Welcome to this week’s edition of Tuesday Debut!
Today, we get to learn all kinds of helpful things from Carrie Sharkey Asner, who has a lot to tell us about the self-publishing route to publishing a picture book.
Let’s jump right in, shall we? 😊
Blueberry Blue Bubbles
written by Carrie Sharkey Asner
illustrated by Marcin Piwowarski
October 18, 2022, fiction, ages 4-8
SUSANNA: Where did the idea for this book come from?
CARRIE: I realized I didn’t know much about picture books, so I took a lot of courses (including Making Picture Book Magic) and read many books. One repeating concept was to use strong verbs/nouns and not use many adjectives or adverbs. I thought, “I’ll show them” and ended up with a book with an increasing list of “B” words to describe a growing bubble. I would suggest trying out different things to see what works best for you and the book.
SUSANNA: How long did it take you to write this book?
CARRIE: It took me about 10 months from thought to self-publishing. I have a folder for each potential book idea and then add to them as I think of additional information. Many folders just have a sentence or two. Then I write a really rough draft and put it up for a few weeks. I revise it and put it back for another few weeks. Then I repeat it several times. Taking breaks seems to work the best for me. I also shared it with 3 critique groups and 2 editors and made changes after their input.
SUSANNA: When did you know your manuscript was ready for publication?
CARRIE: After the 3 critique groups, I had a critique/developmental edit and then a more in-depth edit with one editor and then I worked with an editor in our self-publishing class for the final edit.
Once the illustrations were back, I read the story to a 4-year-old. The book has a repeating line “I want it bigger.” After a couple of times, she was saying it with me and by the end, she was almost shouting it. Then she said my new favorite word – “Again!”. We read it 6 times. That encounter really helped me think it was ready to go.
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?
CARRIE: I have several friends who have self-published and strongly suggested I go that route. I had heard that even if I went the traditional route, I would still be responsible for most of the marketing. I also wanted to pick out my own illustrators. Those are the main reasons for me to self-publish.
SUSANNA: How did you find an illustrator?
CARRIE: I absolutely LOVE my illustrators. I had two books that I sent out at the same time – a fun one and a sweet one. I felt I needed two very different styles of illustrations. Early on, I joined many Facebook author/illustrator groups and I saved any illustrations that I wanted to look at again. I followed illustrators on Instagram and looked through SCBWI and Reedsy and Fiverr illustrators. I spent hours trying to find the ones I thought were the best fit. After reviewing them many times, I decided on one that I found on Instagram and one from Facebook. I contacted them and was thrilled and surprised when they said they could work on my books.
SUSANNA: Did you and the illustrator have a contract of any kind? What types of items did it address?
CARRIE: I wanted to have the rights to the illustrations. So I had a work-for-hire contract for one and the other one also had a Fiverr page which basically has a work-for-hire contract so we worked through Fiverr. We had a time frame set up – one was much faster, and the other would send a new illustration every week. I had them sign a non-disclosure agreement as part of the contract.
I also used a graphic designer to place the text and help with the cover. Everything I read stresses how important the cover is.
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?
CARRIE: One of them was ~$3500 and the other was ~ $1800.
SUSANNA: What was the illustration process like since you were directing it? Any particular challenges? Anything you particularly enjoyed?
CARRIE: I actually gave them a lot of freedom and I am so glad I did. They had a copy of the manuscript and I intentionally put in very few art notes. They came up with ideas that I never would have thought of. They did rough sketches and then we tweaked them from there.
SUSANNA: How did you format your book for publication?
CARRIE: The graphic design team also did the formatting.
SUSANNA: How did you select a printing service?
CARRIE: I followed what many of the self-publishing people I know to do, print-on-demand. Amazon for the eBook and soft cover. (Amazon does not have a hardcover option for lower-page number picture books).
Many also use IngramSpark for the hardcover which can be sold on Amazon and for hard and soft covers for other sellers besides Amazon. I have looked into using an offset printer for better pricing, but I feel I should see how my books sell before ordering the large minimums.
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?)
CARRIE: Right now, it will be print-on-demand. My launch day is October 18 and will be available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.
SUSANNA: Were you able to get your book reviewed by Kirkus, SLJ, Hornbook, Booklist etc?
CARRIE: I’m looking into the review process soon.
SUSANNA: Describe any marketing/promotion you did for this book.
CARRIE: I had a song commissioned for the book from a musician on Fiverr. It was so much fun! I started a website with help from my sister and we have the song plus a few activities to go along with the book. I am planning on adding more educational activities – something that teachers could use along with the book if they wanted. I also started a launch team so hopefully, it will help with reviews. I’ve reached out to other “bubble” picture book authors and hopefully, we can work out a group project for Bubble Week which happens the first week of Spring.
SUSANNA: Anything else you’d like to share about your book’s journey from inspiration to publication?
CARRIE: It is a LOT of work, but it is also really fun. The internet is full of resources that people can use and I would highly recommend critique groups – for both the feedback and the friends that you can make. I am so grateful to my family for their support.
SUSANNA: Thank you so much for taking the time to participate in this series and paying it forward to other writers, Carrie! We so appreciate the opportunity to learn from you! Wishing you all the best with this and future titles!
Readers, if you have questions for Carrie, please post them in the comments below and if she has time I’m sure she’ll respond!
You may purchase Carrie’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)