Sunday, February 5, 2017

From Manuscript to Commercially-Published Book in 12 VERY Easy Steps

image

Have you ever asked the question – if I self-publish, does that mean I’m stuck self-publishing forever?

A lot of writers think they’re stuck defining themselves as one or the other, either a “self-published writer” or a “commercially-published writer.”  I hope you haven’t fallen into that trap!

In fact, you don’t have to pigeonhole yourself that way, as I hope I’ve proved with the release of my first book from a commercial publishing company, Yossi & the Monkeys (Kar-Ben, 2017).

So what’s it like having a book commercially published after so much self-publishing experience?

It’s weird, that’s all I can say.  It’s all about sitting back, relaxing, and WAITING, because this thing took – well, forever.

But still – I thought it would be fun to break it into steps, like in my last post, so you can see what was involved along the way.  So here we go… with Step 1.

Step 1.  Contest submission.

It all started back in 2014 with a Jewish kids’ story contest at Barbara Krasner’s website.  I entered, didn’t win, didn’t even come close.  But a real editor was reading!

Trouble was, my story came in at around 10,000 words (what was I thinking???).  It had 10 chapters, it was an EPIC.  Oops… wayyyyy too long!  Here’s Chapter One.

image

2. Contest rejection

Well, needless to say, this 10,000-word behemoth was rejected – with just about the nicest rejection note I have ever, ever seen:

image

She liked it!  She really did!  Considering I hadn’t paid anything to enter this contest, it was a delight to receive a positive reply like this.

Only trouble was… how to get the story down THAT small?  10,000 words to 850 words???

From Manuscript to Self-Published Book in 10 Simple Steps

image

What’s next? 

That’s the question I hear most often from writers out there.  Maybe even from you.  It’s what everybody wants to know, so if you’re stuck on that question, you’re not alone.

You already have a great story, one you really believe in, and you’re READY – you just want to get your story out there into the world.

Here’s the great news:  you CAN!

You can self-publish your book, in ten not-so-tough steps I’ll lay out for you here.  You’ll have to put in some time, some energy, and there is absolutely a learning curve.  But I believe this process is so simple that just about anybody can master it with a little experience.

I’m going to illustrate these steps with a book that I actually did self-publish.  It’s called Shabbat Monsters.  It’s a good example because it’s a pretty classic 32-page rhyming picture book. 

Let’s get started… at the very beginning, with

Step 1.  Your MANUSCRIPT.

image

Looks pretty plain, doesn’t it?  I hope you’ve had it professionally edited.  If not, go do it – NOW.

Okay, you’re back.  Your story’s ready.  Let’s move on to…

Step 2. Your dummy

No, I’m not CALLING you a dummy!  It’s time to make a dummy.  32 pages, 2-page spreads.  Time to start planning what we (the reader) are going to see on every single page.

imageimageimage

So that’s the first stage of planning what the pages are going to look like.  Once I know what illustrations I’m going to need, it’s time for…

Step 3.  Artwork

If you’re not an artist (you’ll know if you are), I strongly recommend you get a professional to do this step, even if you have to pay them.  I loved the artist I worked with for this book.  A little slow, but she was very responsive.  First, she sent me sketches…

image

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Want to teach values in a kids' book? Put them in the background!

image

Got a message you’re dying to share?

I’ve been there.

But those of us who do have a real problem.

I’m sure you’ve heard before – and I’ve certainly said it before – that kids’ books shouldn’t be used to preach at kids.  If you put that message first and fill your book chock-full with good healthy values, you’ll end up with a terrible book that kids simply won’t enjoy.

Think of zucchini.  Nobody in my family likes zucchini very much.  If you adore zucchini, think about another vegetable.  Eggplant, maybe.

Now, you know you should eat zucchini.  It’s super-good for you, right?

But if I were to cook up a big batch of zucchini for my family, they’d all sit and stare at it – myself included – and not know what to do with it.  That zucchini would sit uneaten on the plate.

Now here’s the cool part:  we actually eat a LOT of zucchini.  We eat it sliced into chicken soup every Friday night; we eat it grated into latkes and any number of savoury dishes; we eat it pureed into potato soup.  I’ve even baked zucchini bread, though yes, I understand, it’s not entirely super-good for you if it’s surrounded by flour and sugar!

The trick to zucchini, or whatever veg you don’t like very much, is to put it in the background, and the same is true for morals, values, or any other type of lesson you’d like to embed in your book.

In my new book, Yossi and the Monkeys (2017, Kar Ben Publishing), there are a ton of what the publisher probably calls Jewish values, but which I consider pretty universal.  Here’s the first page:

image

What values are here – in the background?  There are things Yossi really wants, but they are not selfish wishes; they are things he wants for his family. 

(So I don’t have to come out and say something annoying like, “Don’t be selfish!”  Kids know that already anyway, so they’ll just tune you out if you try.)

The holiday itself is another value right here on this front page:  I love writing stories with Jewish holidays in them but which aren’t about the holiday.  There are too many “what is Chanukah?” books out there for me to want to contribute to the genre, plus those kinds of books have always bored my children, who have known since infancy what all the holidays are about.

(Notice I haven’t said: “Shavuot is a wonderful festival in which Jews…”  This book isn’t about Jews in general, so forget about them.  This is Yossi’s story.  Just in case the reader isn’t familiar with the festival, the publisher has included a short paragraph about it on the copyright page.)

Here are two more pages from later in the story:

Saturday, January 7, 2017

The most depressing thing that will ever happen to you as a writer (and how to deal)...

image

Are you feeling discouraged?
Is your writing career just not taking off the way you'd dreamed it would?

Yup, it happens to the best of us.

And get ready for the most depressing thing that will ever happen to you as a writer.
It can happen to you no matter where you are in your career.
Even if you've been published before.
Even if you've sold a ton of books.
Even if you adore them; heck, even if readers adore them.

Here it is, the very worst, most devastating thing that can happen to you:

Feedback.

Good, honest, reader feedback.  Critiques from true friends and writing companions.  It can be devastating.  It can hurt, not just a little, but a lot.

When I read feedback on my stories, I can’t help it, I’m flooded with feelings of inadequacy, a devastating inner monologue that goes a little like this…

I suck.  My story sucks.  Nobody liked it (even if they explicitly SAY they liked it!  That just means they're lying.).  Nobody likes me.  My writing is lousy; the story is stupid; it will never succeed.  I should cling with all my strength to my day job.  I am just not cut out to be a writer.  Even if I have succeeded before, I have cut off more than I can chew with this particular piece of crap.  I’d better just throw it away, forget about it, never look at it again.  Never write a word again.

How does it feel when you submit a story for critiquing?

Monday, September 26, 2016

Critiquing a Manuscript? Do it in a sandwich!

image

Are you writing on a desert island?

It probably feels like you’re all alone sometimes.

There’s only one way to change that.  Meeting other writings.  Working with them.  Critiquing each other’s stories.

If you’re like me, you’re the only children’s writer in your circle of “real life” friends.  But that doesn’t mean we can’t surround ourselves with other writers – if not in real life, then online.

Why bother reaching out?

There are so many reasons to network with other kids’ writers!  Being around other writers makes me more creative – and I don’t mean stealing their ideas, which I’d never do.  It gets my own creativity going and lets me bounce ideas off other real human beings. 

But here’s the most important reason…

We all need feedback to make our writing better. 

Hands down, the best way to get feedback is to SHARE feedback with others.  If your feedback is helpful, your own writing circles will expand and you’ll have an even bigger group you can exchange ideas with. 

And the VERY best way to share feedback is in a sandwich.

The feedback most writers are hoping for is known as a critique.  Sometimes, people get together in loosely or formally structured critique groups.  However you find one another (a topic for another post!), you must know how to craft a critique that can help other writers without discouraging them.

That’s where the sandwich comes in.

You simply cannot have a sandwich without bread.  And bread, in this metaphor, is… PRAISE.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

The Bare Naked Manuscript: how to format your story for submission

image

Is your manuscript naked?

If it is – give yourself a hand.

If it isn’t, or if you don’t know what I’m talking about, read on… I’m going to give you in a few simple steps explaining how to get naked – and why you MUST, if you want to give it a chance of success with agents and editors.

Before you send out that manuscript, hold on a second… take a minute to make sure it’s naked.  By which I mean absolutely clean and clutter-free, ready for an agent or editor to take one look and say… YES!

Who wouldn’t want that?  Yet many writers I’ve known spoil their manuscript by adding things, covering up its nakedness.  Trust the agent; trust the editor.  They’ve handled more books than you’ll ever write, and they’ll be able to see your story’s potential even without the fancy touches.

Even bare naked.

Here’s a quick and easy checklist to make sure your book is as naked as possible before you send it out:

Saturday, September 3, 2016

The 5 biggest mistakes when you’re choosing your book title

image

Are you killing your chances before anyone even starts reading your book?

I hinted in my post last week that you can’t really go wrong when you’re choosing book titles.  Except you can.  It’s not easy, but it is definitely possible to choose a lousy title for your kids’ book.

It’s all about cracking the “cover” of your book, real or virtual.  Whether you’re self-publishing or sending your book around to agents or publishers, you need a title that’ll get readers onto page one, where hopefully, your story will do the work of hooking them in for good. 

True, publishers may change the “working title” of a book once they decide to publish it, but you’re still going to need a name for your book that hooks them into reading the thing in the first place.  So try to avoid these FIVE big mistakes.

Friday, September 2, 2016

What should you name your children’s book?

image

Hi, there.  What’s your name???

It’s the first question we ask most people, and when we’re looking for a book, we ask it (in our minds), before we even crack open the cover.

But what if you can’t think of a good name?

What is a good name, anyway?

A lot of writers worry that they might choose the WRONG name and that it’s going to hold their book back.  So before we get started, I have some great news for you:

Your book’s title doesn't have to be awesome… or even poetic. 

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Duckies, dragons, dinos: how old is your reader?

image

Can you tell the difference between a three-year-old and a ten-year-old?

I’m guessing you answered yes to that question.  But do you ask yourself this question when you sit down to write a picture book?  When you’re writing the thing, of course, it’s most important to follow your inspiration and get the words down on the page (screen!). 

But once you’re ready to think about submitting it or publishing it yourself, it’s a different story.  THEN you have to start thinking about audience.

Somebody got in touch the other day to chat about a kids’ book project and he happened to mention that the book was aimed at “kids ages three to eleven.”

Three to eleven???

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Get your FREE self-publishing checklist!

image[4]

Complete Self-Publishing Checklist – - FREE

It’s easier than you ever imagined!

In only 2 concise pages, this PDF offers you everything you need to get started OR get inspired.  Turn your fabulous story into an even more fabulous ready-to-print-and-Kindle children's book.  This checklist distills my own experience - about five years' worth - into one quick and easy reference.

To get the checklist INSTANTLY, please fill out the form to be added to our mailing list.
Remember to scroll all the way down and click SUBMIT to be redirected to the download page:

Friday, April 8, 2016

What’s the best children’s book?

 image

Do you have a favourite children’s book?  Sure, you do.  One you love opening up, time and again, and it makes you smile every single time.

But is it the best children’s book?

What IS the best children’s book, anyway?

Asking this is very much like asking, "What is the best food?"

The answer, of course, is pizza.

clip_image001

Who doesn't love pizza???

Seriously, though, most of us recognize that there is no answer to this question. It really depends on so much. Like what your tastes are, along with your nutritional needs and your mood.

Posted on Friday, April 8, 2016 | Categories:

Thursday, September 3, 2015

5 (plus 1) free contests exposed: for FEARLESS children's illustrators only

image

Do you want people to notice your book?

Not just because you'll sell more - though that would be nice - but also because you've put a ton of work into it.  You want to get it into kids' hands so they can enjoy it. 

And more than work, you've put a ton of love into it.
Maybe your illustrator has, too?

Doesn't his or her work deserve recognition, too? (Or your own if you're the illustrator.)

Are you fearless enough to toot your own book’s horn?  I hope so.

But most book awards are for the text of the book only.  What about those visuals??? 
In a children's picture book, they're supposed to carry half the weight of telling the story, yet they get so much less than half the recognition.

Most children's book contests miss this important point.  Here are four contests you'll love because they reward great art and illustration... along with one I hope you have.  (Plus, keep scrolling for a bonus contest.)

1.  INKed 2016 CALENDAR COMPETITION


https://www.facebook.com/pages/INKed/1583992151875285

This one's not specifically for kids’ illustrators, but it is open to anyone with a great sense of what you can do with ink on a page.  There's no cash prize, but this is a legit opportunity to get featured in a terrific calendar full of illustrations by talented artists all over the world.