Today's guest post is from the publisher of Children’s Book Insider, Laura Backes.
How to Write a Children’s Book Based on Your Personal Struggles by Laura Backes
Suppose you’ve just gone through a divorce and lost custody of your kids. Or a loved one has recently died of cancer. Or you struggled in school as a child because you have dyslexia.
Many writers turn difficult periods in their lives into books for children, hoping to help young readers through similar painful experiences. Here are some tips to keep in mind when creating and selling books based on real-life events:
Remember that you’re writing a children’s book, not a personal essay intended to purge your soul from a painful memory. Children want to read about how they feel. Many writers create a child character and tell the story through that character’s eyes. Don’t write in first person if the “I” is you, the adult author. Instead of explaining how bad you feel that your kids no longer live with you, show how a five-year-old character feels about only getting to see Daddy every other weekend.
Books for younger children (up to age eight) centering around a personal crisis are generally most effective if the author uses a fictional vehicle for imparting the information. If you want to stick closer to nonfiction, make sure the book focuses on the child in the center of the event, and is told in a narrative format with a beginning, middle and end. Older children can handle more traditional self-help books, with each chapter concentrating on a specific aspect of the problem. However, interspersing the advice with personal anecdotes from other children who have gone through the same thing will make the information more appealing and relevant to the readers.
Targeting appropriate publishers with these manuscripts is important. Look in subject index of Children’s Writer’s & Illustrator’s Market under “Self Help” and “Special Needs” for publishers. Peruse the children’s nonfiction section of a large bookstore, and read reviews in Publisher’s Weekly, School Library Journal and Horn Book (trade magazines found online and in most libraries) to see which publishers do similar types of books. Check out websites for editorial guidelines (if you can’t find them, send a self-addressed, stamped envelope to the children’s editorial department asking for guidelines before you write and submit your manuscript). You can also look at books written for parents to help their children cope with an illness, loss or divorce, and query the publisher asking if they’d like to publish a children’s book on the same topic.
Though many mainstream publishers are interested in books that deal with special issues, some topics have too narrow an audience for a large house to market the book successfully. In this case, many authors have elected to self-publish. If you get several personal rejection letters from editors who praise the book but say the audience isn’t broad enough, you might consider publishing it yourself. But self-publishing should be approached cautiously; color illustrations are essential for picture books, making them very expensive to produce. And you must be prepared to devote at least a year of your life to selling and distributing your book. Most self-published books are sold primarily through direct mail. Can you purchase mailing lists of parents with children who could benefit from your book? Stories on adoption, specific childhood illnesses, or those that might fit in a pediatrician’s waiting room or hospital gift shop are examples of books with a very targeted audience.
Laura Backes is the Publisher of Children's Book Insider, the Newsletter for Children's Book Writers. Want to learn how to become a successful children's book author? Come hang with the Fightin' Bookworms at http://cbiclubhouse.com Whether is writing picture books, chapter books, young adult novels, finding children's book publishers -- or anything else -- you'll find all the answers at the CBI Clubhouse!
There are a number of genres within the children’s book arena. The target audience ranges from babies right on through to young adults. This provides a unique situation for writers to pick and choose a genre that feels comfortable to write in, while still remaining within the children’s book market.
Each genre is geared toward a specific age group and has its own set of rules and tricks.
Children’s Books: An overview of the different genres and a description of each:
Bedtime stories: These stories are simple and soothing. They are written to help lull little ones off to sleep and are in the form of picture books. The age group can be from newborn to five or six years of age.
An example of a bedtime story is Day’s End Lullaby by Karen Cioffi. The classic Good Night Moon by Margaret Wise Brown is another example of a bedtime story.
Board Books: Board books are simple picture books geared toward babies and toddlers. They are designed to hold up to a toddlers prying and pulling fingers. Board books can be black and white or very colorful. These books usually teach simple concepts, such as numbers from one to ten, days of the week, colors, and simple words.
An example of a classic baby board book is The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle. Good Night Moon by Margaret Wise Brown is also a board book, a very well known.
Picture books for the 2 - 5 year old group: These books are meant to be read aloud the child. Rather than simply concept themes, simple story lines can be written with short sentences and words. These books are for children in the ‘pre-reading’ stage and the word count can range from 100 - 500 words.
An example of a very young child’s picture book is The Runaway Bunny by Margaret Wise Brown.
Picture books for the 4 - 8 year old: This genre makes up most of the picture book market. These books are also meant to be read aloud to children, but for the older child it can be read individually. The pictures will give a visual element for children learning to read, helping with the comprehension of the text. The wording and themes can be a bit more interesting, but still rather simple.
For the writer, in this genre you will need to use introduce ‘showing’ to create an engaging reading experience for the child. The average picture book is 32 pages and under 1000 words.
Two examples of picture books for this age group are Walter the Farting Dog by William Kotzwinkle and Owen by Kevin Henkes.
Chapter books for the 6 - 9 or 7 – 10 year old group: Children in this group are learning to read. The vocabulary and storyline is expanding, but clarity is still a must. These books may be labeled as ‘early readers’ or ‘easy readers’ by educational publishers and are designed to read by the child. The word count is usually between 5,000 and 12,000.
An example of a chapter book is Clarice Bean, that's me by Lauren Child; another is Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo.
In regard to Because of Winn-Dixie, the protagonist is ten years old. Since children tend to read-up (the protagonist will be 2 – 3 years older than the reader), the target audience is around 7 – 8 years old, placing it within this genre and possibly the younger end of middle grade.
Middle grade books: The middle grader is between 8 and twelve years old. The middle-grader will go for stories that he can associate with and characters he can form a bond with. The word count is usually a minimum of 20,000.
As the child is able to comprehend more and is maturing, so should the stories. Stories and conflict can be more involved and you can now introduce more than one protagonist or point of view. This age group can also be introduced to science fiction, fantasy, and mysteries.
An example of a middle grade book is Walking Through Walls by Karen Cioffi. The early Harry Potter books by J. K. Rowling are also middle-graders.
Young adult books: This genre encompasses the twelve to sixteen and up age group. YAs can be edgy; plots and characters can be complex and serious issues addressed.
An example of a young adult book is An Audience for Einstein by Mark Wakely. The Twilight series by Stephenie Meyer is also in the YA genre.
A useful way to get a better idea of what the different genres consist of is to visit your local library and talk to the children’s section librarian. She’ll be able to show you books in each genre and give you tidbits of information on which are the most popular, which are classic, and much more.
Today, I have the pleasure of featuring a guest post by writing/author Holly Jahangiri. So, let's get to it.
Every writer knows how important it is to “know your audience” when writing the book. Too often, authors forget who their audience really is, when it comes time to market the book.
Virtual book tours are a fun and affordable alternative when travel dollars are tight – but are you reaching the right audience with your virtual events? Do you write guest posts for non-writing blogs in your niche? Do you hold virtual book signings – or had you even imagined such a thing was possible?
A couple of years ago, I attended a virtual book signing event. It occurred at the fan-operated science fiction and fantasy literary and filk convention, FenCon VII, in Dallas. Spider Robinson was the guest of honor, but was unable to attend in person due to the recent death of his wife, Jeanne. Still, not wanting to disappoint his fans, he found creative – and futuristic – ways to participate in the conference. He participated in panels and even did a virtual book signing! The organizers set up a PC, a printer, and a Skype connection with Spider, and attendees could chat for a few minutes with the author and then get their picture printed with him from a screen capture. This was the perfect venue for something like that, blending a sci-fi, high-tech solution with a very human touch.
Do you seek out guest posting opportunities on blogs run by readers who are not writers? For example, Mommy-bloggers and Dad-bloggers are great hosts and reviewers of children’s books. If your children’s book helps to solve a problem, see if you can find a child psychologist who blogs, and offer a guest post – or ask them to review your book. There are also some amazing teen bloggers out there.
When my book A Puppy, Not a Guppy was launched, I got teens to review it – and one even gave it the “Babysitter’s Stamp of Approval”! I’ll bet mystery writers could find opportunities within the Top 50 Forensic Science Blogs ( http://mastersinforensicscience.com/2010/top-50-forensic-science-blogs/ ) or these 50 Spine-Tingling Murder Mystery Blogs. My point is, don’t limit yourself only to other writers’ blogs. It’s easy, because they understand the need for promotion. Often, they know how a blog book tour works, so you don’t have to spend much time familiarizing them with the concept. But if you are not reaching out to the people who have a passionate interest in the subject of your book, you’re missing out on some great promotional opportunities.
About Holly Jahangiri
Holly Jahangiri lives in Texas and claims to channel the spirits of Edgar Allan Poe, O. Henry and Erma Bombeck. She has known since fifth grade that she wanted to be a professional writer. Holly is a technical communicator whose imagination is allowed free rein in her short stories, children's books, and poetry. You can visit her personal blog, "It's All a Matter of Perspective" She also writes for TheNextGoal, and hopes to win it in Weblogbetter's Surviving the Blog Contest.
Can you believe that it's the end of the year? It's that time when I'd like to take a moment to thank you (those who stop by for a visit, those who follow this blog, and to the subscribers to A Writer's World) for your support. I do appreciate that you take time out of your busy schedules to stop by and visit with us and/or read the newsletter.
Along with a thank you, I'd like to wish everyone and their families a healthy, safe, and happy holiday season and a healthy and prosperous new year.
There are two ways I thought of to show my appreciation and they both have to do with writing and marketing.
First, we at Writers on the Move put together a Holiday Season 2011 eBook that offers some writing and marketing information. It's on the sidebar at http://writersonthemove.com, under Gifts. This one is for you and to all who visit.
The second gift will be in the next A Writer's World newsletter, they'll be an exclusive link to one of my new e-books, Editing Books Like a Pro. Please, DO NOT SHARE the link or the e-book. It is meant as a gift to A Writer's World subscribers and is for sale to everyone else.
I want to mention that I'll have the link working for about a week, after that I'm taking it down, so please get your copy while it's available. And, for those who haven't subscribed to The Writing World free newsletter, SIGN UP NOW!
I hope you are all a part of my writing world in the new year, both here and at Writers on the Move. And, I hope to make lots of more friends and followers.
In addition, Writers on the Move now offers webinars as a new informational tool to bring you more engaging workshops.
My goal for 2012 is to do my best to bring you fresh and useful information, tips, and advice to help you on your writing and marketing journey, from both here and at Writers on the Move.
So, again, have a healthy, safe, and happy Holiday Season and a healthy and prosperous New Year.
And, don't forget to sign up today for A Writer's World.
Today, I have a guest post from author, freelance writer, and writing coach Suzanne Lieurance.
3 Reasons Why Most People Who Say They Want to Write a Book Will Never Write One
By Suzanne Lieurance
Almost everyone has dreams of writing a book some day. Yet, for most people this will never become more than a dream. And thousands of others who do manage to START writing their book will give up midway through and never finish writing it. As a published author and a writing coach, I've discovered there are basically 3 reasons most writers give up on their dream of one day writing a book:
1. Wanna be authors think their book has to be one of the best books ever written.
This is a lot of pressure for any writer, much less a first time author. No one could measure up to this, so it's safer and easier to give up before ever starting. But the truth is, published authors simply try to write the very best book they can write. They don't worry about it being one of the best books ever written.
2. Wanna be authors figure they really don't have anything new and different to say that hasn't already been written about before in other books.
That old saying, "there is nothing new under the sun" is true. So published authors don't worry that someone else may have written a book about the same topic they wish to write about. Instead, they try to give their book a unique "spin" on the topic. That means they write about it in a somewhat unique way.
3. Wanna be authors think writing should be easy. If it isn't, that means they weren't meant to be a writer.
When they start writing, and the writing becomes difficult, they figure they must not be cut out to be an author.
Writing is a craft and it is often just plain hard work even for the best of writers. In fact, good writing is usually good rewriting, so most of the well-known authors work hard at their writing. They write, then rewrite and rewrite until they get the work just right. If they stopped when the writing got difficult, they'd never publish anything either. As you can probably tell by now, each of these 3 reasons for giving up on writing a book is merely an excuse for not following through on a dream.
If you dream of writing a book someday, don't expect to write one of the best books ever written. Don't worry that you have nothing new to say. Just try to say it in a new way. And, most importantly, don't expect the writing to be so easy that there's nothing to it. Just keep plugging along and eventually you'll have a finished manuscript you can be proud of.
As most writers know, there isn’t much money in being an author; the money, if you can get a successful freelance writing business going, is in freelance writing work and ghostwriting.
There are so many different freelance writing and ghostwriting jobs you can do. But, to keep your target market focused and to strengthen your area of expertise, you should choose one or two specific types. Offering too many varying services weakens your platform and your authoritative status.
It should be mentioned that you can also learn the copywriting ropes and create a copywriting business or simply include its techniques to enhance your own writing. But, for now we’ll stick to freelance writing work, including ghostwriting; although some of the opportunities may require a bit of basic copywriting skills.
Freelance Writing Work You Can Choose From:
• Magazine freelancer - writing and submitting articles to paying magazines
• Writing for book publishers who accept freelance writers (you’ll need to query for a position)
• News reporter
• Feature writer for newspapers or magazines
• Getting work from job boards
• Editing and/or proofreading other writers’ work
• Critiquing other writers’ work
• Writing speeches
• Writing content for websites
• Writing content for newsletters
• Writing articles and blog posts
• Writing white papers or reports
• Writing books, e-books, or pamphlets
• Resume writing
All written content has the need for a writer. And, chances are there is someone, somewhere looking for some type of freelance writing work. It’s a matter of finding the work and attracting clients.
The important thing is to have your freelance writing business visible. I had someone contact me to write a six to ten page report as part of a job application requirement. He was busy over the weekend and wouldn’t have time to do it himself. He found me through a Google search using ‘ghostwriter’ as a keyword. I don’t do rush jobs, so had to decline.
This is another aspect of freelance writing work that you may want to consider, there are some businesses that offer very quick turn around. People pay more money for this type of service.
Yet another point to make is that when someone contacts you for freelance writing work, and for whatever reason, you can’t do it, try to be helpful in some way; make a lasting impression. I gave the ‘job application guy’ some tips on what to look for in a qualified freelance writer and told him to call me if he needs any other work.
So, you can see that if you’re out there, doing information marketing and building a quality business, it definitely helps in finding clients and garnering freelance writing work.
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Today's guest post is by entrepreneur mentorAli Brown and it gives you the pieces to the puzzle so you can create your own web video.
4 Simple Steps to Web Videos That SELL
by Ali Brown
Did you know that the #1 activity people are doing online these days is watching videos? Here’s why…
Web video is a great way to stimulate the senses of your audience. Each of us absorbs information differently. Some people learn better by hearing, others by seeing, and still others by reading. So if you aren’t yet thinking about ways to market with video, you’re ignoring a very compelling communication channel.
So why isn’t everyone creating a web video presence? A few reasons I hear from my clients are:
1) You don’t like being in front of a camera.
2) You don’t have the technical competency to shoot, edit and post video footage.
3) You can’t afford to buy the equipment and software you think you need.
Well, the great news is, making a web video does not require expensive gear, tech-geek prowess, or you to magically morph into the perfect TV persona.
I’ve broken down the process into 4 easy steps, so you can get a web video up in no time!
STEP 1: Examine Your Goods
If you own a digital camera, you’re already equipped with all you need to film a web video. Most digital cameras have a video feature, and you might want to check your cell phone as well—a lot of the new models shoot video. But for best results, pick up a solid, small video camera like the Flip Mino, which shoots and then plugs right into your computer for instant upload to your desktop. My team and I use the Kodak Zi8 because you can plug in an external mic for best sound quality.
STEP 2: Shoot to Minimize Errors
To keep your editing process simple, I highly suggest breaking up your shoots into small chunks versus doing one long take. That way you reduce your chance of errors and you won’t have to bother with cutting out parts that are boring, or have any blunders.
Here’s how to segment out your video: Let’s say you have an intro, then point #1, point #2, Point #3, the call to action, then contact information. Write up a loose script that you can follow as you shoot each take, or keep an outline nearby so you can reduce room for errors. In Step 3, you’ll see how beautifully these short takes will work with transition slides to pull together a really polished video.
Wear solid colors that pop, and powder your face if your skin gets shiny. And a big time-saving tip: Try to shoot more than one video at once. Often what takes the most time is all the setup, so you’ll save time in the end. (And ladies, why not only do your hair and makeup once?)
Step 3: Create Slides to Aid Your Message (or Replace You)
PowerPoint slides are a great way to elevate the quality of your videos, and it’s also perfect for those of you who are too shy to get in front of the camera. If this is you, all you need to do is put together a nice-looking PowerPoint presentation and narrate over as you click through your presentation.
Let’s say you do want to be the star. PowerPoint slides are a great way to cleanly transition between your points and reinforce your key messages (like your pitch, your website, etc.).
A basic slide setup would look like:
1. Introduction Slide: include your topic, name, website.
2. Title Sequences: this gives your video a sense of structure, as you present the information (ex. Lesson #1, Question #1, Problem #1, etc.). Keep this to a minimum though, maybe 2 to 3 max.
3. Call-to-Action: tell your viewers what to DO next. (Should they go to a certain web page to learn more? Call your toll-free number? Click on a link elsewhere on the page the video will be posted on?)
Another idea for those of you who are shy is to instead (and sometimes even better) feature your star clients and highlight their successes.
Step 4: Edit Your Video and Post It Online
These days, there are many free, user-friendly options for editing your video. Two popular and simple ones are Microsoft Movie Maker and Apple iMovie. For more fancy editing and effects, take a look at Apple’s Final Cut. Take an hour or two to go through some of the built-in tutorials and you’ll be uploading a stellar sales video in no time!
Post your video online using YouTube or other easy upload sites like Vimeo.com, where you can then fetch the embed code and put the video on your own site easily. And also consider Facebook which has the even better viral effect.
Writing a memoir is different things to different people. Some people are looking for closure, or a cathartic release from a traumatic event in their lives, others simply want to share their experiences with readers.
Whatever the reason behind writing a memoir, there are a few rules that should be adhered to.
5 Rules to Writing a Memoir:
1. Know what you want to convey to the reader. Know why you’re writing a memoir and let the reader in on what to expect. This will help give your story direction and focus – it will provide a basis for it to move forward.
2. Decide on what format you will write your memoir, but keep in mind that trying to stick to a purely chronological order can cause a problem with the flow of the story. One possible alternative is to divide the story into specific topics within the overall subject (your life), possibly childhood, education, marriage, family, or other topics important to the story.
The idea is to realize you have options. You might try brainstorming some alternative memoir formats. You can also do some research by reading memoirs by traditional publishers; go to your library and ask the librarian to offer some suggestions. Finding ones that are recently published will be helpful; you need to know what the current market is looking for.
Another aspect of structure that needs to be addressed is how you speak to the reader. In a Writer’s Digest article, “5 Ways to Start Your Memoir on the Right Foot” by Steve Zousmer, it says, “Is the conversation external or internal? That is, is writing your book the equivalent of sitting down in your living room and telling a small group of people the story of your life (external), or are you having an internal conversation with yourself while allowing readers to listen in?"
3. Whether you’re writing a mystery, a romance, or a memoir, you need to hook the reader. Again, read other memoirs for some examples and ideas.
As a former accountant who now writes, if writing my memoir, a possible beginning might be, “From the pencil to the pen.” This possibly has the potential to arouse enough curiosity to hook the reader.
Your experience and story is unique, try to come up with something that reflects that.
4. Don’t let your memoir be a platform to get even with those who you perceive have harmed you in the past. You may feel good about venting, but your readers won’t. This will turn off agents, publishers, and readers. Remember, your memoir should be to entertain, enlighten, help, instruct, uplift, motivate, inform, or encourage your readers; it shouldn’t be all about you and your vendetta.
5. As with any form of writing, the bare bottom basic is to have a proofread and edited manuscript. Even if you intend to have your manuscript professionally edited, you need to know the basics of writing. This aspect of writing entails effort – effort to learn the craft of writing, including revisions, proofing, and editing.
If you are having your manuscript professionally edited, the editor will expect to be given a relatively polished manuscript to work on. Unless of course, you’re having the memoir ghostwritten, in which case you and the ghostwriter will determine what shape, if any, your manuscript needs to be in.
But, assuming you’re doing it on your own, at the very least you need to be part of a critique group, a non-fiction writing group, or one specifically for memoirs. A critique group will help you hone your craft and will spot a number of problems within your manuscript that you will not be able to find on your own. And, be sure the critique group you choose has experienced and published authors, along with new writers.
So many new writers don’t think this aspect of writing a memoir applies to them. Or, they just don’t want to put the time and effort into learning the craft of writing. But, if you intend to submit your manuscript to traditional publishers, or if you are self-publishing, having a polished manuscript is a must. It’s a reflection of you and your writing ability, and will be a factor in how readers view your book.
If all the elements and rules of writing a memoir are applied, and your particular story offers unique insights, has a universal theme, has a one or two sentence WOW elevator pitch, is memorable or provocative, it may have the potential to soar.
Memoirs that have gone above and beyond include:
“Eat, Pray, Love” by Elizabeth Gilbert
“Julie and Julia” by Julie Powell
“Marley and Me” by John Grogan