Boy, do I have a bug-tastic treat for you all today! My SCBWI friend and now DEBUT AUTHOR, Lori Calabrese, has just published her first picture book: The Bug That Plagued The Entire Third Grade. Woohoo!
Lori has also decided to make my blog a stop on her rockin’ bug-tabulous blog tour. She was kind enough to let me interview her and share with you some of the trials and triumphs of her publishing journey!
An Awesome Interview With Author Lori Calabrese:
First off, tell us a little bit about your book The Bug That Plauged the Entire Third Grade.
Lori: Hoping to win the upcoming Bug-A-Fair, Matt pries a strange bug off the grille of his Dad’s car. But as the fair nears, Matt catches a different kind of bug: a cold. Will Matt become student of the year or will he create a third grade epidemic?
Watch Lori’s amazing book trailer here:
Okay, onto the nitty-gritty writing and publishing stuff. What was your favorite thing about writing this book?
LORI: My favorite thing about writing The Bug That Plagued the Entire Third Grade was seeing it transform into what it did. As writers, we all know that the first draft is usually WAY different than the final draft and that was definitely the case with this picture book.
The Bug That Plagued the Entire Third Grade was a huge learning process for me and it will always hold a special place in my heart since it was my first children’s book.
What struggles did you meet in the writing process, and how did you overcome them?
LORI: I think the biggest struggle I met in the writing process was writing a good story in so few words. There are many people out there who think writing a picture book is a walk in the park. I know because I used to be one of them! But when you finally sit down and realize everything that goes into it—from the rhythm, meter, character development, plot, having your child protagonist solve his own problem, and making it entertaining, you become aware that writing a picture book is far more difficult than it looks!
To overcome the struggle, I read a ton of picture books. Fortunately, I’m obsessed with picture books, so that wasn’t such a hardship, but I really read and studied them to find out what works and what doesn’t.
How did you go about selling this book? And how did you find your small publisher?
LORI: Unfortunately, the picture book market is a difficult market to break into right now as most of us are aware from the recent NY Times Article and from reading agents ‘and editors’ blogs. Due to a tough economy, it’s hard for a debut picture book author to break in, but I truly believe that if you have the passion for it, it’s not impossible.
I found my publisher, Dragonfly Publishing, Inc., online. Since 2008, DFP has held a children’s picture book contest. DFP has to keep their submissions closed most of the time because they get too many and just can’t physically handle the volume, so Senior Editor Pat Gaines came up with the wonderful idea to give aspiring authors and illustrators an opportunity to get their books in print by holding this contest. I had learned of the contest and entered each year. Unfortunately, the manuscript I sent in 2008 didn’t make the cut, but I was pleasantly surprised to learn my entry for 2009, The Bug That Plagued the Entire Third Grade, won 1st place for Best Children’s Book.
Wow that’s so exciting! Now that that the book is published, you seem to have become a marketing GURU! Tell us about your marketing plan and how you’ve been using social networking to promote yourself and your book?
LORI: Well first off, thanks! That’s quite the compliment. These days, it’s not just about writing the book. It’s also about marketing it. As a small press author, a lot, and sometimes all, of the marketing efforts are the author’s responsibility. But I’m told that it’s the same with the bigger houses now, too and it’s expected that an author pitch in and do their part to market and sell their books.
Even though my book was just published two months ago, I had already started marketing two years ago. As authors, we’re not just marketing our books, but we’re marketing our brand, which is us the writer. It was important for me to have an online presence and network with other writers, so I always try to do as much social networking as I can. (Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, etc…)
I have my own personal website at http://loricalabrese.com; I blog daily about children’s books and writing at http://loricalabrese.blogspot.com. I distribute a monthly e-mail newsletter called The Book Bugz (you can opt-in at my website); I’m the National Children’s Books Examiner for Examiner.com; I contribute articles to article directories such as Ezine articles; I’m part of a marketing group called Indie-Debut 2010 (a group of debut authors who have joined forced to help promote each others’ books), I conduct school visits, and attend festivals and events. As you’re aware, I’ve also kicked off a virtual book tour, just held a virtual book launch party, I’ve sent my book out for reviews, contacted Independent bookstores, and so much more.
The marketing process for an author never ends and it’s another aspect of publishing that you really have to take the time to learn all the ins and outs. In addition to honing your writing skills, and reading all of those writing tips books, don’t be afraid to hit the library and search the marketing section as well.
What advice do you have for aspiring picture book authors?
LORI: To steal Nike’s slogan, JUST DO IT!
If you’re an aspiring writer, you’ve probably heard the tips I’m about to give you a million times—Read a lot and write every day. When I first started writing and read those tips, I’d say, “That’s it? Really? What else? C’mon. There has to be more!” I was certain these authors were holding back on the secret to success. But now that I look back at what’s helped me the most, it really is reading everything you can get your hands on, and keeping up with practice. You really have to keep at it and don’t get discouraged with rejections.
LORI: My favorite picture book is A Fly Went By by Mike McClintock. I love EVERYTHING about this book and to me, it’s such a classic! There’s just so much to it from the rhyme, repetition, and the nice little twist at the end. A lamb? Really? Love it!!
Thanks so much for stopping by the blog today Lori! I wish you the best of success with The Fly That Plauged the Entire Third Grade and hope it’s the first of many great books to come!
Lori Calabrese is an award-winning children’s author. Her first picture book, The Bug That Plagued the Entire Third Grade, was awarded DFP’s Best Children’s Book Award. She writes for various children’s magazines, is the National Children’s Books Examiner at Examiner.com and enjoys sharing her passion for children’s books at festivals, schools and events. Visit her website to learn more, www.loricalabrese.com.
Check out the rest of Lori’s Bug-tastic Book Blog Tour at:
The Bug That Plagued the Entire Third Grade Virtual Book Tour
November 2 – November 30
Lori Calabrese official website: http://loricalabrese.com
Mayra’s Secret Bookcase
Penny Lockwood Ehrenkranz’s One Writer’s Journey
The Children’s Book Review
Mrs.Hill’s Book Blog
Miss O’s Library Land
Tara Lazar’s Writing for Children (While Raising Them)/ PiBoIdMo
N.A. Sharpe’s Realms of Thought
Beverly S. McClure’s The Story of a Writer
Raising Itty Bitty Bookworms
There’s a Book
The Iron Bodkin
Into the Wardrobe