Tag Archives: Tara Lazar

Tara Lazar Says Farewell and Shares All the Things She Learned: The Good, The Bad and The Sparkly

Let’s jump right into it, shall we?

hurdlesThings I Learned During my Debut Process:

  1. Landing an agent and selling your debut book isn’t THE hurdle. It’s THE FIRST hurdle.
  2. Not being in Barnes & Noble does make a difference in your book’s success, no matter how many well-meaning people try to assure you otherwise.
  3. Being in Barnes & Noble does not guarantee your book’s success.
  4. You will read reviews of your book that will leave you scratching your head, wondering if it’s really YOUR book the reviewer read.
  5. Just because you have thousands of social media followers doesn’t mean they’ll actually buy your book.
  6. Just because you publish a book with Simon & Schuster doesn’t mean people who schedule author appearances will want you. You’re still just small potatoes. Think fingerling instead of Idaho.
  7. You’ll check your Amazon ranking more often than you care to admit and you’ll cringe every time it goes over 100,000.

OK, maybe all that is a little too depressing. But c’mon guys, this stuff is HARD. This is not an easy business. I knew this when I was trying to break in, but somehow I thought once I did break in, everything afterwards would be a breeze—a warm, tropical breeze with notes of pineapple and coconut. WRONG. There’s no pool-boy fluttering a giant leaf fan. Subsequent books have taken MONTHS to sell…and one took AN ENTIRE YEAR! And I have more in the works that are likewise taking months. And there were even more books that didn’t sell at all. Phhht. Dead in the water. And no pool-boy to fish them out!

But let’s look on the bright side. I’m an AUTHOR now! Woo!

Yes, that was a sincere “woo!” Let’s try it again: WOOOOOOOOOooooooooooooo……………! (Those periods are really tiny o’s.)

Things I Loved During my Debut Process:

  1. monstoresmallcoverAll the terribly exciting moments along the journey—seeing my characters for the first time, witnessing the progress of the dummies, revealing the cover, hearing the satisfying KA-THUNK of the author copies box hit the front porch, signing my very first book for a complete stranger.
  2. Holding MY BOOK in MY HANDS.
  3. Making incredible friends—my editor and art director, my illustrator, the imprint staff, fellow debut authors, booksellers, librarians and fans.
  4. Gaining a lot of publishing business wisdom.
  5. People sending me photos of the book spotted in the wild, face-out at bookstores.
  6. Receiving my first pieces of fan mail.

But the most important one is:

  • Seeing kids interact with my book and the joy it brings them.

Kids drawing MONSTORE monsters at Little Jo’s Books in Katonah, NY

princetonbookfestivalAnd there’s things I’m going to love that haven’t even happened yet! This weekend I’ll be at the Princeton Children’s Book Festival and the weekend after, The Baltimore Book Festival. I’ve been going to the Princeton festival for years and can’t believe I will be there signing books! Me!

And Baltimore! I’ll be on a stage! On a panel! And people will want to hear what I have to say! BUT WHY?!

After all, I’m still just Tara, wife of Alan for the past 14 years (today’s my anniversary! OMG! I almost forgot!), mother of two girls who find me terribly embarrassing, and neighbor who you’ll find scootering her kids to school while wearing ninja jammies. (That explains the embarrassment.) I’m still the same person I was before the book contract. I haven’t transformed into a sophisticated, radiant being. I lose socks in the laundry, forget to RSVP to birthday parties, and schlep to the grocery store with yesterday’s makeup smeared under my eyes. There are holes in my couches, too much junk piled in my garage and questionable looks when I drop off my kids wearing ninja jammies for the third day in a row.

But how cool that I can be my same dorky self and share my dorkiness with children through my books! Hopefully I’ll gain fans who will want every one of my releases and will never know me as un-radiant. To them, I sparkle.

And so I leave you with this: it’s a wild journey, but I wouldn’t want it any other way. The dream was to sell one book, and that dream came true, so a new dream has replaced it. That dream is bigger, brighter and more daring. Will it come true? I dunno. Stay tuned.

And remember, be sparkly!

Fare-thee-well and have fun stormin’ the castle,

Princess Bride-Tara Lazar

P.S. It’s not farewell forever, just at Emu’s. You can still follow me and my jammies at taralazar.com.

P.P.S. Photoshopping by the talented illustrator Kayla Skogh. Thanks, Kayla!


Filed under Farewell, Updates on our Books!

THE MONSTORE launch party continues with agent Ammi-Joan Paquette!

Today we’re welcoming Ammi-Joan Paquette, the agent who sold THE MONSTORE, to do a guest post on what originally got her excited about the manuscript, and what makes it a successful debut picture book. Welcome, Joan!Ammi-Joan Paquette

LAT: THE MONSTORE is Tara’s debut book. Was it also the first manuscript you saw from Tara?

AJP: Yes! Tara queried me with this picture book, also mentioning that she had several other projects in the works. I read and loved THE MONSTORE, and asked Tara if any of her other works were complete and available to send me. She did! The more I read, the more I loved Tara’s effusive writing, dynamic characters, and wildly inventive imagination. I was hooked.

LAT: What was it about THE MONSTORE that really made you sit up and take notice?

AJP: I think THE MONSTORE is the definition of high-concept. Right from the title you know that you are in for something really special—and then the story itself delivers on every level. Tara takes an out-of-this-world premise and pairs it up with a story that is both fun and wacky, yet also very warm and relatable to kid readers. You are reading about Zack and his parade of defective monsters, but you are also reading a story about a boy who is fed up with his pesky little sister—and a kid sister who turns out to be a lot more than she seems. And all of this is wrapped in a delightful read-aloud package full of rollicking rhythm and wacky wordplay. How could I not sit up and take notice?
LAT: Now that you’ve seen the final version, is it much different from the original that you first fell in love with?

AJP: Yes and no. The story’s gone through some polishing revisions, of course, but the text is very similar to the one I originally read. What is wildly different now, of course, is that it comes with some stunning artwork! James Burks has done an amazing job bringing THE MONSTORE to life, and his characters take the story to an entirely different dimension. Being able to pick this book up off the shelf and leaf through its pages, then send my mind back to that day, three years ago, when I opened yet another email query, this one from a debut author named Tara Lazar… well, that’s really something, isn’t it?

LAT: Quick! Use three words to describe THE MONSTORE:

AJP: Hilarious! Inventive! Winner!

LAT: Is there anything else you want to add?

AJP: You should also know that Tara Lazar has several other books on the horizon—the next one of which is forthcoming from Aladdin next year: I THOUGHT THIS WAS A BEAR BOOK is another wacky tale about an alien who falls out of his library book and into a different story altogether. And her next book, LITTLE RED GLIDING HOOD, is forthcoming from Random House Books for Young Readers as well. If I were you, I’d keep a particular eye out for Tara’s books, because I think we’re going to see some increasingly amazing and memorable stories coming out over the next few years. So mark your calendars and clear space on your bookshelves—because this picture book author is here to stay!

LAT: Thanks, Joan! I have to agree that THE MONSTORE is a winner. I’m also looking forward to your own picture book, GHOST IN THE HOUSE, along with not one, but two, new novels, PARADOX and RULES FOR GHOSTING, all of which come out in just a few weeks! Congratulations on all of your success as an agent AND as an author, and thanks again for taking time out of your crazy busy schedule to celebrate THE MONSTORE launch party with us!

Ghost in the House cover Paradox cover Rules for Ghosting cover

Don’t forget: this is your last chance to leave a comment for a chance to win a signed copy of THE MONSTORE!And you can find your own copy of THE MONSTORE (or buy one to give as a gift!) at places like Indiebound, Amazon, and BN.com, or at your local bookstore.


Filed under Agents, Celebrations, Interviews, Updates on our Books!

Monsters Galore!

monstore_1 (2)

Look at these illustrations! Amazing, right?

Well, today we have the oh-so-talented James Burks on the blog to tell us all about them! Welcome, James!



Will you share with us a little bit about the process–how it works when a publisher brings a story to you? Do you send them samples or sketches? Or do they know you’re so awesome that they beg you to take the contract?

JB: The process is a little different depending on the project and the publisher. Sometimes you have to do samples and compete against other artists and then the publisher picks the one that they think best fits the project. That wasn’t the case with the Monstore. They had contacted my agent out of the blue after seeing something on my website that caught their eye. So they had already decided they wanted me to do the project. All I had to do was say, “YES!” Fortunately, there was no begging involved on anyone’s part. They asked and I said “YES.” Easy-peasy.

What was your first impression of the manuscript? When did it begin to come to life in your mind?

I think I was excited about this project before I even read the manuscript. All I had to see was the title and I was hooked. A book about a store that sells monsters. How could I pass that up? When I take on new projects one of the first things I consider is; Will this be a fun project to draw? And with the Monstore the answer was a big YES! Drawing monsters ranks right up there with aliens, dinosaurs, and cats. monstore sketchesThe first thing I did after reading the manuscript was start drawing pages and pages of monsters or various shapes and sizes. They had multiple eyes, multiple arms, you name it, the kookier the better. Then I went back through and picked the ones that I thought best represented the main characters of Manfred, Mookie, and Mojo.

3. Did Tara leave you any illustrator notes, or were the artistic choices all up to you?

There were minimal illustration notes. I think Tara was comfortable enough to let me take the reins on the visuals for the book. That’s what I do. I take words and turn them into pictures. Even if there had been a lot of illustration notes I probably would have still sketched out what I was seeing in my head. Then if Tara or the publisher wanted something else I’d give them something else. But initially I have to go with my gut. Once I start second guessing myself then the creative process comes to a screeching halt and that’s no fun. I think every illustrator has a certain point of view and that’s why they are asked to do projects. If someone else had illustrated the Monstore it would have probably looked very different. My goal as an illustrator is not to just illustrate what was written but to take the story to another level. To create a world beyond just the words where these characters exist. Almost like they are living and breathing. This includes giving all the monsters names and sometimes a backstory that wasn’t in the manuscript. That’s just how my brain works.


4. It must have been so much fun creating all those monsters–each one is unique! Which is your favorite?

Working on the Monstore was a ton of fun. I really pushed myself artistically to the next level not only with the character designs but also the overall look of the book and how it was colored. Which monster is my favorite? Hmmm… wow, there are so many good choices. How can I possibly choose one? I guess if I had to pick one it would be “Peepers.” He’s the little eyeball monster that appears in various places through out the book. He tends to hide in the shadows here and there just outside the light. So keep your eyes peeled for little ol’ Peepers. He might just follow you home.


5. What did I miss?

On the technical side of things. I did all the initial sketches of the monsters, kids, and the manager in my sketchbook as well as the rough page layouts. Then once I had something that worked I scanned those into my computer where I used Photoshop and a Wacom Cintiq monitor to do all the final art including the color. The text you see in the speech bubbles of the kids is actually my own hand writing. I made a custom font a few years back and use it on most of my books.

I guess that’s about it. I hope everyone enjoys the Monstore as much as I did creating it. Thanks so much for taking the time to ask me these great questions.  See ya at the Monstore!

You bet! See ya at the Monstore!

James Burks started his art career working in the animation industry on various movies and television shows, including THE EMPEROR’S NEW GROOVE, ATLANTIS, TREASURE PLANET, HOME ON THE RANGE, SPACE JAM, THE IRON GIANT, WOW WOW WUBBZY, FAN BOY & CHUM CHUM and currently on the Cartoon Hangover show BRAVEST WARRIORS. James’ first book Gabby and Gator (Yen Press) was a Junior Library Guild Selection as well as a CTA Read Across America title for 2012. His other books include Beep and Bah (Carolrhoda) and BIRD & SQUIRREL ON THE RUN (Scholastic/Graphix). James is currently hard at work on his next graphic novel Bird and Squirrel on Ice.

Visit him online at www.jamesburks.com.


Filed under Book Promotion, Celebrations, cover art, Interviews

Will We Ever Be Satisfied?

I can relate to L.B. Schulman’s post about being afraid of becoming a “one-hit wonder”. Anyone who travels down the path to publication has a career in mind, not one-book-and-kaput.

The photo I used to announce my second deal: “The author with two heads now has two books!”

So when I signed my second picture book contract, I was thrilled. For about 33.7 seconds. Then I became obsessed with selling the NEXT book.

And then I signed book three. Celebration? Yes, but again, the feeling was fleeting. I am now dead-set on selling book four. I’m frantically writing, revising, critiquing and coming up with unique, fresh concepts. I cannot rest with three. There must be MORE.

Why can’t I be satisfied with three? I mean, one is a huge accomplishment in itself, so I should be ecstatic with a triple-play. Instead I feel like, “meh”.

For a while I couldn’t decide if this attitude was good or bad. And then I took the positive angle: I want to make the best books I can. It’s not so much about the quantity as it is the quality. Never being satisfied is the fuel that keeps creativity burning on high. I am working harder than ever to ensure what I produce is top-notch and makes children (and parents) roar with laughter. I want one of my books to be someone’s favorite book. I want to inspire and delight. And I want to keep doing it, over and over and over again.

So maybe it’s good not to be satisfied. It forces me to strive harder, write smarter, and out-do my last story. I keep challenging myself. And that’s a good thing…just as long as I don’t grow more heads!


Filed under Advice, Writing

Taking a Break (But Not Really)

Somedays it’s hard for me to believe that I’m going to be a published author and I’m a part of this talented, fun group of EMU’s. I mean, who am I? A real housewife from New Jersey! (Yes, the real kind who does laundry and cooks dinner and wears pajamas all day.)

So I look around at all my debut friends and realize they’re vlogging. So I’d better pick up the pace and join them. I recorded my first-ever vlog, which may prove to be the most boring video on earth…but nonetheless, it’s here for your viewing pleasure (or displeasure, as the case may be).

In it, I reveal how I scored my second book contract. By taking a break. Sort of.


Filed under craft~writing, Writing, Writing and Life

The Sign of a Great Book Cover

My five-year-old and I celebrating THE MONSTORE illustrator James Burks' newest book, Princess Millie's Magic Wand. (Please note: before haircuts!)

Last week I got the thrill every author looks forward to—a rough sketch of my book cover for THE MONSTORE. (Phew, I need an editor. I don’t mean every author looks forward to THE MONSTORE cover, but it sure would be a boon to my sales if they did!)

The cover was only in black and white, but WOWIE! To see my characters starting back at me with these eager “read me” expressions was as thrilling as holding my daughters for the first time. (Except then I was exhausted and thirsty. At least this time I was well-rested with a huge ceramic vat of chai.)

I immediately printed it out and my five-year-old and I colored it in. Then we slapped it on the basket of the scooter that I use to tool around the neighborhood.  Yep, it’s now a MONSTOREMOBILE!

We then scooted over to the elementary school to pick up my eight-year-old (who is going to be upset if I don’t mention she’ll be nine in two days) and almost caused several accidents.

The kids were mesmerized. Gazing. Frozen. NOT MOVING OUT OF THE WAY!

I guess this is the sign of a good cover, right?

I wish I could share it here with you, but it’s still under wraps.

But I have to say–I think I had such a fabulous reaction to my cover because I didn’t hold any preconceived notions as to what it might look like. I think this is important when you’re the author of a picture book because it will NEVER look like what you imagine.

Nope, it will look BETTER than you ever DREAMED!


Filed under Happiness