Posted in Author Resources, Demystifying publishing

Advice to Self Publishers from @ReadWithRiver

So you want to launch a self-published book. Common Problems
to Avoid &
Boundaries with Influencers
You Need to Respect.
Research First: Picturebooks are not just ‘faster to write than novels’ and if you don’t respect them or read them, then you have no business writing them.

We can tell when reading, if the creator doesn’t actually like picturebooks.

Recommendation: go to a library, read two hundred different picturebooks written in the last five years. Then go back to your idea and ask yourself ‘is this going to work?’
Get it Edited: Your computer spell check program is not adequate for editing a book.
You need more than one editor, who you are not related to. by blood or marriage.
They should be looking at things like structure, logical consistency, dialogue believability, if it’s in verse is the meter good?
If you’re including marginalized groups you are not a part of you need to hire a Diversity and Inclusion consultant/sensitivity reader.
Rhyming is hard : Picturebooks do not need to rhyme.
Unless you are a poet or a musician, its likely you’re going to struggle with writing in verse.
Bad poetry is unforgivable and if it’s a little bit off, all anyone will focus on is exactly where it is off.
Often people who force rhyming stories ignore the more important part, the plot, the character development, the dialogue, all so that they can force rhymes.
Ditch the rhyme and write something true.
The Picture in Picturebook is Key: The illustrations of a picturebook are arguably more important than the text. People can forgive a boring story if the pictures are beautiful. There’s no forgiving an ugly picturebook.
You need a real artist, who knows how to do picturebooks.
You also need someone who can do Cover Design, and text lay out (which the illustrator may not know how to do.)
For the love of Jon Klassen do not use a weird font or comic sans, just don’t.
Costs to consider: Paper, Printing, & Binding. If you skimp on this the quality will be bad, fewer people will promote it-unfortunate I know, but just a fact.
Ordering samples
Editors, lay out designers, cover designers,
Reputable illustrator will be 3k minimum
Website costs
Review copies, shipping, promotion
Setting up social: If you open up your Instagram/Twitter/Tiktok account three days before you launch nothing is going to happen for you.

If you’re just opening up your social accounts right now with the intetion of selling a book for Christmas you have missed the boat by six months.

All of the reputable influencers have their content planned until Christmas, most traditional publicists get out all the stuff they want featured in December out by August-October.
There must be some way to get immediate promotion: You can pay people. (Not me, do not ask me..) But you can approach people and be upfront that it’s a paid ad opportunity.
Influencer standard is $10 per a thousand followers so do the math before asking, some people may ask for more if you want it done quickly.
Kirkus also has an expedited review program for self pub but it’s gonna cost you about $400 USD.
I only want free publicity: You can pay people. (Not me, do not ask me..) But you can approach people and be upfront that it’s a paid ad opportunity.
Influencer standard is $10 per a thousand followers so do the math before asking, some people may ask for more if you want it done quickly.
Kirkus also has an expedited review program for self pub but it’s gonna cost you about $400 USD.
Book influencers are friends. Behave Accordingly. We tell each other about self published authors who are difficult, audacious, rude or threatening.
We share screenshots of your spam messages.
No means no, do not keep badgering someone, do not investigate them or show up at their place of work, do not do it.
If people are refusing to respond to your messages, ask yourself, did I have a bad interaction with an influencer? Because if you did, that’s why noone is answering.

Posted in Anti-Gift Guide

Just Because it’s a Good Deal Doesn’t Make it a Good Toy: More Books Less Crap 5

Here are 5 ‘great deals’ that have filled me with regret and five fun read alouds you should get instead!
A blinger, it’s litteraly just a contraption for applying sticker jewels. I admit when I purchased it, I thought that the jewels would stay on more firmly than a regular sticker? But no. They’re just stickers. Ridiculous.
So, one day, a few years ago, I was driving along on a cold November’s day, much like today and I saw a big sign! “GIANT TOY OUTLET SALE!” We were passing through a strange industrial complex we had never been through and I yelled “STOP THE CAR!” And my husband, reluctantly did. I jumped out and ran, into this giant warehouse, there were loads and loads of toys, they were in fact very cheap…in every sense of the word. The piano mat was not the only thing I bought from this sale, and all of it was garbage, I also bought a microphone with stand that never worked, period. But of course sales like this-all sales are final. So turns out, not such a great deal.
My older daughter asked for a pogo stick, and we were like, why in the world do you want a pogo stick? She had seen one on a tv show and became obsessed with the idea. So we searched around for her birthday and found one, it was a pretty good deal, we bought it. She used it twice. Pogo sticks, are just not fun. Add to this they’re wildly impractical and dangerous.
I was at Costco. Which is the number one place I fall for good deals that are in fact bad deals. They had this absolutely enormous packet of unicorn crystals. You grow these crystals with like a powder that then flakes off and leaves a disconcerting dust on everything. I said to my self “WOW! LOOK AT THIS GIANT PACKET! WHAT A GREAT DEAL!” Not a great deal, and now I’m going to have this enormous box in my house forever.
Whoever came up with “Baby Alive” hates parents. It’s ugly, it’s noisy, and it yells at you when you’re trying to think and you jump five feet out of your chair. Just say no.
Just Because it's a Good Deal Doesn't Make it a Good Toy: More Books Less Crap
Fun Read Alouds you should get instead! Light hearted books that pull little readers in and invite them to stay. All of the books today are from the submissions for the #bookstagang_bestof2021.
“Unicorn Night Sleep Tight” by Diana Murray and Luke Flowers from Source Books Kids

This is a weird incidence of me really preferring a sequel to the original, “Unicorn Night Sleep Tight” is the sequel to “Unicorn Day” which was fine but it never really stole our hearts to be perfectly honest. “Unicorn Night” however, has become a fast favourite in our household. My kids just love this book, it’s one of my 3 year old’s go to bedtime picks. it’s a cute rhyming read aloud, and perfect for bed.

“A Pizza with Everything on it” Kyle Scheel and Andrew J. Pizza from Chronicle Kids Books

“A Pizza with Everything on it” is completely ridiculous. A kid and his dad make a pizza, but they have to put EVERYTHING on it, and they really explore the boundaries of that. I will be honest, I really questioned the physics behind the pizza dough continuing to expand when they started adding like, cars and things on it, but I think I need to let go of that. It’s one kids will enjoy and, the illustration is really full of personality.
“My School Unicorn” by Willow Evans and Tom Knight from Simon Kids

One little girl is nervous about starting kindergarten, but as luck would have it the school uniform store also provides a handy little school unicorn to lend emotional support. This story was adorable, my kids were confused about why the girl had to return the unicorn, and honestly I kind of wish they got to stay friends forever too. Either way, very cute, very colourful, fun read aloud.

“Room for Everyone” Naaz Khan & Simon Kids

“Room for Everyone” is an instant classic in my opinion, fast paced, colourful, fun read aloud. With a structure that really is reminiscent of classic folk tales. It’s beautifully written, wonderfully illustrated, and tons of fun for readers.

“Wolfboy” by Andy Harkness

“Wolfboy” is truly a delightful book, with it’s unusual plasticine illustration, that are fun and unique and a story that’s charming with a sweet twist at the end that readers will have a laugh at. Adorable.

Posted in Demystifying publishing

What Happens to Banned Books?: Demystifying Publishing Part 9 with @readwithriver

What's the deal with banning books? What happens to the books? Who is most affected? Let's discuss!
Demystifying Publishing Part 9 with @readwithriver: What happens to Banned Books? #Bannedbooksweek
The History of Banning Books. As long as books have existed, people have tried to ban them. Banning books has always been about maintaining existing hierarchies of power, and control. Empathizing with people who are oppressed by those hierarchies is considered a threat to that power. In 1121 CE Abelard was forced to burn is hown book…he was also castrated. They didn’t play around back then. (Source Bond, S. ” Top 5 Ancient and Medieval Censored Books TO Read During Banned Book Week” Forbes, 2016.
Banned Books Today. Are banned books illegal tools of the devil? …No…Books are banned by individual school boards, libraries, schools, etc. You can still buy them, they are often harder to find.
Does banning a book make it more popular? “No Publicity is Bad Publicity”-P.T. Barnum. Books by already famous authors often see a jump in sales when they have a banned book. “Whether or not there is a benefit often hinges on how high profile an author is at the time of the challenge.” (Source King,N. “Banned Books Week: How the Blacklist can Goose a Book’s Sales” Marketplace.org, 2013.)
IF You’re Not A Famous Author… not a good time. “A lot of these authors who are challenged are not famous….Wealthy authors who sell a lot of books can hire publicists and attorneys to defend them, but your average mid-list author can’t. They’ve got to take these battles on personally.” (Source. King,N. “Banned Books Week: How the Blacklist can Goose a Book’s Sales” Marketplace.org, 2013.) “As an author of a recently challenged book, I will not trade freedom for profit. And I wouldn’t trade freedom for profit, even if the math was on my side.” (Sara Hockler, Sarahockler.com, 2010)
Who is most Impacted? Children. “THe history of children’s book publishing in America offers insight into the ways in which traditional attitudes about “appropriate” stories often end up marginalizing the lives and experiences of many young readers, rather than protecting them.” (Source, Ringle, P. “How Banning Books Marginalizes Children,” TheAtlantic.com, 2016.) “When we say ‘this book is inappropriate’ we’re telling those childrne your situation…your family…your life is inappropriate.”-Kate Messner
What kind of books get banned? “In 2019, eight out of the 10 books on the association’s list featured L.G.B.T.Q. subject matter. For 2020, however, that majority was fractured, with the addition of books that touch on racial injustice and police violence toward Black people and books by authors of color.” “In this case, we’re seeing an effort to stigmatize and vilify stories about racial injustice.”(Source, Waller, A. “Books About Racism and Police Violence Fill Out List of ‘Most Challenged Titles.” NYTIMES, 2020.)
Banned Books Week Since 1982 every year in September Banned Books Week is celebrated to fight against challenges, and support books that have been banned. A Coalition of Organizations works together for banned Books Week. Check it out to learn more.

Sources

Source 1: Bond, S. ” Top 5 Ancient and Medieval Censored Books TO Read During Banned Book Week” Forbes, 2016.

Source 2: King, N. “Banned Books Week: How the Blacklist can Goose a Book’s Sales” Marketplace.org, 2013.

Source 3: SaraH Ockler, SarahOckler.com, 2010

Source 4: Ringle, P. “How Banning Books Marginalizes Children,” TheAtlantic.com, 2016.

Source 5: Waller, A. “Books About Racism and Police Violence Fill Out List of ‘Most Challenged Titles.” NYTIMES, 2020.

Posted in Demystifying publishing

4 Reasons why it’s important to Preorder Books if you want to help an Author Succeed

Have you ever wondered why publishers and authors are always publicizing preorder availability? There’s some very practical reasons for it!

Preordering a book that doesn’t arrive for months or years might seem unnecessary but your decision to preorder directly affects the book’s chances of commercial success.
1. Pre-release, preorders signal to publisher there will be interest, and they can adjust print runs to accurately meet demands. THe size of an initial print run announces to the world the confidence the publisher has in a book’s commercial success. The bigger the print run, the more confidence, the more buzz. Under printing can be a huge problem, because often people who cannot find a book in stock when they want it, will forget about it and not come back and buy it later.
2. Preorders then build buzz and encourage larger orders from big retailers. The buzz around the book is a great sales point that gets big retailers to make larger initial orders to prepare for consumer demand. This is of course not a good thing if after the fact nobody buys them, because they’ll be returned. But having them ordered and in stock means that they are available and a book has a chance to succeed.
3. Post-release, preorders sales count as part of first week sales. These inflated numbers allow books to launch and climb the rankings onto the bestseller lists which guarantee continued sales. Being on a bestseller list is one of the best things that can happen to a book commercially. People who have never heard of it, and might have never considered buying it, will go out and buy it because it is on this list.
4. Support independent Bookshops with guaranteed sale for their stock, helps mitigate risks. Independent bookshops help authors with creating readership and awareness. Preorders are guaranteed sales, and it allows retailers who operate on small profit margins and are risk averse to have a guaranteed sale on a book. Independent bookshops work hard to create opportunities for local authors and illustrators, to help them create buzz and get books out there. Supporting indie bookshops is supporting the culture of books.

Special thanks to the team at Walker Books for answering questions about this issue as well as UK Book Publisher, Editorial director at Andersen Press, Libby Hamilton @LibbyHamHam on Instagram

Posted in Demystifying publishing

Literary Agents: The Fairy Godparents of Publishing

Demystifying Publishing Part 4 with @readwithriver

Demystifying Publishing Part 4 with @readwithriver  
Literary Agents:The Fairy Godparents of Publishing
A very practical Cinderella story.
What does an agent do?  Why do you want one? How do you choose one?
Saves and Shares are appreciated!
Fairy Literary Agents 
A very practical Cinderella story.
Once upon a time there was a writer who could not get to the publisher’s ball to have her manuscript read. “Oh how I wish I could go to the ball.” Then one night after many years of wishing one of her queries* was answered! An agent appeared.  
*See part three on How to Query.
Fairy Literary Agents
Pumpkins and Glass Slippers
Her Fairy Literary Agent used her editing magic to dress up her manuscript and get the writer past the gates into the publisher’s ball to dance with the editor.  Most editors especially at big houses will only look at manuscripts brought to them by agents.  These editor-agent relationships are cultivated over many years.  Even for publishers that accept open submissions (see part 3) manuscripts submitted by agents are seen faster and are given a response even if it is a reject.  Instead of six months, you can expect half of that time frame or less for a response.
Fairy Literary Agents At the Ball
Once the writer’s work was past the gates, it was up to the writer to make the editor fall in love with her work.  A Fairy Literary Agent can help you streamline your work, they can get you an audience with the best editors but, they can’t force an editor to love it or to like you.  That’s your job.  Editors call a meeting with the author before an offer is made to see if they will be easy to work with.  You CAN talk yourself out of a book deal. 
Fairy Literary Agents Finding you the right prince!
Not every publisher is one you want to work with.  Agents look for skeletons in editors’ & publishers’ closets and steer their clients away from sketchy partnerships.  They have a history of working with various editors and teams and they will know who will be the best fit for you and your work.  Traditional publishing is a team sport.
Fairy Literary Agents Contracts
Standard contracts are NEVER in the author’s best interests. Your agent negotiates for you until it is. Beforehand: financial matters like royalty percentage &, production matters like cover approval. During: intervening in decisions that negatively affect the integrity of your work.  After: making sure your work continues to be in print and if it is not, fighting to revert rights back to you to resell.  This is just a fraction of what they negotiate.
Fairy Literary Agents, agents succeed if you succeed. 
Agents usually make 15% of the author’s cut, from advance and royalties.  They only get paid if you do.
This is NOT lucrative. Agents sometimes have second jobs, or take on more clients than they can reasonably handle to make a living wage.  This is a career people choose because they love doing it, not because they’re trying to make a mint.  A good question to ask an agent before working with them is how many clients they have and how much time they will have to work with you personally.  No one is more personally invested in your success than your agent, their livelihood depends on it.
Fairy Literary Agents: Finding the right agent for you
Having an agent is a relationship that ideally will last many years.  It’s important you get along well.  Often agents will take a client on for only one manuscript as a trial period.  It is vital you have an agent who you trust & who shares the same editorial vision you do. Head to readwithriver.ca for resources in finding an agent & querying.

Resources to help you find Literary Agents:

US Literary Agent Listings

https://www.writersunion.ca/literary-agents

http://www.ardorlitmag.com/literary-agents.html

https://literaryagencies.com/literary-agents-childrens-books/

https://www.pw.org/literary_agents

Posted in #Librarian Fight Club

Where are all the Fat People in Picture Books?

Sources

“Denial of Treatment to Obese Patients—the Wrong Policy on Personal Responsibility for Health https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3937915/

Eating Disorder Statistics /https://anad.org/get-informed/about-eating-disorders/eating-disorders-statistics/

“Glorifying Fatness, Really?: Why writing about fatness can be downright difficult” https://www.psychologytoday.com/ca/blog/dry-land-fish/201207/glorifying-fatness-really

Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health “Obesity Prevention Source” https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/obesity-prevention-source/obesity-trends/obesity-rates-worldwide/#References

Posted in #Librarian Fight Club

It’s Not as Simple as Animal Books Vs. “Diversity

Sources for this Post:

Lucy & James Catchpole https://thecatchpoles.net/

“Data on books by and about Black, Indigenous and People of Color published for children and teens compiled by the Cooperative Children’s Book Center, School of Education, University of Wisconsin-Madison.”

Book Riot https://bookriot.com/diversity-in-childrens-and-young-adult-literature/

https://www.scholastic.com/parents/books-and-reading/raise-a-reader-blog/why-its-important-kids-to-see-themselves-books.html

Larsen, N. Lee, K., & Ganea P.. “Do storybooks with anthropomorphized animal characters promote prosocial behaviours in young children?” Dev Sci. 2018 May; 21 (3): e 12590 2

*C. Burke & J. Copenhaver. “Animals as People in Children’s Literature ” Language Arts Vol 81, N.3 Jan. 2004, P. 205-213 .

Posted in #Librarian Fight Club, Uncategorized

Beyond 2020: Will Kidlit Evolve or Revert?

Before 2020, the children’s book industry wasn’t something that most people could care less about. Sure, there were handfuls of teachers, librarians, niche collectors and people actually in the business of making kids’ books, but the general adult population at large wasn’t overly concerned with it.

  2020 changed that, well, it changed a lot of things.  It shone a burning spotlight on a number of issues and KidLit was one of them, people got fired up. The Black Lives Matter uprisings in June had people looking for ways to be anti-racist, to change the world, to take part, and it was decided a great place to start was with children’s books. The cynical part in me wonders if that’s because purchasing kid’s books, and putting them on a display shelf, is only two clicks up from the most basic form of armchair activism. Whether or not people were actually reading them and discussing them with kids is to be determined.

  During the June uprisings, the status quo of children’s literature was found to be woefully inadequate, lacking in representation of BIPOC characters (Black Indigenous People of Colour), lacking in #ownvoices of Black authors and illustrators, lacking in stories that represented BIPOC characters in a range of types of stories.  People who had probably never thought twice about what sort of books they were buying their kid at the grocery store, suddenly were up in arms demanding immediate change from an industry so slow that you’ve got to wonder if they’ve only got one poor fellow binding every book by hand. Of course, all of these problems I’ve mentioned were no secret; studies, surveys, statistics, have all existed and been done for years showing that this is a huge issue. It’s just in the heat of June, and the fire of the protest, people suddenly cared a lot.

Books like “A is for Activist” by Innosanto Nagara, were cleaned out of every online store for months. Social Media Accounts focused on Diversity and Black representation in kids’ books were flooded with new followers, some accounts growing by fifty thousand followers or more practically overnight.  An entire generation of new Bookstagram accounts emerged.

With people clamouring to buy more books that just didn’t exist, the publishers have been left scrambling. They couldn’t do much that would have any immediate effect aside from reallocating marketing budgets to favour the books they did have featuring BIPOC characters. Suddenly popping out new books wasn’t an option. Especially given the constraints of being in the middle of a pandemic. Even under normal circumstances it takes about two years for the average book to be produced, 

Publishers have gotten to work as fast as they can, finding BIPOC authors and illustrators, and getting to work on publishing socially conscious books, but it will still be approximately a year and a half before most of the books will come to fruition. 

The big question is, how will these books be received, and how will that reception impact the course of Kidlit into the foreseeable future?

Will these books be rushed?  Will they be of questionable quality because of that rush?  Will the books all focus on delivering incredibly serious messages of social activism instead of providing picture books by and about BIPOC people that are meant for children to enjoy again and again? Because if the answer to any of those questions is yes, then there’s going to be a problem. 

Secondly, by the time these books are released how many people will still be interested? The fervour of the uninvested has cooled considerably in the last few months. That paired with having had to endure the absolutely revolting deluge of self published Amazon books about Racism slapped together in an attempt to Capitalize on the BLM movement has me wondering, will people be tired of it?

The fact remains that lack of representation in kidlit, is an issue that needs to be addressed. If this massive wave of #ownvoices books by Black Creators about BIPOC characters does not fulfill the industry’s expectation, then what will happen?  What will their conclusion be? What happens if they do not sell?

If things don’t work out my concern will be that the industry executives will conclude that they were correct all along in not investing in BIPOC creators and BIPOC stories.  Capitalism may dictate it would be best to just quietly close the lid on all of this, and let it collect dust with every other trend from 2020.

Or maybe, maybe I’m just jaded, and it’ll be fantastic, and people will turn up in droves to buy them. Maybe the demand for change brought out in 2020, is just what we needed to launch a new era in children’s books, a more inclusive one.