Now I had an editor, an agent, an idea… and absolutely no knowledge or training on how to write a children’s book (ah!). I just had my drive, eagerness to learn, a ton of sources and compiled data I had used for my infographics, and a totally unfounded belief that I could write a real book.
I got to work.
With the guidance of my agent, Minju Chang of BookStop Literary Agency, I dove headfirst into how to make a children’s book. I spent hours at bookstores and in libraries. I studied my childhood favorites, rewriting all the lines on paper and rearranging them. I listened to experts — sitting back and watching what people had to say about writing books. I figured out how I wanted to tell the story: expository nonfiction with a silent visual narrator. I painted with paints and drafted with pencils. I did test pages for the book and preliminary designs for Simone, the main character in If Sharks Disappeared.
Nonfiction at its core needs to be factually accurate. So on top of writing a book and figuring out the nuances of children’s literature, I also went back and forth with marine biologist David McGuire of San Francisco nonprofit Shark Stewards and Dr. John McCosker from California Academy of Sciences.
From 2013 to 2015 I wrote and sketched out many versions of If Sharks Disappeared — some of which are on binder paper, others on printer paper and some saved as text files on my computer. During this time, I also made a short film called, FINconceivable, which was pre-planned to If Sharks Disappeared, covering similar information in a different way. The FINconceivable film was my senior thesis project at California College of the Arts, where I graduated in 2014. I moved to Los Angeles to work full time in feature film animation as a character/costume designer at Sony Pictures Animation for almost two years, all while still working on If Sharks Disappeared.
I did all of this, without an official book deal or contract.
Then in 2015, one of those manuscripts stuck with my editor, Emily, and Macmillan officially offered me a book deal.
From 2015 to 2016, I edited and finessed the final text with Emily and illustrated If Sharks Disappeared. There are some things that never made it to the final book…
And some that did!
Then on May 23rd, 2017, If Sharks Disappeared hit bookshelves.
To answer many people’s frequently asked question, “how did you get a book deal?” I don’t think I have the answer you are looking for. What I do know is this, I love drawing and storytelling, I enjoy being passionate about many things, and I love asking questions. Those things, combined with some fate and magic outside of my control, got me a book deal. And somewhere along the way, my passion project became one of the highlights of my career at a young age.
If I had any advice on how you can get a book deal, it would be this: follow your heart and what inspires you, speak up for what you believe in, and just say “yes” to leaps of faith whenever possible.
If Sharks Disappeared can be found on physical and internet bookshelves everywhere and was a 2017 Kirkus Reviews best book, as well as, a 2018 Orbis Pictus recommended book. Keep a lookout for If Polar Bears Disappeared (coming August 28th, 2018) and If Elephants Disappeared (2019).