Showing posts with label indie publishing. Show all posts
Showing posts with label indie publishing. Show all posts

Indie Authors: 3 Tips to Make Model Books Work for You

The Dragonfly has been a symbol of happiness, new beginnings
and change for many centuries.  The Dragonfly means hope, change, and love.
You’ve read as many books as possible in your genre. Taken notes and analyzed books you’d like to emulate. Collected “how-to” books for your library. Joined related organizations, such as the Society of Book Writers and Illustrators, SCBWI, which is important for children’s authors. Taken courses. Found critique partners who want to learn with you and support you. Attended webinars and conferences. Have become knowledgeable about your craft and the people active in it.

Turning to books written by some of your favorite authors can also be a helpful tool in your arsenal.

Tip #1: First Sentence, First Page

In the hands of a well-loved author, a reader is immediately drawn into the story from page one. It is known that agents and editors often know from the first sentence whether or not they will read on. 

My favorite first line is from Linda Sue Park’s book, When My Name was Keoko. Park’s first line encapsulates what the book is about in sixteen words:

“It’s only a rumor,” Abuji said as I cleared the table. “They’ll never carry it out.”

Immediately you’re asking yourself who are “they,” and what won’t they carry out? By the middle of page 3 the reader is given enough information about the characters, setting, and plot to sit back and enjoy the unfolding of the story from there.

“Where’s Papa going with that ax?” Charlotte’s Web, by E.B. White

“In the light of the moon, a little egg lay on a leaf.” The Very Hungry Caterpillar, by Eric Carle

“There is no lake at Camp Green Lake.” Holes, by Louis Sachar

I could go on. These books are so beloved and the first lines so good, one is compelled to read on.

Tip #2: Type out your Favorite Picture Books

You’re not going to copy the author’s work. That’s not the reason you would type out a favorite published picture book. Anyone who has ever tried to write a picture book like myself understands how notoriously challenging they are to write. Tricky can be knowing what words to write and what words not to write. The illustrations show half the story (or more than half in many cases). Personally, I enjoy typing out someone else’s picture book. I get to marvel at the pure skill of the author and get closer to the story I have chosen because I love it so much.

One of the most valuable books in my library is Creating Characters Kids Will Love, by Elaine Marie Alphin. Alphin’s book is a big help in explaining how to “show” rather than “tell” a story. There is a section from her book, The Ghost Cadet, about Benjy, the twelve-year-old main character. I’ve typed out sections of Alphin's book a few times to help me remember to “show” the action in my stories.

“His sneakers were braced against the roof’s shingles. Slowly, Benjy took one hand off the sill and gripped a lower shingle instead. Then he took a deep breath, told himself very firmly not to be afraid, and let go of the sill with his other hand.

There was a bad moment when his free hand couldn’t seem to find a shingle, but Benjy made himself stay calm, and finally his damp palm slid down one row of shingles and he hooked his fingers over the next one and held tight. After that, inching his way down row by row didn’t seem so terrible.”

Tip #3: Create a Polished Book

As a self-published author, I want my books to look as good as traditionally-published books. At the same time, I need to know how Indie authors create their books as models for my own.

Front cover: The illustration needs to show an overall idea of what the book is about. Here’s a tip: make the letters of your name larger than the title.

Back cover: I’ve seen self-published back covers show the author’s photo with their bio and maybe quotes from other authors about the author and/or about their books. My idea is to make my back covers look more like traditionally-published back covers. On two of my books’ back covers, I included a short blurb of the book, and on one included a cameo illustration from the story. For my third published picture book I included three terrific reviews that take up the entire back cover, with the suggested reading level. On each back cover I’ve included a bar code with the ISBN numbers that I purchased from Bowker. I have decided not to include the price in future books as the price fluctuates.

Front matter: For the Title, Copyright, and Dedication page, I created my own pages from information I gathered from various sources.

Chapter titles and page numbers: I love the nice touch of having a small illustration from one of the book’s symbols or some kind of design at the chapter head. For the page numbers I like to include a design if I can, such as in Tall Boots, the page numbers appear inside an illustration of a blue ribbon since the book is about a young equestrian going for a blue ribbon at a 4-H Horse Show.

Back matter: In each of my books I’ve included an “About the Author” and “About the Illustrator” section. In my picture books I’ve included a page of explanation about the topic in the book, such as in A Packrat’s Holiday: Thistletoe’s Gift, a page, “What are Packrats Really Like?” and a Glossary. Also included are media images of the front covers and short blurbs about my other books that readers can purchase

I’ve used the same principle of using models for everything else I’ve created. For my website, I took notes on ideas from the websites of other authors that I liked and created my own ideas that fit my platform. One idea I liked so much from an author’s website is to have a theme. My theme became the dragonfly, which appears in Book 1 of the Abi Wunder series, Secret in the Stars. The dragonfly symbolizes change and transformation. I thought that fit with Abi who goes from being a slightly overweight eleven-year-old who wasn’t athletic and pursued her love of art almost exclusively, to becoming a blossoming runner and swimmer and a downright good detective.

Ideas abound from other talented authors when preparing to sell our books at fairs and bazaars, making classroom visits, and everything else we do in our quest to write and market our books. We can take advantage of learning about these ideas and when given the opportunity, share our own ideas with our author friends in return.


Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!
Linda Wilson, a former elementary teacher, has published over 150 articles for children and adults, several short stories for children, and her books, Secret in the Stars: An Abi Wunder Mystery, and A Packrat's Holiday: Thistletoe's Gift, which are available on Amazon, in the Mist, the second book in the Abi Wunder Myatery series, and the picture book, Tall Boots, will be out soon. Visit Linda at

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.


Dale L. Roberts on Findaway Voices can be found at:

Danika Corrall Design Studio:

Findaway Voices:  

Nancy Batra Design Studio: 

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, The next book in the Abi Wunder series, Secret in the Mist, will be available soon. Follow Linda:


Writing - Think Like a Publisher

Books: photo by zole4 from Free Digital Photos
Dean Wesley Smith is a professional writer, a USA Today best selling author. He has over one hundred novels published and is responsible for many episodes of popular long running TV series.

He also finds time to write helpful blog articles and books to help aspiring authors.

Now updating his best seller Think Like a Publisher for the 2015 edition, he is posting the update chapter by chapter on his blog, www.  The joy of reading the book in this way is that its value is doubled. Not only is it a free way to access great information, but you also have the benefit of the comments section in which he gives practical answers to authors' questions. 

By doing the maths of the writing life, he shows  how it can be  possible to make a living without qualifying for the Amazon bestseller lists and constantly  reminds of the need for patience and hard work. Interestingly, he is not one of the authors with hundreds of five star reviews. He just does the writing and assumably  his work markets itself.

It's a blog well worth investigating and his other bestsellers, Killing the Top Ten Sacred Cows of Publishing, with the second book specifically about Indie Publishing, and the third one on the way, are also available chapter by chapter as blog posts with again the added benefits of the comments.

To  Market or Not ?

I suspect very few of us make a living as professional writers, eking out our income by teaching, full or part-time work or pensions. But it is possible if , like Dean Wesley Smith, we are adaptable, write for hire, ghost write, content write, and correctly price our writing to sell.

It does take planning and dedication and perhaps a bit of luck, though many would say we make our own luck by putting in the work.

It also seems to mean  a minimum of time spent focusing on marketing rather than new writing. 

Check out the writers you admire. How many have hundreds of five star reviews? I looked up a few of the indie publishers I know are making a living. To my amazement, their reviews were in the teens and twenties rather than the hundreds.

Looks like they're writing rather than soliciting reviews. But then they've spent years building their reputations

Anne Duguid
Anne Duguid Knol

A local and national journalist in the U.K., Anne is now a fiction editor for award-winning American and Canadian publishers. As a new author, she shares writing tips and insights at her very new Author Support blog:
Her novella, ShriekWeekis published by The Wild Rose Press.

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