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by Catherine Bailey & Meg Walters

Thank you, Tara, for allowing Meg and I to reveal the super duper, mega official, cover of our book, LUCY LOVES SHERMAN (Sky Pony Press, 2017)! It’s very kind of you to host us, (and we didn’t even have to hypnotize you!). We’d like to share a behind the scenes sneak-peak of how our cover came to life. Meg will kick it off with her amazing illustrator insights,

An Illustrator’s Eye…
In March of 2015 I was contacted by Julie Matysik, then a senior editor at Sky Pony Press (SSP), the children’s imprint of Skyhorse Publishing. Julie and SSP editor Nicole Frail, had acquired a wonderful picture book text written by Catherine Bailey, called LUCY LOVES SHERMAN. Julie had kept a promotional postcard of mine that she had picked up from a NJ-SCBWI Fall Workshop and thought, based on the postcard artwork, my illustrative style might be a good fit for this new project. Although I have been an illustrator and designer for a long time, and attended SCBWI events for years, this was the first picture book I have illustrated. I was beyond thrilled, and couldn’t wait to illustrate Catherine Bailey’s fun characters and bring her wacky story to life.

Julie sent me the LLS manuscript and I began creating sketches of Lucy and Sherman and thumbnails of the story. Lucy loves polka dots, and loves that Sherman also “wears” polka dots. So I wanted to incorporate dot graphics on the cover, as well as Lucy’s clothes. I also liked that the polka dots resembled water/bubbles. Blub, blub!

The final cover artwork was due to SPP January 2016.


But—as so often happens in publishing—there was a change after the deadline.

In March of 2016 the SPP Marketing Department wanted to move the book release date to coincide with Valentine’s Day to play up the LOVE in LUCY LOVES SHERMAN. They asked me to recreate the cover with more red and add hearts. Marketing also asked that I move an illustration that was on the title page onto the cover. The illustration showed Lucy and Sherman hugging. Here is previous title page art:


I created several new looks for the cover and after a few rounds of edits, here is new Valentines-ish cover March 2016.


Then the publication date was switched to March of 2017. Since the focus was no longer a Valentine’s day release, we were able to go back to the original blue/turquoise background. SPP only asked that I still keep the characters hugging on the cover. And so, here she is – the final, final cover:


Sky Pony Press’s Nicole Frail and Julie Matysik, and Catherine, have been fantastic to work with throughout this whole process. I am thrilled for the March 2017 launch of LUCY LOVES SHERMAN!

The Author’s Note…
I am so glad to talk about the cover design of this book, largely because people always ask me if I draw my own pictures. After a resounding “Nope,” I get the follow-up question about how much input that I—as the author—have in the book’s artwork. That answer is usually “Not a whole heck of a lot.” And that’s fine with me! I love that talented artists like Meg add new layers and depth my stories.

However, the wonderful Sky Pony folks invited my feedback on early drafts of LUCY LOVES SHERMAN. I was super flattered and excited. I poured over the images for days. Seriously. At one point my husband threatened to lock my laptop in the trunk of his car. But I couldn’t help myself. Meg did such a great job!



Then, as Meg mentioned, there was a big shift towards a more “Valentine’s” feel during the cover design process. My editor, Nicole, emailed me the revamped design. It was very red, very adorable, and very perfect for the holiday. But. (Oh yes, there’s a but!) I worried that Sherman’s red shell would get lost against the scarlet background. So I very carefully and very politely voiced my concerns. Nicole really took them to heart, but her hands were tied. The red had to stay but there was talk about adjusting the shade, which I thought was a great compromise. And then—lo and behold—the publication date was pushed back and the problem solved itself. The cover went back to primarily turquoise.

So there you have it. A blow-by-blow of our mini-rollercoaster ride towards the final cover for LUCY LOVES SHERMAN, which splashes out from Sky Pony Press this March. I think Meg and Nicole and Julie totally nailed it. And I hope you to do too!

Pssst! It wouldn’t be a cover reveal without a free giveaway (Free! Everybody loves free!).

Just leave one message in the comments below and you will be entered to win a 20-minute Skype visit with author Catherine Bailey. The visit can be used either by a teacher/media specialist as a school visit, or by aspiring authors who’d like to chat about writing and publishing.

We have a winner for Catherine Bailey and Sarita Rich’s giveaway. Sarita’s daughter Stella did the honors:


Congratulations, MELISSA STOLLER! I will be contacting you via email to arrange the prize.

Watching that sweet video makes me want to write a story to make Stella giggle! Consider her cuteness your motivation for the week!


by author Catherine Bailey & illustrator Sarita Rich


Thank you for hosting us today, Miss Tara. We are excited to be here, and we are excited to celebrate the release of HYPNOSIS HARRY, and we are excited to talk about each other and, well, we are just really excited. So without further ado, here is us interviewing us.

1. Okay, Sarita, Harry’s expressions are some of my favorite moments in the book. Was he, or any of the characters or images, based on your family or home life?

As much fun as Harry was to draw, I really liked having a sister. In an earlier draft, she was older, but I decided maybe a baby/toddler would be funnier, especially on the last page. And I had a (sometimes) cooperative model at home, so that was helpful. I also liked having a cat in the story. I’ve had my share of overweight cats that could squish themselves into tiny cardboard boxes and fall asleep.

HH character sketches

2. I love that background info – especially the bits about the sister and the cat. (I have both.) So what was the most challenging aspect of illustrating Harry, and how did you overcome it?

Timing. I received the manuscript late September 2014 and had to submit a sample spread before October 10. I was pregnant with an October 23 due date and thought I had plenty of time to finish the spread. At my 38-week appointment, my doctor said I could go into labor any day, possibly that very night. “But I can’t! I haven’t finished the spread!” I thought. I sent the file on October 9, and Stella was born October 12. Sky Pony offered the contract shortly afterward, and I had to figure out how to be a mom and an illustrator at the same time. I was a little sleep deprived until June, but when an opportunity to work with editors from like Sky Pony, and an author like Catherine comes along, you say YES and sleep later.

HH sample spread

3. I had NO CLUE you were birthing babies during all this. You win the amazing illustrator ward of the year for sure! And you have been equally amazing with the promotional / post-publication support. What unique skills/opportunities do you think an illustrator can provide to/for the marketing of a picture book?

Illustrators have a chance to bring a book to life in many different ways. When you invited me to collaborate on launch party ideas, I learned an illustrator can extend the life of the book way beyond the reading. For HYPNOSIS HARRY, I helped create fun extras like coloring pages, drawing activities, and a craft demonstration. Since we both love giveaways, I suggested that since we couldn’t attend the other’s launch party, that we each donate an item to give away at our respective parties. And one thing I love most about illustrators is seeing a preview of process—a drawing demo, for example–because usually all we get to see is the finished product. When I find a book I admire, one of the first things I wonder is, “How did the illustrator do this?!” Seeing what goes into the creation of a book makes you appreciate the work so much more.

4. I do love giveaways. And your genius craft ideas. And Nutella. But I digress. What part of marketing HYPNOSIS HARRY are you most looking forward to doing?

I have some school visits lined up on April 8th, which happens to be during reading week at this particular school. I’m looking forward to reading to kids and drawing with them and giving them free stuff (bookmarks!).

5. Okay one last deep and insightful question. What was one NO from your parents that you wish had been a YES?

I’m from a treeless part of northern Alaska, and therefore my sister and I could never have a tree house. We had to settle for a ground level clubhouse. One summer we devised the perfect set up of old pallets and scrap plywood, complete with a clandestine hole in the ground in which I deposited empty candy wrappers. At one point, I tried to build a fire inside the clubhouse to destroy evidence of said candy consumption. I made sure to put the fire out completely, etc. but Dad found out and said NO to unsupervised backyard fires. He was especially furious because I had overlooked the fact that our clubhouse was built right next to the 50-gallon oil tank that contained our winter fuel…

That’s hilarious. And also dangerous. I am very glad you did not blow yourself up Sarita. And I am very, VERY glad you are my illustrator. Thank you! Okay, my turn in the hot seat.

1. In hindsight, I’m also grateful for parents who tempered the pyromaniac within so that I could live to meet Harry. What made you want to tell his story?

I read some little online blurb somewhere about a hypnosis demonstration gone wrong – the performer couldn’t snap his audience out of their trance. So I added hypnosis to my list of picture book ideas and forgot about it. A few weeks later I was trying to explain to my three-year-old why she couldn’t wear my wedding dress to school and it hit me – what if she were in charge? What if she hypnotized me and her dad? What would she do?! It would be terrifying, but also funny. Also, when I was a kid, I had a book called something like How To Get Your Parents To Give You Everything You Ever Wanted. That book was definitely a big inspiration too.

2. I love this insight into the inspiration behind the book. Speaking of others being in charge, how do you strike the balance between including too many illo notes and trusting the illustrator?

How do I strike the balance? Um, I don’t. I’m awful. LOL! My early drafts include dozens of art notes. I guess it is just part of my writing process to visualize every image and page turn. Fortunately I have great critique partners, and a wonderagent, who save me from myself. They help me to cut most of the art notes, which is a good thing. It is critical to trust the illustrator, art director, and publisher. They know so much more and do a much better job at that side of things. Let’s just say that if you and I both drew a stick figure, your stick figure would be way prettier.

HH sketch 1

3. I can see my stick figure getting carried away with clothes and eyelashes but the important point is that YOU are a marketing genius whose marketing plans should be SCBWI conference presentations. So what are the 3 most important things you keep in mind when developing a marketing plan for your picture books?

Audience, Budget, and Feasibility.

Defining your Audience makes you focus your efforts, which makes everything you do – calls, emails, school visits, signings, tweets, etc. – more effective. For example, I know my audience likes books, so bookmarks are a good giveaway (thank you Sarita for those!). Hairy poisonous spiders on the other hand, are not.

I hate to say Budget – but books are a business, like it or not, and I can’t spend a lot of money on items that don’t have a healthy return (even if I really, really want to!).

Feasibility means “Will Catherine actually do this thing or will she wimp out because she’s tired / doesn’t understand it / ran out of time?” For example, I would love to drive to every library within 200 miles and show them HYPNOSIS HARRY and convince them to add it to their collection. But unless I win some sort of babysitting and gas lottery, I can’t. So I’ll tone it down and just drive to every one within 30 miles 🙂 And I will do a lot of outreach online.

4. Those tips are sure to help us maintain sanity. Moving on: what major differences do you see in your marketing strategies for this book vs. MIND YOUR MONSTERS?

The biggest difference is that I can market HYPNOSIS HARRY towards schools because it came out during the school year. Also I now have dozens of school visits under my belt from my first book, MIND YOUR MONSTERS, so I can go back to those contacts. Overall marketing the second book is easier because I have at least some clue as to what I’m doing. But there’s always more to learn!

5. And finally, because I have to know, what was one NO from your parents that you wish had been a YES?

My grandparents had a farm, and on that farm was Molly. Molly was a horse and she belonged to my older sister Sarah Helen. Eventually I wanted a horse too (they really should have seen that coming), but my parents responded with a firm No. Instead my sister was instructed to share Molly with me. You can just imagine how that went. I spent a lot of time trying to ride the barn cats.

HH sketch 2

Thank you for reading. And there’s more! A giveaway (wheee)! Just leave a note in the comments below and you will be entered to win a Skype consult with author Catherine Bailey and illustrator Sarita Rich. Consider it a tag team critique where we will take a look at your picture book manuscript, and then chat about it with you in person. Well, in “digital-person.” You know what we mean.

by guest blogger Catherine Bailey

You call her Tara Lazar. I call her Dream-Maker-Genius-Lady. And thanks to Dream-Maker-Genius-Lady, and her month-long picture book idea challenge PiBoIdMo, I now have three picture book contracts.


Tara chose this GIF because she always wanted to be Sherilyn Fenn.

I joined the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators ( in 2010. Soon after I joined Verla Kay’s Blueboards, now accessible through the SCWBI website. That is where I heard about PiBoIdMo.


I’ll admit at first I did not understand all the hubbub. Come up with a PB idea per day? Who would check to make sure I did it? What if I didn’t? Was I supposed to call somebody? What else happened during PiBoIdMo? Then it clicked. I had to work on my writing–even if just for a bit–EVERY SINGLE DAY. Plus there were these motivational, insightful daily posts! I felt like I had struck PB gold.

Suddenly I was focused and taking my writing seriously. I made time to write. I made goals. I made lists. Long, gloriously detailed lists–of ideas, agents, publishers, writing techniques, bookstores, dream editors, dream illustrators…

On one of those lists was idea #17: How Do You Move a Monster? It was something my toddler had asked me. That’s it. There was no plot or character or anything–just that title. When I went back to idea #17 over a year later, I had an answer. You ask the monster to move… politely. Then a manuscript sprouted. After months of polishing, I shipped the story off to a few well-researched publishers.

Lo and behold, Sterling Publishing contacted me. I was plucked from the slush and THERE WAS INTEREST. Of course I just about died. I ate donuts and cried. And I contacted an agent who I had pursued earlier, Kathleen Rushall. Within a few days she agreed to represent me and from there INTEREST turned into and OFFER which turned into a CONTRACT which turned into me EATING MORE DONUTS.


The title changed to MIND YOUR MONSTERS and the book debuted this August. Here is the fabulous cover and some interior sketches:

:Mind Your Monsters BAILEY Cover



In the meantime, my toddler became an actual kid, we had another baby, and I kept participating in PiBoIdMo. Instead of making a new “Idea” list, I just added to the old one which was (rather optimistically) titled “101 Picture Book Ideas.” Did I have 101 Picture Book Ideas at this point? No. Nope. Nerp. But I knew I would eventually, thanks to Dream-Maker-Genius-Lady and her website of wonders.

Then I turned two more PiBoIdMo ideas into manuscripts. One was simply listed as “Hypnosis/stuck in trance” and the other was “Lucy loves Bobo—maybe Bobo is a lobster?” With time, work, and the input of an amazing critique group, those weird little baby-ideas turned in HYPNOSIS HARRY and LUCY LOVES SHERMAN, both of which sold to Sky Pony Press.


Today my “101 Picture Book Ideas” list includes over 200 entries. And thanks to Tara, I mean Dream-Maker-Genius-Lady, it is pure habit for me to add ideas to this list whenever something pops in my mind. And speaking of lists, here is a very brief recap of what I got out of PiBoIdMo.

  1. Ideas. Okay, so that one is obvious.
  2. A concrete starting place I can go to when I am stumped/motivated/annoyed with a current project. Like an anchor on a little boat in a big sea, this is very reassuring and grounding.
  3. Confirmation that writing is work and deserves the respect and focus of any other job – which for me means planned writing time, specific goals, and occasionally…donuts.

So thank you Dream-Maker-Genius-Lady. Thank you for inspiring and motivating me. And thank you for taking me to what I call Contract-Landia! Now c’mon November–let’s go PiBoIdMo!

PiBoIdMo 2015 registration will begin HERE (yes, I mean right here, on this blog, so there’s no link to click) in late October. I hope to see you then!

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