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Notes from a debut author: Kael Tudor

Kael Tudor is the author of One Goose, Two Moose, a brilliantly funny picture book illustrated by Nicola Slater and published by Scholastic. Kael, thank you for answering our questions about what it's like to be a debut author.


 

 

Your first picture book, One Goose, Two Moose, published on 1st February 2024 – congratulations, Kael! To kick things off, tell us how you got your first book deal.


Thanks! Once I signed with my agent, Emily Talbot, we chose a set of texts and sent them out widely to publishers. We tend to put four picture book manuscripts into a submission. After One Goose, Two Moose generated interest from a few publishers, Scholastic offered a pre-empt, and naturally we went with them!

 

It’s not every day that a text makes my Spidey senses tingle (in a good way!), but I definitely got that feeling when I first read One Goose, Two Moose – and for anyone who doesn’t know, I was your editor back then, so I was the one maniacally pulling together an offer behind the scenes!

So, once the deal was confirmed and your contract was signed, what did the publishing process look like for you – was it all smooth sailing (she asks knowingly)?


It was not! As is typical for a picture book, I was paired up with a fantastic illustrator, but due to circumstances out of our control we ultimately had to change illustrators. Nicola Slater was already signed up to work on a different book with me, and Scholastic felt her style would really suit One Goose, Two Moose (I’m sure you’ll agree that’s very true now that the book is out) and signed her up for that book. Unfortunately that meant that the book was delayed for two years, but once Nicola started work the whole process was very smooth.

 

You did manage to display superhuman levels of patience while all of that was playing out – I was enormously grateful for how understanding you were, so thank you again for that!

As an author who has just experienced their first publication day, how was it? Some creators find the book’s actual publication underwhelming after all the build-up – did you feel that at all?


Personally I found it quite overwhelming! I went to work in my day job as I usually do, but not before posting about publication day on Twitter and Instagram. The notifications (that I still haven’t caught up with yet) and congratulations didn’t stop for the whole day and night, and both my colleagues and family had arranged publication day surprises for me which was very lovely. So while it was an ordinary day in one sense, it was also a very overwhelming one (in a good way) as well.

 

The children’s book community is such a warm, encouraging community!

Going back to the agent side of things, how important do you feel it is for children’s book creatives to have an agent?


While it’s definitely not essential to have an agent to be a published author, I genuinely cannot imagine attempting to do this job without mine. My agent, Emily, is an absolute powerhouse. She gives the best feedback on my texts, helps choose the right ones to send out to publishers, negotiates deals and contracts, and is always fighting in my corner during the whole process. The idea of having to do just one of those things alone is enough to make me feel like I need to lay down, so for me, having an agent (and especially one as good as Emily) is absolutely essential.

 

How has Emily helped you to build your career as a children’s book author?


The way I see it, my career wouldn’t have started without my agent. Scholastic (and most publishers, for that matter) don’t tend to accept unsolicited submissions from writers, so Emily submitting my texts meant I had access to so many more publishers than if I had tried doing it on my own. Not only that, but as I touched on in your previous question, I trust her advice and decision making unquestionably. I couldn’t have done it without her.


Can you tell us three things you wish you had known before you embarked on a career as a children’s book author?


1.   Be prepared to wait. Sometimes it can take a long time to get a reply to an email, for publishers to respond to submissions, for offers to be made and for contracts to be negotiated. And even after that it takes a long time for the book to be released, even without delays.

2.   Agents and editors are not scary. When you start out as an unagented, unpublished writer, it can feel very daunting to start reaching out to agents with your work. For most writers in that position, getting an agent is the first step towards becoming an author, and it can sometimes feel like they’re almost these mythical beings. The same can apply to editors, too, but ultimately they’re all human, and very lovely humans at that. I’ve made some fantastic friends in the industry over the years, and even know of agents and editors feeling just as, if not more, disappointed when an author doesn’t accept their offer as writers can feel when they get a rejection.

3.   Writing is a very solitary job, but also an incredibly collaborative one. While it’s true that the very act of writing your manuscripts is something you generally do alone, once a draft is finished it goes through so many other people on its way to becoming a book, from critique partners to agent, editors, art directors and illustrators, with everyone working together to make the book the very best it can be.

 

Your first point about being prepared to wait feels especially relevant – and a number of creatives have recently asked for tips on how to manage all of the waiting. It’s often the thing that people are most surprised by and unprepared for, and it can be hard to navigate all of the emotions that come with the waiting. (As an aside, we have posts coming up to address exactly this!)

So, whether you’re waiting for submission feedback, comments from a publishing meeting, negotiations to finish, a contract to be drawn up, or for edits, or to see roughs, colour artwork or a cover—whatever it is you’re waiting for, there is a lot of it! How do you manage this?


There really is a lot of waiting! Back when I was newly agented, I had to limit my email checking to once an hour for my own sanity. Luckily, I’ve since learnt to cope in much healthier ways. While I am still a habitual email checker, I spend a lot of time now getting on with writing, or spending time away from my computer and email inbox in general. I have had a lot of practise and so I am very used to the way things work now, which does help. At the end of the day, the emails aren’t going to come until they come, no matter how many times you refresh your inbox!

 

Oof, yes – email refreshing can be anxiety-inducing. What is one of the most useful things you’ve learned – or one of the best pieces of advice you’ve received – over the past few years?


That persistence and resilience are really important. There’s a lot of talk about being lucky in this industry, or having the right manuscript land in the right editor’s inbox at the right time, and while I don’t strictly disagree, the best way to make that happen is to keep going - keep writing, keep submitting. Being an author comes with a LOT of rejections (I had over 50 rejections from agents before signing with mine), and dusting yourself off and keeping on going is the best way to make sure it happens. Ultimately the only way that your manuscript is going to land in the right inbox at the right time is if you keep going.

 

I agree with this so strongly!

Also, one thing many unpublished creatives don't realise is that it’s rare for an author and illustrator partnership to be ready-made when a book is signed up. Instead, publishers often acquire texts and then commission illustrators separately. How much contact do you have with the picture book illustrators without whom your texts couldn’t be developed into a book?  

 

During the creation of the book, contact is quite limited, though I usually send a quick email or message to an illustrator when I find out I’ve been paired with them, just saying how excited I am to be making a book with them (because I always am). I’ve never been told that I can’t speak with the illustrators I’m paired with, but I suppose it comes from a place of not wanting it to seem like I’m going to be controlling and interfere with what they do. Picture books are such a collaboration that I always want any illustrator I’m lucky enough to make a book with to feel like they are able to do whatever they want to with the text and make the book their own. I’ve been in touch with Nicola Slater a few times since our book came out, though, and we’re both hoping we get to do some events together in the near future.

 

Are there any final nuggets of info or advice you’d like to share with our readers?

Becoming an author is a literal dream come true, but it’s still a job, with highs and lows just like any other. If I’ve just received some disappointing news, I’m in the middle of a particularly long wait, or I’m just feeling a bit unmotivated in general I always remind myself that a few years ago I would have done anything to be in the position I’m in now, at this stage of my career. That always makes the lower points a bit easier to deal with!



 

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