Dream of becoming a children’s book author?

October 7, 2011 at 4:12 pm | Posted in Book reviews, Community groups, Educators, Publishing your story, Uncategorized, Writing | Leave a comment

Learn the secrets from a professional. One of a two part series

 
Meet author Karen Kaufman Orloff.  With four children’s picture books under her belt she has enough experience to give those of us who dream about being published authors the inside scoop. After graduating college with a degree in English, journalism and publishing, Orloff became an editor for a Manhattan magazine group. She currently is a columnist for the Poughkeepsie Journal.

“I have been writing for over 20 years,” says Orloff. “Since my children were babies.

“I remember reading story books to the kids and thinking I could write stories for kids. But once I got into it, I realized it’s a lot harder than it looks.”

It took Karen ten years before she published her first book I Wanna Igwana with the G. P. Putnam publishing group.

“It was a fluke,” says Orloff.  She went to a conference armed with her manuscript.  The Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrator’s offered one-on-one sessions with editors. The rest is history. Then and there, the editor was interested in acquiring the story.  “That was the best money I ever spent,” says Orloff.  I Wanna Igwana has been nominated for 16 awards since it was first published in 2004. In fact, she was given an all expense trip to Nebraska to make a presentation about her book.

5  common misconceptions writers have?

  1. If I write a good story it will get published
  2. It is easy to get published
  3. Must use rhyming for easy reader children’s books
  4. Writing is a great way to earn a living.
  5. You must get an agent to get published.

 “I see many well written stories,” says Orloff. “But they are stories that have been around forever. It is critical that the story be unique. Some stories are way too long, or too adult in their theme or use of language.

 According to Orloff, you must have a thick skin to get published. And even now that she is a published author, Orloff still gets rejection letters. “Putnam rejected the manuscript for If My Mom Had Three Arms. The book finally found a home at Sterling Publishing and was published in 2004. Good luck follows Orloff. Sterling was bought by Barnes & Noble and now she has the benefit of their extensive distribution network.

In terms of rhyme, the author says that good rhyme is very hard to create. That is one of reason she suggests only using that technique is you a really good. She sees lines that don’t rhyme or meters that are off.  She emphasizes that rhyme must be good rhyme to work.

 According to Orloff, you shouldn’t count on quitting your current job if you need this money to pay your rent and put food on your table. Advances can run between $3,000 to $5,000 but getting two books published a year is considered good.  Even with royalties the money accumulates very slowly.

 Orloff does not have an agent and even as a published author she would have a hard time finding one.

There are so many writers now writing for the young market that it is very hard to capture the attention of an agent. So learn the industry and go it on your own.

 Her one word of advice? Persevere!

Want to learn more from this seasoned professional? Attend her upcoming class now forming.

Advertisements

Are books really dead?

March 21, 2011 at 10:35 am | Posted in Book reviews, Education, Educators, Librarians, Publishing your story, Uncategorized, Writing | 1 Comment

I am always looking for the next book to read. One night I took a business book off my shelf called Being Digital by Nicholas Negroponte. Just getting through his introduction was a shocker.

“Early in the next millennium your right and left cuff links or earrings may communicate with each other by low-orbiting satellites and have more computer power than your present PC…the digital planet will look and feel like the head of a pin.

As we interconnect ourselves, many of the values of a nation-state will give way to those of both larger and smaller electronic communities. We will socialize in digital neighborhoods in which physical space will be irrelevant and time will play a different roll.”

This was published in 1995…sixteen years ago.

 I was so fascinated by rereading Negroponte’s book I went online to see what other pronunciations he may suggest. And there it was… “The physical book will be dead in five years.” He shared this bombshell at the August 6, 2010 Techonomy conference in Lake Tahoe, CA.  

Over the past three years, I have worked with author Gloria Smith Zawaski, publishing our first children’s book called The Trunk in the Attic. We are about to print our second book in the series called Mongolia Bound. Our purpose is to introduce kids to other kids around the world, first Holland and now Mongolia. The series helps kids learn from other kids’ adventures. But I now think I have to consider another way of delivering the information, one that will be meaningful to this new generation of youngsters who may no longer use books as I did.

 This revelation really hit me when Eliot and Amy took to me to this huge used book warehouse in Washington, DC.   I looked at the 1,000s of books surrounding me and realized that I was looking at the death of an industry as I know it.  

It’s time to embrace the new ways and see how to make this online system of sharing information and books a more encompassing way of learning.

 For someone like me who loves books and the written word, catching up is not going to be easy. Not only do I have to stop thinking linearly but have to learn new skills. Who will I turn to in order to learn how the new computer widgets work?

Free books for teachers!

July 27, 2010 at 4:21 pm | Posted in Education, Educators, Kids and reading | Leave a comment
Tags: , , ,

You heard that right. When Hudson Valley teachers download the Teacher’s Resource Guide they are entitled to free copies of The Trunk in the Attic for their students. Find out the details here.

Kindle in the classroom?

March 24, 2010 at 10:22 am | Posted in Education, Educators, Kids and reading, Mystery books, Parent Teacher Groups, Parents | Leave a comment
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Electronic books (eBooks) are becoming more affordable and with devices like the Kindle, Nook, and now the iPad, ebooks are also becoming more practical (as well as environmentally friendly as they save paper.) This trend is predicted to move full-scale into the college scene within the next 2-3 years. Do you see eBooks coming into elementary schools, jr. high’s or high schools too? When I was younger I loved nothing more than cuddling up on a rainy day with a new book and flip through the changes. And, what does this mean for libraries? Will you rent a computer chip instead of an actual book? I see both pluses and minuses to using eBooks, I don’t know what side I’m on yet. If you are a teacher, would you use eBooks in your classroom? What about if you just want to try an eBook for fun, would you get rid of all your books? As you can see, I am torn on the subject!

Does your school have a reading program?

March 10, 2010 at 1:13 pm | Posted in Education, Educators, Kids and reading | Leave a comment
Tags: , , , ,

When I was in elementary school (wasn’t that long ago, I swear) we had a fun reading program called B.E.A.R., which I believe stood for “Be Excited About Reading.” I think B.E.A.R. is still around and that makes me happy. The goal of B.E.A.R. was to get  children excited and enthusiastic about reading. Pretty simple. My class would hold reading competitions to see how many books you could read and then you could win a prize. I don’t know about making book reading a competition, but i do know that I loved reading a new book and that has stayed with me to this day. I don’t know where I would be without books and I know that my love for them started early. What about your school? Do you have any special reading programs? Maybe The Undercover Kids could be the next book you read for school or for fun!

The Undercover Kids Trivia Quiz!

February 5, 2010 at 1:53 pm | Posted in crafts, Education, Educators, Kids and reading, Mystery books, Parents, Writing | Leave a comment
Tags: , , , , , , ,

We know what you are thinking a quiz does not sound like fun, especially on a Friday, but quizzes can be fun! You learn new information, you can test your friends and turn into a game. Test yourself, how fast can you answer the questions, what about your friends, how fast can they go? Try turning the quiz into a race, the one who answers the most questions correctly and the fastest wins a prize. (I vote you make a batch of brownies before you play the quiz game and when you are done playing hand a brownie out to everyone, so everyone wins!)

Try making your own Undercover Kids quiz about the book and hand it out to your friends. Don’t forget to tell your teacher about our downloadable teacher’s guide, where they can download even more fun activities!

How a book is born: Who prints books?

December 9, 2009 at 11:07 am | Posted in Educators, Kids and reading, Mystery books, Publishing your story, Writing | Leave a comment
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Now I am really immersed in the book, the copy, layout and illustrations. It is time to find a printer. The printer we use for our magazines does not have book printer contacts. Many of the publishers I spoke to used niche printers that were not appropriate for me: like soft cover printers, picture book printers and oversees printers.

I looked on the web, but felt that it would be a crap shoot picking someone blind, even with references. So I kept looking. Finally, I found Woodstock Press with offices in upstate New York and in Manhatten. I was lucky to be referred to Olivia Blanchflower from Overlook Press. She put me in contact with printers that Overlook Press uses. Her support was invaluable.

I found that the book publishing industry is a new world with a new language. Trade book page. Linen embossed gloss. Head and foot bands. Bar code labels. Burst casebind. Kappa board. And the list goes on.

Some printers do covers only. Others only do paperback or the inside guts. I chose two printers who could do it all. And then I tried to get the best deal. I was told that the best prices come through China but I decided to stay in the states so I could have more control over the process.

I used Berryville Graphics in Virginia. They delivered what they promised. There were several things I learned. First, the output of the pages for books is very different from magazines that are printed on newsprint. The copies from our printer look great. But the proofs we got back did not match. Their output is more sensitive to the blending of grays, and we had to change our pages so the grey backgrounds for captions did not overwhelm the copy. And second was the issue of price and how many books to print. But that I will deal with in another blog.

How a book is born: Working with a distributor

December 2, 2009 at 12:02 pm | Posted in Education, Educators, Kids and reading, Mystery books, Parents, Publishing your story, Writing | Leave a comment
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

I looked for distribution houses, even though I knew the liabilities associated with them: small financial rewards and many book returns. The larger groups don’t accept publishers like me with only one book under our belt. I was referred to Greenleaf Book Group. They work with newcomers. To be considered, you must complete a series of questions, which is essentially a business plan. Once you submit the information together with your manuscript, they promised to get back to you.

And they did. First a received a series of emails telling me they were very interested in my manuscript. I was wary of this email communication approach and asked to receive a call. It took a while but finally a pleasant young man called saying they were very interested in sell my book and they will develop a comprehensive marketing plan. Great thought.  There is always a but. All promotional expenses are mine. I pay all shipping costs. I am responsible for returns. And the percentage they take (sorry, I don’t remember the numbers) is huge. So huge, that after I figured the numbers, I would owe them money for selling my book. No earnings for me.

Now I am curious how this works. Who signs up for such a program? According to their website, the numbers are substantial.

So I looked for answers to three questions:

1.  How many children’s books have they promoted?

2.  What would my marketing plan look like?

The answer to the first question was, “Not many.”

“Then how do you know your marketing strategies will work?”

“We can’t offer any guarantee, but it has worked before.”

“Not for children’s books!”

“How about referrals? I would like to speak to someone you have worked with recently.”

It took a while, but finally I spoke to an author in California. He confirmed my worst fears. He was spending promotional dollars and had not seen any return.

I called Greenleaf back. “I would like to speak to someone in your marketing department to understand their approach to my book.” After all they are the ones who said they really liked the manuscript. The rep said he would get back to me.

I’d like to insert a note: I own a marketing and public relations company. In my 36 years in practice I never found that a client stole my marketing plan ideas after I introduced the program. If they could do it on their own, they wouldn’t bother contacting me.

The Greenleaf rep never got back to me. I let Greenleaf go. Or, maybe they let me go.

How a book is born: Reaching out to other publishers

November 25, 2009 at 11:08 am | Posted in Education, Educators, Kids and reading, Mystery books, Publishing your story, Writing | Leave a comment
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

My book is taking shape. I hired two people to proof copy. We worked with an editor who helped improve the story. (I’ll tell you about that later.) The layout looks great. The illustrations are almost complete. But I wondered how other small publishers get their books in front of their readers.

Here is what I discovered:

  1. Two publishers only work with authors who are will to spend their time promoting their books. They feel the author will be the primary sales person. For example, one author is a psychologist who speaks at large conventions. She sells the books are the conferences. Another author does the school circuit and puts books in the trunk to sell.
  2. All the publishers list their books on Amazon.com and BN.com, but they do not get a great return.
  3. One sells through Scholastic Books. They order large quantities, 12,000-15,000 books, but the money he makes has been diminishing.
  4. One sells through a book distributor, but there is a small return on investment and they have to worry about book returns.
  5. One publisher would only speak to me if I paid her for her time. Oh well. You can’t win them all.

I learned two things:

1.Very small publishing groups have a really rough hall. As I am writing this blog, two of the publishers I spoke to have closed down their operations.  

2. There is not one distribution channel. I will have to try a number of different ways to get my book into the hands of readers before I realize what works for me and what doesn’t.

 

How a book is born: Bringing the book to life with illustrations

November 11, 2009 at 11:45 am | Posted in Education, Educators, Kids and reading, Mystery books, Parents, Publishing your story, Writing | Leave a comment
Tags: , , , , ,

Our publisher Terrie Goldstein continues to discuss how she brought the Undercover Kids book series to life.

I am still using my first rough edit to complete the initial layout with 11 chapters. Now I am ready to decide what illustrations will support the story. For this phase, my magazine publishing experience comes in handy. I grid the pages using ½ and full-page illustrations, as well as two full-page layouts and two half-page layouts. I decide not to use graphics for the chapter headings or to use spot illustrations which are placed anywhere on the page. (Although in the final layout I insert two spot drawings because it supported the story.)

I decide how many illustrations I need and the sizes. And then I create a 5 page Request for Proposal, commonly called an RFP. But how much am I willing to pay? No idea! So I call some of my artist friends to discover the going rate and balance it with what I think I can afford.

My author is local, so I would like a local artist as well. I sent the RFP to all the artists I know plus all the local art organizations. I get back 10 responses and contact five.

I ask them to create their version of Katie and Jake. I wanted to make sure I had someone who understood Katie and Jake. Once that happened, everything else would be a piece of cake. Boy…was I wrong.

I picked an illustrator and asked for he first full-page drawing. We went back and forth maybe five times before I realized that this just was not going to work. I paid for the illustration, even though I wasn’t going to use it.

Now I am in trouble. I have no illustrator and my printing deadline is fast approaching.

Phillip Ritzenberg, my book layout guru, comes to the rescue. Childrensillustrators.com shows great worldwide talent.

Since I really botched my first attempt at hiring an illustrator, I call in the big guns…my husband, who is a fine artist. We go through the site together and we both realize from my first hire, that not all illustrators can draw people AND animals. For us that is important, because Cooper, Katie and Jake’s dog, plays an important role.

While researching the illustrators on the web, I return to the library and the bookstore to find illustrators that I enjoy. For example, Dave McKean’s illustrations for Neil Gaiman’s book The Graveyard Book is one of my favorites. His black and white drawings set the stage for Gaiman’s wistful tale.

Research done and I am ready to pick a new illustrator. Wish me luck.

Next Page »

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.
Entries and comments feeds.