Do you know what time it is?
Of course you do! 😊
It’s time for another exciting episode of Tuesday Debut!!!
Today we have a lovely book with an important and heartwarming message from debut author Sita Singh. I hope you’ll love it and enjoy hearing about her journey to publication!
Birds of a Feather
Written by Sita Singh
Illustrated by Stephanie Fizer Coleman
Published by Philomel Books
March 2, 2021
Fiction Picture Book (ages 4-8)
A story of the colorless peacock who learns to love himself in a jungle full of color, Birds of a Feather is about finding strength in the things that make us different, and beauty in all its forms.
SUSANNA: Welcome, Sita! So thrilled that you could join us today! Where did the idea for this book come from?
SITA: This book came about from a fusion of ideas. I was working on a story with peacocks at the front and center of it, and at the same time, I was working on another story about a little girl feeling different because of her ethnicity. Neither of the two were coming together until one day, it just clicked. What if I combined the two ideas? And that’s how BIRDS OF A FEATHER came to be.
SUSANNA: How long did it take you to write this book?
SITA: It took me less than six months from the idea to the first draft that I was somewhat happy with. But then, there was revising, and more revising for almost two years before I signed the contract.
SUSANNA: Did you go through many revisions?
SITA: I did go through a lot of revisions. Since I make a new draft with even slightest of a change, there are hundreds of drafts sitting in my folder. I also start out with writing long sentences and paragraphs, without any inhibitions of word count. It’s more like a story I’m telling myself and/or figuring out for myself. So, my revision process ends up being quite long. Although recently, I’ve become faster and the last manuscript I wrote, which is out on submission right now, was in less than a year.
SUSANNA: When did you know your manuscript was ready for submission?
SITA: First, when my critique partners felt just as strongly about the story, and second, after it won the Rising Kite Award at Florida SCBWI.
SUSANNA: When and how did you submit?
SITA: After the award, I started to look for representation. I already had a long list of agents, whom I was following on twitter, and also from the vast search I had been doing over many months. I sent the manuscript to most of them along with a query letter, properly drafted according to the industry standards.
SUSANNA: How long after you submitted were you told it was a “yes”? When did you get “the call”, which these days is more likely to be “the email”?
SITA: As soon as the agent came on board, we submitted the story to various publishing houses. Over the period of twelve months, we got so many rejections that at one point my agent and I decided it’ll be best for me to not get regular updates from her. Thankfully, none of those rejections mentioned any loopholes in the story and my agent too felt strongly about it, so I didn’t revise the manuscript at all. Every now and then, she would also give me a pep-talk which I think helped keep up the hope.
Since I had no idea it was submitted to Philomel Books, “the call” actually was a shock! I remember being in the Indian grocery store and screaming so loudly that the owners had to run to check on me! 😊
SUSANNA: How long was it between getting your offer and getting your contract to sign?
SITA: We signed the contract after three months of accepting the offer. Within that time, I made a few changes to the story as suggested by my amazing editor, Liza Kaplan.
SUSANNA: How did you celebrate signing your contract?
SITA: We celebrated by having wine and going out to eat! It seems so weird to think about eating out in these times as we haven’t been to a restaurant in over a year. I also celebrated with my critique partners, and called my parents, brother, and close friends.
SUSANNA: Was the contract what you expected in terms of advance, royalty percentage, publication timeline, author copies etc.?
SITA: This being my debut, I had no idea about the numbers/royalties/fees and what to expect. I followed my agent’s advice, and she did negotiate the advance and author copies. Rest, everything was standard as in most picture book contracts.
SUSANNA: Can you tell us a little about the editorial process?
SITA: After the very first call with my editor, I knew she had a wonderful vision for my story which was extremely important to me. We went through some minor revisions and one major revision, but at no point was I worried that the story was going off track. Our visions were very much in sync and the editorial process was very smooth.
SUSANNA: What was your experience of the illustration process like?
SITA: Again, as a debut author, I had no idea what to expect once Stephanie came on board. I was surprised when I got to see the first set of illustrations—the rough pencil sketches. Thereafter, every stage of the illustration process was shared with me and it was such a thrill to see the artwork evolve. From the rough sketches to the final artwork, there were about four stages that I got to see and also give inputs. Although, I didn’t have many suggestions to make, since Stephanie just nailed the illustrations. Her vision not only matched mine, but she took the story to a visual level that was beyond my imagination.
I did have a few art notes where the text was to go either on a banner or on a sign post. As you can see in the spread below, art notes were necessary to convey my vision for this particular scene.
SUSANNA: How long did it take from offer to having the first copy in your hand?
SITA: It took two years from the offer to having the copy in my hands. When I signed the contract, two years seemed a lot, but having gone through the process, I now understand why it can take that long to publish a picture book.
SUSANNA: Describe any marketing/promotion you did for this book.
SITA: The first best step I took was to join the promotion group The Picture Book Scribblers! We’re like a family of debut and experienced authors, and everyone’s suggestions and experiences really helped me navigate through the marketing stage. I got a book trailer made by Cynthia Nugent, and teacher’s guide made by Marcie Colleen. I also created bookmarks, stickers, and a handful of coloring activities. Last but not the least, I did a blog tour with some wonderful KidLit bloggers!
SUSANNA: (A side note – Marcie Colleen has done a number of teachers guides for me as well – not all of them up on my website yet – and she does terrific work!) How long was it between the time you started writing seriously and the time you sold your first picture book?
SITA: I started to write seriously in 2014, and five years later, I sold my first book.
SUSANNA: What is your most helpful piece of advice for up and coming writers?
SITA: I’d say, write what comes from your heart, and revise, revise, revise! There’s always room for revision. Although my debut picture book just published, there’re places I feel could’ve used more revision. Also, believe in your stories! It helps with being patient and persistent, the two important things needed to stay on course of this turbulent journey to publication.
SUSANNA: Thank you so much for taking the time to participate in this series and paying it forward to other writers, Sita! We so appreciate the opportunity to learn from your experience! And I know I speak for everyone when I wish you the best with this and future titles!
SITA: Thank you, Susanna, for having me on your wonderful blog! Making Picture Book Magic was one of first courses I took (thanks to author Darshana Khiani, who suggested it way back in 2015 when I had just begun to write 😊) I still go back to those lessons and I’m so grateful to you, Susanna, for this opportunity to give back to the writing community.
Readers, if you have questions for Sita, please post them in the comments below and if she has time I’m sure she’ll respond!
You may purchase Sita’s book at:
(all links below are book-specific)
We can help our debut authors successfully launch their careers by:
– purchasing their books
– recommending their books to friends and family
– recommending their books to our children’s teachers and librarians
– recommending their books to our local libraries and bookstores
– suggesting them as visiting authors at our children’s schools and our local libraries
– sharing their books on social media
Thank you all for stopping by to read today! Have a lovely, inspiration-filled Tuesday! Maybe today is the day you’ll write your debut picture book 😊
Missed any previous Tuesday Debuts? Check them out!
Karen Kiefer – Drawing God (religious market)
Theresa Kiser – A Little Catholic’s Book Of Liturgical Colors (religious market)
Lindsey Hobson – Blossom’s Wish (self pub)
Julie Rowan-Zoch – Louis (picture book illustration debut!)
Gnome Road Publishing (publishing house debut)
Julie Rowan-Zoch – I’m A Hare So There (author/illustrator debut)
Nancy Derey Riley – Curiosity’s Discovery (author/illustrator self-published debut)