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. 

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

RIP Crad Kilodney

The late Crad Kilodney, legendary Toronto street author.

Who’s your biggest influence as a writer?

Sometime way too long ago to admit, a friend told me about a guy who stood out on the streets of Toronto selling his books. 

A crazy guy, with a crazy name:  Crad Kilodney.

In an era before self-publishing (think 1972), he typed his own stories and printed them off himself.  Then stood outside, all year long, in all kinds of miserable weather, getting the word out thanks to sandwich boards around his neck.

This is how I first met him.

The late Crad Kilodney, legendary Toronto street author.

This is what he looked like.  Sometimes with the pipe, sometimes not.

Most pedestrians on the busy downtown sidewalks he occupied rushed past pretty quickly.  Trying not to make contact with the greasy-haired guy selling – ahem – literature.

Okay, so it wasn’t exactly literature.  Actually, it was the kind of crazy, train-of-thought, free-associated ranting my mother might refer to as “verbal diarrhea.”

Story and pictures by Crad Kilodney

I don’t believe my mother ever opened up one of those grimy little books that must have come home with me from time to time.

*** Caution:  a small excerpt of his writing is below which contains some NSFW / adult content.  I’m warning you now so you have time to shut the window.  (Also, any of these images of his stories could contain inappropriate language so don’t click if you don’t want to know.)

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Should you crowdfund your next book (on Kickstarter, GoFundMe, or PubSlush)? 3 reasons why not.


Should you crowdfund your next book (on Kickstarter, GoFundMe, or PubSlush or whatever tomorrow’s Next Big Crowdfunding Site happens to be)?


Well, that was easy, wasn’t it?

Now we can all go home.

What?  You want me to defend that statement?

Well, okay.  Here are three reasons.

#1 Your crowdfunding project makes me feel spiteful.

I’m not saying this to be nasty, I promise.

I love you, I love writers, I want to encourage independent writers to get their books in print and live their dream.  Really… I do.

But if you publicize your crowdfunding project in writers’ circles, you’re going to get a LOT of people staring at your post, thinking, “I paid to publish my books, darnit; you should pay to publish yours.”

Either that or they’re just plain bored. 

Bored with writers who hang out online on facebook, LinkedIn, and anywhere else writers hang out, telling me to fund their book… when they ought to be writing. 

Another question that may just cross our mind when you announce your crowdfunding attempt: 

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

KDP Kids: a first look at Amazon’s new Kindle Kids’ Book Creator software.


Spoiler alert:  I like it.  VERY much.

So much, on a first trial pass, that I’m planning to redo all my Kindle books to make them even more true to the print originals.

Okay, let me back up for a second.  Amazon has just released a new program designed to make creating beautiful kids’ books a total no-brainer.  This is huge news, because self-publishing illustrated kids’ books for Kindle has always been somewhat of a pain in the you-know-where.

Huge.  Like, “drop everything” kind of huge.

So I dropped everything to test it out.

I have a bunch of other things to do this morning, but I wanted to check out the program right away.  You can download the Kindle Kids' Book Creator tool free here. (I love that they remembered the apostrophe!)

Screenshot 2014-09-04 08.15.23

I  decided to give it a “quick whirl,” a process that occasionally ends in an hours-long disaster.  Not this time.

Install was quick, easy:  hassle-free, and the program launched right away after install.  It has a fun, friendly look.


Again, I was in a rush, so I thought, let’s just haul in an existing PDF and see how it does.

I’m in the middle of preparing a book called Panda Purim, a Jewish holiday themed follow-up to Penguin Rosh Hashanah (which made it to #9 last night in the Jewish children’s books category!).

So I just whomped in the PDF file, images, text and all.

Screenshot 2014-09-04 08.36.42

How I ended up writing a Bible story (and why you might, too).

Excerpt from Writing the Bible for Children:  How to write blazing Biblical stories and picture books for kids.
I never write a story I don’t love.

But sometimes, it’s possible to write a story you don’t like very much, at least at first.  Stories can grow on you surprisingly quickly.

The scrawny chicken baby

Years ago, I wrote a personal essay about how I didn’t bond with my daughter instantly.  She was a preemie, scrawny and demanding, her wail high-pitched and insistent.  Her birth was unexpected, my marriage was in trouble; it just wasn’t the best time in my life to have a baby, and then she was whisked away to the neonatal ICU moments after birth. 

Trust me, it wasn’t the best setting for mother-baby bonding.

Yet I fell in love with my daughter anyway, albeig on her second day, because the first was just so crazily difficult.  That story, one of my most successful, was later anthologized in the book Chicken Soup for the Mother-Daughter Soul.

The fact that editors loved it, that it sold almost instantly tells me two things:  one, I’m a great writer (yay for modesty!) and two, a lot of people have gone through that experience of not bonding instantly – of falling in love with their baby a little late but just as deeply.

(That daughter, who will turn 19 soon, has never forgiven me for referring to her as a “scrawny chicken baby” in the story.  She doesn’t care that there’s a happy ending!)

I mention this because you may experience the same thing with a Biblical story.  Or perhaps with all Biblical stories.

Most of them are hard to love, at first.

Most of them are pretty scrawny, for one thing.  From a modern perspective, they’re short on details:  there’s almost no attention to basics like character development, establishing the setting, or on making sure the thing flows from one narrative to another. 

If it wasn’t God’s book, you could easily imagine it getting one or two stars on Goodreads or Amazon.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Elijah and the Priests of Baal, covers, interior, and the secret back story.


Know what’s awesome?

Getting proof copies in the mail.

There may be more wonderful feelings, but not that are reasonably cheap and legal in all 50-some-odd states.

This book is called Elijah and the Priests of Baal. It’s an approachable Biblical narrative for slightly older kids. Illustrated by a super-talented artist who was a pleasure to work with. More words & substance than your typical picture book... more pictures than your typical big-kids' book. It's sort of a hybrid for big kids who like pictures.

Here I am getting my hands on it, literally, for the very first time.


I’ll be honest:  I was always bored to tears, or thought I was, by stories of the ancient prophets (in Hebrew, nevi’im).  I never thought I would write a Biblically-based story.  I’m just not that kind of person – I thought.