This post has been graciously contributed by Maggie Pagratis, author of “Barnaby and his Brittle Bones” and “Yawny Bear”.
Several years ago I went on a children’s-book-making binge. Once I got the hang of it, I couldn’t stop. It was the thrill of creating that appealed to me and it became so addictive I could have popped out two books a day if illustrations didn’t take so long. The creative process provides a rush like no other.
Unfortunately, marketing does not have the same effect on me. Since that first rush, I have found that formatting books for others fulfils my need to create. I get to help authors create works of art and the authors get to do all the marketing.
During my time of children’s-book-creation addiction, I learned a few things:
- Forget the fancy English you learned in college
- Create your book illustrations in two-page spreads.
- Read your text out loud to avoid “bad” words which could ultimately lead you to get your book off the market quick! (Ephew the Nephew)
- Avoid ambiguous, overly poetic titles
- Never oversell an idea or stretch the truth
- Be fearless. Write something you want to shout from the rooftops, not something you are hesitant, embarrassed, or nervous about.
Lesson # 1: Forget the Fancy English
Making kids feel like they know nothing rather than making them love books is a bad move.
I learned this lesson during Parent Career Week where parents were invited to discuss their profession with a class of kindergarteners. As a recently published children’s book author, I walked into my daughter’s kindergarten classroom, enthusiastically displaying my beloved shiny green, slim book: Long-legged Turtle from Arizona.
I was so proud to be sharing this moment with my five-year-old daughter and her classmates. I stood, smiled, and began reading Long-legged Turtle’s courageous utterances, which were rich and flowing off the page. My face was flushed. I was conducting a word lover’s symphony, swaying to the meter of each sentence. However, when I looked up and around the room, all I saw were blank, paralyzed little faces.
I first thought these five-year-olds were fascinated, but the more I looked, the more I realized they understood nothing of what I was reading. The more I realized they were confused, the more animated I became. I had to keep them. They were mine. One lost attention span and I was a goner, so too would be my daughter who’d have to see them not only the next day, but for the rest of the school year.
Thank God for the activity I had planned as part of my reading. It was my saving grace. There’s nothing like sinking your hands in to illustrate your own turtle. It turned out they loved Long-legged Turtle. I hugged and praised and encouraged them during this activity, succeeding here where my book had not. I had to infuse them with positivity and clarity. “Yes, you can understand a simple children’s book and yes, you must try having one read to you again sometime.”
About the Author:
Maggie Pagratis has published numerous children’s books and worked as an in-house writer, business interviewer and editor-in-chief of a Montreal magazine. Her writing appears on several websites and blogs. She now designs and formats print books and eBooks for independent publishers and authors. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature and a Bachelor of Education. Maggie authored “Go Away Booboo! a children’s book translated into seven languages including English, Afrikaans, German, Greek, French, Italian and Spanish. For more information, visit her at www.custom-book-tique.com.