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. 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!

Saturday, December 29, 2018

Steal TIme

As 2018 comes to a close and people are talking about their 2019 resolutions, I'm seeing many people who talk about making time for their writing, or lamenting that things got too busy in 2018. I'm going to let you in on a secret. Your time is yours, and if you can't make time - you should steal it.

Little bits add up like drops of water to fill a glass.

Grab notebooks. One for your purse or backpack, one for your kitchen, one for your car. Don't forget that your phone is a handy tool.

When an idea for that perfect character name pops into your head, text it to yourself. Only takes 1 minute.

When you are sitting in your car at your kids practice waiting for them to find their other shoe - grab that notebook and jot down some plot points. Another 5 minutes stolen back for your writing.

Oh, are you trapped at the car place getting your oil changed? Where are the pens? Here is 20 minutes to work on dialogue between your two main characters.

Lunch break? 30 minutes to use your smart phone to research owls and jot down all of that gross stuff about pellets while eating at your favorite spot. (For the squeamish maybe swap pellet research with that oil change dialogue writing.)

Don't feel guilty when the family is fed and you say, "I'm going to go write for 20 or 30 minutes. Entertain yourselves." (This may be harder for those with super young kids, but do what you can)

There is also a 5 am writers club I see on Twitter. I won't lie - I'm not a morning person and probably won't ever do this one. But it may work for you! If 5 am doesn't work, what about waking up just 20 minutes early?

If your goal this year is to write more then go for it. Even if it is only 5 minutes or 10 minutes here or there. You don't have to write every single day if it doesn't work for you, but you do need to write. Writing is writing whether it is using a pencil, typing on a computer, or using your smart phone.

Don't forget to make time/steal time to read as well. It is market research that is vital to your trade.

Best of luck for a healthy, happy, and productive new year!

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Agents, Inspiration, and Sales, Oh My!

A while back I posted about how I got my agent. It came down to a combo of good timing, her #MSWL post (which really summed up the type of MS I was just sending out to agents), and just really jiving well with each other.

While we all know Agents sell your work and cheer you on, sometimes they are your source for inspiration.

Back on International Woman's Day, March 8, 2018, Rebecca shot a simple tweet my way.
Of course I said, "I love elephants!" and we had a fun little back and forth where, like all highly evolved creatures, we spoke in GIFS and pictures.
But now I had a problem. I couldn't get this idea out of my head. Like I'd told my agent, I'd done a good amount of research on elephants already for a possible Chapter Book Series. I even went to meet one and interview a caretaker. But did I have enough info? I had only done generic research and it was mostly about captive elephants. Was there a solid story here?
I couldn't stop thinking about the elephant I met, the elephant matriarch, and their beautiful and complex family structure.
On March 12th, 2018 I emailed my agent a REALLY rough draft and asked, "Should I pursue this further?"
Her response was simply, "YES!!! Please pursue this !!!! :-)"
So I put everything else I was working on to the side, stayed up way too late watching elephants on the internet, Animal Planet, Net Geo, pulling every elephant book off the shelf at my library and pulling out all my old notes. After fast tracking it to my critique buddies I gave my agent on April 12th.
I was so attached to this piece. I lost sleep over it. I reached out to trusts in Africa to have it vetted. I was terrified that she'd say it was all wrong. (Not because she is mean or harsh, but every writer worries their stuff is crap at some point, right?)
She read it on April 16th. This is what I got back.


We sent it on an exclusive to an editor who ultimately didn't offer. Then we sent it on its first round of submissions.

Friday, August 3rd, 2018 it went out.

Tuesday the 7th we had interest and they wanted to call and speak with me. Within a month we had another editor who wanted a call. We received multiple offers but we chose to publish with Familius.
That they offered is still a little shocking since I'd never spoken with an editor or publisher on the phone so I nervous giggled for half of the conversation and forgot the English language a few times. Thankfully they still loved SHE LEADS. (Whether or not they think I'm nuttier than a peanut shell... we can't be sure.)

I signed the contract on Friday, September 14th. Six months after my Agent playfully pitched me an idea on twitter.

Agents are more than the person who can get your MS seen at big houses. They are more than a contract translator. They are friends and inspiration and cheerleaders and editors and I for one am thankful!

DISCLAIMER FOR WRITERS AND ILLUSTRATORS: This is not a normal timeframe! Six months is ridiculously fast!!! It took me about three years to sell my first picture book. I've been seriously writing for two to three years prior to that.

SHE LEADS: THE ELEPHANT MATRIARCH will be published in Spring, 2020 by Familius.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

How I Got My Agent

So, obviously I am not a great blogger. BUT I have spent the past year really buckling down on my writing. I’ve finished a middle grade fantasy manuscript, polished a number of my picture books, and GOT AN AGENT! But wait, there’s more. I have a picture book under contract with Blue Manatee Press!
I’ve been working towards traditional publication for 5 years. I’ve grown each and every year.
Starting with preachy picture books with long word counts, I didn’t get very far.
I joined SCBWI. Seriously, if you write for kids and want to be a part of a large tribe with education, comradery, and networking, then you should look into The Society of Children’s Book writers and Illustrators.
So I started going to conferences. I met others like me. I met agents and editors and had critiques. I attended classes, webinars, and workshops. I grew as a writer.
At an SCBWI Critique Fest I met my in person critique group. They have been invaluable in helping me hone my skills, question my characters motivation, and most of all, grow as a writer. Recently I've also joined online critique groups.
Highlights Foundation Retreat cabins
At a Highlights Foundation Retreat I really broke down my works, focused on word choice, and page turns and… did yoga and went on hikes and had the best butter I’ve ever eaten in my life… and I grew as a writer (and maybe as a person. I couldn’t stop eating the butter.)
I’d become confident in my writing. I got some likes in Twitter contests, my percentage of personal rejections grew, I applied for, but did not win mentorships, and finally I had some interest from an editor. I reached out to the agents who were currently reviewing my work in their slush piles and from some requests to inform them I had a contract in hand.
I received multiple offers and the decision wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be. There is a ton of pressure and doubt that I think plagues many writers. But the enthusiasm and connection with one agent in particular was too great to ignore. I’m proud to announce I’m represented by Rebecca Angus of Golden Wheat Literary.
I had submitted to Rebecca after seeing her #MSWL about creative non-fiction. She’s already negotiating contracts and guiding me along the process. We already have a second manuscript under review. I hope together we sell a bajillion books and make readers happy.
I want to make it clear. The path was long and ultimately I was discovered in a slush pile. But every path is different and there is no one way to be a writer or to become traditionally published. Just keep pushing and growing as a writer.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Happy New Year 2017

I'm here to say goodbye to 2016 and welcome 2017. 

This year I want all you writers to make realistic resolutions.

Write more.
Write without distractions.
Write without fear.
Write with your heart.

Yes, it is a lovely thought to say, "This year my resolution is to become a published author." Unless you are self publishing there are too many things out of your control.

This year I hope to polish, revise, write, research. All of which are in my control. Patience, focus, and drive are within my control. Dedication is within my control.

Don't beat yourselves up with things don't go to plan. This business is subjective and slow, which is difficult for us to grasp in a time of instant gratification. 

I wish everyone a productive new year. I wish you inspiration. I wish you peace.

Happy New Year! Happy Writing!

Monday, November 14, 2016

Guest Post by Picture Book Author Julie Murphy

SPECIAL GUEST! I’m ecstatic that I have a guest post from picture book author Julie Murphy about her latest book Gilly’s Treasures. Take it away Julie.


Hi, June, and thanks for hosting me on your blog to help celebrate the October 11 release of my picture book for children (4-8), Gilly’s Treasures.

Writers often see the advice, “write about what you know”. I have always loved the beach and often spend my holidays there, so it was natural to write a story set at the beach. And that story evolved into Gilly’s Treasures.


One of my favorite books as a child was Over Sea, Under Stone by Susan Cooper. I loved it so much that I still dream of visiting Cornwall one day, where the story is set. And of course, Jonathan Livingstone Seagull is a story for all ages. Contemporary children’s books set at the sea that I love are Magic Beach by Alison Lester (fiction), Tanglewood by Margaret Wild and Vivienne Goodman (fiction), and When Elephants Lived in the Sea by Jane Godwin & Vincent Agostino (creative non-fiction).

My daughter and I loved snorkeling at the Great Barrier Reef
My husband, daughter and I still often visit the coast for our holidays. We have quite a few gorgeous natural places within a days’ drive. Plus we are very fortunate to have visited some more distant places, such as the Great Barrier Reef, and Ningaloo Reef in north-Western Australia where we saw green turtles!


One of the green turtles we saw at Ningaloo Reef

I love animals so, after school, I trained as a zoologist before working as a zookeeper for a decade. It wasn’t until I left that job to have a baby that I became immersed in the wonderful world of children’s books – both as a reader and a writer. My love of picture books really took over from that point. Many of my favourite picture books are about animals, as well as the ones I write.

I have been writing picture books for about a decade. My training in zoology helped me get a foot in the door with work-for-hire projects, which I wrote to specific briefs provided by the publishers. Most are non-fiction books about animals, but it is only by chance that many are also about the sea. Ocean Animal Adaptations, Coral Reefs Matter, and Anglerfish are just a few examples.

I am proud of my non-fiction books, but I must admit to being extra excited to welcome Gilly’s Treasures into the world. It is my first fiction picture book, and began as my own idea (rather than to a publisher’s brief). With the feel of a traditional children’s fable, it tells the story of Gilly; a seagull who is so busy finding pretty, shiny things at the seaside that he forgets everything else – even to eat! Thankfully, with a little help from his partner, Swoop, he eventually discovers what really matters most to him. Illustrator Jay Fontano has done a wonderful job bringing Gilly and Swoop to life, and balancing my fable-like story with fun, friendly illustrations. I especially love the new character he introduced - a cute little crab who children will love spotting on each page.

I hope that children who read Gilly’s Treasures will want to visit the beach and another natural places for themselves, and maybe find a treasure or two of their own. And it might even spawn a conversation about what they think is most important in their own lives.

I think it is important for children to visit natural places. It gives them a chance to unplug from their devices, slow down, breathe the fresh air, and learn something about the real world. Who doesn’t find nature relaxing? Even a back yard or local park will do the trick. I think it not only benefits the child, but also conservation because kids will be more likely to look after what they know and care about.

My daughter (3) has always loved exploring the beach.


Where to learn more about Julie and her books?

Julie’s web site –

Facebook page with book preview -



Gilly’s Treasures is available from many on-line book stores, including Cedar Fort’s sales page, Books & Things (free for most parts of the USA):