Monday, September 26, 2016

Critiquing a Manuscript? Do it in a sandwich!


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


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


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?


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?


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!


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?


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.


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


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.)


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.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Beat the blahs with these zesty local story setting ideas


Think about a story you've written.  Where is it set?

Now think about where you live.  In the city, the countryside, a small town, a suburban hub?  A farm, a trailer, an apartment, a cottage, a motor home?  In North America, or Asia, or Chile?

Some of us naturally write stories set where we live.  In the vegetable patch in back of our farmhouse, or in the driveway of our one-storey suburban house, or the elevator to our twenty-fifth storey penthouse.

imageOther writers pick a location that's as exotic as possible.  If they live in Canada, they'll set their story in Thailand or Bengal or Nigeria.  (Or, if they're from Nigeria and live in Wales, like Atinuke, author of the lovely Anna Hibiscus series, they'll write a story set - in part - in Canada!)

While writing about a place you DO know well may sound dull, the truth is that some of the most-loved children's books take place in settings that are very similar to places the authors live or lived.  Places they know well, almost like the back of their own hand.

And the good news is that wherever you live, it's bound to be exotic to somebody. 

Right now, I'm visiting Toronto with my family, after nearly two years living in Israel.  This is my home town; I grew up here. 

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Should you self-publish your children’s book? These 5 questions will help you decide.


You have a wonderful story, and it’s written at last.  What should you do with it now?  You want to get it off your hard drive and out into the world… but how?

Maybe you're thinking you should self-publish... but then, you've heard that it's hard work.  Or maybe you're considering sending it out to a publishing company - but have heard there’s so much frustration if you go that route.

Should you self-publish?  Or traditionally publish?  This may be the hardest question we face as writers today.

Self-publishing has grown tremendously and is starting to find its sea legs in today's stormy publishing world.  31% of Amazon's Kindle sales come from indie books, self-published by their authors or tiny (sometimes single-author) publishing companies.  40% of ebook payouts are going to indie authors.  “Kindle millions” might be a myth, but maybe you should try to cash in on some of those megabucks? [stats from Publishers Weekly]

These five questions will help you make the choice, based on my experience navigating the joys and frustrations of self-publishing nearly 20 books for kids and adults, and helping others get their books out into the world. 

There’s no right or wrong answer to these questions.  But if you find yourself answering NO to most of them, a traditional publisher will probably offer a more comfortable route to a final book.

1.  Do you have a clear idea of where your book’s illustrations will come from?

It doesn’t matter whether you’re doing the illustrations yourself or hiring an illustrator.  The important thing is knowing that if you self-publish, you’ll have to either lay out the book yourself or pay someone with these skills to do it for you.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Forever young: 20 famous children’s authors still working hard after 65


Years ago, the age of 60 marked a threshold in a person’s life.  Not anymore.  Today, 60 is just the beginning.  For many authors, including independent, self-publishing authors, it’s the start of the most productive years of their career.


Easy:  we’re busy doing other things.  If you start having a family in your 30s, then you’ll be in your late 50s before they’re all up and out (if you’re lucky).  Plus, until age 60ish, you’re probably working like crazy and perhaps caring for elderly relatives as well.

It’s a tough time to sit down and write a book (though you can still find time to write if that’s where you are in life!).

An ancient Jewish teaching says that “at fifty, one can give counsel; at sixty, one attains old age, and at seventy, fullness of years.”  This is because King David died at 70, which the Book of Chronicles (29:28) says, “And David died at a full old age.”

Forget about that.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Beyond Comic Sans: 11 free fonts handpicked for children's book interiors


Have you fallen into the Comic Sans trap?

Comic Sans was considered a great font when it was first released in 1994.  But over the years, it’s gotten tired.  These days, many indie authors use and recommend it as a good font for kids’ books, because it’s clear and easy to read.  But it will brand you as an amateur more quickly than almost anything else.

I’m sure you recognize this – right?


Here are some great choices of alternative fonts you can use – and they’re all free, so there’s no excuse.