Tuesday 31 March 2015

Goal-setting: When You Don't Succeed #ChaBooCha

Goal-Setting: What Happens When You Don't Succeed at your Goals

First off, for those of you who have succeeded at the ChaBooCha challenge this month, congratulations! I know it wasn't easy to set aside time for writing, but you did it! Let me know if you wrote your book start to finish during the challenge, and if you succeeded, I will send you a winner's badge for your blog or website within the week.

But for those of you who didn't succeed, I have a bit of advice. (Chapter Book Challenge member Melissa Gijsbers has mentioned that she is giving some tips for this over on her blog too, so feel free to go have a look.)

You've already done something great just by participating, just by putting words down on paper, even if you didn't reach your goal. Did you read one of the guest posts during the challenge? Then you learned something. Did you write down an outline, a page or an idea for your story? Then you are already further along than you were at the beginning of the challenge. Succeeding at a challenge or achieving your goal is a great thing to strive for, but don't forget all of the smaller achievements along the way that move you closer to your larger goal.

Not all deadlines you give yourself will be met. Trying is what is the important part. Putting in the effort to do achieve something, even if that effort is only the effort for one small step in the journey, is worth the time spent on it.

Achieving a writing goal is a journey, and part of that journey is to learn and grow while you get there. There is no set time for each person to reach their goals. Yes, this is a challenge with a set time for reaching your goal, BUT its main purpose is to give you some impetus towards writing your book.  If you are even just a tiny bit further along, even if the distance further you have travelled is only in your head and not written down yet, that means the challenge has done its job, and you ave benefited from it.

You don't have to take my word for it though. There are a lot of people who have mentioned the journey towards success. I thought it would be fun to use Google to find some image quotes that would help give some perspective on our successes, failures and efforts. (After the images, keep reading and find out about a different writing challenge and the Teapot Tales anthologies.)


For those of you who want to continue to challenge yourself to write in the month of April, I am running a Blog Your Book in 30 Days challenge. There are a lot of helpful writing posts on the blog from last year, and even more fitting, April is National Book Blogging Month. The challenge can be participated in concurrently with Camp NaNoWriMo too. You don't need to actually blog your book. For those of you who want to keep your writing more private, there are some alternate routes to participating in the Blog Your Book in 30 Days challenge.


Teapot Tales anthology submissions

Do you like to write fairy tales? In addition to the "donate" button that can be found on the right sidebar of this site, there is another way to donate to keeping the challenge running. Every year we bring out a new volume of our Teapot Tales anthologies. This will be the third volume and the theme is returning to fairy tales. you can find out more about previous anthologies at Melusine Muse Press as well as more about the submissions process. the stories are flash fiction and are to either be a new take on an old fairy tale (sometimes called twisted fairy tales or fractured fairy tales) or completely new fairy tales. Submissions are only open to Chapter Book Challenge members, Previous Teapot Tales anthologies are "Teapot Tales: A Collection of Unique Fairy Tales" (Teapot Tales: Volume 1) and "Teapot Tales: Pirates, Mermaids and Monsters of the Sea" (Teapot Tales: Volume 2). The anthologies are sold through Amazon, but will be expanding to other retail outlets. All authors get to retain the copyrights to their stories to publish in their own collections or on their own websites. Up to three stories may be submitted. Artwork (line drawings) is also accepted. (Deadline is not definite yet, but will most likely be in June or July.)



And here's the fun part of today. I get to announce the prize winners for all of the prizes during the challenge!

The winner of Girl Incredible by Patti Larsen is:

Robyn Campbell

Congratulations, Robyn!


The winner of Yes! You Can Learn How to Write Beginning Readers and Chapter Books by Nancy I. Sanders is: 

Sydney O'Neill

Congratulations, Sydney!


The winner of Writing the Paranormal Novel by Steven Harper is:

Kelly McDonald

Congratulations, Kelly!


The winner of Dragons at Crumbling Castle: And Other Stories by Terry Pratchett is:


Congratulations, Priya!


The winner of the e-book copy of  Swallow Me, NOW! by Melissa Gijsbers is:


Congratulations, Sharon! 


Anita Banks

Congratulations, Anita!


Joanne Roberts

Congratulations, Joanne!



Congratulations, Maria!


The winner of You Can Write Children's Books Workbook by Tracey E. Dils is:

Kathy Phillips

Congratulations, Kathy!


The winner of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Children's Book Publishing by Harold Underdown is:

Kelly Vavala

Congratulations, Kelly!


The winner of The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer's Guide to Character Expression by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi is:

Nancy Kotkin

Congratulations, Nancy!


The winner of A Rat and a Ransom by Y. I Lee is:

Manju Howard

Congratulations, Manju!

Everyone has two weeks to notify me of your mailing address and/or the e-mail address you like e-books sent to (and which format). If we don't hear from you by April 14th, the prize will be donated to a local library instead.


And that concludes the prizes for this year's ChaBooCha! Thank you so much for participating, and a big thank you to the authors who guest posted during this year's challenge!

Monday 30 March 2015

School Visits by Y. I. Lee #ChaBooCha

School Visits

I’ve been fortunate to have the privilege of going into local schools with my children’s book, "A Rat and A Ransom."

It’s so encouraging when the future generation enjoys reading. They are a delight to be with. In most instances, I would meet the children in their class room, but at the last school I visited, a week ago, we were in the school hall. There were children from three class rooms, averaging around sixty pupils. They filed into the hall and sat in front of me, on the floor.

I always love their excitement and enthusiasm. It can be a little daunting at first, to have so many expectant faces focused on you, but I’m used to it now and enjoy the experience.

The children had written down the questions they wanted to ask me, and considering the average age was nine, the questions were intelligent and sometimes challenging. They wanted to know about the publishing process, even editing, which came as a surprise - until the teacher explained that the children were doing their own writing and learning to edit. 

It thrills me when I hear children love to write, as well as reas - some budding authors for the future I think!

The question and answer session was great fun, but reading to them is my personal favourite. The fact that I’m reading from my own book makes it particularly special.

The children are so attentive, overawed I guess by the fact that an author is in their school and reading to them.

It’s a real privilege, to be trusted with such an amazing responsibility.

It’s not easy for an author to go into schools, these days. However, for any author wishing to do so, here are a few suggestions:

The easiest option, and the one I was able to take advantage of, is to approach a teacher’s assistant. I was fortunate to be close friends with two, both work in different schools, in my area. They each took a copy of the book and showed it to the head teacher.

The one school invited me in right away, and I spent one afternoon a week, for a month, reading to the children and answering any questions they might have. This was a particularly nice experience, as, over the month, I built a relationship with the children and their teacher.

At the end of my time there, I presented the school with a couple of free books for their library.

The school I visited recently were given a copy of my book, and, for quite some time, I heard nothing until my friend reminded the teacher.

We have to remember, teachers are extremely busy! She had no spare time to read the book, so gave it to one of her pupils to read.

He really enjoyed it, and to everyone’s surprise, he wrote a review, and a few days later I was invited to attend an afternoon session with the children.

I was so impressed with the pupil's review; I presented him with a mug, bearing the image of the book cover.

A photographer from the local paper came and took photos.

A child, who excels in reading and writing, is definitely news worthy.

It’s a good thing if local authors can go into schools. It encourages the children. They love to meet and talk to a real author, and I know from what the teachers have said…children are inspired to read more and try their hand at writing. So it’s a win, win situation.

I would encourage all authors to go into schools if they can.

Find someone who has contact with the school.

Give the school a copy of the book to look through. They will want to check it is suitable for their children to read.

Don’t harass them, but if you don’t hear anything for a while, get in touch through your contact working at the school, or if you don’t have one, pop in. Schools are busy places and they may well have forgotten.

Most times a personal approach works well.

Also, if you have a friend, whose children attend the school, you would like to visit, give them a copy of the book. The parent’s recommendation can open the door for you.

Then there are the school governors. If you know such a person, give them a copy and ask if they would read it, and if they think it is suitable, recommend it to the school.

And always offer some free copies of you book for the school library.

I hope what I’ve suggested is helpful. Getting authors into schools can only be a positive thing!


 About the Author

Y. I Lee genre is Y/A Fantasy. "The Shadowed Valley," her first book, was published in 2011, followed by "A Rat and a Ransom," published in  2012. Her third novel, "Through a Glass" was published in 2012 and the sequel "Through a Glass: Gathering Storm" was published in 2014. You can find her book on her Amazon author page.



Y. I Lee has generously offered to donate a copy of her book "A Rat and a Ransom" as a prize for ChaBooCha members. If you are already signed up for the challenge, all you have to do to qualify for the drawing for the prize is to comment on this blog post. Be quick as the drawing will be done tomorrow, the 31st of March, at noon PST. Good luck!

Saturday 28 March 2015

Marketing Madness - But It Doesn't Have to Be by author Jackie Castle #ChaBooCha

Marketing Madness... But It Doesn't Have To Be 

Fact is, children generally do not buy their own books. Parents do. So, how can you catch, first a parent's interest, then draw in children? Here's a few tips I've thought about and plan to try implementing when my middle grade series, The Watchers is released this spring.

Use Pinterest to Gain Interest

Pinterest is a wonderful place to draw interest in your stories. Start early by following libraries, book interest groups and Kid-lit bloggers on Pinterest. Set up a board for not only your favorite children's books, but set up a board and pin anything that's related to your book. Is it a fictional story? There are loads of scenery and character inspiration pictures you can find and pin to your story board. Make a small note on why you included that link or picture. If you're writing non-fiction? Look for inspirational memes, articles or pictures that will go along with your topic.

Use a Blog Site to Make It Fun

Create a blog that revolves around your story world or topic. Provide extended learning activities to go along with your story or book. Character sketches. Fan art. Extra scenes. Notes, facts or bits of story background written by one of your characters.

Think outside the box and think of the other groups of people who might be willing to purchase your book for a child. Teachers. Home School Parents. Librarians. Daycare Teachers.
Can you provide a list of vocabulary words? How about math or social studies lessons to go along with the book?

My series The Watcher's deals with nature conservation, so I'll be including lessons about nature, recycling, protecting wildlife and other topics on my Watcher's book series blog.

If you have illustrations, see about offering coloring pages that can be printed and colored.
Create videos you can put up on YouTube, your website or other social networking sites. Read part of your book. Show pictures of a character and talk about them. Again, think outside of the box. Think of what can you do, that a parent will want to show their child to help entertain them? Keep it simple. Keep it fun.

Posting on Promotional Sites

Invest some funds on purchasing ads on book promotion sites.
There are many who will help get your book out to people who are looking for... well, books. Some you will pay a lot, but many only require a small fee. Do some research, see what the audience is for various promotional sites. Maybe often promote children's books.

Moving Away From the Computer, now....

Schedule school visits in your area. Better yet, zone in on a writing lesson you can teach children. Offer your workshop for free with the allowance of selling your books. Print up a list of your books for children to order before the workshop and the price of each book. Make sure your presentation is good, and then ask the teachers for feedback.

Check with your local library about speaking on your topic, or offering a workshop and selling your books. Again, you can teach writing lessons, or offer summer classes.

Craft Fairs and Book Fairs are both places families will visit. Check into setting up a vendors booth.

- Joanna Penn at The Creative Pen offers tips on marketing, and does weekly podcast about the writing life. There is one podcast that deals with marking children's books.
- Six Powerful Ways To Market Children's Books.

- Katie Davis is a great resource on marketing kids books. Tune into her Brain Burps About Books podcast for tips and ideas on marketing and the kid-lit world.  

- Children's Book Insider and another great resource for all things dealing with Children's books. There is a membership fee, but they offer a wealth of tips and training for children's writers. http://cbiclubhouse.com/clubhouse/


About the Author
Jackie Castle graduated from UT Southwestern Medical Center of Dallas. She is a published freelance writer, storyteller and former elementary school educator. She lives in Texas with her husband, children, and dog, Ginger (aka ginger-roonie).

Her favorite pastime, besides reading, is traipsing through the worlds of Alburnium or Fae in search of another story.

She looks for the extraordinary in the ordinary in everything she experiences.

Find out more about her shenanigans over at Jackie Castle's Story World: www.jackiecastle.com where you can find links to her own book blog sites.

The White Road Chronicles http://jackiecastlebooks.blogspot.com

Visit The Castle Library for reading adventures. http://castlereads.blogspot.com


Today's prize is a copy of "The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer's Guide to Character Expression" by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi. If you don't already have this book, you really should get it. If you are already signed up for the challenge, all you need to do to enter the drawing for this book is to comment on this blog post. The winner will be chosen by a random number generator on March 31st at noon and will be announced later the same day.

Friday 27 March 2015

Do It Yourself Publicity by Harold Underdown (excerpt from his book) #ChaBooCha

Do It Yourself Publicity

Nudge, Don't Push

There's a fine line between contributing constructively to the marketing and publicity of your book and harassing the publisher with your ideas. If you do have ideas, approach the publisher in a professional manner. The publicist for your book will want to know of any ideas you have regarding the publicity for your book, and many publicists ask authors to prepare a list of their publicity ideas. 
(Marketing departments may also send a detailed questionnaire. If you get one, fill it out thoroughly. Your publisher needs that information.)

After you offer your ideas, let go! Publicists, like your editors, live a harried and hectic workday. Your publicist does not want to hear your voice three times a day. Instead, politely extend your list of publicity ideas and wait to hear from the publicist. A follow-up call about two weeks after submitting your ideas, however, is okay.

I remember a story from an author at a conference who thought that planetariums might be really great places to publicize her children's book about stars and constellations. The author went down to her local library and researched all the planetariums and natural history museums in the nation--about 2,000 in all. She took the list to her publisher, who put together a pamphlet about her book (and a few others) and sent out a mailing to the entire list. The mailing was a big success for the publisher and the sales of the book.

This author simply provided the publishing house with the tools necessary to act on an idea. Although the author put in hours of work--researching all the addresses and locations of planetariums and natural history museums--the work paid off.

Now let's pretend that the author suggested sending a pamphlet to planetariums but didn't do anything more. Would the publicist have had time to sit down and research the mailing list? No--he had his hands full getting information about this season's 50 books out to the standard media sources. By going that extra mile for the publicist, the author helped that publicity idea come to fruition.

Class Rules 
Publicists know that the best resource in a book's publicity campaign is the author or illustrator. Oftentimes, the author taps into a creative tie to the book that yields a huge response from the public. It behooves you and the publicist to work in unison. So get to know your publicist and give him your ideas--just don't bother the publicist with a million phone calls to share trivial ideas.
 Or let's say the author had told the publicist the great idea, did not create the list, and then called the publicist every day to see if a pamphlet had been designed and sent out. How would you react if someone did this to you? More than likely, the publicist would have erased the messages on voicemail as soon as she recognized the author's voice. Don't let this happen to you! Nudge, don't push, and be ready to roll up your sleeves and help.

Lend a Helping Pen

Want to know a great way to move along a productive publicity campaign? Offer to write the press materials for the publicist. A publicist doesn't have unlimited time to devote to your book and may only be able to send it to a standard review list. If you want a wider campaign, offer to help. If you create the materials for the press kit, the time the publicist didn't have to spend on the kit can instead be used on your campaign.

A press kit is a folder of materials about your book sent to the media--newspapers, radio and television stations, journalists, magazines--to alert them to your book's release. The best press kits link the book to a newsworthy item or a hook. A clip is a copy of an article you've written or has been written about you or your book.
 Follow these steps when approaching your publicist or marketing manager about your ideas. Make an initial phone call and politely say, "Hi, I'm __________, the author of _____________________. I'd like to help you in any way I can and actually have some publicity ideas. Where might I send them?" If you feel comfortable offering to write the press materials, do it. Put together a packet of clips, your ideas, and any press materials you've written and mail them to the publicist. Keep in mind that you can use the materials if the publicist doesn't. Wait a few weeks before calling. Give the publicist a chance to look over the materials. Don't bug the publicist. I said that before, didn't I? Let me say it again: don't bug the publicist. If it appears that your ideas won't be implemented, start using them yourself.

Here are several possible items to include in your press kit:

A press release or new book release announces the publication of your book, briefly describes it, and contains contact information. If something about the book connects to some current event or hot issue, the release can touch on the newsworthy aspect of your book.

Author and illustrator biographies, typically one page, detail your life and publishing career. Who better to write this than you?

The press kit may contain clippings from previous articles written about your book or you in a magazine such as Booklist or Publishers Weekly--especially if your book received an outstanding review.

Can You Keep a Secret? 
If you prepare elements for a press kit, save everything on your computer and send the files to the publicist. That way, your publicist will be able to quickly make corrections or edit the documents.
 Written like an article, a mini-feature actually contains much of the same information as the press release, just in a different format. Because it's actually an article, publications may publish it directly.
If your book can spawn a demonstration that might prove of interest to a talk show, say what you could do with suggested show or event ideas. If your book shows kids how to care for pets, for example, outline what you could do in a short segment on a show.

If a journalist becomes intrigued by your book, the more work you can have ready for the journalist, the better chance the writer will do the story. Suggested interview questions can be a great help to get you interviewed.

"I Did It My Way"

Frank Sinatra crooned it in his tune "My Way." Once you learn where your publicist's efforts end, you then need to decide how much of "your way" needs to be implemented. Essentially, how much time and energy do you want to devote to publicizing and fueling sales of your book? If you want to self-publicize, take a look at what you need to do.

In the end, you might decide to let the marketing department handle everything. They know their business, and even if they don't do everything you wish they would, they'll do what in their professional judgement is likely to pay off. So self-publicize by all means, but don't feel that what you do will make or break your book.

Playground Stories 
Don't spend too much time on your campaign. Bruce Balan offers this comment: "I spent many years becoming quite well-versed in self-promotion. I've been interviewed by scores of magazines, radio programs, and newspapers. I've created brochures, flyers, and review sheets. I've sent mailings to bookstores. I've spent money to hire a publicist. I've thrown publication parties. I've traveled to, and spoken at, conferences, trade shows, schools, and seminars. And I've come to a few conclusions:
- If your publisher is not supportive of your book, it probably doesn't matter what you do. 
- Even if your publisher is supportive of your book, there are no guarantees of success. 
- The authors I most admire are those who write well. Not those who promote well.
You Gotta Have an Angle

To publicize a book, even a children's book, you need an angle. You need to make your book stand out in a crowd of hundreds of titles--both in the stores and for the media. Remember, the media offers information to readers and viewers. In the case of television, the reporters also need to show something. Conversations with authors are just okay, but it's better if you can "do" something. For a news program to generate a story, they need a news angle--or at least a human interest angle. So your first step in publicizing your title is conceptualizing a hook or an angle.

What's a hook? Let's look at some examples. Say you've written a how-to garden and plant book for kids. A huge storm sweeps through your town, destroying gardens and felling trees. Your angle could be the rebuilding of gardens, teaching kids how to help in the recovery process. Nonfiction can be easier than fiction, but say your picture book details the story of a little boy moving from the neighborhood he's lived in from birth to a new neighborhood and new school, a classic theme, and yet you can find a hook. Find out the statistics on children changing schools and the psychological impact. Offer tips in your press packet for acclimating to a new school. Hook adults into buying the book to help their children; the media will want to offer this "good" information to parents.

Be creative! How can you hook people and get them interested in your book?

Roll the Presses

So you've got a press kit and a press release. What are you going to do with them? Your first stop on the self-publicizing train is your local media. Because you live someplace and wrote a book, you're news. Whether you live in a town or out in the country, try the local papers, radio stations, and TV stations. If you live in a big city, don't expect the major newspapers to be interested (although it certainly doesn't hurt to try The New York Times, the Chicago Tribune, or the San Francisco Chronicle). Go for the neighborhood papers, the free monthlies for parents, the local cable TV show, and so on. Where do you get your local news? Go there! Fire off those releases you've written to the local media.

Can You Keep a Secret? 
Susan Raab, children's books marketing consultant, has a fantastic archive of her "To Market" column at http://www.raabassociates.com/to-market-advice. Elsewhere on her site, you'll find information on her book An Author's Guide to Children's Book Promotion (which illustrators will find useful, too).
 After you've sent your releases and kits to the local media, concentrate on bigger media outlets--but in many cases only if you can accommodate an interview or plan on traveling in the area. Let's look a little more closely at your publicity options.

Any newspaper outside your area will want one of two things--a news link or an appearance in their town. Contact the feature editor if the angle you have involves a trend or a news item. Contact the children's book review editor if you plan on a signing or an appearance some place.

Radio programs can call you and conduct live or taped interviews over the phone. Find a media directory in your local library or online and go through the listing of shows by content. If your children's book focuses on sports fitness for children, pitch yourself as an interview on the morning sports show. Producers of talk radio continually scramble to fill their airtime with interesting and informational interviews. Don't limit yourself to approaching only the book shows. Generally, these shows deal with weighty adult books anyway.

Class Rules 
Author tours are expensive, and children's publishers don't pay for them. Unless you have money to burn, don't put yourself on a six-city tour across the nation. Certainly, if business takes you to Boston for a week and time permits, contact the media about appearances. Otherwise, save the travel for a vacation some place fun!
 For television, look locally and anywhere you might be traveling. Television programs need to show their viewers something--why not you? You'll still need an informational or newsworthy hook for the appearance. I've given examples of hooks tied to specific book subjects, but you can make yourself the hook. For example, until he got to be known as an illustrator, David Wisniewski got more attention from having gone to clown school than from having created a beautiful book.

Self-publicizing can be a full-time job, or you might decide to skip it completely. Consider your options. Whatever you decide to do, connect your efforts to any bookstore events you do--a way to get attention for your book on its own, but also a way to support your publicity efforts.  Keep your publisher informed too.


This is copyrighted material, displayed on the Chapter Book Challenge website for promotional and publicity use; may be downloaded, printed, or saved by individuals for personal use but may not be distributed or sold. This material belongs to Harold Underdown. More information can be found at http://www.underdown.org/cig.htm.


About the Author

Harold Underdown is an independent editor and publishing consultant; he does critiques, helps to develop manuscripts, and provides other editorial and consulting services for individuals and publishers.

As an in-house editor, he worked at Macmillan, Orchard, and Charlesbridge, and has experience in trade and educational publishing.

Harold enjoys teaching, and in that role wrote The Complete Idiot's Guide to Children's Book Publishing, now in its third edition. He founded and runs "The Purple Crayon," a respected web site with information about the children's publishing world at http://www.underdown.org/

He also speaks and gives workshops through the Highlights Foundation, SCBWI's national and regional conferences, and Kid’s Book Revisions (offering online and on-site tutorials, webinars, and workshops in partnership with Eileen Robinson): http://www.kidsbookrevisions.com/.


Today's prize is a copy of "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Children's Book Publishing" by Harold Underdown. If you are already signed-up for the challenge, all you have to do to enter into the drawing to win this book is to leave a comment on this blog post. The winner will be chosen by a random number generator on March 31st at noon and will be announced later that day.