Articles tagged "children’s books"

Author Interview: Troy M. Cusson

What are your books about & what message are you trying to share through your children’s books?
Dawn The Deer & Dawn The Deer Enjoys The Fall are glimpses into what a quiet, peaceful little doe experiences in her day in the Finger Lakes Region of Upstate NY. Colors, creatures, sights, sounds and smells are all around her, and she stops to enjoy them all. If I could convey any message with my children’s books it would be to do as our friend Dawn does: to stop, if only for a moment, and enjoy your day. Take in all the wonderful things around you. The way the sky looks at the moment the sun hits the horizon during a sunset, the way wet leaves smell on a wooded trail in October, the crunch of fresh fallen snow under your feet in the winter. There is so much to enjoy in every new day.

What inspired you to write?
I guess you could say it was Dawn herself. Everyday my family and I would see her out and about in our neighborhood and on one particularly beautiful July morning, while enjoying a cup of coffee on my porch with my wife, I said,”Ya know, that deer is around so much we should probably name her.” My wife then said, “I’ve been calling her Dawn as I always see her around in the morning.” I said, “Dawn The Deer, that sounds like a perfect name for a children’s book!” After a few more minutes of watching her it hit me, . . . I could write a children’s book about all of the things that Dawn sees or does in any given summer day. From there, the story pretty much wrote itself as I just put to rhyme all that I saw her experiencing. The birds, the squirrels, the children playing nearby, the ravens, all of them were going about their day and Dawn was taking it all in.


What have been the challenges you’ve faced with writing / self-publishing?
My first challenge was finding the right artist to illustrate my stories. In an effort to keep it simple I tried modifying photos I had taken in PhotoShop but was not able to get them dialed in. I asked a friend who had done some cartoons in the past if he would be interested but he wasn’t able to get me what I wanted either. It was then I thought about approaching the art department at the college I work at to see if maybe there was a student who was proficient in watercolor artwork who needed a project to work on for classwork. The director of our art department put me in contact with Crystal Cochell,

Author Success Story: Valerie Baadh Garrett

While working as a movement specialist at the San Francisco Waldorf School, Valerie Baadh Garrett decided she wanted to write a book that would “support the movements of a kind of modern ‘circus’ for 200 children.” So she and her husband created a character that readers young and old would love: Uffe the Gnome. Nestled deep in the woods, his tall tales are designed to get kids’ minds and bodies moving in The Adventures of Uffe the Gnome.

Once Valerie landed an illustrator she approached traditional publishers but was rejected. No one was interested in a children’s story about gnomes and fairies in rhythm and rhyme. Valerie was not deterred. As she explains:

“Although that was disappointing, we knew there was an audience for our Uffe stories because we saw it every time I did a class or circus program.  Parents and children would clamor for a copy of the story.”

So she turned to Lulu.com, a decision she is very happy with—calling the company and its services “easy to use.”

“We were thrilled to see our little book look so professional so fast.”

Already the book has sold well. Outside of being sold on Lulu’s site, The Adventures of Uffe the Gnome is available as an iBook, through iTunes, and can be found on the website Valerie and her husband own and manage, The Movement Academy Project.

Recently, Valerie took copies to China on a trip that grew out of her movement work. There to lead a workshop, she knew she’d be working closely with teachers and parents and that Uffe would be a great resource for them. So to better serve that market, she updated her book by adding the title in Mandarin and changing it a bit to The Adventures of Uffe the Earth Fairy since gnomes aren’t part of Chinese culture. Additionally, Valerie included a CD she and her husband created narrating the stories in English so that her overseas customers would find added value in this bilingual package. These efforts paid off: By the end of the trip she’d secured a Chinese publisher for Uffe’s current and future books.

“One of my hosts set up a meeting for me with a local publishing house, and right away they loved Uffe. We are still working out the details, but it looks like they will publish six different books, to start, with six individual stories, bilingual in Mandarin and English, in a larger-scale format so the illustrations can be colored like a coloring book.”

Stateside, Valerie mainly promotes the book by hand and on Twitter, through her account that is tied into her movement work, as well as her website. Outside of her online efforts she ordered postcards offered by Lulu after Uffe was published and sent them to select bookstores. A few ordered copies right away!

Her advice to new authors is simple: “Give Lulu.com a try, but try not to rush.” Valerie admits she made a costly mistake by ordering copies with a typo in the title. Although funny now, it was a frustrating lesson that required a reprint and more money.

There are a lot more adventures on the horizon for Valerie, who has several projects in production.  Lulu.com, she insists, will be “a vital part of the process.”

How To Market Children’s Books

Marketing is usually pretty cut-and-dry. You have an audience you’re trying to reach, and you do what you can to reach them. But what if you have a whole segment of people whose attention you want but that don’t have any buying power? Well, that’s a whole different ballgame.

Marketing to kids is made more difficult by the fact that you have to appease not one but two people: the child and the parent. Because of this two-pronged approach, marketing kid’s books can be tricky. So here are some handy tips to consider:

Mind the law: The laws around Internet marketing toward children under the age of 13 are very clear and very strict. Make sure you familiarize yourself well with the COPPA (Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act) laws before you do any contests, giveaways, or other promotions targeting children online.

Build a Robust Website: All authors could benefit from a good website, and children’s book authors are no exception. Make it easy for parents and educators to know if your book is appropriate for a child by outlining the book’s story and themes, providing your bio, and surfacing any quotes from other authors, teachers, or librarians. Additionally, consider putting up downloadable activities, or a reading group guide, that teachers can use in their classroom. Here is a great example: TraceyJaneSmith.com.

In Memory of Maurice Sendak

This week, American literature mourns the loss of its hero Maurice Sendak. Sendak is best known for writing children’s books, yet his work resonated with readers of all ages.

A less-known fact about Sendak was his distaste for eBooks. If you’re trying to find “Where The Wild Things Are” on your NOOK, you would run into a problem: none of his work is available in electronic form. Sendak was pronouncedly opposed to eBooks — going as far to tell Stephen Colbert last year, “I hate those eBooks. They cannot be the future. They may well be. I will be dead.”

Even though he staunchly opposed the form, other authors working on children’s books have readily embraced it. Right now on Lulu, you can find great electronic children’s books like OwlCat: The Cat Hoo Thought He was an Owl, Gunna’s Adventures – Gunna Daydream, and Gino The Giant Slayer.

Children’s authors have used eBooks to not only spread their work farther than print, but to also enhance it. Many have chosen to create special features that help

Lulu Author & Illustrator Win Gold Mom’s Choice Award

A few years ago, after being introduced through a mutual friend, author Elizabeth Hamilton-Guarino and illustrator Sandra Waugh decided to team up on a picture book that celebrates all art forms, cooperation, and the idea that anyone, young or old, should “let their dreams fly.” Lucky for us, their dream became a reality known as Pinky Doodle Bug, which was released in December.

After completing the book they were cautious about pitching the big children’s publishing houses, which are often hesitant to take on debut authors in the picture book genre. Elizabeth and Sandra also had reservations about traditional publishing’s strict storybook arcs and long-lead printing times.

“In the world of children’s publishing, which often feels like a secret club, we felt our book may or may not ever come to life,” Elizabeth says. “We didn’t want to risk it… We wanted to really remain positive and put all of our positive energy and life into the project.”

So the duo decided on Lulu.com for the paperback, hardcover, and eBook — a decision they’re extremely happy with.

The relationship between the two women and Lulu has been strong from the start — which isn’t a surprise given the collaborative message of Pinky Doodle Bug. In addition to purchasing Lulu’s Global Distribution Package, which puts the book in every bookstore (on order) as well as on multiple online retailers, Elizabeth and Sandra also worked closely with Lulu to market their book.

“Lulu.com has been a critical part of our success. They have had on-the-spot customer service, featured our book, tweeted about us and really help us market the book also, which is probably the biggest boost needed,” Elizabeth says.

Elizabeth and Sandra’s marketing efforts didn’t stop there. They have a robust website that launched before the book released so that they could showcase their ideas and bring the characters to life. By using snappages.com, they have full control over the design and content of their site though the company’s easy drag-and-drop system. This allows them to update pinkydoodlebug.com at least once a week so that everything showcased is current and relevant. Their site has also been a place for Sandra to post coloring pages that have proved so popular a Pinky Doodle Bug activity book will be out soon!

Recognizing that having a website is only the first step toward successful marketing — and that getting people there is the second — both women used social media to boost traffic to their website. Elizabeth leveraged her business’ Twitter account (30,000 followers) and also created a Pinky-specific Facebook page and Twitter account (700 followers) to give away the book and raise brand awareness — within reason. Both women abide by “Twitter 4 Business Specialist” Keith Keller’s assertion that tweeters should abide by the 1 to 10 ratio, meaning 1 tweet about you and 10 about something or someone else.

Although scheduling (they’re moms!) and cost constraints have prohibited Elizabeth and Sandra from working with a PR agency, they’ve both done school and/or library visits, which paid off. Pinky Doodle Bug recently received the prestigious GOLD Mom’s Choice Award, which honors excellence in family-friendly media products. Elizabeth advises that authors seize the opportunities they can: “Sometimes the reason for being there [a book festival, for instance] might not be to sell books, but rather to meet someone or to learn something about someone or yourself.”

In the future Elizabeth and Sandra plan to let their own Pinky dreams fly. Outside of an upcoming activity book and new picture book, Pinky Doodle Dance, the author and illustrator team are hoping to create Pinky dolls, media, and more.

“Butterfly in the sky…”

LeVar Burton, doing what he loves.

So, last night I found the picture below on the often hilarious shirt.woot.com. I was suddenly flooded with memories of my favorite show as a kid: Reading Rainbow. Sadly, I realized that, before last night, I honestly couldn’t remember the last time I even thought about this program. Then it dawned on me…the entire reason I like books, love writing, and work at a self-publishing company isn’t because of all the Hemingways, Faulkners, and Emersons – it is because of one man: LeVar Burton.

With his warm, friendly charm, Burton captured childrens’ imaginations each week with fun stories, guest celebrity appearances, and a genuine enthusiasm to inspire kids to read. Without this show, I wouldn’t have discovered greats like Goodnight Moon, Miss Nelson is Missing,The Very Hungry Caterpillar, or Where the Wild Things Are. Even more remarkable is Burton’s 20+ year struggle with dyslexia, which he overcame before auditioning for Reading Rainbow.

It took a silly cartoon to remind me, but Burton really is a true inspiration. He diligently piloted the show Reading Rainbow, helping it win a Peabody Award and 26 Emmy Awards. The man is almost single-handedly responsible for helping four generations of kids not only learn to read, but find the fun in it. My favorite episode was when he went to a hat store. Each hat would magically transport him into the pages of a story. I remember endlessly begging my mother to take me to that shop for the better part of my youth.  I think I speak for several hundred-thousand kids when I say:  Thank you Mr. Burton. Thank you for teaching us that yes, “we can do anything.”

Wonderfully enough, Reading Rainbow will be coming back on an iPad® near you soon. According to Fast Company, Burton plans on revitalizing the show as a multimedia app with games, voiceovers, and over 300 books at launch. “But, you don’t have to take my word for it…”


What’s your favorite Reading Rainbow memory? Did it impact you as much as it did so many other young readers? Feel free to share in the comments below. Also be sure to learn about Lulu’s own literacy program:  Lulu for Literacy.