Chitchat with Editor Jackie Kruzie of Blue Whale Press, plus a Giveaway and an Exclusive Submission Opportunity!
Jackie, congratulations on your new editor position at Blue Whale Press! This is such happy news and the beginning of an exciting journey! I am thrilled for you, and honored to have the exclusive interview with you as an editor — thank you for being my guest!
Please tell us a bit about your background and how you stepped into the editor position. What led to this new role, how did you get the news, and what was your initial reaction?
JK: I served as the Regional Advisor for my chapter of SCBWI from 2016-2019. During this time I met incredible kitlit creatives including Blue Whale Press editor Alayne Kay Christian. We became fast friends and attended many SCBWI events together. I was nervous to submit my work to a friend as I didn't want our friendship to seem contingent on career advancement. I ultimately chose not to submit.
We were out to lunch one day when she asked, "why haven't you submitted to me?" I confessed my apprehension and she assured me she knew I was not angling for a contract. She also told me one would only be offered if my work was up to par and not because we are friends. I decided she was exactly the type of no-nonsense editor I wanted to work with, so I sent in a project I had been working on for a few years. After a couple of revise and resubmit rounds she offered a contract for my upcoming picture book Mixed-Up Menagerie.
When Alayne decided to retire from BWP she suggested me as her replacement to our parent publisher Clear Fork Publishing. I was honored, elated, speechless, and a million other adjectives! I had a Zoom interview with Callie Metler, whom I had also met during my time as SCBWI Regional Advisor, and now here I am being interviewed as an editor. Life is certainly unpredictable.
Life certainly is unpredictable! And I'm glad that you and I have been friends for many years and I can say I knew you back when... Okay, so what comes next? What are your duties at Blue Whale Press? What does your day-to-day look like?
JK: My responsibilities at BWP is to read and review picture book manuscripts before presenting potential acquisitions to the Clear Fork Publishing advisory board. I am also a participating member of the advisor board which means I get to review manuscripts and proposals from other imprints. I love this part of my job! I get to read excellent works and discuss marketing strategies for upcoming releases.
Once a manuscript is acquired for BWP it is time to find an illustrator, create a story board, and ensure the final product is polished to perfection.
As far as my day-to-day, I like to read submissions in the morning over a cup of coffee. Once my editor duties are done then I can focus on my personal projects and fun stuff like a blog interview with my good friend Rosie.
Ah, glad to be contributing to the fun stuff of your day, my friend, as I wouldn't want to add more work or chores to it ;)!
On a broader scale, what is the Imprint's mission overall with the books they publish? Do you anticipate any changes now that you've taken over?
JK: My predecessor, Alayne Kay Christian, had a wonderful eye for quality writing and a passion for projects that were informative and timeless. I mirror her vision and will focus on fiction and nonfiction for mass market distribution.
It is my goal to see BWP books in every library, store, and gift shop as well as featured on blogs, podcasts, and other social media outlets. I want to help jump start careers and smile with pride as our amazing authors and illustrators find success in the literary world.
Are you actively acquiring new books at this time and are you currently open to submissions? Who can submit -- authors, illustrator or both? Do you take agented, unsolicited, or both? Do you reply to all submissions or only if interested, and what is the timeframe for a reply?
I will be open to submission for the month of March (with a few exclusive opportunities...wink wink). I will then be closed for a few months as I ease into my new role, but plan to open again later this year. Follow me on Twitter @JackieKruzie and like Blue Whale Press on Facebook to stay informed.
Wink wink back -- I am honored, Jackie, and thank you for your generous offer to my readers! (See below for details.)
What kinds of books will Blue Whale be publishing? How many per year? What would be the focus of your titles? And more personally, what appeals to you? What types of stories are you looking for? Where can we find the complete submission guidelines?
JK: The BWP imprint acquires picture books with a STEM focus. A few of our current titles include Randall and Randall, Who Will? Will You?, The Weed that Woke Christmas, and An Old Man and His Penguin all which have STEM related storylines. I will continue to search for books that are entertaining and informative. Though picture books will be my focus I would love to see a short chapter book in inbox.
I personally love books that are fun to read out loud. As a former librarian I understand which books make wonderful storytime reads and which do not. As an author I know that I want my books read to as many young readers as possible, so for me having a book featured in a library storytime is the ultimate compliment. I am looking for books that librarians and teachers will be excited to share with eager young minds.
What should writers not submit to you?
JK: I am not the right fit for novelty/board books or graphic novels. I am also not looking for middle grade or young adult novels, however our parent publisher, Clear Fork Publishing, has other imprints that focus on these books. You can learn more about them on the Clear Fork website https://www.clearforkpublishing.com/copy-of-our-imprints
What projects are you working on right now for Blue Whale's list? I know that your own book , Mixed-Up Menagerie, was previously acquired by Blue Whale, could you give us an update on that? Where is the book in the process and could you share any behind-the-scene tidbits? What else are you excited about from the upcoming list and why? Any other Blue Whale titles in the pipeline you could share with us?
JK: My book Mixed-Up Menagerie is scheduled for release in Spring 2022. Nicole Allin is an amazing artist and is currently working on illustrations. I am so excited for this book and cannot wait to share it with the world.
As for other projects, Alayne will continue to work on the manuscripts that she has acquired seeing them through to completion. I will be observing every step of the way absorbing all I can from Alayne.
Any advice to authors/illustrators who plan to submit to you, beyond following the submission guidelines, of course, and targeting their submissions to your wish list?
JK: I love one sentence tag lines. I am always impressed with authors who can hook me with a few short words. Often the pitch you create will be used on the back cover of the finished book so it must be flawless. My favorite one-line hooks are from Henry's Freedom Box by Ellen Levin and Princess in Training by Tammi Sauer.
Author Susanna Hill has a feature on her website called Would You Read it Wednesday where authors submit their pitches for review. This is a wonderful resource to learn the art of creating a seamless pitch.
Also, take advantage of your local library or bookstore and read the back covers of picture books to hone this invaluable skill.
Are there any events/workshops/conferences you'd be a part of?
JK: Not yet but hopefully soon!
Thank you, Jackie, for spending time with me and my readers and for giving us the scoop! I wish you all the best on your journey, both as an author and an editor, and I can't wait to celebrate the many exciting milestones with you as we continue to nurture our wonderful friendship! We've been supporting each other over the years and we've grown together as writers, and I am very thankful to have you in my life!
Also, thank you kindly for the generous offers of a picture book critique that you're giving away to one lucky reader of KidLit Oasis, and an exclusive submission opportunity window for all of my readers!!!
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Special offers from Jackie Kruzie to KidLIt Oasis readers:
PB critique giveaway
>Subscribe to KidLit Oasis (via the pop-up or the upper right corner form)
>Leave a comment for this post
>Share this post on Facebook or Twitter (don't forget to tag me @RosiePOV)
Exclusive Submission Opportunity Window for KidLit Oasis Readers 4/20 to 4/30
>Come back to this post between April 20th and April 30th and see this space for the special link to Jackie's submission form (she will be otherwise closed to unsolicited submissions!)
And the winner of Jackie's picture book critique is. . .
Jackie Kruzie is the Acquisitions Editor at Blue Whale Press, an imprint of Clear Fork Publishing, and author of MIXED-UP MENAGERIE, a STEM picture book introducing fascinating animals and their unique traits. It is scheduled for release in Spring 2022.
Jackie has master’s degree in Library Science and is a contributing author to a sensitivity and inclusivity training textbook published through the American Library Association. Her contribution educates and informs librarians on how to better serve library users who use AAC devices to communicate. As a parent of an AAC device user this project is near and dear to her heart.
When not sharing stories or writing her own, Jackie enjoys farm life on a 60-acre farm with her husband where they raise a mess of kids, horses, cows, longhorns, sheep, goats, and a cacophony of chickens, roosters, ducks, and turkeys.
Find Jackie’s Storytime Picks and Book Talk videos on her website at jackiekruzie.com and follow her on Twitter @JackieKruzie
In other news. . .
Check out my upcoming Picture Book Writing class, pictures from a "princess model" photo shoot for Sunday Rain, and the parent review that almost made me cry tears of joy.
"My kiddo is obsessed!
Sunday Rain is intelligent, beautiful, and age appropriate! My daughter has requested we read it together at least one hundred times. A must buy for the little readers in the family!" --Amazon Customer
Welcome, Maria! It's a pleasure having you at KidLit Oasis and I am super excited about our chitchat! I can't wait to get the scoop, the behind the scene at Cardinal Rule Press, and a peek at your upcoming list! I know our readers are eager to know more about all of that, too, so let's dive in.
Q: Please tell us about your mission at Cardinal Rule Press and the big picture goal of your publishing house. Your website states that you focus on picture books that "empower children through meaningful stories." Could you tell us a bit more about that?
A: Here at Cardinal Rule Press, we are dedicated to producing children’s realistic fiction that reflects modern day diversity. We think stories that are timeless but allow children to see themselves within the pages of the book are needed and we are responding to help fill that void. We are a beautiful, colorful society and children should be able to experience that in books.
Q: I know you're about to open up to unsolicited submissions (November 1st, 2020 ― February 1st, 2021) and I'm sure a lot of writers are planning to submit to Cardinal Rule Press, just waiting for the "gates" to open. Naturally, for those submitting, doing their research and following the guidelines is very important. It's also important for writers to know the publishing model of the company they are submitting to in order to make an informed decision when sending their work out. In that regard, many authors would want to know the answer to this question when it comes to smaller presses: Do you pay your authors advances against royalties or is it royalties only?
A: We do pay our authors an advance upon signing and the remainder once the manuscript is edited with our team. We also pay royalties and report twice a year on earnings to our authors.
Q: And speaking of submissions, just to clarify, do you accept agented submissions year-round or only within your annual submission window?
A: We accept unsolicited and agented submissions during our annual submission window. We set up our acquisitions model in this way in order to be strategic and successful in our campaign efforts. Our team has created a timeline that has allowed us to be super efficient with industry deadlines, marketing our new releases, acquiring new work and educating our new team of authors on strengthening their brands as well as hosting quarterly masterclasses with speakers for past and current authors.
Q: I am really impressed with Cardinal Rule Press' social media presence and the different ways you connect with the community! I'd like to go a bit deeper behind the scenes though and learn more about your marketing strategies and distribution channels? How do you support your authors and illustrators and how do you promote your titles?
A: Thank you! We are proud of the community we have built and we appreciate your kind words. Our new authors go through a six week mentorship, where we empower them with knowledge and skills to prepare their brand for a successful launch. Our team of authors with backlist titles are invited to quarterly masterclasses where we hire speakers outside of our organization to educate our team on current trends in the book industry and how we can get behind those trends to help our own brand succeed. We also create a customized marketing campaign for each author that is unique to their title. It tells them exactly what our team will be doing each month, six months leading up top their book release. It gives them suggestions on what we think they can do each month leading up to the launch as well. We try to be very clear on expectations and clear up any gray areas.
Q: How do you find and select the illustrators for your projects? Do you ask your authors for input? Once you've signed the illustrator for the book, how involved is the author throughout the illustration process? Do they see initial sketches or the finished art or something in between?
A: We have stopped accepting illustrator submissions and work with agencies like Advocate Art and Astound to find our creative artists. We ask authors to describe their main character and ask for input on the initial character sketch. The author also sees the artwork laid out and is asked for feedback before it goes to print.
Q: During one of your agent interviews on your Cardinal Rules Press Facebook Page you shared that you have an assistant who filters the submissions for you to weed out the ones that don't follow the guidelines--like the fact that you only publish stories with human characters. So after the rest of the submissions -- or the ones with the strongest potential―get to you, how do you evaluate them for your list? Any more specifics on what kind of projects you look for? When you read a submission, do you know immediately if it's one you want to acquire? What grabs you in a manuscript? Any pet peeves?
A: Yes, we have a team to help with the process. There are two of us who read through and narrow down titles. We keep a spread sheet with comments. It is important for publishers and editors to be up to date on titles that are out there so we are not duplicating stories that are already out there. That is a pet peeve of mine, reading stories that have already been done. I expect writers to research their theme and title before submitting. The cover letter (inquiries) are more important than you think. We read those before opening up the manuscript. We want to hear about your experience of writing, whether or not you have a platform and why you think the book would be successful in the world. Near the end of our selection process, we share the top 6-10 stories with a BETA team of readers that give us their opinions. This team of five is made up of an editor, parent, children and a teacher.
Q: Could you tell us about some new or upcoming projects that you're particularly excited about and why?
A: We are in the illustration process of our Fall 2021 title and the character is a Latinx child who has a love of books! Our Spring 2021 title is at the printers and is filled with kindness, empathy and community!
Q: Where do you see Cardinal Rule Press in five years?
A: I would love to bring on team members as full time staff once their children are a bit older (we have a lot of work from home mothers on our team) and in five years I would like to see us taking on more titles per year. We believe slow and steady wins the race and we have been in no hurry to increase our list just yet. Getting your standard operating procedures nailed down in a business is key, as well as timelines and workflows for marketing campaigns. I am proud of the pace we have chosen, even when sales have surpassed our predictions, we remain steady with our processes.
Thank you so much for your time, Maria, and for chatting with me! This was wonderful and very informative, and I am really happy that you shared all that insight with me and my readers. I'd like to wish Cardinal Rule Press the best of success and I look forward to your upcoming titles! You have our support here at KidLit Oasis and I hope you'll be visiting again in the future!
Award-winning author and founder of the publishing company, Cardinal Rule Press, Maria Dismondy inspires and educates others in the book industry. When Maria isn't working, she can be found embarking on adventures throughout southeast Michigan and beyond, where she lives with her husband and three book-loving children.
Signed copies of Sunday Rain available for pre-order exclusively through my local indie bookstore, Interabang Books!
Place your order HERE
(Matching bookmark included, while supplies last)
Teachers and Librarians, if you'd like to get some SUNDAY RAIN bookmarks for your classroom or library, contact me HERE and I'll be happy to mail you some! (U.S. only, while supplies last)
About Rosie J. Pova
Rosie J. Pova is a
award-winning children's author, speaker, and writing coach on a mission to inspire children not only to read and write more, but to use their creativity, follow their passions, dream big and believe in themselves.
Rosie visits schools and shares her inspirational journey as an immigrant from Bulgaria and how she became a published author, encouraging kids to persist, push through rejections, and hold a high vision for themselves.
Rosie's upcoming picture book, Sunday Rain, will be released in March 2021. It's a story that celebrates imagination, the love of books, and new friendships.
Check out her Critique Services here, her Workshops here, and her school visits page here.
Rosie is represented by Jessica Schmeilder of Golden Wheat Literary.