Chitchat with Author, Editor and Founder of Cardinal Rule Press, Maria Dismondy
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.
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About Rosie J. Pova
Rosie J. Pova is a multi-published, award-winning children's author and kid lit Writing Coach. She's the creator of Picture Book Mastery System™ that is proven to help emerging children's writers advance their career and get closer to their publishing goals.
Rosie's latest picture book, Sunday Rain, was featured in The New York Times and recommended by Parents magazine. Her upcoming picture book, The School of Failure: A Story About Success will be released in the spring of 2022 in both China and the USA.
Rosie also loves to visit schools and her interactive workshops empower students to unleash their creativity and grow in confidence through reading, writing, and creating. Teachers and librarians love Rosie for her bubbly, upbeat personality which captures students' attention, encourages them to think creatively, and motivates them to pursue big dreams.
She has been featured on TV, radio, podcasts, and print media, and also speaks on women's and moms’ topics, sharing her journey from a Bulgarian immigrant to a published author.
Find out more about Rosie's online courses, mentorships, and her work by visiting her website: RosieJPova.com
Check out her Critique Services here, her Workshops here, and her school visits page here.
Rosie is represented by Jennifer Herrington of Harvey Klinger Literary.