Archive for the ‘children’s books’ Category

A Solid Resource for Chidren’s writers

June 18, 2007

Last April, I participated in a several hour workshop on Perfecting Your Nonfiction Book Proposal as a part of the American Society of Journalists and Authors Conference in New York City. One of the panelists was Liza N. Burby who is also an ASJA member. While Liza has written for many magazines, she has also specialized in children’s books.

There are many misconceptions among writers related to children’s books. Anyone can write these books is one of the predominant misconceptions. Particularly when my children were little and now for my grandchildren, I’ve read a number of children’s books. Some times you wonder how in the world such a book got printed. And other times, you read a book and think, I could have written that book.

The children’s book market has equal challenges to the adult book market. Recently at the Frontiers in Writing Conference, I participated in a several hour critique session with a small group of writers. One or two of them had children’s book manuscripts which were read then I critiqued on the spot. I mentioned the stiff competition and the difficulty of getting a children’s book published. Of course this last statement was my educated and subjective opinion about this market from my long-term experience. Another speaker at this conference, Andrea Brown, head of the Andrea Brown Literary Agency spoke on “The Hot Children’s Book Market.” Two of the participants in the conference tracked me down later in the day to ask about the difference in viewpoint. I explained that it was my perspective and opinion and that other people bring a different perspective.

This weekend I read through Liza’s excellent book, How to Publish Your Children’s Book, A Complete Guide to Making the Right Publisher Say Yes. I love the practical, tested nature of the material in this book. It gives wise approaches about how to look for available markets, how to approach editors, how to research the needs and how to shape an excellent book proposal. And if you get a bunch of rejection letters for your effort, then Liza has good advice about that as well in the chapter called “If It Doesn’t Happen.” In her final chapter she writes, “I absolutely believe that you can get your children’s book into publication. The very fact that you’ve come to the end of this book shows that you have the drive you need to reach your goal. But, as you know know, there are no shortcuts to success. Hard work and dedication are needed to turn your dream into a reality. The rewards, however, are well worth the work. I strongly urge you to enjoy every moment of the process, from the time an idea first seizes you while you’re standing in line at the supermarket or driving down the road. Even the anticipation of preparing submission packets and flipping through the daily mail delivery can be enjoyable. Then one day, when an editor calls and expresses an interest in your book, you’ll feel an almost unbeatable thrill–unbeatable, that is, until the day you see your name in print on the cover of your book.”

You will definitely increase your odds of success if you follow the advice in this book. Throughout her book, Liza has scattered seven rules, which are explained in detail. The first rule summarizes what any published author should feel, “Sometimes, you just get lucky.”

The Self-Publishing Dilemma

March 25, 2007

During the recent Mega Book Marketing University, I’m still processing the information and people that I met from this experience. It was a well-done conference and if you get a chance to attend one of these mega events, I highly recommend it. There are plans to have them in various cities across the United States so be watching for additional information and dates.

During the conference, I met Shelley Phillips, a children’s book author from the Nashville, Tennessee area. We talked briefly about her children’s book, God Is Love, and she gave me a copy of the book. It’s a beautiful full-color children’s book with a music CD in the back. Shelley has a sophisticated website and asked me to give her any feedback about it. In particular she was wondering if a traditional publisher could possibly pick it up. I took it home and last week I read the book and listened to the CD. It’s a well-done product with a good message. She is selling the book on Amazon and if you follow this link, you will see I added my customer review to the page with this book.

Here’s the self-publishing dilemma: unless she sells many copies, I believe it will be a challenge to get a traditional publisher to take this book. Why? Full-color children’s books with a CD in the back are not inexpensive to produce. Many times, the publisher will like some element a great deal–and often dislike another element in the book. For example, they will love the words and the message but dislike the style of artwork or the music on the CD or _____ (you fill in the blank). The greater the number of variables, the more there is to reject and because of the large volume of submissions, most editors are looking for a way to stem the tide or something to reject. It can be something as simple as the size of the book and whether it’s standard or fits with the other children’s books for a publisher.

I wrote Shelley as I promised and encouraged her to use every means at her disposal to sell lots of books. For example, Amazon has a number of easy-to-use and free tools for any author. Notice this book released in 2005 and had no customer reviews–until I added mine to that page. A proactive author can orchestrate a few of these reviews. It’s pretty easy when someone says they love your book, you ask this person to go to the page and type a few sentences of review along with a Five Star review. The stars are important because Amazon averages these stars.

There are no easy answers with a book like God Is Love. I’m sure it was an investment on Shelley Phillips’ part to produce the book in the first place. Now I hope she will find the audience for it. It’s part of the self-publishing dilemma and why I’ve not gotten into this area of the market. Yes, I’ve written some manuscripts and proposed some projects which have not sold to a traditional publisher. If this happens, I don’t self-publish. Instead I figure I didn’t pitch it in the right place at the right time to the right person. Not every idea is supposed to move ahead in my view. It wasn’t the right one since it did not find a place. Each of us have to find our own way and make our own choices with these situations. There are no simple or easy answers in my view.

Relationship Building Is Important

March 14, 2007

Writing is one of those skills exercised in isolation. You curl up with your keyboard and crank some words on the page. You pour your stories and your characters or your research and experiences. It’s important to work hard at the craft of writing.

In addition to the writing, it is important to build new relationships and readers. It’s a question authors continue to ask about blogging. It’s time consuming and is it worth the time or not. I’ve decided it is worth it for me because of the relationship building part of it. In the March 5th issue of Publishers Weekly they tackle this question in the area of children’s books. Sue Corbett writes in part of this article, “Okay, so blogging is not exactly how all writers like to spend their time. But the big question, of course, is, do blogs sell books? On that, everyone agrees that the answer is yes, though no one can point to any numbers, at least not yet. “Saleswise, I’m not necessarily expecting to see a post-for-post, purchase-for-purchase correlation,” said Julie Strauss-Gabel, who edits Green at Dutton. “Blogging is a long-term endeavor, one that builds and sustains a loyal fan base over a career.”

Cabot says that after she started blogging, visits to her Web site soared. [Sarah] Dessen used her blog to count down the days to her pub date for Just Listen, and readers stormed bookstores looking for their copy. “I had a lot of girls go to stores on the first day and when the book wasn’t on display, they had someone go into the back and made them open a box,” she recalled. “I really liked hearing that.””

I’m certain this discussion will continue for the days ahead. As for me and my house, I’m going to continue with these entries about the Writing Life.

Nurture Your Own Creativity

March 12, 2007

“There is something delicious about writing the first words of a story,” says Miss Beatrix Potter in the film Miss Potter. The film is based on the life of the bestselling children’s author of all time (according to the movie credits), Beatrix Potter, who wrote and illustrated beautiful stories about Peter Rabbit.

Miss Potter shows how much Beatrix Potter’s immediate family misunderstood the artist and storyteller. She was more interested in marrying for love instead of for social class or because she had reached a certain age. I was fascinated with this film and how it showed the creative process. As a young artist, Miss Potter was determined to get her book published and took her illustrations in person to various publishers in London. Finally she found someone who wanted to publish her stories. Her parents continued to treat her as a young unmarried woman living at home–yet outside of the family her fame and popularity skyrocketed in an innocent way.

The breathless scenery is enough reason to see Miss Potter but the acting and story will touch your heart. Renee Zellweger plays Beatrix Potter and I loved this story and what it reveals about the mixture of art and creativity and writing in a real life setting. Not everyone understands the writing life but the creator of this film did so and captured it well. Because of the innocence and simplicity of this story, the film has been modestly received. For example, in this part of Arizona, Miss Potter is showing at a single theater known mostly for artistic types of films. It may be hard for you to find but it’s worth your efforts to track it down.

As writers, each of us have to find different ways to nurture your own creativity. Maybe it will be watching a good movie or reading a good book or having a unique experience. Find ways to engage in this process.