Tuesday Debut – Presenting Ciara O’Neal!

Hi Everyone!

Wow!  It’s been a while since we had a Tuesday Debut, hasn’t it?!

That is partly because of the writing contests and the holidays, but also partly because I only have Tuesday Debut posts when people want to share their first-ever brand new picture books.  (That said, I have a lot of availability in the coming weeks, so if you’ve got a debut picture book you’d like to get a little attention for, email me! 🙂 )

But we’ve got one today – the second self-published one we’ve had the opportunity to learn about here – so some interesting and different information.

Please help me welcome Ciara O’Neal as she shares her debut picture book Flamingo Hugs Aren’t For Everyone!

 

Flamingo Hugs Aren’t For Everyone
Written by Ciara O’Neal
Illustrated by Alicia Young
Published November 2019
Fiction, ages 6-10

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Hugs are hard for a clumsy flamingo. But with daring disguises, delightful dances, and a few more tricks up her feathers, this bird is determined to win a little love from zoo-goers everywhere!  

SUSANNA: Welcome, Ciara!  Thank you so much for joining us today!  We’re delighted to have you and opportunity to learn a thing or two about the self-publishing process for picture book writers!  Where did the idea for this book come from?

CIARA: Flaminga’s story arose during a very loooooong trip to the ER with my daughter. After rejecting kisses from my stuffed flamingo keychain, our star was born! My daughter and I whiled away the endless hours by brainstorming all the different ways a flamingo might try to win affection. And, voilà Flamingo Hugs came to life. I still have my daughter’s first sketch of Flaminga in her hat. Alicia drew a wonderful rendition of it in our book!

Idea generation is one of my favorite phases in the whole process of creating picture book magic. I find that I am a very visual person. So whenever I want to find inspiration, I take a walk around my corner of the world. I try to look at ordinary things from odd perspectives. Sometimes, it’s hunkering down in the grass or leaning against a tree. (There might have been that time I flipped upside down on my kids’ playground. But we won’t talk about that.)

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

CIARA: Some stories demand I tell them from beginning to end in one sitting. Flamingo Hugs and many of my other picture books materialized in a matter of hours. But that being said, NONE of those stories look anything like the original draft. Especially not once my incredible critique partners got to them. (Love my critique partners!)

SUSANNA: Did you go through many revisions?

CIARA: All of my stories go through MANY rounds of revision. But I think my favorite stage is probably my second round of revisions. (My first round always focuses on plot, stakes, and character development.)

During the second round, I research. I find picture books with similar themes, Youtube videos, and Pinterest pins to help me develop my language. I create a list of verbs, nouns, and adjectives that fit my manuscript. I begin playing with the words, generating jokes, and flushing out “the world” in my story.

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

CIARA: This question is SO difficult to answer. I’m not sure there is a right one. I feel most confident about my story when my critique partners only give me words to tweak as opposed to fixing plot holes, etc.  Once I reach that stage, I have done several paid critiques.

SUSANNA: At what point did you decide to self-publish rather than submit to traditional publishers?  Did you try traditional first? Or did you have specific reasons for wanting to self-publish?

CIARA: A little over a year ago, I decided I wanted to finally chase my dream of being an author. I wrote my first few manuscripts and began querying agents and traditional publishers. During that time, I started sharing my stories with my dad.

We had so much fun brainstorming and dreaming up what characters would do. One day, he told me he believed in my stories and wanted to help make my dream a reality.  Together, we decided my clumsy flamingo needed a little self-publishing love, and here we are!

SUSANNA: How did you find an illustrator?

CIARA: I found my first illustrator, Alicia Young, after searching the SCBWI page. I saw her illustrations and fell in love!

SUSANNA: Did you and the illustrator have a contract of any kind?  What types of items did it address?

CIARA: Alicia and I did have a contract. I did a mini-interview with her before we agreed to work together. During the illustration process, we spoke often. It was important to me to find someone that I clicked with and shared my vision for the story.

SUSANNA: Are you able to give a ballpark figure of any kind about the cost of the illustrator?

CIARA: Illustrators are fabulous people! But they have to eat too! When it comes to cost, you will get what you pay for. Spot illustrations can cost anywhere from $20-$45. Elaborate full spreads can cost even more depending on the time needed to complete the page.  It’s hard to give a ballpark figure because each story calls for a different number of spot illustrations and spreads. So needless to say, self-publishing with great illustrations can be costly.

SUSANNA: What was the illustration process like since you were directing it? Any particular challenges?  Anything you particularly enjoyed?

CIARA: The illustration process was thrilling. Each email from Alicia was like Christmas morning. She is so creative and such a joy to work with. That’s not to say we didn’t do our fair share of revision, both my words and her illustrations. But it was one of my favorite parts of this journey!

SUSANNA: How did you format your book for publication?

CIARA: My beautiful illustrator formatted my story. Most illustrators I’ve had contact with an offer this as part of their services.

SUSANNA: How did you select a printing service?

CIARA: Alicia also helped me find our printing service. She had published with them previously. We were both impressed by the price, quality, and turn around time.

SUSANNA: Did you do a print run so you’d have inventory, or is your book print-on-demand? (And where is your book available – online bookstores? brick and mortar bookstores?)

CIARA: I did a print run.  My book is also available on Amazon and through my personal website. I have it for sale in a few indie bookstores. I also tote around a few copies to sell at fairs, schools, etc. I even had it for sale at Christmas Tree farm. 🙂

SUSANNA: How long was the process from writing through publication of your book?

CIARA: For Flamingo Hugs, the whole process took about eight months.

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

CIARA: I have a book trailer that I created. Here is the link, https://ciaraoneal.weebly.com/flamingo-hugs-arent-for-everyone.html

I also created an educational guide to accompany my book. It is on the link above as well. Feel free to check it out. In my guide, there are coloring pages, word searches, stationery, and lesson ideas.

Aside from the trailer and guide, I have visited several blogs, sent out postcards to schools, and visited fairs. Near Valentine’s Day, I will be having a little giveaway. It’s all very exciting.

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

CIARA: I would love to definitely thank you. Last October, I found your “Would You Read It?” It was my first foray into the “critiquing” world. Your supportive community gave me the confidence to keep writing and dreaming!

Ciara Logo_yellow swirl background

Social Media-
Twitter- @ciaraoneal2
Instagram- authorciaraoneal
Personal Website- ciaraoneal.weebly.com

 

 

SUSANNA: That is really wonderful to hear, Ciara – that Would You Read It helped you in your writing pursuits!  Thank you to all our generous, helpful readers for their part in that.  And to anyone who is considering submitting a pitch to Would You Read It, maybe this will give you a little incentive 🙂  Thank you so much for joining us today, Ciara, and for sharing all your helpful advice!  We so appreciate it and wish you all the best with this and future books!

Readers, if you have questions for Ciara, please post them in the comments below and if she has time I’m sure she’ll respond! (And if you’re interested in the other self published Tuesday Debut, please see HERE)

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

 

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

– reviewing their books on Goodreads, Amazon, 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

Matthew Lasley – Pedro’s Pan: A Gold Rush Story

Natalee Creech – When Day Is Done

Margaret Chiu Greanias – Maximillian Villainous

Wendy Greenley – Lola Shapes The Sky

Danielle Dufayet – You Are Your Strong

B.J. Lee – There Was An Old Gator Who Swallowed A Moth

Cathy Ballou Mealey – When A Tree Grows

Pippa Chorley – Counting Sheep

Sandra Sutter – The Real Farmer In The Dell

June Smalls – Odd Animals ABC

Jill Mangel Weisfeld – Riley The Retriever Wants A New Job (Self Published)

Kathleen Cornell Berman – The Birth Of Cool: How Jazz Great Miles Davis Found His Sound

Eleanor Ann Peterson – Jurassic Rat

Sarah Hoppe – Who Will? Will You?

Marla LeSage – Pirate Year Round

Stacey Corrigan – The Pencil Eater

Shannon Stocker – Can U Save The Day?

Nadine Poper – Randall And Randall

Christine Evans – Evelyn The Adventurous Entomologist

Karen Kiefer – Drawing God

Susan Richmond – Bird Count

Dawn Young – The Night Baafore Christmas

Heather Gale – Ho’onani: Hula Warrior

 

Tuesday Debut – Presenting Jill Mangel Weisfeld!

Hey there, folks!

It’s time for another edge-of-your-seat episode of Tuesday Debut! 😊

Today, we have something very special in store.

To date, in this series, we have focused on the journey to publication for traditionally published authors, because that is what the majority of pre-published writers are striving for.  And for the most part, that will continue to be the focus of the series.  But some authors choose a different route for their own reasons, and I thought you might enjoy hearing at least once about a different kind of publication journey because I think there’s a lot we can learn and apply to our own situations.

So I now have the pleasure of introducing you to Jill Mangel Weisfeld and her adorable book, Riley The Retriever Wants A New Job!

Title: Riley the Retriever Wants a New Job
Author: Jill Mangel Weisfeld and Deborah Mangel
Illustrator: Shirley Ng-Benitez
Publishing house: Peek-a-Bear Press
Published: August 2018
Fiction
Picture book for ages 4-8

SM-VSK Riley cover

Book description: The book tells the adventures of Riley who is trying to find a more meaningful job than being a Retriever. Riley begins her quest researching working dog jobs on “Doogle” to see if she can find one that is a better fit for her. The book is entertaining and educational. The colorful illustrations bring Riley’s adorable personality to life. The story is based on Jill’s own dog Riley who is a certified therapy dog with the Good Dog Foundation.

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Jill’s daughter with Riley when she was about 4 months old 😊

SUSANNA: Welcome, Jill!  Thank you so much for joining us today!  We’re looking forward to hearing about the publication process from a different angle!  Where did the idea for this book come from?

JILL: The idea of the book came to me when I was working with Riley at the library about six years ago. The idea was fully formed when I first came up with it. I wanted the story to be educational so immediately I thought the idea of Riley being bored being a Retriever and having her research working dog jobs on her computer. The word “Doogle” came to me later. I began to do my own research on different kinds of working dog jobs and picked different jobs that I thought would be appealing to children.

riley head shot

Riley at the library! 💕

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

JILL: I wrote the book with my mom and it took us about 3 months for the first draft. I sent my mom all of my research about working dogs and a very rough draft of the story and then she tightened it up for me and added some of her ideas. My mom’s writing is a little more formal than I wanted it to sound so I adjusted it so it sounded more like Riley’s voice.

 

SUSANNA: Did you go through many revisions?

JILL: The book went through many revisions. Like the Beatles song I got by with a little (actually a lot) of help from my friends. I had the librarian at the local library where Riley works read the manuscript to make sure the language was suitable for the intended age group. I had a friend who is a child psychologist read it to make sure the images were suitable for the age group as well. Two of my close friends helped me with editing the book. My husband and daughters also helped me a lot. I read the book out loud many times to make sure the sentences flowed well to the ear.

 

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

JILL: I was never 100% sure the book was completely ready for publication. Grammar can be very subjective, one person would tell me to add a coma and another person would tell me to remove the same comma. I hired a children’s book editor who was very helpful but the book still went through many grammatical revisions after he edited it.

 

SUSANNA: When and how did you submit?

JILL: I started my own publishing company called Peek-a-Bear press when I published my first book titled: “Take a peek with Peek-a-Bear. I like self publishing because you have creative freedom with the end product such as the illustrations and design of the book.

 

SUSANNA: How did you go about creating your book?

JILL: I searched for illustrators on the internet who used the style I was looking for. I also posted the job on Guru but in the end I found my illustrator on Instagram.

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Before I sent manuscript to the illustrator I had her sign a non disclosure form. The illustrator is represented by an agency and I did sign a contract. I didn’t want to pay an illustrator a royalty every time I sold the book so the contract stated that I was paying a flat fee for the art.

The fee is based on the page count of the book and the number of illustrations. I spoke to many illustrators and the fees ranged from 1,500-15,000.

I am a graphics designer so I designed the book with clip art that represented what I wanted the illustrations to look like. The illustrator, Shirley, first sent me sample art of Riley, once I approved those she sent me black and white sketches of the rest of the book.
Shirley moved on to color after the black and white sketches were approved. I really enjoyed seeing Shirley bring the book to life with her color illustrations. Shirley lives on the west coast so everything was done over email. The entire process went well and Shirley completed the book in about 9 months which is fast.

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I designed the book on Quark which is the design program that I use. I exported the book to the printer who is in Hong Kong.

My husband is an exporter and he works with agents in Hong Kong who helped me find the printer. They also printed my first book and since they were competitively priced and nice to work with I hired them again.

 

SUSANNA: How did you handle print run and distribution?

JILL: I printed 2,000 copies of my book and I am distributing it through Amazon Advantage, local bookstores and my website. I just had a book signing at FAO Schwarz in Manhattan. I am going to approach toy stores and pet stores as well.

 

SUSANNA: How long did it take you to have the first copy in your hand?

JILL: The total process writing to publication took at least three to four years.

 

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

JILL: I did not submit my book yet to be reviewed by Kirkus or Booklist but maybe I will after reading this question.

 

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

JILL: Book Marketing has been a challenge for me, it’s hard to know what is going to generate sales. Riley has an Instagram account. I just decided I am going to donate 100% of my proceeds to The Guiding Eyes For The Blind in Yorktown, NY. I have socialized guide dog puppies from this wonderful organization. When I do a book event I bring a coloring page of Riley to give to the children. I have not done a book trailer or sent out flyers.

I have hired a PR person, Valerie Kerr, to send out a press release to print and media when I have an event. Valerie has gotten me write ups in local newspapers and web sites, podcast interviews and a guest spot on a local radio show.
My first book won five awards but I wasn’t able to enter this book because the copyright date was for 2015 and it has to be the same as the publication date

 

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

 

JILL: One thing I would like to share is that sadly my mom passed away almost two years ago while we were still working on the book. My father who is suffering from dementia moved in with me and I was not able to work on the book for for a long time afterwards. Part of the reason was it was too painful for me and for a while I didn’t think I would be able to complete it. I knew my mom would be really upset with me if I didn’t finish the book so this gave me the motivation to do so.

granny

Jill’s mom with Riley

SUSANNA: So sorry to hear about your mom, Jill, and that she never got to see the finished book.  I’m sure she’d be proud of you, though, and really pleased with how it came out.  And it’s clear from the photo how much Riley meant to her.  Thank you so much for joining us today.  I think I can speak for everyone when I say it was really interesting to hear about publishing a book from a new perspective.  We can all learn a lot from you! Best of luck with this and future books! 😊

 

jill and riley headshot

Author Jill Weisfeld with Riley

Instagram: @workingdogtales

 

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

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

Bronx River Books in Scarsdale, NY and other Independent Bookstores
Amazon
Jill’s Website

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

– 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

Matthew Lasley – Pedro’s Pan: A Gold Rush Story

Natalee Creech – When Day Is Done

Margaret Chiu Greanias – Maximillian Villainous

Wendy Greenley – Lola Shapes The Sky

Danielle Dufayet – You Are Your Strong

B.J. Lee – There Was An Old Gator Who Swallowed A Moth

Cathy Ballou Mealey – When A Tree Grows

Pippa Chorley – Counting Sheep

Sandra Sutter – The Real Farmer In The Dell

June Smalls – Odd Animals ABC