Friday, March 11, 2011

What Makes a Good Children’s Book?


What Makes a Good Children’s Book?
By Sherry Ellis

There are many factors that go into the making of a good children’s book.

The first is the story itself.  It must have a plot that appeals to the age of the child it is written for.  It has to be something a child can understand.  It has to be told in such a way that the child falls in love with it.  The best stories are ones that are timeless; where the plot is something that could appeal to a child fifty years from now.

Illustrations are another important factor in the making of a good children’s book.  Brightly-colored illustrations really grab a child’s attention.  The illustrations should accurately portray what is going on in the story.  Really well-done illustrations may even tell a story of their own.  Kids should want to sit down with a book and pour over the pictures.

A book’s cover should be attractive.  There’s an old mantra, “don’t judge a book by its cover,” but the truth is, we do judge a book by its cover.  If the cover looks appealing, we are more likely to want to read what’s inside.  The same holds true with children’s books.  Children are naturally attracted to books with interesting covers. 

Finally, there’s the language itself.  Descriptive words are important in painting a picture of what’s going on in the story.  Care must be taken to use words that can be understood by the age of the children the story is written for.

Good children’s book writers have the ability to view the world through the eyes of a child.  They are able to remember the feelings and emotions they had as a child.  All of these factors put together help an author create a book that is not only enchanting to children, but also to the adults who read it. 


About Sherry Ellis: Sherry Ellis is a freelance writer who writes articles for parenting magazines and children’s publications.  Her first book, That Baby Woke Me Up, AGAIN, was published in 2005.  Her second, That Mama is a Grouch, was published in May of 2010.  It was honored as a finalist in the Parenting/Family category of the 2010 USA Book News Awards. 

Sherry is also a professional musician who plays and teaches violin, viola, and piano.  Ms. Ellis lives in Loveland, Ohio with her husband and two children.

Author Website: www.sherryellis.org

Monday, February 14, 2011

The Ten Commandments of Book Reviewing with Mayra Calvani

Award-winning author Mayra Calvani, who is currently doing a virtual author tour, was asked to share some tips with us today on doing book reviews as part of her World of Ink Tour. Mayra not only writes fiction and nonfiction for children and adults. She’s a reviewer for The New York Journal of Books, co-editor of Voice in the Dark ezine and a...Mother. I couldn’t think of a better person to motivate and inspire us today. 


1.     Thou shall have no other gods before the reader.
The review is not about the author, nor the publisher, and especially, not about you, the reviewer. Reviews are all about the reader. Don’t try to impress with pompous words in an attempt to glorify yourself or appear scholarly. Give readers simplicity and clarity. They’ll appreciate it. If they want verbose and fancy, they can read Shakespeare.

2.     Thou shall not lie.
Honesty is what defines your trade. Without it, you’re nothing but sell copy. When you give facile praise or sugarcoat a book, sooner or later readers will take you for what you are: a phony. Furthermore, if you give facile praise to a poorly written book, you are perpetuating a bad writer's career, lowering the chances that a good writer may be published instead.

3.     Thou shall not offend the author.
Just as honesty is important, so is tact. There’s no need to be harsh or mean. A tactfully written, well-meant negative review should offer the author insight into what is wrong with the book. Instead of saying, “This is a terrible novel!” say, “This book didn’t work for me for the following reasons…”

4.     Thou shall not eat the evaluation.
Some fledgling reviewers write a long blurb of the book and leave out the evaluation. The evaluation is the most important part of a review. A summary of the plot is not an evaluation. Saying, “I really liked this book” is not an evaluation. The evaluation tells the reader what is good and bad about the book, and whether or not it is worth buying. 

5.     Thou shall not reveal spoilers.
Nobody likes to be told the ending of a movie before having watched it. The same thing is valid for a book. If you give spoilers in your review, not only do you lessen the reader’s reading experience but you also risk being sued by the publisher or author. 

6.     Thou shall honor grammar, syntax and punctuation.
Don’t be one of those reviewers who are more in love with the idea of seeing their name online than making sure their reviews are well written and thorough. Your reviews may hang around on the internet for years to come and will reflect on your level as a writer. Run a spell check, edit, revise and polish your review as if you were posting a short story. Get a good book on grammar and punctuation, take an online course or listen regularly to podcasts such as The Grammar Girl

7.     Thou shall honor deadlines.
If you join a review site where the turnaround for reviews is 3 weeks, then you should respect that agreement. If you promise the author to have the review ready in two months, you should honor this too. Be honest and straightforward from the beginning. If you’re so busy your turnaround is six months, make sure to let the person know. If for any reasons you cannot meet the deadline, contact the person and let him know. It’s your responsibility to maintain a doable schedule. 

8.     Thou shall not be prejudiced against thy neighbor.
Don't assume that a self-published or small press book is poorly written. Give it a fair chance and let it speak for itself. Likewise, never assume a book published by a major NY house has to be good. You'd be surprised by the high quality of some small press books by unknown authors as opposed to those written by big name authors whose titles are often in the bestseller lists. In general, most subsidy books are mediocre, but there are always exceptions. If you've had bad experiences with subsidy books, then don't request them nor accept them for review. If you decide to review one, though, don't be biased and give it a fair chance.

9.      Thou shall not become an RC addict
RC stands for Review Copy. Requesting RCs can get out of control. In fact, it can become addictive. You should be realistic about how many books you can review. If you don’t, pretty soon you’ll be drowning in more RCs that you can handle. When this happens, reading and reviewing can change from a fun, pleasurable experience into a stressful one. If you’re feeling frazzled because you have a tower of books waiting to be reviewed, learn to say NO when someone approaches you for a review and stop requesting RCs for a while. Unless you’re being paid as a staff reviewer for a newspaper or magazine, reviewing shouldn’t get in the way of your daily life. 

10.              Thou shall not steal.
Remember that the books you request are being sent to you in exchange for a review. Requesting review copies and not writing the reviews is, in one word: stealing. You'd be surprised at the number of 'reviewers' who, after having requested several books, suddenly 'disappear.' These people are not legitimate; they're crooks, plain and simple. If you have a valid reason for not reviewing a book, let the review site editor, author, publisher or publicist know. 

The same goes for piracy. Do not risk being fined for posting a full eBook you have received on any site whether for free downloads or resale.  This is theft and the law is quite specific.  When you receive an eBook it is meant to give you the right to read it only, but it does not imply that you have the right to rob the author of future sales by your actions.  This labels you as a thief.  Using electronic transmission is only another way to send a book, like getting one in the mail, which would not give you the right to reprint it for sale or distribution. 

Integrity is part of the code of honor of a legitimate reviewer.



About Mayra Calvani: The author of 12 books, Mayra Calvani writes fiction and nonfiction for children and adults.  Her nonfiction work, The Slippery Art of Book Reviewing, co-authored with Anne K. Edwards, was a ForeWord Best Book of the Year Award winner. She’s had over 300 stories, articles, interviews and reviews published. She reviews for The New York Journal of Books and SimplySharly.com. Visit her website at www.MayraCalvani.com. For her children’s books, visit www.MayrasSecretBookcase.com




Frederico the Mouse Violinist Blurb:
Learn the parts of the violin with Frederico, the Mouse Violinist!
Frederico is a tiny mouse with a big dream: he wants to become a violinist. Each day he watches as Stradivari makes his famous violins. Each night, he sneaks into the workshop to play. But the violins are too big! Then, unbeknown to Frederico, Stradivari sees him playing and begins carving a tiny device. Could it be a famous Strad especially for Frederico?


ISBN Number: paperback 9781616331146, hardcover 9781616331139
Publication Date: December 2010
Publisher: Guardian Angel Publishing
Publisher Website: www.guardianangelpublishing.com

Friday, February 4, 2011

5 Marketing Reminders: Simple and Basic

Having yearly, monthly, and/or weekly marketing goals are crucial to achieving success. With goals, you know where you’re heading and can work toward that end.

Marketing goals can be considered a marketing plan, and it will have a number of steps or objectives that must be set in motion and accomplished.

Whether you’re trying to sell a product or services, five of the bare basic marketing strategies are:

1. Create a presence and platform

Creating an online presence and platform can be initiated by creating a website or blog. First though, you’ll need to be sure of your niche because the site name and content should reflect your area of expertise is.

Remember, plan first. Choose a site name that will grow with you. Using an author as an example, if you choose a site name, Picture Books with [Your Name], you’ve limited yourself. What if your next book is for young adults?

Some authors create sites with the name of their book. This is a good strategy for pure focus on that one book, but again, what happens when more books become available. Will you create a site for each of your books?

While you can do this, you will be stretching yourself thin and diluting your main focus: you as the author of multiple books.

Leave room to grow; it’s always advisable to use your name as the site’s name.

In addition, with today’s gone-in-a-second attention span, it’s a good idea to keep your site simple. Sites that take a few seconds or more to load may cause you to lose potential buyers.

2. Increase visibility

Writing content for your readers/visitors is the way to increase visibility. The word is: Content is King. Provide interesting, informative, and/or entertaining content that will prompt the reader to come back.

Also, be sure your content is pertinent to your site, and keep your site and content focused on your platform.

3 Draw traffic to your site

To draw traffic to your site, promote your posts by using social media. You can also do article marketing through sites like Medium and LinkedIn which will increase your visibility reach.

Another strategy is to offer your readers free gifts, such as an ebook relevant to your niche. This will help to increase your usefulness to the reader.

This is considered organic inbound marketing; it funnels traffic back to your site with valuable content and free offers.

4 Have effective call-to-actions

Your site must have call-to-action keywords that will motivate readers to visit and click on your links. Keywords to use include:

• Get your Free gift now for subscribing
• Subscribe to our Newsletter
• Free e-book to offer on your own site
• Buy Now
• Sign up
• Don’t hesitate, take advantage of our expert services
• Be sure to Bookmark this site

You get the idea, motivate the reader to want what you’re offering and give him/her a CLEAR and VISIBLE call-to-action. Make it as simple as possible for the visitor to buy what you’re offering.

5. Develop a relationship with your readers

It’s been noted that only 1% of first time visitors will buy a product. Usually, only after developing a relationship through your newsletter, information, and offers will your potential customer or client click on the BUY NOW button.

While it will take some time and effort to implement and maintain these strategies, it will be worth it in the long run. Think of it as a long-term investment.

Happy marketing!

Karen Cioffi is an award-winning children’s author and children’s ghostwriter / rewriter. She is also the founder and editor-in-chief of Writers on the Move and author online platform instructor with WOW! Women on Writing.

If you need help with your author platform, check out Karen's e-class through WOW:
http://www.articlewritingdoctor.com/content-marketing-tools/

MORE ON BOOK MARKETING

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5 Good Reasons to Secure Your Site

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Tuesday, January 25, 2011

A Writer's Essential Reference

It was the best of sentences, it was the worst of sentences

Subtitle: a writer’s guide to crafting killer sentences
By June Casagrande
Ten Speed Press (2010)
ISBN: 9781580087407
Nonfiction/How-To (Writing)
Buy Link: http://budurl.com/GrammarSnobs
Publisher's Site: http://www.tenspeed.com/

New Book May (Should!) Replace Your Stunk and White!

Grammar Guru Offers Advice
Like None You’ve Ever Seen—All in One Place!


Reviewed by Carolyn Howard-Johnson, award-winning author of This Is the Place and Harkening: A Collection of Stories Remembered, Tracings, a chapbook of poetry and the How To Do It Frugally Series of book for authors

Rules. Rules. Rules. I didn’t realize how tired I was of the same old writing advice until this little black book landed in my mailbox. I promised to review it fast, but this It was the best of sentences, it was the worst of sentences book by June Casagrande isn’t a book a serious writer wants to flip through fast.

I could see from the subhead in the first chapter that this book would include something better than most. It read, “Thy Reader, Thy God.” What a concept that is! The Reader and not The Rule Book! Ahem! And it got better and better as Casagrande explored all the subjects I knew everything about. Or thought I did. She uses examples so a writer can see the differences between OK writing and acrylic-clear writing.

By the time I got to “Are Your Relatives Essential?” I was really sold. This is a Wow- Chapter, even for accomplished editors. The writing tips she gives in Chapter Twelve for using tenses effectively are just what I need to convince my students that I’m not the only editor/teacher in the world who believes that tenses needn’t match all the way through a story (or even a paragraph, for that matter!). That chapter is called “You Will Have Been Conjugating.”

I could go on and on, chapter by chapter. What isn’t new to a writer or what doesn’t elucidate will remind and amuse Casagrande’s God, The Reader. For those who know Casagrande’s work, this book isn’t as funny as her first one, Grammar Snobs Are Great Big Meanies

Nevertheless, the reader will still occasionally get a good laugh. For chuckles read Chapter Nine, “Antique Desk Suitable for Lady with Thick Legs and Large Drawers.”

For Casagrande, the lesson is always that grammar needn’t be dreary. Why should it be when we love writing? How could it be when grammar is the nails and tacks, the color and structure of what we love? Writing.

------

Carolyn Howard-Johnson’s first novel, This is the Place, has won eight awards.
Her book of creative nonfiction Harkening, won three. A UCLA Writers' Program instructor, she also is the author of another book essential for writers,USA Book News' Best Professional Book of 2004, The Frugal Book Promoter: How to Do What Your Publisher Won't.The second in the HowToDoItFrugally series, The Frugal Editor: Put Your Best Book Forward to Avoid Humiliation and Ensure Success covers writing successful query letters and includes helpful hints from twenty of the nation's top agents.  Learn more about Howard-Johnson at her new site http://howtodoitfrugally.com/ .

Saturday, January 15, 2011

How to Create and eBook – 5 Simple Steps

E-books are an amazing product that has multiple uses. And, it can be created for FREE, or for a very minimal amount. What else can you create that costs only your time and effort, and sells for whatever the market is willing to pay?

1. Create content

The first step is to create your content; this can be done as a simple word document. The content can be anything you think your readers or target market will want or need. In addition, it can be any length you decide upon. You can create a simple 10 page e-book, or a 100+ page e-book.

You can also create a compilation of articles you’ve already written on a particular topic and organize them into an easy to read product that includes a content page.

Note: It’s wise to include a disclaimer explaining that you, the author, strived for accuracy, but cannot guarantee it due to the ever-changing nature of the internet. And, it’s advisable to include an “All Rights Reserved” with a copyright reference.

TIP: If you’re offering the e-book as a freebie on your site you can allow others to pay-it-forward, emphasizing that all information must remain intact. This will help increase your visibility and lead readers back to your site/s.

2. Organize Your Content

Whether your product is a few pages or 100 pages, having it organized is important. The e-book needs to offer easy reading and clarity, along with value. If you are creating a longer product, divide the content or articles into sections or parts, and provide a Content Page.

Be sure to use a large and bold font for section headings and it’s advisable to include page breaks for each section.

Finally, be sure to add a brief bio including promotional material on an About the Author page.

TIP:  have plenty of white space. If you notice, this article has very short paragraphs, making it easy to read.

3. Include Images and Tweak Your Content

Once you have the content in place, add images. You can add an image at the beginning of each section, or where ever you see fit. This is another trick to make the e-book more interesting to read.


The images will help break up the monotony of straight content.

TIP: You will also want to include your own head shot on your About the Author page. Readers connect more with a face, rather than just a name.

TIP2: Be sure you are using royalty free images. You don't want to get caught infringing on someone's copyright.

4. Create a Cover

Every book needs a cover, so you will need to create one. Again, you can use clipart, or other source of free images. You can also use the Word Draw Toolbar. I’m not sure if all versions are the same, but mine is located at the bottom of my document.

TIP: After you create a cover, be sure to click on Page Break.

5. Turning Your Word Doc into a PDF

Okay, you’ve created a great word document, now it’s time to magically turn it into an e-book. There are a number of free PDF creator software applications to do this.

For those wondering, PDF is an acronym for Portable Document Format. A PDF creator is an application that converts documents into PDFs by creating a virtual printer that prints to PDF files.
If you don’t already have a PDF converter, it’s time to do an online search for “free pdf creator.” Just be sure the one you choose is Adobe compatible.

My experience is with PDF995. You can check it out at: http://www.pdf995.com/

But you can just do a Google search for one you like.

The new versions of Microsoft Word has a PDF printer build in.

It’s that simple.

Karen Cioffi is an award-winning children’s author and children’s ghostwriter/ rewriter. She is also the founder and editor-in-chief of Writers on the Move and author online platform instructor with WOW! Women on Writing.

If you need help with your author platform, check out the e-classes she offers through WOW:
http://www.articlewritingdoctor.com/content-marketing-tools/

MORE ON WRITING AND BOOK MARKETING

Why Purchase Your Own ISBN?
Writing, Submissions, and Working with Editors
4 Realities New Writers Need to Face

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Editing—It Makes All the Difference

By Cheryl C. Malandrinos

As a reviewer, I’ve had the opportunity to read hundreds of books in a variety of genres. While not every book has been my favorite, what leaves me feeling most disappointed is when I think to myself, “This could have been a great book…if only it had been edited more thoroughly.”

I once read a series of children’s books. I enjoyed the message and loved the characters, but the sheer number of typographical errors took away from the reading experience and became distracting. 

There was a mystery novel written by a famous author. It was an excellent read, but do you know what I remember most about it? In one chapter, the bad guys had kidnapped the hero and taken his belt. In the following chapter, the hero used the belt—the one he no longer had—as a tool to assist in his escape.

In another book, the main character’s mother’s name changed several times and one of the character’s cars was green early in the book but silver later on.
Now, I’ll admit, I’m not as good at editing my own work as I am at spotting errors in the work of others, but the editing phase of completing a manuscript can’t be rushed. In addition, a critique group, and a third party editor are going to catch errors and inconsistencies you’re going to miss.

After sending a manuscript to my critique group, I review the feedback and make the changes I feel are necessary. Then I let the manuscript sit for at least a week. I go back and perform three rounds of edits: one to pick up typos, one to focus on grammar, and the last to check for inconsistencies. Then it goes back to my critique group. 

I didn’t hire a third party editor for my first children’s picture book, Little Shepherd. The publisher and I went through it, and it had been looked over by my critique group numerous times. When I complete Amelia’s Mission, however, which is a middle grade historical, I will definitely send it off to an objective set of eyes to help me polish it before I submit it to a publisher. 

I once spoke with a woman who had been in the entertainment industry for decades. She had written a book about her father, an award-winning composer.  She had a difficult time finding a publisher. She said that breaking into the publishing world was more of a challenge than catching a break in entertainment. 

In such a market, taking the time to edit your book thoroughly will make a huge difference. Proper editing can turn a good book into a great one.


About the author: Cheryl Malandrinos is a freelance writer and editor. A founding member of Musing Our Children, Ms. Malandrinos is also Editor in Chief of the group’s quarterly newsletter, Pages & Pens.   


Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Write for Your Audience Vs. Write for Yourself

By Carolyn Howard-Johnson, multi award-winning novelist, poet and author of how-to books for writers

I recently read an article/editorial from Jeff Rivers, the founder of  How to Write a Query Letter.com in Dan Poynter’s newsletter. It was titled “What I Learned from Janet Evanovich: Write for your Audience.”

It is hard to argue with experts like Jeff and Janet. But I do disagree-or at least mostly disagree. Certainly authors like Evanovich and James Patterson have done very well for themselves and for their readers by “Writing for Your Audience.” I do a bit of acting and learned that new actors should learn to give to the director not what they he or she wants, but to give of themselves—to give what they feel is best to give. But life has thrown me mixed messages. When I was a retailer, I certainly learned that one couldn’t “buy for oneself” when it came to selecting merchandise for my store. When I did, I very often brought whatever I bought home because my customers wouldn’t buy it.

But back to writing!

That same balanced note is a good one for writers to follow, too. Certainly, they must keep their audience in mind. As an example, they must trust their audience to be readers. They, after all, have been reading their whole lives. So we authors don’t want to insult them.

And certainly authors of nonfiction books should do some research before writing the same book someone else has written. There are probably many other aspects of “Write for your Audience” that I haven’t covered here.

Still, there is another side of the coin and here it is:

When you write for yourself, your audience will follow. Do not mistake this for advice that writers go off willy-nilly with no training in craft, no awareness of rules (which we may then choose to break). But we must love what we do to be successful. Find your voice and your passion. Keep at it. Market it. And your audience will find you.

I’m an eternal optimist. I believe we can balance the two philosophies. But I also see some real danger for the author who denies his or her dream and considers only what he figures someone else wants of him.

~Carolyn Howard-Johnson is a multi award-winning writer of fiction and poetry as well as the author of the much-applauded HowToDoItFrugally series of books—one series for writers and one for retailers. Learn more at www.howtodoitfrugally.com.  And learn her secrets for marketing what you love to write in the second edtion of The Frugal Book Promoter.

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...