Mining the Nuggets

Cheryl Zach

If you’ve read my posts before, you know I’m a big advocate of writers’ conferences as good places to acquire information, about writing and illustrating skills, about up to date market information, and much else useful to a professional. You can also network, see old friends and make new ones. And they’re fun!

This past weekend I attended the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators MidSouth Writers’ Conference, held outside of Nashville, Tennessee. I’ll share a few nuggets of interest with you.

The opening keynote was given by Laurent Linn, an author/illustrator and art director and general Nice Guy. He started his career working in Jim Henson’s Muppet Workshop and later won an Emmy as Creative Director of the Sesame Street Muppets, went on to work as AD at publishing houses, illustrate and write–his newest work is an illustrated YA novel, Draw the Line. Laurent shared some nuggets of wisdom, including the thought that you should start your book with a promise of what’s to come, but laid on with a feather, not a hammer. . . He noted that we are story tellers, and story tellers must share their stories.

And haven’t we all moaned about work and family obligations that keep us from our creative pursuits–the novel not finished, the portfolio that’s too thin? Time passes relentlessly. Laurent cited a quote from Walt Disney: “The way to get started is to stop talking and start doing.” I loved it–have to tell myself that more often.

He also noted in passing that we all feel like frauds, at times, and that’s not a feeling that goes away. Not something that every writer or artist will admit, but certainly comforting. Bravo, Laurent.

P.S. I didn’t have the chance to learn a lot on marketing, but did hear that the YA market is a ‘bit saturated,” no surprise there as I knew that demand had cooled, but sales are still possible. And there are no current trends in young adult novels. More editors were looking for middle grade than YA, also no surprise, as MG usually remains steady.

What Can Be Done to Help Midlist Authors?

I have a question for you.

I’ve heard from some more recently published writers that they feel (perhaps) increased pressure and less support from publishers than once existed. They feel that if their sales numbers don’t increase quickly –and we all know that nowadays authors and illustrators are expected to do a lot of PR on their own, maintain online presence, etc.–that they will be dropped in favor of another new author’s first book. This is good for some eager new author, but he or she will face the same predicament very soon, so in the long run, it’s not so good. And the new writer who shoots to the top of the best seller list with a first book is very rare, though publishers, and certainly writers, too, always hope for such a lightning strike.

In the not so distant past it was expected that midlist authors would grow a career more slowly and steadily, with a reasonable amount of publishing house support. (Midlist means just what it sounds like–anyone not a total beginner but not at the very top of the profession, either.) Most writers and artists spend their careers in midlist, and often earn honors and a well respected name in the process, even if not necessarily known worldwide.

If this attitude of publishers has changed, and if pressure is more intense now, I’m wondering what can be done to help authors. And I’d like to hear from you, and what you’ve heard from your friends or garnered from your own experiences.

The Strangest Things Happen on the Way to My Desk

This is February’s post, so look out your window and imagine rain or snow pelting down, especially if your in the North West. I meant to write this post on time, just like I plan monthly  to dedicate myself to writing, to make it a priority. I realized the other day that I may not have been putting fingers to keys, but in my brain I was still gathering information. Tidbits of real life that will enrich my writing. Unusual flaws and traits I experienced in the real characters I have met recently. And in times of boredom, I realize I often pull my stories and characters  to the for front of my mind and think about where they have gone and where they should go. So, I am making no more excuses. I think I have been wearing my observation hat quite well. Here are a few of the things I have slipped into my writer’s gear bag recently.

When he gets nervous he drums his thighs. Two fingers on each hand tapping his jeans in rapid succession. He’s a security guard, but used to be a plumber. He sharpens knives on the side.  He quits drumming and pulls out his hunting knife to show off the smooth flat blade. “Sliced open a lot of things with this,” he says.  “It’s so sharp I could fillet a bear before he he to the ground.”

She smokes the shortest marlboro reds one after the other. Her pink plastic cup doesn’t hide her margarita as well as she thinks. Tequila from yesterday wafts from her pores to mix with todays blend. She drums her cup with four fingers eyeing the man with the knife.

 

At 7 she is crow-like. Can’t resist shiny things on the ground. A nickel, a nail, a piece of glass if the sun makes it shimmer. She grasps them tightly in her pocket. Hidden treasure to worry till her fingers bleed.

He looks over-confident as he saunters over. His gait is wide and bowed like a cowboys. Like he thinks he is cool. It is actually caused by partial paralysis from back surgery. His gate gets wider as his spin disintegrates.

He never lets the small scar on his wrist heal. Picks at it as soon as it seals. A reminder of something?

As soon as anyone asks her a question her eyes dart to her father’s. A half nod from him and she will speak. If he narrows his  eyes, she remains silent.

He plucks his eyebrows until they are close to hairless and red and swollen. It’s 85 degrees outside and his ski hat doesn’t cover the damage. This is meth addict behavior. (Who Knew)

Please share any gems you have observed recently too:)

GETTING TO KNOW YOU . . . (sing on)


by Judith Enderle
Birthing characters can be challenging.Iin a book, each one must have a reason to be there and each character—whether protagonist or antagonist—must be unique. So how do you do that?

(Right at this point I’m tempted to say: “If you find out, let me know.) But I know how. It’s the doing that is the challenge.

Here are a few details that help me get to know my characters (please expand these lists as you birth your book characters):
Traits: like temperament, intelligence and knowledge, determination
Appearance: height, weight, coloring, health
Family: number of siblings, is your character oldest, youngest, or in the middle? Living situation. Parents and relatives. Economic status.
Personal: secrets, brags, embarrassing moments
Friends: longest, newest, best, many or few?
What matters most to your character? What is your character worried about?

Sometimes interviewing the characters helps you find the details you need.
You’ll need the most information about the protagonist and the antagonist, but get to know the secondary players so their actions and reactions make sense as the story unfolds.

Last, but not least: don’t forget the little things: good and bad habits, tics, favorite words and phrases, great smiles, evil eyes, favorite piece of clothing, nicknames . . . This can be the longest list of all.

Guaranteed, your writing will be easier if you know your characters so well you’d recognize them if they moved next door.

Happy Spring!

Two Way Interview: Dandi Daley Mackall and Laurie Lazzaro Knowlton

Laurie: Question
When you were reading the letters of correspondence between your parents, that led to your latest book, With Love Wherever You Are, how did you decide what letters should be shared with your readers and what letters would remain private?

Dandi: Answer
That was one of the hardest parts of writing this book! I wanted to include all 600 letters because they were meaningful to me. But I had to cherry-pick the ones I thought would be interesting to readers and ones that advanced the plot and stirred up conflict or showed a side of WW2 rarely shown. My first complete draft ran about 1,000 pages, so I had to cut, cut, cut. If my mom were still alive, I might have let a few of the letters remain private. But I didn’t want to soften or undercut the reality of newlyweds separated during war.

Dandi: Question
So, Laurie, what do you think? Should writers refrain from writing things that might embarrass or upset relatives?

Laurie, Answer
Most writers use their personal experiences to pull from for their writing. Anyone who knows a writer well should realize that most any interactions between them may end up as a character or a scene in a book.

It’s funny, because I have an example between the two of us. I shared a story with you about my daughter’ s ex-boyfriends. She was collecting dogs from each ex. I remember you laughing and saying, “Wouldn’t that be a funny premiss for a book!” and thus My Boyfriends’ Dogs was born.

I believe that an author needs to consider the collateral damage against the assets to the story. I remember having many discussions with you on how you would proceed with the letters and I believe you truly struggled with your choices. You considered the collateral damage and used strong letters that would move the story forward without being disrespectful to your parents.
Laurie: Question
You were a writer from an early age. Your book, A Girl Named Dan, was inspired by an essay that you wrote when you were 11years old. What advice do you have for young aspiring writers?

Dandi: Answer
1. Good for you! Most kids (and grownups) hate to write. So, if you like to write, you should go with that and hone your gift.
2. Read, read, read! You need to study the way writers do things you want to do. If an author creates suspense so you can’t put that book down, ask yourself how she did that. If you laugh at something, figure out how the author got you to laugh.
3. Be observant. Writers are people who notice things other people walk past. Writers find significance in the details and little things of everyday life. Jot your observations in a notebook you keep with you at all times.
4. Write! Write like crazy.
5. Welcome criticism. Yep—It hurts. But you want to improve, right? Take all the advice and criticism you can get for your writing. Just don’t take it to heart.

Dandi: Question
Laurie, do you have some advice of your own? What about where a young writer could submit a story?

Laurie: Answer
I’d suggest that when you find a book that catches your attention that you write out segments of the text, paying attention to:
A ) how punctuation is used
B) how dialogue gives information to the reader
C) what physical action is used to move the story forward
D) what sensorial words are used
E) how tension is used in a scene.

By writing the text you will get a firsthand experience of how the writer used punctuation, dialogue, action, sensorial words and tension to strengthen his/her story telling.

Where to submit written material:
I did a little research and The Children’s Book Guild has a wonderful list of publishers who publish the work of young people. Here is a connection to their web site.

https://www.childrensbookguild.org/about-the-guild/faqs/73-where-can-i-get-writing-by-children-published
Laurie: Question

The Secret of Tree Taylor is based on an event (or a murder) in your hometown. How do you as a writer decide to write fiction or non-fiction?

Dandi: Answer
Much of that novel actually happened, and the people are real too. If I’d stuck with the facts, I don’t think I could have told the story I wanted to tell. I wouldn’t have been able to create dialog, and I wouldn’t have been able to guess at thoughts. I love writing almost-true novels (fiction based on true stories and events). That way I can fill in the blanks and stay honest with the reader. I can adjust the timeline and weather to suit the needs of the story. I can leave out boring dialog, change names (as “Dandi” to “Tree”), and intensify conflict. My husband does a beautiful job of writing nonfiction narrative (Plain Secrets: An Outsider among the Amish). He would never combine characters or change events or weather or dialog in any way. He and I agree that I should stick with fiction because I’m never satisfied with fact.

Dandi: Question
Laurie, have you written any nonfiction? How did you stick with the facts?

Laurie: Answer
I have written some non-fiction in craft books, Christian materials, and a cookbook. It is important that you triple fact check and always use original sources when possible.
Laurie: Question
In Larger-Than-Life Lara, you used the vehicle of written storytelling to unfold the story of Laura’s being bullied and a Laney’s dysfunctional family. How do you think using this additional layer added to the significance of Larger-Than-Life Lara?

Dandi: Answer
I think writing LARA was the most fun I’ve had writing any book. The layers surprised me, and so did the characters. Our narrator, Laney, doesn’t want to talk about herself or let the reader in, but she does both of those things inadvertently as she tells her story. That book has been used in elementary schools, English and language arts, but it’s also used as a text in high schools and universities. I consider it my miracle book.

Dandi:Question
Laurie, do you remember how you called me every day to see what was happening with Lara and Laney?

Laurie:Answer
I do remember that fondly. Larger than Life Lara, is in the top three of my favorite books you have ever written. Being a part of, listening, and watching the characters coming to life was a personal experience for me. Each of the characters was REAL, and I couldn’t wait until the next day to hear where they were going. I know when you got to the end that it felt rushed and we discussed ways to make a more satisfying ending. With some rewriting you totally nailed the ending, and I know many children have grown from reading your beautiful prose.

Laurie: Question
Who was the most influential storyteller in your family?

Dandi: Answer
Honestly, it’s a tie between my mom and my dad, both great storytellers, with great stories to tell. I loved hearing how they met in Army training, Army Nurse and Army Doctor in WW2. Then they married in haste and were sent to the front-lines, to different countries. So many stories!

Dandi: Question
Who was the most influential storyteller in your family
Laurie: Answer
That would have been my father. He had a quick wit, and a story for everything. He was very animated when he told his stories, and we’d all sit glued to our chairs waiting for the twist at the end of every story. For a child who couldn’t sit still, it was quite a big deal for me. I know I learned my storytelling skills from him and will forever honor him by telling my stories.

Laurie: Question
How has that style of storytelling affected your voice as a writer?

Dandi: Answer
My favorite stories were about the lives of my parents and their relatives. Maybe that’s why I don’t seem to be able to write a story that doesn’t have my relatives and me in it somewhere. They used details that embedded each story in my brain, and I try to use the power of the right details in whatever I write.
Dandi: Question
How has that style of storytelling affected your voice as a writer?

I know that I am a better speaker from watching my father’s style at storytelling. He was a prosecuting attorney and would practice his closing arguments after we were sent to bed. I’d listen by the furnace grate late into the night. I got caught one night because I was so enthralled by his speech that I crawled down the steps and gave him a standing ovation at the end.

I held onto how his voice would rise and fall, and how strong a pause could be in the middle of a sentence. I was able to transfer that knowledge into my writing and it has served me well.

Well, Dandi, I’ve enjoyed our conversation. Thank you for sharing with our readers!

GET OUT OF THE BATH BEFORE THE WATER GETS COLD (and, if you are any good at this, it will)

by Stephanie Jacob Gordon

Well New Years has officially come and gone, along with everyone’s New Year’s resolutions. I have not forgotten mine nor procrastinated on any I made. Mine are still 100% intact. I didn’t make any. I never keep them so I figured why waste time writing any down, feeling guilty because I don’t keep them, and having to find excuses for my lack of follow-through. The only reason I am writing my blog entry in the month it is due has nothing to do with making a resolution to be more conscientious. No. It has to do with the paper I found on the floor behind my printer that was Judy’s November e-mail telling all the Mavens when their blog posts were due. I had forgotten all about it. And, since I am going to stay at Judy’s house next week and I don’t want to give her ANOTHER reason to nag me, I am on it. She has plenty to nag me about already and I deserve the nagging. No New Year’s excuses here, either. Anyway Happy New Year, one and all.

My subject for the January 2017 Official Maven’s Blog is” THINKLING-IDEATING-CREATORISTABLE ENVIRONMENTS

In the spring of 1979, when I was young and beautiful, had an Afro, and believed in talking frogs, I took a class at UCLA from Eve Bunting (yes–the amazing one), and met my writing partner of thirty-eight years, Judy, and learned Eve’s Greatest Secret to Writing Superb Books for Children. THE BATHTUB! SHSH. . . IT’S A SECRET!

Actually I should start with Eve’s second Greatest Secret–the media. If there was anything in the newspapers, or on television, or in a magazine that might make a fabulous children’s book, by the time the rest of us saw it, Eve had already finished her beautifully-written book about it, had a publisher, was speaking worldwide, and making phenom sales. Judy or I would say, “Did you see this?” Then the other one of us would say, “Yes, but Eve probably has it in bookstores already.”

The Great Secret here was not to bother with anything in print or on the airwaves. You were already too late.

But Eve’s first Greatest Secret was something any writer, old or young, taking newspapers, magazines, or watching television, published or unpublished, prolific or writing one book in a lifetime, beginner or professional could use and never be too late: THE BATHTUB!

Well, Eve’s Greatest Secret was actually threefold. You needed a bathtub of bubble-bathed glorious water. You needed a glass of delicious wine. And, you needed a tape recorder. (Now, you might use the memo function on your phone but you may not want to after you read on.) Personally, I needed two more things, not things but attributes: I needed the ability to talk into a recorder and make sense and not stutter and lose my place and the ability to balance the recorder on the side of the tub. I ruined my tape recorder, my son, Jonathan’s recorder, and . . .someone else’s (I forget his name) recorder. I did great with the wine. . .until I dozed off and the bubbles died and the water got cold. Cold water did save me from drowning!

But I know a great idea when I  hear it. After hours of contemplation (one), I put on my shower-thinking cap and considered alterations to the original Eve’s Greatest Secret. In my case: #1 forget the tape recorder. In fact, I’ve learned there are now waterproof notebooks and pens, too. Check out your local art supply store. #2 forget the wine.

Just yesterday I took a bath with no plan except to soak my knees, my back, my left arm and shoulder and my . . . butt enough about me. I was just lying in my tub (more like wedged in–new-style tubs suck–soaking tubs, my . . .), and I was doing my stream of unconsciousness day-dreaming and a strange movie began to play on the screen of my brain. It wasn’t a children’s book but I went with it. And it was great (Eve’s-Greatest- Secret great–ask Judy). I am excited. I’m adding to it. I’m deleting things. My brain is whizzing along. The story is becoming outer-world-y–outer limits-y. We had another story in this genre. I am seeing a book of stories. I am loving this. I am . . . freezing! THE WATER IS COLD! Time to get out of the tub and call Judy! She makes me make notes–darn!.

There are days when a good idea, seems for me, to run away from home, wallow in depressed steph, blame the world, blame the government, blame myself, worry about Israel, to think of all the beautiful young people who are in other countries waiting to get maimed or die for my freedoms. Those are bathtub days, too. It is a good place to cry.

There are days that are perfect, days to celebrate, days to laugh, days to remember all my blessings, days to sing out at the top of my lungs all the patriotic songs no one bothers to teach kids these days, it seems. It is a good place to smile.

All those bathtub days have Eve’s-Greatest-Secret stories to tell.

Theme Vs. Plot

The theme is the thing.
Not that plot is not important–without plot, your novel is a jellyfish, no bones, no skeleton, no internal structure to give it shape and structure and hold it erect. Character-driven novels can be wonderful, but those totally devoid of plot are very difficult to pull off. At the risk of sounding contradictory, I think well developed characters are likely the most important element in a good novel–but that’s another blog.
Plot is what happens in a novel, and it’s much to do with the novel’s conflict, how the main character and others go about struggling with and resolving the conflict/problem: coming to a –we hope–victorious, or at least, bitter-sweet conclusion. (I hold with the late, great Madeleine L’Engle who said, if I may paraphrase, that a writer should always leave at least a glimmer of hope at the end of a YA novel. Adult readers can deal with a totally tragic ending, younger readers don’t have the experience as yet to cope–they need some optimism in a book’s conclusion to carry into their own life challenges.)
I’m sure you know the basics of plot and conflict: the main character must resolve the problem him or herself instead of an adult or an act of blind fate coming in at the last moment to make all things right, and so forth.
But that’s still not theme. Theme is the basic and overall idea that hangs behind the whole novel, that guides the momentum behind the character’s growth and change, his/her struggle with conflict, reaction to the setting, reaction to other characters, and more. Other writers have commented that theme comes from the characters’ issues–or perhaps, I might add, their issues develop partly from the theme.–and the theme grows from the writer’s heart. It’s possible you might write using a theme you don’t believe in, but I don’t really see how.

In the YA manuscript I’m working on now, working title: An Ounce of Courage, the protagonist has been relocated, after the death of his military father and much against his will, into a small isolated village from a much more cosmopolitan setting. His immediate conflict is being beset by the local high school bully. His bigger conflict is that he’s afraid he’ll never live up to his hero dad.

(My dad always said,’ Stick up for the little guy.’

My dad wasn’t on the bus.)

The theme, though, has to do with the nature of courage and the process of becoming a man, a journey every male teen has to make.  You might wonder why a woman is writing this book? The short answer, the story wouldn’t leave me alone until I started to write it.  Longer one: My writing has never been restricted to characters of one gender. : ) I do have a younger brother and a son, and now three grandsons, two growing old enough to begin this process. And perhaps sometimes a little distance is a good thing. . . And I am an army brat, so the backdrop of the story is one I’m very familiar with. There is a girl in the book, too, who is an important character, and she also has challenges to face and decisions to make. Courage is not just a question for boys–or men.

I feel every word and every page of this manuscript deeply, whatever the gender of the protagonist, because the theme matters. . . now my job as a writer is to make sure the reader does, too.

images-4Cheryl Zach is the author of Hearts Divided, Book 1 of the 4 book Civil War YA series, Southern Angels, and many other YA and MG novels.

THANKFUL VS. AWFUL VS. GRATEFUL AND MORE

by Judy Enderle

thanksgivingturkey

Tick tock, tick tock. Turkey time is closing in which makes one pause to count blessings. It’s a time to give thanks or Thanksgiving.

I am thankful for family, friends, the beauty of the world out my window, the energy to dig in my garden, the ability to write, the patience of my critique group and my agent, the joy of living to see another birthday. (I am a turkey baby!)

I am thankful, full of thanks. And that word got me thinking (which can sometimes be a dangerous thing).

If thankful always means full of thanks, why doesn’t awful always mean full of awe? It can mean that, but not always. Then there’s grateful, which doesn’t mean full of grates, but is derived from the Latin gratus. Another word tied to gratus is the word graceful, which means pleasing form or movement and not full of God’s grace. The word grace has a nice paragraph in my Webster with eight definitions and several sub definitions.

It was fun perusing the —ful words. Check out baleful, which has nothing to do with hay. There’s more than one kind of bale. Gleeful, woeful, helpful, sorrowful, eyeful and earful, tearful and cheerful and more.

So, here’s a blogful for this month. Have a turkeyful, pieful Thanksgiving.

P.S. For those of you making Christmas lists, check out Twelve Days of Christmas Starring Chickens, by Janet Lee Carey and illustrated by Molly Blaisdell. Lots of zany chicken fun starting with a penguin in a pine tree.

7 Reasons for Belonging to a Writing Community

by Laurie Lazzaro Knowlton

Buddies

Writers are a unique group of people. We live in our heads, surrounded by characters that tell us their stories and expect us to record them on paper. Sometimes those characters keep us up at night, interrupt our daily chores, and become more real to us than our everyday lives. To outsiders we are loners, a wee-bit crazy, and not always understandable.

1. That brings me to the first reason for the importance of a writing community:
UNDERSTANDING Who else is going to understand you missing a meal, staying up all night, or holeing yourself up in a locked room? Only other writers. They understand that writing is a consuming, demanding job. They understand that if you don’t get the ideas down on paper NOW, that later, when time allows, you may find yourself staring at a blank screen. They are the only ones who get where you are coming from, so join a group! (Check out SCBWI.org, and local writers groups that meet at libraries. If you can’t find a group, start one!)

2. ENCOURAGEMENT: When you hit a glitch, and your characters have taken a long weekend in Neverland. only another writer understands those dry spells. We need encouragement. The great thing is that not only do other writers encourage each other, but when they are gathered together, an energizing ripple effect begins to roll. As each writer discusses their latest project, your own brain’s ideas begin to flow and the next thing you know you are excusing yourself to rush home to your computer to write.

3. Every manuscript requires many sets of eyes. CRITIQUE groups are a must. Every time I finish a manuscript, I just know it is an award-winning book. But the reality is that good writing begins with rewriting. Even though the story is clear in your head, the reader isn’t always able to see things the way you pictured them. That’s where many sets of eyes are helpful. Your peers can tell you the manuscript’s strengths and where it needs some work. Fellow writers are your first readers and helpful editors.

4. A good writing community is needed for NETWORKING. I attend as many conferences, workshops, and critique meets as possible. Writers know what is happening out there in the big world of publishing. You hear things about editors who are wonderful to work with, publishing houses that have recently opened their doors to unsolicited manuscripts, and houses that are now requiring a query letter. Go, listen, and grow!

5. Who are you ACCOUNTABLE to? Unless you are under deadline with a publisher, writing requires you to be your own boss. Some writers are diligent, setting aside a set amount of time to write daily, but many writers are so creatively wired that they get off task easily. I am one of those people. I am a crafter, a nature lover, a thrift store hunter, and a five-year-old at heart. Unless I have someone to answer to, I find it is unbelievably easy to get distracted. My writing community helps me to be accountable.

6. A writing community is vital because they will CHALLENGE you. Many times when brainstorming together, I have challenged my peers by saying, “If you don’t write it, I will!” Two friends that I challenged this way ended up with contracts! A challenge can be as simple as setting an amount of words to be written by the next meeting, or getting a manuscript out by a set time, or review a manuscript you put aside. But whatever the challenge, you will better off as a writer.

7. Last but not least, a writing community is valuable is for CELEBRATION. When you get that first publication, who else is going to understand your journey? No one besides another writer realizes the hours you’ve poured over your creation. No one else understands the angst felt before you turn your manuscript over to the U.S. postal service, or the daily walks to the mailbox wondering…”Will there be another rejection? Did I get an acceptance?”

Other writers get it. They value the days, months, and often years it takes to get from idea to publication. So when it is time to celebrate, your writing community will be full of high fives, balloons, and maybe even a glass of Champagne.

So don’t hide yourself off in a room by yourself. Get out there. Find a group of like- minded creative writers. They will understand and encourage you. They will critique your work and they will help inform you through networking. Your community will challenge you and make you accountable. But the best part is, they will celebrate with you every step of your journey from idea to publication.

 

One Simple Truth About Self Publishing

D. E. Knobbe

Unknown   You’ve heard this before “Publishing is currently undergoing rapid and monumental changes.” That makes it an exciting time to be a writer because there are so many more publishing avenues. From ebooks to POD’s (print on demand) the world is your publishing oyster.
     You can create an ebook and have it up for sale on Amazon within a few hours. You can contract with a POD company and pay minimal set up fees, which means you no longer have to print several thousand copies to keep your price per book within reason. Yes, even children’s full color books can be printed on demand now. Sounds wonderful, rosy, extraordinarily easy. Where do you sign up?
     Whoa! Best to put the breaks on that runaway best seller, you’ll need to acknowledge one simple truth first: Each POD book is “printed AFTER it sells.” Yes sells. That is the one simple truth that hasn’t changed in publishing. For your book to be read in any form, it still needs to be sold. No matter how brilliant your pages read, or how glossily the cover calls, it is not going to sell itself. And neither Amazon, Lulu or any other publishing platform is going to sell it for you. They’ll put it out there, but, alas, it could end up just gathering dust on a cyber bookstore shelf.
If you decide to self publish you must switch your point of view and see it as a product. Then you must educate yourself in online book marketing. Be prepared to devote countless hours to this process. Blogs, tweets and instagrams, won’t increase sales if there are no interested parties on the receiving end.
     I am not trying to discourage self-publishing. I am saying educate yourself first.           Before your publishing date arrives, have a marketing plan ready to launch along with your book. Know who your readers are and who buys for them. Target you audience directly.
     In the past there were many “Vanity Presses” who preyed on naive authors looking for self-publishing help, now, there are “Book Marketers” who sell hundreds of general packages that probably won’t increase your sales. If you want to hit your target market aim your efforts directly at it and keep shooting. You’re a lot more likely to get hits, than shooting (read dollars) aimlessly into cyberspace. You may not have piles of books unopened in your garage, but it will still take an average of 300 sales to break even, so spend your marketing dollars wisely.

I have to admit, that it took more than one failure for me to learn this lesson, and I am still learning from my successes and mistakes. I would love to hear what has worked for you and what hasn’t.

Do take the publishing leap. Do go forward. You can do it.

In the words of Norman Vincent Peale:

Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.

turtleMania_cover-2     P.S. My name is Dawne Knobbe. I run a small press called The Nature Kid along with my two awesome partners Molly Peckels and Svett Bycovec. We specialize in fun Color and Learn books about ocean creatures. We found a marketing niche for our products within the National Parks and we work it. To date we have sold over 45,000 books which can be found in 12 states, and thankfully, they are still swimming out the door:)

                       lol—Be sure to check us out online at thenaturekid.com