by Annette Schottenfeld and Jennifer Buchet
The stars have aligned and “the” response you’ve been waiting for, in what seems like forever, arrives…"We’d like to acquire your manuscript for publication." After contract signing, celebrating, social media announcements, & coordinating with your editor (and possibly illustrator), your release date is at long last approaching.
As you experience this amazing & wonderful next level of the publishing process, here are just five (of many!) things we wish we knew ahead of time:
1. Build relationships with your local indie bookstores and libraries before your book’s release.
This may sound daunting, especially for writers & illustrators, as we tend to be a bit of an introverted bunch. Make a list of local bookstores and libraries in your area, then make plans to visit them. When visiting bookstores introduce yourself to the owner and/or manager, and at local libraries, meet the children’s librarian(s) and strike up a conversation. Booklovers are a friendly sort and there’s lots to connect over. No need to “hard sell” the first time you meet someone—that can wait until you actually have book in hand!
2. Keep a list of tips and ideas for book promotion.
Once our books were under contract, we immediately began researching how to promote them. Your agent/publisher should provide guidance, but there are also great blogs and websites with quality tips, including Kidlit 411 & SCWBI, and of course, social media. Make note of any associated costs, so you can budget accordingly.
3. Speak to published authors and start a calendar of tasks to complete leading up to your release date.
Keeping a calendar is so important! Depending on your lifestyle, perhaps only one task a week is realistic or maybe five are attainable. And, support these published authors and illustrators by reviewing their work on Amazon and Goodreads, and requesting their books at your local library (which gives you a great conversation starter, too!) Remember that the 6 months up to your book’s release are important promotional months.
4. Join a debut group for support, ideas and cross promotion.
The kidlit world is a supportive, loving community and joining a debut group (or book birthday group, if this isn’t your first rodeo) is very important. Check on Twitter and other social media platforms for groups to join. But don’t join too many at once—remember, you’ll be expected to support others in your group in return for their support. More so, you’ll learn a lot by chatting with folks walking the same path as you.
5. Pace yourself, your job is far from over.
This is one of the hardest things to remember. You think you’re all done once contract is in hand then, boom—edits are needed, boom—pre-sales marketing hits, boom—your debut group needs help, boom—more edits are coming! And of course, there’s always that sequel or two you may want to write!
Writing and illustrating children’s books is a true marathon, not a race. Yet with the support of others, the run can actually be fun vs grueling.
Stay strong and create on, friends!
Annette's debut picture book, OBI'S MUD BATH and Jennifer's debut picture book, LITTLE MEDUSA'S HAIR DO-LEMMA are both launching in late 2020 with Clear Fork Publishing. Both authors are currently working hard on their next books and of course, pre-marketing their soon-to-be-released picture books!
You can chat with both authors on Twitter at any time! Strike up a conversation with Annette @nettschott or shoot the breeze with Jennifer @yangmommy..
By Sandra Sutter
Our last post, by the fabulous Melissa Stoller, focused on the benefits of critiques. I am fortunate to have a number of wonderful critique partners that have pushed my manuscripts to be the best they can be. And, I hope I have done the same for them. Being an effective and supportive critique partner is just as important as receiving critiques and applying them to your work.
Which brings me to the focus of this post. What can you bring to your critique group to be a positive and productive member?
Some of you may know that I am a course assistant at the Children’s Book Academy (CBA). One of my jobs is to set up the critique groups at the beginning of each course. That means I get to see a LOT of groups as they are formed. Some go on after the class is over and some do not. I met my very first critique partners in the same way – when I took the picture book writing course in 2017. Here are a few things I have learned over the last two years.
Critique with kindness. I borrow this phrase from Dr. Mira Reisberg because she stresses this in her courses at CBA. I think it is the most important principle to remember when handling others’ work. This does not mean you cannot be honest if something doesn’t seem to be working in a manuscript, but it does mean you should find a way to say it appropriately. It also sounds a bit like the Golden Rule, doesn’t it? Treat others as you would like them to treat you (and your manuscript).
Be accepting of differences. Every writer has particular likes and dislikes, their own style of writing, and a unique vision for their work. It will not always be the same as yours’. Focus on the story elements, understanding the authors’ goals, and whether the language (including rhyme and meter) works well together. Ask questions and make suggestions that might be helpful, but understand that it is not your story. If the person ignores what you have to say, let it go.
Pull your weight and be flexible. One thing I love about my critique partners is that we keep our promises. Does this mean we are always on time with critiques? That we always have a manuscript ready to share? That we follow our ground rules perfectly? No. But we communicate our needs and expectations. We understand when someone has a vacation, a family emergency, job responsibilities, or even times of burnout. We trust that the work will get done – because it does. And when someone needs help quickly, we respond. It’s a flexible system of responsibility and accountability, in addition to support and encouragement.
As you can tell, I have some wonderful critique partners. Here’s a big shout out to them all . . . You’re the best!
Sandra is the author of the award-winning THE REAL FARMER IN THE DELL (illustrated by Chantelle & Burgen Thorne), released from Spork/Clear Fork Publishing in March 2019. Her second picture book, STAN'S FRIGHTFULLY CLUMSY HALLOWEEN, comes out in 2020. In addition to picture books, Sandra writes chapter books, middle grade and young adult novels and has a secret wish to be an illustrator (but shhhhh . . . she doesn’t quite have the talent for that yet). She lives with her husband and two spunky, but loveable, kids in the heart of the Kentucky Bluegrass region.
You can find out more about Sandra and her work at:
by Melissa Stoller
When #BookBlastoff asked what I know now that I didn’t know before I was a published author, one of my responses was, “Critique groups are incredibly valuable in a writer’s life.”
Critique partners can help transform a manuscript and they provide endless guidance, support, and friendship. I’ve written two posts relating to this topic: “It’s All About Critique Groups - Part 1,” where I wrote about organizing and conducting a critique group, providing critiques, and accepting critiques https://www.childrensbookacademy.com/blogfish/its-all-about-critique-groups-part-1; and “Part 2,” where I discussed sustaining a critique group and moving on from a group if necessary https://www.melissastoller.com/single-post/2019/08/06/Its-All-About-Critique-Groups---Part-2.
In this blog, I’ll discuss how critiques have positively impacted my upcoming picture books, RETURN OF THE MAGIC PAINTBRUSH (illustrated by Sandie Sonke), and SADIE’S SHABBAT STORIES (illustrated by Lisa Goldberg) (both releasing from Clear Fork Publishing/Spork in 2020, edited and art directed by Mira Reisberg).
In order to get the most from critiques on your stories, note the following suggestions:
1) Be open to comments about your stories. Really listen. Sometimes it’s helpful to put away the critique for a few days and then bring it back for further reflection. Usually, comments will help strengthen your story.
2) Revise using what resonates with your story vision. Usually, your critique pals will be spot on with their thoughts. However, if something is not in line with the vision for your story, take the time to understand the comment and then pass it by.
3) Be flexible and nimble with your story. Don’t be afraid to revise or to try a new vision if that’s necessary to strengthen the manuscript.
Here are a few examples of how I revised based on critiques --
Critiques from my writing pals:
First, I’m sending lots of KidLit love to my critique partners. They have become trusted friends and confidantes. They have helped me move my stories to the next level at every stage of the writing process. I’ve been open to hearing their ideas about big picture revisions, including plot and character arc, and small scale revisions such as language and word choices. For example, in RETURN OF THE MAGIC PAINTBRUSH, which is a sequel to SCARLET’S MAGIC PAINTBRUSH, my critique groups had excellent thoughts about how to bring a new character into the already existing magical world, while keeping in mind the rules of that world.
Critiques from my Art Director/Editor and Publisher:
I’m so lucky to have Mira Reisberg and Callie Metler-Smith as part of my #DreamTeams. Mira is always concerned about showcasing heart in my manuscripts. For example, in SADIE’S SHABBAT STORIES, Mira provided excellent guidance about the central stories surrounding the Shabbat rituals. I was able to make those more concise and really highlight the voice and heart in each story, all while maintaining the internal logic of the work. And my publisher, Callie, makes sure each story sings!
I’ll always be grateful to my critique partners, editors, and publisher for providing helpful insights that have pushed me to make my stories better.
Cheers to critiques!
RETURN OF THE MAGIC PAINTBRUSH (illustrated by Sandie Sonke)
SADIE’S SHABBAT STORIES (illustrated by Lisa Goldberg)
Releasing 2020, Clear Fork Publishing/Spork
Melissa is the author of SCARLET’S MAGIC PAINTBRUSH; READY, SET, GORILLA!; and THE ENCHANTED SNOW GLOBE COLLECTION: RETURN TO CONEY ISLAND. Upcoming picture books include RETURN OF THE MAGIC PAINTBRUSH and SADIE’S SHABBAT STORIES. Melissa lives in New York City with her husband, three daughters, and one magical puppy. She is a board member of Temple Shaaray Tefila and a past trustee at The Hewitt School. When not writing, Melissa enjoys travel, theater, museums, and collecting beach treasures.
CONNECT with Melissa at:
By Debra Bartsch
Author, CROW SPIRIT
Hello Book Blastoff Launchers! This topic is one I am thrilled to chat about, joining professional organizations. Joining SCBWI (Society for Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators) for me was the beginning of acknowledging the fact that, yes, I was serious about writing and illustrating books for children, and yes, I was committed to learning absolutely everything I could to become a published author. An author who is actively participating in conferences, workshops, first reads, art director assignments, critique groups, even local coffee chats.
I received a partial scholarship towards my first conference back in 2012 when I first joined SCBWI. Instantly I felt at home! A room full of creatives actively growing and learning like me! Meeting and making friends at the conference who have become so important to my journey, contacts, publishers, editors, art director, agents, and being brave enough to stand up and read my manuscripts in front of them, and show my portfolio! Not for the faint of heart, but, with each read you can gain a bit more confidence and realize, this is your story, you wrote it and no one can tell it like you can.
Currently I am Book Sales and Write Direction Coordinator for team SCBWI Oregon which is my way to give back to our group. Attending all the local events (where we sell our authors and illustrators beautiful books) is a wonderful way to meet each author and illustrator. Bonus-getting to know more about them and their uniqueness is really very special.
I am also active in Oregon’s reading program throughout the state, SMART READING. As a Volunteer Site Coordinator and reader for Pre-k’s. We bring the love and joy of reading to even the youngest in a program called Head Start. We read one-on-one with kids from all over the world who have come to live here, and also from the neighborhood areas. Diverse, multicultural, unique--over 8 languages are spoken! Each child takes home 14 free books to begin their own library. It is a joy to read and share time and laughter with these smiling kids.
And, of course there’s the Children’s Book Academy, an online school for both authors and illustrators of kidlit. Founded and run by Dr. Mira’ Reisberg, the courses are top notch and quite professional and affordable. Bonus—I made so many wonderful friends through CBA. It was during one of these classes that I met our publisher, Callie Metler-Smith, founder and owner of Clear Fork Publishing. And the rest is history because my debut picture book, Crow Spirit became a reality.
I could go on and on, but my point is this: join as many professional organizations as you are comfortable with, and be involved in the ones you do join. You will feel rich from the friends you make and good luck to everyone! I would love to see you at your book launch!
Hello Kidlit Readers!
Many of us wish we had a crystal ball to see what the future holds. Or a TARDIS, so that we could zip into the future and if needs be, change events to our liking.
Alas, our Book Blastoff Crew has neither a time machine nor a crystal ball (although at least one of us has a crazy 8 ball; quite unreliable, if you ask me!).
But what we do have is experience and we’re all here to share our journeys, trials and tribulations with you. In the coming months, our Crew will be answering time-bending, gut-wrenching questions and maybe, just maybe, alter YOUR future for the better.
Our Crew is a creative combination of writers and illustrators. Some of us are eagerly counting down the launch to their tales, other members have already rocketed into the stratosphere and are orbiting bookstores now. And then there are the elite few who have already enjoyed several book blastoffs and are readying themselves for another successful mission.
If you have any time-bending, out of this world questions for our Crew, please comment below or shoot us a message. Keep an eye on the sky, and on the bookshelves, as we answer your questions
Written by the very brave Jolene Gutiérrez
As a child, The Little Engine That Could was one of my favorite stories. It taught me that if I tried hard enough, I could accomplish anything. Eventually, I learned that the real world isn’t always filled with successes. I’ve definitely had my fair share of failures, but I never forgot that bold little engine, willing to take a chance.
To me, contests are all about bring brave and putting yourself out there. If you're willing to do that, so many generous people in ourwriting community have set up various contests and opportunities that allow for growth and networking.
Here are a few tips from someone who’s won and lost in the contest realm:
1. Research: Look for opportunities. Some of my favorites are (and check the dates and then bookmark websites, because some have already occurred this year but will hopefully be happening again):
2. You can’t win ‘em all! Yes, it can be disheartening and frustrating if you don't win a contest you've entered. I try to temper that with a few thoughts/actions:
3. You can't win if you don't play: Putting your writing out there can be scary, but if writing is something you’re driven to do, jump in wholeheartedly! Check out of few of these contests and opportunities, and then tell yourself, “I think I can!” I’ll be cheering you on, too!
Jolene Gutiérrez, author of MAC & CHEESE AND THE PERSONAL SPACE CASE, grew up on a farm and now lives in a suburb of Denver with her husband of 21 years, two teenage kids, three preteen dogs, and a prickly hedgehog. For the past 25 years, she's been a school librarian. She spends her days sharing children's books and her nights writing them. Having a child read a book she’s written brings her great joy!
Jolene's an active member of SCBWI and The Author’s Guild, a Children’s Book Academy scholarship winner and graduate, a We Need Diverse Books mentorship finalist, a Writing with the Stars 2018 mentee (with picture book author Stacy McAnulty), a Highlights Foundation scholarship winner, and the winner of the Cynthia Levinson nonfiction picture book biography scholarship to the Writing Barn.
Connect with Jolene online at www.jolenegutierrez.com and on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn @writerjolene,
Written by Eleanor A. Peterson & Illustrated by John Seckman
Launching onto a bookshelf near you in June!
Eleanor Reveals Her Love of Writing Kidlit:
In a way, I'm a bit like Peter Pan; deep inside, I never grew up. I love sharing my adventures as a kid with new generations and I share through writing. And playing! Kids are cooped up in classrooms and homes all day. Most kids that I know are glued to Ipad’s instead of playing outdoors and getting dirty. I think they're missing out on a lot of fun and I for one, love being outside! Where else would I talk to trees & chat with critters?!
Eleanor Tells Us About Her Book:
Most folks know all about dinosaurs but how many know about Jurassic rats? JURASSIC RAT is the story of an a rat who faces enormous dangers going in search of food for his family. Unfortunately, because he’s a bit on the clumsy side, Rat gets into all sorts of trouble. He trips over logs, drops precious eggs, and comes face to face with a terrifying allosaurus! Will Rat live to feed and snuggle with his family one more time before going out and doing it all over again?
Eleanor Has Big Book Birthday Plans!
Here in Italy, the last day of school is June 8th. No school visits & libraries are not searching for events after the schools shut down. All that will have to wait until fall when school starts back up. Meanwhile, I plan to gather a group of international English speaking friends and have a party with activities. Rat, my puppet, will introduce himself to the group while we watch the video clips I’ve prepared for each character in my picture book.
Eleanor Reveals Some Fun Facts About Herself:
1) When I visit my sister in Canada, she warns everyone--"Auntie Ely is coming from Italy. Watch out!" Why you say? Well, once I babysat my sister’s kids and fed them what I thought were typical steaks from the freezer. I thawed and ground the thin steaks. My brother-in-law was not impressed; it was moose meat he was keeping for a special occasion. Yuk!
2) I drive my brother-in-law crazy when I visit (and not just in the kitchen!). There was a wild turkey with an injured foot that hung around my sister's backyard. I felt sorry for it and wanted to help. My sister is a nurse and said, "Don’t you dare touch it, it’s probably sick, and you’ll get a disease.’"Well, I had a ball with the kids that afternoon as I imitated the turkeys gobble, gobble, gobble. The kids chimed in until my brother-in-law the party pooper told us to stop. I think I’ll write a picture book about these events; it could be a fun story?
3) I’m adventurous and love to play with kids and let myself go forgetting I’m a grown up. The kids seem to enjoy my company, but not the grown-ups. I think they forgot how to have fun.
Find JURASSIC RAT to purchase at these locations:
Barnes and Noble https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/jurassic-rat-eleanor-ann-peterson/1131275012?ean=9781950169122
And don't forget to request a copy of JURASSIC RAT at your school & local library!
Eleanor has been called a Druid; she talks to trees, creeping critters, and animals. While waiting to hear back from them she paints, makes puppets, and plays with clay. She has a BS in Environmental Sciences and Territorial Management and has shared her passion for nature by teaching animal tracking to Middle Graders.
You can connect with Eleanor on these platforms:
Contributing Blogger, Kourtney LaFavre
Children experience the world differently than adults. Writing for children may seem like an easy task to those outside the world of kidlit. But there is an extra layer to writing for children. Being a good writer isn’t enough. You need to know and understand the audience you are serving. Getting a degree in childhood development isn’t an option for most people, but you can gain a deeper awareness of the children you are writing for. An easy way to understand your audience (and find inspiration for children’s stories) is to go back to your own childhood. It may seem a little strange for some people but you can talk to your inner child too.
Here are some questions to ponder from your childhood or to ask your inner child:
Tap into the feelings that come up when you ask yourself these questions!
My inner child is where I found the inspiration for IF SUN COULD SPEAK, my debut picture book illustrated by Saki Tanaka. I was enrolled in a course with Children’s Book Academy, directed by Mira Reisberg. We were reviewing ways to think of enticing book topics, and she said to think of a problem or question you had as a child. That piqued my interest, so I set the intention to recall a childhood memory that would make a great story. It was the next day that a memory from my childhood popped up.
I think I was about five or six when I first discovered that the sun doesn’t actually rise and set. I had assumed that the sun was moving up and down in the sky, because the word RISE means to move upward. That was the definition that my five year old self understood, and five year old brains are very literal. It totally blew my mind that it was the earth’s movement that created sunrises and sunsets. And I felt mad that I was mislead to believe inaccurate information. I was frustrated whenever I heard people say anything about the sun RISING. That’s where the concept of a book told from the sun’s perspective began, to clear up any misunderstandings about the sun.
I took my childhood feelings and transferred them to the main character, Sun. Sun would be a feisty character, wanting to teach people the truth. I pictured Sun saying things like, “How dare they think I rise. I do not rise.” The title to my first draft was I DO NOT RISE. The main character, evolving through many revisions, kept a slightly egotistical trait. It happens when the world revolves around you. Sun had two goals when talking to readers: One is to share information about who Sun is and what Sun does. And the second is to inspire readers to wonder and search for discoveries.
Traveling back in time to your childhood is a wonderful exercise to gain a deeper understanding of children, and you can use it to fuel your writing for children. You may even find the inspiration for your next story while you are there!
IF SUN COULD SPEAK By Kourtney LaFavre, illustrated by Saki Tanaka.
Clear Fork/Spork Publishing, 2019
Kourtney LaFavre is a writer, educator, and a former elementary teacher. She lives and learns with the rhythms of nature in the woods of NH. As a homeschooling mother of four, she believes the world is their classroom and searches for beauty and lessons. She has 20 years of experience teaching and working with children and families in elementary classrooms, preschools, head start, and other community programs.
Kourtney is a lifelong learner, trying to live a life filled with purpose and passion. She writes to inform and inspire.
By Annette Schottenfeld
I’m an avid believer that inspiration for stories can be found anywhere. Simple things, such as watching a ladybug scurry across a leaf, observing a good luck ritual or hearing a child’s playful banter, can spark a story idea. Practicing mindfulness is a gift we should all give ourselves. This means being truly present, so we can capture each tiny moment.
The seed idea for OBI’S MUD BATH came while I was reading a newspaper article about an actual event that occurred in Southern Africa. On a scorching day, a little rhino bull named Mark was searching for juicy greenery. As luck would have it, his snout and horn became stuck in a tire, leaving him unable to eat or drink. A team of vets came to the rescue. They calmed down the rhino and pried off the tire. Mark made a full recovery.
Drought conditions throughout Southern Africa have been an ongoing issue for both the residents and wildlife. Litter, including nets and tires that had been discarded in bodies of water, is frequently found on the dried-up banks where Mark was grazing.
After I read this article, the incident kept playing in my mind. I pictured the little rhino full of determination, exhausted and then finally free. I envisioned a picture book that could not only entertain, but also bring attention to the important topics of respecting our environment and addressing worldwide water issues. The backdrop of Southern Africa, with its rich traditions, added to the appeal of writing this story.
And, OBI was born!
Check out www.water.org o to learn more about global water conservation. A portion of book proceeds from OBI'S MUD BATH will be donated to this fantastic organization!
Annette is the author of OBI'S MUD BATH, her debut picture book, launching late 2019 (Clear Fork/Spork Publishing)
Facebook: Annette Schottenfeld - Author
Written by: Sandra Sutter
Having written a number of recent blog posts about the inspiration for THE REAL FARMER IN THE DELL, I find myself a little burned out on the topic. In fact, I am downright uninspired. So what do I do? I resort to my procrastination toolbox, such as internet browsing and daydreaming. Which got me thinking (dangerous, I know, which will be even more apparent in a moment). What’s more fun than telling (showing) you about my writing process than doing it with . . . emoji’s?
It’s an ordinary day of ☕️, 👨👩👧👦, 👩💻, 🚗, ⚽️,and 🍷, when all of a sudden I 👀(see something) or 😯(hear something), 🤓(learn something) or 🤦♀️(remember something) and 💥an 💡comes to mind.
“I’m going to write a book about a🦄,or🐬, or a👻. It will be the next best thing since sliced 🍞!”
Oh look, a 🐿.
Now back to that great 💡.
I’m🏃♀️away with it. It’s as perfect as a 🌹. The words are🎶, and I’m feeling🤗!
It’s time to send it off to my👯👯👯! (Critique partners. What else are those little bunny ears for?)
I wait patiently (🤥)for that 🥇, that round of 👏. They are 😍with my manuscript. 🤞
Then one🌅, I open up my 💻to find🥉(feedback) and a suggestion to ✂️, 🚑, 🤹♀️, and if that doesn’t work to put it in the🗑.
(Actually, my critique partners👉me in the right direction, help me find the 🗝to the❓,and offer☂️when it ⛈. They mean the 🌍to me.)
After a 🍺(after noon, of course), it’s time to🔨away on revisions, which feels something like 🤔➤😩➤😭➤
Oh look another 🐿. Or is that a 🐒? Oh well, I need some 🍪🍪🍪.
Back to ✍️. I’m feeling 🤕➤😏➤🙃➤😅➤😁.
Now, it’s⏰to 📩it back to my 👯👯for the🚦(hopefully green!)
When my precious📖is ready, I 🛒it to agents and editors, 🙏they will ❤️❤️❤️my🎁of a story. I wait patiently (🤥). I feel 🤢, but it’s nothing more🍷can’t take care of.
And that’s it! From inspiration to submission in emoji’s.
Sandra is the author of THE REAL FARMER IN THE DELL (illustrated by the wonderful team Chantelle & Burgen Thorne). Her second picture book, STAN'S FRIGHTFULLY CLUMSY HALLOWEEN, is set to arrive later this year.
Connect with Sandra: