Thursday, October 30, 2014

Dear Amazon, what’s up with my Kindle prices?


How much thought do you put into pricing your books?

If you’re like me, it’s a lot.  Which is why it finally drove me around the bend that Amazon has been changing all my prices, without even asking nicely.

When you’re pricing a book, you probably pick a nice, clean number with a 99 on the end, a suffix that is invisible to consumers.  If a book is $8.74 (unless it’s clearly marked down, like from $9.99), it’ll stand out and look weird.

Know how I know?  Because for a long time, I’ve noticed that Amazon prices for my KDP ebooks look terrible.  They totally jump off the page.  Oh, they’re close to the numbers I’ve picked… but not exactly.  And that has slowly been driving me mad.

Just to pick a few titles at random, the prices were $5.11, $1.12, $5.14, $1.13.  Those are terrible numbers, numbers that jump off the page and make a buyer reluctant to buy.  That’s very frustrating, especially because I KNEW I’d priced them at $4.99, 99 cents, $4.99 and 99 cents. 

Why bother planning your prices if they’re just going to change, am I right? 

What’s going on here?

I eventually found out why this happens.  If you’re outside the United States, Amazon can tell from your browser’s IP address, and they adjust the price you see accordingly.  Without telling me, Amazon has been detecting my computer’s location and adjusting the prices accordingly.

At least there’s some GOOD news:  buyers inside the U.S. will most likely see the right prices for your books, namely, the ones you’ve so carefully chosen in KDP’s dashboard.

To test this, I ran my author page through two “anonymizers,” sites that hide your current IP address so nobody can tell where you’re surfing from.  One was in Europe and one was in the U.S. 

Here’s what the pricing looks like from each location:

Books for kids by Jennifer Tzivia MacLeod, available on 

There are all those terrible prices!  But look what happens if you’re seeing the same page from the U.S.:

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Writing children’s nonfiction ebooks: Adventures in Scrivener


Writing nonfiction ebooks? 

I hope so.  It’s a great way to get information out there into the hands of kids who (more and more) are reading digitally, as well as on paper. 

If you haven’t considered writing one of these before, you should, even if you think of yourself as a fiction or picture-book purist.  Think about it:  if you want to grab a book about facts, wouldn’t you rather it was written by an author with a terrific imagination and a gift for words? 

Those are gifts that come from fiction that can make your nonfiction simply awesome.

But that’s not what I want to talk about here.  I’m here to convince you that I’ve got the perfect tool for you to do it with:  Scrivener, a word processing program (that’s so much more) from a company called Literature and Latte.


Why should you believe me?  Because I hated Scrivener, just completely loathed the thing, at least at first…

If you’re looking to create basic 32-page picture books that are heavy on art and minimal on words, then Scrivener is NOT the program for you.

But if the book you want to create

Friday, October 17, 2014

Have you joined SCBWI yet? (and why I did)


Are you a member yet???

After a couple of years of putting it off, I finally joined the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) at the beginning of October, and last week, my membership package finally winged (wung?) its way across the ocean and made it here to me.

Yes, it’s true.  I’m legit now.


Well, kind of legit.  They have a checkbox when you join that forces you to admit that, if you’ve self-published your kids’ books (even if you have been published for adult writing, which I have), then you are not exactly a “published” author.

That part didn’t feel so good.

Nevertheless, I was excited to have a good look through “the book,” the writing / publishing guide and directory that’s included with membership, but there wasn’t much there I hadn’t seen elsewhere.  There’s some good information about self-publishing, and a helpful guide to publishing companies as well as author services and other resources.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Are you the next Dr. Seuss? 4 "Doctor's Orders" to write rhyming books kids will love to shreds.

Thinking of writing in rhyme?

No wonder.  Thousands of new rhyming kids' books come out every year, and lots of them are snapped up eagerly by parents and teachers.  A great rhyming book can help a reluctant reader, lull a child almost to sleep, or turn storytime into a bouncy fun lap experience for parent and kid.

But the best books, the ones kids carry around until they're loved to tatters, pages hanging out, covers falling off - not from abuse but from sheer love - those are the books you probably hope to write someday.

(Me, too.  Who wouldn't?)

The great news is that you really can, with these four "Doctor's Orders," borrowed from the grand master of rhyme, Dr. Seuss (aka Theodore Geisel).

Doctor's Order #1.  Give them a name that's not quite the same.

Even though "Sam" is a pretty typical name, "Sam-I-am" certainly isn't.  In general, Dr. Seuss picked strange and memorable names for his characters.  Often, these were names that would fit in with the story's rhyme scheme.

He also kept them pretty short.  Dr. Seuss rarely went over two syllables with his names.  Yertle the Turtle; the Cat in the Hat; Horton; Sam-I-am; the Lorax; the Grinch.  One exception is Bartholomew Cubbins, but his books didn't rhyme.
  • Quick Tip from Seuss:  Pick names that will be easy to rhyme.  "Alexander" isn't great, but "Rosie" or "Miles" offer more possibilities.  This is optional - you can always avoid sticking your character's name at the end of the line (as Dr. Seuss did with Marvin K. Mooney, will you please go now!).  But it's nice to have the choice and not back yourself into a corner.

Doctor's Order #2.  Some stories are worse if they're told in verse.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

“Can I have another free Microsoft Word children’s book template, please?”


Ooh, I thought you’d never ask.

I’ve been offering a free 8.5” x 8.5” children’s book template for a while and it’s very, very popular.  No wonder.  When I wanted to find a free template to give me some idea of how to format my kids’ books, I couldn’t find one anywhere.  So I made one, and then shared it with you.

Now, 8.5” x 8.5” is a great size.  I love it.

That size is perfect for a 32-page picture book, or even something a little shorter (for younger kids) or longer (for slightly older kids). 

But it’s not perfect.  That’s where 6” x 9” comes in.

You’ll probably discover the limitations of 8.5” x 8.5” most especially when it comes to slightly older kids.  Big kids don’t usually like to pick up a big square book.  They want something smaller, and sleeker.

That’s where the new 6” x 9” children’s book template comes in.


6” x 9” is also the most common size of self-published book out there, even for adult books.  If you like the template, feel free to use it for adult books (lower the font size a bit) or anything else you’d like.

Like the 8.5” square template, this one contains full instructions, and page numbering is set up for you already.  Add as many pages of text and images as you like, and it will expand to fit your needs.


There’s even an “About the Author” page at the end for you to fill in your personal details. (Take out my picture and stick in your own, of course)


I’ve included links on the download page so you can also pick up most of the fonts I’ve used (this template uses Garamond, which is distributed free by Microsoft with most versions of Word).  You can always switch things up and use your own, too, of course.

Like I said, this was something that never existed before – at least, not that I could find (and I’m pretty handy with Google).  And now that I’ve set it up it for my own books, it’s easy as pie to share it with you.

All I ask is that you sign up for my mailing list first. 

Sure, you can sign up and then quit the list right away.  But I’d really love it if you stuck around.  I send out one short email, once a week, with writing thoughts and inspirations, as well as links to any freebies I’ve got coming up.  No ads, no spam, I promise.

Once you sign up and confirm your approval, you’ll be taken straight to the download page.  As always, if this resource is helpful to you, I’d love to hear about it in the Comments section.  Probably others would as well.

See you on the list!

Monday, September 29, 2014

5 illustrated ways to overcome the “self-published” curse (and make your picture book look great).


Are you cursed?

Lots of writers would swear they are.

It’s sort of true.  There’s a “self-published” curse that makes many, many independent, print-on-demand and Kindle books look… bad.  Stinky.  Rotten.

Is yours one of them?

I don’t believe in curses, I believe in bootstraps.  I hope you do, too.

I believe that today every writer has a chance to succeed in publishing a kids’ book… by following these five tips (illustrated for your amusement) to help ensure that yours succeed.

Before you go on, here’s my confession:  I have made mistakes in all of the following areas.  Might be making them at this very moment.  Who hasn’t? 

That’s how we learn.

Let’s sit down and learn these five easy lessons (with illustrated examples by me!) together.

1.  Fonts – get serious.

There is a special place in purgatory for those who rely on Comic Sans to make their story seem childlike / innocent / fun.  Your book is made for reading… so make it readable. 

Script fonts can be hard to read, especially in large doses where there’s not enough whitespace around them.  Similarly, novelty fonts like this sawed-off-boards font make it difficult to read more than a little text at a time.  Finally, don’t mix more than three into your book.  I think the experts say four, per page… but I say three per book, so there.

image image

Sunday, September 21, 2014

One-star review?!? What to do when it happens to you.


Did you ever fall totally in love with your own book?

I sure hope so.

But as all the romance novels suggest, love makes us vulnerable.  In this case, vulnerable to… our readers.

Like that one reader in however-many who comes along and absolutely hates your book.


It happened to me two days ago, and I’m still reeling.

Let me tell you a little about my book Penguin Rosh Hashanah.  It’s all about the Jewish new year, and it’s also all about penguins.  Light on facts, heavy on cute. [The Kindle version is free until Wednesday, Sept 24, 2014 if you want to check it out!]

I made the book light on facts for a reason, by the way.