I am happy to be on one of the stops for the Floating on Mama's Song Blog Tour. The lyrical picture book by Laura Lacámara, with illustrations by Yuyi Morales, is a beautiful tale. A single mother is lifted off the ground by her songs. I was lucky to get the book's editor, Katherine Tegen, to give me an interview about why she acquired the book, the state of promotion and, of course, her favorite dessert.
What qualities in the manuscript Floating on Mama’s Song intrigued you enough to acquire it?
I have a special desire to publish Latina talent, perhaps because I am part Hispanic myself. I grew up hearing the stories of my grandmother who was from Puerto Rico, stories that depicted a rich culture that was kind of magical, and so very different from my suburban American life.
So when I read Laura’s manuscript it truly resonated with me – and what is more powerful than the magic of singing, and the happiness that you feel when you are singing? I think children need stories that show conflict, but that end in a positive and uplifting way. The world is hard and often dismal; picture books can provide a place of refuge from reality, and a place where imagination can bloom.
In these tough economic times what can an author do to help the house promote her books?
Since publishing houses have cut back on their marketing budgets, authors should do everything they can to promote their books on their own. The web is an essential tool for marketing with social media tools such as Facebook and Twitter available to everyone. Authors should build their own websites and offer content for readers and for teachers and librarians. And they should reach out to schools in their area (if they like interacting with children) and set up as many school visits as possible. If the school visits are arranged in tandem with a bookstore, the bookstore will sell copies of the author’s books at the appearances, usually in lieu of a speaker’s fee. The publisher’s publicity department can help with setting up these bookstore alliances.
With the publishing industry in flux and interactive e-picture books becoming a reality, would you recommend that authors write with the thought that their manuscripts might be produced as interactive books?
Yes, it’s probably a good idea to look to the future, and think about how your texts might be adapted for an interactive e-picture book. But the story would still need to work for a physical (print) book.
What kind of manuscripts are you looking for now?
As mentioned above, I like stories that are optimistic, or funny, or very original in some way. All stories should have a strong narrative arc – a conflict that has a resolution – even in the shortest picture book. Picture books aimed at the very youngest audience – preschool through kindergarten, seem to be selling best now. Long picture books for older children are not selling.
What is your favorite dessert and why?
Hmm, that’s the toughest question here. I do like chocolate. Chocolate cake is good, but I also love chocolate chip cookies. I must confess that I eat Oreos frequently (of course we have to keep cookies in the house for my children). Pumpkin pie is my favorite kind of pie, although I also like a good apple pie with a homemade crust. I guess I could go on and on, but I’ll stop now!
Katherine Tegen is VP and Publisher of Katherine Tegen Books, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers. She has always wanted to work in publishing since she was a little girl, when she wrote stories and printed them up on a little mechanical printing press. She is the publisher of the SEPTIMUS HEAP series by Angie Sage, WAITING FOR NORMAL by Leslie Connor, and A NEST FOR CELESTE by Henry Cole. She also publishes picture books and teen fiction. She is the author of the New York Times best-selling THE STORY OF THE EASTER BUNNY, and the THE STORY OF THE JACK O'LANTERN, available in Fall 2010.