Showing posts with label Kirkus Reviews. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Kirkus Reviews. Show all posts

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Indie Authors: The Joy of Working with Artists

Page with No Words, by Illustrator Nancy Batra

Today we indie authors—an author who has published a book at personal expense—a self-published author—have some advantages over traditionally-published authors. We are our own boss, we can produce and publish our work in record time, and we can find many professional individuals and companies who help us turn out quality products. There is a downside, of course, but we won’t go there for now.

One of my greatest joys as an indie author is having the privilege of working with four artists: three illustrators and a voice actor. In each project I’ve had a say, and have had the enjoyment of considering the beginning sketches, and as in the case of my first book, Secret in the Stars, have been rewarded with the completion of the final product. The same is true for the audiobook. Here is the process as each project has evolved so far.

Secret in the Stars: Tiffany Tutti began by sending me sketches of her vision, which she created from notes I sent her. We sent the files back and forth for edits until they were completed. Tiffany created extra illustrations for my website as well. Due to the nature of the project, I own the files. This is key, as I have the freedom to use Tiffany’s illustrations in all my materials.

Secret in the Stars audiobook: I chose Findaway Voices for the company to produce my audiobook after watching “Is Findaway Voices Worth It?” by Dale L. Roberts on YouTube. Also, Draft2Digital, a self-publishing company, highly recommends Findaway Voices. I am glad I took their advice because Findaway Voices is a terrific company to work with. The price for producing an audiobook is reasonable and no payment is made until the finished product is approved by the author.

  • Findaway Voices begins by matching your project with comparable voice actors. I had a choice of 5-6 actors, learned about their backgrounds, and listened to a short excerpt of my book by each one. I chose the one whose “child’s voice” I liked best: Kae Marie Denino.
  • Kae narrated a larger section of my book for me to comment on. Once I gave my approval, she finished narrating the book.
  • She and I messaged back and forth, which helped solidify how she interpreted the various voices. 
  • The audiobook will be available soon on Amazon.

Secret in the Mist: Danika Corrall, the web designer who created my website, has agreed to illustrate Book 2 in the Abi Wunder Mystery series. Danika has designed the cover and will create the illustrations as soon as the manuscript is ready.


A Packrat Holiday: Thistletoe’s Gift
: Last but not least is my work with illustrator Nancy Batra, who has agreed to illustrate my picture books. This packrat story sat in my “drawer” for years. I reworked it (many times), especially by cutting down the words and taking into account how the illustrations tell much of the story. I wound up with two pages in the book with no words, which was the most fun I had with the project.

I created quite a few book dummies for the packrat story before coming up with the one that worked best for me: simply 8 ½ x 11” paper folded in two, stapled together and numbering 32 pages. Nancy and I collaborated on the ideas for the illustrations by sending the sketches back and forth. She has agreed to illustrate more of my picture book stories, which are seeing the light of day for the first time in a long time.

There are too many joys of being a children’s author to name here, but working with these artists has allowed me to visualize my stories on paper, not just with words, but with an artist’s eye for things I haven’t even thought of. The experience has been one of the most rewarding of my journey into children’s literature.

Sources: 

Dale L. Roberts on Findaway Voices can be found at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AwUP7pJYWGI

Danika Corrall Design Studio: www.danikacorrall.com

Findaway Voices: https://www.findawayvoices.com  

Nancy Batra Design Studio: www.illustratornancy.com 

A note about last month's post, "Is an Indie Kirkus Review Worth It?" 

I talked to a salesperson at Kirkus Review about the possibility of placing an ad in one of Kirkus's publications, their website, magazine, or newsletter. She informed me that Secret in the Stars was earmarked as a Kirkus "recommended" book. Great news that I can include in my promo materials. I asked her why I hadn't been informed of this designation and she said Kirkus doesn't have an icon for this, such as the star for starred reviews, but that when there is room, Kirkus will recommend these books in their materials. The only way to learn about this designation is to call. I recommend any author who has received a Kirkus review to call to see if your book has received this designation.

Linda Wilson, a former elementary teacher and ICL graduate, has published over 150 articles for adults and children, and several short stories for children. She has recently become editor of the New Mexico SCBWI chapter newsletter, and is working on several projects for children. Secret in the Stars: An Abi Wunder Mystery, Linda's first book, is available on Amazon, https://www.amazon.com/author/lindawilsonchildrensauthor. The next book in the Abi Wunder series, Secret in the Mist, will be available soon. Follow Linda: https://www.lindawilsonauthor.com.

 


Sunday, September 27, 2020

Is an Indie Kirkus Review Worth It?

Part of the service of the “vanity” publisher I once worked with was a the inclusion of a Kirkus Review. I call the publisher “vanity” because I paid for a package that included editing, some promotion, promo materials, etc. Due to unscrupulous practices by this publisher, I canceled my account. I was able to retain the Kirkus review, which was received in 2018, and the files for the manuscript and exterior and interior illustrations, and eventually self-published my book, Secret in the Stars: An Abi Wunder Mystery.

But a dilemma soon surfaced. The Kirkus Review was not an entirely positive one. In that case, I had to make a choice. I could quote the positive comments in my promo materials, including the book cover, but Kirkus reserves the right to publish the entire, unabridged review on their website. Or, I could keep the review private. In that case, I wouldn’t be permitted to use any part of the review in my book’s promotional efforts. Instead, I could use the reviewer’s comments to help improve the book. I chose the latter, and continued revisions up until July 2020 when I self-published the book with Amazon. Once the book was out, in my search for reviews, I revisited Kirkus to see if a second review would be possible. Here’s what happened.

The Pros and Cons of a Kirkus Review

A traditional review starts at $425 and is promised within 7-9 weeks. I received a $50 reduction from an ad I found on Facebook for this type of reivew. An expanded review can be had for $575, and a picture book review starts at $350. 

According to authors surveyed for the Alliance of Independent Authors article, “Watchdog: Is a Kirkus Review Worth the Price?” by Giacomo Giammatteo, the benefits of purchasing a Kirkus Review are mainly:

  • A Kirkus Review lends credibility throughout the industry and by media and libraries.
  • Blurbs from the review can be used in marketing.
  • You can publish your review in Kirkus.com; it will be considered for publication in Kirkus Reviews and in Kirkus’s email newsletter, which is distributed to more than 50,000 consumers and industry professionals.

However, Giammatteo’s article points out drawbacks. The majority of authors surveyed for the article (16 out of 21) felt that the reviews were “not worth the money.” Why?

  • “The review didn’t produce sales.” Giammatteo points out that the review is not intended to produce sales.
  • A positive review is not promised, as stated in the Kirkus email I received, "there are no guarantees that the second review would come back more positive than the first."
  • Many authors Giammatteo spoke with felt that the reviews were not well written and weren't inspiring enough for readers to want to buy the book.
  • Much of the reviews are spent in rehashing the plot, which seemed unnecessary to the authors consulted for the Giammatteo article.

An Added Challenge in Applying for a Second Review on the Same Book

I bit the bullet and decided that my book needed credibility. So, I applied for a second review and hit a brick wall. I received a rather curt response indicating that “we cannot review the same book twice, but if you make changes significant enough to render the previous review obsolete, we will consider conducting a new review . . . we ask that you include a letter to our editor outlining the changes with examples and page numbers cited. Our editor will ultimately decide if the changes are significant enough to warrant a second review.”

Give me a challenge like that and I can’t pass it up. The review back in 2018 found five flaws that I admit were significant. I took the flaws seriously, and went through each one, editing them throughout the book. Much later after I had left my publisher, I decided it was an opportunity to do more work on the book. I had the book reviewed by professional editor and revised it even more, until finally publishing it in July.  Here is a condensed version of what the original reviewer found:

  • Author fails to fully explore Abi’s various supernatural abilities and their causes or connections.
  • Secondary characters pop up throughout for no apparent reason.
  • The villain is one-dimensional who does bad things without much explanation or repercussion.
  • Book has an overly complicated plot and undeveloped characters.

In my application for a second review, I listed each of the flaws in large, bold, letters, and then went about looking up the passages in the original manuscript and how I had changed them in the published version. In a nutshell, it was a tedious exercise at best, which took three days to complete. The deeper I dove, the more determined I got. The last comment is what made my blood boil over:

  • Accompany illustrations are simple and charming, reminiscent of the old Nancy Drew novels. They’re just not nearly frequent enough.

GRRR! This was supposed to be an indie reviewer. The maddening part was that an indie author pays for illustrations out-of-pocket. The number of interior illustrations and the cover illustrations were created with what I could afford at the time. Also I found insulting was the reviewer calling Nancy Drew novels “old.” As far as I know, Nancy Drew novels are still enjoyed to this day. I call that enduring, not old.

Many of the authors interviewed felt that their $500 would be better spent elsewhere. One comment suggested Chanticleer Reviews and Matt McAvoy's Book Reviews. Pubby also offers reviews. I tried Pubby's trial offer but declined to continue as I felt I don't have the time to devote to it. The best advice can be found in Carolyn Howard-Johnson's book, How to Get Great Book Reviews Frugally and Ethically, which I keep on my desk along with her other terrific books, such as The Frugal Book Promoter, and her other books.

My new Kirkus Review is promised by mid-October. I'm hoping it will be positive. No matter. This time around, I am going to use the positive parts--hoping there will be some--in my promotional material. Then I will have come full-circle with Kirkus. I hope my gamble pays off.

"You are now part of my world . . . forever."

Linda Wilson, a former elementary teacher and ICL graduate, has published over 150 articles for adults and children, and several short stories for children. She has recently become editor of the New Mexico SCBWI chapter newsletter, and is working on several projects for children. Secret in the Stars: An Abi Wunder Mystery, Linda's first book, is available on Amazon, https://www.amazon.com/author/lindawilsonchildrensauthor. The next book in the Abi Wunder series, Secret in the Mist, will be available soon. Follow Linda: https://www.lindawilsonauthor.com



One Last Edit: Re-think before Submitting

Think of a story as a string of pearls. If you don't have a string, you can't put the pearls around your neck.                      ...