Post-Storystorm Thoughts: Adam Lehrhaupt’s IDEA JAR

I have been following Storystorm for the last month plus a few days. I have come up with over 30 new ideas for picture books. I love the idea of Adam’s IDEA JAR. Sort of like a job jar only much better and more fun. Dayne

Writing for Kids (While Raising Them)

by Adam Lehrhaupt

This is my idea jar. I keep all my story ideas in it.

You know the ones.

The same ideas we spend all of Storystorm coming up with.

Our brilliant, wonderful, genius ideas.

The ideas we will turn into fantastic manuscripts. Manuscripts that will, some day, become beautiful books.
So yes. This is my idea jar.

When I need a jumpstart, I reach inside and pull out one of my ideas. Then, it’s time to play.

You need to play with your ideas. You know that, right? If you don’t, they get rowdy. When ideas get rowdy…oh, my! The trouble they can cause…

Anyway, now I get to play with my idea. I can do all kinds of things with it:

  • Draw it.
  • Talk it out.
  • Sculpt it.
  • Fancy needle point thing it.
  • I can even write it.

Well, I’d probably write it over any of those…

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Message to self-publishing picture book authors

Are you having a hard time finding a good professional children’s book illustrator who’s willing to work with you on your book?

Why would illustrators turn you down, when you’re giving them an opportunity to illustrate your fantastic book, that’s probably going to be a best seller? Why are they not clamoring to work for you? Why are they not returning your emails?

I am afraid, some illustrators have very good reasons to turn down self-publishing authors as opposed to a publishing house. As a professional illustrator, I get emails from self-publishing authors all the time. They love my illustrations and want me to illustrate their book. They want me to quote a price by return email. But they don’t tell me if it’s a picture book, chapter book or middle grade or how many illustrated pages they need. Occasionally an author will say I don’t need a big fancy book, I only want a small book. How much will that be? These questions put me in an awkward position. I don’t have enough information to give them a price.

Mouse artists working together

They want me to just “sketch-up” something fast. They say, “Don’t spend any time.” But they want the main character to look like their niece at four years old wearing the dress they gave her for her birthday. The little boy character to look like the boy on that program on TV (they can’t remember the name of) only change his hair to blond. The house in the background should look just like their Aunt Ethel’s house, they don’t have a picture, but it has shutters. AND of course, the dog should look like their deceased dog Blackie (they do have pictures).  –Yes, people have asked me to do all of these things. None of this is fast or easy for me at all.

I can pretty quickly tell when an author will take up a lot of my time and will not value my experience or expertise. Do I give them a ballpark figure that covers all kinds of books and situations, or do I probe for more details? Probing takes my time away from other jobs.

Here are some hints about how to find and work with an illustrator:

• Do your research, search Google, Yahoo or Bing for  “children’s book illustrators.” Read their websites and blogs. Go to organization websites for illustrators such as the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators SCBWI.org or ChildrensIllustrators.com

• When you find an illustrator you want to work with be nice when you contact them. Nice goes a long way.

• When contacting the illustrator to get pricing, give all the details they will need to decide how long your book will take to illustrate. What kind of book for children is it? What age child is the book for. Give them an idea of the length of the book (word count),  how many characters, how detailed do you want the backgrounds, do you want spreads or single pages, cover and back cover. Will the illustrator also be designing and digitally assembling the book for printing or is someone else doing that job?

I usually respond by telling them:

Most picture books are 32-pages with approx 12-14 spreads and one or two single pages illustrated. They also will need a cover, back cover and a title page. If the author also needs the cover and interior pages designed with the text in place that requires more time and costs more. I highly suggest using a designer or an illustrator who specializes in design.  Even if your book is well illustrated and well-written, poor design can undermine the entire look and quality of the book.

If it’s a chapter book you will need a color cover, back cover and at least one illustration (color or black and white) per chapter.

Middle-grade books have a color cover and several or no black and white inside illustrations.

I also absolutely positively need to read your manuscript before I decide to illustrate your book and give you a firm price.  I want to know if my style fits the story? Is there enough action in the book to illustrate? Has the author done their homework in preparing the manuscript? Are the illustrator notes too confining?

I fully immerse myself in the current book I am illustrating. The illustrations will make up one-half of the content of the book and I take this responsibility very seriously. A picture book takes me 4 to 8 months to illustrate depending on how complicated the book is and how organized the author is. This is a business for me, it is a full-time job.  Be sure to set aside enough in your budget to do your book justice. Don’t ask a professional illustrator to spend 4 to 8 months illustrating your book for fun or exposure. This is why most illustrators will not work with self-publishing authors. Professional illustrators do not illustrate self-published books for royalties, they have no way of knowing how many books are selling or even if you will try to sell the books. Illustrators are paid, usually in one-third increments. One third to start, the second third when roughs are approved and the balance right before the approved files are turned over to the printer or publisher.

Remember, in the marketplace (bookstore or Amazon), your book will first be judged by its cover.  Do you want your book judged solely by amateurish illustrations and an awkward cover design?

Why am I willing to work with self-publishing authors when other illustrators aren’t?

Occasionally I find an author who values my time, talent and expertise. When I read their manuscript I can tell it has been carefully edited for content and as well as grammar. They belong to an experienced SCBWI critique group or they have used a professional children’s book editor. They have taken the time to learn about writing for children and their manuscript clearly shows it. The language and word count are perfect for the age group for which they are writing.

I think children’s book authors are some of the most talented and clever people on earth. I enjoy getting to know them during the months we work together on their book. Contact me below if you want to talk to me about your children’s book.

Visit my website to see if I’m the perfect illustrator to bring your picture book or chapter book to life.

 

The Magic of Storytelling

Today I have re-blogged Norah Colvin’s blog because it perfectly follows up with the idea of my blog Monday about increasing the attention span of children by reading to them. Nora is an outstanding teacher and talented writer from Australia. Check out her website www.readilearn.com.au


Screen Shot 2016-07-02 at 4.09.29 PM

“The Magic of Storytelling

Telling stories to and with young children has many benefits. Including other things, it helps to develop:

  • relationships with the storyteller and other listeners
  • language – vocabulary, language structure, imagery
  • understanding of narrative structure as it applies to fiction and non-fiction accounts
  • curiosity about one’s family, the immediate environment, and other places
  • empathy for others
  • interest in books and reading
  • imagination”

Continue reading Norah’s blog:  .via The magic of storytelling

How to extend the attention span of your children.

Kids today are bombarded with video games as well as fast action cartoons and movies. Picture book publishers are requesting shorter and shorter picture books for young children. No wonder our children have problems keeping their minds focused on one thing for very long.

What can you do to help your kids have a longer attention span? My advice is not some new technical invention or app for your phone or tablet, but something easy and inexpensive that you can do in your own home.

SCBWI_Postcard_sm_sq_WP

You can extend your children’s attention span by reading to them.

What better way to show them you love them and help them at the same time. Kids love getting attention from their parents and grandparents. This one-on-one time without any distractions from phones or TV is important. Children can later illustrate the stories you read together so you have a visual reminder of the time you have spent together.

Reading books to your children:

  1. Helps their creative imagination to develop.
  2. Expands their vocabularies
  3. Instills a future love of reading on their own
  4. Gives children time to slow down and unwind
  5. Creates a bond between the child and the reader
  6. Gives you an opportunity to teach life lessons through discussions of the stories
  7. Improve reading comprehension so they get better grades in school
  8. Opens the doorway to creative writing
  9. Is not expensive

For older kids who are able to read on their own, establish a family reading night when parents and children each read their own books. TV and cell phones are off-limits during this time. When children see their parents reading they know how important it is.

See the thought balloon in the top right corner for comments and replies.

If you have written a children’s picture book and would like to discuss it with an illustrator, contact me below.

 

 

Happy New Year, Picture Book Lovers!

 

Snow-nose

Ghillis says, “Is “Snow-Nose” catching??”

Every year I make New Year’s resolutions. I always plan to keep them but, reality steps in and they fall by the wayside. This year I am repeating a few resolutions I have listed before.

    1. I will keep up with my blog posts. I will try to provide more information for new children’s book illustrators and authors who want to know more about working with a professional illustrator.
    2.  I will continue working on writing and illustrating my own picture books. I tend to put my own work aside when I get a new commission to illustrate a book for an author.
    3. I will continue to send out my picture book dummies to agents. I know there is a perfect match for me out there.
    4. I will stay active in the SCBWI (Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) and my local SCBWI critique group. There are many workshops, critiques, conferences I can attend to keep up with the publishing business.
    5. I will continue to stay active. I love walking my dog four brisk miles every morning with a group of friends and dogs, even when it’s 12 degrees. It was 8 degrees this morning and we passed.
    6. I will leave plenty of time to enjoy my husband, my family, and my life. Life is more than work alone.

    If you want to discuss your picture book illustration needs with me, fill out the form below. I’m always happy to talk picture books.

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End of Year Countdown

Less than a month to go.

Why does everything have to be done at the end of the year? Finishing up illustrations jobs for picture books, personal property taxes, real estate taxes, sales taxes for business, holiday cards, changing the batteries in the smoke detectors, raking up the leaves, turning-off the outside water and bringing in the hoses, sending holiday cards, decorating for holidays, then taking down holiday decorations, holiday parties and family get-togethers, baking cookies, end-of-year thank-you gifts for newspaper delivery person, trash person, postal workers, beauticians and barbers. Not to mention buying and wrapping gifts for everyone else on my list.

Then in January, we start a brand new year with renewed enthusiasm and a whole new list of things to accomplish.

Thank you for following my blog. If you need to discuss your picture book with me use the form below.

 

It’s about time.

I try to write a blog post or reblog a post every few weeks but that doesn’t always happen. In the last month, I had two major events. I gave a presentation to the Missouri Writer’s Guild and University of Missouri’s ShowMe Writers Masterclass and attended an SCBWI conference.

There were about 140 people total at the ShowMe Masterclass in Columbia Missouri. There were many presenters. My presentation for writers was about finding and working with a children’s book illustrator on a self-published children’s book. The members of the group that came for my presentation were all interested in self-publishing children’s books. I hope I helped to direct them on a route to success. I discussed the types of publishing, how to stay away from predatory publishers, how to find an illustrator in your budget and how to work with the illustrator you choose to get the best results. A lot of these subjects are covered in my past blogs so you can search my archives to learn everything I talked about. (See below)

I also attended an SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) conference in Kansas City. This is always a time of seeing friends who share my interests and renewing my love of children’s books. Publishers and agents from major traditional publishing houses come together to give presentations and critique our work. It’s nice to be able to connect faces and personalities to the big names in publishing.

I am now working to perfect two picture book dummies that have been in the works for a while. These are books I have written and illustrated. I will be sending them out to the publishing world very soon. I got some feedback during my critique with an art director from a major publisher, hopefully, I can make them even better.

 

 

Quiet and Loud Picture Books that Speak Volumes 

I Liked this blog post because I believe there is a time for quiet and a time for LOUD.

This post is by Jackie Leathers

A while back, I wrote a post entitled, Ten Quiet Picture Books that Speak Volumes which described ten books that quietly deliver strong messages.  Some books whisper, but some books shout.  Here are ten picture books that are loud in one way or another.

To read more about LOUD books: Ten Loud Picture Books that Speak Volumes by Jackie Leathers

Deborah Underwood (Houghton Mifflin 2011)

David Elliot, illus. Basil Ering (Candlewick Press 2009)

 

 

  

 

Jackie Leathers is a reading specialist at Alton Central School in Alton, New Hampshire and an avid reader of books that have loud messages.

Just finished illustrations for a nonfiction picture book

Oh, the joy of finishing a picture book illustration job and sending it off to the printer on its way to meet the world. It’s sort of like sending your child off to preschool for the first time. It’s a bittersweet moment. The editor, Stephanie Krell and I have worked so hard for so long and now it goes out to meet its destiny. Will parents and grandparents buy it? Will readers love it? Will kids want it read to them over and over?

Shark Dentists and Other Stories by Vincent Immordino Illustrated by Dayne SislenShark Dentists and Other Stories uses playful characters from the natural world to explain and illustrate the careful planning of a loving Creator. From a busy termite to a friendly monkey, children will learn about the world around them and how it came to be. Most of all, they will read how they are unique among all of God’s creation. The book includes a study guide for use in home instruction and other teaching settings, along with parent references.

It took me five months to complete all the illustrations for this book. I worked very closely with Stephanie Krell, the editor to visually bring her grandfather Vincent Immordino’s stories alive on the page. Working with Stephanie was a delight. She knew what she wanted and was excellent at making quick and wise decisions about every step of the creation process.

As a result, Shark Dentists and Other Stories will be available in late November. I will have more information regarding pre-sales in the near future and a direct link to the Amazon page.

Why Grandparents Should Make Great Storytellers!

September 10th is Grandparent’s day.

So we have a guest post by Susan Day

Susan Day is a passionate author, educator and, of course, a grandmother. She wants to allow all grandparents to build meaningful relationships with their grandchildren. 

 

The role of grandparents has changed dramatically over the past years.Read out LOUD to your grandkids

Never before have we grandparents had access to some much time and resources. In fact, I’m of the opinion that we are in the ‘Golden Age’ of grandparenting, an era never before seen in history.

Without a doubt, we are truly blessed to be able to share our time and resources with our beloved grandchildren. We can speak to them in ‘real time’ across the globe, share photos and images online, as well as, interact in ways our grandparents couldn’t have dreamed of.

One of the most significant things any grandparent can do is spend quality time with their grandkids on a regular basis.

And, what better way to create long-lasting memories than by sharing books and stories?

Reading Out LOUD!

There are two ways to read a story to your grandchildren. 

The first way involves just reading the words on the page in an effort to inform and convey the meaning of the story. To be honest, this is quite boring. Sure, you are reading to them, but are you really connecting with them?

The other way – a truly more fantastic way – is to read out LOUD!Reading funny story out loud

And, I mean really loud and engaging.

Don’t just read the words.

Instead, live and act them out.

Use your voice to bring to life the storyline, as well as, the characters. Give each character a different sounding voice to add more meaning to what they are saying.

And, don’t forget to stop at the end of the page or chapter to add more suspense. You could even stop mid-sentence and ask your grandchild if he or she knows what is going to happen next.

Stop and discuss the illustrations as you go. Use them to put the story into context. For example, you might say, “Look, the little pig has built a house of straw.”

Learning to Become a Great Storyteller 

Not everyone is born a natural storyteller. Some people find it natural to just sit down and unravel an amazing story from out of thin air.

If you are very good at telling stories, then go forth and confidently share your skills with your grandchildren.

If not, don’t despair.

By simply practicing your storytelling skills you will improve. While you are reading, look for ways where you can improve. As you get more practice, your skills and then your confidence will improve.

You will know you are doing the right thing when your grandchildren cry out for more when you’ve finished reading to them.

Our grandchildren have more and more things to distract their developing minds, and many are not learning the necessary literary tools they need to enhance their educational chances.

As grandparents, we have the opportunity and the means to bring books alive in an effort to make reading more enjoyable and rewarding. Our grandchildren should not only love reading but be excited about writing and using the written word as a powerful tool to connect with others.

Together we grandparents can really make a difference.

More about Susan Day

 Susan lives in country Australia with four dogs, three bossy cats, three rescue guinea pigs, and an errant kangaroo.

Discover what the Top 10 Things Happy Grandparents Never Regret Doing.10 Things Happy Grandparents Never Regret Doing

 

How important is a book cover?

If your book isn’t selling, it might just be your book cover.

The appropriateness to the genre and the attractiveness of a book cover is so important that even a well-written book will not sell with a poorly designed, and inappropriate book cover. Conversely, a poorly written book with a well designed and illustrated book cover may sell well. A book cover is the first thing a reader sees when looking for a book. In the case of online sales, it is the only things a customer uses to make up their mind. Large publishers will sometimes do two book covers for the same book to see which one brings in more customers.


 

Poorly designed book cover.

Shared from the LousyBookcovers.com website. Posted by Nathan.

A perfect book cover illustrated by one of my favorite illustrators Patrice Barton.

Which one of these books would you buy for your child?

Below is a quote from an article on “Why your books aren’t selling” by Smart Marketing by Chris Syme:

“Reason #1: Bad Book Covers

When I get an email from an author asking why their books are not selling the first thing I do is visit their Amazon author page. Why? I want to see all their book covers. The majority of the time, that is as far as I get.

Many authors have awful book covers—there I said it. I can tell the authors haven’t done any research on the covers in their genre. They look like something made in the 1980s using Photoshop. It’s painful to see, and it’s obvious.”

Click here to read more about “Why your books aren’t selling.


What I can do for you:

I only design and illustrate children’s picture books and book covers. I specialize in children’s books because that is what I love. Children’s books let me use my imagination to bring written characters to life on the printed page. Contact me if you would like to see what I can do with your children’s picture book or cover for your chapter book.

Just because it’s possible to design your own book cover doesn’t mean you should. Not understanding the principles of design and typography as well as what is appropriate for your genre can be detrimental to your book sales. A poorly designed book cover can actually scare potential readers away. I would certainly not even pick up the book shown above.

Professional cover designers know what is successful in your genre and have the talent and tools to create a cover that will improve book sales. You might be able to save money by using WordPress.com or Blogger.com for your free website or use a free mailing program. But don’t cut corners when hiring a professional book cover designer that will make your book stand out and sell.

Cover Don't be a Pig in a Panic!

 

 

Illustrating a Nonfiction Picture Book

Fiction picture books

These books I have illustrated are all fictional picture books.

Nonfiction picture books are different. Up to now in my illustration career, I have only illustrated fictional picture books and chapter books. A fictional story is not strictly true or real.  It’s a made-up story. In fiction, the protagonist has a problem and secondary characters or one or more antagonists stand in the way of them solving the problem until they finally figure it out on their own. For me as an illustrator, designing the characters is the fun part.

Nonfiction picture books are different. There’s subject matter that needs explaining or a question that needs answering. Usually, there’s not a main character in nonfiction, though a guide or guides may walk the reader through the learning process. The book could also have chapters or sections.

I am having a lot of fun with this new nonfictional book. I can’t give away any details because I sign a non-disclosure contract at the beginning of each illustration job. Understandably the author wants to keep everything under wraps until the book is published.

I am working to bring my picture book style of colorful illustrations to non-fiction in a fun way. I can’t wait to share this book with you.

If you have a fictional or non-fiction picture book or early chapter book that needs illustrating, contact me. I would love to talk to you about your self publishing or joint-venture publishing book.

The Importance of Illustrations in Children’s Books

Children’s book illustrations add understanding and substance to the written story.

Below is a guest post by Susan Day. A talented Australian author who connected with me through LinkedIn. She is the author of 15 books, an educator, and a content marketer. 

If you are an avid reader of books, and love sharing children’s books with your children and grandchildren you have no doubt come across some impressive illustrations.

As an author and illustrator, I want to let you in on a little secret. Did you know that the illustrations can take up to twice as long to complete as writing the manuscript?

As well, being an illustrator takes a lot more skill than just being a good drawer or painter. The art of illustrating is much more complex and requires talent, perseverance, and a particular quirkiness to read in between the lines of any manuscript, and produce something which is exceptional.

However, do you think illustrations get the credit they deserve? I know children love them, but do we adults really take the time to stop and truly appreciate the work that goes into them?

A Pictures Paints a Thousand Words

You don’t need me to tell you that a picture paints a thousand words. In fact, research has just proven it.

Pig wrapped in snake. Illustration by Dayne Sislen

Pig in a Pickle. look at the details to learn more about the story even without the words. The tiny frog on the right foreshadows the action.

We consume information 60,000 times faster from an image than from the written word – 60,000 times faster! That’s amazing.

This means an illustrator has a tough job. He or she has to not only capture what’s going on in the story, but they are responsible for conveying so much more in less time than it takes to blink.

Illustrations Retell the Story and More

When an illustrator is given a manuscript to work from, they are often provided with an outline or brief of what the publishers and authors want.

However, many illustrators will tell you that their job requires them to capture something rare about the story.

They must read between the lines to discover a unique quality or essence which may not even be mentioned. They must use lines and color to celebrate, enhance or explain more about the characters than what the author has written.

These are usually portrayed in very subtle ways.

It might be a few crooked whiskers on a naughty cat. It might be an image of a little boy with one sock pulled up and the other sagging down conveying a certain disheveled state.

It could be a drawing of a queen resplendent in her furs and gown, but peeking out from under her hem a small, cheeky mouse appears.

Illustrations can be engaging, whimsical and endearing

Finding that special characteristic is what makes illustrations engaging, whimsical and endearing.

Little girl on chair with mouse.

The cat in the background carries throughout the story adding action and suspense to a cute poem. The cat is not mentioned in the text.

Any artist can draw a character, but it takes the special talent of an illustrator to add something rare and distinctive which is designed to capture the imagination of the reader.

So, next time you pick up a children’s book and settle down to share it with your favorite person take a while to appreciate the illustrations.

Discuss them with your child, and ask what can they see? How do the images make them feel? What do they reveal about the characters or the plot?

I’m sure if you don’t already you’ll soon begin to realize how important illustrations in children’s books really are.

About My Guest – Susan Day

Susan Day is an author of 15 books, an educator, and a content marketer. I recommend her blog, Astro’s Adventures Book Club, it’s full of ideas and tips for grandparents who want to build a strong relationship with their grandchildren. In particular, Susan specializes in helping grandparents share their love of books with their grandchildren.

Susan lives in country Australia with four dogs, three boss cats, three rescue guinea pigs, and an errant kangaroo. And, apart from blogging, writing and reading; she loves drinking coffee, painting and learning to box.