Tuesday Debut – Presenting Matthew Lasley!

Welcome to another exciting installment of Tuesday Debut!

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

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

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

Ok.  I’m done with excuses 🙂

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Matthew panning for gold in Pedro Creek

 

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…and some gold he panned!

 

 

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

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

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

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

 

SUSANNA: Did you go through many revisions?

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

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

When I did, his story flowed onto the paper.

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

SUSANNA: When and how did you submit?

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

SUSANNA: How did you celebrate signing your contract?

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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illustration copyright Jacob Souva 2019

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

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

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

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

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illustration copyright Jacob Souva 2019

 

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

Not normal under any circumstances!

I believe my first print run is 2500 books.

 

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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Author Matthew Lasley

www.matthewlasley.com

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

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

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

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

Indiebound
Amazon
Barnes&Noble

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

– purchasing their books

– recommending their books to friends and family

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

– recommending their books to our local libraries and bookstores

– sharing their books on social media

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

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

 

Missed any previous Tuesday Debuts?  Check them out!

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

Jessie Oliveros – The Remember Balloons

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

Hannah Holt – The Diamond And The Boy

Laura Renauld – Porcupine’s Pie

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

Melissa Stoller – Scarlet’s Magic Paintbrush

Sherry Howard – Rock And Roll Woods

Kate Narita – 100 Bugs! A Counting Book

Vivian Kirkfield – Pippa’s Passover Plate

Laura Roettiger – Aliana Reaches For The Moon

Tuesday Debut – Presenting Laura Roettiger!

Welcome to another exciting episode of Tuesday Debut!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Full Moon from Laura’s balcony

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

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

 

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

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

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

SUSANNA: When and how did you submit?

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

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Laura’s writing buddy – Charlie 🙂

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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Laura Roettiger and her book! 🙂

https://lauraroettigerbooks.com/

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

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

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

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

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

– purchasing their books

– recommending their books to friends and family

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

– recommending their books to our local libraries and bookstores

– sharing their books on social media

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

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

 

Missed any previous Tuesday Debuts?  Check them out!

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

Jessie Oliveros – The Remember Balloons

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

Hannah Holt – The Diamond And The Boy

Laura Renauld – Porcupine’s Pie

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

Melissa Stoller – Scarlet’s Magic Paintbrush

Sherry Howard – Rock And Roll Woods

Kate Narita – 100 Bugs! A Counting Book

Vivian Kirkfield – Pippa’s Passover Plate

Tuesday Debut – Presenting Vivian Kirkfield!

Welcome back to another exciting episode of Tuesday Debuts, Everyone!

We had a bit of a hiatus there where no one stepped up for the limelight!

But now we’re back and better than ever, starting strong in 2019 with none other than the fabulous Vivian Kirkfield!

I have known Vivian since she first dipped her toe into the world of writing picture books, and it has been such a pleasure to see her grow as a writer to the point where she has 3 picture books coming out this year!  THREE!!! I feel like a proud mama bird watching her little chick take wing and fly 🙂

So, welcome, Vivian!  THRILLED to have you here, sharing your very first published picture book on its very first day in the world!

VIVIAN: Thank you so much, Susanna, for featuring me on your blog today! And how auspicious – as today is Pippa’s birthday since February 5, 2019 is the official launch date of Pippa’s Passover Plate!

Pippa’s Passover Plate
by Vivian Kirkfield
illustrated by Jill Weber
published by Holiday House
February 5, 2019
Fiction, ages 3-7.

cover on amazon

Quiver! Quaver! Shiver! Shake! Cats and snakes and owls make Pippa Mouse cringe and quake. But, when Pippa Mouse can’t find her special Seder plate, she ventures out, questions each one, discovers that friends come in all shapes and sizes, and uncovers the whereabouts of her dish before the sun sets and the Passover holiday starts. A Joyful Tale of Courage and Friendship.

 

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

VIVIAN: When I jumped into kidlitland in 2012, I began participating in challenges like Tara Lazar’s PiBoIdMo. (Picture Book Idea Month which is now called Storystorm and held in January and is a FABULOUS way to connect with the community, get inspired, and generate ideas for the coming year) In 2013, one of her guests was Kar Ben editor Joni Sussman who put out a plea for Jewish holiday picture books. I was thrilled that I’d be able to submit directly to an editor and so I sat down to write a story.

 

 

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

VIVIAN: At that time in my writing career (I had been writing for a bit less than 2 years), I loved to write in rhyme (still do) and so this rhyming pb story about Pippa Mouse flowed from my pen. I usually start my stories in longhand in a composition notebook so I grabbed one and started writing. A picture of a little mouse came into my mind and I saw her hurrying and scurrying to get her house ready for the Passover holiday. But there had to be a problem, right? Our main characters need us to put obstacles in their way. For me, that is the hardest thing to do because in real life, I like to make things smooth for everyone. But I knew that wasn’t going to work for a picture book story. “Throw rocks at your hero,” they tell us. I decided to throw a couple of big rocks at Pippa Mouse…not only couldn’t she find her special Seder plate, but she would have to confront 3 of her natural enemies in order to find it. This story, unlike many others I have written, seemed to flow from my pen and I think I had a rough draft by the end of the day. But it was VERY rough!!!!

 

SUSANNA: Did you go through many revisions?

VIVIAN: Pippa’s Passover Plate went through many revisions. What I usually do is write the rough draft. Then I read it aloud and start revising, smoothing it out. This is especially difficult with a rhyming story because you need the rhythm (meter/beat) and rhyme to be PERFECT. But it also has to tell the story…and often, when you ‘make’ it rhyme, it is not what you really want to say or need to say to move the story forward – but you are using certain words because they rhyme. When I feel my story is where I want it…or as good as I can make it, I give it to a couple of my critique buddies. NOTE ABOUT CRITIQUE BUDDIES: DON’T LEAVE HOME WITHOUT THEM! Just kidding about leaving home, but I am serious about a writer’s need for trusted feedback AND the support and encouragement that critique partners give you. When I get their feedback, I revise again. And then read it aloud again. And sent it to other critique partners.

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

VIVIAN: As a general rule, if my critique buddies say it is ready and it sounds good to my ear and feels good in my heart, I know a manuscript is ready. It still might not be successful (AKA get a book contract)…but we can never make our manuscripts perfect – we have to send them out when they are ‘ready’ which could mean different things to different people. I often record my voice reading it because we hear our voice differently when we are talking from when we are listening to our voice on tape and I often find places that trip me up or that don’t sound quite right and I want to fix those before I submit.

 

SUSANNA: When and how did you submit?

VIVIAN: When I submitted Pippa’s Passover Plate to the Kar Ben editor, I did not have an agent. And I got a lovely personal rejection, but no encouragement to revise and resubmit. I put the story away and continued writing other stories. I got hooked on writing nonfiction picture book biographies and so the Pippa story sat in my drawer till three years later when, in 2017, a friend reminded me that PJ Library had a contest for Jewish picture book stories and I should submit it. I pulled the story out of the drawer and gave it to one of my new local author/illustrator critique buddies to look over. She read it and fell in love with it and asked if she could bring it to her long -time editor in NYC who she was going to have lunch with the next week. “Sure” I told her. “Why not?”

So, I gave it to Jill Weber on a Friday and she said she’d bring it with her when she went to the city.

 

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

VIVIAN: To tell you the truth, I had kind of forgotten about it and late Monday morning I got an email from the editor, telling me she had just read my lovely manuscript and she asked where she should send the contract, to me or to my agent. I WAS SHOCKED! And thrilled, of course. Immediately, I emailed my agent with this subject line:

WE DID IT AND WE WEREN’T EVEN TRYING!

There was only one change the editor asked for…the original title was Pippa’s Pesach Plate – Pesach is the Hebrew word for the holiday and it fit very well with the rhythm/beat of the story. But the editor felt that the English word for the holiday, Passover, would be more widely known/accepted because a story about facing fears and overcoming obstacles and making friends is a story for all children, not just those of the Jewish faith.

SUSANNA: How did you celebrate signing your contract?

VIVIAN: I did a happen dance! Then I emailed my son and daughter. And then I had an email exchange with Jill who was as thrilled as I was!

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

VIVIAN: The contract was a standard one and there were no surprises. I was happy with the terms. But having an agent is helpful because they look over the contract and make sure there aren’t any funny clauses. But even if you have an agent, I urge authors (and illustrators) to educate themselves by checking out the resources on the SCBWI website and other websites. Every publishing house is different, but the ball park figures for advances are approximately (please don’t hold me to this):

Small house: 0 to $3000

Medium house: $3000 to $5000

Large house: $5000 and up

Of course, these numbers are only approximate and from my own experience…many variables can change them (if you have other books with the house and they sold well, if you are a big-name celebrity, if this is your first book, etc.).

 

And the thing of it is, it really doesn’t matter what your advance is. (other than for your own personal vanity or some bill that needs to be paid) In the end, if your book does okay, you will make the same, whether you get a big advance, small advance, or no advance at all. And, if the publisher gives you a big advance and your book doesn’t do well, and it doesn’t earn out what they paid you, they may not be anxious to buy your next book. Whereas, if they give you a smaller advance, but the book does well, you will make the money in royalties (because you don’t get a PENNY until your book earns out…that means, until your book sells enough copies to pay back the publisher for your advance). And, if your book earns out, the publisher will be more willing to buy another book from you.

Here’s a link to an SCBWI FAQ on this: https://www.scbwi.org/online-resources/frequently-asked-questions/

And here’s a link to a wonderful survey author Hannah Holt conducted: https://hannahholt.com/blog/2017/9/25/writing-picture-books-a-look-at-the-number-part-2

 

 

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

VIVIAN: The editorial process for Pippa’s Passover Plate was, as I mentioned, almost non-existent for me. The editor emailed and asked for a word doc of the manuscript. She asked if I minded changing the title. And that was that.

However, that is not how it usually goes. With four other book contracts under my belt (and one of them is a 9-story compilation book), I can attest to the fact that usually, there is a lot more revision that goes on. With Sweet Dreams, Sarah, that editor had several minor tweaks to suggest, plus she wanted an additional line in the ending. Then, when illustrations needed to be changed for historical accuracy, the editor and I decided there should be some minor text changes as well and I completely rewrote the author’s note.

 

Sweet Dreams Cover Template Revised

With Four Otters Toboggan: An Animal Counting Book,the editor had almost no changes in the text of the story, but we had quite a few revisions for the back matter.

four otters cover amazon

With Making Their Voices Heard: The Inspiring Friendship of Ella Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe (Little Bee Books, Spring 2020), the editor and I had an intense back and forth email communication for a week…every day, she would email the manuscript with a minor suggestion and I would fix it and send it back that evening. And the next morning, she’d send it again, with a new little tweak request. But, by the end of the week, we were done and they were ready to hire the illustrator. As I mentioned, every publishing house is different, every editor is different, every manuscript is different…it’s hard to say what the process will be like for a future story.

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

VIVIAN: As I mentioned previously, because each manuscript, house, editor, illustrator is different, what happens with one story is probably never going to happen with another. With Pippa’s Passover Plate, everything was perfect! Because the illustrator was my friend and critique buddy as well as being a fabulous artist and a truly fine person, I never had one moment of unease. I knew that my story was in good hands and Jill shared with me freely the sketches, book dummy, and finished art. It was truly a joy to work with her and with Holiday House.

This is not how it always is…in fact, I can guarantee that this is not how it usually is. Many editors do not want the authors to be collaborating with the illustrators. They fear the author will try to overpower the illustrator with her own vision for the story. And perhaps badger the illustrator and keep the illustrator from moving forward. I’ve been pretty lucky…my experiences with all but one of my books have been incredible.

I do not use art notes, except in rare instances when the text doesn’t spell out the action. That said, I went back to my old manuscript and found that there was one illustration note in the Pippa story:

 

At the bottom – something round.

Can you guess what Pippa found?

Ball and coin and old tin can,

bottle cap and rusty pan,

globe to circumnavigate.

Best of all – the Pesach plate!

Fish swims up with mouse in tow. (illo: Mouse is brought to the surface on the back of the fish)

To the Seder all will go.

SUSANNA: Unfortunately we don’t have the illustration available to go with that note, but here are a couple others so you can see how wonderful the art is! 🙂

Pippa'sPassoverPlate_9x9_Page_05

Pippa'sPassoverPlate_9x9_Page_10

 

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

VIVIAN: We are just getting reviews now. I think reviews are very important for the book…but I also think as writers, we need to observe them and accept them and not let the ones that aren’t positive get under our skin. One review is, after all, only one person’s opinion. 😊The only one I’ve seen for PIPPA, other than almost a dozen lovely ones on Goodreads, was from Kirkus…and it was both disappointing and hilarious and just about the same number of words as the story itself.

A mouse searches for and finally finds her missing Seder plate. Pippa is an industrious house-cleaning mouse. And no wonder—Passover is starting this very evening. Dusting and sweeping finished, she turns her attention to setting the table as a pot of chicken stew bubbles away on the stovetop. But there is one very important object that is missing: the “special Seder plate.” Frantically, the mouse searches through boxes and cupboards and finally ventures into the yard. First she encounters a very large cat and asks if it has seen the plate. “No,” answers the cat and points her to a snake, who sends her to an owl, who directs her to Golda Fish, prettily swimming in the water. Success! Kirkfield’s little tale is written in rhyming couplets with much repetition of “QUIVER! QUAVER! SHIVER! SHAKE!” for emphasis with each interaction with a predator, so readers will be mightily puzzled when the formerly frightful critters join Pippa at the holiday table. Weber’s gouache, crayon, and collage illustrations are sweetly pretty. The final illustration features a Seder plate with transliterated Hebrew and an English translation of the components. Readers familiar with the holiday may find this mildly enjoyable, but others will likely want and need more information. In the end too much is left unanswered, making this book pleasant but only passable. (Picture book. 3-5)

 

Personally, as a former kindergarten and Head Start teacher, I doubt very much that children ages 3 to 5 will find it ‘mightily puzzling’ that a bunch of animals end up being friends. And if I were Jill, I’d be ‘mightily insulted’ that my beautiful art was considered ‘sweetly pretty’…and honestly, I have never seen a fish ‘prettily swimming.” I’m glad the reviewer felt that readers would find it ‘mildly enjoyable’…and in my opinion, the book is more than ‘passable’. And I don’t think there was ‘much repetition’ of the refrain – there were three instances, which, for a picture book, is just about perfect. But this is how this particular reviewer felt and she is entitled to her opinion. Hopefully, the parents who read this story and the children who listen to it will think otherwise.

 

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

VIVIAN: From offer to first copy in hand? Oh, my goodness. This is a wake-up call to many of us. In fact, I just got an email from someone who wanted to hire me for a critique quickly because she wants to have her book published right away so that she can supplement her retirement income this year. Hmmm. That is not how it this publishing business works.

 

The offer was made at the end of 2017.  Jill did an unbelievable job getting illustrations done so a book dummy could be produced for the editor to take to the 2018 Bologna Book Fair which was only 3 months away. And the book was scheduled to launch February 5, 2019 and I got my first author copy by the end of the summer of 2018. But I have yet to get the additional author copies that were part of the contract, although I am sure they will arrive in due course. With traditional publishing, I’d say the fastest turnaround might be 18 months, although with PIPPA, it will be 16 months. But it could be many YEARS, as with Sweet Dreams, Sarah, which was signed at the end of 2015 and is launching May 1, 2019. As I said before, different editors, different publishing houses, different illustrators, different manuscripts. Everything has a bearing on the time it takes to bring a book to life.

 

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

VIVIAN: Holiday House connected with PJ Library, a big organization that provides books for Jewish families. They approved Pippa’s Passover Platewhich means they order a whole bunch (don’t know how many) and they create back matter and their own jacket flap information for their audience. We have a publicist who says she will help set up book events – but I haven’t heard anything about that yet. They are supposed to have sent the book to hundreds of reviewers, including the ones I recommended, as well as newspapers and other news media outlets. They have a presence at many conferences around the world and across this country, as well as catalogs that are hopefully featuring the book.

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

VIVIAN: Fortunately, I’m pretty active on my blog and on social media like Facebook and Twitter. I’ve contacted many book reviewers and bloggers and have arranged for guest posts and Q&A’s (like this one – thank you so much, Susanna!) – a kind of 5-month book blog tour because it is for all three books and it started in January. I’m also a member of two debut picture book groups for authors and illustrators and we support each other by reviewing on Goodreads and Amazon. I reached out to several conferences and will be on the program for some of them. My round the world trip starting in February is one way I will spread the word about three of my 2019 books. I plan to take a copy of each and will photograph them at various landmarks and post to social media in a ‘Where in the World is Carmen Santiago’ fashion. Jill plans to create a Pippa stuffed animal which will be featured in each photo also. She’s working on bookmarks and I’m going to ask her about coloring pages for my blog for parents to print out for their kids. When I get back from the Bologna Book Fair, Jill and I will do some joint events at a local bookstore and also at a local temple.

 

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

VIVIAN: I jumped into writing picture books in a serious way in 2012 when I joined Julie Hedlund’s first 12×12 Writing Challenge. I’d already been blogging for a year and was reviewing picture books every Friday, linking up to you, Susanna. In fact, your Perfect Picture Book Friday posts were where I meet writers who dreamed of becoming published authors and I realized that was my dream as well. My first picture book, Sweet Dreams, Sarah (first book signed will not be the first book out), was signed at the end of 2015…four years from when I started writing seriously.

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

VIVIAN: As I mentioned, it took four years from when I decided to become a picture book author. This picture book writing journey is a process…it’s like making a pizza…in fact, that’s my presentation for the Sydney SCBWI conference in a few weeks. There are certain ingredients and you have to follow the steps.

And if you don’t give up, it will definitely happen.

 

SUSANNA: Thank you so much for taking the time to participate in this series and paying it forward to other writers, Vivian! We are all grateful to you for sharing your experience and wish you great success with your book!

 

VIVIAN: Thank you so much for having me, Susanna. And for providing such a vibrant platform for aspiring and seasoned authors and illustrators.

Screen Shot 2018-12-05 at 10.39.16 PM

Writer for children—reader forever…that’s Vivian Kirkfield in five words. Her bucket list contains many more than five words – but she’s already checked off skydiving, parasailing and banana-boat riding. When she isn’t looking for ways to fall from the sky or sink under the water, she can be found writing picture books in the quaint village of Amherst, NH where the old stone library is her favorite hangout and her young grandson is her favorite board game partner. A retired kindergarten teacher with a masters in Early Childhood Education, Vivian inspires budding writers during classroom visits and shares insights with aspiring authors at national writers’ conferences. She is the author of Pippa’s Passover Plate (Holiday House); Four Otters Toboggan: An Animal Counting Book (Pomegranate); Sweet Dreams, Sarah (Creston Books); Making Their Voices Heard: The Inspiring Friendship of Ella Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe (Little Bee Books); and From Here to There: Inventions That Changed the Way the World Moves (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt). You can connect with her on her website, Facebook, Twitter,Pinterest,Instagram,Linkedin, or just about any place people with picture books are found

 

Readers, if you have questions for Vivian, please post them in the comments below and if she has time I’m sure she’ll respond. (Although I think she might be traveling around the world at the moment, so you might have to be a little patient 🙂 )

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

Indiebound
Amazon
Barnes&Noble

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

– purchasing their books

– recommending their books to friends and family

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

– recommending their books to our local libraries and bookstores

– sharing their books on social media

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

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

 

Missed any previous Tuesday Debuts?  Check them out!

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

Jessie Oliveros – The Remember Balloons

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

Hannah Holt – The Diamond And The Boy

Laura Renauld – Porcupine’s Pie

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

Melissa Stoller – Scarlet’s Magic Paintbrush

Sherry Howard – Rock And Roll Woods

Kate Narita – 100 Bugs! A Counting Book

Tuesday Debut – Presenting Kate Narita!

Welcome to another scintillating episode of Tuesday Debuts, everyone!

More by luck than design, we’ve had a nice mix of fiction and nonfiction so far – wonderful so we can learn about the approach to publication of different types of picture books.  Today’s book is informational fiction – something a little different still – so I’m sure you’re as eager as I am to jump right in and see what today’s Debutess has to share!  Let’s have a look at her beautiful book!

100 Bugs! A Counting Book
Author: Kate Narita
Illustrator: Suzanne Kaufman
Farrar Straus Giroux, a Macmillan Imprint
June 12, 2018
Informational Fiction
Ages 3-7

100Bugs

“Little explorers will learn 10 different ways to count to 10, using 10 different kinds of bugs—and will get all the way to 100 by the end of their adventure. With Suzanne Kaufman’s bright, whimsical illustrations and Kate Narita’s clever rhyming text, 100 Bugs! is part look-and-find, part learning experience, and all kinds of fun!”

 

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

KATE: The secretary at the school I work at has a sign behind her desk. It reads, “You can learn something new every day if you listen.” That’s what happened. I was on the interview committee for a math specialist when my colleague said, “If students don’t understand the combinations of ten, they won’t be successful in math.” As the day passed, I became more and more excited because I couldn’t think of one book about the combinations of ten. That night at my writing group, I tried to give the idea to another author who was revising a book about math. She said, “I don’t want to write that book. You write it.” So, I did. As I drove home, the first line of the text came to me like magic, “Dragonflies, dragonflies, zipping all about.” The rest of the words continued to flow and as soon as I was home, I wrote it all down. If you’re interested in reading about more experiences like this, check out Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert.

Narita2

 

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

KATE: As I mentioned above, this book came to me very quickly. But, I’d been writing for twelve years before I had my first sale. When I woke up the next morning after the idea came, a few more verses streamed into my consciousness and I wrote them down. Two weeks later I took the first draft to my writing group and they all said, “This is the one.” They were right. The original draft featured five different dragonfly species and five different damselfly species. They convinced me I needed to add more bugs. So, I revised the manuscript to include two dragonflies, two damselflies, two butterflies, two bumblebees, one ladybug and one firefly species. There were no other revisions until the publisher bought the manuscript. The words were a gift from the universe.

 

SUSANNA: Did you go through many revisions?

KATE: In addition to what I mentioned above, when my writing group saw the first draft, they pointed out that one of the verses contained a forced rhyme: farrow and cosmos. That’s because I love cosmos. But, I had to give them up and go with yarrow instead. It sounds so much better! Unfortunately, nothing rhymes with cosmos except for gizmos and that word didn’t fit the tone of the book. Other than that, there were no revisions until the sale.

 

Narita3 . Narita4
The ill-fated Cosmos                                 The Yarrow that made the cut!

 

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

KATE: This was a very unusual circumstance because I knew the manuscript was ready from the get go. I took the revised manuscript back to my critique group, and they agreed it was ready to go. This particular critique group meets twice a month. So from inception to submission was only a month—much shorter than anything else I’ve written.

 

SUSANNA: When and how did you submit?

KATE: The manuscript came to me in late spring of 2015. First, I sent it to an editor who had mentored me during my MFA program. She rejected it because she already had an insect book on her list. Then, I attended Rutgers One-On-One Plus Conferencehttp://ruccl.org/

If you haven’t attended this conference, you’re missing out. It was my fifth time attending. So, I knew what to expect. I had researched all eight editors and agents who would be attending. Since I’d been writing for twelve years, I had several manuscripts that were ready to submit.

At Rutgers, you get a forty-five minute one-on-one critique with your mentor and later in the day you get a forty-five minute group session with your mentor and four other mentor/mentee pairs. I knew the manuscript I had brought wasn’t a match for my mentor, but she still gave me lots of helpful feedback. Then, during the five-on-five session, Susan Dobinick, an editor at FSG at the time, said she loved publishing books by teachers and librarians. This surprised me because I hadn’t read that about her or FSG anywhere. As soon as I returned home, I emailed her 100 Bugs!

I also emailed my agent, Stacey Glick https://www.dystel.com/meet-our-agents/

Stacey’s one of the conference organizers and had presented at a panel. She had recently sold a counting book, Tap the Magic Tree by Christie Matheson. So, I thought maybe she’d be interested in my manuscript. She was.

The conference occurred on October 17th. The call from the editor came on November tenth, and the call from the agent occurred later the same week.

 

SUSANNA: When did you get “the call”?

KATE: When I opened the email from Susan Dobinick, I thought for sure it would be another rejection. After all, I’d received hundreds over the years. Why would this one be different? But it was. When we spoke on the tenth, she said they loved the manuscript. It was shocking. I didn’t say much. I listened. At the end of the conversations she said that they knew I was a full-time teacher and they knew I had a family, but that in addition to the text they had, they wanted ten different insects, not the six I had. Also, they wanted scientific back matter on the ten different insects and plants within a month’s time. Every day for a month I researched two-to-three before school and two-to-three hours after school. It was intense, but I’d do it all over again in a second.

 

SUSANNA: How did you celebrate signing your contract?

KATE: It took a while to sign the contract. I submitted the scientific back matter in December and the contract came in April. Why the delay? The editorial team had to figure out which illustrator they would pitch the manuscript with to make the manuscript appealing to acquisitions. When I signed the contract, we went out for an expensive family dinner and bought a television that we could all watch together. That sounds funny coming from an author, but our boys were young teens at the time and we were looking for more ways to spend time together as a family.

 

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

KATE: Yes, it was. On average, large publication companies offer between $5,000-$10,000 to a writer for the first sale. One of the benefits of having an agent, is that they can advocate for small increases in all of the above. There are 10,000 copies in the first print run, and the book has to sell over 20,000 copies before my royalty percentage increases. Bottom line is, you become a children’s writer because you’re passionate about children and writing, not because you’re looking to make a quick buck or become rich.

 

SUSANNA: Please tell us about the editorial process…

KATE: A different editor, Janine O’Malley, edited the story. She had an amazing, incredible vision for the story. She knew right away that Suzanne Kaufman would be the perfect illustrator for the book. After she viewed one of Suzanne’s earlier dummies, Janine also knew the book had to start with the kids waking up. So, I had to write a new opening and closing spread that showed the kids in bed. I asked Melissa Stewart, April Jones Prince and Joannie Duris, critique group members, to help me out. They had lots of insightful suggestions but in the end the words for the first and last spread came to me in stream of conscious, just like the rest of the book. This time it happened as I was waking up in bed and the sun streamed through the window.

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Kate Narita and Suzanne Kaufman

 

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

KATE: The illustration process was phenomenal. Usually authors and illustrators don’t collaborate, but Suzanne reached out to me because she had a few questions. Here are two examples of changes that wouldn’t have happened had Suzanne and I not been in contact. The bugbane that’s featured in the book isn’t the original bugbane I wrote about; however, Suzanne wanted to use this particular bugbane because of the shape and color of the leaf. It was easy for me to reflect the species change in the back matter. Suzanne also made a change to her art. When damselflies land, their wings fold over their body instead of stretching flat out like a dragonfly’s wings. But the damselfly spread featured ten flying damselflies. So, Suzanne revised and drew one perched on the wishing well.

Narita6

 

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

KATE: The advance review from Kirkus was a dream come true. Here’s a snippet: “Packed with great extension possibilities, visually engaging illustrations, and quick rhymes, this read-aloud would be a great addition to any STEM shelf. (Picture book. 3-6)”

 

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

KATE: Two years.

 

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

KATE: It hasn’t been out that long—fingers crossed!

 

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

KATE: The publisher sent the book to review journals and various bloggers. The publicist also helped me set up some book events during my family vacations.

 

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

KATE: I’ve done quite a bit of marketing/promotion for the book. It’s a good thing I didn’t realize how much time, energy and work would go into promotion before I had my first sale—I might have had second thoughts about publication and then I would have missed out!

My book trailer features my class and our book buddies. I collaborated with high school students in the district where I work to film, create and edit the trailer. My older son and his friend composed and played the trailer’s background music.

In addition to making a book trailer, I featured 100 book trailers on my blog for the first 100 days of 2018. I released my trailer on the 100thday of last year, April 10th. You can check it out here: http://www.katenarita.com/blog/archives/04-2018

Educators can find ready-to-print, Common Core correlated activities here: http://www.katenarita.com/for-educators.html  I created each of the activities and my colleague, Lisandra Flynn, designed them. Suzanne Kaufman generously gave us permission to use her artwork so that students could enjoy her whimsical work while engaging with the activities.

Suzanne was kind enough to make postcards to help promote the book.

As I mentioned above, I did several bookstore and library events around home and during our family trips. This was a wonderful opportunity to meet talented and energetic librarians and booksellers at amazing independent bookstores such as The Reading Bug, Anderson’s Bookshop, The Book Stall, The Silver Unicorn, Concord Bookshop, Brookline Booksmith and Enchanted Passage.

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At The Silver Unicorn with one of my students.

 

Finally, I’ve been working on expanding my Professional Learning Network. Last week, I spoke at The Global Education Symposium—my agent arranged that. In April of 2019, I’ll be speaking at the 2019 MRA Conference.

Narita8

 

SUSANNA: Wow!  You have been busy!  Lots of creative ideas for the rest of us to learn from!

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

KATE: Twelve years.The average amount of time is ten years.

 

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

KATE: Thanks so much for the opportunity to share the story of 100 Bugs! Here’s the best advice I ever got from the sage April Jones Prince: “Whatever you do, never give up.”

 

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April Jones Prince and Kate Narita

 

 

Naritaheadshot

Kate Narita

www.katenarita.com
@KateNarita

 

Thank you so much for taking the time to participate in this series and paying it forward to other writers, Kate!  We are all grateful to you for sharing your experience and wish you great success with your book!

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

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

Indiebound
Amazon
Barnes&Noble

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

– purchasing their books

– recommending their books to friends and family

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

– recommending their books to our local libraries and bookstores

– sharing their books on social media

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

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

 

Missed any previous Tuesday Debuts?  Check them out!

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

Jessie Oliveros – The Remember Balloons

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

Hannah Holt – The Diamond And The Boy

Laura Renauld – Porcupine’s Pie

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

Melissa Stoller – Scarlet’s Magic Paintbrush

Sherry Howard – Rock And Roll Woods

 

Tuesday Debut – Presenting Sherry Howard!

Good morning, my friends!

Welcome to another exciting episode of Tuesday Debut!

Pull up your favorite comfy chair, help yourself to some breakfast…

Continental Breakfast

…and get ready to enjoy chatting with Sherry about her book!

ROCK AND ROLL WOODS
Author: Sherry Howard
Illustrator: Anika A. Wolf
Clear Fork Publishing
October 5, 2018
Fiction Picture Book
Ages 4-8

Cover Rock and Roll Woods

Kuda is a bit of a grumpy bear when loud noises invade his quiet woods. He finds the courage to join his friends, and discovers he loves music after all.

 

SUSANNA: Thank you so much for joining us today, Sherry!  We are thrilled to have the opportunity to hear about your journey to publication!  Where did the idea for this book come from?

SHERRY: This is one of my favorite things to talk about. I asked my then 8-year-old writing partner what she’d like to write about next. She suggested a bear named Kuda, the name of her bearded dragon. Kamora is very excited that she’s recognized for the idea in the back of the book. She often helps at book events.

The rough draft poured out from the initial idea, combining my love for rock and roll with my heart for special needs children. It was a family collaboration to determine what the loud noise would be. We needed something not obvious to a wooded setting.

Whenever I get an idea, I write it down immediately, even if it’s in the middle of the night or driving. (I dictate then.) I have more ideas than I’ll ever have a chance to write.

 

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

SHERRY: The first draft poured out. The revisions didn’t change anything substantial except the title. For this manuscript, it was a pretty quick journey, a couple of months of tweaking. I wish I could say that for all of my writing. It’s important to know the manuscripts that show the most promise if you’re a prolific writer. I knew right away that this was a manuscript that “worked” and should find a home.

 

SUSANNA: Did you go through many revisions?

SHERRY: ROCK AND ROLL WOODS went through different critique groups several times. I’m in several critique groups, which I find helpful.

My personal bias is that fresh eyes are really important during revision, especially at the end when your regular partners might have seen a manuscript several times. I usually have “blind” eyes look at a manuscript through either a paid professional review or somewhere like Rate Your Story, which I’ve been a fan of for years! These are my last steps before submission.

 

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

SHERRY: That’s hard to quantify! I think when critique suggestions are minor, and when your gut says it’s ready, then you can try. That’s how I judged ROCK AND ROLL WOODS.

I’m not agented, so I don’t have the benefit of an agent’s eyes on my work, and my writer friends who do have agents like to be sure their work is really polished before they send it to an agent. But, that layer would be nice for feeling confident about submissions to publishers and editors.

 

 

SUSANNA: When and how did you submit?

SHERRY: I’m not agented. I submitted directly to Clear Fork. I sent Callie Metler-Smith, the lovely owner of CF, a query for another book. I’d met her on Facebook, and saw her interaction related to criticism of small publishers. She was gracious, and not defensive in that conversation. I really admired that. I made sure they were recognized as a PAL publisher through SCBWI. She didn’t accept the first manuscript I sent, but offered to look at other work, so I eventually sent this one. I’d only sent this to a handful of agents.

I go to SCBWI conferences and sometimes follow up on submission opportunities, but most often I don’t.

I enter contests sometimes, and have done well in some. The one time I won a query opportunity, it involved one of the agents who has experienced some problems, so that opportunity was lost.

I don’t have much of a submission plan. Unfortunately, I enjoy the writing more than I do querying and submitting. If I see an opportunity that fits something I have, I’ll submit. I queried some of the 12×12 opportunities. But, I actually query and submit seldom. 2019 will be my submissions year! It’s hard for me to take a break long enough from the writing to do it.

 

SUSANNA: When did you get “the call”?

SHERRY: Callie’s acceptance was by email, and at first I wasn’t sure she’d accepted it. Yes, when she said that I had a publisher, it was super exciting. She was one of the only places I’d submitted ROCK AND ROLL WOODS because it was recently finished. Callie asked for the ending to be tweaked. When I didn’t hear back from her for a month after I changed the ending, I assumed she didn’t want it, but I checked with her to be sure before I queried further. She did want it.

 

SUSANNA: How did you celebrate signing your contract?

SHERRY: I didn’t. I know that sounds terribly boring, but it’s true. I was happy, but no one in my immediate life understood what it meant, so it was just me. I might’ve eaten a Snickers!

 

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

SHERRY: I worked with an entertainment attorney who happened to be one of my critique partners. One member had very graciously told our group that she’d review our first contracts free. With small houses like Clear Fork, there’s not much wiggle room in contracts, and I understood that. Generally, with small publishers, the advances are small, but the royalties are there. When you consider that advances are just that, an advance on royalties, it may not make as much difference to you as you think. It was most important to me that Callie shared my vision: This is a picture book that I wrote thinking of children who struggle with “new” in the way children with autism usually do. I wrote it to have a broader appeal, but that was in my heart as a I wrote and revised.

 

 

SUSANNA: Please tell us about the editorial process…

SHERRY: I was privileged to have the AMAZING Mira Reisberg as both editor and art director. She was so kind, and thorough. She made videos to collaborate and made it all so simple. She and I chopped lots of words after illustrations were completed, and we could see the actual illustrations.

There was one major editorial session with Mira, and we were on the same track. The revisions were primarily losing words that weren’t necessary. The heart and vision for the story never changed. Along the way, we decided to add an author’s note and back matter about sensory integration, and that had to be written, and tweaked.

 

SUSANNA: Please tell us about your experience of the illustration process…

SHERRY: I saw only a few preliminary sketches at first. I’ll share one of the first illustrations, and when I saw it I fell in love!

Howard1

When I saw the art in digital files, it was pretty much finished, but we did exchange over thirty emails for one facial expression. I think we drove Anika crazy with that one!

When I saw the cover, I was shocked. I’d imagined an ordinary scene in the woods. My limited imagination could never have seen anything as awesome as they produced! Kids are so drawn to the bright cover, both boys and girls!

Anika’s vision, with Mira, was better than mine could ever have been! The art added immensely to the story! I have nothing but LOVE for the art!

I only had two illustration notes.

The first was this one:  (Illustration note: Please join our rock and roll celebration.)
which turned out like this:

Howard2

 

 

 

The second was this one: (Illustration note: tiny print: boom, whappa, whappa)
which turned out like this:

Howard3

 

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

SHERRY: Because Clear Fork is a small publisher, those reviews weren’t available to me. (I think Callie is working on changing that as she moves forward.) There weren’t advance copies to send out in time for reviews. It’s a print on demand company, so that limited certain things. I didn’t understand all of those limitations ahead of time, but that wouldn’t have changed my decision if I had. I look forward to a continued relationship with Callie and Clear Fork. Callie just announced the sequel for Rock and Roll Woods, which she contracted soon after this manuscript.  (Insert from SLH: Ooh! Squeeeee!  Congratulations, Sherry!!! 🙂 )

I did submit to Kirkus when I received the digital ARC. I happily paid the fee to have an independent review. ROCK AND ROLL WOODS earned a rare starred review through Kirkus. I literally had to sit down for that. And, while I didn’t celebrate when I was offered the contract, I shared the Kirkus news with anyone who would listen! (Another insert from SLH: Ooh!  Squeeeeee again!!!  That is fantastic, Sherry!)

 

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

SHERRY: The timeline was less than two years, which is very rare! Contract was signed in April, 2017, and I held the book in my hands September, 2018.

 

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

SHERRY: The book just released, so I don’t really know how it’s doing yet.

 

 

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

SHERRY: I think Callie has plans for a big push for ROCK AND ROLL WOODS this spring. Callie uses Facebook for promotion. She also owns a bookstore in Texas. She does market fairs in Texas as well, and I assume she takes her published books to those.

 

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

SHERRY: I’m still working on marketing, but I’ve done a book trailer, bookmarks, a Kuda model crocheted to order, book signings at Barnes and Noble, blog visits, social media giveaways, created a teacher’s guide with coloring pages, participated in fairs, and tried to work with kidlit influencers. It’s an ongoing process since the book just released. I have an appearance coming up with Jedlie’s Reading with Your Kids, a video coming soon from a little reviewer in Canada, and the book will visit Story Time with Miss Becky. My granddaughter has a book review channel on YouTube, and she just posted her review.

I haven’t sent out press releases yet, but plan to. I have an article coming out soon in a local magazine that I pitched, and they loved.

The School of Rock is involving me in their local program in an ongoing basis, which is fun.

 

 

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

SHERRY: In short, a few years. But really longer.

I’ve written and taken classes for the last twenty years, but only zeroed in on kidlit six or seven years ago. Of course, with degrees in Education, I already had a strong background, but writing for publication is different.

At first I wrote novel length, and have several finished novels, which have been revised to death. One recently came very close to getting picked up by an agent, phone call and all. (My novels have won or placed with RATE YOUR STORY openers for the past several years.)

When I had eye surgeries, and some real struggles with my vision, I worked more on short stories, poetry, and picture books. The novel-length books were too hard with my vision for a while. The vision is still a struggle, but I’m back to doing all age levels again.

 

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

SHERRY: I was just reaching my career goals as a successful principal in a large middle school when I was assaulted and left with a spinal cord injury that crippled me. I was devastated at having to leave my work for children. Fast forward many difficult years, and I feel like I’m once again able to help and inspire children. I use a walker to make appearances. I use adaptive pens to write lying down, so I can write whenever I want to. I keep two iPads rotating to accommodate my vision problems. I’m not saying this for pity, but to tell writers: No barrier will keep you from writing if it’s in your heart to do it. Carry on!!

SUSANNA: Sherry, I’m so sorry to hear of what you went through – are still going through – but you are an inspiration to us all.  I know your courage will help give all of us some as we go forth in our writing.  Thank you for sharing.

SHERRY: Thank you for having me, Susanna! I love to meet other readers and writers, so please be in touch on social media here:

Sherry Howard| Facebook| Twitter| Instagram

Meet Kuda and Rock and Roll Woods here.

 

Sherry Howard (4)

Sherry Howard

Sherry Howard lives with her children and silly dogs in Middletown, Kentucky, a stone’s throw from the beautiful horse farms Kentucky is always bragging about. During her career in education, she served as a middle school principal in one of the largest metro school districts in the US; she and cat-herders share many common skills. Sherry loves to read, write, cook, and sit in the sand watching the waves when she can. She credits her ability to write a complete sentence in English to her training in classical Latin. Now her picture books and chapter books are arriving through Clear Fork Publishing. She also writes for the educational market.

 

Sherry, thank you so much for taking the time to participate in this series and paying it forward to other writers!  We are all very grateful for your time and expertise and wish you the very best success with your book!

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

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

Indiebound
Amazon
Barnes&Noble

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

– purchasing their books

– recommending their books to friends and family

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

– recommending their books to our local libraries and bookstores

– sharing their books on social media

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

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

 

Missed any previous Tuesday Debuts?  Check them out!

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

Jessie Oliveros – The Remember Balloons

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

Hannah Holt – The Diamond And The Boy

Laura Renauld – Porcupine’s Pie

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

Melissa Stoller – Scarlet’s Magic Paintbrush

Tuesday Debut – Presenting Melissa Stoller!

Hello, Everyone, and welcome to another exciting episode of Tuesday Debut!

First, just a quick note: The Halloweensie Contest finalists will be announced for your reading and voting pleasure on Thursday.  Since I wasn’t able to get them up before the weekend, and I already had today’s Tuesday Debut and tomorrow’s Would You Read It scheduled, I thought it was best just to wait until Thursday when we could have an uninterrupted stretch of days for reading and voting.  The winners will be announced on Monday.  I’m sorry to have kept you all waiting so long, and truly appreciate your patience.  The judging was extremely difficult, and kept getting interrupted with family stuff and work deadlines and other things of that nature which have a tendency to suddenly appear out of nowhere when you’re trying to get something done!  If by some chance you’ve been under a rock and not seen the Halloweensie Contest entries, hop on over and have a look – well over 200 amazing stories await your enjoyment!

Now then, allow me to introduce today’s Debutess, Melissa Stoller!  She shares her first picture book with us, but has a series of chapter books already to her credit (The Enchanted Snow Globe Collection: Return to Coney Island and The Liberty Bell Train Ride) as well as another picture book forthcoming any minute (Ready, Set, GOrilla!)

MELISSA: I’m so happy to be included in your new blog series, Susanna! You know I am a huge fan of your Making Picture Book Magic course and of your books!

SUSANNA: I am thrilled to have you, Melissa, and you are very sweet to say such nice things.  There will be a little extra something chocolate for you in your holiday celebrations this year 🙂 Now then, let’s have a look at your beautiful debut picture book!!!

SCARLET’S MAGIC PAINTBRUSH
Written by Melissa Stoller
Illustrated by Sandie Sonke
Clear Fork Publishing/Spork
October 16, 2018
Fiction, Picture Book
Ages 4-8

Picture1

Scarlet paints perfect pictures with her magic paintbrush until the brush is lost, and she fears she’ll never be able to paint again. When the brush is found, will Scarlet’s own magical creativity emerge?

 

SUSANNA: LOVE that gorgeous cover! 🙂 Where did the idea for this book come from?

MELISSA: The idea for SCARLET came to me when I was at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City gazing at my favorite Impressionist paintings. Standing in front of a Monet canvas, I wondered what it would be like to have a magic paintbrush and paint like Monet. Over time, I thought of other questions: Would the brush would help me paint everything perfectly? What would happen if I lost the brush and then found it later? And what would I do if I wanted to paint something and the brush wouldn’t let me? These questions became the basis for my story.

Picture4

Melissa at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in front of a Monet

 

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

MELISSA: It took several months to write this story. My mother is always my first reader! And then my children and husband weigh in as well. I have trusted critique partners who helped me dig in through multiple drafts to focus on the theme and underlying layers. And I also had a professional critique as well. Through it all, I kept refining and shaping the story.

 

SUSANNA: Did you go through many revisions?

MELISSA: I like to write in many drafts, making large and small changes as I go along, so my work always has many iterations.

 

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

MELISSA: I knew my manuscript was ready when my critique partners all came back saying “this one is done!”

 

SUSANNA: When and how did you submit?

MELISSA: My publisher Callie Metler-Smith from Clear Fork Publishing was already publishing my chapter book series, The Enchanted Snow Globe Collection. Turns out Callie and I both love Impressionist paintings so I pitched her my art history-based idea and that manuscript became a book!

 

SUSANNA: How did you celebrate signing your contract?

MELISSA: I definitely celebrated with my family and there were lots of smiles and tears of gratitude!

Picture5

Melissa’s dog Molly who sits patiently next to her when she works (and was no doubt part of the celebrations! 🙂 )

 

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

MELISSA: This was my second contract with Clear Fork so I knew what to expect.

 

SUSANNA: Tell us about the editorial process…

MELISSA: Mira Reisberg is editor/art director at Clear Fork/Spork. I know Mira well from many Children’s Book Academy courses and I was thrilled that she loved the manuscript and would be editing and art directing. We did several critiques and Mira offered many excellent suggestions during the editorial process. And I know that she worked closely with Sandie Sonke on the art. I am so proud of the final book!

 

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

MELISSA: Mira selected the amazing artist Sandie Sonke as the book’s illustrator. I couldn’t be happier with this collaboration. Sandie’s vision surpassed my expectations. I just love all the details she added in the illustrations and I love the expressions on Scarlet, the magic paintbrush, and the adorable animals. One benefit to working with a small publisher is being involved throughout the process. Mira and Callie consulted me about the illustrations and I saw the art at various stages which was very exciting.

Picture3

 

SUSANNA: Did you include any art notes with your manuscript?

MELISSA: I didn’t include art notes with this manuscript. In fact, Sandie created a cute story line with the dog appearing in many illustrations that I had not even contemplated. I do include art notes in other manuscripts if they are integral to an understanding of the story.

 

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

MELISSA: I signed the contract in November 2016 and the release date is October 2018.

 

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

MELISSA: I am in the process of having a book trailer produced, and I have lots of swag including bookmarks, stickers, postcards, magnets, and a t-shirt. Kids love swag! I’m also having an educator guide created for teachers and librarians by Deb Gonzalez.

 

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

MELISSA: I started on this KidLit writing journey in 1997 when my oldest daughter was one! Seriously! I joined SCBWI that year and attended many workshops. And I have a file drawer full of rejections. After that initial burst, I worked on many other writing projects, including parenting articles and a parent-child book club resource book. About five years ago I got immersed again in writing for children. I started taking more classes and joined several critique groups. I started submitting picture books and ultimately signed my first contract for my chapter book series. My next picture book is Ready, Set, Gorilla!, illustrated by the very talented Sandy Steen Bartholomew.

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

MELISSA: It’s so amazing to hold the finished book in my hands! My message to pre-published writers is to keep going. Work hard; study your craft through in person or online courses (like Susanna’s Making Picture Book Magic which I took twice!); attend conferences; participate in writing challenges and workshops; make connections with other creatives; establish relationships with trusted critique partners; and just write and submit!

I’m so happy to be featured on your blog, Susanna! Thanks, again for chatting!

 

Picture2

Melissa Stoller, Children’s Author

Find Melissa online at:

 

Thank you so much for taking the time to participate in this series and paying it forward to other writers, Melissa!  We are all very grateful for your time and expertise and wish you the very best success with ALL your books!

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

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

Indiebound
Amazon
Barnes&Noble

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

– purchasing their books

– recommending their books to friends and family

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

– recommending their books to our local libraries and bookstores

– sharing their books on social media

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

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

 

Missed any previous Tuesday Debuts?  Check them out!

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

Jessie Oliveros – The Remember Balloons

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

Hannah Holt – The Diamond And The Boy

Laura Renauld – Porcupine’s Pie

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

Tuesday Debut – Presenting Annie Romano!

Good Morning, Everyone!

It’s time to BYOC (Bring Your Own Coffee, Bring Your Own Chocolate, Bring Your Own Chair 🙂 ) and settle in among friends for today’s exciting edition of Tuesday Debuts!!!

I am thrilled to introduce to you for the first time in Picture Book Authorship, Annie Romano and her debut picture book, BEFORE YOU SLEEP: A BEDTIME BOOK OF GRATITUDE.

Welcome, Annie, and congratulations!!!

Before You Sleep: A Bedtime Book Of Gratitude
by Annie Cronin Romano
Illustrated by Ioana Hobao
Page Street Kids
October 16, 2018
Fiction
ages 3-7

Final Cover BEFORE YOU SLEEP

Synopsis:
This winsome bedtime book has the makings to become a classic and an important part of families’ nightly rituals. Reflecting on various activities through each of the five senses, detailed poetic text and illustrations show memorable scenes.

 

SUSANNA: Thank you so much for joining us today, Annie!  We are excited for you and thrilled to have you here to tell us about your journey to publication!  Where did the idea for this book come from?

 

ANNIE: I worked for nearly 15 years as a speech-language pathologist. One exercise I would do with some of my students involved describing items using the five senses. One night I was having difficulty sleeping. The phrase “before you sleep, before you dream” popped up in my mind (probably because sleep was eluding me), and I wrote it down as a potential refrain for a story. The next day, I played around with the phrase and eventually linked it with the five senses exercise I used with my students. It blossomed from there and became a lyrical bedtime story with a theme of gratitude structured around the five senses.

 

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

ANNIE: Once I had the idea for BEFORE YOU SLEEP in mind, I wrote the extremely rough draft in one weekend. It was by no means finished. I sent it off to my critique group and let them sink their editorial teeth into it.

 

SUSANNA: Did you go through many revisions?

ANNIE: Yes, I tend to use a combination of critiques and time when revising. Once I’ve reviewed the feedback I receive from my critique group and incorporated what makes the story stronger, I put the manuscript in a drawer for a while I work on other projects. This could be a few weeks or many months, depending on the project. I find this “let it sit” technique helpful as I can look at the story with a fresh perspective after not reading it for a while. For BEFORE YOU SLEEP, I also drafted a non-rhyming version while the rhyming version was in the drawer. My critique group critiqued that one, too, but ultimately it didn’t come together as well and I returned to the original version. I expanded the verse manuscript based on additional feedback. All in all, the manuscript went through about six drafts over two years. This doesn’t include the revisions I did for the publisher once I sold it.

 

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

ANNIE: Once I’d gone through several passes with my critique group and have let the manuscript sit so I could get that “fresh eyes” perspective several times, then I started submitting.

 

SUSANNA: When and how did you submit?

ANNIE: Despite loving this manuscript, I was hesitant to query BEFORE YOU SLEEP because I thought it was far too quiet for the current market. But I researched agents who were open to queries and ultimately sent it to five agents I thought would be a good fit. I received three positive personalized rejections with helpful feedback, which is unusual, so I felt something was definitely working. I revised it based on some of the feedback. I then posted a pitch for it in February 2017’s #PBPitch Twitter event. I got a “like” from Kristen Nobles, an editor at an independent publishing company named Page Street that was adding a children’s division. Because I don’t have an agent, I communicated directly with Kristen.

 

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

ANNIE: Just three days after I sent Kristen Nobles my manuscript, she emailed me to ask about discussing the possibility of publication. That turnaround time is highly unusual, but because Page Street was just launching its children’s division, they didn’t have a backlog of projects. By early April, I had a signed contract.

SUSANNA: That is amazing!  You must have been over the moon!

 

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

ANNIE: My husband and kids actually planned a surprise celebration for me and took me for a getaway in Boston. We live about 45 minutes from the city and it’s one of our favorite places to explore, so it was wonderful to spend some quality time with my family in the city we enjoy so much. We went to the Museum of Fine Arts, which I love visiting!

 

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

 

ANNIE: Because it was my first book contract, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I did a lot of research online and asked a few friends who were already published for some guidance. Then I had a lawyer who specialized in publishing review the contract. She made a few suggestions and adjustments, but overall she reported that it was an honest and straightforward contract, so once a few items were revised, I felt confident moving forward. I recommend having a lawyer with experience in publishing review your contract. She had a much better idea of what was a solid offer in terms of royalty percentages and author copies than I did as a debut author.

I don’t have many contracts of my own to define “normal,” but based on the feedback my attorney gave me and what I’ve learned via research, my contract was fairly standard. From speaking with other debut picture book authors working with small to mid-size publishers, most seem to get an advance ranging from $1000 to $5,000, and mine was in that range. You want a decent advance, but you also want to be able to earn out in a reasonable amount of time. Standard royalties hover around 5% on hardcover. And most debut authors I know received between 10-20 author copies of their books.

 

SUSANNA: Tell us about the editorial process…

ANNIE: Most of my revisions took place after the initial sketches were done, and there were no major revisions. We changed a few words and phrases for pacing and flow, and a few minor changes were made to keep the text timely and to reflect an illustration choice.

 

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

ANNIE: Page Street allowed me to have a say in who would illustrate my book, which was a terrific experience! They sent me several portfolios to consider and invited me to put forth names of illustrators whose work I thought might be a good match. When I received the portfolios, I knew from the styles that the publisher’s vision for the book was in line with mine. I was kept in the loop throughout the process, from initial sketches to final proofs, and they asked for my feedback. I adore Ioana Hobai’s illustrations. She captured the essence of BEFORE YOU SLEEP beautifully, and I couldn’t be happier with how the artwork came together with the text!

BeforeYouSleep_3

 

SUSANNA: Did you include any art notes with your manuscript?

ANNIE: For BEFORE YOU SLEEP, I didn’t include any illustration notes because they weren’t necessary for that text. I do have some manuscripts that contain minimal (one to two) illustration notes, but in general I try to avoid using them unless that note is necessary to the plot and can’t be inferred from the text.

 

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

ANNIE: It was about 18 months. I think that’s fast, but again, my book was on Page Street Kids’ first list, so there wasn’t a backlog of projects. I think it would be longer now.
AnnieCR with book

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

ANNIE: I am fortunate to be on Page Street’s inaugural children’s list, so they’ve been doing a good amount of marketing for a small publisher. My publisher has sent out introductory mailings and F&G’s (folded and gathered) to reviewers, librarians, and key industry professionals. They also featured their titles at the New England Independent Booksellers Association conference in September, and they’ve had some events to introduce their children’s line to booksellers and librarians. They’re doing social media publicity as well.

 

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

ANNIE: My marketing consisted mainly of social media posts and scheduling signings and story time events. I didn’t make a book trailer. I created book plates to hand out at my launch and signings, and I did a Facebook event page for my book launch. I plan to run some giveaways on Goodreads and Twitter once the book is released, and I am doing guest blogs and interviews.

 

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

ANNIE: It was about fifteen years, but I also had three young children during the early years, so my writing productivity was definitely slower during that time.

 

SUSANNA: How many copies did your house do for first printing (if you know… and care to share)? The differences between large and small houses can be interesting.

 

ANNIE: My initial print run was under 10,000, which I think is to be expected for a debut author and a smaller publishing house launching its first children’s list. I hope my book finds its way into many people’s hands and we’ll need a second printing! Fingers crossed!

AnnieCroninRomano-head shot

Thanks so much for having me, Susanna! My website is www.anniecroninromano.com. I can be found on Twitter at @AnnieCRomano and Instagram at anniecroninromano.books.

 

Thank you so much for taking the time to participate in this series and paying it forward to other writers, Annie!  We are all very grateful for your time and expertise and wish you the very best success with your book!

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

You may purchase Annie’s book at:

Indiebound
Amazon
Barnes&Noble

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

– purchasing their books

– recommending their books to friends and family

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

– recommending their books to our local libraries and bookstores

– sharing their books on social media

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

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

 

Missed any previous Tuesday Debuts?  Check them out!

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

Jessie Oliveros – The Remember Balloons

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

Hannah Holt – The Diamond And The Boy

Laura Renauld – Porcupine’s Pie

Tuesday Debut – Presenting Laura Renauld!

 

Welcome to another thrilling edition of Tuesday Debut!

I hope you’re enjoying these interviews as much as I am!  I love getting to see our authors’ unique stories as well as getting to see the areas where their experiences overlap.  Fiction and nonfiction. Large publishing houses and small.  Art notes or back matter for some, none for others.  A terrific array of different marketing and promotion ideas they’ve come up with.  But everyone draws strength and inspiration from their work, lives, and families.  Everyone discovers that even published authors have to vacuum and do the dishes 🙂 And no one seems quite sure exactly how they know when a manuscript is ready to submit, or to have gone into signing a contract with much idea of what the norm is.  Thankfully, by sharing their experiences here, these generous authors are helping all of us to be better prepared for what lies ahead, as well as showing us some tools that worked for them that may help us get there!

So without further ado, I’m delighted to introduce today’s debut author, Laura Renauld, and her book, PORCUPINE’S PIE!

PORCUPINE’S PIE
by Laura Renauld
illustrated by Jennie Poh
Beaming Books
October 9, 2018
Fiction
4-8

thumbnail_PorcupinesPie_COV copy

Synopsis:

Porcupine can’t wait to share Fall Feast with her woodland friends, so when everyone she greets is unable to bake their specialty due to a missing ingredient, Porcupine generously offers staples from her pantry. When Porcupine discovers that she, too, is missing a key ingredient, the friends all work together to create a new Fall Feast tradition.

 

SUSANNA: Thank you so much for joining us today, Laura!  I know I speak for everyone when I say we can’t wait to hear about your journey to publication!  Where did the idea for this book come from?

LAURA: I have been an enthusiastic participant in Tara Lazar’s Picture Book Idea Month (now Storystorm) since 2011. I highly recommend this to writers at any point in their career. During the month of January, Tara offers daily guest posts that are intended to stimulate new ideas, with the goal of collecting 30 ideas in 30 days. Check it out here!

I was inspired by Tammi Sauer’s post during PiBoIdMo 2014, which challenged writers to frame a story as a How-To Book. My brainstorming that day included this jot in my notebook: “How to make porcupine pie (or a pie for a porcupine)”. Even though it did not evolve into a How-To Book, that was the humble beginning of PORCUPINE’S PIE!

 

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

LAURA: This story took shape rather quickly. Four days after my initial idea, I brainstormed plots using a basic template that helped me think through the main character’s problem, obstacles, and solution. I came up with two possible angles and I drafted one of them that same day.

 

SUSANNA: Did you go through many revisions?

LAURA: As I look back at my timeline, I can’t believe that I did this, but I revised it twice and then sent it off to Rate Your Story only three days later! (I do not move that quickly with my manuscripts anymore! I write them, I let them sit, I revise them, I bring them to my critique groups, I revise some more. Repeat, repeat, repeat!) I got a good rating, though. 3: Good story! Get a critique or two and polish before submitting. This gave me confidence that I was on the right track, so I kept revising. Something in the judge’s comments caused me to shift the plot in a significant way. And that is the version that clicked.

 

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

LAURA: I still have a really hard time knowing when a manuscript is ready to submit! Sometimes, if I’ve gotten positive feedback from writing partners and I feel it’s the best it can be, I just go for it.

 

 

SUSANNA: When and how did you submit?

LAURA: At the time, I was unagented so I was open to a variety of submission opportunities. I submitted PORCUPINE’S PIE for the first time in February 2015 to an editor who spoke at the Fall 2014 SCBWI conference I attended. And then… crickets. I never did receive a response.

I set the manuscript aside for several months before sharing it with my critique group. I revised a couple more times in 2015 and then I didn’t touch it again until submitting it to the first annual Sparkhouse Family (now Beaming Books) Picture Book Contest in November 2016. And I won! I’d like to give a shout-out to Sub It Club, which posts an awesome contest calendar. That is where I heard about this opportunity.

Fun Fact: I tweaked my fall-themed story so that I could enter a pared-down version of it in Susanna’s 2016 Valentine-y contest!

 

SUSANNA: And all this time I thought the picture book came from the Valentiny Contest entry!  I guess it was the other way around!

 

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

LAURA: Just over a month after I submitted my story to the contest, I received the email from Sparkhouse Family that I had won and they would like to publish my book!

 

SUSANNA: That must have been so amazing!  How did you celebrate signing your contract?  (If you care to share 🙂 )

LAURA: With lots of hugs and phone calls. 🙂

thumbnail_IMG_9578 2

A family trip to the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art this summer. Laura’s boys (on the edges) and her niece and nephew are her inspirations!

 

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

 
LAURA: I didn’t know what to expect with the contract. I relied heavily on SCBWI’s THE BOOK to negotiate a few contractual changes.

 

 

SUSANNA: Are you able to share any of the contract details?  It is clear from all our Tuesday Debut Authors’ answers to this question that most of us had no idea what to expect, so any light you can shed on specifics will be welcome so that when our readers get to their first contracts they will have some idea what to expect!

 

LAURA: Beaming Books is a small publisher. They hold an annual writing contest to generate interest and excitement for their house and brand. This is a clever way to encourage submissions during a certain period of time and to entice writers with prize money. Porcupine’s Pie won the first annual contest which offered a $5000 prize. It turned out that the prize money was actually my advance. And really, the biggest prize I was hoping for was to have my story published. The royalty ranges from 5%-7% as the number of copies sold increases. One thing that I did not know going into a book contract was that the listed royalty is split between author and illustrator. So if you are an author/illustrator, you’ll get the full 10% standard royalty. But if you are just an author, like me, you’ll receive 5% and your illustrator will receive 5%.

SUSANNA: Did you receive author copies?

LAURA: Yes, I received 10.

SUSANNA: Do you know what your initial hard cover print run is?

LAURA: The initial print run is 3,000 copies.

 

SUSANNA: Thank you so much for being willing to provide such detail, Laura!  I know readers will be grateful for it!

 

SUSANNA: Tell us about the editorial process…

 
LAURA: Only minor revisions were made during the editorial process, mainly to align the text and the illustrations. For example, I originally had Porcupine wearing a shawl, but the illustration of a shawl full of quills looked awkward, so boots were suggested instead. And Porcupine looks good in her little blue boots!

 

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

 

LAURA: I was pleasantly surprised when my editor asked me for styles of art that I like. I just happen to keep a Pinterest board of Illustrators I Admire, so I was able to share my tastes easily. When my editor informed me that Jennie Poh would be doing the illustrations, I was thrilled. I saw sketches of the woodland characters and was given a chance to comment. Then the cover was revealed, along with an internal spread in Fall 2017. Finally, I got to see a digital proof in May of this year. After a few more back-and-forths, the final digital proof arrived.

Jennie’s art is warm and whimsical. I love the color palette Jennie chose and Porcupine’s cozy den feels so inviting. The characters were friends in my text, but Jennie’s illustrations made those relationships believable.

thumbnail_PorcupinesPie_INT

interior spread from PORCUPINE’S PIE

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

LAURA: Foreword Reviews published a review of Porcupine’s Pie in their Sept./Oct. issue. It was a bit surreal!

 

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

LAURA: 21 months. Fun fact: That’s about how long an elephant mama carries her baby before it is born!

 

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

LAURA: My publisher purchased ad space in Foreword Reviews in the form of an author interview to complement the review in the same issue. They also plan to promote my book on the Beaming Books blog.

 

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

LAURA: Before my book launched, I promoted it with a ‘Preorder Campaign’ where those who preordered would get a signed bookplate and be entered to win a pie-making kit. I also planned a launch party with children’s activities and a blog tour, stopping at various kidlit and mommy blogs. I decided not to invest in a book trailer, but I did have bookmarks and stickers printed. I also canvassed the neighborhood with launch party invitations!

 

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

 
LAURA: I started writing a bit and taking some kidlit workshops about ten years before PORCUPINE’S PIE won the Beaming Books Picture Book Contest. But it wasn’t until I joined SCBWI in 2011 and made writing a priority during the few hours my kids were in preschool that I really began to improve my craft. It was energizing to see my own progress and humbling to realize I should never have submitted to agents when I did! From my conversations with other writers, five to ten years to land a book contract is not unusual.

 

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

 
LAURA: If you have an idea for back matter that was not submitted with the original manuscript, pitch it to the editor! PORCUPINE’S PIE is a story with food at its core so it made sense to add a recipe at the end. I made a lot of trial pies, had friends and family taste test them, then created my recipe. And my editor ate it up! 🙂

 

Laura Renauld

 

Find Laura on the web at laurarenauld.comand on social media:

Twitter – @laura_renauld

Facebook – @kidlitlaura

Instagram – @laurarenauld

 

Thank you so much for a wonderful and very informative interview, Laura!  On behalf of all our readers, I appreciate you including Storystorm and Sub It Club, the specific details of your contract, author copies and print run, and your excellent advice about back matter.  So helpful!

Readers, you may purchase Laura’s book at:

Indiebound
Amazon
Barnes&Noble

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

– purchasing their books

– recommending their books to friends and family

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

– recommending their books to our local libraries and bookstores

– sharing their books on social media

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

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

 

Missed any previous Tuesday Debuts?  Check them out!

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

Jessie Oliveros – The Remember Balloons

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

Hannah Holt – The Diamond And The Boy

Tuesday Debut – Presenting Hannah Holt!

Welcome to the October 2nd edition of Tuesday Debut, everyone!

Not only do we have a fabulous new author and debut picture book to enjoy today, this particular author did some research into advances, royalties, and rights last year which she has very kindly shared with us below.  After last week’s questions, I know you’ll all find it interesting!

So without further ado, put your hands together for Hannah Holt and her debut picture book, The Diamond And The Boy!

The Diamond and the Boy
written by Hannah Holt
illustrated by Jay Fleck
Balzer+Bray, October 2, 2018
Nonfiction, ages 4-8

 

DiamondMan Final cover

Told in a unique dual-narrative format, The Diamond and the Boy follows the stories of both natural diamond creation and the life of H. Tracy Hall, the inventor of a revolutionary diamond-making machine.

 

SUSANNA: Thank you so much for joining us today, Hannah!  We are thrilled to have you here and so excited to hear all about your amazing book!  Where did the idea for this book come from?

HANNAH: Tracy Hall was my grandfather. The idea to write his biography was simple enough, but how to tell the story eluded me for years. I took the story in a dozen different directions before landing on the dual narrative with graphite.

 

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

HANNAH: About five years.

 

SUSANNA: Did you go through many revisions?

HANNAH: Yes, about eighty.

SUSANNA: I am noticing a trend here, folks!  Last week, Beth told us her book had undergone 91 revisions.  It sounded like a LOT, but Hannah is giving her a run for her money!

 

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

HANNAH: When it was accepted for publication!
Kidding (sort of). I still struggle with knowing when my stories are “ready.”

I worked on this story for years. I had it professionally critiqued. The story won an award—and I still had to completely rewrite it before it was accepted for publication. A story can always be made better. However, every so often, you have to try the market. Sometimes you just have to let go and submit.

Yes, edit it and revise it. Rest it and rework it. Critique it and tweak it…and then send it out!

 

SUSANNA: When and how did you submit?

HANNAH: I wanted an agent, so I mostly submitted to them.

I sent in small batches of 5-8 at a time. When a rejection came in, I would send another query out. I was working towards a goal of 100 rejections in a year.

I didn’t quite make that goal because I signed with my agent, Laura Biagi, and we were fortunate to have The Diamond & the Boy picked up quickly.

Laura was actually my second agent. My first agent, Danielle Smith, is no longer working in the industry.

While working with Danielle, I received no rejections. None. My stories went out and nothing came back. After we parted ways, I set my rejection goal to take back control of my career.

If you aren’t getting rejected, you probably aren’t progressing towards publication.

Rejects are good! They are proof you are working.

Hannah and Zephyr

Hannah hard at work with her supervisor and neck-warmer, Zephyr 🙂

 

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

HANNAH: I spoke with my editor before I had an official offer.

Laura and I received interest from multiple houses for The Diamond & the Boy. My agent arranged phone calls with the interested editors, so I could hear their editorial ideas. Kristin Rens had a fantastic vision for the story, so I accepted the offer from Balzer+Bray.

 

SUSANNA: How did you celebrate signing your contract?

HANNAH: I signed my contract, and then finished washing the dishes.

Okay, later in the day, I went to dinner with my husband, but it’s funny how normal duties of life didn’t disappear just because a book contract is signed.

 

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

HANNAH: My advance was larger than expected, probably because of the interest from multiple houses. It still didn’t make me rich. I’ve sold more than this book, but I’m not living off my income from picture books.

I didn’t know what to expect in other areas, so I deferred to my agent’s judgment on those items. (Hurrah, for agents!)

 

SUSANNA: Readers of this series have expressed a strong interest in knowing a little more about the specifics of contracts.  As it happens, Hannah conducted a poll last year to gather information on that topic and she was kind enough to provide a graph and summary explanation which I hope everyone will find helpful.  Even though I’m sticking it smack in the middle of her interview 🙂

HANNAH:

I asked about advances as part of my children’s author survey last year. I had over 100 published picture book authors participate. The most common advance range for smaller houses is $1,000-$5,000. The most common advance range at Big 5 houses is $5,000-$10,000. However, I’ve attached an image to show you the spread. My debut advance was higher than average, but I had interest from multiple houses. That drove the offer up quite a bit.

My agent at the time was aggressive about pursuing international rights, so she only sold North American rights. I’ve spoken with editors about this. It’s more common for picture books to sell world rights because the words and illustrations are often created by different person. It can be easier to sell as a package. One editor I talked to said picture books at her house are about 2/3rds world rights. This same editor said it’s more common for novelists to retain world rights.

Q1 Large House vs small house advance

graph copyright Hannah Holt 2017

 

SUSANNA:  Thank you so much for sharing that, Hannah.  I think I can speak for all our readers when I say it is extremely helpful!

 

SUSANNA: Tell us about the editorial process…

HANNAH: I was fortunate to talk to my editor before accepting the offer, so there weren’t any big surprises.

I had pitched the book as a dual narrative meet-in-the-middle story, and Kristin wanted a side-by-side telling. I fully supported this switch and working with Balzer+Bray was a delight. Kristin kept me in the loop for everything from copy editing to the progress on the illustrations.

 

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

HANNAH: I was involved from the very beginning.

My editor suggested four possible illustrators, and Jay Fleck was my top pick. Fortunately, he accepted the offer from my publisher. Yay!

My editor kept me in the loop as illustrations progressed. I saw sketches, and at some point, my editor asked if I would help supply research material. Of course, I was happy to help, and we went through a few rounds of sketches and tweaks.

I never spoke directly with the illustrator, and I tried to leave Jay as much stylistic freedom as possible in my notes while keeping the story technically accurate. I’m very happy with the result. The final artwork is stunning!

SUSANNA: Very cool that your editor sought your input on who the illustrator would be!

 

SUSANNA: Did you include art notes in your manuscript?  If so, can you share an example?

HANNAH: I only had one illustration note in the text for The Diamond & the Boy. It was describing something vaguely enough that I thought the illustrator might need some help:

“Once-frail sticks and sheets

become strong enough to lift his feet

off the earth. (illo note: huge kite)”

The resulting illustration looks like this:

The Change page

 

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

HANNAH: The Diamond and the Boy has had two trade reviews so far: Booklist (a STAR!) and Kirkus. I saw both reviews before they were made public and fortunately both were favorable.

 

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

HANNAH: About two years.

 

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

HANNAH: My publisher sent my book out for trade reviews and awards. They’ve brought The Diamond & the Boy to major book conferences, like Texas ALA. They’ve also had a digital copy available on Edelweiss+ and sent me several Folded & Gathered copies.

I won’t be going on a publisher sponsored book tour or anything fancy like that, but I’m happy with the level of support I’ve received.

 

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

HANNAH: I helped organize a picture book debut group with about 50 members. We recently ran a group giveaway for educators with over 1,600 entries. It’s much easier to market with friends. I highly recommend that approach.

I’m also writing blog posts (like this! Thanks, Susanna!), putting together a classroom guide, and recording videos for science experiments correlated with my book.

When focusing on promotional material, I try to spend time rather than money. Like I said earlier, writing books hasn’t made me rich.

 

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

HANNAH: Ten years.

In the last decade, I’ve watched many friends sign with agents and publishing houses. Some friends have become quite successful. Others have left the business. I’ve also seen books hit bestseller lists and then eventually go out of print.

Through all this, I’ve learned that quick success isn’t necessarily the path to happiness. Becoming “published” is not the end-all, be-all that budding authors sometimes think it is. It’s important to know what you want and not become distracted by the siren call of every opportunity.

Market trends come and go, but stories don’t expire. There is no deadline for success. Through it all, keep chasing your own dreams!

SUSANNA: That is excellent advice, Hannah!  Thank you so much for sharing your experience with us today.  We all really appreciate it and wish you the best of success with this book and all the books to follow!  Readers, if you have any questions for Hannah, I’m sure she’ll answer if she has time!

HannahHolt_small

Hannah Holt is a children’s author with an engineering degree. Her books, The Diamond & The Boy (2018, Balzer+Bray) and A Father’s Love (2019, Philomel) weave together her love of language and science. She lives in Oregon with her husband, four children, and a very patient cat named Zephyr. She and her family enjoy reading, hiking, and eating chocolate chip cookies. You can find her on Twitter and at her website: HannahHolt.com

You may purchase her book at:

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, our children’s teachers and librarians, and our local libraries and bookstores, by sharing their books on social media, and by 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

Tuesday Debut – Presenting Beth Anderson!

Welcome, Everyone!

It’s the friendly, Tuesday writer’s club coffee hour here on Blueberry Hill!

Take off your shoes, tuck yourself into a comfy chair, wrap your hands around a nice hot mug of coffee or tea, and let’s settle in for a cozy chat with today’s Tuesday Debut-ess!

(What do you think?  Is debut-ess an improvement on debutee or is debutee better?  I’m still trying to think up a good word 🙂 )

While you’re thinking on that, coffee cake anyone?

apple cake

Photo and recipe from ScrummyLane

 

Before we get started, I want to take this opportunity to invite you all to evaluate the information you’re getting from these Tuesday Debut posts.  As you read, please think about whether you’re getting all the information you hoped for from the weekly posts.  Do you have burning questions we’re not addressing?  Specific things you’re dying to know about the publication process? If there are questions you’d like to see included in future Tuesday Debuts, please share them with me in the comments or email me!  It is easy to make changes and I definitely want to make improvements if there are any you can see to be made.  I want this series to be as helpful to everyone as possible!

Now, it is my extreme pleasure to introduce today’s Tuesday Debut author, the lovely and talented Beth Anderson and her wonderful book:

AN INCONVENIENT ALPHABET: BEN FRANKLIN AND NOAH WEBSTER’S SPELLING REVOLUTION
by Beth Anderson
illustrated by Elizabeth Baddeley
Paula Wiseman Books/Simon & Schuster, 9/25/18
Narrative Nonfiction, age 4-8

Beth1

Brand new Educator’s Guide available HERE

Do you ever wish English was eez-ee-yer to spell? Ben Franklin and Noah Webster did!

 

SUSANNA: Thank you so much for joining us today, Beth!  We are all so glad of the opportunity to learn from your experience!  I’m chuckling because entirely by coincidence, the book I posted for PPBF a few days ago was Noah Webster And His Words by Jeri Chase Ferris – a nice companion to your book!  Where did the idea for this book come from?

BETH: Ben Franklin had me at “ish.” When I saw a news blurb item about how he wanted to change the English alphabet, including six new letters (one of which was “ish”), I was immediately interested. As a linguistics major, reading specialist, and English teacher, how could I resist? When I read further, his quote, “Those people spell best who do not know how to spell,” hit me. The kids! They’re sounding words out. So sensible. Just what Franklin wanted. His quirky humor went straight to my heart. From there, I had to dig in and find the story. (For more on the inspiration, see this post. )

 

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

BETH: After the initial exploration confirms that a topic has potential, I research for a few weeks, organize ideas, then start drafting. AN INCONVENIENT ALPHABET took about six months to reach “ready” for an editor critique. (I was working on a couple other manuscripts in various stages at the time, as well.) After the critique, I revised for another month and a half. It involved more research, some “reframing,” and tightening.

 

SUSANNA: Did you go through many revisions?

BETH: My revision process has changed as I’ve learned more and more about how to shape a story. AN INCONVENIENT ALPHABET went through about 40 revisions. An earlier manuscript, which will be my second picture book, had 91 revisions. Part of the difference is the story itself. But much of what accounts for far fewer revisions with “Alpha” is that I did a lot more organizing of information and brainstorming of possible structures and “vital idea” before I wrote. Also, I made many more changes with each revision as I’m not only fine tuning sentences, but looking at structure, conflict, characterization, etc. I think the key to making revisions that matter is to go beyond the sentence level where you keep reworking the same “story,” and, instead, push yourself to experiment with structure and holistic level changes. Finding just the right thread to make a story marketable and being able to reframe it that way is an ongoing challenge!

(There’s more on revising this manuscript HERE. )

 

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

BETH: Probably like most of us, I often think a manuscript is ready before it really is. We write the story we love and revise it until it’s just right, but often fail to see the big picture, or the marketing picture, or the irresistible premise picture—all things editors see. That’s why critique groups are so important. (Not your kids, or spouse, or neighbor.) That’s also (just one reason) why an agent is so valuable. A good agent has “editor eyes.” All these people help us see a story in different ways and can tug on the reins when we want to go ahead and submit before its ready.

With this manuscript, after I had taken it through many revisions, various critique groups over and over, and past my agent several times, I purchased an editor critique. With that, I took each piece of feedback and made sure I had applied it to the entire story. Then, when feedback came back with tiny tweaks, and the story itself got a genuine “yes!” it told me that the manuscript was ready to sub.

 

Beth3

 

SUSANNA: When and how did you submit?

BETH: At a writing retreat, I purchased editor critiques on several manuscripts. My agent, the wonderful Stephanie Fretwell-Hill, advised which manuscripts fit which editors. After the retreat, I worked with Sylvie Frank’s feedback to revise AN INCONVENIENT ALPHABET, and then we sent it to her on a 30-day exclusive submission. Ta-da! She loved it. (Note: Sylvie said that acquiring a manuscript in that way is rare for her.)

That all sounds so easy, right? Well, there was a lengthy process leading up to that. If you’re interested in how I got to that point, HERE’s more.

 

SUSANNA: When did you get “the call”?  How did you celebrate signing your contract?  (If you care to share 🙂 )

BETH: To be honest, the thrill of both the news of the offer and the signing of the contract were tempered by sad events. The contrast of emotions served to remind me of what’s truly important and that life is a balance. My joy settled inside, nestled with gratitude, encouragement, and anticipation of the new adventure.

SUSANNA:  I’m so sorry that what should have been a joyous occasion was tempered by sadness, Beth.  But you are right.  It does help us keep perspective.

 

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

 

BETH: Mostly, I didn’t know what to expect! This too is a learning process. I asked some questions of my agent to better understand it all and am so glad that I had her to lead me through it and do the negotiations.

 

SUSANNA: Tell us about the editorial process and your experience with the illustration process…

BETH: There were few revisions to make for the editor since I had already revised per her feedback. She got an illustrator on board very quickly – the amazing Elizabeth Baddeley! About 3-4 months after the contract was signed we had sketches. That’s an exciting moment! Copy edits came soon after. I made a few tweaks to the text here and there. I was kept in the loop throughout, and the process was smooth and comfortable. The editor’s vision never conflicted with mine, but rather enhanced everything that I had envisioned.

As a rookie, I was wishing I had more knowledge of the editorial process, what to expect when, etc. Here’s how I would explain the process:

Imagine the editor drives up to your house in a limo and invites you to go for a ride. You sit up front and chat along the way. You know the destination, but don’t know the route. So you spend much time looking out the window, wondering, asking a question now and then. Along the way, you pick up other people – the illustrator, art director, etc. But…there’s that limo barrier between the front and back. You can’t talk to the people back there, but the editor can, and once in a while relays a bit of what’s going on. You ooh and ahh at landmarks along the way, feel a festive spirit permeate the vehicle, and, finally, after a long trip, you arrive at the book!

As I work on more manuscripts, I see that each one is a bit different. So…basically, sit back and enjoy the ride!

Beth2

 

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

BETH: Seeing the advance reviews from Kirkus and SLJ was a joyful moment – a bit of relief combined with anticipation at getting the book in the hands of kids.

 

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

BETH: 2 years

 

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

BETH: I’m really only beginning this aspect of the book and learning as I go. I have lots of lists!! Here’s what I’ve done so far:

  • scheduled a release party at a local Barnes and Noble,
  • requested F&Gs be sent to a number of bloggers in hopes that they will want to review AN INCONVENIENT ALPHABET and have been lucky enough to receive invitations for interviews from friends within the kidlit world.
  • postcards, bookmarks, additional business cards
  • contacted bookstores in the area about opportunities such as local author signing days and festivals, as well as school visits they coordinate. (I don’t think this book is the best for story times with toddlers.)
  • planned activities for events
  • completed authors pages on Amazon, Goodreads, etc., SCBWI opportunities
  • added pages to my website
  • blog posts for my own site on my writer’s journey and process
  • created Pinterest boards related to the book
  • working on a presentation for schools and paperwork associated with that

 

SUSANNA: What is your publisher doing to market and promote your book?

BETH: I’ve been assigned a publicist and am copying her on any plans I make so she can coordinate books being available. She will arrange signings I request when I travel and send F&Gs to people I’ve requested. I’ll work with her on any conferences, but at this point have none scheduled. The publisher has sent copies to reviewers and created an educator’s guide.

 

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

BETH: I made the decision to jump into writing for children in the fall of 2013. In the beginning of 2016, I signed with an agent, and in September 2016, I had my first offer.

 

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

BETH: I think each book has lessons to teach us as writers. As I got to know the characters in AN INCONVENIENT ALPHABET, Ben Franklin’s philosophy of letting your ideas “take their chance in the world” really struck a chord with me. In contrast, Noah Webster wanted to force his ideas on people. One approach is stressful, the other not. One approach considers you know best, the other accepts that maybe you don’t. One approach lets rejections quash the spirit, the other takes them in stride.

So, do your best, and put those manuscripts out there. Let your ideas “take their chance in the world!” 🙂

Beth4

photo credit Tina Wood

Beth Anderson, a former English as a Second Language teacher, has always marveled at the power of books. Armed with linguistics and reading degrees, a fascination with language, and penchant for untold tales, she strives for accidental learning in the midst of a great story. Beth lives in Colorado where she laughs, wonders, thinks, and questions; and hopes to inspire kids to do the same.

website and social media links

https://bethandersonwriter.com/

https://www.facebook.com/beth.anderson.33671748?fref=ts%2F

https://twitter.com/@BAndersonWriter/

https://www.pinterest.com/bandersonwriter/

An Educator’s Guide is available HERE.

Beth, thank you again so much for being with us today, and readers, thank you for stopping by to read.  If you have questions for Beth I’m sure she will do her best to answer if she has time.

I think it’s interesting that the interviews from both Jessie last week and Beth this week showed how much writing is but one piece in the puzzle of life.  It’s so easy as an unpublished writer (or even a published writer hoping for another sale) to think that if you can get published, everything will be perfect!  There is no denying that getting published is wonderful!  It is the dream.  It is what we all work so hard for.  But for Jessie it came with a new baby, and for Beth it came with sadness in her life.  Both things put publication in perspective.  Jessie’s book was drawn from her life experience of having a grandfather with Alzheimers, and Beth was able to write her book because of her background as a teacher and her knowledge of and interest in linguistics.  So if you’re looking for inspiration, you may, like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, have no need to look any further than your own back yard. You may find it right there in your life.

Whether you’re published yet or not, write for the joy of writing and enjoy the process and the journey.  It’s hard work, but we do it because we love it, and I think most of us would agree that there aren’t many occupations that can rival making up stories, or sharing the wonders of the nonfiction world with kids 🙂

Happy Tuesday! 🙂 and don’t forget to let me know if there are questions you want answered in future posts!

Missed any 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