Hello, everyone, and welcome to today’s edition of Tuesday Debut!
Today’s debut-ess, Katie Mazeika, is both author and illustrator, so she knows both halves of the picture book publication journey. Let’s have a look at her fascinating book, ANNETTE FEELS FREE: THE TRUE STORY OF ANNETTE KELLERMAN, WORLD-CLASS SWIMMER, FASHION PIONEER, AND REAL-LIFE MERMAID, and hear about how it got from idea to bookstore shelf!
ANNETTE FEELS FREE: THE TRUE STORY OF ANNETTE KELLERMAN, WORLD-CLASS SWIMMER, FASHION PIONEER, AND REAL-LIFE MERMAID
by Katie Mazeika (author and illustrator)
S&S/Beach Lane Books, Sept. 13/2022
Nonfiction PB Biography, ages 4-8
SUSANNA: Thank you so much for joining us today, Katie! It’s always a treat to have an author/illustrator because we get to learn about both sides of the picture book writing process. Where did the inspiration for this book come from?
KATIE: I did an illustration of Annette Kellerman in 2017 as portfolio piece. At the time I read a little bit about her, and found her story intriguing. I think I related to Annette’s disability, having lost my eye as a toddler, and so I continued researching her.
The words and images came together for ANNETTE FEELS FREE (and with my current picture book biography). Once I began researching Annette, as an illustrator, I couldn’t help but visualize her story. Certain events stood out to me, and I knew I wanted to illustrate them for the book. For example, Annette swimming in the Melbourne Aquarium as a teen (the first spread of the book) and the confrontation between Annette and the police officer on the beach.
SUSANNA: How long did it take you to write/illustrate this book?
KATIE: To get to the first polished dummy was probably 9 moths. But it was in spare time between other illustration projects. Once we sold ANNETTE and I could focus on it full time I finished the art in about 3 months.
SUSANNA: Did you go through many revisions?
KATIE: I did one giant overhaul of the dummy. After some feedback I made some major stylistic changes. Once ANNETTE sold my editor and I spent time going through the text and removing anything unnecessary or expanding where it was needed. And after the final art was turned it we did the same-fine tuning the images to make sure they read clearly and there was plenty of room for text.
SUSANNA: When and how did you submit?
KATIE: I am represented by the wonderful Sorche Fairbank at Fairbank Literary Representation. She helped me with putting together a proposal and then she submitted that, with the text and dummy to a list of editors she thought might be interested.
SUSANNA: When did you get “the call”, which these days is more likely to be “the email”? (Best moment ever! 😊)
KATIE: It was right before my birthday. I got a text from Sorche that said “call me!!” with a line of swimmer emojis. When I called her I learned that Allyn Johnston at Beach Lane wanted to acquire ANNETTE.
ANNETTE went out just after Covid hit. No one was in the office, then everyone was working from home but there were questions if publishers were acquiring. So I was unsure of what to expect.
SUSANNA: How long was it between getting your offer and getting your contract to sign?
KATIE: It was a long time between the offer and contract (4-5 months)-which I understand is typical but Covid didn’t help.
SUSANNA: How did you celebrate signing your contract?
KATIE: A special dinner with my family.
SUSANNA: Many of us are authors, so we understand the concept of text revision, but can you give us an example of how you go about making editorial illustration changes?
KATIE: These are “before” and “after” versions of the same spread:
The first image is a scene I did for my first dummy for ANNETTE FEELS FREE. It was one of the 3 final spreads in the dummy. I posted this spread on Twitter in April 2019 with a pitch for DVpit. That was how my agent found me. With her insights, I strengthened the text, and then I decided to redo the artwork. My style evolved, but the composition didn’t change much. Notice the brighter color scheme in the second image. It’s much more engaging and kid-friendly. Sometimes there is a germ of a good idea in a weak piece of art or writing, and fresh eyes can make all the difference, whether it’s somebody else’s or your own, after a period away. You can see that difference here:
Here are a few other images from the book:
SUSANNA: Did you get to see advance reviews from Kirkus, SLJ, etc? What was that like?
KATIE: My first review was from Kirkus. I was a little nervous because I had heard Kirkus can be tough in reviews, They called ANNETTE “Swim-pressive”. Then I learned that ANNETTE was a Jr Library Guild Gold Standard Selection. That was a very gratifying. It also means kids everywhere will read about Annette. So I was all smiles when I got that news.
SUSANNA: How long did it take from offer to having the first copy in your hand?
KATIE: It took about 18 before I had a copy the final digital book-all put together as a PDF. It was another 3-4 months before I received my first print copy.
SUSANNA: How long was it between the time you started illustrating seriously and the time you sold your first picture book?
KATIE: I guess about 7-8 years from when I was able to focus on illustrating seriously to getting my first book published as an author/illustrator. I had several books previously as an illustrator.
SUSANNA: What is the most important/helpful thing you learned on your way to publication? (Or what is your most helpful piece of advice for up and coming artists?)
KATIE: Read the deals in PW Bookshelf. Look up the illustrators in those deals. Ask yourself what is in their portfolios that you are missing in your own.
SUSANNA: Very helpful! Thank you so much for taking the time to participate in this series and paying it forward to other writers, Katie! We wish you all the best of luck with this and future titles!
Readers, if you have questions for Katie, please post them in the comments below and if she has time I’m sure she’ll respond!
You may purchase Katie’s book at:
(all links below are book-specific)
We can help our debut authors successfully launch their careers by:
– purchasing their books
– recommending their books to friends and family
– recommending their books to our children’s teachers and librarians
– recommending their books to our local libraries and bookstores
– suggesting them as visiting authors at our children’s schools and our local libraries
– sharing their books on social media
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!
Karen Kiefer – Drawing God (religious market)
Theresa Kiser – A Little Catholic’s Book Of Liturgical Colors (religious market)
Lindsey Hobson – Blossom’s Wish (self pub)
Julie Rowan-Zoch – Louis (picture book illustration debut!)
Gnome Road Publishing (publishing house debut)
Julie Rowan-Zoch – I’m A Hare So There (author/illustrator debut)
Nancy Derey Riley – Curiosity’s Discovery (author/illustrator self-published debut)
Kate Allen Fox – Pando: A Living Wonder Of Trees (nonfiction)
Rebecca Mullin – One Tomato (board book)
Cynthia Argentine – Night Becomes Day: Changes In Nature (illustrated with photographs)
Anne Appert – Blob (author/illustrator)
Karen Condit – Turtle On The Track (hybrid publishing)
Renee LaTulippe – The Crab Ballet (picture book poem)
Amy Duchene – Pool Party (collaboration/co-writing)