by Bryan Patrick Avery
In magic, some of the greatest rewards come from taking risks. Magicians like Eric Jones, David Blaine, and the late Daryl all have built reputations in magic by taking the biggest risk of all – making the magic happen in the spectator’s hands. There are, of course, many thing that can go wrong. But when things go right, the impact of the effect is heightened.
The same is true of success in the field of writing children’s books. There’s not much success to be had if we stay in our comfort zones. It can be tempting to sit at our desks and write in solitude but we all know that publication is only a possibility if we are willing to send out creations out into the world. I usually use this space to highlight a few books I think can help us on our journey to becoming better writers. This month, I’d like to offer you a few real-world risks that you can take to help you on the journey to getting published.
First, if you haven’t done so already, join SCBWI. In SCBWI, you’ll find a group of writers just like you. Some are just starting out, some have achieved a bit success, and some are incredibly successful and well know. SCBWI will afford you the opportunity to learn and grow while helping others on their journey. If you’re already a member, take advantage of the many local and national events to network, learn, and hone your craft. You won’t be sorry.
Another great risk to take is to set a goal to push yourself. Earlier this year, I participated in StoryStorm. Formerly known as Picture Book Idea Month (PiBoIdMo), Storystorm was started by author Tara Lazar (7 Ate 9, The Untold Story) as challenge. The challenge? Create 30 story ideas in 30 days. Sound daunting? Maybe a little. But with daily blogs from authors, editors, and illustrators to help you along the way, it’s achievable and quite rewarding.
Because learning is a life-long pursuit, another risk you may wish to explore is taking a writing or illustrating course. There are many available but I’m partial to the courses from the Children’s Book Academy. In addition to top notch instructors, CBA has some of the most supportive students. Many of the courses include critique groups made up of other students. Though it may be a bit scary to share a work in progress and request feedback, it will help you grow as a writer. In addition, there is an opportunity to get feedback from the instructors during weekly webinars. Imagine getting feedback on your story’s pitch from an editor at a major publishing house. I’d say it’s worth the risk.
Perhaps the best part of the CBA courses is the Golden Ticket contest. At the end of the course, students are able to post a pitch for review by a group of agents and editors. If their pitch is selected, the student gets to bypass the slush pile and submit directly to the agent or editor. A number of students have found their agents or sold their work to editors as a result of winning a Golden Ticket.
As you can see, there’s an upside to taking some risk in pursuing publication. Still not convinced? I’ll share my personal journey with you:
In 2015, at the suggestion of a friend, I joined SCBWI. I had never published a children’s book before. Determined to take advantage of the benefits of SCBWI, I went to a mixer in December of that year where I met Hillary Homzie (Queen of Likes, Pumpkin Spice Secrets). She encouraged me to take a course at the Children’s Book Academy (I’ve now taken several) where I met Dr. Mira Reisberg. Mira mentored me and helped me grow as a writer. Through some CBA students, I learned about Storystorm which I participated in this past January. One of my 30 ideas was a story about a historical event my grandfather was a part of during World War II. During the CBA Picture Book course this year, I worked on the story and submitted it for the Golden Ticket Contest.
My pitch was selected by three editors and one agent and just last week, I signed a contract with a Clear Fork Publishing for my story, The Freeman Field Photograph.
As you can see, myrisks paid off. Yours will too. And that’s pretty magical!
t's another lazy day in the backyard, and Ick doesn't want to explore the mysterious sound in the woods. But Crud has his back or does he?
Broken into three short stories of poetry and petty crime, this charming chapter book will have young readers in search of a rhyme in no time. Book 1 in the Marty Frye series!
Marty Frye is not your ordinary sleuth. Marty Frye is a poet detective--he makes up rhymes as he solves small crimes. When his friend Emma's diary is missing, Marty is on the case. When Katie's flour is nowhere to be found, Marty tracks it down. And when the brand-new Action Chuck figures mysteriously vanish from the toy store, Marty unravels the mystery. Will there ever be a case too hard for Marty to solve? Or a word too impossible to rhyme?
Broken into three short stories of poetry and petty crime, this charming chapter book will have young readers in search of a rhyme in no time.
When Molly Mac loses her first tooth, talk of the Tooth Fairy makes her head spin! What does the Tooth Fairy do with all of those teeth anyway? Molly and her best friend, Kayley, decide to investigate. When Molly figures out what happens to her lost tooth, will she approve?
Celery and Winston are a typical brother-and-sister pair. They play together and get along, but occasionally—well, more than occasionally—they engage in those oh-so-familiar sibling antics. The twins' good-humored attempts to outwit each other, from "stop copying me" to "it's opposite day," will ring true to brothers and sisters everywhere.
This Jump-Into-Chapters title is actress Katie MacNichol's debut children's book. Its combination of fraternal affection and sibling rivalry, along with its plucky lead characters, will appeal to boys and girls alike.
Introducing Clover, the newest character in Blue Apple's Jump-Into-Chapters series! Kids will make a great new friend-on-the-page when they meet the sunny-funny, no-holds-barred Clover in her debut school-centered adventures.
Whether she's trying to sit still during story time, or singing a little louder during music hour, or cracking the tough-girl shell of a new kid who says she's "bad news," Clover is a fizz-and-pop girl! The school setting and everyday activities provide a relatable backdrop to the growing-up experiences showcased by Clover and other characters.
With a strongly appealing character at its center, kids will be excited to see what Clover's up to next.
The Read & Bloom line offers high interest, character driven stories for newly independent readers that feature full-color illustrations throughout and will transition kids from leveled readers to a lifetime of reading.
In this charming series, perfect for newly independent readers, kids will be treated to simple whodunit mysteries as an utterly delightful owl duo put their heads together. In their first adventure, Wallace and Grace meet a rabbit who is sure he saw a ghost! But the clues lead them in a different direction. Something is spooking the garden . . . can Wallace and Grace solve this case?
For fans of Captain Underpants or Sideways Stories from Wayside School, this new chapter book series is perfect for reluctant readers.
When unlucky teacher Ms. Linda LaCrosse wins the lottery, she shares her winnings with her class--giving each student over a BILLION DOLLARS!
You might think this was nice, but it was not. It was a nasty idea! With great money comes horrible allergies, steep taxes, exploding volcanoes, and other problems. As the students of Classroom 13 are about to learn, winning the lottery is not always lucky.
What would YOU do if you won the lottery? The final chapter encourages young readers to write their OWN chapter and send it in to the author, Honest Lee.
The Unlucky Lottery Winners of Classroom 13 is the first in a new chapter book series of hilarious stories about a rather unlucky classroom. Each story is full of humor, action, and fun, and will prompt hours of conversation among friends, families, and classrooms.
Fans of Amelia’s Notebook and Judy Moody will love this friendship story bursting with doodles and pictures
Bea Garcia is an artist. She draws anywhere and everywhere—but mostly in her own notebook. When Bea’s first and only best friend Yvonne moves to Australia, not even drawing makes Bea feel better. And things only get worse when a loud, rambunctious boy moves in next door. He’s nothing at all like Yvonne! But with a little imagination and a whole lot of doodles, Bea Garcia might just make a new friend.
This first book in a brand-new chapter book series is a must-read for doodlers everywhere.
If you like the Avengers, Justice League, or The Incredibles, then you'll love this family of superheroes! This new chapter book series is perfect for reluctant readers.
Everyone in Peter Power's family has super awesome superpowers--except Peter. All he can do is make ice cubes and freeze stuff. But when Peter fibs to his teacher, the lies begin to snowball. Before he has time to tell the truth, Boulder City encounters earthquakes and a friendly group of lizard people!
But soon, the lizard people reveal their lying colors and take over the town. Now, it's up to Peter and his super-powered family to save their hometown. Will they be able to defeat the League of Lizards' giant Gila monster, or will they be stomped flat?
MEET VICTOR, TOTAL EXPERT IN EVERYTHING
(except Guy Who Cleans Up Bedrooms)
With his confidence, imagination, and trusty sidekick Dumpylumps (who happens to be a duck), there's no telling what trouble he'll get into. Lucky for him, he has a knack for getting himself out of trouble, too. So when he finds himself at the center of an intergalactic conflict, he's pretty sure the only way out is his top-secret kitchen concoction; his teacher, the extraordinary Mrs. Nozzleburp; and the help of his friend Patti.
Will he be able to save the day and find his way back to class? And just what is he going to do next?
Welcome to The Lost Plains!
A wild west frontier where dinosaurs never went extinct.
It's time for the families of Trihorn to participate in the annual iguanadon drive to Scaly Point. Josh Sanders and his friends Abi and Sam are thrilled to join the drive...until an avalanche comes down and cuts them off from the group!
To top it off, Josh's arch-nemesis, Amos, has been trapped with them. With no other choice, the group will have to band together to make it back to Scaly Point―and escape a blood-thirsty T-Rex!
This wildly entertaining new chapter book series for ages 7 and up features exciting illustrations and real dino facts! A great way to get kids reading.
Zing, zong, zing. Brain flash! A pirate hook. Underground tunnels. Brains in jars. It's time for an Escapade!
Clint McCool always has a lot of great ideas. That’s what makes him such a great hero. But sometimes he has too many great ideas. Armed with his super-powered cap, his brain flashes, and his two best friends, Clint is ready to solve any problem and find adventure anywhere. When he runs onto a film set, he gets into trouble. A lot of trouble. Can Clint McCool still save the day?
This easy-to-read, highly-illustrated book is a perfect first chapter book, printed in black and blue to help readers transition from full-color picture books to black-and-white chapter books. Exciting adventures, relatable characters, and engaging art—early readers will love joining Clint McCool for his Escapades.
Aliens, talking cats, invisibility—it's all possible in this hilarious early chapter book series!
When Zeke Zander's spaceship crashes on Earth, he and his family must pretend to be humans until they can fix the ship and return home to Planet Z. But with antennae on their heads and a talking cat named Zeus, fitting in is easier said than done!
From the author of the George Brown and Katie Kazoo books, The Kid from Planet Z is easy-to-read, highly-illustrated, and printed in black and blue. Follow along as this adorable alien struggles through life on planet Earth in this hilarious story, perfect for a first chapter book!
by Mira Reisberg
One of the best parts of running the Children's Book Academy is seeing the beautiful books that our students make. This one is from June Perkins who took our Self-Publishing with Crowdfunding course, co-taught by Jed Alexander and myself. Magic Fish Dreaming is truly gorgeous, getting rave reviews, and most importantly getting into children's hands in June's native Australia. June did not want to wait for an editor or agent and the incredibly slow process of getting contracted and published. Because it's a book of poems, which also makes it harder to be picked up by a traditional publisher, June was wise to follow her heart and take her destiny into her own hands to create the book that she wanted. With the help of her illustrator Helene Magisson, and a small village of both professional and non-professional help, June has created something very beautiful and meaningful.
We are so grateful that June was sympathetic with our instructions by getting her poems professionally edited and hiring a really high-quality professional illustrator and designer from the money she raised in her successful Kickstarter campaign. We are also grateful that this beautiful book exists because of its beauty, it's diversity, and the environmental caring it subtly weaves through inspiration. After the book came out, I was delighted to interview June for this blog in hopes that others will purchase it and learn from June's innovative poem structures, the exquisite art, and about this magic place in far North Queensland where Magic Fish Dreaming takes place. Here's the interview where June shares about her experiences of self-publishing and about her process in making the book. If you enjoy the interview, please leave a comment at the bottom.
To find out more about June Perkins and Magic Fish Dreaming click here or find her on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/magicfishdreaming/
To find out more about our Instant Access Self-Publishing with Crowdfunding course click here. There's currently a $60.00 discount with this Promo Code: ILOVEKidLit
This was my first time at L.A. Book Festival and to say I was intimidated initially is an understatement. The festival attracts close to 150,000 people over the weekend.
My publisher, Move Books, LLC, was booked for another event in New England but I was curious so I offered to "staff" their booth at the California event. I thought it would be a great way to meet and greet readers. I figured it would be an easy weekend. Little did I know what I was getting myself into. But after this weekend I'm already looking forward to doing it again next year. Here's some tips for those who are curious:
It's not necessary to be a speaker on a panel to draw a crowd:
I was not speaking on panels and as a result was not on the "author" list online. That was odd because the publisher had confirmations from them that I was signing at the booth both days. Probably a glitch. At first I was concerned that I wouldn't draw an audience or would be at a disadvantage. But at book festivals I discovered most of the attendees are fans of reading. Many people are coming to buy books and discover new authors. They aren't all coming to sit in an audience. There's just too many booths to explore. So there was constant traffic at the Move Books booth and I was asked to autograph books all day both days. Going to a panel might have actually reduced sales.
Wear comfortable shoes and bring a cooler with snacks and drinks.
Be prepared to not have time for lunch, exploring, or bathroom breaks. You'll be on your feet a lot. Although not every reader was a "buyer", everyone who stopped by the booth was interested in hearing about the books we had, took bookmarks, asked if my book was available online, or at the library. This is marketing. Be kind and enthusiastic, even to the adults. Many want to "talk.". Ask questions and engage the readers. The next time a reader sees your name or your book, you won't be "just another face in the crowd."
People who express interest and walk away often come back.
Not all readers are converted to buyers on the first meeting. I was surprised at how many readers showing interest in my series came back the next day to make a purchase. Most explore the full festival before deciding what to take home (plus carting books around all day gets heavy). Be nice. And if you write other things, let them know. I made a lot of connections with educators. And was surprised at how many people recognized my books published at Scholastic. Now they can put my face with the other books they'd been reading all along.
Plan on coming back the next year.
One buyer came by the booth asking if I knew the location of another author's work. I didn't. The woman didn't know the name of the publisher, just the name of the book. She'd seen the book two consecutive years and didn't buy it. This year she came back specifically to get THAT book and get an autograph. We found the title on Amazon then looked to see if the booth was listed at the festival. It wasn't. So be warned. Sometimes "sales don't happen" on the first impression. But it doesn't mean a reader isn't thinking about you. While at our tent she asked about my series and later in the weekend came back to buy a set of books.
That is why I was glad to not be limited to a two-hour block of time for autographs. People could find me anytime they dropped by. At conferences I post a sign when I'm on panels to say when I'll return, but for the most part, at a festival, large crowds (including interested adults) swarm the area all day long making it hard for me to even get to the booths next door and across from us to get autographs from authors I admired.
What if my publisher isn't going to be there (or isn't sponsoring me?)
Make note of which bookstores have tents. We were next to two which were handling sales for large publishers like Scholastic, MacMillan and HarperCollins. If your publisher isn't going to have a booth, contact one of the bookstores to see if they'd allow you to have a signing block. Some festivals (such as Tuscon Book Festival) actually have a sign-up process and the festival will handle the book sales. If they say yes, then promote yourself and let people know you're signing in advance. Bookstores are in the business of selling books. Do your part and let your followers know where to find you.
BUT - drumroll - Most festivals will allow you to share a tent. So band together with friends. I partnered with Elm Books (run by Leila Monaghan who also hosts the Kids of Color Childrens Book page on Facebook. We shared a tent at Tuscon book festival because my own publisher didn't have a booth there. I still sold most of the books I carried with me. So don't have publisher support? Find colleagues and ask if they want to share a booth.
Bring marketing materials even if your publisher doesn't provide them.
A lot of teachers and students come as a field trip on Saturday. I brought business cards, bookmarks and had a teacher sign-up sheet for those wanting information about my series or school visits. My publisher (can I tell you how much I love them?!?) sent two cases of backpacks with my book logo on them instead of their own. I was thrilled!
Don't Be An Island
All around you are other authors who are just as passionate about their own books. If you're not promoting books, then go to their panels and signings. Show them some love. Take photos and put them on social media. We're a village and helping to promote your colleagues will help promote you too. Most of all, have a blast. You'll be exhausted at the end of the two days but it will be worth it. I promise.
Christine Taylor-Butler is the author of more than 70 books for children. Her current passion is her contemporary sci-fi/fantasy The Lost Tribes about five children who learn they play a role in saving the world. When not writing, she is a freelance editor, and community volunteer. She's also a closet ballroom dancer, artist and personal servant of a cat and tank of fish. You can find her on
The Lost Tribes Series: www.TheLostTribesSeries.com
We are so excited to be mixing things up at the Children's Book Academy. Mondays with Mandy or Mira is now the Blogfish!!
Here's our lineup:
1st Mondays will feature award-winning former agent and former kidlit professor Mira Reisberg PhD who is also the Director of the Children's Book Academy.
2nd Mondays will feature reading specialist and MFA in creative writing graduate Mandy Yates has been published multiple times in Highlights Magazine.
3rd Mondays will feature Bryan Patrick Avery, published writer, man of mystery, and professional magician among other things.
4th Mondays will feature the great Christine Taylor-Butler who has published over 70 award-winning fiction and non-fiction and nonfiction books including the acclaimed new middle grade series - The Lost Tribes.
And 5th Mondays will feature will feature the fabulous Carl Angel, award-winning multi-published Illustrator and graphic designer.
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