It’s Tuesday, everyone!
And that means it’s time for another Tuesday Debut Treat!
I’m so excited to introduce you to Sandra Sutter and her fabulous debut picture book, The Read Farmer In The Dell!
THE REAL FARMER IN THE DELL
Author: Sandra Sutter
Illustrators: Chantelle Thorne and Burgen Thorne
Publishing House: Clear Fork Publishing (Spork, imprint)
Date of Pub.: March 19, 2019
Ages 4 to 8
Synopsis: Everyone knows the song, The Farmer in the Dell, but no one knows the REAL story. Find out the truth from a little mouse who was actually there. Prepare for a modern twist that turns the original stereotypes upside down and empowers girls and boys to imagine new possibilities. Filled with humor and fun retro-rodeo illustrations, this book is sure to surprise you to the very end.
SUSANNA: Welcome, Sandra! Thank you so much for joining us today! Where did the idea for this book come from?
SANDRA: It started with an innocent question from my son (4 years-old at the time) about whether I knew the farmer had taken a wife in the familiar childhood song. Of course I did, but I realized it was all new to him and there was an opportunity to change it up, to take out the default gender bias and modernize it a bit. So, I did.
The basic structure was easy to put in place since the song already had structure. I studied the most common versions and then inserted my ideas for the original lines. I was careful to match the meter and flow of the song and used repetition as much as possible. However, I had one major flaw in that first draft: there wasn’t a specific narrator. He came later, after I let the manuscript sit for a month or two. When he appeared, it was pretty much done.
SUSANNA: How long did it take you to write this book?
SANDRA: The first draft was finished within a day or two. I played around with ways to tell the story that first month but nothing felt right so I put it away. Once I figured out the missing piece – the narrator – I was able to finish it up rather quickly. Altogether I tweaked it about seven times.
SUSANNA: Did you go through many revisions?
SANDRA: Since I touched on that above, I won’t expand on it here. But yes, there were a few.
SUSANNA: When did you know your manuscript was ready for submission?
SANDRA: This is the part where everyone gets to laugh because I never got it ready for submission. Read on to find out why.
SUSANNA: When and how did you submit?
SANDRA: This is my serendipitous story. (By the way, I love the word serendipity.)
I quit my full-time job in February 2017 after attending the SCBWI Winter Conference at the suggestion of my very supportive spouse. I soon realized I needed help, both with how to write for kids and also in getting people to critique my work. My poor husband and sister read almost every one of my first stories, this one included.
I researched online classes and settled on the Children’s Book Academy’s Picture Book writing course. I did not get a book contract in that class but I did learn a lot and started to develop my craft. It also gave me those important first connections to other members of the writing community.
It was during a second class – the CBA Illustration course – that I “submitted” this story. I’m not an illustrator but I thought the course would teach me how to think more like one and to figure out the “show, don’t tell” principle. I had signed up for a critique with the instructor, Dr. Mira Reisberg, who asked that I send thumbnail sketches for one of my stories. Mira is an editor and art director at Clear Fork Publishing, and when she read the story she loved it. She asked to share it with her publisher, and so my “submission” went out.
SUSANNA: When did you get “the call”? (Best moment ever! 😊)
SANDRA: I got the final call about two months later, just before Christmas. There were a few minor edits, but I was agreeable and the deal was done.
SUSANNA: How did you celebrate signing your contract?
SANDRA: I didn’t do anything special. It was a great feeling, but I also knew it was just the beginning of a wonderful road ahead. I looked forward to the journey more than the physical act of signing a contract.
SUSANNA: Was the contract what you expected in terms of advance, royalty percentage, publication timeline, author copies etc.?
SANDRA: There weren’t any surprises. I understood going in that smaller presses work on smaller budgets and less resources, but there were positive trade-offs and an almost immediate start on editing and illustrations.
SUSANNA: What can you tell us about the editorial process?
SANDRA: I think I mentioned earlier that there were very few edits. There was one initial edit I didn’t love but was willing to accept; however, it was edited again in a way that fit squarely with my vision. By the time I signed the contract, the edits were done.
SUSANNA: What was your experience of the illustration process?
SANDRA: This has been one of the most enjoyable parts of working with my publisher. I was involved right away, including selection of the illustrators and seeing the initial sketches. Mira, who is both an editor and art director, did a great job of lining up illustrators with a similar vision and working with us together throughout the process so that we were all informed and on board. I was consulted regularly and if I had any concerns or requests, they were addressed right away. Chantelle and Burgen Thorne are an illustration dream team and I am eager to work with them again (which I am, so stay tuned for more information on that later this year)!
Also, there were no art notes. I like art notes when they are necessary to the story, but generally tend to trust the illustrator to “get it.” That was something the illustration course helped me to understand better.
SUSANNA: Did you get to see advance reviews from Kirkus, SLJ, etc? What was that like?
SANDRA: No, but again, with a smaller press things run on a different timeline.
SUSANNA: How long did it take from offer to having the first copy in your hand?
SANDRA: It took under a year and a half which feels like lightning speed in the picture book making world. I credit my editor and publisher with being task-masters, keeping it all flowing along a reasonable timeline. Also, the illustrators, Chantelle and Burgen Thorne, worked diligently to have it all come together seamlessly.
SUSANNA: If your book has been out for at least one statement cycle, has it earned out yet?
SANDRA: It has not been out that long.
SUSANNA: What kind of marketing and promotion has your publisher done for this book?
SANDRA: Again, a smaller publisher won’t have as many resources to devote to marketing as a larger one. However, my publisher, editor, the illustrators, and I have worked together on promotions, giveaways, and sharing information about the book.
SUSANNA: Describe any marketing/promotion you did for this book.
SANDRA: I didn’t make a book trailer or send out flyers, but I did generate a “buzz” by slowly introducing the book and its upcoming debut on social media sites and locally with friends, school teachers, and other parents at my kids’ schools. I also joined debut author groups like New in ’19 and Book Blastoff to assist each other with marketing and promotion of our books.
Chantelle and Burgen made some wonderful coloring pages that can be downloaded from the Clear Fork Publishing website and I got busy ordering book “swag” (stickers, pencils, tattoos, etc.) for school visits. Fortunately, I have young kids and am on the board of one of their former preschools, so there was a network of schools and daycares ready to share the news.
I haven’t set up a formal “blog tour” but have worked with other members of the Kidlit community who have blogs (like you!) to arrange for interviews or guest posts, particularly in these first few months after publication. I see marketing as a slow, steady race rather than a short sprint.
SUSANNA: How long was it between the time you started writing seriously and the time you sold your first picture book?
SANDRA: I started writing a few things in 2013, but I had a new baby and was working full-time as an attorney so my attention was pulled elsewhere. After my second child was born I started to feel more serious about writing and completed a few stories. I even submitted to a couple of agents, but I laugh when I think about the high word counts and lack of plot development. In 2017, I was in a place to get serious and pursue writing full-time. By the end of that year I had my first contract!
SUSANNA: Anything else you’d like to share about your book’s journey from inspiration to publication?
SANDRA: I want to thank you for having me on your blog today and for supporting this wonderful book made possible by my publisher at Clear Fork Publishing, Callie Metler-Smith, my editor and art director, Mira Reisberg, and illustrators Chantelle and Burgen Thorne. It truly has been a group effort in bringing The Real Farmer in the Dell to life. I have enjoyed the journey as much as I love the finished product!
SUSANNA: Sandra, thank you so much for taking the time to participate in this series and paying it forward to other writers! We all so appreciate you sharing your experience with us, and we wish you all the best with this and future books!
THE REAL FARMER IN THE DELL is Sandra’s debut picture book. A second, STAN’S FRIGHTFULLY CLUMSY HALLOWEEN, is set to arrive later this year. Both books are with Spork, an imprint of Clear Fork Publishing.
Readers, if you have questions for Sandra, please post them in the comments below and if she has time I’m sure she’ll respond!
You may purchase Sandra’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!