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As one of the top kidlit writing websites, one that appears first in numerous Google searches, with thousands of followers, thousands of daily hits…


…I’m here to tell you that this platform doesn’t necessarily yield book sales. It yields emails from writers asking how to self-publish.

(Speaking of my books, I THOUGHT THIS WAS A BEAR BOOK was just released and LITTLE RED GLIDING HOOD comes out next month. Did you get yours yet?)

Listen, I’m not bashing those who want to be their own children’s publisher. Everyone dreams of being an author, don’t they? There are some projects that are close to people’s hearts. Stories they want to share, to inspire others. And everyone has to start somewhere. A lot of people seem to start with me.


But why me? I have no experience in self-publishing. Zero. I don’t know the first thing about it and I’d be lost if I tried to do it myself!

Here are my top 5 reasons for choosing NOT to self-publish picture books:

  1. You prefer the professional backing of a traditional publisher, from production to distribution to promotion.
  2. You aren’t an illustrator. You want a publisher who can attract top-notch illustrative talent.
  3. You realize how difficult it is to sell a book to the public, to bookstores, to libraries, to schools…and could not do it alone.
  4. You welcome input from the creative team and find it invaluable for making your book the best it can possibly be.
  5. You prefer advances over expenses.

These are my personal reasons. Your mileage may vary, but I’m guessing that many traditionally-published authors feel similarly.

Here are my top 5 reasons to choose self-publishing:

  1. The story you want to tell—you MUST tell—isn’t commercial enough to secure a traditional publisher, or it is in an experimental or non-standard format.
  2. You prefer artistic autonomy.
  3. You have capital available to invest in quality contractors to help you with the entire process, from production to distribution to promotion.
  4. You have an established platform/audience via which to promote and sell the book.
  5. You enjoy taking risks. You thrive on it!

If you really want the low-down on self-publishing children’s books, Kidlit411 has put together a marvelous resource list. Also read Chuck Wendig (stop calling it “self-publishing” and get your boomcake on). Check out Will Terry and Dar Hosta, two successful independent author-illustrators.

Me, I’m probably the worst source of information on self-publishing. Unless you’re reading this post. Then I’m okay.

And maybe I’m a better source when it comes to giving advice to on-a-whim-don’t-wanna-do-this-for-a-living writers. Here’s a conversation I tend to have once a week:

“You know, I wrote a little story like Goodnight Moon last year. Now I need to find an agent, right?”

“Oh, that’s great, but I’m going to be completely and brutally honest with you here: it’s not something you’ll want to do unless your heart is set on it as a career.”


“Oh, really?”

“Yes, really. It takes years to land an agent. And then, sometimes, years to find a publisher, if you even find one at all.”


“Oh, really?”

“Yes, really.”

“Well, I just wanted to have a hard copy for the kids. Maybe I should try Snapfish?”

“Yes, absolutely. Snapfish is wonderful.”


P.S. I also recommend Storybird, Bueller.

Oh, rejection!

We all face it. Even published authors. Even Jane Yolen!

This is how I consider rejections now, after seven years in the business:


But when you’re still unpublished, rejections somehow hurt more.

Besides applying a baking-powder-and-vinegar salve three times daily, how do you ease the sting?

Welcome author Emma Walton Hamilton. She will teach you what those rejections really mean and how you can use them to your advantage.

EmmaHAMILTONby Emma Walton Hamilton

Manuscripts are like children–we birth them, nurture them, pour our heart and soul into helping them be the best they can be. Then we send them into the world, praying they have what it takes to succeed. If we’re lucky, and we’ve done our job right (we hope), they’ll fly. But inevitably, we–and they–must muddle through setbacks and tests of resolve before they can claim their place in the world.

One of those setbacks is rejection. Manuscript rejections are an unavoidable part of the writing life…but that doesn’t mean they aren’t painful. It also doesn’t mean they can’t be converted into learning opportunities. This is such an important distinction that Julie Hedlund and I devote an entire module to “Interpreting Rejections and Dealing with Feedback” in our new Complete Picture Book Submissions System, which we created to support picture book authors through every step of the submissions process, since we know firsthand how challenging that process can be. (Check out Julie’s recent blog post exposing one of her earliest query letters.)

Converting the experience of rejection from personally devastating to professionally useful begins with bearing a few important things in mind:

  1. Manuscripts get rejected, not writers themselves. Meaning, this is not about you–it’s about the manuscript not being a right fit with that agent or publisher.
  2. It’s business–not personal. The reasons for the rejection may in fact have less to do with the quality of your writing and more to do with the focus of the agent or publisher at this time, or the limitations of their current resources.
  3. Hundreds of famous children’s authors received rejection letters on what later became their most successful manuscripts, including Dr. Seuss, J.K Rowling, Madeline L’Engle, Stephanie Meyer, Meg Cabot, C.S. Lewis and many, many more. (Check out Literary Rejections if you don’t believe me, or could use a little company for that misery.)
  4. The wrong fit at one place can be the right fit somewhere else. Moreover, that somewhere else will serve you and your manuscript better than the first place would have, because they “got it.”
  5. There may be a gift accompanying the rejection at best, insight into how to improve your manuscript or query, and maximize your chances of nailing the next submission; and at least, the opportunity to strengthen your commitment and resolve. (An old acting teacher of mine used to say, “Never mind the talent, do you have the tenacity?” This is just as relevant for writers.)

Maybe the rejection includes some feedback worth considering (although it’s important to distinguish between meaningful feedback and form letter feedback, which is something else we focus on in the Complete Picture Book Submissions System… it’s easy to confuse the two.) But even without feedback, every rejection is an opportunity to revisit your query and/or your manuscript. Is it really submission-ready? Is it structurally sound, formatted correctly, typo-free? Is every word essential?

Finally, it’s important to take care of yourself during this time. Sending your creative work into the world can make you highly vulnerable, and it’s easy to lose perspective. Do whatever you do to nurture and reinvigorate yourself: take walks, meditate, see a movie, go shopping, get a massage. Seek the company and communion of fellow writers for support, learning and perspective. Most of all, keep writing–generate new material to keep building your portfolio, stay in the flow, and avoid having all your eggs in one basket. That is, after all, the real work of being a writer.

Picture Book Submissions System

Emma Walton Hamilton is a best-selling children’s book author, editor and writing coach. With her mother, actress/author Julie Andrews, Emma has co-authored over thirty children’s books, seven of which have been on the NY Times Bestseller list, including The Very Fairy Princess series (#1 Bestseller), Julie Andrews Collection of Poems, Songs and Lullabies, the Dumpy the Dump Truck series, Simeon’s Gift, The Great American Mousical, and Thanks to You–Wisdom from Mother and Child. Emma’s own book, RAISING BOOKWORMS: Getting Kids Reading for Pleasure and Empowerment, premiered as a #1 best-seller on Amazon in the literacy category and won a Parent’s Choice Gold Medal.

devPetty1by Dev Petty

I wrote a whole post for this very blog some time ago about NOT writing and just thinking. I wrote about getting to the heart of your story idea in your head before you ever write a word. I believe in that process…big time. But it’s not how I wrote I DON’T WANT TO BE A FROG. That’s a different story. That’s the story of how a sort of basic story idea turned into one with legs…frog legs! In fact, it was the writing of FROG that taught me to slow down and think, to find the story thread before I started writing.


I knew I wanted to write a story all in dialogue. I wanted it to be funny. And I wanted it to be about a frog. I like frogs, it was that simple. Not much to go on, eh? Believe me, my first efforts on frog reflected just how thin the idea was. Frog went from animal to animal saying “I want to be like you…because…you’re furry (or you can fly or you can hop).” It was repetitive and a little hollow and NOTHING REALLY AT ALL HAPPENED. These are the sort of problems I usually suss out when I’m just thinking instead of writing, so I don’t usually have this situation. But there was something about the first draft I liked enough to keep at it.


This is when I stopped and realized I needed to answer my own critical, favorite story writing question.

“What is this about?”

The answer, as written, was “A frog who wants to be a rabbit or a cat or an owl.” And after a ton of rewrites and rearranging, it wasn’t getting any better on the page. So I stopped revising. I stopped writing. As I closed the laptop and started thinking, I realized it was a little deeper. The answer really was, “This is a story about a frog who doesn’t want to be a frog.” It’s about wanting to be something other than what you are. Now THAT’S a little more interesting. When I started thinking about it that way, the story opened up and it wasn’t anymore about cats or owls, it was about nature, it was about accepting your nature.

That answer allowed me to start thinking about the frog, the good parts, the bad parts, the way we all sometimes envy things about others that we can never, and probably should never have. The story was getting deeper, but still…nothing really happened. The frog went from animal to animal saying he wanted to be them and then the book ended. You’re a frog. Get over it.


Confession. I’ve tried to write novels. A bunch of em. I am a Viking at writing three awesome chapters and then running out of steam, throwing the laptop across the room and eating ice cream for a while. But I do it often enough that I’ve learned a few things. Newsflash Dev, your story has to have a PLOT and not just be a rambling treatise on frog existentialism. So I decided to bring a new character in…a wolf…who would act as a bit of a therapist, a reality checker who would point out the good parts of being a frog through his own nature. Once something happened, the wolf, my story had a turn and a direction and something, albeit small, happened. I hope kids will read frog and realize that everyone has things they want to change about themselves, and that’s a totally okay, natural thing to explore. But you also sort of have to accept who you are, find the bright parts about who you are and work with what you have.

I guess the truth is, I sort of violated most of my own rules of picture book writing in the writing of the one picture book I have out there. I kind of teased a good story out of a pretty mediocre one. But that’s ok too, it taught me a lot about finding that thread. It helped me develop a process…find the thread FIRST! Remember to TELL a story and not just muse.

Since we’re talking story threads, I thought I’d put down a few tools I use to try to figure out what I’m getting at when I’m developing a story idea in my head, before I start writing.

  1. I write a poem. It’s not the kind of poem anyone would ever, ever, ever want to read. But the lack of rules in poetry allow me to explore an idea without limitations. I usually write pretty long, stream of consciousness poems about my story idea and most of it will be total garbage. But usually, when I read it through, somewhere in there is a thread I can hold onto and start crafting a story around.
  2. Imagine your story as a trailer. I’d never thought of this one until I started watching a lot of picture book trailers and working on my own, for Frog. But when you have to introduce your character, a story problem, a plot twist and a possible solution- you’ve covered a lot of story elements and it’s pretty easy to find where you need to go a little deeper.
  3. Ask yourself what your story is about. Sounds obvious, I know, but I forget to do it ALL THE TIME. And, while you’re busy talking to yourself, why not have a whole conversation?

“Dev, what is this story about?”
“Well, it’s about a frog who wants to be a cat or an owl or something else.”
“Gosh, Dev, that’s not very interesting.”
“It’s not? Crap. OK, it’s about not wanting to be a frog.”
“Getting there.”
“You’re bossy. Fine. It’s about not wanting to be what you are.”
“That’s sad.”
“Okee…it’s about accepting who you are.”
“I don’t like you.”
“I don’t like you either.”

Finally, Never throw anything away. Whether you save one giant list of picture books in Scrivener or text files or email drafts (I’m partial to that one), never give up on a story. Put it aside, let it steep, even put it in total cold storage, but don’t throw anything away. SO many of my stories come from little breadcrumbs of ideas I left myself along the way.

Dev Petty is the author of I DON’T WANT TO BE A FROG (Doubleday 2015, Illustrated by Mike Boldt) and CLAYMATES (Little Brown, 2017).  A former film effects artist, she lives in Albany, California and writes funny books for kids and immature adults. Visit her at

Do you want to be a frog? No? Do you want to own a frog? Not really? How about own a SIGNED COPY of Dev’s I DON’T WANT TO BE A FROG? Plus bookmarks? Yes? OK then, leave one comment below and a winner will be randomly selected in two weeks! Good luck!

david-michael-slater-mayby David Michael Slater


My name is David Michael Slater. As an author of 20+ books (for children, teens, and adults) I am always interested in new ways of reaching readers. Self-publishing has never appealed to me. I have nothing whatsoever against it, but the sky-high pile of self-published titles one must compete with is simply too daunting, especially when so many people report not wanting to take the time to sift through that pile for the gems. The traditional route is as daunting as ever, but I do not bash it either. But it is a rough go, especially with a project that seems risky in any way.

Enter Inkshares.


My newest picture book, Hanukkah Howie vs. Santa Claus, recently launched with this newfangled “crowd-directed” publisher. Inkshares makes final decisions about projects based on pre-sales. This is a fascinating new approach that, thus far, I find extremely reasonable.



First, I can understand Inkshare’s desire to minimize their risk by taking on properties with proven market appeal (via pre-sales). What publisher wouldn’t? The result has been my working my tail off trying to secure these pre-sales, and I must admit it’s fairly exhausting.

What’s the payoff?

How about 50% of gross revenues and a non-exclusive contract?

Hard to argue that both sides don’t benefit from such an arrangement.

HoweyCharacterThe process is simple, you approach Inkshares with your project. In my case, I came to them with the finished text and an illustrator (the awesome UK artist Andy Catling) already on board. The Inkshares team evaluates your project, and if they deem it’s potentially viable, they will guide you through the steps of setting up a project page and then a launch.

They do help with social media marketing during the funding period, but mostly it’s up to you. So far so good. We’re a week in and funding at 23%.

You can learn much more at If you are interested in my project, you can read the entire (500 word) text, see the hilarious art, and note the exceptional blurbs (like the ones below) coming in from popular and bestselling authors at

Good luck on your on publishing paths, wherever they may take you!

“A new holiday tradition deserves a new holiday classic read aloud, and David Michael Slater has delivered just that, right to our door, by sleigh and by Hanukkopter.”
–David Lubar, Author of Hidden Talents and Sleeping Freshmen Never Lie

Hanukkah Howie vs. Santa Claus “could bring about world peace, but only if you do your part.”
–Heeb Magazine

I rarely talk about my disability here, because really, who wants to talk about that ugly word? It suggests that we CANNOT. Others have decided to label me “disabled,” not me. From the parking spaces I gladly pull into (who doesn’t want to be right by the front door?), to the forms I fill out, I’m reminded of this label constantly. I accept this label but this label doesn’t define me. It’s the last ingredient in the complex recipe that is me. It’s there, but it’s not important. My cake will rise without it. (Oh boy, that’s corny. But hey, that’s me.)


Me and my cane with the “Good Luck Cow” in Brandon, Vermont, May 2014.

Multiple Sclerosis hit me in late 2009, just as my career was catching fire (excuse the blatant allusion to Suzanne Collins). In fact, when I was being interviewed by literary agents, I was on an anti-anxiety medication that made my anxiety WORSE, although it took my doctors and me a few weeks to realize this. I took the medication before bed and then couldn’t even speak in the morning until it wore off, around 11am or so. That’s right, I was so full of worry that I could barely force my voice into a whisper. Yet an agent, excited about my submission, called me 90 minutes earlier than our agreed-upon noon conference call. I had to suck it up and somehow appear brilliant and enthusiastic. I don’t know how I made it through that call.

The year 2010 was a blur. I don’t remember most of it. I know I signed with my agent and received my first book deal for THE MONSTORE, but it barely registered. All I could think about was that I would never walk properly again, that I would never figure skate again, never play tennis again, never take family hiking vacations. I couldn’t even drive a car. I couldn’t pick my children up from school, which was only 2/10 of a mile from my home. I focused on the COULDN’Ts. There seemed to be an avalanche of them.


What finally pulled me out of my funk? Was it reaching the elusive goal of publication?

Sure, that helped. But this lifelong goal realized had little to do with my recovery.

Time did. And so often, this is not what people in crisis want to hear. They think there is some magical solution to get through the hard stuff. And sorry, but I don’t have one. I just had time. And the great thing about time is that EVERYONE has it. It’s available to anyone who’s going through a rough patch.

I had time to process what had happened to me. Time to understand how my body had changed. Time to make adjustments in my daily life. Time to realize that the inner core of ME hadn’t been altered. I was the same goofy, bookish, creative, foodie, writer and loving wife and mother. Albeit with a cane and a mobility scooter. Big freakin’ deal!

Time also made me realize how much time I had missed. I never wanted another “lost year” in my life. All that worrying didn’t solve anything. Worrying rarely does. It makes you miss out on the here and now. The present is so precious. I didn’t want to miss another second of it.

So I got back to being ME. I started writing again. I sold more manuscripts. I began teaching and speaking at conferences. The word “adapt” became my mantra. I learned that I COULD do all that I intended, just with preparation and adjustment.

I’m here to tell you all that you can indeed reach your goals. You’re in charge. If you encounter a roadblock, it is only a temporary one. You will find a way around it. It may take time, but try to see time as a gift rather than a burden. We authors know that it takes years to get published and years to see our books in print. We eventually learn to accept time, as time brings great things.

The only way you won’t reach your goals is by quitting. (Or by excessive worrying.) Envision success, not failure. Focus on the elements within your control, not those beyond it.

Go ahead, make a list. What can you control? What can you NOT control? Then rip the paper in half and throw away the “beyond” section. (There’s a reason I made that section black.)


Today I’m happier than I’ve ever been, even though I can only walk the length of my driveway before needing to sit.

So guess what? I sit.

And then I get up—time and time again.


Tara speaks to audiences big and small about overcoming disabilities big and small. Contact her at tarakidlit (at) gmail (dot) com for more information.


Today we’re lucky to have Peggy Robbins Janousky visiting to share highlights from SCBWI FL’s Picture Book Intensive. Take it away, Peggy!

peggyI have attended many picture book intensives over the years, but this one topped them all. Participants were treated to an all-star panel that included: agent Deborah Warren of East West Literary, editor Laura Whitaker of Bloomsbury, author and editor Andrea Davis Pinkney and author Toni Buzzeo.

The presentations were practical, but powerful:

  • Always bring your “A” game.
  • Rhyme is not taboo, but bad rhyme is.
  • Picture books are getting shorter and are being targeted for younger audiences.
  • Show, don’t tell.
  • Hook me and keep me hooked.
  • Be passionate about your book and be able to pitch in just a few sentences.

One of the best things that was presented was the HOT list. These are the topics that editors and Barnes and Noble want now:

  • Moments of the day
  • School stories
  • Learning concepts
  • Holidays (MLK, Valentine’s Day, 4th of July, St. Patrick’s Day)
  • Friends and family
  • Biographies
  • Character-driven stories
  • Original stories that every kid will love
  • Interactive picture books
  • Finding the new in the old

If you haven’t taken an intensive before, I strongly urge you to consider it. Intensives are exactly that, intense. They give you the opportunity to delve in deeper and they also give you the opportunity to get to know the presenters on a more intimate level. I came away from this intensive with a new sense of purpose and drive. I also came away with a few good friends. All in all, it was money worth spending.

I have to admit, I almost did not attend the Miami conference. I was having a pity party and I wasn’t really up for the company. I had broken my leg in three places. Needless to say, getting around was a wee bit difficult. I was ready to bail. I am glad I didn’t. The first page of my manuscript was read during “first page reads”. Much to my surprise, the panel loved it. One editor wanted to know who wrote it, an agent wanted to read more, and another editor wanted to acquire it. I have to admit, I was in shock. By the end of the weekend, thanks to the help of a good friend, I had signed with that agent. Just one month later… My bio and picture are up on the East West Literary website. The editor that I mentioned is considering three of my manuscripts. And I am still pinching myself.

I will tell you that this was not an overnight success. I have attended many conferences and taken copious notes. I have revised, cut, and revised some more. I have also had moments where I was so rejected that I thought I would never put myself through another critique again. So what’s the moral of the story? Never give up. Never let pity or self-doubt get the upper hand. Believe with all your heart that your day will come. Then get off your butt and get to that conference. Your happily ever after is waiting for you to show up!

Peggy Robbins Janousky uses her offbeat sense of humor to write offbeat picture books. When she is not writing, Peggy uses her time to rescue stray animals. Much to her family’s dismay, she keeps them all.

kristenfultonAnd thanks to Kristen Fulton for adding this summary of Andrea Pinkney’s workshop: The Write Stuff.

  • Writers write every day, whether it be a holiday or vacation.
  • Find your “twinkle”—what makes you sparkle around others?
  • Establish immediacy—using voice, characterization, mystery and drama.
  • Ask yourself, “Why does the reader want to come on this journey and what makes the reader stay on this journey?”
  • Writing is fun—and hard work.
  • Writing is re-writing at least 10 times.
  • Just get started and keep going.
  • Read every day, whether it be a holiday or vacation.

Kristen Fulton writes non-fiction picture books and is running an amazing non-fiction picture book retreat with loads of agents, editors, and authors on July 7-12. Check out her website for details!

miraagentby guest blogger Dr. Mira Reisberg

You’ve been pounding the keys for months or years, you’ve finally finished your manuscript and you’re ready to submit. You go to a publisher and they are only accepting agented submissions. You go to some agents and they are closed to submissions. You start pulling out the hair now that you didn’t pull out while writing your manuscript in utter frustration!! I want to explain a little about how this came to pass and what you can do about it.

A Little Publishing History
Back when I first started working in this industry, in the good old days of early 1988, first as an illustrator and then as just about everything else, it was a very different world. There were many publishing houses with many editors and art directors and many smaller independent publishers as well. It was fascinating to visit and editors had assistants and support staff that are rarely found these days. Publishing was wide-open and thriving.

But then over time, the corporatization of America started taking hold and larger publishing houses started buying smaller publishers, becoming larger corporations. Using economies of scale, they needed fewer editors, fewer art directors, and fewer assistants. Things started automating more with newer technologies stretching editors and ADs to do more. Many editors, ADs, and their assistants were let go, increasing the workload tremendously for those who remained or those who were newly hired. Big corporations started taking over or merging with other big companies increasing this economy of scale.


Enter September 11th and the Anthrax Scare
Following the 2001 September 11th attacks, there were numerous anthrax scares, as one NBC employee tested positive and a New York Times reporter received a suspicious envelope with white powder. An increase in submissions, partly enabled by changes in attitudes to self-expression, creativity, and access to education—plus access to improved writing technologies, fewer resources of staff to deal with the increase, combined with the anthrax scare—caused many New York children’s book publishers to close their doors to submissions and only accept new submissions from agents.

Then came Amazon with its deep discounts and the recession killing off more independent publishers, further narrowing the field. Fortunately, many smaller publishers did keep their doors open to what’s known as unsolicited submissions and quite a few wonderful independent publishers like Chronicle Books and Lee and Low remain.

Today there are 5 major publishers as well as a bunch of independent or semi-independent publishers. This is not to say that the major pubs aren’t producing wonderful work or that big publishers = bad, or small publishers = good (though most smaller publishers do need extra support). That’s overly simplistic and there are truly wonderful people working at all houses and imprints, big and small making equally wonderful children’s books. I’m just talking about the narrowing of the field for submissions. Some of the major publishers’ imprints still accept unsolicited manuscripts, but for many publishers, due to the overwhelming number of submissions and reasons explained earlier, they prefer the system of having an agent act as a kind of quality screener and gatekeeper.


Now It’s the Agents’ Time to Be Overwhelmed
These days we have a big problem with supply and demand where there are many more writers than there are agents, editors, or publishing opportunities. Also, many writers don’t do the work of learning the skills and techniques of being a professional writer, honing their craft over time, taking courses and learning the specific requirements of contemporary publishing and their specific genre. They submit their work and overwhelm agents who then close their submissions except through conferences, referrals and special circumstances.

So Back to You. You Ask Yourself, “What Can I Do Now?”
We understand that this is frustrating. Here’s a little information about what you can do to get past these restrictions. One of the best ways to get access is by making personal connections with agents and editors at conferences or through courses. There is nothing like a personal connection in any aspect of life. But remember that editors and agents are mostly overworked and underpaid. They do this work because they love books and helping others. As society changes with events in the world, we have to change with it. The thing that doesn’t change is that first impressions make lasting impressions. If you meet an editor or agent make a great impression by being warm, helpful, kind, and positive. As the saying goes, “Your attitude determines your altitude.” Of course before you submit, make sure your work is wonderful, brilliant, original, professional and publishable. But this is a given. If you make meaningful connections, chances are they’ll want to help you if they can, and besides the possibility of publishing, you might just make a wonderful friend.

To learn more about Mira Reisberg and her agency, visit To learn about her upcoming writing course, visit

You know the Piña Colada song, right? Getting caught in the rain?

Well, imagine that song in a picture book for kids (without the dunes of the cape, of course). Two besties have great times together, but they get stuck in a rut and go off to seek other adventures…only to rediscover each other.

ollieandclaireThat’s the premise of Tiffany Strelitz Haber‘s charming OLLIE AND CLAIRE. The light and cheery watercolors by Matthew Cordell feature sketchy lines that suggest fun and frolic. A delight to read aloud, your voice just skips along like the two friends do. Tiffany’s a master of rhyme and one of the two ladies behind The Meter Maids.

Besides having two successful picture books to her credit (the other is THE MONSTER WHO LOST HIS MEAN), Tiffany has branched out into ebooks. She recently released HUNGRY HARRY with StoryPanda and MORE CHEESE, PLEASE with KiteReaders. I interviewed her to find out about the ebook process and this emerging opportunity for children’s book writers.

Tiffany, what attracted you to ebooks?

To me, ebooks are just another way for kids to experience reading. In some cases there are interactive aspects to the ebook that can really help them learn, and in other cases it might just be a nice opportunity for a more reluctant reader to enjoy stories and story time in general.


morecheesepleaseDid you write HARRY and CHEESE specifically for an ebook format, or were these traditional picture book manuscripts first?

I have this sort of arsenal of completed picture books. Some have been subbed out widely. Others to just a couple places, and others have never actually seen the light of day! I picked two stories that I liked a lot and just rolled with those. Not sure CHEESE was ever subbed out anywhere and HARRY went to one place, actually got to editorial, but didn’t make it through. Wait. Does that even answer your question? Kind of, right?!

How did you go about researching ebook publishers and in what format did you submit?

Oh, I googled the bejesus out of ebook publishers and chose to submit to ones that I felt the most comfortable with. There’s a lot of communication available with the actual publishers and marketing directors etc., so you can really get a feel for who you would be working with before you actually work with them.

I hired illustrators (after exhaustive searches on freelance websites) and submitted completed manuscripts (text and art) to the ebook publishers. The illustrators I chose were those willing to accept a flat fee for the work, and OK with the fact that I would retain the rights to the images as well. Hopefully it is some good publicity for them, and also additional work to add to their portfolio when searching for agents, etc. There are so many wonderful artists out there!


How was the ebook editorial process different from a traditional picture book process?

Um…it’s different in that it’s ALL YOU. Period.

Care to expand upon that?

It’s basically self-publishing your picture book online. You need to edit it, and make all the art decisions, and check the spelling and punctuation, etc. There isn’t an editor or an art director to do that with you—although with HARRY I did work with someone at StoryPanda to create the interactive elements of the story.

The sounds all the crazy stuff HARRY eats sure are fun!

What recommendations and cautions do you have for other picture book writers about delving into the world of ebooks?

I think it’s too soon for me to make any cautionary statements OR recommendations about ebooks yet. It’s something I am experimenting with, and really enjoying so far…but definitely too soon to say much more than that!

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How have you gone about marketing your ebooks?

Well, again—this is all very new to me, but I’ve started sending them out for reviews and of course there’s social media. And on a larger scale, I am trying to work with schools to get the books on their computers, etc. Definitely a very entrepreneurial endeavor; but I think if you’re up for the challenge, it’s also lots of fun with somewhat limitless possibilities!

So you’ve now published two traditional picture books and two ebooks. What’s next for you?

Hmmm…I’m working on a middle grade novel right now, which is taking up most of my writing time—but still juggling a bunch of picture book works in “progress”, although I use the term “progress” loosely, as they seem to be at a dead stop for the time being!

Well, jump back into it because you’re a perfect rhymer and the world needs more great rhyming books!

Thanks for stopping by to let us in on the ebook process!

Blog readers, don’t go yet. Tiffany has a copy of HUNGRY HARRY and MORE CHEESE, PLEASE to give away. Just leave a comment below to enter the giveaway. Two winners will be chosen one week from today. Good luck!

I seriously debated posting this, since it’s a subject not often discussed. But heck, I’m known for my honestly, so let’s giddy-up…

How do authors handle being asked to donate individual book(s) to worthy causes? Honestly, they’re all worthy, but let’s shed some light on an aspect of publishing most people don’t realize: authors DO NOT get their books for free.


Oh yes, we receive author copies, but a very limited number which are for our own collection or have already been promised to family and close friends. My author copies for THE MONSTORE were gone the week they arrived. I don’t have any more. If I want my book, I have to buy it. This holds true for all authors. While we did write the book, the publisher edited it, printed it, warehoused it, marketed it and distributed it. And that costs money. Someone has to pay for it!

Authors do receive a discount off the retail price, but it’s not a staggering discount. And, the copies we order this way are recorded as “author copies” and don’t count toward our sales figures. And if you ask any author, if the Publishing Fairy could grant their most favoritest wish, it would be for higher sales figures.

So if we’re going to buy our own books, we tend to buy them like any  other consumer would—online or at a book store, wherever we might get the best price.

Now let’s circle back to donations. When someone asks an author to donate their book to a school fundraiser, church tricky-tray or Elk’s basket auction, it’s not free to that author. True, the author might ask their publisher to donate the book on their behalf if it’s a really well-known cause, but otherwise, a small, local organization’s fundraiser is not going to sway the publisher. So then the author must decide if they can spend about $15 to donate their book to the cause (the cost of a picture book, plus shipping, plus any SWAG).

washingtonmoneyImagine an author gets about five of these requests a month. That’s not an unreasonable number, especially if they have multiple books in print. If the author generously says “yes” to all requests, that’s $75 a month. Multiply by 12 months and it’s $900. That’s not an insignificant amount of money. In fact, that’s more than some book advances!

Now, if an author says “no” to a donation request, this does not make them a bad person who does not understand the worthiness of the cause. It simply means they cannot afford to do so. They cannot honor every request. While they probably *want* to donate to someone’s school or house of worship, they do have their own schools and houses of worship to support as well. So it’s more likely that they’ll donate to their local organizations than to a stranger’s cause.


Please know that the last thing authors want to do is hurt anyone’s feelings. Authors write books to make people feel good, to entertain, to bring smiles to faces. We love our readers. We don’t want to disappoint them. It’s difficult for us to say “no”. But sometimes our own wallets force the decision.

I haven’t been asked to donate much, so I’ve tried to oblige when I can. But the simple fact is that I have not logged any income as a writer this year, only expenses. Shocking? Not really. My first book was just released and I haven’t made a new book sale in 2013 yet—and even if I do, it’s so close to the end of the year, by the time the contracts are signed and a check is cut, it will probably be 2014. I’m not the only author spending this year in the red.

If you really LOVE an author’s work and want to share it with others, why not ask your local bookseller for a donation of that author’s book(s) instead? They may donate if they’re a neighbor who supports the same school, the same church, the same Rotary Club. They’ll receive advertising out of the donation and can probably expect locals to visit the store as a result, especially if they include a coupon or gift card to redeem. And if they unfortunately say “no”, it probably means they can’t afford to do so, either. (See comment thread about why I don’t mention “advertising” for authors. Good points made on both sides.)

But it never hurts to ask, right? We can all ask, but we can also understand the reasons behind the answer.

Do you have any thoughts on this? It’s a subject that ‘s tricky to discuss…

“With over 3 million books being published every year, competition in the marketplace is enormously stiff. In fact, over 78% of all published books fail, and the average book, today, sells just 250 copies.”

Ouch! A sobering fact from book promotion guru Patricia Fry.

What’s an author to do?

You’ve got to be a book promotion machine.


But you’re not a machine, are you? No, you’re an author.

So that’s why I invited Patricia here today. After reading her book TALK UP YOUR BOOK, I realized even though I’m doing a lot to promote my book, I could be doing more. I SHOULD be doing more.

talkupyourbookPatricia, that 78% statistic is scary. Can you tell us what you mean by “fail”, and is there a difference in these stats between traditionally published and self-published titles?

By “fail,” they mean the books sell fewer than 100 copies. There are no statistics that I know of that indicates how many self-published authors versus traditionally published authors “fail.” However, I can tell you that around 78 percent of all books published today are produced by pay-to-publish “self-publishing” companies.

Why are so many books failing in the marketplace? Because most new authors neglect to study the publishing industry before getting involved. They don’t know the importance of writing the right book for the right audience and they don’t understand that it is up to the author to promote the book. Many new authors who do take the initiative and time to learn something about book promotion, find themselves in over their heads once they are faced with the huge responsibilities involved with marketing their books. They don’t realize how much time, energy and effort it takes. They become overwhelmed and disillusioned and they either never start a marketing program or they quit before they’ve gone very far with it.

Competition is another reason why some books fail in the marketplace. There are more books than ever before and statistics show there are actually fewer readers. But even in the face of competition, there are some books that do much better than others and the key is always–write a book that is needed/wanted by a segment of people, know who your audience is and write for that audience, have your book edited by a good book editor and, when it comes time to promote that book, it is vital that you know how to promote to your particular audience. No one will buy a book they don’t know about. It is up to the author to reach his/her audience. Something else authors often lose sight of is that once they stop promoting their book, it will die.

OK, so about 22% of all books are with traditional houses. Traditional houses will promote your book (right?), but the author still needs to do as much as they can. What do you say to the authors who think they can just sit back and watch sales roll in? And what do you say to those authors who complain, “But I’m not a natural promoter. I’m an introverted writer!”

I don’t know much about the statistics. That isn’t my strength. But I can tell you that in today’s publishing climate, all authors MUST be prepared to and expect to do the majority of the promoting and marketing for their books. There are hundreds of traditional publishers and they each have different ways of working with authors, but most are more interested in the author’s platform and what the author can and will do to spread the word about their books than almost anything else. Most of them want to work with authors who have a following, a reach—a ready-made audience for promoting their particular book and an understanding of book promotion.

By way of promotion from the publisher’s side—generally, a publisher will put the book in their catalog and on their website. They might send out press releases to their list of reviewers, newspapers, etc. They may give an author 3 months with an on-staff publicist. But, yes, the author is expected to be the main marketing agent for his/her book.

What do I say to authors who do not want to promote? I would hope to talk to them before they ever write that book. I would ask them to study the publishing industry and to learn what is expected of them—what their responsibilities are as a published author. I would urge them to learn what book promotion entails—to gain an understanding of this huge responsibility before ever deciding to write a book for publication. If they don’t want to do the promotion, they should seriously reconsider producing a book.

For those who have already written and published a book, I would recommend that they engage in the same study asap. There are hundreds of ways to promote a book. An author can find his/her level of expertise and comfort among them. They can pick and choose—but they must be realistic about what it’s going to take in order to reach their particular audience.

This means, they must know who their audience is, write the book with that audience in mind, know where their readers are and how to approach them. They must understand that it’s all about exposure. No one will buy a book that they don’t know about. Someone (in this publishing climate it is the author) must get word out to their particular audience.

With so many avenues of promotion available now, it can be overwhelming. And so part of an author’s job is to become familiar with those avenues and determine which ones are best for their book. There is usually no one or two activities that will help an author reach his or her audience. Authors must use a variety of activities, skills, methods, mediums toward getting exposure—getting their books noticed by their readers. And those methods, skills, etc. may differ from author to author and book to book.

Is there any particular promotional tool or event that is easiest for a new author to jump into? Is there anything you recommend doing first and foremost?

promoteyourbookFirst and foremost, the author must know who his audience is and where they are—what do they read, where do they hang out—on the Internet, around town, throughout the universe? Where do they go for the sort of information you provide in your book or for entertaining reading material? Then the author must find ways to reach his or her readers through these means.

Remembering that it is all about exposure, as an author, you must make sure your book is front and center where your readers are. This might mean having it for sale at specific specialty shops related to the theme or topic of your book. It might mean announcing your book in appropriate newsletters (members of organizations can usually place announcements in organization newsletters, for example), having it reviewed at appropriate blog sites and so forth. So the primary promotional activities might differ from author to author, depending on the genre and theme of the book and the nature and needs of the audience.

However, as for the basics for most authors, I would recommend building a website related to the genre/theme of your book. I can’t tell you how many authors miss out on opportunities because they don’t have a website that can be easily located and accessed. They rely on their publisher—even their self-publishing company—to get word out about their book through the company website. Bad idea!! If someone is looking for a good mystery involving horses, a handbook for beginning surfers, a guide to gardening in the northwest or a children’s book on hygiene, for example, and this is the nature of your book, you want them to find you first. A website is a good place to start making this happen.

The second thing you need to do is to advertise that website. Put it in your email signature, on your promo material, in your bio at the bottom of your articles, and so forth.

A good place to start introducing just about any book is locally. I urge authors to speak locally, reserve booths at local flea markets and book festivals, offer it as an auction item for charity and visit independent bookstores and appropriate specialty stores and other venues where you can sell the book. You’ll get an idea of the reader interest in your book. You’ll learn tips and techniques that will help you with future promotion. You’ll learn whether or not it would be a good idea for you to travel and speak about your book and whether to sign up at larger book festivals, for example. In other words, you can test your market locally without much expense.

This is a good starting place for many authors. There are hundreds and hundreds of additional promotional tools and ideas–I have over 250 in my book, PROMOTE YOUR BOOK. John Kremer lists 1001 in one of his early books on book marketing.

Thank you, Patricia! I think we’ve got a lot to think about and a lot to do! I can’t thank you enough for your wisdom and your terrific books.

patriciafryConsidered “a maven when it comes to counseling authors in the art of publishing and selling their books” and “one of the most well-known writing gurus,” Patricia Fry has been working with other freelance writers and authors for over two decades. Currently, she has 39 books to her credit, representing an eclectic mix of subjects including several writing/publishing-related books. She is a literary and manuscript consultant, an editor and a teacher. She can help you write a book with more publishing potential, professionally edit your book manuscript, guide you in preparing a more effective book proposal and coach you in more successfully promoting your book. You can find promotional tips and free ebooks at

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