Perfect Picture Book Let’s-Pretend-It’s-Still-Friday 😊 – The Gift Shop Bear

Okay. So technically it’s not Friday. Too much to do the last few days! But I didn’t want to miss the chance to share this lovely book in the last Perfect Picture Book Friday post of the year!

Due to the upcoming Holiday Contest (click here for guidelines if you want to enter!), followed by the holidays themselves, our next official PPBF will be in January. But anyone who posted last week when Thanksgiving eclipsed PPBF for me (sorry about that!) or this week on time (as I did not! 🤣) or who posts in the next couple weeks is welcome to add all their titles to today’s list!

So without further ado, enjoy a peek at this sweet book. I have had my copy for a few weeks, signed by the author/illustrator and ready to go under the tree for my granddaughter 😊

Title: The Gift Shop Bear

Written & Illustrated By: Phyllis Harris

Publisher: Worthy Kids, October 2021, fiction

Suitable For Ages: 4-6 (from readers), though I think kids as young as 3 and as old as 8 will enjoy, not to mention the “kids” in their 20s-100 😊

Themes/Topics: holiday (Christmas), friendship, love, loyalty

text and illustration copyright Phyllis Harris 2021, Worthy Kids

Opening: “Nestled on the edge of town sat a little gift shop.
Inside the shop, in a dusty attic, in a cozy box. . .
a little bear listened to the frosty wind whistling outside the window.”

Brief Synopsis: All year long, Bear waits in his box in the attic for the first signs of the Christmas season when his friend Annie will come to take him down into Nana’s shop to celebrate the holidays. But this year is different. Nana is retiring and the shop is closing. What will happen to Bear?

Links To Resources: Instead of gingerbread men, why not get a bear-shaped cookie cutter and use this kid-friendly recipe to make gingerbread bears? Kids can have fun mixing the dough, cutting out bear shapes, and decorating any way they like, not just at the holidays, but all year long!

text and illustration copyright Phyllis Harris 2021, Worthy Kids

Why I Like This Book: This is one of those stories that both tugs at your heart and warms it. All year long, Bear waits faithfully in the attic, knowing that when the first snowflakes fall his friend Annie will come and get him and bring him down to the warmth and light, love and laughter, the scent of fresh gingerbread and pine, and his favorite carols in Nana’s gift shop. But this year, when the shop closes on Christmas Eve it is closing for good because Nana is retiring. Bear is put away in his box wondering if he’ll ever get out again. He is tossed in a car and driven away, tossing and tumbling, alone in the dark. How can Annie ever come for him if she doesn’t know where he is? [Spoiler alert – if you don’t want to know the ending, skip a bit 😊] Bear falls asleep, and when he wakes up he hears familiar voices, smells the familiar scent of Christmas, and hears his favorite carol. The box opens and there is Annie, with whom he now gets to spend EVERY day, not just the holidays. At last he has somewhere to belong all year long. The art is SO appealing, soft and engaging. Young readers will want to pick Bear up and hug him. And all readers will be touched by Annie and Bear’s enduring friendship. If you liked ROCKING HORSE CHRISTMAS by Mary Pope Osborne, you will love THE GIFT SHOP BEAR.

I hope you enjoy it as much as I do 😊

For the complete list of books with resources, please visit Perfect Picture Books.

PPBF folks, please add your titles and post-specific blog links (and any other info you feel like filling out 😊) to the form below so we can all come see what fabulous picture books you’ve chosen to share this week!

Have a wonderful weekend, everyone! 😊

Tuesday Debut – Presenting Phyllis Harris! PLUS A Giveaway!

Hello, my friends!

It’s Tuesday Debut Day once again!

If you haven’t voted for your favorite HALLOWEENSIE CONTEST FINALIST yet, you still have until 7 PM Eastern this evening! Please hop over HERE and vote – we need all the votes we can get to break ties!

Thanksgiving is behind us and the holidays are coming which is just perfect for today’s debut picture book, THE GIFT SHOP BEAR, and debut author/illustrator Phyllis Harris, who has graciously come by to share her journey to publication with us (including a glimpse of her lovely work space which will have you all goggle-eyed with envy 😊)

So let’s meet Phyllis and have a look at this sweet holiday book! She is kindly offering a giveaway copy (US residents only) so if you leave a comment on this post, you could be a winner!!!

THE GIFT SHOP BEAR
Author/Illustrator, Phyllis Harris
WorthyKids/Hachette Book Group
Published 10/26/22
Fiction for ages 4-7

All year long, Bear watches from his spot in the attic as the seasons change, waiting for the first snowflakes that signify Christmas is coming. You see, at Christmastime, Bear gets to join his special friend, Annie, in the festivities in her grandma’s gift shop. But this year is different–the gift shop is closing and Bear’s future seems uncertain. Will Bear see Annie and Nana again?

SUSANNA: Thank you so much for joining us today, Phyllis! We are thrilled to have you and your beautiful debut picture book which is so perfect for this time of year! Where did the idea for this book come from?

PHYLLIS: I was babysitting my granddaughter when she was 3 or 4 years old and we were looking through her mother’s old toybox and came across her old teddy bear. She immediately felt so sad for this bear because her had been left alone in this dark box for all these years with no one to love and care for him. At that moment, I knew I had a new story idea!

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

PHYLLIS: The story idea came about when my granddaughter was 4 and it was just published last October when she was 8 years old so it took about 4 years to publication. However, that also included finding and signing with my agent, Adria Goetz and then us working through edits to prepare it for submission. Once it went out on submission it took 10 or 11 months before we got the offer.

SUSANNA: Did you go through many revisions?

PHYLLIS: The actual writing process included many rounds of revisions with the help of my critique partners. Also, it didn’t start out as a Christmas book.  The original setting was a book store but when I realized the store would be closing, it was too depressing to have a book store go out of business so I changed it to Nana’s Gift Shop closing because of her retiring which made for a much kinder plot and that’s when I realized it had to be a Christmas book!

Phyllis’s gorgeous work space and her work buddy, Brinkley. (Named after the dog in her favorite movie, YOU’VE GOT MAIL. 😊

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

PHYLLIS: I knew it was close to being ready when I got the interest of my agent on a Twitter contest. That gave me the boost of confidence I needed and then after I signed with her, we tweaked it a bit more before it went out on submission.

Phyllis working in her art studio

SUSANNA: When and how did you submit?

PHYLLIS: My goal was to be an author/illustrator of picture books, so when I had a few stories ready in book dummy form, I decided to try some of the Twitter contests. I entered #PBPitch and #FaithPitch since one of my books was faith based. Fortunately, I had some interest from a few agents and an editor and that’s when my agent first showed interest in my faith-based book and wanted to see what other books I had to offer so I sent her the book dummy for THE GIFT SHOP BEAR and she loved it. She didn’t offer representation right then but gave me the invitation to send her more once I had more to offer. Eventually a year or so later, I did have more to offer and after getting interest from 3 agents, I decided Adria Goetz was the perfect fit for me.

SUSANNA: How long after you found out about your book going to acquisitions (if you did) or after you submitted were you told it was a “yes”?

PHYLLIS: We got an email from Peggy Schaefer, Associate Publisher of WorthyKids, asking if it was still available on June 10th and then were told it was being submitted to the next acquisitions meeting and we got an offer July 22.

SUSANNA: When did you get “the call”, which these days is more likely to be “the email”?  (Best moment ever! 😊)

PHYLLIS: It truly was the best moment ever! My agent called with the news of the offer and I remember seeing her name come up on the caller ID and trying not to lose it when I answered.  She had previously shared with me via email that it had gone to acquisitions but I also knew that lots of books go to acquisitions and don’t end up getting acquired so I was trying to prepare myself for whatever the outcome would be.

Peggy Schaefer, Associate Publisher at WorthyKids had shown interest the previous year but couldn’t make an offer then because they weren’t ready to start acquiring for their new list yet and she didn’t want to hold me up in case I had other interest. I had illustrated several books for WorthyKids over the years, including ON CHRISTMAS DAY by Margaret Wise Brown and MAVERICK AND ME by Katherine Schwarzenegger so I already had a wonderful relationship with them as an illustrator.

I also had a request for a revise and resubmit from Little Brown during the submission process and even though I didn’t get an offer from them, I feel like the book became even better because of the revision request.

SUSANNA: How long was it between getting your offer and getting your contract to sign?

PHYLLIS: We got the offer in July and signed the contract 5 months later in December.

SUSANNA: How did you celebrate signing your contract? 

PHYLLIS: My husband had purchased “good” champagne previously and was saving it to celebrate my debut offer as author. He thankfully had confidence in the story, too. We shared that bottle with our daughter and son-in-law and of course our granddaughter had the non-alcohol version. 😊

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

PHYLLIS: This is when it is so helpful having an agent who has your best interests in mind to handle all of the negotiations. Adria is so wonderful at getting the best possible terms for her clients and is so knowledgeable about all involved in the contract.

WorthyKids offered very fair terms and I was pleased with their final offer.

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

PHYLLIS: Since this was my debut as author- illustrator, this was unique experience for me.

I had submitted a book dummy with all of the illustrations roughed out so I already had the overall vision for the book in place. I eventually added a few new illustrations and a new cover design to fit in with any new edits but overall, the art ideas did not change too much. I then went on to create each piece in final art form where I used traditional materials such as watercolor and some charcoal pencil and then scanned them in and added digital touches. Normally, art directors want to do the scans in house but since I had worked with this publisher before, they were aware that I provided quality scans and so they trusted the final files regarding the resolution, etc. Many artists don’t have good enough scanners to be able to do this so it may  vary for others.

text and illustration copyright Phyllis Harris 2021, Worthy Kids

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

PHYLLIS: This was one of the only disappointments besides having my book launch during a pandemic. I didn’t get any book reviews from Kirkus, SLJ or Horn. Possibly because it was a Christmas book from a smaller publisher.

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

PHYLLIS: My book was actually published a lot quicker than most in traditional publishing these days. Since I was both author and illustrator and it was a Christmas book, once we worked out the schedule, I started working on final art during the peak of the pandemic which was so wonderful to have something to work on while in lock down. If possible, the publisher wanted to fast-track it if I were comfortable with the schedule and I was. I didn’t want to wait another entire year for its release so I buckled down and got it accomplished.

Even with the pandemic shipping problems, which delayed my release date by 3 weeks, I had my first author copy about one year after I got the offer. The initial print run was 11,000 which I thought was great for a first-time author.

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

PHYLLIS: I was assigned a marketing team for my book and we had several zoom meetings talking about their strategies and plans for the marketing. They did a virtual booth at Picture Book Palooza, hosted by School Library Journal where I answered questions via live chat.

They reached out to bloggers and influencers from lists that I provided and posted on social media.

They also provided these fun activity sheets! https: //www.hachettebookgroup.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/Gift-Shop-Bear-Activity-Sheets-2.pdf

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

PHYLLIS: I was planning on doing a book tour but because of the pandemic most book stores were not allowing in-person book signings. I have to admit, that was pretty disappointing.

I created a book trailer and posted it on youtube and shared it on social media. You can see it here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1AaRKWlsPik I also reached out to local newspapers and TV stations and was so excited that the KC STAR did a feature article.

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

PHYLLIS: Probably about 3 or 4 years. I dabbled with the writing for over 25 years but because I was so busy and invested with the illustration side of books, I never took the time needed to work specifically on my craft of writing. That is my one regret, that I didn’t take the time to really work on my writing craft, earlier.

The first time Phyllis saw her book on the shelves at a Barnes & Noble! 😊

SUSANNA: What is the most important/helpful thing you learned on your way to publication? (Or what is your most helpful piece of advice for up and coming writers?)

PHYLLIS: If you want something bad enough, you have to put in the time. Take the writing workshops. Go to conferences. Find critique partners. Read, read and read more. Especially the kind of books you want to write. And most importantly, start writing, even if you feel it isn’t very good. We all have terrible first drafts and book ideas that remain in the drawer but the more we write, the more likely one of them will be the ONE that gets us going in the right direction. And you are never too old to dream a new dream! I am sixty, and I am just getting started!

Website: https://www.phyllisharris.com
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/phyllisharrisdesigns
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/phyllis.harris2
Twitter: https://twitter.com/PhyllisHarris

SUSANNA: Phyllis, thank you so much for stopping by today to share your journey to publication! We are all so grateful and wish you the best of luck with this and future titles! Readers, if you have questions for Phyllis, please post them in the comments below and if she has time I’m sure she’ll respond!

You may purchase Phyllis’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

Sita Singh – Birds Of A Feather

Ann Magee – Branches Of Hope: The 9/11 Survivor Tree

Amanda Davis – 30,000 Stitches: The Inspiring Story of the National 9/11 Flag (nonfiction)

Jennifer Buchet – Little Medusa’s Hair Do-lemma

Michelle Vattula – The Stalking Seagulls

Christine Van Zandt – A Brief History Of Underpants (nonfiction)

Candice Marley Conner – Sassafras And Her Teeny Tiny Tail

Ashley Belote – Frankenslime

Becky Scharnhorst – My School Stinks!

Darshana Khiani – How To Wear A Sari

Ana Siqueira – Bella’s Recipe For Success

Kate Allen Fox – Pando: A Living Wonder Of Trees (nonfiction)

Jenna Waldman – Sharkbot Shalom

Karen A. Wyle – You Can’t Kiss A Bubble

Rebecca Mullin – One Tomato (board book)

Cynthia Argentine – Night Becomes Day: Changes In Nature (illustrated with photographs)

Karen Greenwald – Vote For Susanna: The First Woman Mayor (nonfiction)

Anne Appert – Blob (author/illustrator)

Patti Richards – Mrs. Noah

Dianna Wilson-Sirkovsky – James’ Reading Rescue

Karen Condit – Turtle On The Track (hybrid publishing)

Renee LaTulippe – The Crab Ballet (picture book poem)

Amy Duchene – Pool Party (collaboration/co-writing)

Kimberly Wilson – A Penny’s Worth

Candace Spizzirri – Fishing With Grandpa And Skye

Carrie Tillotson – Counting To Bananas

Patrice Gopo – All The Places We Call Home

Rebecca Gardyn Levington – Brainstorm!

John Bray – The End

Jocelyn Watkinson – The Three Canadian Pigs: A Hockey Story

Katie Mazeika – Annette Feels Free: The True Story of Annette Kellerman, World-Class Swimmer, Fashion Pioneer, and Real-Life Mermaid (nonfiction)

Shachi Kaushik – Diwali In My New Home

Carrie Sharkey Asner – Blueberry Blue Bubble (self published)

Gela Kalaitzidis – Ozzie & Prince Zebedee (author/illustrator)

Caroline Perry – The Corgi And The Queen (nonfiction)

Tuesday Debut – Presenting Patrice Gopo! PLUS A Giveaway!

My goodness! It’s been some time since we had a Tuesday Debut, hasn’t it?!

I have missed getting to showcase new authors! Please remember (and spread the word) that if you have a debut picture book coming out I’d be delighted to feature you. Just email me (contact form in the menu bar) and we’ll choose a date!

Today I am thrilled to introduce a talented writer whose early publication was as an essayist, but who recently came to picture book writing. I had the opportunity to read this book before it was even submitted and I loved it from the beginning, so I encourage all of you to get your hands on a copy and enjoy it! In fact, one of you could win a copy from Patrice! Leave a comment below by Sunday June 19 at 9PM Eastern and you will be entered in a random drawing for your very own copy! (USA addresses only, sorry!) Please join me in welcoming Patrice Gopo as she shares her journey to publication with her lovely picture book, ALL THE PLACES WE CALL HOME!

Title: All the Places We Call Home
Author: Patrice Gopo
Illustrator: Jenin Mohammed
Publishing House: WorthyKids/Hachette Book Group
Date of Publication: 14 June 2022
Fiction or Nonfiction: Fiction
Age Range: 4-8

In her first picture book, author Patrice Gopo illuminates how family stories help shape children, help form their identity, and help connect them with the broader world. Her lyrical language, paired with Jenin Mohammed’s richly textured artwork, creates a beautiful, stirring portrait of a child’s deep ties to cultures and communities beyond where she lays her head to sleep.

SUSANNA: Welcome, Patrice! Thank you so much for joining us today! We’re very excited to hear all about your journey to publication with this beautiful, lyrical book! Where did the idea come from?

PATRICE: Years ago, my oldest daughter took a nap on her great-grandmother’s bed in rural Zimbabwe. That day I remembered a childhood nap I had once taken on my grandmother’s bed in rural Jamaica. I recognized how my daughter’s story would, in many ways, mirror my story: a child who lives in one place but has cultural ties to other parts of the world.

I shaped that experience into an essay called “Before” (part of my first collection of essays, All the Colors We Will See). One day, as a friend was telling me about her picture book project, I had one of those moments when a lucid idea showed up, saying, “Here I am. Pay attention to me.” The idea: the essay “Before” would make a great picture book!

Honestly, I love how this idea came into being. There is so much space for us to re-imagine our creative pursuits in other forms such that new creations spring forth.

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

PATRICE: This idea to turn the essay into a picture book manuscript came to me in the summer of 2019. The challenge for me, though, was that beyond having read tons and tons of picture books to my children, I didn’t know much about the craft of writing picture books. I knew quite a bit about the craft of writing, but not specifically picture books. So, I needed to learn. I began studying craft books and eventually signing up for Susanna’s MAKING PICTURE BOOK MAGIC course.

I came to the page with a desire to illuminate how family stories of far-off lands help shape children, help form their identity, and help connect them with their broader world. However, up until taking Susanna’s course, I was struggling with how to use the ideas from my essay and transform that into a picture book. Susanna’s daily lessons gave me tools and empowered me with ways to bring forth a gorgeous manuscript! After several rounds of revisions, I completed my manuscript in the summer of 2020.

No matter how long we’ve been writing, I think there is always space to learn something more!

SUSANNA: Did you go through many revisions?

PATRICE: I did go through multiple revisions. Probably 6-8 before my agent sent my manuscript out on submission. And then a few more revisions with my editor. As I mentioned earlier, I’m a personal essayist as well. When I write essays, one of my favorite parts is revision. I find the generation process/the blank page a little frightening at times. But with revision, you already have the words there.

A technique I love to use in the revision process is cutting the essay apart into paragraphs so that I can physically rearrange as I sit on the floor. I brought that revision technique to revising All the Places We Call Home (and additional manuscripts I’ve written since then). There is something wonderful about cutting apart paper, moving sections around, and seeing what that will do to your story.

Ultimately, each round of revision gets us closer to what a story wants to be.

Patrice’s office

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

PATRICE: My agent told me that it was ready for us to go out on submission. Honestly, I wasn’t sure myself, so I appreciated the outside opinion. As writers, we can get so caught up in the number of times we’ve read a manuscript, and it can be helpful to receive input from someone with more distance. I should mention that I had a pre-existing agent because of my work for adults, my essay collection, etc.

SUSANNA: When and how did you submit?

PATRICE: My agent submitted my manuscript to a handful of editors.

SUSANNA: How long after you found out about your book going to acquisitions (if you did) or after you submitted were you told it was a “yes”?

PATRICE: I actually didn’t find out that my book was going to acquisitions. My agent did let me know that we had interest in the manuscript. And about five weeks later, I received an offer. That was an excruciating time of waiting, knowing that someone was interested and then not knowing.

SUSANNA: When did you get “the call”, which these days is more likely to be “the email”?  (Best moment ever! 😊)

PATRICE: I did have to wait a bit as I mentioned above. However, I know this manuscript was picked up quickly when I compare to other stories I’ve heard.

SUSANNA: How long was it between getting your offer and getting your contract to sign?

PATRICE: This did take a while. About 5-6 months (this included several rounds of contract revision before I received the version to sign)

SUSANNA: How did you celebrate signing your contract?

PATRICE: Ice cream!!!

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

PATRICE: I found Hannah Holt’s “Writing Picture Books: A Look at the Numbers” blog post extremely helpful (hannahholt.com/blog/2017/9/25/writing-picture-books-a-look-at-the-number-part-2). WorthyKids is an imprint of Hachette Book Group, so a large press. According to Hannah’s statistics, my advance fit right within the average and aligned with what I expected. Same with the royalty rates. I will mention that I asked for additional author copies beyond what the initial contract offered. I think that’s a wonderful place to negotiate, particularly if you plan to use copies of the book in your marketing and promotion efforts.

SUSANNA: I agree, that can be ver helpful! Great tip! Can you tell us a little about the editorial process?

PATRICE: I decided to sign with my editor because she had both a passion for the story and a sense of what else it needed. We went through a couple of rounds of revisions, and I was thrilled to consider her input. One of the big elements I added was a third moment of “travel” in the book. Originally there were two, and that just felt incomplete (hello, rule of 3!!).

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

PATRICE: I have been so pleased with the illustration process!!! Jenin Mohammed is fabulous. While I did not have much input about the actual art (and I didn’t expect to have input), my editor and the art director cared about matching the right illustrator with this project. Since this book is based on a personal story rooted in my cultural experience, the editor and the art director were committed to choosing an illustrator who also had some connection to the story. Jenin Mohammed was the perfect choice. And her illustrations brought this story to life in ways I could have never imagined. I had an opportunity to see sketches along the way; those were such special moments, seeing your words become something more. The first time my editor showed me an image of the mother and daughter, I started to cry.

I don’t think Jenin’s vision departed from mine. Instead, I think Jenin could imagine so much more than I could. I just love the sense of color and movement I see in the spreads. I could never have dreamed of that, but they are exquisite.

text copyright Patrice Gopo 2022, illustration copyright Jenin Mohammed, 2022, WorthyKIds

I didn’t include any art notes. One thing, though, is that I asked for my contract to include a specification that the illustrations would be of a Black mother and daughter.

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

PATRICE: At this point, I have not seen any advance reviews.

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

PATRICE: The offer came in July 2020, and my editor sent me an early printed copy in February 2022. Such a special moment, opening that copy, sitting with my daughters, and reading this story to them!!

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

PATRICE: My marketing team has been amazing. I’ll share some of what they’ve been doing, but I know that they’ve been doing even more that I’m not even aware of. (If you want to know more about marketing, I watched this great SCBWI webinar that was so helpful: www.scbwi.org/digital-workshops-video-archive/ | the video for April 21st | I believe you need to be a member to watch)

Some things they have done:

  • Creating shareable graphics (and a timeline for when I should share)
  • Sending out targeted email blasts
  • Placing targeted ads for the book (along with other titles from their catalogue)
  • Creating an Amazon keyword ad campaign
  • Working with a publicist to pitch the book, etc.
  • Creating gifts for the pre-order campaign
  • Giving away influencer copies of the book
  • Developing an educator guide for the book
  • Just being kind, friendly, wonderful, supportive and clearly loving this book!! I’m so grateful for my marketing team!!

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

PATRICE: I’ve also been working hard promoting this book. Many of these ideas came from either my marketing team’s suggestions or what I did when I promoted my previously published essay collection.

  • Reaching out to podcasts I’ve previously been on and pitching me/the book as a return guest
  • Writing guest blog posts for places I have connections
  • Reaching out to my network and letting them know about the book, encouraging pre-orders, etc. (I primarily utilize my newsletter for this, but I also post on Facebook)
  • Reaching out to indie bookstores where I have connections (and some where I don’t) to let them know about the book
  • Asking my network to suggest that their library system purchase the book
  • Teaching classes
  • Regularly posting about the book on Facebook
  • Booking several local events
  • Booking a couple of summer camp visits
  • Ordering stickers to distribute during events
  • Developing a downloadable simple activity for children (separate from the educator’s guide)

I know stepping into marketing can have its challenges for us authors who might feel more comfortable writing the stories. However, I believe that our words can impact a child’s life. Participating in marketing and promotion is one of the beautiful ways of connecting our stories with children.

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

PATRICE: 11 years (I started writing in 2009 and sold my first PB in 2020; however, it is important to note that I didn’t seriously start writing picture books until 2019)

SUSANNA: What is the most important/helpful thing you learned on your way to publication? (Or what is your most helpful piece of advice for up and coming writers?)

PATRICE: Know yourself and know the story you are meant to tell/trying to tell. Over the past couple of years, I’ve received helpful feedback on this manuscript and other manuscripts. One thing, however, that stands out to me is the truth that people have subjective opinions. What someone doesn’t like, another person might love. Honestly, I find this somewhat confusing as I process feedback. Because of this, I think it matters that we have a deep sense of what the story is that we’re trying to tell. This deep knowing will help us weed through feedback, particularly if someone suggests a complete overhaul of our story. Of course, this doesn’t mean that a complete overhaul might not be the right thing at some point. However, I think if we know the purpose for why we are writing a story, we are better able to sift through feedback and determine what we let stick and what we should release.

SUSANNA: That is very good advice. Anything else you’d like to share about your book’s journey from inspiration to publication?

PATRICE: Recently, I came across a note I had jotted down many years ago—back when I was pregnant with my first child and before I knew that I would one day become a writer. I had written, “Write a children’s book about my child exploring their cultural background.”

I didn’t stick this note in a prominent place to guide my goals and return to, letting the idea imprint deeply upon my brain. Instead, a couple of scrawled words, almost throwaway words, and certainly long-forgotten words. However, I know All the Places We Call Home truly began as far back as there—and maybe even earlier. Whether or not my conscious mind knew this book would come to pass, something deep within was always aware. 

I believe the stories we want to tell are within, taking root, waiting for just the right time to join the world!

SUSANNA:Thank you so much for taking the time to participate in this series and paying it forward to other writers! We so appreciate your time and expertise, and wish you all the best with this and future titles!

PATRICE: Thank you so much for inviting me to take part, Susanna. It’s been a real privilege sharing a bit of my journey. Thank you for all the ways you support picture book writers!!

Author Patrice Gopo

Please visit my website: www.patricegopo.com

You can also find me on my Facebook page: www.facebook.com/patricegopowrites

You can subscribe to my newsletter here: www.patricegopo.com/subscribe

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

You may purchase Patrice’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

Sita Singh – Birds Of A Feather

Ann Magee – Branches Of Hope: The 9/11 Survivor Tree

Amanda Davis – 30,000 Stitches: The Inspiring Story of the National 9/11 Flag (nonfiction)

Jennifer Buchet – Little Medusa’s Hair Do-lemma

Michelle Vattula – The Stalking Seagulls

Christine Van Zandt – A Brief History Of Underpants (nonfiction)

Candice Marley Conner – Sassafras And Her Teeny Tiny Tail

Ashley Belote – Frankenslime

Becky Scharnhorst – My School Stinks!

Darshana Khiani – How To Wear A Sari

Ana Siqueira – Bella’s Recipe For Success

Kate Allen Fox – Pando: A Living Wonder Of Trees (nonfiction)

Jenna Waldman – Sharkbot Shalom

Karen A. Wyle – You Can’t Kiss A Bubble

Rebecca Mullin – One Tomato (board book)

Cynthia Argentine – Night Becomes Day: Changes In Nature (illustrated with photographs)

Karen Greenwald – Vote For Susanna: The First Woman Mayor (nonfiction)

Anne Appert – Blob (author/illustrator)

Patti Richards – Mrs. Noah

Dianna Wilson-Sirkovsky – James’ Reading Rescue

Karen Condit – Turtle On The Track (hybrid publishing)

Renee LaTulippe – The Crab Ballet (picture book poem)

Amy Duchene – Pool Party (collaboration/co-writing)

Kimberly Wilson – A Penny’s Worth

Candace Spizzirri – Fishing With Grandpa And Skye

Carrie Tillotson – Counting To Bananas