Wendy Greenley – Lola Shapes The Sky

Danielle Dufayet – You Are Your Strong

B.J. Lee – There Was An Old Gator Who Swallowed A Moth

Cathy Ballou Mealey – When A Tree Grows

Pippa Chorley – Counting Sheep

Sandra Sutter – The Real Farmer In The Dell

June Smalls – Odd Animals ABC

Jill Mangel Weisfeld – Riley The Retriever Wants A New Job (self pub)

Kathleen Cornell Berman – The Birth Of Cool: How Jazz Great Miles Davis Found His Sound

Eleanor Ann Peterson – Jurassic Rat

Sarah Hoppe – Who Will? Will You?

Marla LeSage – Pirate Year Round

Stacey Corrigan – The Pencil Eater

Shannon Stocker – Can U Save The Day?

Nadine Poper – Randall And Randall

Christine Evans – Evelyn The Adventurous Entomologist

Karen Kiefer – Drawing God (religious market)

Susan Richmond – Bird Count

Dawn Young – The Night Baafore Christmas

Heather Gale – Ho’onani: Hula Warrior

Ciara O’Neal – Flamingo Hugs Aren’t For Everyone (self pub)

Theresa Kiser – A Little Catholic’s Book Of Liturgical Colors (religious market)

Lindsey Hobson – Blossom’s Wish (self pub)

Kirsten Larson – Wood, Wire, Wings: Emma Lilian Todd Invents An Airplane

 

 

Tuesday Debut – Presenting Kirsten Larson!

Greetings, everyone!

What with the Valentiny Contest and such, we haven’t had a Tuesday Debut for a couple weeks, but I’m thrilled to be back today featuring the birthday of a wonderful book I’ve watched come along pretty much from its inception.  And I can’t wait for you to meet our Tuesday Debut-ess, the lovely and talented Kirsten Larson (who once upon a time participated in Phyllis’s World Tour back in March of 2012 by taking Phyllis to the Mojave Desert to ride on an F-117 Night Hawk! 🙂 )

First, have a look at this terrific book!

WOOD, WIRE, WINGS: Emma Lilian Todd Invents an Airplane
by Kirsten W. Larson
illustrated by Tracy Subisak
Calkins Creek, Feb. 25, 2020
nonfiction for ages 7 to 10.

Version 2

Even as a girl, Emma Lilian Todd saw problems like gusts of wind – they set her mind soaring. When Lilian saw the earliest airplane designs, she knew she could build something better, trying and failing repeatedly until her biggest dream took flight.

 

SUSANNA: And now, please help me welcome Kirsten Larson!  We are so excited to have you join us today, Kirsten!  Where did the idea for this book come from?

KIRSTEN: In 2014, I was exploring an idea I’d jotted down in my writer’s notebook: Rosie the Riveter. I had a stack of books from the library including Andrea Beatty’s Rosie Revere, Engineer, illustrated by David Roberts, which included Lilian Todd in a list of female aviation firsts. I have no idea what made me pick up a fictional picture book (in rhyme) only tangentially related to my original topic, but I’m so glad I did. Reading books of all kinds has always given me ideas and improved my craft.

 

 

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

KIRSTEN: Well, as you know, I wrote the first draft of this book in your March 2014 Making Picture Book Magic class, and you were one of my first readers! I had started my research that February and worked on this book until August 2014 when I started a new project.

 

 

SUSANNA: Did you go through many revisions?

KIRSTEN: A million! Even after those first six months of concerted effort, I revised the book periodically in response to conference critiques or a brainstorm I had for a new way of approaching things. I even wrote it as a middle grade historical fiction (only a chapter). Because I started my career writing school and library books to spec on tight deadlines, I don’t become too attached to my words. And in Making Picture Book Magic you encouraged a flexible approach, making us write multiple first lines and endings, for example. Honestly, revising and tinkering with structure and approach is my favorite part of writing and revision.

 

 

SUSANNA: When did you know your manuscript was ready for submission?
KIRSTEN: Do we ever REALLY know? I think our instincts get better as we go along, but all of us submit work before it’s ready. This book was no different. I sent it to agents when I probably shouldn’t have (including the half-written middle grade opening. Yikes!). But once I’d made it the best I could with the help of many critique partners and professional critiques, and wasn’t making meaningful changes, I felt it could go out to agents. Now that I have an agent, I’m happy to have another sounding board for when work is ready.

 

 

SUSANNA: When and how did you submit?

KIRSTEN: Early on I decided writing for children was going to be my career, and I wanted an agent. I only sent this book to one publisher via an SCBWI conference submission. In my opinion, it’s important to pick a path: either submit directly to publishers or to agents, not both. One or two submissions to publishers while querying agents may be fine, but if you query too many, you’ve limited an agent’s options. And they won’t take you on as a client.

 

 

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

KIRSTEN: When my agent took WOOD, WIRE, WINGS out on submission, it racked up the rejections over a period of seven months. I’ll be forever grateful to Carolyn Yoder who saw the potential in Lilian’s story, was willing to work with a developing writer, and asked for a revise and resubmit. I finally had an offer about nine months after we first sent the story out. I truly believe it’s about finding the publishing partner who’s the right fit for a particular book. And Calkins Creek was so worth the wait.

 

 

SUSANNA: How did you celebrate signing your contract?

KIRSTEN: For me, I’ve always found the most magical moment to be when you get an offer (from an agent or a publisher) since contract negotiations can take awhile. Still, when my contract finally arrived, I made my kids pose for a signing photo with me even though they had no idea what was going on. And my husband bought me some really cool paper airplane earrings.

 

 

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

KIRSTEN: If it hasn’t been mentioned already, I would refer folks to author Hannah Holt’s survey of picture book advances. (link: https://hannahholt.com/blog/2017/9/25/writing-picture-books-a-look-at-the-number-part-2) I will say my offer was in line with what one would expect from a small-to-mid-sized publisher, and I am thankful to have an agent negotiating my advance, royalty rates, and other elements of my contract. But compensation is really only one consideration when evaluating an offer. It’s important to know about a publisher’s reach (distribution and marketing), the editor’s vision for the book, and in my case, the fact-checking process. The best offer isn’t always the highest offer. You have to look at the whole package.

 

 

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

KIRSTEN: My editorial process began before I even sold the book, since my wonderful editor, Carolyn Yoder, bought the book on a revise and resubmit request. The R&R focused on adding historical context. After I sold the book, I revised again, focusing on adding interiority and emotional truth the story. Finally, in an unusual twist, we did another revision after we saw illustrator Tracy Subisak’s dummy. There was so much of the story Tracy was able to tell visually, allowing me to cut portions of the text. Going through these revisions changed my writing process going forward. I have learned to consider what part of the story illustrations can carry, and what I absolutely HAVE to say with words.

 

 

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

KIRSTEN: One thing that surprised me for this particular book was the amount of input I had into the illustration process. I was offered input into who might illustrate and was thrilled when Tracy Subisak came on board. Very early in the process, I was asked to provide art references. These were visual descriptions from my written sources, as well as copies of historic photographs Tracy could use. I had input into the art at every stage, and in some cases, editor Carolyn Yoder and I made suggestions for better historical accuracy. For example, we asked Tracy to revise the shape of the room at the Patent Office to make it more historically accurate. I have such utter respect for illustrators of nonfiction, who must marry such attention to detail with their artistic vision.

 

 

SUSANNA: Did you get to see advance reviews from Kirkus, SLJ, etc?  What was that like?
KIRSTEN: Waiting for reviews was one of the most nerve-racking parts of the process. Because I wrote this book so many years ago, I feel my writing has changed significantly, and I was nervous about how this earlier work would be received. I was so thrilled when the book got a positive review from Kirkus. I felt like the reviewer really “got” the book, including the deeper messages about failure being a natural part of invention and engineering, and perseverance being an essential trait for any creator. Link to full review: https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/kirsten-w-larson/wood-wire-wings/

 

 

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

KIRSTEN: I got my formal offer Feb. 10, 2017 and received my advance copy just before Christmas 2019 all wrapped up with a shiny red ribbon from my publisher. So that’s just shy of three years.

xmas Kirsten with new book

 

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

KIRSTEN: One of the most fascinating parts of my publishing journey has been learning what a good publisher can do in terms of marketing. While it’s very early in my publishing process, my publisher has sent F&Gs (folded and gathered copies of the book) out to professional reviewers like Kirkus and book influencers, like Alyson Beecher at KidLit Frenzy. As soon as professional reviews were published, the publisher was able to feed review snippets to Amazon, B&N, and Edelweiss, which is used by book buyers. I know Calkins Creek has wonderful distribution through Penguin Random House with a team of sales reps who are knowledgeable about my book and are able to sell the book into bookstores and museum gift shops. And Calkins Creek has a presence at many conferences, where I’m sure my book will make an appearance.

 

 

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

KIRSTEN: I think one of the most powerful things I did (along with 37 of my best book peeps) is create a book-marketing group, the Soaring 20s. I’ve also recently joined @STEAMTeam2020, which is cross promoting STEM/STEAM-focused books for all ages. Sometimes it feels weird to scream and shout about your own book, so working as part of a team to cheer each other on is much more comfortable for me. Aside from boosting each other on social media and creating original blog and social media content to reach potential book readers, my groups are focused on early reviews, reaching out to book influencers, and library purchases.

I think another positive marketing approach for this book was to reach out to like-minded groups who are natural audiences for a book about a female aviation pioneer. I’ve booked some speaking opportunities and pitched articles for their publications. For me, those groups included the Experimental Aircraft Association and Women in Aviation International.

 

 

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

KIRSTEN: I wrote the first terrible draft of a magazine article for kids in October 2011, and started writing picture books in 2012 through Julie Hedlund’s 12×12 challenge. So, it will be more than eight years of honing my craft, finding an agent, learning book marketing, etc.

 

 

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

KIRSTEN: I’ve always thought writing is a lot like inventing/engineering. It’s a flash of inspiration followed by years of perspiration and perseverance as you tinker with and tweak your initial idea until it can soar.

 

 

Version 2

Author Kirsten Larson

My website: kirsten-w-larson.com

Twitter/Instgram/Pinterest: @kirstenwlarson

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/KirstenLarsonWrites/

 

 

SUSANNA: Thank you so much for taking the time to participate in this series, Kirsten, and for paying it forward to other writers!  Your knowledge and expertise are so helpful to all of us, and we wish you all the very best of success with this and future books!

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

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

Indiebound
Amazon
Barnes&Noble

We can help our debut authors successfully launch their careers by:

– purchasing their books

– recommending their books to friends and family

– recommending their books to our children’s teachers and librarians

– recommending their books to our local libraries and bookstores

– suggesting them as visiting authors at our children’s schools and our local libraries

– sharing their books on social media

– reviewing their books on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes&Noble, and other sites where people go to learn about books.

Thank you all for stopping by to read today!  Have a lovely, inspiration-filled Tuesday!  Maybe today is the day you’ll write your debut picture book 🙂

 

Missed any previous Tuesday Debuts?  Check them out!

Christy Mihaly – Hey! Hey! Hay! A Tale of Bales And The Machines That Make Them

Jessie Oliveros – The Remember Balloons

Beth Anderson – An Inconvenient Alphabet: Ben Franklin And Noah Webster’s Spelling Revolution

Hannah Holt – The Diamond And The Boy

Laura Renauld – Porcupine’s Pie

Annie Romano – Before You Sleep: A Bedtime Book Of Gratitude

Melissa Stoller – Scarlet’s Magic Paintbrush

Sherry Howard – Rock And Roll Woods

Kate Narita – 100 Bugs! A Counting Book

Vivian Kirkfield – Pippa’s Passover Plate

Laura Roettiger – Aliana Reaches For The Moon

Matthew Lasley – Pedro’s Pan: A Gold Rush Story

Natalee Creech – When Day Is Done

Margaret Chiu Greanias – Maximillian Villainous

Wendy Greenley – Lola Shapes The Sky

Danielle Dufayet – You Are Your Strong

B.J. Lee – There Was An Old Gator Who Swallowed A Moth

Cathy Ballou Mealey – When A Tree Grows

Pippa Chorley – Counting Sheep

Sandra Sutter – The Real Farmer In The Dell

June Smalls – Odd Animals ABC

Jill Mangel Weisfeld – Riley The Retriever Wants A New Job (self pub)

Kathleen Cornell Berman – The Birth Of Cool: How Jazz Great Miles Davis Found His Sound

Eleanor Ann Peterson – Jurassic Rat

Sarah Hoppe – Who Will? Will You?

Marla LeSage – Pirate Year Round

Stacey Corrigan – The Pencil Eater

Shannon Stocker – Can U Save The Day?

Nadine Poper – Randall And Randall

Christine Evans – Evelyn The Adventurous Entomologist

Karen Kiefer – Drawing God (religious market)

Susan Richmond – Bird Count

Dawn Young – The Night Baafore Christmas

Heather Gale – Ho’onani: Hula Warrior

Ciara O’Neal – Flamingo Hugs Aren’t For Everyone (self pub)

Theresa Kiser – A Little Catholic’s Book Of Liturgical Colors (religious market)

Lindsey Hobson – Blossom’s Wish (self pub)

Tuesday Debut – Presenting Lindsey Hobson!

Welcome to another exciting edition of Tuesday Debut, Everyone!

Now that everybody’s favorite groundhog (not that anyone around here is biased… 🙂 )

Punxsutawney Phyllis!!!skipping phyllis

has announced to the world that we can expect an early spring, what better Tuesday Debut could we share today than one about a flower-loving dragon?  So spring-y!  🙂 Please join me in welcoming Tuesday Debut-ess, Lindsey Hobson, as she shares her publishing journey!

Blossom’s Wish
Written by Lindsey Hobson
Illustrated by Katarina Stevanovic
Published January 2020
Fiction, ages: 3-8

cover-image 

Blossom is a flower-loving dragon living in a town full of people, who gives her flowers away in hopes of making a friend. When she catches a cold, her world is turned upside down.

 

SUSANNA: Welcome, Lindsey!  Thank you so much for joining us today to share your journey to publication!  Where did the idea for this book come from?

LINDSEY: My daughter went through a phase where she required an original story before bed. This is a version of her favorite story that I would tell her. I’m so glad that I will have a physical copy of this story to share with her, and her children one day.

 

 

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

LINDSEY: Writing the story didn’t take me very long, as I already had it in my head. I just sat down and typed it all out in one evening.

 

 

SUSANNA: Did you go through many revisions?

LINDSEY: I revised it several times based on critiques I received from a critique group, then hired an editor for developmental editing. I realized that, by listening and revising from several different critiques, I had strayed too far from my original story. I scrapped the draft I was on, went back to the original, and started over with the same editor. She loved the original story better than the revision we had been working on and had some great ideas to get it to where it is today.

 

 

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

LINDSEY: After working with the editor on the development and line editing, I asked for some more critiques from an online group and was happy with the responses I received. I felt like it was ready.

writing buddies

Lindsey’s writing buddies 🙂

 

SUSANNA: At what point did you decide to self-publish rather than submit to traditional publishers? Did you try traditional first? Or did you have specific reasons for wanting to self-publish?

LINDSEY: I decided to self-publish this book because it is so near to my heart. I wanted to have control over the content of the story, and how the illustrations looked. This is for my daughter, and I wanted to keep it that way. I did not try to submit this one to traditional publishers for that reason.

 

 

SUSANNA: How did you find an illustrator?

LINDSEY: I am a member of several Facebook groups, and I spoke to several illustrators that I found in those groups. I also joined Instagram to look for illustrators, and perused freelance websites. I ultimately found someone on Fiverr, and although I have heard negative things about that website, I really think you can find quality people that are looking to build their portfolios.

 

 

SUSANNA: Did you and the illustrator have a contract of any kind?

LINDSEY: We did not have a contract, just the specifics set forth in the gig (or package) that I purchased as far as having commercial rights, etc.

 

 

SUSANNA: Are you able to give a ballpark figure of any kind (or a specific one if you’re so inclined) about the cost of the illustrator?

LINDSEY: I had a budget, and I searched until I found someone that could work within that budget. I was able to keep it under $1000 for illustration and design.

 

 

SUSANNA: What was the illustration process like since you were directing it? Any particular challenges? Anything you particularly enjoyed?

LINDSEY: In working with my budget, we planned out where full page illustrations would be vs. spot illustrations. She wrote down an idea for each page before we started. Once she started, she sketched the page out then sent it to me, I would approve it or ask for slight revisions, then she would paint (she works in watercolor). Because of the time difference between where we live, I would often wake up with a new message from her in the morning. It was like Christmas every day!

page 2

 

SUSANNA: How did you format your book for publication?

LINDSEY: After the illustrator was finished, I asked her if she knew anyone who could do the formatting. She recommended someone who I hired to format the book and added the text. She also did the cover. It worked out well because if we hit a snag, she could talk directly to the illustrator.

 

 

SUSANNA: How did you select a printing service?

LINDSEY: I researched what others were doing in the Facebook groups I am in and ultimately decided to use Kindle Direct Publishing on Amazon because of the ease of getting my book online and their print-on-demand service.

 

 

SUSANNA: Did you do a print run so you’d have inventory, or is your book print-on-demand? (And where is your book available – online bookstores? brick and mortar bookstores?)

LINDSEY: I did not have it in my budget to do a print run, so I decided to use print-on-demand. I am also talking to a local bookstore about stocking my book in their children’s section.

 

 

SUSANNA: How long was the process from writing through publication of your book?

LINDSEY: Four months from start to finish.

 

 

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

LINDSEY: I have made an author page on Facebook, and joined Twitter and Instagram to connect with the KidLit community. I have posted updates throughout the illustrating and design phases to get people interested in my project. Because my book is about a dragon that grows flowers, I have contacted local greenhouses to see if they would like to do a meet-the-author event.

 

 

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

LINDSEY: There are so many helpful people in the KidLit community. I would highly recommend joining groups on Facebook, subscribing to other writers’ blogs, and reading articles. I have also found it extremely helpful to ask questions of the people who have been doing this for a while, and rewarding to be able to help answer questions for people just starting out as well.

colorheadshot

Author Lindsey Hobson

Social media:
Facebook: www.facebook.com/lindseybhobson
Twiter: www.twitter.com/lindseybhobson
Instagram: www.instagram.com/lindseybhobson

 

SUSANNA: Lindsey, thank you again for joining us today and for sharing all your helpful insights into the world of writing and self publishing.  I can only imagine how many writers you are helping!  We all wish you the very best of success with this and future books!

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

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

Amazon

We can help our debut authors successfully launch their careers by:

– purchasing their books

– recommending their books to friends and family

– recommending their books to our children’s teachers and librarians

– recommending their books to our local libraries and bookstores

– suggesting them as visiting authors at our children’s schools and our local libraries

– sharing their books on social media

– reviewing their books on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes&Noble, and other sites where people go to learn about books.

Thank you all for stopping by to read today!  Have a lovely, inspiration-filled Tuesday!  Maybe today is the day you’ll write your debut picture book 🙂

 

Missed any previous Tuesday Debuts?  Check them out!

Christy Mihaly – Hey! Hey! Hay! A Tale of Bales And The Machines That Make Them

Jessie Oliveros – The Remember Balloons

Beth Anderson – An Inconvenient Alphabet: Ben Franklin And Noah Webster’s Spelling Revolution

Hannah Holt – The Diamond And The Boy

Laura Renauld – Porcupine’s Pie

Annie Romano – Before You Sleep: A Bedtime Book Of Gratitude

Melissa Stoller – Scarlet’s Magic Paintbrush

Sherry Howard – Rock And Roll Woods

Kate Narita – 100 Bugs! A Counting Book

Vivian Kirkfield – Pippa’s Passover Plate

Laura Roettiger – Aliana Reaches For The Moon

Matthew Lasley – Pedro’s Pan: A Gold Rush Story

Natalee Creech – When Day Is Done

Margaret Chiu Greanias – Maximillian Villainous

Wendy Greenley – Lola Shapes The Sky

Danielle Dufayet – You Are Your Strong

B.J. Lee – There Was An Old Gator Who Swallowed A Moth

Cathy Ballou Mealey – When A Tree Grows

Pippa Chorley – Counting Sheep

Sandra Sutter – The Real Farmer In The Dell

June Smalls – Odd Animals ABC

Jill Mangel Weisfeld – Riley The Retriever Wants A New Job (self pub)

Kathleen Cornell Berman – The Birth Of Cool: How Jazz Great Miles Davis Found His Sound

Eleanor Ann Peterson – Jurassic Rat

Sarah Hoppe – Who Will? Will You?

Marla LeSage – Pirate Year Round

Stacey Corrigan – The Pencil Eater

Shannon Stocker – Can U Save The Day?

Nadine Poper – Randall And Randall

Christine Evans – Evelyn The Adventurous Entomologist

Karen Kiefer – Drawing God (religious market)

Susan Richmond – Bird Count

Dawn Young – The Night Baafore Christmas

Heather Gale – Ho’onani: Hula Warrior

Ciara O’Neal – Flamingo Hugs Aren’t For Everyone (self pub)

Theresa Kiser – A Little Catholic’s Book Of Liturgical Colors (religious market)

 

 

 

Tuesday Debut – Presenting Theresa Kiser!

Hi Everyone!

I’m excited to share today’s Tuesday Debut because it’s something we haven’t really done before (although Karen Kiefer – Drawing God was similar in some ways.)

One of the fun (and educational) things about Tuesday Debut is that we get to learn about different paths to publication with different kinds of publishing houses.

I know that many of you are interested in writing for the religious market, so I’m thrilled to introduce Theresa Kiser who has published her debut picture book with Holy Heroes.

Title: A Little Catholic’s Book of Liturgical Colors
Author: Theresa Kiser
Illustrator: Chris Pelicano
Publishing House: Holy Heroes
Date of Publication: October 2019
Nonfiction
Age Range: 0-3

HH LiturgicalColors-Mockup1

Synopsis (from the publisher’s website): Written in delightful rhyming verse by Theresa Kiser and illustrated by Chris Pelicano (the long-time illustrator of Holy Heroes’ products!), this board book will walk children through the different liturgical colors of the Catholic Church and where they will find them in the Mass. The rhythm of the poetry is tuned to a child’s ear, so you may soon find your little ones “reading” the book themselves! 

 

SUSANNA:  Welcome, Theresa!  We’re so glad to have you with us today!  Where did the idea for this book come from?

THERESA: My infant son’s FAVORITE book was a book about colors, and the liturgical colors are an important symbol in the Catholic faith. Holding my son, I knew I wanted him to understand how each of the liturgical colors points to God’s love, so I started brainstorming and drafting ideas.

 


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

THERESA: It took about a month to get through the first draft. First I researched the liturgical colors, and jotted ideas down on papers that–because I had an infant–ended up strewn all over the house. I brainstormed while nursing, and then, when the baby was sleeping, sat down to revise one stanza at a time.

 


SUSANNA: Did you go through many revisions?

THERESA: The biggest decision point for me was deciding on the structure and the rhyme scheme. Once I decided that each verse would begin “COLOR is for___” with an ABAB rhyme scheme, I worked through each verse on its own until the work felt ready as a whole.

 

 

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


THERESA: I always ask for feedback from other professionals in the field. Once I had done that with positive results, and felt proud sharing it, I knew it was ready to submit.

 

 

SUSANNA: When and how did you submit?

THERESA: Catholic publishing houses are generally small, so I could query directly without an agent. I was very lucky that my friend–who had done illustration work for this particular publisher in the past–guided me through the process and helped me submit. He ended up being the illustrator that the publisher chose for the book!

 

 

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

THERESA: The publisher let my friend announce the good news! It was very exciting! Afterwards, the publisher requested some revisions and additions, and after some back-and-forth, the final text was approved!

 


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

THERESA: I was really lucky to know the illustrator ahead of time, and doubly lucky that he 100% understood the vision for the book. The liturgical colors are tricky to convey in illustration because you have to show both the color as represented in the church AND the meaning of that color.

Once he was assigned by the publisher to illustrate the book, Chris sat down with me and graciously asked what I envisioned when I wrote the text. Honestly, I had no idea how he would pull off without, as he put it, “drawing the inside of a church five times.” This is where trust in the illustrator’s expertise comes into play, and it definitely paid off! Chris did a great job showing not only what each color would look like on liturgical vestments, but also what it means for a child’s relationship with God.

Colors-BB-3T

 


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

THERESA: This was a small house with an amazing turnaround time. It was just six months from contract to print, and the publisher kept me well informed as production went along.

 

 

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

THERESA: If anyone out there has a story or manuscript that they believe there’s a market for but won’t be accepted by larger houses because it’s too “niche,” I’d just encourage you to do your research and use the specificity of the text to your advantage. Somewhere out there, someone is looking for the same kind of specific book, and we’re lucky enough at this time in the publishing world to have access to many niche publishers with different missions, as well as the opportunity to Indie-publish if you have done your research and are ready to take that on.

Sometimes publishing in a “niche” market can feel a little unusual when working on picture book craft. Most workshops and conferences focus on general market texts, and often advice regarding agents and submission strategies stems from an assumption that authors are looking for publication with a large house.

I hope that my experience shared here will encourage writers of “niche” books, such as small religious markets (like the Catholic market) that publication is possible, and readers in that niche may be waiting for your book!

We have more opportunities now than ever, so don’t discount your book if it is for a specific audience. Don’t be discouraged or give in to resistance…Write! Create!

Because somewhere there’s a child who will benefit from your book.

 

 

dsc_0281-edit-small

Author Theresa Kiser

Website: www.theresakiser.com
Twitter: @AuthorTKKiser
https://www.facebook.com/tkkiser

 

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

THERESA: Thank YOU, Susanna!

 

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

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

Holy Heroes (order from publisher’s website)
Indiebound
Amazon
Barnes&Noble

 

We can help our debut authors successfully launch their careers by:

– purchasing their books

– recommending their books to friends and family

– recommending their books to our children’s teachers and librarians

– recommending their books to our local libraries and bookstores

– suggesting them as visiting authors at our children’s schools and our local libraries

– sharing their books on social media

– reviewing their books on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes&Noble, and other sites where people go to learn about books.

Thank you all for stopping by to read today!  Have a lovely, inspiration-filled Tuesday!  Maybe today is the day you’ll write your debut picture book 🙂

 

Missed any previous Tuesday Debuts?  Check them out!

Christy Mihaly – Hey! Hey! Hay! A Tale of Bales And The Machines That Make Them

Jessie Oliveros – The Remember Balloons

Beth Anderson – An Inconvenient Alphabet: Ben Franklin And Noah Webster’s Spelling Revolution

Hannah Holt – The Diamond And The Boy

Laura Renauld – Porcupine’s Pie

Annie Romano – Before You Sleep: A Bedtime Book Of Gratitude

Melissa Stoller – Scarlet’s Magic Paintbrush

Sherry Howard – Rock And Roll Woods

Kate Narita – 100 Bugs! A Counting Book

Vivian Kirkfield – Pippa’s Passover Plate

Laura Roettiger – Aliana Reaches For The Moon

Matthew Lasley – Pedro’s Pan: A Gold Rush Story

Natalee Creech – When Day Is Done

Margaret Chiu Greanias – Maximillian Villainous

Wendy Greenley – Lola Shapes The Sky

Danielle Dufayet – You Are Your Strong

B.J. Lee – There Was An Old Gator Who Swallowed A Moth

Cathy Ballou Mealey – When A Tree Grows

Pippa Chorley – Counting Sheep

Sandra Sutter – The Real Farmer In The Dell

June Smalls – Odd Animals ABC

Jill Mangel Weisfeld – Riley The Retriever Wants A New Job (self pub)

Kathleen Cornell Berman – The Birth Of Cool: How Jazz Great Miles Davis Found His Sound

Eleanor Ann Peterson – Jurassic Rat

Sarah Hoppe – Who Will? Will You?

Marla LeSage – Pirate Year Round

Stacey Corrigan – The Pencil Eater

Shannon Stocker – Can U Save The Day?

Nadine Poper – Randall And Randall

Christine Evans – Evelyn The Adventurous Entomologist

Karen Kiefer – Drawing God

Susan Richmond – Bird Count

Dawn Young – The Night Baafore Christmas

Heather Gale – Ho’onani: Hula Warrior

Ciara O’Neal – Flamingo Hugs Aren’t For Everyone (self-pub)

 

 

Tuesday Debut – Presenting Ciara O’Neal!

Hi Everyone!

Wow!  It’s been a while since we had a Tuesday Debut, hasn’t it?!

That is partly because of the writing contests and the holidays, but also partly because I only have Tuesday Debut posts when people want to share their first-ever brand new picture books.  (That said, I have a lot of availability in the coming weeks, so if you’ve got a debut picture book you’d like to get a little attention for, email me! 🙂 )

But we’ve got one today – the second self-published one we’ve had the opportunity to learn about here – so some interesting and different information.

Please help me welcome Ciara O’Neal as she shares her debut picture book Flamingo Hugs Aren’t For Everyone!

 

Flamingo Hugs Aren’t For Everyone
Written by Ciara O’Neal
Illustrated by Alicia Young
Published November 2019
Fiction, ages 6-10

Flamingo Hugs Cover Painting_font2

Hugs are hard for a clumsy flamingo. But with daring disguises, delightful dances, and a few more tricks up her feathers, this bird is determined to win a little love from zoo-goers everywhere!  

SUSANNA: Welcome, Ciara!  Thank you so much for joining us today!  We’re delighted to have you and opportunity to learn a thing or two about the self-publishing process for picture book writers!  Where did the idea for this book come from?

CIARA: Flaminga’s story arose during a very loooooong trip to the ER with my daughter. After rejecting kisses from my stuffed flamingo keychain, our star was born! My daughter and I whiled away the endless hours by brainstorming all the different ways a flamingo might try to win affection. And, voilà Flamingo Hugs came to life. I still have my daughter’s first sketch of Flaminga in her hat. Alicia drew a wonderful rendition of it in our book!

Idea generation is one of my favorite phases in the whole process of creating picture book magic. I find that I am a very visual person. So whenever I want to find inspiration, I take a walk around my corner of the world. I try to look at ordinary things from odd perspectives. Sometimes, it’s hunkering down in the grass or leaning against a tree. (There might have been that time I flipped upside down on my kids’ playground. But we won’t talk about that.)

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

CIARA: Some stories demand I tell them from beginning to end in one sitting. Flamingo Hugs and many of my other picture books materialized in a matter of hours. But that being said, NONE of those stories look anything like the original draft. Especially not once my incredible critique partners got to them. (Love my critique partners!)

SUSANNA: Did you go through many revisions?

CIARA: All of my stories go through MANY rounds of revision. But I think my favorite stage is probably my second round of revisions. (My first round always focuses on plot, stakes, and character development.)

During the second round, I research. I find picture books with similar themes, Youtube videos, and Pinterest pins to help me develop my language. I create a list of verbs, nouns, and adjectives that fit my manuscript. I begin playing with the words, generating jokes, and flushing out “the world” in my story.

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

CIARA: This question is SO difficult to answer. I’m not sure there is a right one. I feel most confident about my story when my critique partners only give me words to tweak as opposed to fixing plot holes, etc.  Once I reach that stage, I have done several paid critiques.

SUSANNA: At what point did you decide to self-publish rather than submit to traditional publishers?  Did you try traditional first? Or did you have specific reasons for wanting to self-publish?

CIARA: A little over a year ago, I decided I wanted to finally chase my dream of being an author. I wrote my first few manuscripts and began querying agents and traditional publishers. During that time, I started sharing my stories with my dad.

We had so much fun brainstorming and dreaming up what characters would do. One day, he told me he believed in my stories and wanted to help make my dream a reality.  Together, we decided my clumsy flamingo needed a little self-publishing love, and here we are!

SUSANNA: How did you find an illustrator?

CIARA: I found my first illustrator, Alicia Young, after searching the SCBWI page. I saw her illustrations and fell in love!

SUSANNA: Did you and the illustrator have a contract of any kind?  What types of items did it address?

CIARA: Alicia and I did have a contract. I did a mini-interview with her before we agreed to work together. During the illustration process, we spoke often. It was important to me to find someone that I clicked with and shared my vision for the story.

SUSANNA: Are you able to give a ballpark figure of any kind about the cost of the illustrator?

CIARA: Illustrators are fabulous people! But they have to eat too! When it comes to cost, you will get what you pay for. Spot illustrations can cost anywhere from $20-$45. Elaborate full spreads can cost even more depending on the time needed to complete the page.  It’s hard to give a ballpark figure because each story calls for a different number of spot illustrations and spreads. So needless to say, self-publishing with great illustrations can be costly.

SUSANNA: What was the illustration process like since you were directing it? Any particular challenges?  Anything you particularly enjoyed?

CIARA: The illustration process was thrilling. Each email from Alicia was like Christmas morning. She is so creative and such a joy to work with. That’s not to say we didn’t do our fair share of revision, both my words and her illustrations. But it was one of my favorite parts of this journey!

SUSANNA: How did you format your book for publication?

CIARA: My beautiful illustrator formatted my story. Most illustrators I’ve had contact with an offer this as part of their services.

SUSANNA: How did you select a printing service?

CIARA: Alicia also helped me find our printing service. She had published with them previously. We were both impressed by the price, quality, and turn around time.

SUSANNA: Did you do a print run so you’d have inventory, or is your book print-on-demand? (And where is your book available – online bookstores? brick and mortar bookstores?)

CIARA: I did a print run.  My book is also available on Amazon and through my personal website. I have it for sale in a few indie bookstores. I also tote around a few copies to sell at fairs, schools, etc. I even had it for sale at Christmas Tree farm. 🙂

SUSANNA: How long was the process from writing through publication of your book?

CIARA: For Flamingo Hugs, the whole process took about eight months.

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

CIARA: I have a book trailer that I created. Here is the link, https://ciaraoneal.weebly.com/flamingo-hugs-arent-for-everyone.html

I also created an educational guide to accompany my book. It is on the link above as well. Feel free to check it out. In my guide, there are coloring pages, word searches, stationery, and lesson ideas.

Aside from the trailer and guide, I have visited several blogs, sent out postcards to schools, and visited fairs. Near Valentine’s Day, I will be having a little giveaway. It’s all very exciting.

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

CIARA: I would love to definitely thank you. Last October, I found your “Would You Read It?” It was my first foray into the “critiquing” world. Your supportive community gave me the confidence to keep writing and dreaming!

Ciara Logo_yellow swirl background

Social Media-
Twitter- @ciaraoneal2
Instagram- authorciaraoneal
Personal Website- ciaraoneal.weebly.com

 

 

SUSANNA: That is really wonderful to hear, Ciara – that Would You Read It helped you in your writing pursuits!  Thank you to all our generous, helpful readers for their part in that.  And to anyone who is considering submitting a pitch to Would You Read It, maybe this will give you a little incentive 🙂  Thank you so much for joining us today, Ciara, and for sharing all your helpful advice!  We so appreciate it and wish you all the best with this and future books!

Readers, if you have questions for Ciara, please post them in the comments below and if she has time I’m sure she’ll respond! (And if you’re interested in the other self published Tuesday Debut, please see HERE)

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

 

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, and other sites where people go to learn about books.

Thank you all for stopping by to read today!  Have a lovely, inspiration-filled Tuesday!  Maybe today is the day you’ll write your debut picture book 🙂

Missed any previous Tuesday Debuts?  Check them out!

Christy Mihaly – Hey! Hey! Hay! A Tale of Bales And The Machines That Make Them

Jessie Oliveros – The Remember Balloons

Beth Anderson – An Inconvenient Alphabet: Ben Franklin And Noah Webster’s Spelling Revolution

Hannah Holt – The Diamond And The Boy

Laura Renauld – Porcupine’s Pie

Annie Romano – Before You Sleep: A Bedtime Book Of Gratitude

Melissa Stoller – Scarlet’s Magic Paintbrush

Sherry Howard – Rock And Roll Woods

Kate Narita – 100 Bugs! A Counting Book

Vivian Kirkfield – Pippa’s Passover Plate

Laura Roettiger – Aliana Reaches For The Moon

Matthew Lasley – Pedro’s Pan: A Gold Rush Story

Natalee Creech – When Day Is Done

Margaret Chiu Greanias – Maximillian Villainous

Wendy Greenley – Lola Shapes The Sky

Danielle Dufayet – You Are Your Strong

B.J. Lee – There Was An Old Gator Who Swallowed A Moth

Cathy Ballou Mealey – When A Tree Grows

Pippa Chorley – Counting Sheep

Sandra Sutter – The Real Farmer In The Dell

June Smalls – Odd Animals ABC

Jill Mangel Weisfeld – Riley The Retriever Wants A New Job (Self Published)

Kathleen Cornell Berman – The Birth Of Cool: How Jazz Great Miles Davis Found His Sound

Eleanor Ann Peterson – Jurassic Rat

Sarah Hoppe – Who Will? Will You?

Marla LeSage – Pirate Year Round

Stacey Corrigan – The Pencil Eater

Shannon Stocker – Can U Save The Day?

Nadine Poper – Randall And Randall

Christine Evans – Evelyn The Adventurous Entomologist

Karen Kiefer – Drawing God

Susan Richmond – Bird Count

Dawn Young – The Night Baafore Christmas

Heather Gale – Ho’onani: Hula Warrior

 

Tuesday Debut – Presenting Heather Gale!

Woo hoo! Woo hoo!
Time for something new.
Woo hoo! Woo hoo!
Tuesday Debut!

How’s that for a theme song?

It doesn’t have a tune yet . . . but that’s just a minor detail 🙂

Here on Blueberry Hill the weather forecast is less than optimal.  Rain, snow, ice and other cr** . . . er, precipitation threatens to make going outside something to avoid unless you have a very good reason to want to fall down your mudroom stairs and introduce your hindquarters to the driveway, so today’s debut picture book is perfect! It will carry us away to the island paradise of Hawai’i!

Ho’onani: Hula Warrior
written by Heather Gale
illustrated by Mika Song
Tundra Books
October 1, 2019
Nonfiction, Ages 4 – 9

Ho_onani-cover
An empowering celebration of identity, acceptance and Hawaiian culture based on the true story of a young girl in Hawai’i who dreams of leading the boys-only hula troupe at her school.

 

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

HEATHER: This story came after watching the PBS documentary A Place in the Middle, but it took a while for me to consider it as even a possible picture book.
I had used the documentary to help wind down after a day of research for that next picture book idea. Yet while watching Ho’onani and Kumu Hina face their struggles I was transfixed, swept along with the story and the power of emotions it evoked.  When Ho’onani turned to face her community, I held my breath as if I were amongst the awed silence of the crowd.  And when Ho’onani opened her mouth to begin the chant usually reserved for males, I whooped it up, both proud and relieved she had pulled off her biggest challenge.

The next day I could not stop thinking about each character in the documentary.
I watched and re-watched A Place in the Middle, never getting tired of feeling those same emotions. When this happens, I think you have no choice but to write the story. It’s under your skin and won’t let go until you do.

 

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

HEATHER: Initially I’d promised the producers, Dean Hamer and Joe Wilson, a no-commitment rough draft within 6 weeks.  But it helped that by the time we’d met, I already knew where the story would start and where it should end. I’d never written and researched so hard in my life to meet that deadline, but it worked. They got their first draft and I got their green light to carry on.

After that the revisions took almost a year.

My best advice to anyone is to not start a story until you know those two key moments. They’ll keep you going when the writing process gets rough.

 

 

SUSANNA: Did you go through many revisions?

HEATHER: I must have gone through at least 150 revisions and this is the time to ask for help from your critique partners and writing buddies. Listen to their comments and suggestions and if more than one person is saying the same, you know you have to go back.

As you learn the mechanics behind a story, you’ll also discover your own revision process, and which ones are your favorites.

Mine are adding emotion and deleting.

I may already have one or two emotions in a draft, but there comes a point when the story needs a whole lot more. Thankfully, at this stage of the manuscript you’ll know your character inside and out, so this part is fun.

As I read scene by scene, I imagine my character’s face and gut reactions to the situation. I’ll jot them down and return for a more serious edit.

After emotions are added my next favorite is deleting.

Distilling a draft to 1000 special words is a challenge.

Every word matters.

Every sentence should feel unique.

Every paragraph has the potential to build a scene.

Like decluttering a room, there’s a sense of lightness with deleting which makes a story even better.

I start with spacing out the sentences. This gives me some working room (aka thinking or doodling space).

Then line by line, I’ll check the timing of events. I’ll ask myself does this follow and is it logical?

Then I check the sentence itself, looking at the structure.

Have you noticed sometimes when you split the sentence in half then swap their order it’s so much stronger? Or move one word to the end and you’ve got a WOW sentence.

Next, I look at each word in the sentence.

And here’s where my thesaurus is used to check each word conveys the best meaning I intended.

Perhaps there’s a better word with a deeper meaning. Or, the word is perfect, but in that sentence, it’s a tongue-twister.

And then I like to use words that surprise the reader and are easy or fun to say out loud.

If, after doing all this, the paragraph adds no story value, it qualifies for a total strike-through.

It’s hard to explain but when there’s a line through all that hard work, the story often pops through the noise and clutter.

 

 

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

HEATHER: I’m slowly learning when my manuscripts are almost ready for submission.

I always read my manuscript out loud to our two dogs (because my two kids are grown up now). This is an incredible way to discover those fancy words you found in thesaurus don’t quite work when placed together.

IMG_0716

I’m lucky to have two work buddies, Molly and Cooper who are best friends. They love daily hikes in Toronto’s ravines, their daycare, and swimming beside me as I kayak.

I check off any sentences where my brain did a ‘huh?’ and question any gaps in the timing of events.

On another round I’ll hunt for emotions in the scenes. I want to walk in that person’s shoes, feel their frustrations and their achievements, get goosebumps and a lump in my throat.

Then, my best tool is the pitch.

Because my working pitches seem to always start off 4-6 sentences long, until I‘ve got one that’s whittled down to one or two sentences, I know the manuscript is not ready.

I tweak and hone that pitch every 3-4 revisions.

Once everything is as close as I can get it , I save my work in a folder, stash it away, put the timer on and wait two weeks.

And . . . tah-dah! This is when you’ll know if your story is ready to submit.

With fresh eyes I’ll read my story out loud, looking for all the same things as before. I want to laugh, to tear up, have the words swimming in front of me.

I want the story to unfold, unrushed yet not too wordy.

And when that happens there’s no way to describe the feeling except you know you’ve given your story the best possible chance.

Your manuscript is ready to face the big wide world.

I have two workspaces that inspire my writing process.

Here’s my view from the cottage:

Screen Shot 2019-11-07 at 8.12.13 PM

 

SUSANNA: That is inspiring all right!  But I’m not sure I’d get much work done with a view like that!!! 🙂  When and how did you submit?

HEATHER: I’d submitted this story to one agent while seeking representation and then to a publishing house through an earlier conference connection.

Both times Ho’onani: Hula Warrior was turned down but coming up was our annual Pack Your Imagination conference hosted by CANSCAIP in Toronto.

We have an opportunity to skip the line with Canadian publishing houses which is a fantastic opportunity. I decided to hold this manuscript back from further submissions because I had to know what was wrong with this story!

 

 

 

 

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

HEATHER: I was the last person slated to meet Lynne Missen, the Publishing Director for Penguin Young Readers at the CANSCAIP conference. You can take being last as good news, bad news, or part of the lucky draw so as I sat and waited. I’ll admit, I was nervous.

And then it was my turn.

As I listened, waiting for the, ‘here’s why your story isn’t working,’ I struggled to understand why Lynne was smiling.

Lynne must have repeated it three or four times before her words and their meaning sank in – they loved my story!

We got to work right there, going through the manuscript, tweaking areas, discussing ideas and my 15-minute slot turned into the best 30 minutes I could’ve ever imagined . . . working on a story that my heart was so vested in.

 

SUSANNA: How did you celebrate signing your contract?

HEATHER: We popped a bottle of bubbles and had a barbeque with my hubby, kids and dogs.

 

 

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

HEATHER: The contract was just what I expected, an advance, followed by a percentage in royalties and for me, the best gift ever – 10 author copies! (I’m one of 6 kids so my siblings all got a dedicated and signed copy.)

 

 

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

HEATHER: Samantha Swenson is such a gifted editor who, through some word tweaks made the story pop, and that’s when I saw the potential they’d seen all along.

 

 

SUSANNA: How about your experience of the illustration process?

HEATHER: I was so lucky with having Mika as my illustrator.

From the beginning I saw all her sketches, and my thoughts and ideas were sought out while any questions I had were explained.  Mika captured each child in the documentary at the right moment while Kumu Hina looked the same yet different as she too experienced her emotions.

I had one illustration note in the story at the end and that was only because Ho’onani’s sister is not mentioned in the text.

Here’s what I wrote:

One person stood.

[illo: Kana smiles]

Ho'onani - illo note and illustration

and here’s how that illustration turned out!

 

 

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

HEATHER: I saw a mix of advance reviews while others were sent to me soon after being released.

I think the best part about reading a review is, you get to see how the rest of the world views your story.

I’ve learnt so much about Mika’s illustrations from reading reviews.

For example, one review commented on Mika’s technique as a way to convey information to children.

“Boldly outlined watercolor and ink artwork by Song (A Friend for Henry) conveys visual information with strength that suggests Ho‘onani’s own.”

Publishers Weekly
https://www.publishersweekly.com/978-0-7352-6449-6

And then I read, “Watercolor and thick, angular black lines against a combination of white, open spaces, and blue or tan backgrounds elevate and emphasize Ho’onani as the central character within each spread.

As well, the use of bold colors at times helps some characters become more noticeable in crowd scenes.”

Canadian Review of Materials

https://www.cmreviews.ca/node/952

And here’s another wonderful comment on Mika’s illustrations: “The boys filing past in the background, and the empty pair of flip-flops left in the hallway, are pale and weak in comparison to Ho’onani’s profound sense of self as a hula warrior.”
E. Schneider at Imaginary Elevators
https://imaginaryelevators.blog/2019/09/03/she-is-who-she-is/

With each of these reviews I went back to my copy and noticed the same.

 

 

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

HEATHER: The process from signing the contract to a first copy was almost two years. That sounds like a long time, but it wasn’t. We were always moving forward with the next steps.

 

 

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

HEATHER: Tundra Books has gone above and beyond in their efforts to get this book noticed by various communities.

From trade reviews to tradeshows, to advertising to promotions, Ho’onani: Hula Warrior has been included or is their featured title.

 

 

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

HEATHER: I’ve reached out to picture book bloggers I know and asked for any opportunity to be a guest post or have the book reviewed.
I’ve also figured out Twitter and become more involved.

And I plan on doing school and library visits – my first is in NZ!

 

 

SUSANNA: Wow!  NZ?!  That is AMAZING!  How long was it between the time you started writing seriously and the time you sold your first picture book?
HEATHER: The whole process took me six years along with a lot of online and class courses, some conferences and then just hours in the chair, practicing and honing the craft.

I actually started my serious writing with a psychological thriller which I wrote one year during NANOWRIMO (National November Writing Month). And, I still like that story and maybe one day I’ll get to revise it.

 

 

SUSANNA: Anything else you’d like to share about your book’s journey from inspiration to publication?
HEATHER: This book has taught me a lot about the industry and I’m in awe. We have so many dedicated, passionate professionals who work with picture books and once a manuscript is sold, there’s still so much more that happens behind the scenes before it reaches the shelves.

 

 

SUSANNA:  Heather, thank you so much for taking the time to participate in this series and paying it forward to other writers! We so appreciate all your insights, and the helpful information you shared about your writing process!  Wishing you the very best of success with this and future books!!!

 

Heather-head-shot

Author Heather Gale

You can visit me over at
https://heathergale.net/

and my social media links include:
https://twitter.com/writergale
https://www.facebook.com/heather.gale.311

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

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

Indiebound
Amazon
Barnes&Noble

We can help our debut authors successfully launch their careers by:

– purchasing their books

– recommending their books to friends and family

– recommending their books to our children’s teachers and librarians

– recommending their books to our local libraries and bookstores

– suggesting them as visiting authors at our children’s schools and our local libraries

– sharing their books on social media

– reviewing their books on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes&Noble, and other sites where people go to learn about books.

Thank you all for stopping by to read today!  Have a lovely, inspiration-filled Tuesday!  Maybe today is the day you’ll write your debut picture book 🙂

 

Missed any previous Tuesday Debuts?  Check them out!

Christy Mihaly – Hey! Hey! Hay! A Tale of Bales And The Machines That Make Them

Jessie Oliveros – The Remember Balloons

Beth Anderson – An Inconvenient Alphabet: Ben Franklin And Noah Webster’s Spelling Revolution

Hannah Holt – The Diamond And The Boy

Laura Renauld – Porcupine’s Pie

Annie Romano – Before You Sleep: A Bedtime Book Of Gratitude

Melissa Stoller – Scarlet’s Magic Paintbrush

Sherry Howard – Rock And Roll Woods

Kate Narita – 100 Bugs! A Counting Book

Vivian Kirkfield – Pippa’s Passover Plate

Laura Roettiger – Aliana Reaches For The Moon

Matthew Lasley – Pedro’s Pan: A Gold Rush Story

Natalee Creech – When Day Is Done

Margaret Chiu Greanias – Maximillian Villainous

Wendy Greenley – Lola Shapes The Sky

Danielle Dufayet – You Are Your Strong

B.J. Lee – There Was An Old Gator Who Swallowed A Moth

Cathy Ballou Mealey – When A Tree Grows

Pippa Chorley – Counting Sheep

Sandra Sutter – The Real Farmer In The Dell

June Smalls – Odd Animals ABC

Jill Mangel Weisfeld – Riley The Retriever Wants A New Job

Kathleen Cornell Berman – The Birth Of Cool: How Jazz Great Miles Davis Found His Sound

Eleanor Ann Peterson – Jurassic Rat

Sarah Hoppe – Who Will? Will You?

Marla LeSage – Pirate Year Round

Stacey Corrigan – The Pencil Eater

Shannon Stocker – Can U Save The Day?

Nadine Poper – Randall And Randall

Christine Evans – Evelyn The Adventurous Entomologist

Karen Kiefer – Drawing God

Susan Richmond – Bird Count

Dawn Young – The Night Baafore Christmas

 

 

 

Tuesday Debut – Presenting Dawn Young!

Hi Everyone!

Welcome to another exciting installment of Tuesday Debut!

I realize of course that it’s the 22nd of October – 9 Nights Before Halloween, and 64 Nights Before Christmas – but if it’s okay for the local Stop & Shop to be putting out their holiday items already then it’s okay for us to share and enjoy today’s debut picture book!

I’m thrilled to introduce Tuesday Debut-ess Dawn Young and her fabulously fun picture book, The Night Baafore Christmas!

The Night Baafore Christmas
Written by Dawn Young
Illustrated by Pablo Pino
published by WorthyKids, Hachette Book Group
October 2019
fiction, ages 4-8

hi res for blog - jacket

It’s Christmas Eve and Bo can’t sleep, so he starts counting sheep. But when the sheep get a glimpse of the Christmas goodies, they scatter, wreaking holiday mayhem all over the house. With a house full of sheep and a mess to clean, will Bo get to sleep before Santa comes? Find out in this hilarious story of a night before Christmas gone baa-dly wrong.

SUSANNA: Welcome, Dawn!  And thank you so much for stopping by to chat with us today and share your journey to publication!  Where did the idea for this book come from?

DAWN: The idea for The Night Baafore Christmas began a long time ago, when one of my daughters was having trouble falling asleep because she kept worrying about bad things after watching the movie Barnyard. Every night I’d tell her to think good thoughts and imagine herself at fun, happy places like the circus or the zoo.

With that in mind, I wrote about a child who, struggling to fall asleep due to bad thoughts, went to those same fun, happy places. But a story about a child going from adventure to adventure felt flat and needed something more, so I had the child attempt to count sheep to fall asleep. Soon, those mischievous sheep were tagging along on the adventures. At that point, the story had some spark but things went from flat to frenzied and I knew I needed to tighten the story.

Also, I wanted the story to start on a more positive note, so instead of having the child worry about bad things, I had the excitement over an upcoming event, like the eve of a birthday or a holiday, be the reason the child couldn’t fall sleep. I played around with both, but found myself heading down the birthday path. Then, after seeing the holiday mishap contest on Susanna’s blog, I shifted to Christmas, and wrote a draft of what is now The Night Baafore Christmas.

[And now a brief message from our sponsors – enter the Halloweensie Contest (which opens in a week)! You too could write a new story or find a new angle on a work-in-progress that might be worthy of publication just like Dawn!

…aaand back to our regularly scheduled programming…! 🙂 ]

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

DAWN: Years! I began writing the story in 2008. Getting feedback from my critique partners and creating dummies were a big part of getting the book to where it is today. I love to write in rhyme, and I wanted this story to be in rhyme. Knowing that most publishers prefer prose because too often (they say) they see rhyme that is subpar, I worked on my perfecting my rhyming skills. Also, I wanted this story to be fun and funny, so I focused on wordplay and humor.

SUSANNA: Did you go through many revisions?

DAWN: This story went through many, many, many revisions. Even after adding the sheep, the story went through rounds and rounds of revisions. Early drafts were written in first person, and now the story is in third person. Playing around with POV is a great exercise.

Also, originally, the sheep appeared by number randomly to mirror the craziness of the story. Then, I received feedback suggesting I number the sheep in ascending order when the action escalates and in descending order when the momentum slows down. I revised accordingly, and it worked great and gave the story a smoother flow. I’m grateful for the feedback!

For me, critique groups/partners are key to the process. We look to our critique partners for feedback to help us revise our stories, and their suggestions are invaluable. I find that I make a great deal of progress with my manuscripts when I, not only consider the feedback I get, but also the feedback I give. When I do a critique, I think my inner self is trying to speak to me through someone else’s work. Often, I find myself saying, Wait I just did that same thing!  A critique you’re doing for someone can act as a mirror, enabling you to reflect on your own writing as well.

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

DAWN: When that nagging, unsettling, “something’s missing,” “if you stop now you’re cheating,” “you can do better than that,” feeling, the one that keeps me up at night, is gone, then I know the manuscript is ready for submission.

SUSANNA: When and how did you submit?

DAWN: Unagented at the time, I read on Kathy Temean’s blog that WorthyKids was seeking submissions for holiday stories, so I subbed the old-school way, via snail mail! Shortly after the submission, I assigned with my (now) agent and she handled the contract.

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

DAWN: Four months after I submitted, I got an email from the editor asking if the story was still available. I was ecstatic! Then around ten months later I got the offer.

SUSANNA: How did you celebrate signing your contract?

DAWN: I cried, the happiest of tears, and eventually I went out to dinner with  my very supportive husband.

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

DAWN: At the time I submitted to WorthyKids, they were a smaller publisher so I figured the advance might be on the lower side. I really liked the publisher and the timeline for publication was unreal. I signed the contract in Nov 2018 and they gave me a Fall 2019 pub date. I felt so fortunate. In the meantime, WorthyKids became part of Hachette Book Group, so my small publisher isn’t so small anymore.

SUSANNA: What was the editorial process like for you?

DAWN: They requested two minor changes and that was it.

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

DAWN: The illustration process was unlike most I’ve read about. The editor suggested that I send her names of illustrators that had a style similar to what I was envisioning for the book. One of the names I gave her was Pablo Pino. Since they had Pablo in mind as well, they asked him and he said yes. His illustrations went beyond what I could have ever hoped for. They’re are beautiful, fun and funny. I feel so fortunate that Pablo Pino is the illustrator. The Night Baafore Christmas couldn’t have been in better hands!

One way in which illustrator’s vision departed from mine was that I envisioned the sheep’s numbers to be on their bodies, but Pablo put their numbers on tags around their necks, and I’m so glad he did because they’re visible but subtle. Having big ole numbers on their backs may have overpowered the page.

I saw digital files of the entire book before it went to print and I was blown away! The editor asked for feedback. Other than saying Wow more times than I can count, I think I had only two (minor) comments.

I did have art notes. Looking back I can see that they weren’t necessary.

hi res for blog dancing

text copyright Dawn Young 2019, illustration copyright Pablo Pino 2019 WorthyKids/Hachette

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

DAWN: No, not yet.

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

DAWN: Ten months.

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

DAWN: It just released on Oct 1st.

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

DAWN: My publisher has been amazing. They made the most lively, fun, festive trailer, and they’re contacting book reviewers, making memes, and doing a great deal of promotion.

 

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

DAWN: I had flyers, bookmarks, stickers and a banner made. I reached out to bloggers asking them I could be featured on their blogs to share my journey and the book’s journey. I will be featured at bookstores in November and December and I’m booking other events as well.

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

DAWN: I started writing in 2007, but at the time, my kids were small, and I was busy with toddlers and very involved at their school, so I’d say I was more of a part-time writer. Around 2010, I got really serious about writing and began attending conferences and writing retreats, taking classes, joining critique groups and writing ALL the time. Strictly a rhymer, I thought it would be best to branch out and be more diverse with my style, so around that time, I started writing in prose as well. In 2018, I sold my first picture book, Counting Elephants, which releases in March 2020 and sold The Night Baafore Christmas shortly after.

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

DAWN: Way back when, I submitted the very early versions of this story and they got their share of rejections, as they should have. Those versions were nowhere near ready and should not have been out in the world ‒ much like a 13 year old behind the wheel of a car! The rejections I received were a blessing. As much as I dreaded them and resented them, they made me work harder, thinker deeper and get more ingenious. I learned to welcome them. I have a quote I like to remember when things aren’t going as expected: “Remember that sometimes not getting what you want is a wonderful stroke of luck.” ― Dalai Lama XIV

I learned that getting published requires more patience and persistence than I ever thought I had.

I also learned to celebrate the positive things. Back in 2013, I submitted this story to an editor who spoke at a conference I attended. Shortly after I received a rejection letter from her, but this time, I also got positive feedback. The editor called the story “fun and engaging” and she called my writing “fresh” and had other nice things to say.  Even though it was a rejection, I celebrated her encouraging feedback, and to this day I still have her letter on my desk.

I feel very fortunate to be a part of such a fabulously generous and thoughtful kidlit community. The support and encouragement is incredible. No one knows a writer’s life like a writer does.

SUSANNA: Wow, Dawn!  Such a lot of wonderful, helpful insights you shared with us today!  I especially enjoyed your thoughts on critique groups/partners, when you know your manuscript is ready, and what it’s like to be a writer and part of the writing community.  I’m sure our readers will all have their favorite parts as well 🙂 Thank you so much for taking the time to participate in this series and paying it forward to other writers!

Young headshot

Author Dawn Young

Dawn Young bio:

Dawn graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering, and later with an MBA.  For years, Dawn worked as an engineer and, later, manager at a large aerospace company, until her creative side called her to pursue her dream of writing children’s books. After reading and writing hundreds of corporate documents, none of which were titled The Little Engineer Who Could or Don’t Let the Pigeon Fly the Airbus, Dawn is thrilled to now be reading and writing picture books instead.

Dawn is also a math enthusiast. When she’s not busy writing and reading, she can be found doing math problems, sometimes just because… In high school, Dawn’s dream was to have a math equation named after her, but now, she believes having her name on the cover of books is a million times better! Dawn lives with her husband, three children and golden retriever in sunny Arizona.

https://www.facebook.com/dawn.young.1865

https://twitter.com/dawnyoungPB

https://www.instagram.com/dawnyoungbooks/

www.dawnyoungbooks.com

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

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

Indiebound
Amazon
Barnes&Noble

We can help our debut authors successfully launch their careers by:

– purchasing their books

– recommending their books to friends and family

– recommending their books to our children’s teachers and librarians

– recommending their books to our local libraries and bookstores

– suggesting them as visiting authors at our children’s schools and our local libraries

– sharing their books on social media

– reviewing their books on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes&Noble, and other sites where people go to learn about books.

Thank you all for stopping by to read today!  Have a lovely, inspiration-filled Tuesday!  Maybe today is the day you’ll write your debut picture book 🙂

Missed any previous Tuesday Debuts?  Check them out!

Christy Mihaly – Hey! Hey! Hay! A Tale of Bales And The Machines That Make Them

Jessie Oliveros – The Remember Balloons

Beth Anderson – An Inconvenient Alphabet: Ben Franklin And Noah Webster’s Spelling Revolution

Hannah Holt – The Diamond And The Boy

Laura Renauld – Porcupine’s Pie

Annie Romano – Before You Sleep: A Bedtime Book Of Gratitude

Melissa Stoller – Scarlet’s Magic Paintbrush

Sherry Howard – Rock And Roll Woods

Kate Narita – 100 Bugs! A Counting Book

Vivian Kirkfield – Pippa’s Passover Plate

Laura Roettiger – Aliana Reaches For The Moon

Matthew Lasley – Pedro’s Pan: A Gold Rush Story

Natalee Creech – When Day Is Done

Margaret Chiu Greanias – Maximillian Villainous

Wendy Greenley – Lola Shapes The Sky

Danielle Dufayet – You Are Your Strong

B.J. Lee – There Was An Old Gator Who Swallowed A Moth

Cathy Ballou Mealey – When A Tree Grows

Pippa Chorley – Counting Sheep

Sandra Sutter – The Real Farmer In The Dell

June Smalls – Odd Animals ABC

Jill Mangel Weisfeld – Riley The Retriever Wants A New Job

Kathleen Cornell Berman – The Birth Of Cool: How Jazz Great Miles Davis Found His Sound

Eleanor Ann Peterson – Jurassic Rat

Sarah Hoppe – Who Will? Will You?

Marla LeSage – Pirate Year Round

Stacey Corrigan – The Pencil Eater

Shannon Stocker – Can U Save The Day?

Nadine Poper – Randall And Randall

Christine Evans – Evelyn The Adventurous Entomologist

Karen Kiefer – Drawing God

Susan Richmond – Bird Count

 

Tuesday Debut – Presenting Susan Richmond!!!

Welcome to Tuesday Debut, everyone!

You are reading this from all over the world today, and I’m so glad you’re here!  For some of you spring is just around the corner, and for others autumn approaches without any appreciable change in the weather, but here in the northeastern US, the trees have bedecked themselves in all their colored finery and the birds are on the move – some south to warmer climes, some settling in for the duration, checking out all the local bird feeders in order to select the best place to spend the winter 🙂

It’s a great time to enjoy today’s debut picture book!

Bird Count by Susan Edwards Richmond
illustrated by Stephanie Fizer Coleman
Peachtree Publishing Company, Inc.
October 1, 2019
Fiction PB
Ages 4 to 8

Bird Count_cover

Ava is excited when Big Al, the leader of their Christmas Bird Count team, asks her to record the tally this year. Using her most important tools—her eyes and ears—she eagerly identifies and counts the birds they observe on their assigned route around town.

 

SUSANNA:  Welcome, Susan!  Thank you so much for joining us today!  We’re so looking forward to all you have to share about your publication journey!  Where did the idea for this book come from?

SUSAN: Bird Count is based on the National Audubon Society’s annual bird census called the Christmas Bird Count (CBC). After being part of my town’s CBC for years, it occurred to me what a wonderful citizen science topic it would be for children, since there’s no age limit for participation. My original idea for the book was as a kind of seek-and-find, with more emphasis on counting than on birdwatching concepts.

 

Susan Edwards Richmond_birding with scope

 

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

SUSAN: I brought several drafts to my critique group over the course of a few months before feeling it was ready to send out. One of my early versions included parts of a poem I’d written about the count well before sitting down to write it as a picture book. So if you count those notes, the initial writing process took a couple of years.

 

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

SUSAN: As my critique group suggested, I paginated the final draft and crafted it until I was happy with the content of each spread. Then I polished the text, a couplet on each spread.  When my critique group didn’t have any more suggestions I felt I could use, I was ready!

 

SUSANNA: When and how did you submit?

SUSAN: I didn’t have an agent, so I selected two editors from houses I knew did great picture books on science topics, Charlesbridge and Peachtree Publishing Company. I had met the Charlesbridge editor at a conference, but an author in my critique group, Melissa Stewart, suggested I try her editor, Vicky Holified, at Peachtree. Because it was a picture book, I mailed off the complete manuscript.

 

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

SUSAN: Vicky, the editor at Peachtree, initially liked the book idea but rejected the manuscript. Still, she wanted to work with me. After three complete rewrites over the course of a year without an offer, I wasn’t sure I could keep going. My critique group saved me!  I brought in the email with my editors’ latest round of extensive comments, and they walked me through each point, helping me see how I could address her concerns.

I was waiting to hear the results of Bird Count’s second round of acquisition meetings, when Vicky wrote that she’d like to address a few more questions over the phone. After that call, I waited again. Finally, days later, I heard from the vice president that a contract was in the works. I was so grateful I’d persevered I was in tears. I have my critique group to thank, and my editor, who believed in the book so much that she spent a whole year working with me without knowing if it would ever be published.

 

SUSANNA: How did you celebrate signing your contract?

SUSAN: Bottle of champagne—toasts all around!

 

talkin birds

Talkin’ Birds

 

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

SUSAN: Since this was my first book, and I didn’t have an agent, I didn’t know what to expect and felt pretty much on my own. I was so happy to be published, and I didn’t know what was normal!  I had a friend who was a lawyer look it over, and then signed. Later I found out that the advance, author copies, and rights were typical for a picture book for this house. I received 15 author copies and had my advance paid in three installments—at signing, at the point the book was sent to production, and on publication date.

 

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

SUSAN: As I mentioned earlier, there were heavy rounds of revision before the contract. My editor had a strong vision for the book, and I’m now grateful for all the hard work we did together. I had envisioned it as a much simpler counting book, featuring birds in a variety of habitats. But Vicky was intrigued by the mechanics of the count itself and wanted to highlight all my birding knowledge. It seemed like a lot of information to put into one picture book. But we did it—and it works!

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

SUSAN: My original manuscript included just a few art notes—only where I thought the spread wouldn’t make sense without it. I’ve learned that you can almost always get rid of an art note. The illustrator has so many original ideas to contribute and usually does “get” the irony or subtlety in your text, and will probably come up with something way more interesting than you imagined!

I was lucky that my editor included me in the process from the beginning, asking me for ideas about illustrator and illustration style, and later providing time for me to review sketches as well as full color illustrations. Because the book had a lot of science content, she wanted to be sure I felt the birds and habitats were portrayed accurately. Fortunately, my illustrator Stephanie Fizer Coleman, is also passionate and knowledgeable about birds!

BirdCountArtTease1

illustration copyright Stephanie Fizer Coleman 2019

 

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

SUSAN: I have a publicist at Peachtree, Elyse Vincenty, and she’s wonderful. Peachtree mails out dozens of advance copies to reviewers, bloggers, and influencers. She forwarded the Kirkus Review to me as soon as it came out. I’ve also seen advance reviews on Goodreads and on a few blog sites. It felt amazing to read so many positive reviews!

 

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

SUSAN: It was accepted for publication in fall of 2015, and I received my first advance copy in April of this year. So three and a half years! Four between offer and release date.

 

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

SUSAN: I’m lucky that Peachtree does a lot of promotion for its books—which doesn’t mean you don’t have to do a lot of your own as well. But my publicist, Elyse, sends out review copies, communicates with the sales force about unique markets (for example, nature centers and bird stores), facilitates book placement at conferences, and helps authors carry out their marketing ideas.  Peachtree chose Bird Count’s cover as the cover image for their Fall catalog, which was incredible, and it has a two-page spread inside. They also do a great job presenting books on their website, including publishing a Teacher’s Guide for which I wrote the text, posting author bios, and linking to author websites.

 

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

SUSAN: No matter who your publisher is, expect to do a lot of marketing! The first thing I did was join Twitter; the second was join an author debut group—since this was my first children’s book—called On the Scene in 2019. The larger your community, the larger your promotional voice will carry.

In addition, my husband produced a book trailer for Bird Count, which Elyse arranged to have released by the Nerdy Book Club. You can see it there at https://nerdybookclub.wordpress.com/2019/08/31/book-trailer-premiere-bird-count-by-susan-edwards-richmond/ or on my website. I had two sets of bookmarks, and a postcard designed and printed. I also developed a list of markets which I thought might sell my book, and got creative about expanding it. It’s not my job to sell to stores, but when a manager expresses interest, I give the information to my publicist, and she has a sales rep contact them. I also set up most of my own author appearances, including the launch, signings, story times, etc., although Peachtree arranged for me to sign at the NEIBA Discovery Show in Providence, RI, during my book release week, which was very exciting.

 

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

SUSAN: Honestly, it was more than 15 years. Although I became even more focused in the past 6 or 7.

 

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

SUSAN: My path to children’s book publication was longer than most, I think. Could I have gotten there faster? Maybe, but you also have to embrace your own journey. I raised a family and developed a local poetry following in the interim, as well as found my dream job—teaching at a Mass Audubon preschool.

All of my experiences led me to where I am today, with my first children’s book out from a fantastic house, represented by an amazing agent, Stephen Fraser at Jennifer de Chiara Literary Agency, and surrounded by a wonderful, generous writing community.  Doesn’t get any better than that.

Thank you so much, Susanna, for interviewing me about my publication story!  It’s been wonderful speaking with you.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Author Susan Richmond

Website: www.susanedwardsrichmond.com
Twitter:  @SusanEdRichmond
Facebook:  Susan Edwards Richmond
Link at Peachtree online: https://peachtree-online.com/portfolio-items/bird-count/

SUSANNA: Thank YOU so much for taking the time to visit with us today, share your experience, and participate in this series and paying it forward to other writers!  I know I speak for everyone when I say how much we appreciate it and that we all wish you the very best of success with this and future books!

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

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

Indiebound
Amazon
Barnes&Noble

We can help our debut authors successfully launch their careers by:

– purchasing their books

– recommending their books to friends and family

– recommending their books to our children’s teachers and librarians

– recommending their books to our local libraries and bookstores

– suggesting them as visiting authors at our children’s schools and our local libraries

– sharing their books on social media

– reviewing their books on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes&Noble, and other sites where people go to learn about books.

Thank you all for stopping by to read today!  Have a lovely, inspiration-filled Tuesday!  Maybe today is the day you’ll write your debut picture book 🙂

Missed any previous Tuesday Debuts?  Check them out!

Christy Mihaly – Hey! Hey! Hay! A Tale of Bales And The Machines That Make Them

Jessie Oliveros – The Remember Balloons

Beth Anderson – An Inconvenient Alphabet: Ben Franklin And Noah Webster’s Spelling Revolution

Hannah Holt – The Diamond And The Boy

Laura Renauld – Porcupine’s Pie

Annie Romano – Before You Sleep: A Bedtime Book Of Gratitude

Melissa Stoller – Scarlet’s Magic Paintbrush

Sherry Howard – Rock And Roll Woods

Kate Narita – 100 Bugs! A Counting Book

Vivian Kirkfield – Pippa’s Passover Plate

Laura Roettiger – Aliana Reaches For The Moon

Matthew Lasley – Pedro’s Pan: A Gold Rush Story

Natalee Creech – When Day Is Done

Margaret Chiu Greanias – Maximillian Villainous

Wendy Greenley – Lola Shapes The Sky

Danielle Dufayet – You Are Your Strong

B.J. Lee – There Was An Old Gator Who Swallowed A Moth

Cathy Ballou Mealey – When A Tree Grows

Pippa Chorley – Counting Sheep

Sandra Sutter – The Real Farmer In The Dell

June Smalls – Odd Animals ABC

Jill Mangel Weisfeld – Riley The Retriever Wants A New Job

Kathleen Cornell Berman – The Birth Of Cool: How Jazz Great Miles Davis Found His Sound

Eleanor Ann Peterson – Jurassic Rat

Sarah Hoppe – Who Will? Will You?

Marla LeSage – Pirate Year Round

Stacey Corrigan – The Pencil Eater

Shannon Stocker – Can U Save The Day?

Nadine Poper – Randall And Randall

Christine Evans – Evelyn The Adventurous Entomologist

Karen Kiefer – Drawing God

 

Tuesday Debut – Presenting Karen Kiefer!

Hello, Everyone!

Welcome to Tuesday Debut!

One of the things I love about Tuesday Debut is what a wide variety of picture books we get to see – fiction and nonfiction, poetry and prose, subjects that range from hay-making machines, to reaching for the moon, friendship, loneliness, lullaby bedtime books, clouds, and bugs.

Today we have a debut topic – a gentle, thoughtful book about a little girl who attempts to draw God.

Drawing God
written by Karen Kiefer
illustrated by Kathy De Wit
Paraclete Press
religious fiction, ages 5 and up
October 8, 2019

Karen1

Picasso’s artistic inspiration takes hold of young Emma’s faith imagination in this beautifully illustrated debut picture book about how we all see God differently.

 

SUSANNA: Thank you so much for joining us today, Karen!  We’re thrilled to have you!  Where did the idea for this book come from?

KAREN: It was an ordinary run to the grocery store, or so I thought. There I was, standing next to a mound of stacked peppers in the produce section when I overheard two little kids, a whisper away, talking to each other. “My mother said you shouldn’t talk about God at school, because it makes people feel uncomfortable,” said the young voice to the other. I stood still, shaking my head, as I uttered, “Oh— no,” under my breath. Needless to say, I felt uncomfortable.

For the next several weeks, that conversation would not leave my mind or heart. In a world propelled by wonder, invention and advanced communication, could “God talk” eventually become extinct?  It seemed to be an astonishing possibility. All I could do was pray about it, asking God to intervene. Then on a quiet Sunday morning, out of the blue, I began to write the children’s story, “Drawing God.”

 

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

KAREN: The process was pretty fluid, one sitting, about 2 hours THAT HAS NEVER HAPPENED TO ME. Writing is usually such a challenging and complicated process.

I sat in my bed with my laptop and started typing away.

I began to write a story about a little girl named Emma, who visits an art museum and is so inspired by the works of Pablo Picasso that she decides that she is going to draw something “beyond spectacular.” Emma decides to draw God.

I remember tapping on my keyboard, just waiting to see what might happen next. I began typing…

Emma escapes to the comfort of her bedroom and draws a brilliant sun. “It was so dazzling and radiant my cheeks throbbed. Its rays were so long they poked at my heart.” Emma knew she had drawn God. The next day, Emma takes her drawing to school to show her best friend Peter. But Peter looked at Emma and said, “ Emma, that’ s not God, that’s the sun.”

Emma tries again and again to draw God, but her classmates can’t see God in any of her drawings. They actually find her attempts laughable.

Emma finally realizes, through a prayer answered, that she doesn’t need their approval.  “I knew I had drawn God. God knew I had drawn God, and maybe Picasso knew, too. That finally felt like enough.”

The story stopped there. But I remember feeling that urge to keep writing, because this wasn’t the end of the story.

Emma eventually returns to school on the following Monday, and something beyond spectacular happens. I won’t spoil the ending of the book, but when I finished writing, it was clear that if this story were ever published it might get more children and adults talking about and drawing God.

 

SUSANNA: Did you go through many revisions?

KAREN: I polished it up here and there over the course of the next couple of weeks. I had heard that there are successful authors that actually review manuscripts for a modest fee. I Googled around and came across Susanna Hill. It took a lot of courage to write the email to her and press send. Susanna was amazing, not only did she get back to me quickly, she offered me some minor edits and was so encouraging. She thought I had a book but now just had to find a publisher. My interaction with Susanna gave me the confidence I needed at a time when you are always second guessing the value of the work.

 

SUSANNA: It was a privilege to read your story, Karen, and I’m glad if I was able to help you find the courage to submit! 🙂  When did you know your manuscript was ready for submission?

KAREN: I felt comfortable that the manuscript was ready for submission shortly after my interactions with Susanna. I was literally Googling how to write a submission letter.

I knew nothing.

 

SUSANNA: When and how did you submit?

KAREN: Professionally, I’m the director of the Church in the 21st Century Center at Boston College. My job offers me many opportunities to form relationships with other professionals in the faith marketplace. I knew the editor of Paraclete Press and so I decided to start there. I sent him an email asking if he might be interested in looking at my manuscript. He responded, pretty quickly I might add, asking me to send it along.

I submitted it right away. I heard back within a few hours and he was very positive. He mentioned that he wanted to share it with a few other people to see what they thought.

About a week later, he mentioned that they were planning an emergency editorial meeting in the next week to review a few new manuscripts and mine was one. I was both excited and scared. That’s when self-doubt settles in. I wondered if it was good enough?

 

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

KAREN: A week later I got the call, it was unanimous, they wanted to publish the manuscript.

I was so excited. They didn’t want to make any changes to the story and wanted to keep the title, “Drawing God.”  However, they did want me to write a teaching guide, 1000 words or so, that they would add to the back of the book.

 

SUSANNA: How did you celebrate signing your contract?

KAREN: It was all so surreal. I didn’t really celebrate because it still didn’t feel real.

 

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

KAREN: Had no idea what to expect. The contract seemed very fair. I wasn’t going to be making a lot of money and I would be paid in 3 installments. I was fine with that.

 

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

KAREN: The editorial process was smooth. The editor shared my vision for the book right from the start. I was so lucky.

 

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

KAREN: Again, I was very fortunate during this process too. I didn’t want to overstep, but I asked if I could recommend an illustrator. The editor assured me that they already had a group of great illustrators. I respectfully asked if I could send some samples from the illustrator who illustrated my first self-published children book, “The Misfit Sock” back in 2010.

I mentioned that we work well together. I also had to let him know that she lives in Belgium. He was very open, knowing that he believed we could TOGETHER make the book better. He reached out to Kathy De Wit and negotiated the partnership and sent her a contract. Kathy and I worked together throughout the process.

Regarding illustration notes, I did submit them in detail to the editor and he reviewed them, made a few changes and sent them to Kathy. The three of us worked together closely throughout the process. The editor kept things on track.

Here’s a sample of a sketch and a finished illustration.

Karen3

Karen2

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

KAREN: Seeing the reviews and features has been so exciting. The publishers has been wonderful about sharing every milestone with me along the way. Was reviewed by Kirkus and featured in Publisher’s Weekly. That’s hard to do for a children’s picture book.

 

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

KAREN: The process was about a year and a half. When I first saw the book, I couldn’t get over how beautiful it was. That was another surreal moment.

 

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

KAREN: The book just came out today, but I’m happy to say it is the #1 release in its category on Amazon.

 

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

KAREN: Paraclete Press has been WONDERFUL. They have put the entire sales team behind this book. They have done a lot of social media, produce a beautiful book trailer, helped with flyers.

 

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

KAREN: We had journals printed up, bookmarks, lots of different flyers, events, fun promotional giveaways. Had a big book launch.

 

 

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

KAREN: NOT SURE??

 

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

KAREN: TODAY, Tuesday, October 8, 2019, the children’s picture book, “Drawing God” will be released into the world. May it be a catalyst for more God talk and inspire children and adults of all faiths to connect their very own faith imagination, to realize the contagious faith that lives powerfully within and to embrace the truth that we all see God differently.

The release of the book will be followed by the celebration of the first World Drawing God Day, on November 7th.  This day will be a chance for our world to “draw” God, whatever that might look like, using the hashtag: #drawinggod.

Today I am reminded of the words of a friend who said that books can’t necessarily change the world, but the people who read them can. To future readers of “Drawing God,” my hope is that this book will make you a little more comfortable, knowing that there will be a little more God talk in our world because of you.

For more information, visit: www.drawing-god.com

Karen4

Karen Kiefer is the director the Church in the 21st Century Center at Boston College and has worked at the university in various roles collectively for over two decades. A mother of four daughters, Kiefer has taught religious education at the parish level for 25 years. She is the co-founder of the grassroots bread-giving organization, Spread the Bread, and the anti-bullying initiative, the Million Misfit Sock March. Kiefer wrote “The Misfit Sock” children’s book in 2010 and is the author of the new children’s book, “Drawing God,” published by Paraclete Press. This latest book has inspired World Drawing God Day on November 7, 2019.

(www.drawing-god.com)
Drawing God on Facebook
Drawing God on Instagram – @drawingg0d (the “o” in God is the number zero)

SUSANNA: Such an exciting day, Karen!  There’s nothing like seeing your first book in print, especially if it’s #1 in its category on Amazon!  Thank you so much for taking the time to talk with us today and share your experience so that we can all benefit from it!  I know I speak for everyone when I wish you the very best with this and future books!

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

You may purchase Karen’s book at:
(all links below are book-specific)
Amazon
Paraclete Press

 

We can help our debut authors successfully launch their careers by:

– purchasing their books

– recommending their books to friends and family

– recommending their books to our children’s teachers and librarians

– recommending their books to our local libraries and bookstores

– suggesting them as visiting authors at our children’s schools and our local libraries

– sharing their books on social media

– reviewing their books on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes&Noble, and other sites where people go to learn about books.

Thank you all for stopping by to read today!  Have a lovely, inspiration-filled Tuesday!  Maybe today is the day you’ll write your debut picture book 🙂

 

Missed any previous Tuesday Debuts?  Check them out!

Christy Mihaly – Hey! Hey! Hay! A Tale of Bales And The Machines That Make Them

Jessie Oliveros – The Remember Balloons

Beth Anderson – An Inconvenient Alphabet: Ben Franklin And Noah Webster’s Spelling Revolution

Hannah Holt – The Diamond And The Boy

Laura Renauld – Porcupine’s Pie

Annie Romano – Before You Sleep: A Bedtime Book Of Gratitude

Melissa Stoller – Scarlet’s Magic Paintbrush

Sherry Howard – Rock And Roll Woods

Kate Narita – 100 Bugs! A Counting Book

Vivian Kirkfield – Pippa’s Passover Plate

Laura Roettiger – Aliana Reaches For The Moon

Matthew Lasley – Pedro’s Pan: A Gold Rush Story

Natalee Creech – When Day Is Done

Margaret Chiu Greanias – Maximillian Villainous

Wendy Greenley – Lola Shapes The Sky

Danielle Dufayet – You Are Your Strong

B.J. Lee – There Was An Old Gator Who Swallowed A Moth

Cathy Ballou Mealey – When A Tree Grows

Pippa Chorley – Counting Sheep

Sandra Sutter – The Real Farmer In The Dell

June Smalls – Odd Animals ABC

Jill Mangel Weisfeld – Riley The Retriever Wants A New Job

Kathleen Cornell Berman – The Birth Of Cool: How Jazz Great Miles Davis Found His Sound

Eleanor Ann Peterson – Jurassic Rat

Sarah Hoppe – Who Will? Will You?

Marla LeSage – Pirate Year Round

Stacey Corrigan – The Pencil Eater

Shannon Stocker – Can U Save The Day?

Nadine Poper – Randall And Randall

Christine Evans – Evelyn The Adventurous Entomologist