Cynthia T. Toney and Bird Face

Our Friday Feature author interview today is with Cynthia T. Toney. Her book, Bird Face, released February 2014 and is garnering nothing but 4- and 5-star reviews on Amazon.

Let’s dive in.

Debra: How did you choose the publishers you queried for your book?

Cynthia: I looked for publishers that didn’t always follow trends in their offerings. And those that published middle-grade and young adult fiction that was more serious than silly.Cynthia T. Toney, Author of Bird Face

Debra: Publishers who don’t follow trends—that’s interesting. What gave you that idea, and why did you use that strategy?

Cynthia: The Bird Face story isn’t as lighthearted as many middle-school novels but also not as dark and serious as many teen novels today. It doesn’t have ghosts, vampires, witches, demons, or aliens. If an agent or publisher handled mostly those types of stories, I learned not to query them.

Debra: At what point in writing your book did you begin to look for publishers?

Cynthia: Too early, as I now know. I hadn’t joined a critique group yet, so I wasn’t aware of how much editing was left to do before I should’ve even considered allowing a potential agent or publisher’s acquisitions editor see it. The first request for a full manuscript that resulted in a polite rejection made me search for books on self-editing and otherwise seek the advice of individuals more knowledgeable than I.

Debra: Did you meet with acquisition editors via writer’s conferences?

Cynthia: Every time I thought I might attend a writer’s conference, something prevented me from doing so. I now plan to attend my first one as a published author.

Debra: So how did you find your publisher?

Cynthia: A friend suggested I query Port Yonder Press. My query was short—one paragraph about me, one about the book, and one about its potential, not necessarily in that order. I’ve since learned how important that opening hook is, even in a query letter. So my next book’s query will start with a captivating one-liner (I hope).

Debra: Did they ask for a proposal after reviewing your query?

Cynthia: They requested everything in a marketing plan template they sent me, which I think is a great way to let an author know what’s important to include. Among other things, I had to specify my goals, provide specific plans to create awareness of the book, and give reasons why someone would want to buy it. It wasn’t difficult to complete. I found it helped me think through some things that I hadn’t before but needed to.

Debra: Some publishing contracts can be filled with a lot of legalese. Did you have your contract reviewed by a lawyer or was it straightforward and easy to understand?

Cynthia: I didn’t consult an attorney because it was straightforward. Like other contract examples I’ve seen, it covered the responsibilities of both author and publisher and how royalties would be paid. There are online articles about publishing contracts. Writers should read some of them ahead of time, so when their time comes, they’ll be more familiar with contracts. If they have any concerns, it’s best to consult an attorney.

Debra: Give us a general run down on the process once your book was accepted.

Cynthia: My publisher and I spoke on the phone and communicated through email about what the coming months would be like and some early marketing I could do while we were in the editing process. The publisher’s artist developed the cover design with my input. I sought a couple of published authors as endorsers.

Debra: Did you work with an editor from the publishing house during the publishing process? If so, how did that go?

Cynthia: A number of editors worked with my manuscript. First, a content editor helped me expand a few areas. The publisher, who is also executive editor, gave it a line edit. A few copyeditors handled it also. And then the publisher/executive editor went over it again.

Debra: We know marketing our books is a major part of what we authors do these days. How are you tackling that?

Cynthia: For a long time, I had ideas in my head but no formal plan. When I garnered the interest of my publisher, they sent me their marketing plan template to fill out. I have to do the majority of the marketing, but I’m prepared. I started by thinking locally, contacting groups and institutions I already had a connection with, to see how we could partner in a future promotion. Once the book was published, I reconnected with those, and I also started contacting schools and libraries. My online critique partners are scattered all over and have helped get the book noticed in areas where they live. I continue to work on gaining reviews online and in printed periodicals.

Debra: What was the worst thing to deal with in the publishing process? What was the best?

Cynthia: The best and the worst were the same—controlling my excitement and maintaining patience while all the proper steps were taken.

Debra: (big smile) Yes, that’s high on the list for many authors. What advice do you have for writers concerning finding and gaining a publisher?

Cynthia: Look at all the books in the publisher’s list, or as many as you have time to if the publisher is large. Really look to see if your book would be a good fit before you query any publisher.

Debra: What advice do you have for them for during the process between acceptance and release?

Cynthia: Be open to changes for the betterment of your book. If you’re asked to add an extra scene or expand on something to do with a character, give it a try. Those things improved my story. If I was asked to replace a word with a different one or to rephrase something, I usually did it. Only when I thought a particular word or phrase was exactly right for my particular character did I decline the change.

Debra: Do you have a second book in the works? A publisher already lined up?

Cynthia: My second book is complete and being critiqued. It’s historical fiction set in the 1920s with a boy protagonist who is the son of immigrants. I’m searching for the right publisher or for an agent who can secure the right one for me.

Debra: Historical fiction is one of my favorite genres. Are beta readers reviewing the manuscript or do you have a specific editor critiquing the book?

Cynthia: I have a special critique group helping me. I didn’t have any beta readers for Bird Face but I hope to for this current manuscript and for a sequel to Bird Face. I now know more writers who have children the right age to read them!

Thank you, Cynthia, for joining us today. I wish you all success with Bird Face and your future projects. Keep us posted!


Cynthia T. Toney is a former newspaper artist, marketing professional, and interior decorator with a degree in art education. Her decorating articles appear on She has a passion for rescuing dogs from animal shelters and encourages people to adopt and save the life of a shelter dog. She enjoys cooking Italian and studying the complex history of the South, where she resides with her husband and as many dogs as space allows.

Facebook author page:


Almost-fourteen-year-old Wendy Robichaud doesn’t care one bit about being popular like her good-looking classmates Tookie and the Sticks—until Brainiac bully John-Monster schemes against her, and someone leaves anonymous sticky-note messages all over school. Even her best friend, Jennifer, is hiding something. But the Spring Program, abandoned puppies, and high school track team tryouts don’t leave much time to play detective. When secrets and failed dreams kick off the summer, will Jennifer still be around to support her?

BIRD FACE addresses issues of bullying, divorce, eating disorders, and teen suicide, but in a manner appropriate for grades 5 through 8, ages 10 – 14.

This book employs humor, offers hope, and demonstrates through story that kids have the power within themselves to shape their own lives and happiness.

Available in Kindle and paperback:

Want to get published but don’t know where to start?

Maybe you have a finished manuscript or just an idea stuck in your head. Email me today at Deb [at] DebraLButterfield [dot] com, and let's discuss how I can help you reach your dream of publication.


  1. Cyn, thanks for sharing yoyr wisdom on publishing and marketing Bird Face!

  2. amybovai says:

    Thank you both! The book sounds interesting and is needed. Debra, thanks for asking the questions that help us writers think through the process and Cynthia, good luck with the book!

    • Amy, glad you enjoy this monthly feature. I have refined my questions so next month’s interview will look quite different and I hope will bring out new elements. Looking forward to a day you have a book on the market.

    • Thanks for the good wishes, Amy.

  3. Thank you for the interview, Debra. Your questions helped me recall the details of my road to publication, and I hope the answers will assist other writers.

    • Cynthia, one thing that stands out to me about the writing community is the willingness of other writers to pay it forward. God’s blessings on your next book and all those after it.

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