Sandra Murphy, Editor
For contributions to the newsletter and Letters to the Editor, please email the editor of SPAWNews: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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From the President
Welcome to all the new members and subscribers who have discovered SPAWN this month!
I can’t believe it’s August! I’ve been working feverishly to finish my book so I can give it to my editor. Tomorrow is my deadline! Wish me luck 😉
I do want to mention a couple of things before I return to my other writing tasks though. First is that a returning SPAWN member pointed out SPAWN doesn’t have a group on LinkedIn and suggested we set one up. As most of you know, we are very open to member suggestions and take them seriously. Since LinkedIn is a social media site with a business focus, it’s a great place for SPAWN members to be networking with each other. So yesterday I set up a private group and I’ll be sending invitations to all SPAWN members this week, so please watch your inbox. I’m looking forward to connecting with you, particularly those of you who don’t hang out on our SPAWNDiscuss list.
If you’d like to connect directly with me on social media you can use these links:
- Linked In http://www.linkedin.com/in/susandaffron
- Facebook http://www.facebook.com/susandaffron
- Twitter http://twitter.com/susandaffron
- Google+ http://gplus.to/SusanDaffron
SPAWN also has added a new partner to our roster. The Southern California Writer’s Association (SCWA) joins our list of partners, which includes IBPA, SPAN, PubWest, BAIPA, CSPA, UPPAA, and CLAS. If you are a member of any of these organizations, you receive a $10 discount on your SPAWN membership fee when you join or renew. If you’re already a SPAWN member and want to join SCWA, you receive the same discount. You can learn more about the SCWA at their web site www.ocwriter.com
August Teleseminar Announcement!
Teleseminar for SPAWN Members
Who: Shari Alexander
When: August 11, 2011, 1 pm (Pacific)
How: Members will receive an email with call-in details
Title: Sell More Books and Build Buzz By Speaking
This month it’s been too hot to rub two words together. The cats spend their days gathered around the air conditioning vents, blocking my access. Who’s paying the bills here? But it’s a good time to query, to try something new and to update all my lists—like the available reprints or the payment log.
I’ve been thinking about setting up a writer’s Web site, and am researching that. In future newsletters you’ll see more about topics like Web sites, blogs, and Facebook pages and how to design them to be noticed. We’ll look for the best ways to promote your work, too—you might be like the woman who signed books at the circus or the man who did his signing at the gas station. Check out Patricia Fry’s new book, Promote Your Book, filled with over 250 economical ways to sell more books.
August is back-to-school month for a lot of kids and this month’s newsletter theme is writing for children. Be sure to click on the link to Lewis Agrell’s article on children’s book covers. You’ll be able to see the graphics in better detail there. Lee Juslin tells how to self-publish and find an illustrator, Patricia Cruzan talks about age-appropriate storylines, and Judith Johnson tells how she got the idea for her book. Tulani Thomas tells us how she went from idea to 200 books sold—a story well worth reading. Joel Friedlander sent links to book reviewers, too.
The themed issues are working well, so I’m looking for ideas for 2012. I’d like to have an editorial calendar set up for the year—themes announced in advance—so we can get more information to you and more contributions from you. If there’s a topic you’d like to see and it hasn’t shown up yet, drop me an e-mail; suggestions are always welcome.
The theme for September is mystery books—writing, publishing, and publicizing. Don’t miss it!
In the meantime, keep cool and think like a kid. There may be a children’s book inside you, too!
— Sandy, Editor, SPAWNews, email@example.com
SPAWN Market Update
by Patricia Fry
The August SPAWN Market Update features over forty opportunities and resources for authors, freelance writers, scriptwriters, and artists. Would you like to land a job in the publishing industry? We post job boards to help you find work as an editor, proofreader, marketing manager, advertising assistant, and much more. We list job boards for writers, sites where you can get FREE copies of trade magazines, and publishers seeking children’s and young adult book manuscripts—some of them brand-new! We provide leads and guidelines for writing and submitting the how-to article. And we introduce some new resources for authors.
If you are a freelance writer looking for work, an author with a manuscript to publish or a book to promote, or if you have qualifications that might be required for a job in the publishing field, for example, you really must take the time to peruse this issue of the SPAWN Market Update. If you’re not a member, visit this page to join:
Ask the Book Doctor:
About Children’s Books—Rights, Illustrations, Agents, and Publishers
By Bobbie Christmas
Q: I wrote a play-on-words dog poem I wish to submit to various big-name magazines. Can I submit it to all those periodicals at one time? Also, if the poem gets published in a magazine, can I then submit the same poem to publishers of children’s books?
A: Check the submission guidelines of each magazine to see which ones accept simultaneous submissions. If all accept simultaneous submissions, you can submit the poem to all of them simultaneously. Most publications list submissions guidelines on their Web sites. Always follow each magazine’s guidelines to the letter.
The second question—whether you can submit published material to a children’s book publisher—is legal in nature, so an attorney familiar with intellectual rights would be a better person to ask. As a layperson, I believe the answer depends on what rights you transferred to the magazine. Chances are if you sell only first-printed rights, you retain second rights. I often see a list in the front of a book of poetry or short stories that acknowledges other publications in which some of the work has appeared. In those cases, the author probably sold only first rights and could use the work again by acknowledging the places that first published the works.
Q: I was contacted by a writer of a children’s story about doing the artwork for her book. She has not sent it to the publisher yet. I have no idea what I should charge her for the artwork. I need to know the going rate for this type of artwork. I would greatly appreciate it if you could give me a heads-up on what to expect.
A: I went to your Web site; your art is indeed professional and up to the quality necessary for book illustration. Many people hope to illustrate their own books, but their work does not pass muster. Yours does. Authors would be wise to turn to someone with your skills.
To look for information on possible rates, go to http://www.salary.com and check to see what a person in your area might make per year as an illustrator. Use the median figure as a baseline. If it takes you a week to complete one illustration, divide the median salary by fifty-two weeks to see what you should get for a week of work. If you worked for a corporation, you would also get benefits, such as paid vacations and insurance coverage, so to compensate, add about ten percent to the base weekly rate. Only you can figure how many weeks you will need to complete the illustrations, but remember the Murphy’s Law that states “Everything takes longer than you expected.” Overestimate the time it will take, and you will probably be closer to reality.
Next I need to address an issue other than salary. You said the author wants to send the illustrations to a publisher, which raises a red flag. The only time I recommend that writers pay for illustrations is when the writer plans to self-publish, so if the author is sending the book and illustrations to a printer for self-publication, that’s one thing. If he or she wants to sell the work to a publisher, though, it could be a problem. Most publishers have their own illustrators and prefer not to receive books that are already illustrated. Nevertheless, the author may very well be able to sell both writing and artwork as a package deal. It does happen.
Q: Do you have any idea where I may get my children’s book published? I don’t have a lot of money, and getting an agent or affording one is out of the question.
A: First, finding a publisher is not an easy thing to do, and I cannot give a quick answer on how to find one. Read books on how to find a publisher; many are on the market. Before you look for an agent or publisher, though, first the manuscript has to be the best it can be.
Next, agents should never cost you money; they should make money from the publisher. They take their commission out of the advance and the royalties, so anyone can “afford” a decent agent, because good agents earn their own money and make money for you, as well. If an agent asks for money for anything other than postage and copying, run back to the library or use the Internet to find an agent who does not charge. AAR members do not charge fees; they take commissions only after the sale.
Bobbie Christmas, book doctor, author of Write In Style (Union Square Publishing), and owner of Zebra Communications, will answer your questions, too. Send them to Bobbie@zebraeditor.com. Read more “Ask the Book Doctor” questions and answers at www.zebraeditor.com.
by Patricia Fry
The Art and Craft of Fiction, A Practitioner’s Manual by Victoria Mixon
La Favorita Press, 2010 ISBN: 978-0-9845427-0-3 Paper, 368 pages, $19.95
Victoria Mixon has been writing and editing professionally for thirty years, and now she presents fiction writers with a manual designed to help them to write a more engaging novel.
She takes readers through the huge task of creating believable characters and building and maintaining plots and scenes that work through good writing and interesting techniques. In order to make the points throughout her book, she uses examples and anecdotes from other writers (both good and not-so-good). Some of the authors she brings into her book are Truman Capote, Earnest Hemingway, and Edgar Allan Poe.
Can you tell a story? Then perhaps you can write good fiction. Mixon explains the correlation. And with the assistance of Raymond Carver and John Gardner, she warns writers not to try to fool readers. I love her last paragraph in that section: “You don’t push your reader off the rainbow by driving your story into them like a car. You do it by leading them to an extraordinary, vivid, real view and leaving them standing out there, on the thin air of faith.”
Pacing is an issue for many authors—at least I see problems with pacing occur in some of the novels I edit. Mixon does a good job of teaching the concept of pacing. As she says, “Tension is not pretending something ordinary—like tooth-brushing—is of devastating import to your characters. Tension is keeping your reader addicted.” And she warns against “shoving your reader around.” In her book, she shows you how to “Catch readers by surprise every time, right before they expect it.”
I found her examples quite helpful. And don’t think this book is only for seasoned fiction writers. Mixon also addresses the basics, such as determining the first-, second-, and third-person voice, and provides quizzes throughout the book.
Do you write fiction? Could you use some help with dialogue, writing style, and/or character development? Would you like to know if you are making any of the five biggest mistakes in plotting? Read Mixon’s book. Your readers will be glad you did.
From SPAWN President Susan Daffron: I will be speaking at the BlogPaws conference, which will be held in Tyson’s Corner, Virginia on August 25-27. I’ll be participating in a panel called Publishing Options in Today’s Digital Environment with Penny Sansevieri and Dorothy Hearst. We’ll be talking about self-publishing, traditional publishing, and book
marketing. If you’re attending, please say “hi.”
Patricia Fry has a new book on book promotion! Patricia Fry’s new book, Promote Your Book, is available for purchase now at Amazon.com in print form. It will be on Kindle by the end of the month. The subtitle is Over 250 Proven, Low-Cost Tips and Techniques for the Enterprising Author (Allworth Press). Alongside solid promotional ideas and resources, you’ll discover how two dozen authors have successfully promoted their books. PLFry620@yahoo.com for more information. http://www.patriciafry.com, http://www.matilijapress.com.
Here’s the public relations blurb about the book:
A twenty-six-year-old becomes a self-publishing “Kindle Millionaire.” Borders, the second-biggest bookstore chain in the country, collapses into bankruptcy. The book-publishing industry is changing dramatically each day, and only the savvy author will survive. Patricia Fry, Executive Director of the Small Publishers, Artists & Writers Network in Southern California, shares her time-tested techniques for book promotion success in Promote Your Book. Unconventional strategies, as well as fundamental publicity and marketing elements like press releases, marketing plans, and more are covered in Fry’s clear and candid writing style, and are based on her nearly forty years of publishing experience.
If you are interested in a review copy of Promote Your Book or would like to interview Patricia Fry, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 212-643-6816 x234.
Joel Friedlander has been promoting books via book reviews. He sent along these links.
- A great list of reviewers who accept self-published books:http://www.stepbystepselfpublishing.net/reviewer-list.html
- A list of many Web sites of book reviewers:http://www.webring.org/hub/bookreviews
- A detailed list of nonfiction reviewers:http://www.ebookcrossroads.com/reviewers-of-non-fiction-books.html
- A network of over 1,700 book bloggers and reviewers:http://bookblogs.ning.com/group/dedicatedbookreviewers
On September 17, 2011, C. Hope Clark is presenting a three-hour workshop at the Technical College of the Lowcountry in Beaufort, South Carolina, on the topic “Funding Your Writing Habit.” Hope is the editor of FundsforWriters, www.fundsforwriters.com
Barbara Florio Graham’s two-hour interview on CFRA radio (a popular news/talk station owned by Bell Media) is now available as a podcast. Bridgeross, publisher of Prose to Go: Tales from a Private List, has it on their Web site at http://www.bridgeross.com/Rabbi.mp3.
Rabbi Bulka spent the entire first hour asking about Bobbi’s career and her books. He then got to Prose to Go (for which Bobbi served as Managing Editor) in the second hour, and ended the show with her reading one of her contributions to the anthology.
Wendy Dager will sign copies of I Murdered the PTA on the following dates—she’d love to see SPAWN members:
- Saturday, August 13, 2:00 p.m., Crushcakes & Café, 4945 Carpinteria Avenue, Carpinteria, California. Cupcakes will be served.
- Wendy will sign with fellow Zumaya Enigma author Joan Blacher, who will be signing copies of Lethal Lake Saturday, August 27, 2:00 p.m., Mysteries to Die For, 2940 Thousand Oaks Blvd., Thousand Oaks, California.
- Meet Wendy Saturday, September 17, 2:00 p.m., Book `em Mysteries, 1118 Mission St., South Pasadena, California.
- Or at the West Hollywood Book Fair Sunday, October 2, in the Zumaya Publications booth with other Zumaya authors. For more information, go to www.wendydager.com or e-mail email@example.com
SPAWN Youth Director Dallas Woodburn has recently had short stories accepted by the literary magazines Valparaiso Fiction Review, Dr. Hurley’s Snake Oil Cure, and Women in REDzine, a multicultural women’s art and literature magazine out of the University of Wisconsin-Madison. In addition, Woodburn’s short play love (lower case) will be produced this fall as part of the Quills & Keys play festival in Santa Paula, California. Many of Woodburn’s published stories are archived at http://www.fictionaut.com/users/dallas-woodburn
Note: To have your announcements included in Member News, you must be a paid member of SPAWN. Please email your news to firstname.lastname@example.org
Book-Signing Tips: Read This If You’re Not Sarah Palin
by Sandra Beckwith
The book signing, like so many other elements of the publishing industry, is evolving into something new, different, and better. Gone are the days when authors could sit at a bookstore table and sign book after book. That still works for Sarah Palin, but not for the rest of us.
So what does work? How do you make sure your book signing isn’t a waste of time for you and the store? Here are six tips for planning an event that will sell books and leave you and your host smiling.
- Don’t approach a bookstore to discuss a signing unless you’ve written your book for a wide consumer audience. Many bookstores won’t host signings when it’s clear the audience for the book is too narrow—perhaps it applies only to attorneys or plumbers. Ask yourself if there’s a better place to meet your niche audience face-to-face.
- Plan an event, not a book signing. You want to engage your target audience, whether your book is fiction or nonfiction. When Marcia Layton Turner did a book-signing event at her local Barnes & Noble for The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Vision Boards, she didn’t sit at a table near the entrance. Turner taught store customers how to create vision boards with materials provided by Marcia and the bookstore. “I shared the book’s message and showed how to apply it,” she says.
- Consider non-bookstore locations. Go where you’ll find your audience—and it might not be at a bookstore. Be creative—if your book is a vegetarian cookbook, schedule an event at a natural-foods market or the produce section of a supermarket. Your new mystery takes place at a museum? Talk to the most popular museum in your area about hosting a presentation and signing. When Irene Levine introduced her community to Best Friends Forever: Surviving a Breakup with Your Best Friend, Levine’s hair stylist hosted a book signing at her salon. Their friends brought friends, too. Borders sold books on site to about half of the 150 attendees.
- Market to warm. Are you an active member of a supportive group? Jackie Dishner, author of the regional travel book Back Roads and Byways of Arizona, sold more than sixty books at the weekly meeting of her businesswomen’s group. She kept members informed of her progress as she researched and wrote her first book, so they welcomed the opportunity to celebrate its publication with her. Do you belong to a similar group that might support you?
- Do your share to get the word out. Don’t expect your event host to do all the promotional work; collaborate so you reach as many people as possible. Contact the press, send an e-mail to locals in your address book and ask them to forward it, and use social networking tools such as Facebook events and Twitter to spread the word.
- Don’t just sign your name. When I sign copies of my humor book about men—Why Can’t a Man be More Like a Woman? —I write the person’s first name, add “It’s all true!” and sign my name. For Publicity for Nonprofits, I use “I’ll see you in the news!” People like that additional touch because it feels more personal.
Be prepared to invest time. Planning, promoting, and executing a successful book signing takes time, thought, and effort. It will all be worth it, though, as you watch those cases of books under your table empty and your hand gets tired from writing with your favorite pen.
Award-winning former publicist Sandra Beckwith now teaches authors how to generate book publicity and promotion. Get more author and book-publicity tips and sign up for her free Build Book Buzz e-zine at http://www.buildbookbuzz.com
Finding Time to Write Your Book: You Have the Time; I’ll Show You Where It Is
by Dan Poynter
How long does it take to write a book? According to Brenner Information Group, on the average it takes 475 hours (60 eight-hour days) to write fiction books and 725 hours to write nonfiction.
Subscribers to Writer’s Digest Magazine spend 12.64 hours writing each week. Beginners spend seven hours a week and advanced writers spend 30.5.
Here’s what editor Gail Kearns tells her potential clients on this topic: “You’ve lived seventy-eight years and you expect me to ghostwrite your memoir in a week?”
But Maryanne Raphael proved that you can write a book in even less than a week. When she first read about the international Three-Day Writing Contest, she thought it was a joke, but the idea of writing a book in three days fascinated her. So several years later she signed up, got a sponsor, and arranged to spend Labor Day weekend at her keyboard day and night.
She began typing as fast as she could, writing her best at all times, because there was no time for rewriting. The subconscious was in control, with the conscious mind in the dark much of the time. The same powerful curiosity that kept her writing keeps her readers turning pages.
With breaks for taking naps, Maryanne finished the manuscript by the deadline. The Man Who Loved Funerals is now in New York with her agent, who thinks it is her best work.
For many authors, the writing of the book is not grueling; it is a journey to be enjoyed. Many writers like to set aside a few hours for their writing each day; they establish a schedule and stick to it religiously. A few have the luxury of writing full-time or of getting away to concentrate on their writing. They find marathon writing is more fun and avoids the challenge of getting back to the manuscript each day. Still others have to fit in their writing whenever they can.
Nat Bodian decided to write his first book in 1979. Finding time was difficult because he worked full-time as a marketer at a New York publishing house and commuted from New Jersey. He did some writing on the bus to and from New York, some on a pad of paper as he walked across Manhattan, and some during his lunch hours. He continued writing into the wee hours of the morning in a basement typing room (after his children were in bed), and on weekends.
The Book Marketing Handbook was published by R.R. Bowker twenty months later and it is still selling. This and several more industry books led to his nomination to the Publishing Hall of Fame.
For more help, explanation, and direction, see Writing Nonfiction: Turning Thoughts into Books.
Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King wrote powerful articles and books about their activities or causes while they were behind bars. Make effective use of your most valuable asset: your time.
Now, sit down and write something.
Dan Poynter does not want you to die with a book still inside you. You have the ingredients and he has your recipe. He shows people how to write, publish and promote their books through his books, seminars, e-zine, articles, etc. Dan is the author of more than 120 books, has been a publisher since 1969 and is a Certified Speaking Professional (CSP). DanPoynter@ParaPublishing.com http://ParaPublishing.com
Being a Children’s Writer Is More than Meets the Eye
by Patricia Cruzan
Pretend for a moment that a person asks you what you plan to do now that your education is complete. You say, “I plan to be a children’s author.” But, being a writer for children involves a different set of skills than writing for adults. After all, children aren’t miniature adults.
Before you send your manuscript to an editor, familiarize yourself with children’s books. Not all editors want the same genres. Know the types of children’s books produced; check libraries, bookstores, and online sources. Study recent publications to find out what genres the publisher produces. You don’t want to send a fiction manuscript to a publisher who publishes only nonfiction. Brief descriptions in the paragraphs below present the range of children’s books available.
During the first fifteen months of life, children need simple books about everyday life. Some baby books contain rhymes and lullabies. As toddlers, children enjoy durable cardboard books called board books. These books present familiar themes in a few pages.
Children who are five to eight years of age need easy-to-read books. The books contain chapters with larger print. Basic words are repeated, so children can learn them. These books help children acquire literacy skills for their developmental level.
Fiction picture books for children two to seven years old contain stories built around a central character. Children use illustration and text clues to comprehend the story. The characters overcome obstacles to obtain their goals; however, they have flaws. The twenty-four to thirty-two page books have a clear beginning, middle, and end.
Nonfiction picture books include a variety of topics. Seven- to twelve-year-olds can look for books from the following categories: biography, science, history, and the arts. The sentences and vocabularies in these books are more complex. Photographs, paintings, collages, charts, and graphs might be included in nonfiction books. A table of contents, glossary, and index provide additional resources for the reader.
As children progress in their reading ability, they may choose to read middle-grade fiction books. These books present readers with adventure, fantasy, sports, family stories, humor, and horror. Plots deal with more tension in a logical sequence. Usually, fewer pictures are used in middle-grade fiction.
Middle-grade students choose nonfiction books for research. These books need to present facts accurately. The book’s design should attract the reader’s attention right away. The text and ancillary materials should be age-appropriate and user-friendly.
Teenage fiction resembles that of adult fiction, but the characters are young adults. Teenagers’ books include more complicated plots and styles. Flashbacks and different viewpoints are common. These books have themes about complex relationships, emotions, and values.
Young adults may seek books on topics they are not taught in school. Even though there are nonfiction books written for teenagers, teens also read some adult nonfiction books.
As an author, you can dig deeper into the kind of children’s literature that appeals to you. If you want to be successful, read, write, and experiment.
As you begin a rough draft, think as a child. If you believe you will be an overnight sensation, think again. Some authors practice their craft for over a decade before they are successful. It takes time, practice, and perseverance.
Patricia Cruzan is a poet and the author of five books: My Reflections, Sketches of Life, Max Does It Again, Molly’s Mischievous Dog, and Tall Tales of the United States. She’s written for Grit magazine, Fayette Woman, the Fayette Daily News, Focus, and Rhythm & Rhyme chapbooks. In 2008, Patricia won first place in the Georgia Writers Association’s poetry contest, and in 2009, she placed second in the overall GWA’s prose and poetry contests. For more information, visit http://www.patriciacruzan.com.
Designing Children’s Book Covers
by Lewis Agrell
Writing is a mental exercise, but designing is primarily a visual/emotional experience. Here are two covers in particular that I like because they work, from a design standpoint.
First, let’s take a look at Nina Laden’s Peek-a WHO?
Don’t you want to pick up this book, open to the first page, and see what is behind that cut-out? Of course you do. Why is that? First of all, you see two eyes staring at you. The Poynter Institute in St. Petersburg, Florida, does studies on things like eye movement to find out what captures our attention. What was ranked number one on the attention-grabbing scale? Eyes. Nothing catches our attention like a pair of eyes on the page.
What’s the next thing that commands our attention? Color. Our eyes love color. Give a child a choice between something that is black, white, and gray and something that is bright and colorful, and they’ll choose the colorful object every time.
This cover uses color value differentiation masterfully. The leaf background is a very dark value. The type and central image are a much lighter value. Value differentiation gets our attention.
What else do we notice about this cover? Look how the type was laid out. It’s not in parallel lines, stacked on top of each other. The words literally dance across the page. Isn’t that fun? We automatically know this book will be a joy to read, and will be perfect for reading to little Bartholomew and baby Hortensia.
For cover number two, I have selected The Goodnight Train by June Sobel.
Isn’t this a charming cover? The title is not typeset; it is hand painted, which makes it unique (and friendly), and the white over blue is contrasting, so it catches your attention right away. A nice little design touch: the dot in the “i” in “Train” was replaced with a star, mirroring the blue stars in the sky. The primary color field is blue and dark gray. The complementary color of blue is orange, which we find in the boy’s face. That makes this character pop off of the page. What really grabs attention is the feeling of action/animation from virtually every inch of the cover. This looks like it will be wonderful to read because of the joy, sense of playfulness, and action that is promised on the cover. Great covers are born from great ideas, great design, great color use, and very talented/experienced illustrators.
The Agrell Group, http://www.theagrellgroup.com/html/bookcover.html
Writing for Children is Fun and Publishing on Your Own Can Be Rewarding
by Lee Juslin
Children are indeed little adults, at least those who enjoy reading are. That’s because children who read are intelligent and often mature beyond their years, and authors of children’s literature should be careful not to underestimate their vocabulary or talk down to them.
In my Nurse Frosty books, I always include a few words and phrases that are unusual and designed to challenge young readers. For instance, when describing hunger in one character with a fussy nature, I used the phrase: my stomach is quite peckish—a vintage phrase and one not used by today’s youth, but something different that is designed to pique the interest of a young reader. Children in middle school like to experiment with language, and writers of children’s books should provide word challenges that help to increase a young reader’s vocabulary.
In a recent Nurse Frosty book, I introduced a new character quite different from all the existing characters. To illustrate the differences, I gave the character an accent. Not only did the accent provide a challenge for readers, but it was also a puzzle and gave the story additional interest.
If you have an idea for a children’s book that is just burning a hole in your brain, consider a technology publisher. Self-publishing with a technology press is not like the old and expensive vanity presses. There are no up-front fees, and I’ve found the quality to be quite good, though you will need to sell at a higher price to make money.
If you are publishing on your own, you will need an illustrator. Finding an artist with whom to collaborate can be tricky. Illustrations need to fit the story, and the two of you need to be on the same page. It’s important that you agree on the number of illustrations, placement within the story, and production deadlines. If you don’t have an artist within your circle of friends, try the art department at a local college or check out artists on eBay. You may have to pay your illustrator upfront, per drawing, or work out a deal to split the book revenues once it is published and selling.
When you self-publish, you take on most of the marketing yourself, but before introducing your book to the general public, find some youngsters to serve as pre-readers; their feedback can be very valuable. When ready to start your marketing campaign, develop a Press Contacts List, which should include the media outlets in your area as well as your illustrator’s area. Send a press release to each of these with a copy of your book. Develop a Web site with e-commerce (PayPal is easy to set up) so customers can buy signed copies of your book. When your technology publisher puts your title on amazon.com—usually six weeks after publishing—create your own duplicate listing and say somewhere in the description: “author-signed copy.” Talk up your book in any Internet groups you belong to, volunteer to read your book at reading programs in the children’s room of your local library or elementary schools, approach independent bookstores that may not be able to carry your book but might be open to a reading, look for sites and blogs devoted to children’s literature that are willing to give your book a review or at least a mention, and develop your own blog to talk about your book. Local TV and radio stations might be interested in doing a feature on a resident author. Include them in your Press Contacts List and follow up with them.
Writing for children is fun and publishing on your own can be very rewarding, but both take determination and focus.
Jasper State Eats His Veggies
by Judith Johnson
I was inspired to write the chronicles of my four-year-old chocolate poodle Jasper State when my mother and I noticed veggies were missing from her garden. We’d find holes in avocados that had fallen on the ground. I told my mother I thought she had a rat, but it turns out that the rat was Jasper State! We realized he had been eating her veggies, much to our surprise. We now use the healthy veggies as his training reward. String beans are his favorite.
Jasper State is very popular in our neighborhood; all the kids love him. One day when I took him on one of his daily walks, I noticed that two boys watched as I fed Jasper State his string beans. I asked if they ate their green things, and the younger one said, “No way!” That’s when I blurted out, “I am going to tell Jasper State that you do not eat your green things.”
A few days later as I walked Jasper State, the little boy came running out at top speed, insisting that I tell Jasper State he’d eaten his green things for dinner the night before. Then he wanted to know what Jasper said to me. I told the little boy that it was good for him to eat his veggies and that he would grow big muscles and be able to do the doggie hustle. That’s when Jasper State and I broke out dancing in circles, as he often does when he’s happy. Later that evening, I thought about what had happened with the child and realized I could put the tales of Jasper State on paper and he would go down in dog history.
Jasper State was a gift from a friend. I had been promised several rescue dogs, but they never panned out, so I was happy when Jasper State came into my life. Trust me, my life hasn’t been the same, and I would not have it any other way.
Jasper State and I have a lot in common. We both inherited a love of gardening from my mother. My mother completed her life journey recently, but not before revealing to me many of her life lessons, such as love for animals and taking care of the Earth.
Loss has been a part of my journey these past few years. Many of those who passed left a strong influence in my life—my cousin, my uncle who always encouraged me, my friend of thirty years who inspired me as a writer on a daily basis, and my niece. In the end, love and loss both have served as strong emotions to help me become a better listener and writer.
Be sure to keep a lookout for the chronicles of Jasper State, as we will soon unfold the twelve- part series dealing with the healthy eating adventures of Jasper State, and please be sure to eat your green things every day!
Feeling Great with Jasper State—Eat Your Green Things Every Day by Judith Johnson is available on amazon.com http://tinyurl.com/42zl6mg
Testimony from a New Children’s Book Author
by Tulani Thomas
I focus on healthy living, which includes healthful eating, using eco-friendly products, and reading about green living. Because I want to pass this onto my children, we do a recycle sorting game and a lights-off game. The challenge was to find children’s books to reaffirm my green philosophies.
I decided to write my own children’s book to present sophisticated green topics to children in a way that’s comprehensible and fun. I also wanted to self-publish my books so that I would have more control over the project. I read the Complete Guide to Self Publishing (CGTSP) by Tom & Marilyn Ross from cover to cover. That book led me to helpful resources like SPAWN, where I had a place to ask those “I-feel-stupid” questions. The CGTSP provided me with step-by-step procedures I needed to get my book published. I had a manuscript but needed an illustrator, editor and printer.
I found my illustrator on a Web site for freelance artists: http://www.guru.com. I submitted my project description and received more than thirty bids. I selected six illustrators, based on their online portfolios, and then I sent a more detailed description of the main character. My illustrator was able to capture my vision accurately. What was most important for me was that he took my suggestions and altered the image based on what I wanted to see, not on what he thought it should be.
I located my printers, www.Selfpublishing.com, based on the CGTSP and The Fine Print of Self-Publishing by Mark Levine. There were no hidden fees and I was able to select what services I wanted. I also liked that when I called other printers, who don’t do runs of less than 1,000 books, they suggested Selfpublishing. I utilized their editing services first. That was a big learning curve! It took about two months. I also edited after it was illustrated. For my next book I will be sure to have the manuscript edited prior to illustration, just in case I have changes that will affect the illustrations.
There wasn’t enough time to have 1,000 books printed and delivered in time for Earth Week. I had time to print only 200 books. I was able to do book readings at a few Miami elementary schools and at less traditional places like a Holistic Family Center. My membership in SPAWN helped—I got advice on the best way to conduct signings, the protocol for school readings, and helpful tips with fulfillment of orders.
Of the 200 books printed in April, all have been sold. The marketing of the book was and still is imperative. I used family, friends, and colleagues to help with marketing. An e-mail went to all of my contacts a month before the book was released. I had a basic Web site set up. It included a description of the character, a book image, an author bio, and a contact page. I launched a Facebook fan page and opened a Twitter account. What really helped were the 120 damaged books that the printer sent to me. (They sent sixty damaged books and the sixty books that were sent to replace the damaged ones were also damaged.) I used those 120 books as proofs and sent them to people who would do articles or reviews. I took a leap of faith and participated in the BookExpo America (BEA) conference, where there was booth space in both the children’s pavilion and writers’ row. I went with the children’s pavilion, and because it was my first time and they had space left, I was able to get it at a fifty-percent discount!
What I learned at the BEA in three days would have taken me months to learn. At the BEA I met librarians, bloggers, teachers, and other authors. I was also able to meet with wholesalers and distributors. I received interest in my book. Since the BEA, I have been able to secure national distribution with Small Press United. My book will now be available in all Barnes & Noble stores, and more importantly, I have a distributor and access to their client wholesalers and retailers. Membership to IPBA was included. They, too, have been an excellent resource and their newsletter is full of great information. Marketing is still on me.
I have pushed my launch date to October 1 in the hope of obtaining reviews. Karen Hunter, a Pulitzer-Prize-winning journalist, gave me an outstanding quote, which is on the back of the book. I hope to get my book reviewed by some of the major reviewers and by more bloggers. Because I am targeting schools and libraries, the reviews will be helpful in bringing attention to my book.
My book has been featured in the local Good News Magazine and the Duke University business school newsletter (my alma mater). This brought traffic to my Web site, which I expanded to include Green Products of the Month, arts and craft ideas, and activity sheets. The Buffalo, New York, school district placed my book in all of their elementary schools for this coming fall and New Jersey Natural Gas included my book in their Read Across America program. I was invited to participate in a local mothers’ organization’s summer literacy program. All of this has accounted for 150 of the 1,000 books I just had printed being sold. I am very excited and I am already working on my next book!
Tulani Thomas resides in South Orange, NJ and enjoys her most demanding job of all, being a mother of two. Her book can be ordered at her website, www.tutusgreenworld.com. It will be available at book retailers nationwide on October 1, 2011.
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