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Author and Storyteller Dianne de Las Casas YouTube Canvaby Dianne de Las Casas

Recently, I taught a picture book workshop to my local SCBWI chapter. One of the exercises I had workshop participants do was to create jacket flap copy (JFC). Normally, the marketing and sales department of your publisher handles writing that short blurb that describes your picture book. So why bother? Here are three compelling reasons why writing jacket flap copy can make you a better author.

1. Know Your Content
Have you ever heard of the elevator pitch? It’s that 30 second “commercial” that allows you to describe your product or service in a concise manner. JFC is exactly that. When people pick up your book, they open it up and read the JFC. That brief description will let them know if the content of the book appeals to them.

Writing your jacket flap copy, even as an exercise, will allow you to truly know the content of your picture book and be able to pitch it to anyone, anywhere, at any time.

2. Know Your Hook
A hook is a literary technique in the opening of a story that “hooks” the reader’s attention so that he/she will keep reading. Ideally, the hook will happen within the first sentence or two of the picture book. Do you know the hook of your story?

Your hook will also translate into copy on the jacket flap. Your JFC should hook readers into reading and/or purchasing the book.

3. Know Your Audience
We obviously know that picture books are aimed for 3 to 8-year-olds. However, the reality is that picture books can appeal to a wide audience. Do you know the audience for your picture book? Are you targeting 1 to 2-year-olds, as with a board book? Or are you targeting 8 to 9-year-olds as with a folktale retelling? Perhaps you are targeting boys with a sports or transportation picture book. Whatever your audience, you need to know whom you’re targeting with your story. Writing jacket flap copy can help you target your audience.

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Here is some homework. Pick up any picture book. Read the jacket flap copy. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Does the JFC reveal the content of the book?
  • Does the JFC reveal a hook of the story?
  • Does the JFC specify the target audience?

What else do you notice about the JFC? Practice writing jacket flap copy for your next picture book project. Develop an “elevator speech” so that you can describe your picture book whenever, wherever.

Writing JFC will help you improve yourself not only has an author but as a bookseller. Ultimately, I think all authors are booksellers. After all who knows a book better than its author? So write that JFC with TLC and then treat yourself to KFC. ☺


PrintDianne de Las Casas is an award-winning author, storyteller, and founder of Picture Book Month. Her performances, dubbed “revved-up storytelling,” are full of energetic audience participation. The author of 25 books, Dianne was named the first International Reading Association LEADER Poet Laureate. Her children’s titles include The Cajun Cornbread Boy, There’s a Dragon in the Library, The Little “Read” Hen, The House That Santa Built, and Cinderellaphant. She is the Fairy Organizer of Once Upon a Storage and has a YouTube channel dedicated to home organization, home décor, and DIY. Dianne is also the proud mom of 15-year-old Kid Chef Eliana, an award-winning cookbook author, radio show host, and celebrity chef.

Visit Dianne’s website at diannedelascasas.com. Visit Picture Book Month at PictureBookMonth.com. Twitter & Instagram: @AuthorDianneDLC. Facebook: fanofdianne.

PrizeDetails (2)

housesantaDianne is generously giving away a copy of THE HOUSE THAT SANTA BUILT! Perfect for the upcoming holiday season!

Leave a comment below to enter. One comment per person, please.

This prize will be given away at the conclusion of PiBoIdMo. You will be eligible for this prize if:

  • You have registered for PiBoIdMo.
  • You have commented ONCE ONLY on today’s post.
  • You have completed the PiBoIdMo challenge.

Good luck, everyone!

Kid Chef Eliana and Mom Dianne de Las Casas July 2014by Dianne de Las Casas

I am the founder of Picture Book Month and it starts tomorrow, November 1. The website, PictureBookMonth.com, features essays from thought leaders in the children’s literature community. Each day in November, a new essay is posted. This year’s Picture Book Month Champions are: Chris Barton, Aaron Becker, Kelly Bingham , Sophie Blackall, Arree Chung, Anna Dewdney, Johnette Downing, Ame Dyckman, Jill Esbaum, Carolyn Flores, Lupe Ruiz-Flores, Robin Preiss Glasser, Deborah Heiligman, Marla Frazee, Stefan Jolet, Kathleen Krull, Rene Colato Lainez, Loreen Leedy, Betsy Lewin, Ted Lewin, Brian Lies, Kelly J. Light, Debbie Ridpath Ohi, Alexis O’Neill, Sandra Markle, Ann Whitford Paul, Aaron Reynolds, Judy Schachner, Linda Joy Singleton, and David Schwartz. Please join the celebration!

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As you prepare for PiBoIdMo, think about the titles of your picture books. In a recent interview for California Kids! magazine, Patricia Newman asked me, “How do you come up with titles for your books?” This started me thinking in depth about picture book titles. What’s in a title? How important is a title to a book? Can a book be centered around its title?

As it turns out, titles are vital to a book’s success. Author Scott Westerfield says, “Titles name a book, and names are important. A good name can make or break you.”

Brandi Reissenweber of Gotham Writers “Ask the Writer” column says, “A title is a story’s first impression. People make a first impression with appearance, wardrobe, and body language. Stories do it with a title.”

Eric Ode says, “Dan, the Taxi Man began as nothing more than a title. And one of the books I have coming out next year began as a title.”

PiBoIdMo founder and picture book author Tara Lazar says, “Most of my books begin as titles. It’s just the way my mind works. I want a BAM! concept, something that really hits you, and I find that people get HIT best with a succinct, powerful title.”

Corey Rosen Schwartz says, “I have written several books around titles! Like Tara [Lazar], most of my books begin that way. Goldi Rocks and the Three Bears, for example, was just a title on my PiBoIdMo 2009 list.”

 

Character-Based Titles

Many picture books have character-driven titles. The character of the book IS the title. Do you have a book character that is so compelling that the character’s name should be the book’s title? Here are some examples:

  • Olivia by Ian Falconer
  • Splat the Cat by Rob Scotton
  • Flat Stanley by Jeff Brown
  • Amelia Bedelia by Peggy Parish
  • Biscuit by Alyssa Satin Capucilli
  • Fancy Nancy by Jane O’Connor

Robin Preiss Glasser book cover

 

Clever, Punny Titles

I am a big fan of clever, punny titles. In fact, several of my books have punny titles. Here are some examples that are just too clever for words… almost.

  • Crankenstein by Samantha Berger
  • The Monstore by Tara Lazar
  • Little Red Hot by Eric Kimmel
  • Pinkalicious by Victoria Kann
  • Epossumondas by Colleen Salley

Crankenstein

 

Verbose Titles

I am generally a fan of the “less is more” title for a book but sometimes, a garrulous title is EXACTLY what the book calls for. Can you imagine these books with a short title?

  • Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst
  • Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus by Mo Willems
  • How Do Dinosaurs Say I Love You? by Jane Yolen
  • There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly by Simms Taback (a folktale retelling)
  • The Fantastic Flying Books of Morris Lessmore by William Joyce

ALEXANDER_TERRIBLE_HORRIBLE

 

Plot-Based Titles

Some titles beckon you to open the book. These titles are based around the book’s plot. Yes, as short as a picture book is, it can still have a plot. In fact, these picture book plots were so inspiring that they were turned into Hollywood blockbuster movies!

  • Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs by Judi Barrett
  • A Night at the Museum by Milan Trenc
  • The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf
  • We’re Back! A Dinosaur’s Story by Hudson Talbott
  • Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak

 Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs

 

Single-Word Titles

A picture book title can also be short and succinct, even one-word. These acclaimed picture books prove that a word is worth a thousand pictures.

  • Green by Laura Vaccaro Seeger
  • Blackout by John Rocco
  • Ninja! by Arree Chung
  • Carnivores by Aaron Reynolds
  • Hug by Jez Alborough

Arree Chung cover

Aaron Zenz says, “Hiccupotamus started with the title. I really wouldn’t have had any desire to write a book about a bunch of jungle animals chasing around a disruptive hippo if not for the title. In my mind, the pun ‘Hiccupotamus’ is the most important thing about that particular book.”

As you create and engage your imagination this month, think about your picture book’s title. In what way can an engaging title enhance your picture book? How can you use the title to attract readers? Perhaps you can be the Author with the Terrific, Tremendous, Oh-So-Grand, Very Remarkable Title.

As you celebrate PiBoIdMo and Picture Book Month, read LOTS of picture books. Comment below and share with us your favorite picture book titles and why you think they are so splendiferous. Here’s to Picture Books! Read * Share * Celebrate!

guestbloggerbio2014

Dianne de Las Casas is an award-winning author, storyteller, and founder of Picture Book Month. Her performances, dubbed “revved-up storytelling” are full of energetic audience participation. The author of 24 books, Dianne is the International Reading Association LEADER 2014 Poet Laureate, and the 2014 recipient of the Ann Martin Book Mark award. Her children’s titles include The Cajun Cornbread Boy, There’s a Dragon in the Library, The Little “Read” Hen, The House That Santa Built, and Cinderellaphant. Visit her website at diannedelascasas.com. Visit Picture Book Month at PictureBookMonth.com. Twitter & Instagram: @AuthorDianneDLC Picture Book Month Twitter: @PictureBkMonth Facebook: fanofdianne and PictureBookMonth. Dianne is the proud mom of 14-year-old culinary celebrity, Kid Chef Eliana.

Dianne de Las Casas with her picture books 303 X 227by Dianne de Las Casas

I am very honored that Tara asked me to do a post for Pre-PiBoIdMo. I am the founder of Picture Book Month and it starts tomorrow, November 1. The website, PictureBookMonth.com, features essays from thought leaders in the children’s literature community. Each day in November, a new essay is posted. This year’s Picture Book Month Champions are: David Adler, Dianna Aston, Rick Anderson, Larry Dane Brimner, Julie Danielson, Carmen Agra Deedy, Tomie dePaola, Emma Walton Hamilton, Rebecca Emberly, Sue Fliess, Zarah Gagatiga, Candace Fleming, Lee Harper, Jannie Ho, Steve Jenkins, Daniel Kirk, Jesse Klausmeier, Mercer Mayer, Bobbi Miller, Wendell Minor, Hazel G. Mitchell, Jerry Pinkney, Robert Quackenbush, April Pulley Sayre, Rob Scotton, Laura Vaccaro Seeger, Michael Shoulders, Wendi Silvano, Heidi Stemple, and Rosemary Wells. Please join the celebration!

This post appears the day before PiBoIdMo starts, reminding me of end papers in a book. When most people open a picture book, they rush straight to the story, not realizing that there is so much more that might be happening just before the story begins…

I’ve always been in love with end papers. So many authors and illustrators make such clever use of them! The first thing I do when I get a new picture book is examine the end papers. For me, well-crafted end papers denote a love and attention to detail by the author, the illustrator, and the publisher. It’s a part of the book that is lost in digital translation. End papers can demonstrate how expertly a print picture book is crafted, from beginning to end. They can be bold and fun or subtle and quiet.

Dan Santat (a 2013 Picture Book Month Champion) makes such smart use of the end papers in CARNIVORES, written by Aaron Reynolds (a 2014 Picture Book Month Champion). The book is a funny story about the perils of being at the top of the food chain. Without giving away much, the brilliant end papers begin and end the story with humor.

Carnivores end papers

My very first picture book, THE CAJUN CORNBREAD BOY, which debuted in 2009, had plain white end papers. It was my first picture book and I didn’t want to ask my publisher for too much. I now have twelve picture books and eleven of them have illustrated end papers. I advocated for end papers in my picture books even though I was not the illustrator. The end papers in a book are valuable real estate. They can help begin and end the story.

In my book, THERE’S A DRAGON IN THE LIBRARY, illustrated by Marita Gentry, the second set of end papers actually closes the story. Max is a little boy who discovers a dragon in the library. (Spoiler alert!) In the end, the dragon ends up eating all of the books and the library too. Max tames the dragon, teaches the dragon book care, and the dragon ends up building a brand new library. I live in New Orleans and Katrina was our “dragon.” We had to rebuild many libraries here and this end paper was symbolic and meaningful to me.

There's a Dragon in the Library end papers

My picture book, THE LITTLE “READ” HEN, illustrated by Holly Stone-Barker, has end papers that illustrate important points in the story. The tale, a remix of “The Little Red Hen” teaches kids all the steps of writing: brainstorm, research, outline, draft, edit, and proof. Holly found a fun way to highlight those steps in the end papers on the Little “Read” Hen’s eggs.

The Little Read Hen end papers

The end papers in Oh, No! written by Candace Fleming (2013 Picture Book Month Champion) and illustrated by Eric Rohmann are so ingenious, I can’t stand it! The jacket flap actually merges into the end papers, creating a seamless illustration. WOW!

Oh No! end papers

If you are the author and have an idea for the end papers for your story, don’t be afraid to convey them to your publisher or illustrator. Fully illustrated end papers can add such a depth to a picture book and can provide even more real estate for the author and illustrator to tell the story or highlight important elements in a story. Here are some great examples of end papers in recent picture books in no particular order:

  • RETURN OF THE LIBRARY DRAGON by Carmen Agra Deedy and illustrated by Michael P. White
  • THE FANTASTIC FLYING BOOKS OF MR. MORRIS LESSMORE by William Joyce
  • SPOON by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and illustrated by Scott Magoon
  • CRAFTY CHLOE by Kelly DiPucchio and illustrated by Heather Ross
  • WUMBERS by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld
  • MR. TIGER GOES WILD by Peter Brown

So the next time you open a picture book, look at the end papers. In what ways could you use end papers to visually enhance your picture book? How can you use the beginning and the end to improve the overall design of your picture book?

As you celebrate PiBoIdMo and Picture Book Month, read LOTS of picture books. Comment below and share with us your favorite end papers from picture books. Here’s to Picture Books! Read * Share * Celebrate!

guestbio

Dianne de Las Casas is an award-winning author, storyteller, and founder of Picture Book Month. Her performances, dubbed “revved-up storytelling” are full of energetic audience participation. The author of 22 books and the 2013 recipient of the Ann Martin Book Mark award, her children’s titles include The Cajun Cornbread Boy, There’s a Dragon in the Library, The House That Witchy Built, The Little “Read” Hen, and The House That Santa Built. Visit her website at diannedelascasas.com. Visit Picture Book Month at PictureBookMonth.com.

prizeinfo

housesantaDianne is generously offering a signed copy of THE HOUSE THAT SANTA BUILT to a lucky PiBoIdMo’er!

This prize will be given away at the conclusion of PiBoIdMo. You are eligible for this prize if:

  1. You have registered for PiBoIdMo.
  2. You have commented ONCE ONLY on today’s post.
  3. You have completed the PiBoIdMo challenge. (You will have to sign the PiBoIdMo Pledge at the end of the event.)

Good luck, everyone!

I can’t believe it’s already November! PiBoIdMo, 12X12 and Picture Book Month are all in full swing, proving that the venerable picture book has merit and value. It is because of because of you, writers and lovers of picture books, that we have reason to celebrate! So I begin this post with a thank you. Thank you for your passion and commitment to picture books.

Now on to the subject of my post. The Space Between. It sounds like some ethereal place that might exist in a Lois Lowry book but it is a very real place that exists, especially in picture books. Joe Wos, a friend who is a cartoonist and curator of the Toonseum in Pittsburgh, Pennsyvania, once taught me about “the space between” in comic strips. It’s that blank space that exists in between each comic box. What is so important about The Space Between are not the words before and after it, but the words and actions that are left unsaid.

I thought about it. As writers, we all rely on The Space Between without even realizing it. In novels, you’ll see two passages divided by a set of asterisks. The moment you see it, you know moments, actions, and words have passed, all shrouded in The Space Between. The writer leaves it up to you to decipher what happens between one scene and the next. The device is also used in movies. Movement from scene to scene relies on The Space Between to create a smooth transition.

So how does this fit into writing picture books? For picture book writers, The Space Between is the page turn. It is the breath or the pause between pages. It can be dramatic and full of suspense, ushering the next bit of action in the book. Eric Litwin’s New York Times best-selling book, Pete the Cat does this so brilliantly that listening audiences automatically chime in the answer when the page is turned.

The Space Between can also be subtle and gentle. In the nearly wordless picture book, Goodnight Gorilla by Peggy Rathman, the device is used ingeniously. The Space Betweeen becomes the thread that ties every scene together, creating a story so seamless, you don’t even notice what is not shown. On one page, the zookeeper’s wife wakes up. On the next page, she is on the lawn, walking the animals back to the zoo. What happens in between needs no explication.

The Space Between can also be intentional. Stories that are poems have a natural break between stanzas such as those in Dr. Seuss books. In the book, Z is for Moose by Kelly Bingham and illustrated by Paul O. Zelinsky, The Space Between is used to create deliberate tension. Moose vies for a spot in the alphabet and Zebra is the referee trying to corral Moose and keep him from ruining the procession of letters. At one point, Zebra says, “No! Now, move off the page.” The page turn reveals whether or not Moose moves and what his next antics might be.

The next time you are reading or writing a picture book, think about The Space Between. Think about the words and actions you commit to paper as well as the ones you don’t. Think about that pause, the breath that is the page turn. What does your “space between” say?

November is Picture Book Month!

Read * Share * Celebrate!

Dianne de Las Casas is an award-winning author, storyteller, and founder of Picture Book Month, who tours internationally presenting author visit/storytelling programs, educator/librarian training, and workshops. Her performances, dubbed “revved-up storytelling” are full of energetic audience participation. The author of twenty books, her children’s titles include The Cajun Cornbread Boy, Madame Poulet & Monsieur Roach, Mama’s Bayou, The Gigantic Sweet Potato, There’s a Dragon in the Library, The House That Witchy Built, Blue Frog: The Legend of Chocolate, Dinosaur Mardi Gras, Beware, Beware of the Big Bad Bear, and The Little “Read” Hen. Visit her website at diannedelascasas.com. Visit Picture Book Month at picturebookmonth.com.

by Dianne de Las Casas

Shhhh.

Now what did you hear when you read that word? Whose voice was it? Was it your mom’s voice? Was it your grandmother’s voice? Was it your own voice hushing your children? So much of our world operates in onomatopoeic sounds: the chirping of the morning birds, the beeping of the garbage truck, the roaring of a car engine, the screeching of the school bus as it comes to a stop…

As a professional storyteller, I actually become better at telling my stories by listening. It is through this simple auditory observation that I find inspiration for my tales. As a picture book author, I become better at writing by thinking of my story in terms of sound. How will this tale reverberate when it is read out loud?

The sound of a baby’s “Wah! Wah!” became a turning point in a recent story I revised. The sing-songy refrains that I have become known for in my books work better when they are released from the page through the read-aloud. In Denise Fleming’s picture book, In the Tall Tall Grass, you hear, “Crunch, munch. Caterpillars lunch.” The sounds become actions. The actions become story.

Watch little boys as they play with trucks and cars. They zoom and they vroom. Listen to preschoolers and kindergarteners make sound effects. Go the playground and take note. You’ll hear the clap clap clap of the girls’ hand games and the thump thump thump of a boys’ basketball game. Even the swingset makes a whooshing sound as the swings take flight.

Today, listen to the noise around you. Write down the sounds, even making them up if there is no known word for what you hear. The kerchink kerchink kerchink of the dryer could lead to a new picture book idea (but don’t you hate it when your family leaves stuff in their pockets?! LOL).

Even if you like to write in the quiet, today is the day to make some noise. Perhaps you will hum, echo, thud, crash, jingle, swish, or clatter your way into a new story.

Listen up. What do you hear?

Dianne is generously giving away a signed copy of Blue Frog: The Legend of Chocolate to a lucky commenter. A winner will be randomly selected one week from today!

Dianne de Las Casas is an award-winning author of 18 books, a professonal storyteller, and founder of the international literacy initiative, Picture Book Month. She tours worldwide presenting revved-up author visit/storytelling programs, lively educator/librarian training, fun workshops, and inspiring artist residencies. Her children’s books include The Cajun Cornbread Boy, Madame Poulet & Monsieur Roach, Mama’s Bayou, The Gigantic Sweet Potato, There’s a Dragon in the Library, The House That Witchy Built, and Blue Frog: The Legend of Chocolate. She is a founding member of November’s Picture Book Month. Visit her at www.storyconnection.net and follow all the storytelling fun on Twitter @storyconnection.

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Winner of the 2018 Irma S. Black Award and the SCBWI Crystal Kite!
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As a children's book author and mother of two, I'm pushing a stroller along the path to publication. I collect shiny doodads on the journey and share them here. You've found a kidlit treasure box.

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COMING SOON:


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Tundra/PRH Canada
June 4, 2019

THE UPPER CASE:
TROUBLE IN CAPITAL CITY
illus by Ross MacDonald
Disney*Hyperion
October 1, 2019

THREE WAYS TO TRAP A LEPRECHAUN
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HarperCollins
Spring 2020

THE WHIZBANG WORDBOOK
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Sourcebooks Jabberwocky
August 2020

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