Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Illustrating’ Category

ALL ABOUT PLATFORM BUILDING V2Our guest bloggers for the final ALL ABOUT PLATFORM BUILDING series are Sylvia Lui and Elaine Kiely Kearns. I’m proud to call these two smart, talented, and lovely women my friends and critique partners. In this post, they share what they learned from planting a seed of an idea and nurturing it into a successful platform. Thanks Sylvia and Elaine for sharing your experience and wisdom.

 Top Ten Signs That You’re Building a Successful Platform

By Sylvia Liu & Elaine Kiely Kearns

A year and a half ago, we created a kid lit resource website, www.Kidlit411.com. The idea was simple – a website where children’s writers and illustrators can learn about the world of kid lit – from writing and illustration tips, to finding an agent, to listings of conferences, classes, contests, and more. kidlit 411

We soon added weekly interviews with authors, illustrators, agents, and editors, a weekly update email, a Facebook page to connect with our community, and a manuscript swap group. Earlier this year, we were named by Writer’s Digest as one of The 101 Best Websites for Writers, as well as one of The 100 Best Websites for Writers in 2015 (The Write Life) and The Top 50 Writing Blogs for 2015 (Positive Writer).

A side effect of Kidlit411 was that we created a nice platform for ourselves as children’s authors and illustrators. (What exactly is a platform? Jane Friedman defines platform as having visibility, authority, and a proven reach to a given audience). We didn’t set out to do so, but we learned the following about building a successful platform:

  1. You grow naturally and organically.

No, we are not talking about free-range chickens. We have found that platform building is an organic and slow process. When you do something you love and share your passion, like-minded people will find and join you. Instead of having a grand plan, you let things evolve over time.

  1. You’re filling a need.

A great way to build a platform is to identify a need for something (a service, a community, a challenge) and meet it. For Kidlit411, I (Elaine) found myself gathering links to good articles and resources on writing for children. I (Sylvia) joined her, designing a site and adding my illustration perspective. We now have a convenient, organized, and curated site for all things kid lit. Other excellent resources are available, but many require a membership fee, such as the Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI).

  1. You’re building a community.

Our Facebook page is a great way to connect with old and new online friends in the kid lit community. Through the group, we are able to keep people up to date on our new postings. Better yet, our group has become a place for people to ask questions, share tips, and connect with one another.

  1. You’re not doing it alone.

Having two of us work on the site, with the help of many others who send us links, makes the task easier. We can back each other up when other life and work obligations come up and two minds are generally better than one.

  1. You’re thinking outside the box.

You do something new that excites people, or you do something that’s been done, but with a new twist.

About seven years ago, the kid lit world was a lot less connected. NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) had piboidmo2014started in 1999, but it wasn’t until 2008 when Tara Lazar created PiBoIdMo (Picture Book Idea Month) and Paula Yoo started NaPiBoWriWee (National Picture Book Writing Week) that the picture book community found a way to connect and encourage each other to develop ideas and write picture books. What a great idea – spur people to create stories, while providing prizes and expert advice.

Other successful platforms also harness individuals’ creative impulses while creating a community. Tania McCarthy’s 52-week illustration challenge (an illustration a week) and Jake Parker’s Inktober challenge (31 drawings in 31 days) are illustration challenges that have grown tremendously.

Other kid lit people also thought outside of the box to create great platforms. Katie Davis has been the mastermind of over 200 Brain Burps podcasts over the past five and a half years. 12-x-12-new-bannerJulie Hedlund leads the enormously successful 12×12 picture book challenge (write 12 picture book manuscripts in a year).

When we started Kidlit411, we didn’t re-invent the wheel. But we like to think we provide a visually appealing and user-friendly wheel.

  1. You are building on your areas of strength and expertise.

Part of building a platform is knowing yourself. Are you a people person who loves to socialize? Do you love information and technology? Are you an artist at heart? All of these characteristics will steer you naturally to the platform that best suits you. We figured out that we both enjoy seeking, organizing, and sharing information. We are curious about the career paths of other creative people, which led us to our weekly interviews of authors and illustrators.

  1. Your project is self-sustaining without enormous amounts of work.

If you find yourself spending more time working on your platform than doing your creative work then you are not using your time wisely. For Kidlit411, we read and keep up with kid lit, so adding the links to our website does not take much additional time. Our weekly interviews involve finding people, asking questions, and formatting their answers, also not time consuming.

If you do find that your platform has grown beyond your individual capabilities, you hire or outsource your work. For example, NaNoWriMo is now a professionally run nonprofit organization. 

  1. Your project has grown beyond your initial expectations.

The great thing about many successful platforms is that most times, the creator didn’t expect or imagine what it would turn out to be. For example, an artist begins a personal creative challenge and invites a few friends, and before he or she knows it, it becomes a widespread challenge. 

  1. You’re not in it for yourself.

You didn’t build the platform just to sell your wares. You provide meaningful content, or a meaningful experience that attracts others to fill a need. We found that providing easy access to good information is an idea that sold itself. 

  1. You are having FUN.

Life is short. Don’t start or continue a platform-building project because someone said you had to. Only work on things that you enjoy and are having fun doing. If the side effect is that you are bringing other like-minded people along, all the better.

Sylvia New

SYLVIA LIU is a former environmental attorney turned writer-illustrator. Her debut picture book, A MORNING WITH GRANDPA (Lee & Low Books) is scheduled for publication Spring 2016. She lives in Virginia Beach with her husband and two daughters. She is inspired by aliens, cephalopods, bunnies, and pigs who want to fly.  Her portfolio: www.enjoyingplanetearth.com and blog: www.sylvialiuland.com

ELAINE KIELY KEARNS is currently chasing the dream as a published author. Armed with a master’s degree in Education Elaineand working from her home office, she spends her time creating picture book and middle grade stories. She lives in New York with her husband, two beautiful daughters and three furry babies. When she isn’t writing, she can be found doing yoga and eating chocolate but not usually at the same time. She is represented by Linda Epstein of the Jennifer Di Chiara Literary Agency in New York.

Following are the links to the other guest posts in the ALL ABOUT PLATFORM BUILDING series:

THE PUSH AND PULL OF PLATFORM by Heather Ayris Burnell

A CASE OF THE WHY NOTS: How I Built (and am still building) My Platform by Marcie Flinchum Atkins

IF YOU BUILD IT, WILL THEY COME? AND WHO WILL THEY BE? by Susanna Leonard Hill

JULIE HEDLUND BUSTS MYTHS ABOUT AUTHOR PLATFORMS

BREAKING THE FOURTH WALL: My Platform-Building Strategy by Miranda Paul

YOU ARE YOUR PLATFORM by TARA LAZAR

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

sub six series 2I am excited to announce the Sub Six Blog Series: ALL ABOUT SUBMISSIONS. We will launch the series tomorrow with guest blogger Sylvia Liu in a post titled CONTESTS AND OTHER SUBMISSION OPPORTUNITIES FOR BOTH WRITERS AND ILLUSTRATORS. Sylvia will be sharing a list of writing contests and illustration contest. Her list also includes opportunities to apply for grants, mentorships, scholarships and so on.

Each month, the Sub Six Series will feature a different guest blogger who will share his/her thoughts and knowledge on various subjects (see list below). Some months, we will be offering some bonus posts. January is a bonus month with three posts instead of one.

Our titles are not quite worked out, but I can give a basic idea of what will be happening in the coming months.

January is a busy month. I hope you will bear with my many posts. And I hope you will find them beneficial.

We start the month on January 4 with Sylvia Liu’s list of contest and submission opportunities for both writers and illustrators.

Polishing a manuscript before submission is crucial because you want to submit your BEST work. On January 6, I will post a list of things to look for when revising or polishing a manuscript. This post will link to my interview about revising manuscripts on Meg Miller’s  blog for the ReviMo challenge.

Improving your craft is another way to submit your best work. At the end of January, guest blogger Marcie Flinchum Atkins will be showing you how using mentor texts can improve your picture book writing. She will even be offering some worksheets that you can print out and use.

February will spotlight Marcie Flinchum Atkins and her tips for submission organization.

March brings Elaine Kiely Kearns. Her topic will be about things such as, how to choose an agent, knowing when to nudge, and so on.

In April, Yvonne Mes will be helping us learn how to submit without feeling like throwing up. Can you relate?

May is another bonus month. On May 4, Kristen Fulton will share her secrets for submitting nonfiction works. Then later in the month, we will feature Jan Godown Annino who will cover the topic What Critique Pals and I Know about Submissions.

In June, Vivian Kirkfield will be sharing what she has learned about submitting to niche publishers, and she might share one interesting way to get your foot in the door.

July – I will be covering queries and cover letters.

Sylvia Liu  will be returning in August to share her knowledge and experience with submitting as an author/illustrator.

September – December, we will be answering questions that writers have asked about submissions. The questions will be answered by a group of writers who are experienced in submitting to agents and editors.

The Sub Six support group submitted hundreds of manuscripts in 2013. I will be posting the actual numbers in February. I would like to invite anyone that is ready to start submitting to join us in 2014.

Read Full Post »

This is my final Doodle Day July prompt. Thanks to Alison Hertz for letting me have some fun sharing my ideas. This one is fun and easy. I often play this game with children, and they love it. All you have to do is have someone scribble on a piece of paper or close your eyes and do your own scribbles. Then look at the scribble from every direction to see what it inspires. In my following examples the original scribble is in red and my doodle is in black. My husband did some of the scribbles and I did some with my eyes closed. As you will see, I did not spend a lot of time on these doodles. I find scribble doodles to be an excellent way to let go of my inner judge and perfectionist. There is only rule for this prompt – keep it simple, fun and quick.

Happy doodling!

Image

Image

Image

Image

Image

Image

Image

Image

Image

Image

OTHER POSTS YOU MIGHT LIKE

Wishing in Color Doodle Prompt

Mandala-Doodle Samples

Including Art Notes in Picture Book Manuscripts

Interview with Kathryn Otoshi Part One and Part Two

The Social Network Monster that Ate the Author

When My Story Becomes Their Story

Read Full Post »

I am posting another doodle prompt for Alison Hertz’s Doodle Day July.

Today’s prompt is from a workshop I took many years ago. The workshop was based on the book “Praying in Color: Drawing a New Path to God” by Sybil MacBeth. I must admit that I have not read the book. I have chosen to title this doodle prompt “Wishing in Color” so that it fits all people regardless of their religious beliefs.

As with all doodling, this method is a way to quiet the body and still the mind. It is a simple process. All you have to do is focus on what you wish for and doodle. In the examples below, I mostly doodled with wishes for loved ones. The doodle with the word “home” was my wish for all our troops to return home unharmed. Some portions on the doodles examples have been covered because I didn’t want to publicize full names.

I hope this doodling process brings you the connection and peace that I found as I doodle-wished for my loved ones.

Image

Image

Image

Image

Image

OTHER POSTS YOU MIGHT FIND INTERESTING

Mandala-Doodle Samples

Including Art Notes in Picture Book Manuscripts

Twelve Methods for Coping with Rejection

Failing Your Way to Success

Read Full Post »

There are some weeks where it makes more sense to let other people do the blog writing.

I’ll start with Marcie Flinchum Atkins and her “We’re All in This Together” series. This month, the subject is motivation. Part One features stories and tips from Sue Heavenrich, Carol Munro, Vivian Kirkfield, and Marcie Flinchum Atkins. Part Two features the one and only ME. In this guest post, I offer ten common obstacles to staying motivated to write. I follow each one with suggestions for overcoming that obstacle.

Carol Munro continues the motivation theme in her guest post for Donna Martin’s “Writerly Wisdom” series. The title of the post is “Dealing with Deadlines.” Carol gives tips for keeping deadlines for both professional and personal writing commitments. These tips on meeting deadlines crossover to staying motivated to write.

Earlier this month, I mentioned Alison Kipnis Hertz and her “Doodle Day May” challenge. Today, I am excited to share that Alison will be continuing Doodle Day May in July. The challenge is to doodle every day in the month of July. Each day, Alison will post a doodling prompt, and all the doodlers in the group do their best to find time to doodle that day. The next day participants share doodles on the Doodle Day May Facebook page. This time around, Alison has asked for help coming up with prompts. I am happy to say that I will be contributing three prompts in July. At the end of this post, I have shared some of my favorite doodles from May. I tend to get carried away at times, so some drawings may seem like more than doodles. But the perfect thing about this group of doodlers is that there are no judgments, just lots of support and encouragement. This challenge was extra fun for me because my daughter and granddaughter did the challenge with me. Thanks to technology, we were able to share our doodles across the 900 miles that separate us. That reminds me, this challenge is open to all ages. It is the perfect thing for children who need something fun to do while out of school for the summer.

My last share of the day is Kristen Fulton’s “Nonfiction Picture Book Week” challenge. For one week, participants will be challenged to perfect, hone and produce great Non-Fiction Picture Books. This includes True Non-Fiction (Biographies and Historical events; How-To books and information or reference books); Faction (Facts presented in a fictitious way); and Historical Fiction (totally fictitious story based on real people, real events or real places). Kristen is offering some outstanding prizes to those who participate.

I posted this without sharing my doodles from Doodle Day May. If you would like to see them you can find them here.

Read Full Post »

I am happy to introduce today’s guest blogger, Steve Kemp. Steve is the publisher of my picture book “Butterfly Kisses for Grandma and Grandpa,” and he is my husband. Unlike me, “the author,” his impetus for Blue Whale Press was to build a company that published books – looking solely upon the opportunity to publish my book as any investor would.

After my interview with Kathryn Otoshi, some people commented that they had no idea how much was involved in independent publishing. Steve’s post sheds more light on the trials and tribulations of bringing a book to market as he sees them. His post appears below.

WHAT DOES IT TAKE TO BE A PUBLISHER?

by Steve Kemp, Publisher, Blue Whale Press LLC

Most writers want to be published. But how many actually want to become publishers?

When asked for my views on what constitutes the difference between “publishing” and “self-publishing,” my immediate reply was patterned after David Letterman’s Top Ten list: “You’ll know if you are a publisher when . . .”

  1. You focus on building a company, not a book. After all, your long-term intent is to publish more than one title. Because you are establishing a foundation, there is a lot to be done, including web construction (with perhaps a mechanism for payment); development of an automated database for inventory movement (and possibly financial accounting); compliance with local and federal laws (including incorporation and obtaining an employee identification number, or EIN); and things like “the name.” You put a lot of thought into “the name” because it needs to stand out and be unique, especially in today’s world of search engine optimization (SEO is something you later get to learn a lot about as you develop your corporate brand and market your books). While most of this sounds complicated and possibly even tedious, look at the bright side: You’ve gotten to create a really cool logo that is your very own and, when done, puts significant reality to the fact that you are “in business.”
  2. You focus on the money. That’s right, money matters. Every business needs to pay its investors back and then some. Making a return that is sufficient to return the initial investment and, with luck, reward you for your risk and effort is a necessary function to the process. If you didn’t know something about Excel for building business plans and QuickBooks for sales and shipment accounting, you will probably want to learn them. While many, many businesses have operated for centuries without these tools, few accountants in this age will appreciate you walking in the day before taxes are due with a shoebox full of receipts and a smile.
  3. You build solid relationships with those whom you depend upon for sales. Unless you plan to become a bookstore instead of a publisher, you focus heavily on third party distribution that can scale your sales (Blue Whale Press does this to the exclusion of all retail outlet and consumer sales, Amazon.com excepted). You start with inclusion into Bowker’s “Books in Print,” at which point you pony up the couple hundred dollars for a block of ISBN assignments (one title can minimally consume three ISBNs if it is printed on paper as well as the two common e-book formats). You do this early, as it requires time for your company’s name and books to become visible to buyers. Once done, and you have a vehicle in which to advertise your title(s) (e.g., a “tear sheet”), you start getting the major book distributors onboard. This is tough when you are new, but certainly not impossible. It is important that distributors know you are in it for the long haul, particularly when unsold copies come flowing back in (and they will at times).
  4. You learn how to negotiate intellectual property contracts. This is key: Unless the publisher is also the sole illustrator and author, rights and payments need to be clearly understood and fully agreed to in writing by all parties before production. It is best to obtain the services of an attorney versed in media and intellectual property rights for this. Clearly, a self-publisher using a vanity press (e.g., Brown, Tate) doesn’t get involved in this except to the extent that a contract is reached between the author and the publisher assigning rights and transferring consideration. Going this route carries certain advantages in that you are relieved the headaches of figuring out how to layout your books, print your books; store your books; ISBN procurement and assignment; and filing each edition with the Library of Congress, as well as updating all your marketing materials. However, you will pay for this service, and you are never fully relieved of the marketing responsibilities (more on that below).
  5. You learn how to negotiate and manage supply agreements, possibly with overseas printers. While print-on-demand presses (e.g., Book Surge, LuLu) can take care of the printing for you, this will eat into your profits immensely. As a rule of thumb, you need to be able to sell your books for fifty-five percent off the published list price (the “net price”) while remaining price competitive and making a profit. This generally requires volume production. Beyond the cost of goods sold (about $2.50 for the typical children’s picture book, depending upon the print run size), you’ll also need to tack on monthly storage and shipping (yes, you are the one who generally pays for shipping, and no, you probably don’t have the climate-controlled storage space necessary for something the size and weight of a Volkswagen Beetle). Furthermore, you’ll need to tack on web hosting, phone service with a fax (surprisingly, a very popular distributor still employs that method); and the litany of other expenses that come with running a business.
  6. You become knowledgeable in pre-press operations, including book layout, type selection, and production. If necessary, you spend several thousand dollars on this alone using the services of an outside contractor. It is vital that the printer get files of the right specification. Knowing how to layout a bound book using Adobe’s InDesign and studying Pantone chips for hours isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but you are thankful for the experience once you’ve acquired it.
  7. You focus the remaining fifty percent of your time on marketing and sales, recognizing that the six steps mentioned prior are already consuming one hundred percent of your time. To be fair, much of the upfront work is done while your author and illustrator continue to refine their product. However, the publisher must still be involved when continual revisions are sent back and forth to the suppliers you’ve contracted for both editing and proofreading. You insist upon a second and third set of eyes because people are all-too-often capable of overlooking their own mistakes. I recommend maintaining both an editor and a proofreader in your supply chain, as you will overpay for editing if only proofreading is needed. Moreover, you will also want these talents to review your marketing materials and website content, including helping you to master the ability of saying as much as possible in the minimalistic word count Google AdWords and others allow.
  8. You take every opportunity no matter how small to promote your titles by entering as many contests and submitting to as many reviews as you can, likely spending hundreds if not thousands of dollars in the process. As the old adage goes, “Fifty percent of my marketing budget is a waste. Unfortunately, I don’t know which fifty percent.” Initially, you burn through dollar bills or euros at a very high rate. But you need the exposure. Whether you do this, or a vanity press does it for you; it needs to be done. You can have the greatest title in the world, but it will be wasted if no one knows about it. Regardless of the cost, there is a lot to be said for that feeling you will get upon winning your first award or seeing your first review.
  9. You take nothing for granted, and you check everyone’s work down to the last detail. Quality is paramount because it reflects upon you and the company. After many excruciating reviews, a punctuation error was found in “Butterfly Kisses for Grandma and Grandpa” – while the galleys were sitting on the press! The reality is that most publishers would have let a couple of poorly formed ellipses go once the offset printers were inked to go. But not this one. A quick ten minute phone call at midnight with our wonderful overseas partner, who was fourteen hours distant in time zones, and a PowerPoint markup resolved the issue. A good read on how attention to detail makes a difference can be found in “Inside the Magic Kingdom” by Tom Connellan. While the book is nearly twenty years old, the principles inside it are just as relevant to running your business today as they were in 1996. I advise any new business owner and marketer to read it.
  10. You likely get to do some of your own writing from time to time, but it is restricted to marketing and promotion material because YOU run the business. Your job is to ensure the business’s sustainability, which during the first couple of years often means investing more of your personal savings instead of hosting the company’s sales meeting on some exotic island. You focus on improving operational efficiency so you can spend more time on promotion. For example, automate the sales and distribution processes as much as possible (web driven) so manual processes and bookkeeping aren’t all-consuming. Also, unless you want to play with bubble wrap in between daily trips to the post office, you outsource the packaging and shipping. Figure out what works – and as importantly, what doesn’t.

In addition to the above, I’d be remiss in not mentioning the vast amount of help that is available at guru.com. It is a tremendous resource when you need to find specialized talent and don’t know where to start (although a cautionary note is advised when it comes to website development, and you can find my personal comments on that at the Blue Whale Press design page.

Lastly, keep in mind that the world of publishing is evolving rapidly. According to the Association of American Publishers and BookStats, e-books comprised 20% of the trade in 2012. Much of this was attributed to adult fiction and early readers. So, where does this leave children’s picture books?

It is this publisher’s opinion that pad technology will evolve over the next couple of years to avail more durable and much lower-cost devices to younger audiences. You’ve likely seen how quickly children have adapted to the iPhone/iPod and its Android brethren as they play with mom and dad’s smartphones in the grocery store or restaurant. They instantly “get it.” As a result, this publisher fully expects to see Amazon, and possibly Hasbro or Mattel, introduce the e-reader to younger audiences over the next couple of years. When that happens, the production of children’s books will no longer be just about writing, artwork, and printing; it will be about content development (specifically animation), electronic distribution, and digital rights management. And, hopefully, some of these new operating and production costs will offset the constantly increasing costs of storage, distribution, and printing that makes publishing such a tough business to make money in to begin with. Because of this, Blue Whale Press has re-evaluated our business model going forward and has already decided to forego further paper printing. The impact on submissions is that we are now only looking at author/illustrators who can produce a compelling product within a new digital world that borders on application development.

I wish the best of luck to each of you. Whether you decide to become a publisher, self-publish using another publishing house, or are fortunate enough to land the contract of a lifetime, I hope you enjoy the journey.

SK

Steve Kemp

Publisher and Member Manager

Blue Whale Press LLC

Read Full Post »

Before I get started, I want to give a giant THANKS to Kathryn Otoshi for taking many hours out of her busy schedule to answer my questions and for sharing so much of herself with us in this interview. Today, I am happy to post Part 2 of my interview with Kathryn and even happier to first offer the bonus of Kathryn’s thoughts regarding THE TOP FIVE THINGS THAT MAKE A SUCCESSFUL INDEPENDENT PUBLISHED BOOK.

There are many definitions floating around for “Independent Publisher.” I tend to like the following: Jenkins Group, Inc., the organizers of the Independent Publisher Book Awards, define “independent” as 1) independently owned and operated; 2) operated by a foundation or university; or 3) long-time independents that became incorporated but operate autonomously and publish fewer than 50 titles a year.

Keep an eye out for future posts on independent publishing.

BONUS INTERVIEW QUESTION AND ANSWER

AKC: What are the top five things that you think make a successful independently published book?

KO:

  1. Write about a story or topic you feel strongly about — First and foremost there must be a real love and passion for the story you are writing about. I’ve always felt that the author must be absolutely fascinated with the story they are telling in order to be motivated to finish it. And also for the reader to be engaged with it as well! Another suggestion: do your research. Do your homework. If you want to connect with your readers, then start connecting with them before your book is published. Be willing to read a draft mock up to whoever your target audience is. I read to classrooms, teachers, booksellers, young kids, and parents to get their feedback on my children’s book. I found that experience invaluable. Then when your book is published, you will need to go out and do author visits. You must feel passionate about your story for you to be able to speak about it over and over, again and again and still keep it real.
  2. Strong production value — The saying ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’ doesn’t apply to children’s books! With thousands of books for a reader to choose from, having a strong production value with appropriate design does indeed matter. An elegant embossment or appropriately placed foil stamp on a jacket, for example, is never lost on your readers. They might not be able to vocalize about exactly why one book might feel ‘good’ over another, but they will instinctively know that the loving details are in there. Graphic design is key. Bringing on a professional graphic designer for your book to have a strong visual appeal is necessary. If you are independently publishing a book, how your book ‘reads’ across a room or how you package it becomes a deciding factor on if your book is picked up – or not.
  3. Have a business plan and budget — While it’s true, that most of us agree that writing and illustrating is a labor of love, publishing is a business. You must factor in all aspects when you publish a book. Be willing to take off your creative hat momentarily to look at how much it will cost to properly produce your book. And how much will it cost to properly support your book in the market so that it will have the best chance for success?  Editing, designing, distributing, printing, marketing and advertising all have a price tag attached. Other questions that involve your overall budget are: how much should you list the book for?  How many copies of the book should you print for the first run? Will you print 2,000 copies of this book? Or 10,000 copies? And if it’s a success, do you have enough buffer in your budget to be able to push the print button right away?
  4. Marketing strategy and distribution is key — Almost 1/3 of my overall budget is set aside for Marketing. Consider the review copies that need to be sent out. Budgets need to be set aside for contests and awards, for conferences, travel, promotional materials, fliers, postcards, bookmarks, ads, website updates and social media. The list goes on. Decide up front how much you want to set aside to promote your book so you know how much you’ll need to budget for. And although Distribution should probably be in its own category, I put it next to Marketing here for the purpose of consolidation. But in a nutshell, having the right distributor for your company to get you into the right channels can make all the difference in the world for the success of your book. I found John Kremer’s web site very helpful in obtaining an initial list of book distributors to start the researching process.
  5. Get involved — Go out there and get involved in your book community! Do readings, go to conferences, meet booksellers, join organizations, have coffee with other authors and illustrators. Listen to your peers speak at events. While writing is by its very nature, introverted, the other part of getting your book out there is you getting yourself out there. So move away from your desk, out of your room, through the door and into the world. In today’s book market, part of sharing your story is also about sharing a part of you.

MORE ABOUT KATHRYN AND WRITING ILLUSTRATING

AKC: How many awards have your collective works received?

KO: Collectively over 20, I’d say.

Teacher’s Choice Award, the E.B. White Read Aloud Honor, and the Flicker Tale Award.

AKC: Which came first, the desire to illustrate picture books or the desire to write?

KO: My desire to simply tell a story rises above my desire to illustrate or write a children’s picture book.  If I absolutely had to make a decision between the two though, I’d probably choose writing…but whew – it would be a very close call.

AKC: Out of all the books you have illustrated, do you have a favorite? How about those you have written?

KO: I suppose I had fun illustrating ONE the most. In general, I’m a representational illustrator. So for my book ONE, where all the blobs of color are symbolic, this was very unique style for me, but also the most freeing. Originally, One started as a story about differences – physical differences. I thought, “What if I created a story about children with totally different colored faces?” Instead of using white, black, brown skin tones, etc – I could use completely different colors like green, purple, blue and orange!  Gradually in my quest to make One as simple as a story possible and boiling it down to its core essence – I ended up making the children’s faces into splotches of colors instead. It was a risk because of the abstraction, but I think that by doing so, I got more leeway to touch upon complex themes and subject matters.

AKC: Where did you get the idea or inspiration for your books?

KO: Mostly from life. “What Emily Saw” is about a day of discovery through the eyes of a little girl. But it’s also based on my own childhood memories. There’s a page spread in there where there’s a hill that transforms into the back of a dinosaur. That’s what I used to imagine when I was growing up! That the hills were the backs of sleeping dinos!

AKC: What advice would you give to writers?

KO: I would say…keep it authentic. And being passionate about your story.  It needs to be meaningful to you if it’s going to mean something to someone else. Everything is key to making a children’s book work because everything is so honed down: the text, the illustrations all the way to the graphic design and production of the book. Even the size of the book and the style of the font have a big influence on the overall look and feel of the book. A children’s book is so limited in text, you have to ask yourself  – What  is each page saying? Is it leading toward my theme? The core ingredients to making a children’s book really solid is to ask yourself a lot of questions about what is working and what is not. Is it really saying what I want it to say in the least amount of words possible? Then before the book is released, it is crucial to read the story to children, parents, teachers, booksellers, librarians – the book lovers in general. They are your audience. Stories are meant to be shared, after all.

AKC: What advice would you give to illustrators?

Before starting the illustration, ask yourself the question: What am I trying to say here? And then ask yourself, What else can I tell the reader that wasn’t in the text? The illustrations are just as important as the text in a children’s picture book. And the pictures should say what the text does not. If your story starts out as “Morris was a lonely mole” …the illustrator has this wonderful opportunity to show us how lonely Morris really is! Is he so lonely, there are cobwebs on his doorknob? Are there briar branches blocking his pathway? A welcome mat that is new and shiny, and never been used? Pictures are a glorious way to engage young readers. Children see and understand images before they ever learn to read. If we get children interested in reading children’s books at an early age, they will become readers for a lifetime. How wonderful! I’m thrilled to be a part of that process.

So for me, it’s making the page come alive. I’m still learning how to do this, by the way. It takes all my experience about composition, leading the eye to where you want it to go, using gesture, POV, lighting, values…and finally the x-factor — your own style, which will summon the page and bring your characters to life.

Through a story, if you are able to create something that influences a young reader in some positive way, however minor – to me, that is true success.

 AKC: Do you have any projects in the works that you are able to tell us about?

KO: I am currently working on a chapter book called “Peter Dobb and the Wondrous Pod” and then two more picture books. I’m coming up with ideas for a graphic novel to pitch in a year. Just recently, I’ve started working on a short screenplay which deals with love, loss and memory.

Please read INTERVIEW WITH KATHRYN OTOSHI, PICTURE BOOK AUTHOR/ILLUSTRATOR AND SUCCESSFUL INDEPENDENT PUBLISHER – PART ONE for Kathryn’s bio with photo, a list of her published books with links, and a link to KO Kids Books.

This concludes my interview with Kathryn Otoshi.  I hope you have found it as informative as I have. With one final thank you to Kathryn, we are done.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

Blog - Anitra Rowe Schulte

Children's Author & Life Coach - Writer's Whole Life Perspective

KidLit411

Children's Author & Life Coach - Writer's Whole Life Perspective

Susanna Leonard Hill

Children's Author

johnell dewitt

nomad, writer, reader and aspiring author

One Good Thing

Teresa Robeson's 365-Day project

Nerdy Chicks Write

Get it Write this Summer!

Penny Parker Klostermann

Children's Author and Poet

Blogzone

Practical tips to help your writing dreams come true...

STORYBOOK INK

Children's Author & Life Coach - Writer's Whole Life Perspective

Catherine M Johnson

Sheep Art by Catherine

Noodling with Words

Children's Author & Life Coach - Writer's Whole Life Perspective

365 Picture Books

A picture book every day

Julie Hedlund - Write Up My Life

On Living the Dream and Telling the Tale

Picture Books Help Kids Soar

VIVIAN KIRKFIELD - WRITER FOR CHILDREN

Carol Munro / Just Write Words

Can't write it yourself? Call Just Write Words.

Jo Hart - Author

A writing blog

Melissa Writes

Follow my writing journey