Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Interview with Illustrator Claire Sedovic

Today we welcome illustrator Claire Sedovic. She is the amazing artist who brought the Odd Animal ABC's to life.  Thank you for joining us today. So, inquiring minds want to know...

How did you become the illustrator for Odd Animal ABC’s?

After quitting my job as a graphic designer for a major media company last spring, I began sending postcards featuring my art to potential publishers. Blue Manatee Press was one such publisher whose work I admired, so of course they received a postcard from me. A couple of months later I heard from Amy Dean (Editorial & Marketing Director at Blue Manatee Press) that she was looking for an illustrator for a manuscript she had just acquired and wanted to know if I would like to submit my work for consideration. Of course I said yes, and almost exactly a year later, Odd Animal ABC’s was published featuring my art!

I feel very lucky that Blue Manatee had that postcard! Have you always wanted to illustrate?

Indeed I have. As a child I often wrote and illustrated sequels to my favorite picture books or crafted my own original stories complete with detailed illustrations in marker or paint.

Can you describe your process of taking this story text and developing it. 

I must say I feel very fortunate that you and I were able to correspond as often as we did while I developed the illustrations for the text as I realize now that is not typical of the author/illustrator relationship. I think our collaboration succeeded because I was receptive to the illustration notes you offered, and you were willing to change the text in some instances that I interpreted it a little differently with my illustrations than you expected. As an illustrator, I see my role as someone who can visually fill the gaps in the story. And because this story text is all dialogue (and a lot of humor!) I felt like I had a lot of room to play. 

I started the process by reading the text over and over to get a good feel for the story. I then created thumbnail sketches to determine the flow and layout of the book. Once those sketches were approved I proceeded with the full scale art, but even then, I continued to make adjustments as the story evolved and I received feedback from you and Amy.

I've told lots of people how you helped shape this into a better book. Without some of your requests due to art, I wouldn't have my two favorite jokes in there! 

So there are 53 real animals (and one imaginary unicorn) in this book. Was the large cast of characters a problem?

I wouldn’t say the large cast was a problem, but it was certainly a challenge. I loved researching the different animals to ensure that I drew them accurately, but it took some time to figure out when and were certain animals should reappear in order to drive the narrative along. In some cases, this was already written into the text, but throughout the illustration process I took some liberties to add or omit for visual appeal and to help integrate the ABC letters into the illustrations.

I love the coloring of the letters themselves too. So what do you hope readers take away from this story?

I hope that the book widens kids’ understanding of just how diverse the animal kingdom really is. Of course I hope they laugh along with all the wonderful, and often weird critters as they travel from A to Z, but on a deeper level, I also hope that it sparks new curiosity about the natural world and a desire preserve and protect it for future generations.

That was my hope too. Now, a very important question,
 what is your favorite chocolate or dessert?

How about chocolate dessert?

Where else can readers find you and your art?

You can find more of my work on my website (clairesedovic.com) and follow me on Instagram @clairesedovic.

Wish you were on Twitter more. You are missing some major book love!  Thank you so much for giving life to these odd and amazing animals and for joining us on the blog. Best wishes that your illustrating career is long, prosperous, and full of happy readers!!

Friday, May 3, 2019

So You Have a Book Coming Out: Part Four: Taxes and Deductions

Upfront Disclaimer: I'm not a tax pro or lawyer or anything other than a writer trying to stay organized. This way, I have the information to give to my tax professional.

You, as a published author or illustrator, are now a business. That means there is some not-so-fun things we have to deal with so we can keep writing and creating.


Let's face it. Laws change, the forms are about a million words long, and who knows what we may be missing if you don't have a certified accountant in the family.

I have a certified public accountant. I think they are worth the money, not only for the time it saves me, but the relief from stress and anxiety I have that I may mess something up and having the IRS show up Men In Black style.

Whether you are a do-it-yourself-er, or you use a pro, you need to be organized all year long. Not just those first two weeks of April.

You don't need a fancy or expensive program. I use excel.

First: Do you have a home office that is solely used for your business as a writer or illustrator?
If so, this may be tax deductible. That means this little piece of creative heaven may save you a bit on your dues to Uncle Sam. But you have to keep track of some things:

  • Your home's TOTAL square footage and the OFFICE square footage. 
  • Electric Bill
  • Internet Bill
  • Gas Bill
  • Phone Bill

Then a percentage of you home's bills are what is actually deductible, based on how much space it takes. You have to have the totals for each month. It is easier to keep track of this monthly, rather than digging through old bills, or hunting for your gas company user name and password right before the tax deadline.

You can also deduct business related expenses. Keep ALL receipts and label and organize them. If you get audited, you want everything available and easy to find. I'm talking file folders or binders as opposed to shoe boxes.

Items to track for possible deductions:

  • Copies of your books for sales, promotional giveaways, and donations
  • Mileage for School Visits 
  • Food and Hotels for out of town School Visits or Presentations
  • Writer or Illustrator Organization Annual Dues (i.e. SCBWI)
  • Classes for continuing your education
  • Promotional materials (stickers, bookmarks, pins)
  • Website fees
  • Author/Illustrator Professional Photos (again, falls under promotional materials)
  • Office Supplies
  • Art Supplies (for illustrators)
  • Necessary Office Equipment: Computer- yes! That mini golf putter thing and fancy espresso maker-no!
  • Donations (if you donate a copy of your book, track what you pay, not the retail value.)

There is probably more that I haven't thought of, but hey, I'm new at this.

I keep everything in an excel spreadsheet in summary as well as a sheet for all I am paid:

  • Advances
  • School Visit Fees
  • Speaking Engagements
  • Royalties

Again, this is NOT a comprehensive guide. This is just stuff I've figured out on my own this year as a debut author. If you have any questions about your specific circumstances, I recommend finding a local tax pro. Preferably before next April.

So get organized and then get back to writing.

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Author Interview with Giveaway: Gayle Krause

Today we have picture book author Gayle Krause here to tell us about her new book, Daddy Can You See the Moon. Gayle has also been kind enough to offer a picture book critique to one lucky reader.  

Thank you, Gayle, for joining me on Reading, Writing, and Reaching for Chocolate!

Thank you for hosting me, June.

Every reader loves to know, what inspired this story?
As former Early Childhood Educator, I taught Children’s Literature to prospective teachers as part of their training program for over thirty years. I also directed a Laboratory Pre-K, affiliated with my teaching course, in Goshen, NY. It was there, as I sat on the floor of the nursery school, reading countless picture books to the preschoolers, or acting out fairy tales as creative dramatic presentations that I became uniquely attuned to the young child’s mind.

These precious little guys struggle to make sense of the world around them, especially the adult world of their parents. Emotional situations like divorce and deployment affect these children in a way that most adults cannot see.

It was one particular little boy that was having a very difficult time accepting the time frame of his dad’s separation from the family. That came back to me years later and the end result is DADDY, CAN YOU SEE THE MOON?

What is your process like?
As I mentioned above, I taught high school students and college freshman and also ran a Laboratory Pre-K. Consequently, after spending 30 years with these kids, I tend to write at both ends of the spectrum. Picture Books or Young Adult.

So my process might be a bit unconventional. After I spend two years or so working on a novel, I switch gears and create rhyming picture books. Why rhyming? Because essentially, I have a YA voice, and the rhymes help keep my word count low. Also, I enjoy the challenge of meter, beats, alliteration, and story in a rhyming format.

What do you hope readers take away from this story?

In this book, children from military families can see that they are not alone in this incredible, perplexing moment when Mom or Dad has to leave the family. And non-military children can also share the family bond and love that strengthens this little boy. The moon may wax and wane, but the special bond between a young boy and his father never wavers. Since April is recognized as The Month of the Military Child, I have teamed up with OUR MILITARY KIDS to help support children and families of deployed soldiers. 10% of all royalties will be donated to OUR MILITARY KIDS. www.ourmilitarykids.org

That is amazing! What else are you working on?
I am currently working on a MG Fantasy trilogy with a boy protagonist that goes on fantastic adventures in a parallel world.

What is your favorite chocolate or dessert?
My favorite dessert is a combination of both….a chocolate ├ęclair

Thanks again for having me on your blog, June. If your readers would like to know more about my books they can find me at http://www.gayleckrause.com

GIVE AWAY: Gayle is giving one lucky reader a rhyming picture book critique. 
I’d like to offer a rhyming picture book critique of no more than 500 words to one of your followers. If they would kindly comment below and share this post on social media (including where they posted).


Thanks again for joining me on the blog and for your generous giveaway. Best of luck to all the readers. 

Happy Writing!

Thursday, April 4, 2019

So You Have a Book Coming Out: Part Three: Author/Illustrator Photos

Some people are naturally photogenic. No matter what they are doing or what they are wearing, every photo comes out like something in a magazine. I am not one of those people. I'm usually caught while talking with one eye half shut.

As a published author or illustrator, you are now a business. Your photo needs to convey a sense of professionalism as well as showing who you are. Writing thrillers? Maybe a dark and broody shot would work. Goofy humor? Colorful and full of light and laughter may portray you best.

If you can, hire a professional photographer. It is a business expense that you can write off at the end of the year. Or tell a loved one, all you want for your birthday is a 30 minute photo shoot.

Amateur Example: I took this photo with my really nice camera I bought on a Black Friday Deal a couple of years ago. We took like 30 shots and this is the only one I didn't hate.

Professional Example:

I paid for a 30 minute session. We met at an old library. She took a bunch of shots, sent me about 15, and I seriously like all of them. With her lighting, superior equipment and artistic eye, she made me look younger and like I'd lost 15 pounds. She gave simple instruction like, "chin out a little more," or, "lean forward slightly," or, "That yellow background is washing you out. Lets move over here."

This looks professional, flattering, and the high resolution means it will maintain its quality even when resized. This is important since you'll be sending this file to interviews and author/illustrator visits.

A few tips: Tiny print on your clothes doesn't always translate well on camera.

Some poses feel awkward but look great on camera.

Stop to relax you face after holding the smile for so long.

Call around to photographers. I don't believe the one I worked with advertised a 30 minute session, but when I explained what I needed she said a full hour session was unnecessary. Although, she started having fun with some shots and we did go a little over our time, but she didn't charge me extra.

Also, HAVE FUN! For that photo session, you are the star.

Saturday, March 30, 2019

Publishing: The Good, The Bad, Your Perspective

You have a contract. Yay!

Plans and dates change…Crud.

My debut picture book was scheduled to publish on April 2nd. Due to some issues with the actual printer (no fault of the publishing house, machinery was being replaced) the date was pushed to the 16th and now to May 7th.

Luckily for me, the publisher is on top of things and we’ll still have books for all the events already scheduled.

As I told this news to friends and family, they got loud and frustrated on my behalf. But to all my authors and illustrators out there I have a word of advice.


Sure, plans changing stinks, but my book is still coming out. Shaking my fist at the sky and cursing the book gods won’t get it printed any faster. Getting upset doesn’t fix anything (although at times it is easy and even stress relieving to stomp your feet and grumble).

Publishing will be full of delays and changes. At school visits there will be technical difficulties. There may be bookstore visits with only one customer or festivals that get rained out. Things happen and you need to know this going in.

Roll with the changes and mishaps as best you can.

Now I have the opportunity, for all of my April visits, to let people know they are getting an exclusive. They can see and purchase Odd Animal ABC’s a month before anyone else. So those children at the school visits get to feel special. Those bookstore shoppers get the jump on the rest of the world. That is pretty cool.

It is all a matter of perspective.

Sunday, February 3, 2019

So, you have a children’s book coming out…Part Two – Scheduling Author Visits

You did the work writing…editing…submitting...contracts…editing… and soon your book will be out in the world.

At less than two months before my book birthday I’m starting to work on visits to bookstores, schools, and libraries. But how do you set them up?

Well, you’ve already set up your online platform (even just a super basic website will do) so people can reach out to you. But you aren’t famous yet, so people probably aren’t knocking on your door.

Your publisher will probably make a flyer and/or give you marketing information or supplies. Those of you who are self-publishing
should make one, or have one made. 

It has all the information:

Who – Wrote and Illustrated – June Smalls and Claire Sedovic

What – Humorous picture book about animals and the alphabet.

When – Publication Date: 4-2-19

Where – Can it be purchased – Blue Manatee Press and IPG.

Don’t forget the cover art!

Publishers may also set up some of your author visits. But don't expect them to do all the work. You can and should help with marketing to make your book as successful as possible.

Start small and start local. Is there a local indie bookstore in your area? Walk in, introduce yourself, show your flyer, and offer to do a signing. Many indie stores even work with local schools and may know who nearby may be interested in visits.

What about your co-workers at your day job? Oh, one of them has a sister who teaches first grade? Sweet – get or give contact info. Networking like this can be organic. Work at your own pace and don’t overbook or overwork yourself.

Do you live near the schools you attended as a child? Do you have a child currently in schools with the right demographic for your book? Reach out, contact their teachers or the librarians. You may want to start with free or discounted rates until you are comfortable with your presentations and their value.

Know before you reach out what exactly you are offering. Are you just doing a reading and signing? Do you have a presentation suitable for a small class or a whole auditorium? Have you practiced and timed your presentation, leaving time for questions? Do you use a PowerPoint or props or have art to share?

We can break down what all your author visit can entail, but that is a post for another day.

Once you start a dialogue with your school or store contact, let them know what you need. Also, be prepared for technology to fail. Stuff happens and you may have to adapt.

Monday, January 21, 2019

So, you have a children’s book coming out…Part One: On Line Presence

My debut picture book, Odd Animal ABC's, comes out in just over two months. So what am I doing to prepare? Well, I’m learning as I go since there is no one perfect directive on how to sell a bajillion books. Here is what I’m learning about your Online Presence.

First things first:

People need to be able to find you and your books online. You don't need to be a part of every social media outlet ever created. I’m not part of all of these, and I’m not promoting any one in particular, but here are some to look into. Find what works for you or ones that don't need up-keep.

No matter what you choose to participate in on social media be sure it is appropriate for the age of your readers and professional. Agents and editors may read your posts once they are thinking of working with you. Kids may find them too as they are looking for your next book.


Amazon Author Page - See your sales, share info like tour events, blogs, etc.

Blog - A creative outlet and a way to connect with others. Blog as much as you want. There are many blog hosting sites to choose from. Topics? You can review books, interview peers, share cheesecake recipes and pictures of your pet. Content is up to you. 

Goodreads - You can have a verified Author Page. This takes just a few minutes to set up and maybe a day to become verified. You can interact here, but it isn't a requirement. You can review books, make a list of books you want to read, and track what you’ve already read.

Facebook - Highly interactive. You can chat, post pictures, host giveaways and more. Again, you should make sure this has content that you are comfortable with prospective publishing houses seeing. What works for someone who writes super edgy YA may be very different content than someone writing sweet and sentimental picture books. (This is also why some writers who span those two genres have a pen name for one or more of their genres.)

Instagram - Photos, videos, illustrations, and interaction, perfect for artist who want to connect.

Twitter - Short and sweet (tweet?). Each post only contains a max of 280 characters and/or a fun gif. A few minutes a day can keep you pretty active. There is a large writing community and hashtags to follow.

Website - Your website doesn't need to be elaborate or expensive. Clean, easy to navigate, with links for purchasing your books. If you plan to do school visits make sure there is a way for schools to reach out to you.

What About Branding?:

As a traditionally or self-published author, or illustrator, you are now a business. Consistent branding helps people recognize your work. Using your book cover as your avatar? What about using it across all your platforms. Your website name should be easy to figure out. www.YOURAUTHORNAME.com if possible. That way all the folks hunting on Google can find you with ease.

Debut Groups: Some writers team up with others in their genre that are debuting in the same year. These buddies cross promote through social media, interviews or guest posts on each other’s blogs, and they are there to stumble through the adventure with you.

Links: Don't forget to set up links so people can purchase your book. Like This: Order Now (yes, this is a shameless plug). Make it easy for buyers to access your book. 

Again, I’m not promoting any specific thing here. Maybe you just want a simple website and nothing more. That is OKAY.  Social media is a tool that can help with promoting. NOT a requirement. Don’t force yourself to spend time on social media if you hate it or if it becomes a burden and takes away from your creative time. 

You don’t need to try everything all at once. That could overwhelm you and take away any fun you may have had. Every writer and illustrator is different and finds what works for them over time. These aren’t the only social media site, there are more and, who knows, by the time I’m done writing this blog some new form of social media may have gone viral. Do what works for you and at your own pace.

Happy writing!