September 20, 2017

Thinking Out of the Box for a Book Signing

What do I know about doing a book signing?  Not a whole lot.  So, I wanted to learn what makes a hugely successful author event.

I attended a handful of book signings to see how others actually went about it.  Quite simply, there was a table, the books, and a chair for the author. Maybe a poster of the book. Nothing more.

But I wanted more.

My book signing is scheduled for this coming Sunday.  I want it to attract people—not have them walk past table without picking up a book.  I've seen that happen to others, and it seemed painful.

So...I did some thinking out of the box.  What does that entail?

Pizzazz and puppies!  Since Maggie and the Summer Vacation Show-and-Tell is about a little girl and the rescue dog that changed her life, I've planned to have:

brightly-colored dog water bowls overflowing with bookmarks, magnets, and cookies
helium balloons with paw prints floating over the table
a doggy mug holding paw print pencils
a plush toy puppy that looks like Maggie's dog

For an extra cute-factor and special treat, Woodford Humane Society will be bringing puppies and kittens that are looking for forever homes.

And then, there's Charlie, my friend's rescue dog who will be making an appearance.  After all, he's the inspiration for the story!

This book signing has to be more than a table, a chair and some books.  It has to shout: Come on over and check out the book, the cool gifts, and the sweet animals.

As you've probably figured out, the planning has taken months.  But it's been a joyful process that required some thinking out of the box.  In a few days (Sept 24th to be exact!) we shall see.  I'm hoping pizzazz and puppies will make this book signing a huge success.




     

September 15, 2017

No One Ever Told Me

Dear Aspiring Writer,

No one ever told me that publishing a children's picture book would be hard work.  It took me completely by surprise.

Most writers know that everything about writing is challenging...

coming up with a story idea

the editing

crafting query letters

and submitting,

the jealousy that creeps in when you compare yourself to published writers,

the rejections.

If we are able to work through all of that and stay positive and determined, good things will happen. And before you know it, your book will get published and you'll be signing a contract. But when it happens...HOLD ON.  The roller coaster ride of even more hard work begins.

After signing with a publisher, you have to start thinking about how you are going to market your book.  If you publish with a mid-size publisher or a Big Five publisher, they will do a lot of the publicity for you.  Still, you'll need to market the book some.  And if you go with a small press like I have, you will have even more work to do because small presses don't have the resources to promote writers like the bigger publishing houses.

Sure, it seems glamorous to publish a book.  But there's a lot to be done after your book is released. That's why writers should think about marketing NOW, before you sign a contract. Begin to develop your platform.  Get on social media and join Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter.  Develop a website. You'll be glad you did because you will be getting your name out there and creating a fan base.

Trying to figure this whole marketing thing out is daunting, but if you can take care of some of the work ahead of time, you won't feel so frenzied.  That way, many months before your book is released, you can spend time organizing book signings, designing bookmarks, sending out email blast announcements and doing other creative things needed to spread the word.

Marketing is amazingly time-consuming.  The nice thing is, you can google and research marketing a children's book to find out how others went about it.  Start thinking about what you can do now, so you won't be taken by surprise when it comes time to promote your work.

Sincerely yours,
Randi Lynn









September 1, 2017

Animal Characters

Have you ever used animals as the main characters in your stories?  If not—why not? Children love stories about animals.

If you don't know where to start, do Google search for "fascinating animals,"  You may find creatures worthy of starring in your stories.  That's how I found Cholla.  Cholla was a horse that could hold a brush in his mouth and paint pictures.  In fact, his owner entered one of his paintings in an international art contest and it won a prize.  My story  Cholla, the True Story of an Artsy Horse is based on a real horse and a true event.

Besides searching for unique animals online, you may run across some interesting creatures while you're traveling or on vacation.  Keep your eyes open and you may come across an interesting animal to write about.  Once when my husband and I were in New Orleans, we saw a dog do funny tricks for bystanders in Jackson Square.

Sometimes pets in your own neighborhood may inspire you.  We have a neighbor that owns a potbelly pig as a pet.  Our next-door neighbors have three chickens, two dogs and a cat. Raccoons and opossums have visited our patio.  A red-tailed hawk sometimes perches on our deck.

Perhaps a friend or a relative has an adorable or an unusual pet that you could use as basis for a new character.  A good friend of my rescued a lovable dog named Charlie (his gorgeous picture is to the right), and he is the inspiration for Maggie's dog in my upcoming book Maggie and the Summer Vacation Show-and-Tell.

You don't have to look far to find an animal that can be used as a character in one of your stories. Search the Internet for interesting animals.  Take a look in your own neighborhood. Write about a pet. Children will love a story about an amazing animal character.


For more on Maggie, check out:







August 15, 2017

Wordy Picture Books

Have you written a picture book?  How long is it?  Does it run 700 to 1000 words?

The truth is, most publishers want books that are no longer than 500 - 600 words. There are exceptions to this rule and some publishers will accept longer work. Most however, are looking for shorter pieces.

Let's say you love your 900-word book.  Every last word.  But, if you want to get it published, you'll have to trim it down.  It sounds almost impossible, especially if you've got an intriguing beginning, a compelling middle, and a satisfying ending. Where would you even begin to cut? 


That's what I faced with my upcoming picture book Maggie and the Summer Vacation Show-and-Tell. Originally the story was 1000 words. After reading many kidlit blogs and working with an editorial consultant, I learned that a lengthy story might be hurting my publication chances.  So, 500 words had to go.  Yep, half of the story.  Yikes!

The hardest part was trying to figure out what was not essential to the story.  And the answer was:  a lot of scenes in the middle. These extra scenes were funny, but not they did not advance the plot. 

After choosing three scenes to delete, the piece actually felt lighter, no 500 words to bog down the story.  The pace was smoother, like a kid skipping along a sidewalk. I grew to love this shorter version even better than the original.

So where will you cut words?  Read your story out loud.  Then take a look at the middle of your story.  Do some scenes slow the pace?  Remove them and read the story again.  Does it flow faster and smoother?  If not, cut a few more places that seem to bog the piece down.  Read your story again.  Does it have page-turn ability? Excellent!  A 500-word manuscript could make all the difference in capturing the attention of a publisher.

August 1, 2017

Invaluable Advice

Children's Writer's World warmly welcomes a guest post by writer and blogger Jennifer Prevost.


I love it when my friends politely ask, “so how’s that whole writing thing going?” It means a lot that they check, even though I know they don’t ‘get it.’  They wouldn’t understand, but I think you will, even though I don’t have a whole lot to show for it... it’s going great! 

Let me start from the beginning.  One hot summer afternoon a story was born about a little boy named Nathan.  It was one of those moments of pure, energizing inspiration, and the official start to my kid lit journey.  

          For the first eight months, his story was written in rhyme.  In fact, all my early stories were.  Rhyme was the only option I gave myself.  My mantra was “I love rhyme; I can rhyme; I will rhyme,” despite all the signs pointing to the contrary and by signs, I mean, everything I read and two freelance editors advising against it. 

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a better than average rhymer, but I was in over my head and I didn’t even know it.  Those months are by no means a waste, because I learned a tremendous amount, but I was stubborn. Finally, on April 20, sometime after I was lucky enough to cross paths with Randi, I found the courage to ask for her input.  Guess what she said? Drop the rhyme.  The difference was, I heard it.  I consider that day to be a game changer for me.  I did it, I dropped the rhyme, and forced myself headfirst into my scariest writing adventure to date... writing in prose. 

Since then, my writing has improved dramatically and I’ll be forever grateful for the nudge in the right direction.  Here’s the kicker, the real lesson in it wasn’t that I needed to write in prose.  The real lesson was that I needed to get away from what felt safe and familiar.  I needed the leap of faith that came with making that decision.  I hadn’t ever written in prose, and I didn’t even know if I could.  It was uncomfortable, awkward and difficult. 

Between the versions in rhyme, and my many drafts in prose, I’ve made every text book mistake that novice writers make.  I’ve earned myself rejection letters and a fair amount of creative conflict.  The good news? I can speak the language now.  I have a critique group and critique partners who are quickly becoming dear friends.  I have a few manuscripts that are (nearly) submission-ready.  When I started out, I didn’t have any experience or knowledge on writing picture books.  I do now.  One of the favorite parts of my writing adventure: being a member of the book launch team for Maggie and the Summer Vacation Show-and-Tell.  It’s a wonderful thing, getting to return the favor and celebrate Randi’s success. 

The moral of my story: If you feel yourself stuck in a writing rut, or find yourself hearing advice that feels repetitive, do yourself a favor and try something different.  Take a written leap of faith! There’s a good chance that a different path will hold opportunities you couldn’t have imagined for yourself.  You deserve that chance, and your story does, too. 

Jennifer Prevost is a wife, mom and picture book author of the pre-published variety.  For her entire life, she dreamed of seeing her words in print.  Like so many others, picture books are where she first fell in love with the reading. These days she dreams of creating stories that will help children discover the magic that exists within the pages of a book. Her blog, Magnolias & Manuscripts https://magnoliasandmanuscripts.wordpress.com/  provides an outlet for the energy and anticipation that come with chasing a dream and chronicles her journey (hopefully) all the way to published. 






July 15, 2017

Submission Reminders

When you submit a story, a poem, or nonfiction to a magazine editor, you want to make a good impression.  How can you do that?

Here are a few tips.

1.  Follow the guidelines.
2.  Don't send more than one submission when multiple submissions are not       
     accepted.
3.  Refrain from re-sending a submission, even if you've found an error.        
     Chances are, it will not affect an editor's decision.
4.  Remember that poems must have rhythm and meter.
5.  Use a variety of reliable sources for articles, not just Internet sites. 
6.  Read back issues to get a feel for the kind of articles, poems, and stories that 
     are published.
7.  Choose a topic that is entertaining and interesting for kids.

I'm a very lucky editor because most of the time writers understand how to submit. But every once in a while, I'll get a submission that falls short because of one (or more) of the above.  And sadly, those submissions are rejected.  Don't make the same mistake. Keep these suggestions in mind if you want to impress an editor.   


July 1, 2017

Building a Fictional World


Children's Writer's World warmly welcomes a guest blog by Melody Delgado.

Creating a world for your novel can be based upon research, creative thinking, or both. Whether your novel is set in the past or the present day, while the setting doesn’t need to overshadow the basic story, it serves as the backdrop of the story and it needs to be realistic and believable.  

When writing historical fiction, in order to form a world that seems real, research is essential. For my recently released YA historical romance, ROYALLY ENTITLED, which takes place in the year 1630, I spent two months researching this time period and seeking clues as to what was happening in Europe at the time. Some of the books I poured over at the library were 700 pages long. These books included information about clothing of the Renaissance period, ordinary occupations, common food items, inventions of the time, and popular traditions.

One interesting point that I found was that the rifle, or caliver, was invented during this time period. It replaced the crossbow and was as popular then as having a smart phone is today. I tried to find a way to include this nugget of information, and the invention of the caliver ends up playing a pivotal role in the story.

A custom of the time that was interesting and surprising was that sometimes royals united themselves in marriage with other royals they’d never even met. A miniature portrait would be sent to a potential suitor and they would decide whether to meet or even wed the person based merely on this small portrait. This particular morsel was too good to pass up, so this tidbit is another key component of my story.

It took me ten months to write the initial skeleton of the story, for a total of one year from the germ of an idea to a completed draft. Once I finished the draft I realized that the story couldn’t possibly take place in an already existing country. I’d strayed away from too many details and true historical events. The solution was to invent my own country called the nation of Brevalia.

It was freeing to not have to hold to the physical description and landscape of a specific country, but to be able to come up with things from my own imagination and experience. Currently, I live in a locale with a river that takes up a large portion of the city and helps to define it. I’d lived in another city with the same river feature, so I knew I wanted to include a river in my story. But I may not have been able to do that if I’d had to stick to the description of a specific European location.

However, many writers choose to write about a part of history as it actually happened and may even include actual historical characters. This method couldn’t work for my story, but whichever road you choose for your historical novel, research is essential in creating a believable fictional world.

Even if you are writing in the present day, which will be the world for my upcoming middle grade novel, OOPS A DAISY, there still need to be specific enough details to ground the reader in the setting of the story. My story takes place in modern day Miami, so the cultural aspects needed to be represented, as well as the favorite pastimes of the people in the city and the actual locations and landmarks found in the area. On the other hand, I did fashion a fictional school for my story to take place in. But details are based on what I’ve observed in modern day magnet schools and ideas I came up with on my own.

I’ve published two picture books and even picture books take place in a ‘world.’ As an author, we can’t leave all this ‘world-creating’ to the illustrator. The setting and tone we want to achieve must be made clear through our characters’ words and actions.

Creating a believable fictional world may still require the writer to be rooted in reality, but there is also plenty of room for using one’s imagination. Let it run free, and see where it leads you.

BIO:
Melody Delgado has been a published writer since 2000.  Her short stories have appeared in national magazines such as AIM (America’s Intercultural Magazine), VISTA, and CHICKEN SOUP FOR THE LATINO SOUL.  She has published two picture books. TEN ROARING DINOSAURS was published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and DO YOU KNOW HOW I GOT MY NAME? was recently published by Little Debbie/McKee Foods.

Her YA inspirational, historical romance, ROYALLY ENTITLED, was released digitally by Clean Reads in May, 2017. It is the first in a three-book series called The Brides of Brevalia. A humorous children’s novel, OOPS-A-DAISY, is coming to print on September 5 of this year and is also the first in a children’s series, The De La Cruz Diaries. It will also be published by Clean Reads.

A short trailer of ROYALLY ENTITLED may be seen here: https://youtu.be/sF3Vx_IJBpo
For more about Melody you may visit her website at: http://www.melodydelgado.com/