Authors Interview: Anabella and Sofia Schofield

At 13 years old, these twins both knew what they wanted to be and they went for it. The sisters are the author-illustrators behind Ladybug's Garden and Ladybug's Christmas, both published by Pink Umbrella Books.

1. List the titles of your published books (include publisher and year published) and your author website/Facebook page links.

Ladybug’s Garden (2017)

Pink Umbrella Books

Ladybug’s Christmas (2020)

Pink Umbrella Books

In addition, we both have stories included in the Pink Umbrella Christmas anthology entitled All Is Bright: Hope and Cheer for the Christmas Season (2020).

2. When did you start writing your first book? Where did the idea come from? Include the synopsis.

We first started writing Ladybug’s Garden in 2014 as an extracurricular activity in which we had a time limit of about two months. We had always wanted to become authors, so we decided to collaborate to write and illustrate a book for this project. When deciding what to write about, we thought about what we would have enjoyed reading when we were younger. We grew up loving ladybugs and gardening, and this inspired the idea for Ladybug’s Garden.

This is the synopsis:

“When Ladybug receives an invitation to a picnic, she prepares a basket of treats to share and sets off into the garden. On her way, Ladybug notices several bugs in need. She happily stops to help them, but worries she won’t make it in time. When Ladybug finally reaches the picnic, she discovers a sweet surprise!”

3. What was the hardest part about writing your first book? What hurdles did you have to overcome?

The most difficult part about creating Ladybug’s Garden was completing the illustrations within the time limit we were given, which we recall was our main hurdle.

4. Once your manuscript was finished, what did you do?

Although Ladybug’s Garden began as an extracurricular project, we wanted to accomplish our goal of becoming published authors and share our book with a wider audience. We sent our manuscript off to several publishers, and in 2016, Pink Umbrella Books accepted our manuscript for publication.

5. What did you expect from the editing process? How was the experience?

While writing and illustrating Ladybug’s Garden, we were unaware that most children’s books have a length requirement of 32 pages. The editing process mainly involved writing a few more stanzas, creating two new illustrations to correspond with the new stanzas, and adding a cover illustration. We enjoyed revisiting the world of Ladybug’s Garden, and we felt that adding new stanzas and illustrations helped refine our book (in fact, readers often point out one of these newer illustrations as their favorite).

6. Describe what re-writing involves and how it makes you feel. How is it different than the initial writing?

We do not recall the process of re-writing for Ladybug’s Garden with as much detail, so we will discuss the process for our most recent book, Ladybug’s Christmas. The accepted manuscript included more advanced vocabulary, and most of the editing process for Ladybug’s Christmas revolved around simplifying the stanzas so they were more accessible to our young readers and fit on the pages without overlapping the illustrations. Although it can be difficult to part with the first draft of a book, we feel that the edits improved our work.

7. Did you have non-editors read your book for feedback (Alpha Readers)? What did you get out of that?

The first readers of Ladybug’s Garden were our parents. As part of our extracurricular project, we presented Ladybug’s Garden in its original binder format to a panel of educators, who encouraged us in our goal of working towards publication. We shared our draft with Adrienne Quintana, our future publisher, who we reached out to for advice because we knew she was a published author. We also shared Ladybug’s Garden with children we babysat. Seeing that our target audience enjoyed our book encouraged us to keep moving forward with our goal of having Ladybug’s Garden published. While writing the sequel, Ladybug’s Christmas, we often asked our parents for feedback by presenting them with different options for the stanzas and asking which they preferred, which was valuable input to receive.

8. Who designed your cover? How much input did you have? How important is the cover design?

We knew we wanted the cover of Ladybug’s Christmas to match Ladybug’s Garden, so we illustrated it in a similar format with leaves surrounding Ladybug. Our publisher, Adrienne, shared this vision and put the cover together with the same fonts we had previously selected for Ladybug’s Garden. The cover design is very important because the cover is what catches readers’ eyes and gives the first impression of a book. The cover can affect whether or not a reader decides to pick up a book. Books really are judged by their covers sometimes!

9. How did you go forward with publishing? Why? How was that experience?

In 2016, after receiving the surreal email that Ladybug’s Garden had been accepted for publication by Pink Umbrella Books, which we were thrilled and grateful to receive, we set to work with Adrienne Quintana and Marnae Kelley to prepare our book for publication. For us, this involved (as previously mentioned) writing additional stanzas and creating several new illustrations. Our experience preparing Ladybug’s Garden for publication was a learning experience for all of us.

10. How have you marketed your first book?

To market Ladybug’s Garden, we contacted bookstores and libraries to plan author reading events. We shared our book during a book tour to 7 schools. We also created an Instagram account, @anabellaandsofia, to spread the word about our work. When Ladybug’s Garden was published, we had a book launch party at a local bookstore, which we prepared for by inviting everyone we knew and by asking business owners if they would allow us to put up posters for the event. We also continue to market our book by sharing Ladybug’s Garden with new people and through the book trailer on the Pink Umbrella Books YouTube channel.

11. How was the initial feedback from readers?

In 2017, we organized a school book tour for Ladybug’s Garden, and it was rewarding to share our book with young readers. We were thrilled to hear students recognize the moral of the story was “serving others,” and we loved hearing readers’ reactions, including the following: “Your book is amazing!” “Your drawings are beautiful!” “You’ve inspired us to write stories!” “I want to write a book!” One statement that we were especially honored to receive was from a student who told us, “I want to grow up to be just like you!” We were very happy to hear that our readers not only enjoyed our book, but were inspired to write and illustrate their own stories after our classroom visits. It was also very gratifying to hear about children who implemented what they learned from Ladybug’s Garden by looking for ways to serve others like our protagonist, Ladybug. Our readers also expressed interest in sequels, which was encouraging.

12. How have sales been on your first book? Did they go as expected? What helps you the most to sell books?

Sales for Ladybug’s Garden have gone well. According to our publisher, most children’s books will have a “boom” in sales at the beginning and then steadily decrease, but sales for Ladybug’s Garden continue to increase as word-of-mouth results in more people learning about and purchasing our books.

13. Talk about print vs ebook. Do you get more sales with one than the other?

Print books consistently sell more than ebooks.

14. Did you set the prices of your print and ebooks? How do you decide how to price them?

Pink Umbrella Books determined the prices of the print and ebook copies of our books.

15. What made you decide to write more books? How were those experiences (writing/editing) compared with your first book? Did you do anything differently?

After accomplishing our initial goal of publishing Ladybug’s Garden, we knew we wanted to continue writing and illustrating books together. Before we wrote and illustrated Ladybug’s Christmas, we asked our publisher what we could do differently to improve the process, and we implemented what we learned so preparing for publication would be smoother. Knowing about the length requirement of 32 pages, we mapped out each page, and we also made our illustrations uniform in size.

16. Anything different in the publishing process for your other books?

The publishing process for Ladybug’s Christmas was quicker than the process of publishing Ladybug’s Garden.

17. When did you consider yourself a "writer"?

We have always been drawn to writing, so we consider ourselves lifelong writers.

18. When do you write? What motivates you to write?

We recall writing Ladybug’s Christmas mostly during afternoons and evenings in the spring/summer of 2019. When making final edits, we had several late-night editing sessions. We are motivated to write by our love of writing and sharing stories with others. It is our goal to uplift others, spread kindness, and have a positive impact through our work.

19. What do aspiring authors ask you?

Aspiring authors ask us what it is like to collaborate together as twins and to work with our publisher.

20. What advice can you offer for aspiring authors about writing, editing, publishing, and marketing?

When describing how we became authors, we tell our readers how we found inspiration for Ladybug’s Garden and Ladybug’s Christmas and ask what they would want to write about. We encourage aspiring authors to keep writing and to consider sharing their work with others. As for those who would like to pursue publication of their work, perseverance is necessary to achieve your goals. In all aspects of writing, editing, publishing, and marketing, creativity and focus are required. We feel that it is wise to determine what your mission for your work is so you can effectively communicate what you hope to accomplish by sharing your stories.

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