Tuesday Debut – Presenting Sita Singh!

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.

Sita’s writing buddy, Solo 😊

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.

text copyright Sita Singh 2021, illustration copyright Stephanie Fizer Coleman 2021, Philomel Books


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.

text copyright Sita Singh 2021, illustration copyright Stephanie Fizer Coleman 2021, Philomel Books


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.

Author Sita Singh

www.singhsita.com
Twitter: @sitawrites
Instagram: @sitawrites
Facebook: Sita Singh

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)

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

– 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

Jill Mangel Weisfeld – Riley The Retriever Wants A New Job (self pub)

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 (religious market)

Susan Richmond – Bird Count

Dawn Young – The Night Baafore Christmas

Heather Gale – Ho’onani: Hula Warrior

Ciara O’Neal – Flamingo Hugs Aren’t For Everyone (self pub)

Theresa Kiser – A Little Catholic’s Book Of Liturgical Colors (religious market)

Lindsey Hobson – Blossom’s Wish (self pub)

Kirsten Larson – Wood, Wire, Wings: Emma Lilian Todd Invents An Airplane

Valerie Bolling – Let’s Dance!

Janet Johnson – Help Wanted: Must Love Books

Susi Schaefer – Cat Ladies

Heather Kinser – Small Matters: The Hidden Power of the Unseen

Kelly Carey – How Long Is Forever?

Mary Wagley Copp – Wherever I Go

Nell Cross Beckerman – Down Under The Pier

Claire Noland – Evie’s Field Day: More Than One Way To Win

Sharon Giltrow – Bedtime, Daddy!

Gabi Snyder – Two Dogs On A Trike

Sarah Kurpiel – Lone Wolf

Vicky Fang – Invent-a-Pet

Lisa Katzenberger – National Regular Average Ordinary Day

Pam Webb – Someday We Will

Abi Cushman – Soaked!

Teresa Krager – Before Your Birth Day

Lindsay H. Metcalf – Beatrix Potter, Scientist

Nancy Roe Pimm – Fly, Girl, Fly! Shaesta Waiz Soars Around The World

Jolene Gutiérrez – Mac And Cheese And The Personal Space Invader

Julie Rowan-Zoch – Louis (picture book illustration debut!)

Janie Emaus – Latkes For Santa

Amy Mucha – A Girl’s Bill Of Rights

Hope Lim – I Am A Bird

Melanie Ellsworth – Hip,Hip…Beret!

Rebecca Kraft Rector – Squish Squash Squished

Gnome Road Publishing (publishing house debut)

Sue Heavenrich – 13 Ways To Eat A Fly

Julie Rowan-Zoch – I’m A Hare So There (author/illustrator debut)

Nancy Derey Riley – Curiosity’s Discovery (author/illustrator self-published debut)

Moni Ritchie Hadley – The Star Festival

Tuesday Debut – Presenting Susan Richmond!!!

Welcome to Tuesday Debut, everyone!

You are reading this from all over the world today, and I’m so glad you’re here!  For some of you spring is just around the corner, and for others autumn approaches without any appreciable change in the weather, but here in the northeastern US, the trees have bedecked themselves in all their colored finery and the birds are on the move – some south to warmer climes, some settling in for the duration, checking out all the local bird feeders in order to select the best place to spend the winter 🙂

It’s a great time to enjoy today’s debut picture book!

Bird Count by Susan Edwards Richmond
illustrated by Stephanie Fizer Coleman
Peachtree Publishing Company, Inc.
October 1, 2019
Fiction PB
Ages 4 to 8

Bird Count_cover

Ava is excited when Big Al, the leader of their Christmas Bird Count team, asks her to record the tally this year. Using her most important tools—her eyes and ears—she eagerly identifies and counts the birds they observe on their assigned route around town.

 

SUSANNA:  Welcome, Susan!  Thank you so much for joining us today!  We’re so looking forward to all you have to share about your publication journey!  Where did the idea for this book come from?

SUSAN: Bird Count is based on the National Audubon Society’s annual bird census called the Christmas Bird Count (CBC). After being part of my town’s CBC for years, it occurred to me what a wonderful citizen science topic it would be for children, since there’s no age limit for participation. My original idea for the book was as a kind of seek-and-find, with more emphasis on counting than on birdwatching concepts.

 

Susan Edwards Richmond_birding with scope

 

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

SUSAN: I brought several drafts to my critique group over the course of a few months before feeling it was ready to send out. One of my early versions included parts of a poem I’d written about the count well before sitting down to write it as a picture book. So if you count those notes, the initial writing process took a couple of years.

 

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

SUSAN: As my critique group suggested, I paginated the final draft and crafted it until I was happy with the content of each spread. Then I polished the text, a couplet on each spread.  When my critique group didn’t have any more suggestions I felt I could use, I was ready!

 

SUSANNA: When and how did you submit?

SUSAN: I didn’t have an agent, so I selected two editors from houses I knew did great picture books on science topics, Charlesbridge and Peachtree Publishing Company. I had met the Charlesbridge editor at a conference, but an author in my critique group, Melissa Stewart, suggested I try her editor, Vicky Holified, at Peachtree. Because it was a picture book, I mailed off the complete manuscript.

 

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

SUSAN: Vicky, the editor at Peachtree, initially liked the book idea but rejected the manuscript. Still, she wanted to work with me. After three complete rewrites over the course of a year without an offer, I wasn’t sure I could keep going. My critique group saved me!  I brought in the email with my editors’ latest round of extensive comments, and they walked me through each point, helping me see how I could address her concerns.

I was waiting to hear the results of Bird Count’s second round of acquisition meetings, when Vicky wrote that she’d like to address a few more questions over the phone. After that call, I waited again. Finally, days later, I heard from the vice president that a contract was in the works. I was so grateful I’d persevered I was in tears. I have my critique group to thank, and my editor, who believed in the book so much that she spent a whole year working with me without knowing if it would ever be published.

 

SUSANNA: How did you celebrate signing your contract?

SUSAN: Bottle of champagne—toasts all around!

 

talkin birds

Talkin’ Birds

 

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

SUSAN: Since this was my first book, and I didn’t have an agent, I didn’t know what to expect and felt pretty much on my own. I was so happy to be published, and I didn’t know what was normal!  I had a friend who was a lawyer look it over, and then signed. Later I found out that the advance, author copies, and rights were typical for a picture book for this house. I received 15 author copies and had my advance paid in three installments—at signing, at the point the book was sent to production, and on publication date.

 

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

SUSAN: As I mentioned earlier, there were heavy rounds of revision before the contract. My editor had a strong vision for the book, and I’m now grateful for all the hard work we did together. I had envisioned it as a much simpler counting book, featuring birds in a variety of habitats. But Vicky was intrigued by the mechanics of the count itself and wanted to highlight all my birding knowledge. It seemed like a lot of information to put into one picture book. But we did it—and it works!

 
SUSANNA: What was your experience of the illustration process like?

SUSAN: My original manuscript included just a few art notes—only where I thought the spread wouldn’t make sense without it. I’ve learned that you can almost always get rid of an art note. The illustrator has so many original ideas to contribute and usually does “get” the irony or subtlety in your text, and will probably come up with something way more interesting than you imagined!

I was lucky that my editor included me in the process from the beginning, asking me for ideas about illustrator and illustration style, and later providing time for me to review sketches as well as full color illustrations. Because the book had a lot of science content, she wanted to be sure I felt the birds and habitats were portrayed accurately. Fortunately, my illustrator Stephanie Fizer Coleman, is also passionate and knowledgeable about birds!

BirdCountArtTease1

illustration copyright Stephanie Fizer Coleman 2019

 

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

SUSAN: I have a publicist at Peachtree, Elyse Vincenty, and she’s wonderful. Peachtree mails out dozens of advance copies to reviewers, bloggers, and influencers. She forwarded the Kirkus Review to me as soon as it came out. I’ve also seen advance reviews on Goodreads and on a few blog sites. It felt amazing to read so many positive reviews!

 

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

SUSAN: It was accepted for publication in fall of 2015, and I received my first advance copy in April of this year. So three and a half years! Four between offer and release date.

 

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

SUSAN: I’m lucky that Peachtree does a lot of promotion for its books—which doesn’t mean you don’t have to do a lot of your own as well. But my publicist, Elyse, sends out review copies, communicates with the sales force about unique markets (for example, nature centers and bird stores), facilitates book placement at conferences, and helps authors carry out their marketing ideas.  Peachtree chose Bird Count’s cover as the cover image for their Fall catalog, which was incredible, and it has a two-page spread inside. They also do a great job presenting books on their website, including publishing a Teacher’s Guide for which I wrote the text, posting author bios, and linking to author websites.

 

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

SUSAN: No matter who your publisher is, expect to do a lot of marketing! The first thing I did was join Twitter; the second was join an author debut group—since this was my first children’s book—called On the Scene in 2019. The larger your community, the larger your promotional voice will carry.

In addition, my husband produced a book trailer for Bird Count, which Elyse arranged to have released by the Nerdy Book Club. You can see it there at https://nerdybookclub.wordpress.com/2019/08/31/book-trailer-premiere-bird-count-by-susan-edwards-richmond/ or on my website. I had two sets of bookmarks, and a postcard designed and printed. I also developed a list of markets which I thought might sell my book, and got creative about expanding it. It’s not my job to sell to stores, but when a manager expresses interest, I give the information to my publicist, and she has a sales rep contact them. I also set up most of my own author appearances, including the launch, signings, story times, etc., although Peachtree arranged for me to sign at the NEIBA Discovery Show in Providence, RI, during my book release week, which was very exciting.

 

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

SUSAN: Honestly, it was more than 15 years. Although I became even more focused in the past 6 or 7.

 

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

SUSAN: My path to children’s book publication was longer than most, I think. Could I have gotten there faster? Maybe, but you also have to embrace your own journey. I raised a family and developed a local poetry following in the interim, as well as found my dream job—teaching at a Mass Audubon preschool.

All of my experiences led me to where I am today, with my first children’s book out from a fantastic house, represented by an amazing agent, Stephen Fraser at Jennifer de Chiara Literary Agency, and surrounded by a wonderful, generous writing community.  Doesn’t get any better than that.

Thank you so much, Susanna, for interviewing me about my publication story!  It’s been wonderful speaking with you.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Author Susan Richmond

Website: www.susanedwardsrichmond.com
Twitter:  @SusanEdRichmond
Facebook:  Susan Edwards Richmond
Link at Peachtree online: https://peachtree-online.com/portfolio-items/bird-count/

SUSANNA: Thank YOU so much for taking the time to visit with us today, share your experience, and participate in this series and paying it forward to other writers!  I know I speak for everyone when I say how much we appreciate it and that we all wish you the very best of success with this and future books!

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

You may purchase Susan’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

– 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

Jill Mangel Weisfeld – Riley The Retriever Wants A New Job

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