Welcome to our latest Author Success Story! This month we're chatting with news anchor and award-winning author, Leticia Ordaz!
Leticia is the founder of bilingual publishing house Cielito Lindo Books and an award-winning children’s book author at the International Latino Book Awards. She is also an Emmy-nominated anchor/reporter in Sacramento, California. As a literacy ambassador, she is excited to share bilingual stories with children around the world. Leticia hopes to break barriers and change statistics that currently show only 7% of children’s books feature Latinx characters or subjects.
AHA: Hi Leticia! What inspired you to become an author?
Leticia: When I was growing up, I didn’t see many books with Latinos as protagonists and it hurt my self-esteem. As a Latina mother of two Spanish-speaking boys, I see the importance of having more bilingual books for them and other children to choose from. After spending countless nights translating picture books for my children in Spanish, I decided it was time to write my own stories for the world to read. I want children around the world to see themselves in my books and to know that they are important. Our stories matter.
AHA: Representation is so important! I know many agents and editors in the traditional publishing world say they are hoping to elevate Latinx voices. Was there a reason you chose to self-publish rather than go the traditional route?
Leticia: A major publisher actually offered to publish The Adventures of Mr. Macaw but they didn’t want the book to be in Spanish. They questioned if it would sell in two languages and had the audacity to say, “Latinos don’t read.” I was so angry at their ignorant comment that I decided I would do it my way. The debut book in 2020 was a huge hit and won 4 International Latino Book Awards. I’m so glad I published it my way, through my publishing company Cielito Lindo Books. Mr. Macaw will now be a series. My fifth book, “Mr. Macaw, Lost in the Big City” will be released in March 2023. My children’s autobiography, “That Girl on TV Could Be Me! The Journey of a Latino News Anchor” will be available at Scholastic Book Fairs in September.
AHA: I'm so glad you did it your way! Scholastic Book Fairs are like the holy grail of kidlit, but they are notoriously hard for self-publishers to access. How'd you pull it off?
Leticia: For Scholastic, one editor apparently bought my book and ended up telling her education team to track down my email. I was contacted to send all of my book titles for review.
That Girl on TV Could Be Me! releases this month at book fairs. My son’s school had a book fair last year and let me sell my books. I tagged them [Scholastic] on a social media post. Maybe that helped. I also know there is a huge push for publishers to put out more diverse books.
AHA: So impressive! So, how long did it take you to publish that first book?
Leticia: I wrote my first story in June of 2018 after my family experienced a kind act during an approaching Tropical Storm in Mexico. After my children’s beloved kite blew away in the storm, the village came together to help us find it. I told my husband I have to turn this into a picture book. We had to take shelter in a kid’s club filled with families to wait for the storm to pass. That’s where I grabbed some blank paper and color crayons and wrote my first draft to Mr. Macaw. After more than two dozen drafts, and professional editing, my story came out in March 2020 just as the pandemic shut the world down. Covid couldn’t stop my story from reaching thousands of young readers and soaring to home libraries, children’s hospitals, and schools.
AHA: So almost two years. It just goes to show that producing a high-quality product takes time - even for self-publishers!
Leticia: I wish I would have known that having a book is a huge time commitment. Your book won’t just market itself. You will be doing author visits, traveling, marketing, and have less time to write more books. But, I love what I’m doing and wouldn’t have it any other way.
AHA: The hard work is definitely worth it. Speaking of hard work, has the publishing process been easier or harder than you anticipated? In what ways?
Leticia: I think the first book is the hardest to get out into the world as you are learning the ropes of the publishing industry. I’m fortunate to have some wonderful mentors by my side. Find your village and steer clear of vanity presses who want to charge you money to publish your book.
AHA: Now that you've learned the ropes yourself, how do you measure success? Has that benchmark changed over the years?
Leticia: I will say it was quite amazing to have people preorder my book on my website months before my book was even released. My community was hungry to read my story.
I’ve always measured success not necessarily by how much money I’m making with my books but how many lives I’m impacting. Children, parents, grandparents, teachers have reached out in tears saying they feel seen, they feel heard, and they feel appreciated thanks to my bilingual books featuring Latinx characters. This is better than any award I could receive. Another big accomplishment was working with a school district in California to get my books transcribed into Braille for a 5th grader. My goal is to not only publish my own stories but to open up submissions for other Latinx writers who are underrepresented.
AHA: I have no doubt you'll reach that goal! Until then though, for people reading who might want to follow in your self-publishing footsteps, what one piece of advice would you give them?
Leticia: I would say don’t skimp on illustrations. People will judge a book by its cover. You have to make it appealing to children and make sure it doesn’t look like a self-published book. I know you said one thing, but it’s also equally important to have good editors. You don’t want someone to open your book and find any typos. I like to hire multiple editors to review my work. Don’t forget to have your editors review your PDF once more before it goes to print and review it aloud again when you get your sample from your printer.
AHA: As an editor myself, I strongly agree! Another area people tend to struggle in is marketing. What marketing strategies have been the most successful for you?
Leticia: Social media has been the best marketing strategy for me. Don’t be afraid to tell people about your book. Don’t just ask them to buy it. That gets annoying. Instead, document what you are doing out in your community to promote literacy. Your book isn’t going to be discovered if you don’t find creative ways to market it. Countless teachers, influencers, and organizations have found me on IG and Facebook. Once you gain a following, they help create your content and generate buzz by posting about your books.
The Carousel King and the Space Mission
POD or offset print run?
Offset print run - 15,000
softcover, hardcover, Kindle
Total Investment: (All amounts are rough estimates provided by the author and should not be considered 100% accurate or used as estimates for your own project. Do your own research!)
Total Number of Books Sold To Date:
14,500 hardcovers sold in four months
(Another off-set print run is in the works)
Inspired by Leticia's story?
Ready to start your own publishing journey?
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