The Ups and Downs of the Current Children’s Book Market

I’ve just returned from the Millennium Biltmore Hotel in downtown Los Angeles, where the annual summer conference of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators had to be relocated after our ‘old’ and usual hotel site in Century City broke its contract with the group. The Biltmore is an old and elegant building and the staff was friendly and helpful. However, it’s not really big enough for the conference turnout. Around 250 would-be attendees had to be turned away, so the search for a new site will likely continue.
As usual, the state of the industry was discussed with interest, first by Justin Chandra, VP and Publisher of 4 children’s imprints at Simon and Schuster, and later at the Market Report given by Deborah Halverson, author and former editor, and creator of advice site: DearEditor.com.
News is mixed. Children’s book sales are up by only 2%. Sales of teen books are falling, and there is a sharp decline in ebook sales. Chandra said the YA market has been saturated. He says right now fantasy and action/adventure are selling, but since by the time you write and sell a book and get it to market, no one knows what will be hot, he advises you to forget about trends and write what is closest to your heart.
He said that last year there were more sales of fewer titles, big sales of movie tie ins, and it is hard to get attention to midlist. (My note, when was it not?)
The good news, we’re seeing the return of independent children’s book stores, new stores opening, where children books can be hand sold by dedicated staff.
Middle grade sales are pretty solid, and picture book sales are picking up again. Diversity is not a trend, simply real life.
Halverson also talked about the drop in sales, hardcover fiction and YA. Nonfiction sales numbers rose sharply, but that was partly because adult coloring books were counted among juvenile nonfiction. She noted that paperbacks were up, picture books doing well, and ebooks flat for the third year in a row. Someone’s survey noted that 49% of consumers bought both print and ebook formats. She also noted new children’s bookstores opening, and also school book clubs bouncing back.  Middle Grade is a good place to be, open to literary and genres, buying contemporary and historical fiction but with a contemporary voice. Nonfiction is wanted, but with a fresh approach.

Some new imprints: Quinera, (not sure of the spelling–we did not get a handout), wants contemporary and historical, American history and social justice themes; Peeko, picture books for the very young; Her Universal Press, sci-fi and fantasy with strong female roles by female writers, and a few more. SCBWI members can find these in “The Book”‘ on the SCBWI website.

So, you can still sell, but not easily. But authors have heard this for years, right? So don’t give up, keep writing, learning and revising, keep on keeping on! And good luck to everyone.

Cheryl Zach

Tea at the Biltmore

Tea at the Biltmore

WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME YOU DATED?

by Stephanie Jacob Gordon

OLD PICS ARE THE BEST PICS

It might surprise you to know that I date a lot. At seventy-six, I believe I date more than most women my age. I cannot get enough of dating. I probably date a little each and every day. And I suppose there’s many of you, older and younger, who also love to date. My favorite dates are Scottish, Irish, and some English dates, but I can also get enthralled with American dates—although most of my American dates are much younger than the others. If you have never tried dating, you should. It will enrich your life more than I can say.
I do much of my date research on the internet, but my favorite research comes from old books and newer books about earlier times. I am a dating junkie. I can’t get enough historical information on the dates I love most. That would be the 9th century to the 17th century. I don’t know what I love most about dating, the researching or the reading for pleasure.

I like biographies, but lately I read those mostly for factual information on specific times. Also bios have information that can help me visualize my fictional characters. I am a fiction writer, so manipulating the real characteristics of a long dead Scot is exciting and challenging. And because I am not bound by the truth, I can include a bit of the blarney.
In another life I was Egyptian, and Hebrew, and German, and English, and Scottish, and Irish, but not all at the same time. Historical research may talk out loud to me in particular because I am looking for the parts I played in the history of mankind. I know I was at Mount Sinai when Moses read the Ten Commandments. Now that is way back when.
Bringing history to life for readers is opening new worlds to them, no matter how old those worlds are. I believe that many writers are beginning to see the historical trees that have been over shadowed by the forests of sci-fi and apocalyptic books that are filling the bookstores’ shelves. I loved CATHERINE, CALLED BIRDY and every book I could get my hands on about medieval history. And I have to confess . . . I read adult books set in eras like Catherine’s. I began many eons ago in England and have traveled across the British Empire to Italy and beyond. Of course Scotland has a special place in my heart as my name is Scottish . . . Gordon. Right! After it was Gordonski or some such, and then my ancestors got off the boat.

I know very little history of my own family, when my ancestors came from Russia, Lithuania, and Romania. The children of my grandparents wanted to be “real” Americans. My father and mother and uncles and aunts asked very few questions. Their parents handed down very little of who and what they were in the Old Countries they came from. I actually know more about my mother-in-law’s family, where they came from and why, than I know about my own. Maybe that is what drives me. That could be the very reason I date so much. Even the reason why I feel as if something is missing and needs to be done when I am not dating. No matter what I am reading or writing, I am waiting to date.

Join me. Enter into the world of dating. It is not too late. History will always be there waiting for you to discover.

PRESENTING: AN INTERVIEW WITH MAVEN CHERYL ZACH

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CHERYL ZACH, AUTHOR OF SOUTHERN ANGELS

1. How much research did you do and how deep did you have to dig to make the Southern Angels series feel authentic? What was your best source of information? What was the hardest information to find?

I did a great deal of research for the 4 book YA Civil War series, Southern Angels. All in all, I spent three years researching and writing the four books. I did as much primary research as possible. That means info from sources who lived during the time period of the books and who wrote letters, newspaper stories, private journals or diaries, and they give the best look at the time period. The only downside is that you have to take into account that everyone will have his/her own bias. Three people who knew Lincoln would have three different opinions of his characters, for example. I did also use secondary sources, i.e., history books about the Civil War where the authors have done their own research and gathered it together into a book such as The Civil War in Virginia, and so on. These authors will use footnotes to show their sources, which helps me judge the value and accuracy of their material. Although my books are fiction and more concerned with romance and relationships, and what happened on the homefront–where women and girls had a challenging time during a war happening all around them–I still wanted the background to be accurate.

2. What made you decide to reissue the series yourself and did you find the self-publishing path difficult?

I decided to reissue these books because I think they are among the best of my young adult novels, and because I put so much effort and time into them and I hated that they were out of print and unavailable. In particular, the fourth book was never printed by the New York publisher who originally put out the books–loooong story there, basically that I lost my editor who moved to another publishing house and thus lost any support–and I had many unhappy readers who never found the final book in the series. I wrote an earlier column on doing it yourself–I had some problems early on, but it wasn’t too hard overall.

3. Why did you choose to write the books as a series rather than as one long novel?

I wrote four medium length books because I showcased four girls, to give as many views of the conflict as possible. Elizabeth is from a wealthy Virginia plantation but has a domineering, cold-hearted father. She originally supports the South, but falls in love with a Yankee soldier and changes her views on the war and on slavery. Victorine is a Creole beauty from New Orleans who is a die hard Confederate, though she also becomes more enlightened about the evils of slavery. When New Orleans falls to Yankee rule under General ‘Beast’ Butler, she is almost thrown into prison. She will reject the man her father has chosen for her to marry in order to make her own choice. Hannah is enslaved, grows up alongside Elizabeth on the Stafford plantation. She aides other slaves to escape on the Underground Railroad. Though she has sworn never to marry while she is still a slave and her children could be torn away from her, she falls in love with a free man of color (some did exist in the larger Southern towns) and eventually makes the dangerous race toward freedom herself. And last, Rosamund, the Tennessee girl, lives under Yankee rule after Grant has taken the Tennessee valley. She has one brother in the Northern army and one brother who supports the South. Although her family has never owned slaves and she supports the Union cause, she finds it hard to live under a conquering army, especially when despite herself, she falls in love with a dashing vagabond Confederate soldier. The four books cover the conflict from the first cannon fire upon Fort Sumter (three of the girls are attending a boarding school in Charleston, SC.) to the end, when weary soldiers finally make the journey home. And all along, the girls grow and mature and learn that they can make a difference, each in her own way. And love may survive, despite the peril and uncertainty of war.

4. What do you want readers to discover and take away from reading about the civil war? What makes this period of history fascinating to you?

The biggest theme of the books is that what an individual does, the actions a girl/woman takes, does matter, and that you can make a difference.
The Civil War itself, parts of the country fighting against other parts, was an exercise in tragedy and futility, something we might remember.

5. Does this series fit into the school curriculum and at what grade level? Will you be doing a study guide when the series is complete or will there be a separate one for each novel?

I am putting a study guide on my website, http://www.cherylzach.com,/ which would be helpful to teachers, home schoolers, and reading groups. Schools study the Civil War, depending on the state, often in 4th or 5th grade, again in middle school, and in the junior year of high school. These books are rated 6.5 in reading level, but good students usually read above their grade level, and as a former high school teacher myself, before I stopped to write full time, I know the difference in reading levels between middle school and high school is actually pretty small. As for the interest level–well, I’ve had letters and emails from readers from pre-teen to adult!

6. How long will readers have to wait for the next three books?

All four books are now available, in ebook and trade paperback, from amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com, and other retailers. Hearts Divided is Elizabeth’s story, taking her from Charleston to Virgina and back to Charleston. Winds of Change sees Victorine home to New Orleans and then farther afield. A Dream of Freedom gives us Hannah’s tale and finishes Elizabeth’s love story, and Last Rebellion takes us to Tennessee and Rosamund, last of the girls to find her true love, and gives us final glimpses of all four girls

7. What one bit of advice would you offer writers who want to write historical fiction?

Finally, my advice for a would-be historical writer: history is a wonderful tool for the imagination. With so much going on, you never want for ideas. You need to do your research in order to make the background and settings accurate, but beware of allowing the research to slow down or stop your story–keep the pace fast and stay focused on your main characters–even if George Washington did sleep here!

WORD GENES

by Judy Enderle

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Where does it come from, the love of words? Are word lovers born or created? Maybe both.

In my family, my parents were both avid readers. Until his death at a 101, my father was a weekly visitor to the public library where he checked out the LARGE PRINT books. Give him a good adventure, action, suspense, mystery novel or a historical biography and he was happy. My mother was an English teacher and it wasn’t unusual to receive a letter from her with a “story idea” for her aspiring author daughter. She also loved crossword puzzles as much as books and passed that love along to my sister and me. Words!

As life moved ahead, my children and I visited the library on a regular basis. They all loved science fiction and fantasy as well as animal stories. I took writing classes, met my author friend and writing partner, Stephanie. Publication happened first with “Highlights for Children,” then with children’s book publishers. Words!

More time has passed. I’m now a grandmother. My daughter is publishing books in the adult market to strong reviews. Her books are the type my dad would have loved, full of action and intrigue. Her latest is The Shadow & The Sun. My older son is dabbling in science fiction short stories and a novel is getting birthed. All three of my kids wipe me out in Words With Friends, especially my younger son, and I have to work hard to match wits with both my grandgirls at this game, too. Words!

Yeah! Words! Is it the sound, the meanings, or the challenge of using those 26 letters to create an entire world populated with intriguing characters that makes them so appealing? Most likely all three and more. Whatever it is, word genes thrive in our family. How about yours?

 

YOUR WRITING SUCKS!

by Stephanie Jacob Gordon

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Warning! A critique group can be hazardous to your health…but only if you let it.
When I began to write for children, I took classes at UCLA. I was not looking for a career. In fact I didn’t have any idea what I was looking for. Whenever I get a desire to try something new, I go back to school. I take classes. That is what I do.
Over the years I have dabbled in many related and unrelated subjects, taken numerous interesting classes from many skilled (and unskilled) teachers, and accumulated a library of “How To” books. I fit the saying, “Jill of all trades and master of some.” I know it is none, but I have mastered some. Along the way I have learned more, experienced more, and discarded more useless information than I can name. Still I have enjoyed the ride that led me to all my diverse areas of knowledge. If institutions of learning gave out medals like the army, I’d have a chest full of them. I’d like that.
One of the hardest lessons I had to learn on my path to becoming a children’s book author can be said in a single word, CRITIQUING. No one likes to hear a negative word about anything they love. Especially their children. And for writers of children’s literature, our manuscripts are our babies. Our beautiful new- born expressions of a love for the written word. And WHO are you…to judge my baby?
It doesn’t matter if those terrible words come from and agent, an editor, or a colleague who doesn’t have such a perfect story anyway…so there! We become half Pit Bull and half Rhodesian Ridgeback, and one hundred percent Nose Out Of Joint. It is how you have to react at first. You have just been told your baby stinks. At least that’s what you heard. But, for the most part I can honestly say, that was not what was said.
When you first step into the writer’s bullpen to face the critique bull, you are wearing Medieval armor with a hole cut out where your feelings are, and you are carrying a huge sword to protect yourself. Every non-positive word goes right through your armor and stabs your heart. That is the price we pay to become children’s authors. I wish I could say that is the worst price you will have to pay…it isn’t. But those payments are not what this blog is about.
Writers need thick hides. They need to take everything someone tells them, that they don’t agree with, and practice closed mouth, a still tongue, and a smile. Your brain may be saying, “idiot,” but your face should be saying, “uh huh, oh, thank you for that thought.” You don’t have to do a thing with the critiquer’s ideas if you don’t want to: Hit delete.
Defending your writing will start a battle and a battle can cause a war. There are always casualties in a war. Your critique group could end up dead. Realize that things can be said that might drive you or the other person out of your group. A writer’s group blood bath can poison the waters for a long time and make members afraid to say anything at all to you. A nod and a smile could keep all that from happening.
And if you are the one who is trying to drive home your thoughts regardless of how they are affecting the critiqued writer and implying who the devils cares—because YOU are right—STOP! You could be next. You are setting a terrible precedent. You may be the reason the group disbands—or so they tell you—wink, wink. Yes. You could be right. Maybe the baby needs a change. Say your opinion once and let it go. An argument never changed a hurt heart.
BEST: BEFORE YOU SAY SOMETHING ABOUT WHAT YOU DON’T THINK WORKS—SAY SOMETHING ABOUT WHAT YOU DO THINK WORKS. EVERY BABY HAS SOMETHING BEAUTIFUL TO DISCOVER. SOMETIMES YOU NEED TO LOOK CLOSER. AND IN A MANUSCRIPT, SOMETIMES IT ’S HIDDEN BETWEEN THE LINES, OR IT ’S THE WORD CHOICES, OR IT ’S THE NUGGET OF AN IDEA WAITING TO GROW.
Being kind is always the best way to treat a new writer, even if her baby is stinky. (And are you so sure your baby’s you-know-what doesn’t stink?)

D.I.Y.–With Help!

For the last several years, I’ve been saying/thinking that I wanted to reissue some OP (out of print) Young Adult books, to make them available to readers once again. Finally, after finishing a new YA ms, I decided that it was time to make good on the promise to myself. Years ago I published what was to be a 4 book Civil War YA series called Southern Angels, about four Southern girls who live through, and make a difference, during the Civil War.

I put three years of my life into researching and writing these books (they were to be accurate enough historically to be useful in schools)  and then they were, I felt, badly mishandled by their big NY publisher. I lost my editor (she was hired by another publishing house) and all support before the books were all out, and the 4th book wasn’t even printed, tho I had written it and it had been advertised. I heard a lot of complaints at the time, and still occasionally, from people who couldn’t find the final book. So I’ve always wanted to see these books back in print. (I’m doing this more for personal satisfaction than in the expectation of making tons of $, BTW.) The books received good reviews and I found them in public and school libraries, and they should likely have been published in hardcover, not mass market, where they made it to few store shelves, as marketing picked up the indifference of the editorial staff. I was crushed.

I am a total newbie to indie publishing. I will soon finish, I hope, the process for getting out ebooks and paperbacks, and boy, have I learned a lot.

First, the cover. It took me three tries to get a cover designer. Another writer gave me a name of a good cover person, which I checked out online–her website had some great looking covers, and she agreed to do the four covers at a reasonable price. She gave herself deadlines, but missed them all. Finally told me, after being out of touch for several weeks, that she had health issues and couldn’t, after all, do the work. I wished her well and was sorry to lose her. Later, I realized that I had undoubtably increased her stress by asking for almost impossible demands as I did not understand the process–more on that in a sec. The second website I admired, the cover d. said she couldn’t take any new clients, she had enough repeat customers to keep her busy. Aiiig. The third person said on her website she would only take a few new clients, but fortunately did decide to take the job, after showing me some stock cover shots to make sure I would be happy with the costumes she could find, as, she said, right now Regency and Victorian are the most popular historical eras and therefore the easiest to find costumes for, Civil War not so much. I was ok with what she found, and we agreed to go ahead as I liked her work a lot.

So, first lesson. I knew from prior experience that large publishers hire models, dress them in appropriate costumes (for romance, anyhow, or YA, and other genres, too) and make sure they resemble the characters in the book–or, that’s the theory. A pro photographer does a photo shoot, then either the photo itself (in middle grade or sometimes YA) is used, or an artist is hired to make a painting, often acrylic, and the cover comes from that. This process costs thousands of $.

Obviously, an indie publisher/author can’t afford this kind of money. So, a cover designer working with indie’s uses stock model shots from companies who handle just that–photos of models and objects already taken. Legit designers buy these shots, as close as possible to what you want, use computer programs to change hair and dress color and perhaps manipulate shots somewhat–I’m not an IT person so can’t tell you how much can be done. They also put in a landscape or suitable background, they choose fonts and sizes of letters for titles, etc. and put it all together in well balanced and artistically pleasing arrangement for a good cover. Some covers don’t have people in them, of course, sometimes a clever idea is used, instead. You can look up examples of all of this in websites on line.

Some writers who publish ebooks do the covers themselves. I was quite sure I didn’t have that much artistic sense, and the one thing that often gives away a self-pubbed book is an amateurish looking cover. Sadly, people DO judge books by their covers. So I knew that I wanted someone good to do my covers, even tho it would cost money. (Prices vary hugely.) Many designers do predesigned covers which are cheaper and will work for some books: romance, mystery, women’s fiction, etc. I have 4 books in a series, so I had special requirements, and that wouldn’t work for me. I’m pleased with the progress of the first cover, think it’s going to look really good, and when it’s done will try to put it up here.  (PS I tried several times to put up the cover, but the file is too big, so sorry.  I will try to put it on my website, but not sure if I will have the same problem, will try to get around it somehow, even if I have to make a copy of a copy…  And I assume Amazon will have it in a short time.) I actually think it’s better than the original Big Company cover.)

Next, I’ll go to the company I choose and get the book put together, I’m doing both an ebook and a paperback of each book in the series.  These books were PAL books to start with, so they will remain so, if you’re familiar with SCBWI classifications. (BTW, I thought I would have to retype all 4 books, but a reader who emailed me–yes, looking for book 4– told me I could buy an external computer drive to hook up to my current laptop that would take the hard disks that I had had the book ms backed up on when the original computer, several computers back, on which I wrote these books, died suddenly. I was able to find three of the four disks, so only had to retype one, whew. I am revising the ms slightly as I go, can’t help myself! I do hope to have all four books: Hearts Divided, Winds of Change, A Dream of Freedom, and Last Rebellion, out by March, the first, Hearts Divided, in Feb.  (You can also scan hard copy into a file, if you have the right technology, or pay someone else to do it.)

The cover is likely the most expensive part of the process, tho you may also want to buy an ISBN, unless you get that from your distribution service, and that can be done. The friends I spoke to recommended d2d, (Draft2Digital) over Smashwords for ebooks, and CreateSpace, which is Amazon, for paperbacks, although Ingram also has a paperback program. I will let you know what I think when I get that far.

Onward into the future!

REALIZATIONS AND RESOLUTIONS

BY JUDITH ROSS ENDERLE

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In January one is supposed to make resolutions to mend one’s ways or achieve greatness or rid oneself of unhealthy habits.

Well, I don’t want to mend my ways; I realize I’m pretty happy with the way my ways are now.

I’ve achieved some greatness and lost some greatness and have landed back in the middle which isn’t a bad place to be. No need to resolve other than to keep moving forward and let the words fall where they may.

So that leaves unhealthy habits, usually involving food and exercise. I can swear off sugar entirely (I’m quite sweet enough), but that would be a wasted swear since I know right well that I’ll still have two biscotti with my coffee in the afternoon. So why waste a swear? As to exercise, I walk and I garden and I clean house, so my parts are moving, not too fast nor too slow. No need to promise to exercise more than that.

Thus I’ve come to realize that this resolution business is more of a taking stock, but it doesn’t mean you have to change a single thing. And how many of the resolutions actually last more than two months? Still, it is the first of a new year. How can I break tradition? So in the spirit of the new year, here are my resolves:

1: Change what I don’t like; keep what I like about me.

2: TRY to be more patient with myself and with others.

3: Make Words with Friends a reward, not a replacement for writing. A paragraph counts as writing, doesn’t it?

4: Make it one biscotti with coffee instead of two. (I know I won’t keep this one. See? A wasted swear.)

5: Be thankful for loving family and friends. This one I can do! I am so very blessed.

6: Get back to work. I can do this right now.

Off to a fine start. Six is a good number of resolutions for a year that ends in 6. May 2016 be a great year for you and yours and good luck with your resolutions. (Save your swears, you made need them when rejections show up, unless you’ve resolved not to let rejection bother you. Let me know how this works out, so I can use it for my resolution next year.)

Inquiring Minds Want to Know

By Laurie Lazzaro Knowlton

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Over the past two decades I have been asked 4 universal questions by people interested in writing for children. I’d like to share the answers with you.

1. “What can I do to get published?” The answer is:
A. Do your homework.
You need to read, read, read. Read all the HOW TO books you can get your hands on. A few suggestions:
Ann Whitford Paul’s, WRITING PICTURE BOOKS
Barbara Sueling’s, HOW TO WRITE A CHILDREN’S BOOK AND GET IT PUBLISHED,
Harold D. Underdown’s, THE COMPLETE IDIOT’S GUIDE TO PUBLISHING CHILDREN’S BOOKS
Lee Wyndham’s, WRITING FOR CHILDREN AND TEENAGERS.

B. You need to read books in the genre that you would like to write.
Study the character’s development. What is his motivation?
What is standing in the main character’s way keeping him from accomplishing his goal? Identify the tension tools used to build the plot.
What did the author do to get the reader into the setting?

C. Attend conferences and workshops. Check your local Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators group. They usually offer conferences, workshops, and critique groups in your area. National SCBWI also offers two conferences every year. One conference is held in California in August and a second conference is offered in New York either in January or February. You can locate the information on the web: www.SCBWI.org

2. “Do I need an agent?” I do not believe you need an agent. You can research possible publishers through the CHILDREN’S WRITERS MARKET. First look to see if the publishing house is accepting unsolicited manuscripts. (This means that they are open to un-agented manuscripts.) Second, see if they are accepting manuscripts in your genre.
After finding a publishing house is open and that looks like it might work for your genre and theme of your story, then research the publishing house on the internet.
Become familiar with the editors. Check to see if they have a blog. This will help you find out: What else has the editor published? What is her passion? What type of book is on his wish list?
Make a list of possible publishers and begin sending your manuscript out. Some publishers require that you submit only to them. This is called an exclusive submission. Other publishers will allow simultaneous submissions.
Always make sure you keep a record of where you have submitted your manuscript. Record the date you submitted the manuscript and if it is returned. If you are lucky enough to get a personal note from an editor, send a thank you note. If they made a suggestion to improve your story, get to work!

3. “How do I submit?” When you finish your manuscript it is important to have it critiqued by your peers or a professional. There are many authors and editors that offer critique services. Check your local SCBWI to see if there are members who have open critique groups or offer critiquing.
Make sure your manuscript is perfect. Check grammar, spelling, and punctuation. When your manuscript is ready, you will need to write a cover letter.

Use a regular business letter set up. Your letter should be short.
Dear Editor’s Name,
I have enclosed my xxx word picture book: NAME OF BOOK.
Then add some information about your writing history: Example: I am a former librarian and a member of the SCBWI and I participate in the local (NAME OF STATE) chapter. I have been published in the regional newspaper. Close the letter with a thank you for time and consideration.

An Example of proper manuscript format:

Your name.
Address,
City, State, Zip
Phone number
E-mail address Word Count

Center your title half way down the page.
by
Your Name

    Then begin your manuscript. It needs to be indented for every new paragraph.

Your manuscript should be double spaced.
You will need a header starting on the second page. Your header should include your name, the name of your manuscript on the left side and the page number on the right side. Every succeeding page should have the header on the top.
Many publishers request a SASE (Self addressed stamped envelope) so they can return your manuscript. Others say they will recycle the manuscripts so you do not need to send a SASE.

4. “Do I need an illustrator?” The answer is, no. Publishers have a “stable” of illustrators that they prefer to use. They know their illustrators are professionals: Their work is consistent and produced on time.
Let the publisher worry about the look of the book while you do everything you can to produce a quality manuscript. Once you and your editor have polished your manuscript. Start planning on having a book launch!

I hope these answers help you to get your work ready for publication! Good luck with your writing.

MY OCTOBER BLOG

by Stephanie Jacob Gordon

file000910989872I belong to an online poetry group, we call ourselves The Cottage Poets (you know who you are). As usual we had taken this last summer off…until the end of October. It was a long hot summer! Each month, one of us takes a turn coming up with our prompt, and then everyone writes about the same prompt. I mention this because the last prompt was perfect since we didn’t begin our after summer return to The Cottage until nearly November. That prompt was…WHY I HAVEN’T WRITTEN. I do not make this stuff up.
My poem was terse and a little funny and a lot true. But it didn’t make me want to write. Thus, my October blog in November. I am writing this now because I am feeling overwhelming guilt. Not for not writing. I have really great excuses for that, and some are true. I have seen more doctors in 2015 that I ever saw from 1940 till December 2014. While the good news is that I have absolutely nothing fatal (except aging), I am not, nor will I be, getting any younger. My guilt is knowing that someone else has to pick up my slack. My fellow bloggers and I are aware of who that will be. Judy, of course. So here I am…writing.
I guess what I am trying to say here that whatever you are feeling, gung-ho or gummed-up, you are never alone. When you are writing, you have other writers who are there for you in so many places. Critique groups are a good place to start. You will become friends, fellow suffers, writing confidants, and shoulders to cry on. You will share insights, information, accomplishments, and successes. There are workshops, classes, conferences, retreats, and more. And when you are not writing, who understands why not? Those same fellow writers, your writer friends, your buddy non-writers in a slump with terminal writer’s block. Writers like me.
So, do we give up? No, of course not. We write blogs about why we don’t write. We write poems to say why we may never write again. We write emails begging for a kind word from a dear writer we know and love and who loves us enough to forgive us for not writing. And then they email back all the reasons they can’t write. What do we do when we have nothing, absolutely nothing to write about? We write about it.
Happy Writing!

How Writers Learn From Reading

cropped-Bigstock_24054800.jpg   by Judy Enderle

Being a writer changes the way you read. First you read a book to enjoy the story. Then you reread the book to figure out how: how did the author work the magic that kept you turning the pages?

On your second time through treat the book like a class in writing. Look for:

● what happened on that all-important first page.

● when were you aware of the problem and the conflict.

● why you cared about the main character. And if you didn’t care, what made you keep reading anyway?

● what important character traits helped to make the plot work. How were these traits shown?

● the roles secondary characters played. Why was each one important to the story?

● what the author did to put you inside the main character’s head.

● what made you “see” the setting. What part did the setting play in the story?

● how the plot built. How did each page, each paragraph, each chapter move the story forward?

● how the author created tension and conflict.

● surprises. Was there any foreshadowing of these surprises?

● the way the main character solved the problem. How did the main character change? How did the author show both and when?

● the balance between dialogue and description.

● the kind of sentence structure the author used. When were sentences longer? When shorter? And why did the language and word choices fit the story?

● chapter titles. How did they suit what happened in the chapters?

● the book title. Did it draw you in and represent the book well?

Writers never stop learning with so many great books available written by authors who show you “how” on each page.