WARNING! Brace yourselves for some barnyard ridiculousness on October 19. That’s the release date for my latest book with Troy Cummings called One Sheep, Two Sheep.
Feel free to pre-order a signed-by-yours-truly copy: Click here! Click here! Click here!
This is what Kirkus has to say about this bedtime barnyard book:
“The wide-eyed, smiling critters and the deadpan humor are a good pairing. A fine addition to the sleepy sheepy canon.”
One Sheep, Two Sheep stars the same cast as Not Now, Cow. (To learn more about that book and get some great advice, I suggest you check out my interview with my pal Troy Cummings.)
Both books are brought to you by the fine folks at Abrams Appleseed.
Today, one of those fine folks–the warm and wonderful Meredith Mundy–is visiting Picture Book Builders.
TS: Welcome to Picture Book Builders, Meredith!
Back when you were with Sterling Publishing, we worked together on books including (but not limited to!) Mary Had a Little Glam, Your Alien, Your Alien Returns, But the Bear Came Back, and Caring for Your Lion. Now that you’re at Abrams, we’ve gone on to do Not Now, Cow and the soon-to-be-released One Sheep, Two Sheep. According to my calculations, that’s a lot of books.
What was it about these manuscripts that made you say YES?
MM: You are a VERY prolific author, Tammi, and while the list above may suggest that I say YES to every one of your manuscripts, that’s not the case. (You write many more stories than I could ever publish at one house!) My reason for saying yes to all of the titles above is pretty simple: each one of them came to me with a real emotional center. Yes, these books also have big doses of humor and silliness, but at their hearts is a child-centered concern that gets resolved in the art and the storytelling. That’s what drew me to each of them, and what I think speaks to kids and their book-buying caregivers and educators, too.
TS: I love that answer! I think it’s something writers should print out and tape to their computer screens. I know I will!
Please tell us a little about the acquisitions process a manuscript goes through at Abrams.
MM: Editors take projects they are excited about to an Editorial Meeting first—attended by all the other children’s book editors. If that group is enthusiastic about the proposal, then it goes to a second meeting called “Pub Board.” At that point, we have gathered up a list of comp titles, any relevant info about the author (including their sales tracks if one exists), and we have estimated costs to see what the financial picture might look like for each project. This meeting is attended by a lot of folks: our Sales, Sub Rights, Design, Digital, Finance, Executive, and Marketing & Publicity teams. It’s a tough crowd, as it should be! It costs a LOT of time and money to create each book, and we want to be sure that the whole company is 100% on board before we make an offer for publication. It’s so exciting when we DO get that green light and are able to make an offer!
TS: Not Now, Cow and One Sheep, Two Sheep started out as two of four short chapters in a picture book. Initially, you were drawn to these chapters and thought they might work as board books. Soon afterward, Abrams encouraged me to revisit the board book manuscripts and extend them into young picture books. Troy and I brainstormed about how to go about doing this. It was a lot of fun returning to this cast of characters and extending the stories! Can you share a little bit as to why a board book submission might end up becoming a young picture book?
MM: Thank goodness for email! I was able to dive back into my 2018 inbox to see what we’d discussed. I had COMPLETELY forgotten that you initially sent in Not Now, Cow and One Sheep, Two Sheep as two “chapters” in a funny little farmyard compilation picture book. It was adorable, but the chaptered format didn’t seem quite right. I took the proposal to our editorial meeting and suggested to the group that the chapters would be lovely as two separate board books. I took those to our Pub Board meeting, and that group really liked them, too, but the financials looked ghastly. It was difficult then—and is even more difficult now—to publish original board books. The retail price for most board books is under $10, and the production costs are surprisingly high (a board book is created by gluing together many, many sheets of paper, and paper is pricey!) which means the margins are razor thin, leaving very little to work with in terms of advances for authors and illustrators. Back to the drawing board! If we could publish these books first as unjacketed picture books, and LATER as board books, we could make the numbers work. In order to make them feel just right for the 3-5 age group (as opposed to the 0-3 crowd), you very skillfully expanded the texts with more character development and more plot, and voila! Two hilarious, wildly-appealing unjacketed picture books were born!
TS: When you received Not Now, Cow and One Sheep, Two Sheep, right away you mentioned Troy Cummings would be the perfect fit illustrator-wise. I wholeheartedly agreed because, well, Troy’s a genius, he’s hilarious, AND he’s a genuinely awesome human being. He has all the good qualities! Does this happen often? That you read a manuscript and immediately envision where to take the book art-wise?
MM: My email trail is failing me a bit here, and I could be wrong, but I have a very strong memory of *you* suggesting Troy for these books, and *I* being the one to wholeheartedly agree that he would be perfect for these texts for all the reasons you mention above! You and I had had a ball working with Troy on Caring for Your Lion, and I think we were both eager to get the band back together.
It happens occasionally that an author will suggest an illustrator and that person gets chosen to work on the book, but the decision really lies with the art director, and more often than not, the AD will have a dozen other illustrator suggestions in the hopper to be considered. I am always amazed by the wonderful artists our designers and art directors come up with for projects I may have had very different visions for initially!
TS: Ha! Well, I’m not sure which one of us thought of Troy first, but that person is a total smartypants. 🙂 And I KNOW the three of us make a fierce team. Evidence:
Side Note: I’m guessing this book might be one of Meredith’s assistant Mina’s all-time favorites. She strikes me as a cat who recognizes quality feline literature!
TS: What do you think readers will find particularly funny about One Sheep, Two Sheep? What do you think they’ll find endearing?
MM: I think readers will completely crack up as the poor rooster becomes more and more exasperated. He just wants to count SHEEP, for crying out loud! Why is this so hard?! And I think they will find it completely endearing that the rooster’s friends really do want to help him out and decide to dress up as sheep so the poor fellow can get some sleep. The sheep costumes Troy painted for the final scene are just PRICELESS.
TS: Please pass along a piece of advice for the picture book-creating crowd.
MM: Always have several picture book ideas in your back pocket. Your first idea or manuscript may not be the one that inspires and delights an editor, but if there is interest in your tone or style or sense of humor, be ready to submit something new to see if it might hit the mark!
Meredith Mundy (she/her) is Editorial Director of Abrams Appleseed and the Abrams preschool program. She has been editing books for young readers for more than twenty-five years and hopes to continue doing so for at least twenty-five more! She started her career at Random House as an editorial assistant and keeper of the Junie B. Jones bible. She then worked for eleven years at Dutton Children’s Books and for thirteen years at Sterling Children’s Books. She joined Abrams Books in 2018 and has been busily acquiring new projects for her target audience of 0 to 5 ever since. Meredith is looking specifically for under-represented authors and illustrators with ideas for original and unusual board books and novelty books centering around a strong concept, holiday hook, or under-published topic. She’s also seeking very young picture books with minimal word counts but plenty of humor and heart.