Posts Tagged 'children’s books'

A Primer on Types of Books

As I was clearing out my personal library, the variety of books I owned became abundantly clear. I thought about how many people are writing books, maybe even publishing their books by themselves or using a service, and decided to give you a primer so you can make good decisions along the way when you work with your book professionals.

  • Fiction books are easiest to design because they are straight text.
  • Non-fiction books include any of these elements:  different levels of headers, charts, references, photos, illustrations, and quotes. The designer has more work, as does the editor and proofreader, than with fiction.
  • Memoir books typically use shorter chapters, lots of photos, and perhaps copies of materials such as letters or clippings. Again, these are more work for your designer than fiction. Your editor may challenge the clarity of the writing, too, since you know the subject matter so well.
  • Children’s books involve getting appropriate illustrations, placing the text strategically in relation to the illustrations, and using lots of color. Of course, children’s books are also age sensitive.
  • Gift books range from basic to ornate, from inexpensive to expensive, and often use special treatments in publishing that your designer needs to consider when doing the design.
  • Art books can be color intensive or black and white, depending on the art. The paper used in printing art books is also critical to creating a beautiful art book.
  • Educational books use various types of text, sidebars, exercises, application suggestions, and graphic elements such as tables, figures, etc. Sometimes photos are used to underscore a learning point.
  • Scholarly works require several levels of headers, citations within the text, and footnotes or endnotes.

Use this short primer to help you find the right designer for your book if you self-publish. If you work with a publisher, you’ll be better equipped to work with the publisher’s designer. But, beware templates and make sure you’re getting the right design for your book.

Happy writing!



Writing Children’s Books is Harder Than You Think

You’ve probably noticed that topics come in waves–we hear about something for a while, then something else takes it place. And so it is in book publishing.

We’ve received numerous calls from authors writing children’s books in the past few weeks. During our conversations, it often becomes apparent the writer has a story idea, so what does the writer need to do to get started?

The first thing I ask them is what age group are they writing for. They typically aren’t sure, but they know they need an illustrator. So we discuss ways to find an illustrator.

Then I ask them about the storyline. They typically have a moral to the story that Mom and Dad (or some adult in the story) teach the child.

At this point I know the writer doesn’t know much about writing for children. As one editor from a children’s publishing house told me, “There’s too much adult in the children’s stories submitted to us.” When asked to say more, she said, “The adults have all the knowledge, and the adults solve all the problems. In children’s books, the kids should make the discoveries and should figure out how to solve the problems, not the adults.”

I’ve taken her comments a step further and told children’s book writers to “Think Charlie Brown cartoons.” We never see an adult. We don’t even hear what the adults are saying–they only say “Wah, wah, wah, wah.” The kids have all the experiences and do the  learning, creating, solving, etc. And that’s as it should be in children’s books. Kids should be encouraged to think and participate.

Add that children’s books are age specific, and children’s book writers face another issue–word choice. The words need to be age-appropriate. Even if Mom and Dad are reading the book to the child, the words used should be words the child understands.

It’s normal to think  writing children’s books is easy. It is not. Every word counts, and it counts from the perspective of the child, not the adult.

Writing children’s books is harder than you think, but if you do it well, you may change a young life by planting seeds that blossom into a long life of loving reading.

Happy writing!

Midwest Booksellers Trade Show Revelations

Harry and I had our booth, as we always do, at the Midwest Booksellers Trade Show this past weekend. One of our authors signed her books and many booksellers and librarians talked with her about doing an event across the region. Expert Publishing doesn’t charge authors for the booth space, unlike many publishers, and we connected her with people who sell books. She keeps ALL the proceeds from sales. We don’t pretend to pay her royalties on books she’s already paid to publish. The books are hers and she gets to keep all the money when they sell.

While we’ve watched the show get smaller over the past few years, we were surprised to see how very much smaller it was this year.

Most of the major New York publishers weren’t there. Of those who came, some had booths the same modest size as ours. Others had booths half the size they had in years past.

Most notable to me was the absence of perennial exhibitors like Publishers Weekly magazine, Midwest Fiction Writers, and the University of Chicago (publishers of the Chicago Manual of Style, the book industry standard).

Of course, none of the puppy mill Internet presses were represented except Outskirts Press. There was one lady, an author who published with them, sitting there trying to sell her one book all day–it cost her almost $500.00 to be there (booth, association dues, parking,  etc.). I asked her about her experience with Outskirts Press and she said she paid for the book development, then whenever she sold a book, Outskirts paid her $1.00 a book. I said, “So, you’ll have to sell about 500 books to break even for being here today.” She lowered her eyes and shook her head “yes.”

I don’t understand why any author would pay to develop and print their book, then pay again every time a book is sold!

It was good to see so many of our author friends and our publishing colleagues–sort of like an “old home” weekend.  I boldly asked one of my royalty-published authors how sales were going on her children’s picture book and how her royalty publisher was helping in marketing.

“They don’t help at all,” she said. “I had to buy the books from them to show here today. I couldn’t even get a sell sheet from them. ” So I asked about her royalty and she responded, “My royalty is 36 cents a book.”

I read her story as a manuscript about four years ago. It took a year or so to find this publisher, then it took the publisher almost two years to get the book to the marketplace. The author’s willing to market it obviously, but can’t  get a sell sheet from the publisher to help her? Amazing.

I also have a success story to share. I’ve known Monica Ferris since the early 1990s. She wrote eleven royalty-published mysteries (under two other names) and never drew a royalty check (you have to pay back the advance first) before her agent sold Monica’s very successful needlework mystery series. Her latest, Blackwork, is also number thirteen in the series. It comes out in October in time for Halloween, but I got my signed copy Saturday!

Please forgive the long post. It’s important you know what’s going on in the book publishing industry if you want to be part of it. You get to decide how you want to participate–go with a royalty publisher, become a self-published author (which means YOU–Duh, “self”–own the publishing company), try a subsidy puppy mill Internet publisher, or work with an equity publisher. Choose wisely.

Happy writing!