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.

How to find a Children’s Book Illustrator for your self-published book

Why are many children’s book illustrators unwilling to work with self-publishing authors?

I am afraid, a few illustrators have very good reasons for this attitude. As a professional illustrator, I get emails from self-publishing authors all the time, who 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, maybe 12 pages. 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. “Don’t spend any time.” But they want the main character to look like their niece at four years 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 hair. 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 Rover (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 already tell this author will take 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.

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 www. 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,  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?

I usually respond by telling them:

Most picture books are 32-pages with approx 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 doing this 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 they 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. My 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.

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?

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.

 

Channeling the Creative Life

I am a creator of things.

The words “creator of things” can encompass many types activities. My earlier career was as an art director for advertising agencies.  As part of that job, I created TV commercial, brochures and logo designs. I have created everything from a gigantic bunch of grapes for a photo shoot to wall-sized oil paintings. I have made baskets, upholstered sofas, pieced quilts and sewn my own wedding dress.  I even found time to create and raise two perfectly delightful children.

 

 

 

 

 

For the last nine years creating things has meant illustrating children’s picture books for other authors. Also, I have managed in the last year or so to extend my “creating” to include writing books for kids. More than anything I want to be able to write and illustrate a picture book of my very own and be published by a traditional publisher. Alas, I find very little time to write or illustrate my own books in-between illustrating books for other authors. When I do have small amounts of downtime between books for others I tend to work on small projects for my clients like logo design and websites to promote their books.

MOYH_New ETSY Soft

Am I complaining? No, I love what I do and I love being busy. I just wish there were more than 24 hours in a day. I wish I was disciplined enough to carve out a few hours each day to have creative time just for my work. Some day just for fun, I would love for all the many things I have created throughout my life to be in one room for me to see and remember. I know it would be a very crowded room full of great memories.

 

There's a Mouse on My Head

Picture book I illustrated for Donna Warwick

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Below is a contact form. email me if you have any questions or need a bid for your book.

 

 

Children’s book writers: Switch it up to improve.

All of us tend to find comfort in doing the same things over and over. We are good at these things. Why change? I love to illustrate picture books. I love meeting new people and working with them to make their book the best it possibly can be. I think children’s book authors are the most creative and fun people on earth. But is that enough?

There's a Mouse on Your Head

This is a page from a picture book I illustrated for Donna Warwick.

I know many authors also fall into this practice of doing what comes easily. If they were successful writing in rhyme, they continue to write in rhyme, even though everyone tells them agents and publishers don’t want to see rhyme. Those who write in prose keep doing the same thing. Non-fiction writers tend to stick with what they know.

Why not mix it up a bit? First of all, I am an illustrator, but in my spare time between illustrating books for others, I write. I have lost count of all the stories roughs and drafts I have written. I have computer files full of them and notebooks bursting. I have pages filled with new story ideas. Not all these ideas and book drafts deserve to be turned into picture books, but I am glad the ideas keep on coming. I want to both write and illustrate children’s books eventually, so I work at it when I can find time. It helps keep me fresh to illustrate other author’s books for now.

My suggestion for you is to branch out, follow your dreams. If you write fiction, try non-fiction. If you usually write in rhyme, try prose. Try your hand at illustration, it just might help you visualize your story. I suggest authors make storyboards. It’s the way I start all my stories. I am a visual thinker so the pictures come first. Layout your story on a storyboard template of 32 pages for a picture book. Below is an excellent template from Debbie Ridpath Ohi’s Inkygirl.com website. She did such a great job, no need to re-invent the template.

Screen Shot 2017-04-16 at 10.41.09 AM

Debbie Ridpath has some excellent information on her website about making storyboards.

Inkygirl website.

I like to start picture books on a single page, so I often use the second copyright page, page three, for the first page. You don’t have to be a great artist to do this you are just going for the action and flow of the story. Use stick figures. You might even learn something about your story. Maybe your story doesn’t have enough action or all the action happens on one or two pages and the rest of the book is just two people talking. Boring. Now is the time to fix those problems.

Lastly, join SCBWI (Society of Children’ Book Authors and Illustrators). Attend as many workshops, conferences, and critique groups as you can. It helps to see what others are doing and to have more experienced eyes critique your work. Don’t work in a vacuum.

Email me, I like to talk to self-publishing children’s book authors and illustrators about their stories.

I hosted a Q&A: “Ask an Illustrator” forum today

SislenBanner17

Today on my Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/Dayne.Sislen.Illustrator/ I hosted a 4-hour Q&A period “Ask A Children’s Book Illustrator.” I answered questions about illustrating children’s books; how to self-publish; advantages of each POD company; how to find an illustrator; when you don’t need an illustrator and more. I enjoy talking to children’s book authors. Below is a transcript of some of the questions and answers. If you don’t see an answer to your question, I am always happy to answer questions using the form below on this page.

#self-publishing, #picturebooks, #kidlit, #kidlitart, #illustration, #POD.

Kathy Marie Hi Dayne! I have been contemplating my book and whether to try again. I think my biggest question would be which format to pursue. We had talked about print versus digital. At this point, I would probably need the simplest jumping off point. What is your suggestion for me to get started again? Thanks!

Dayne Sislen Illustrator The easiest way would be to forget about personalizing each book (Kathy and I talked about this earlier). Personalization is very expensive and difficult to do. You can self-publish for almost no cost up-front (because you already have your illustrations) or submit your book to traditional publishers and if they chose to publish your book, they pay you.

Kathy Marie Yes, I’ve given up the idea about doing the personalization. But I was exploring the idea of making the book an app. So just self-publish printed would be the best route?

Dayne Sislen Illustrator If you decide to self-publish, I would suggest Print-on-demand. The books are printed as they are ordered you get the profit. Very little upfront costs for you.

Kathy Marie Okay, thanks! And is there a print-on-demand option that you feel is the best?

Dayne Sislen Illustrator An app or e-book would certainly be cool to do. With Amazon CreateSpace and KDP you can do both an e-book and soft cover. Apps are a different matter and designed completely differently. Usually, they are best if there is a lot of interaction.

Kathy Marie I will start doing my homework and research again…and you know I’ll be back with more questions later. Thanks for the help! If I actually get this off the ground, will I break the record for the longest wait you have had to see your work published? 😀

Dayne Sislen Illustrator I like to use IngramSpark for hardcover books. You can use all three, CreateSpace, IngramSpark and KDP if you like.

Dayne Sislen Illustrator Yes, You will break the record for the length of time taken for a book to be completed. (The illustrations for Kathy’s book were finished many years ago) I would love to see your book published. It’s such a great idea and it has such a wonderful built-in market.

Kathy Marie Alrighty…another goal then. I like breaking records! 😀

Kathy Marie Thought of another question…will I need to work through my LLC to self-publish?

Dayne Sislen Illustrator I would suggest you do this. It’s not hard to do online on your state’s website. Don’t pay a lawyer to do it. I took a course with the Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts in my city. They walked us through the process, it’s very easy and very cheap. It’s fun to think up your own publishing house name.

Kathy Marie Okay, thanks. I would look to resurrect my old LLC, which I assume is still technically mine. I closed the business bank account on it years ago, but I don’t really know how the rest of it works or if I still even really have the LLC. Another piece of homework I guess. Thanks again for your time and this was a fun and helpful idea!

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Barbara Schuermann Stock Stuckey Hi Dayne, first of all, thank you for your kindness, in giving your time, to share your knowledge with us. My question would be – who would you recommend to publish my book? I have been looking at Ingram Spark and Create Space. The book was designed on Shutterfly and I would like to use that exact format. Can that exact book be converted to IngramSpark? Also, where should I purchase my ISBN number? My preference for Ingram Spark has to do with their return policy and also the 55% discount. I am so confused, thank you!

Dayne Sislen Illustrator Thanks for asking this question. I have used both CreateSpace and IngramSpark. Each has their strong points.

Dayne Sislen Illustrator CreateSpace is easier to use and slightly cheaper. They do not have hardcover books. When you publish with CS your book will never be listed as out of print by Amazon. You also make a little bit more on each on each book sold on Amazon, but much less on books sold on B&N and independent bookstores.

Dayne Sislen Illustrator I like the hardcover books at IngramSparks. It only cost a small bit more to publish your book with IngramSpark and you can set your price and percent of discount. Independent books stores will be able to order your book and you will make more per book. You will make a tiny bit less on Amazon and your book may be listed as out of stock occasionally.

Barbara Schuermann Stock Stuckey This is my first book. I am leading toward Ingram Spark then also I have heard about Lightning Source, do you know anything about them? As a first time writer who would like to write sequels to my book, what would you suggest?

Dayne Sislen Illustrator IngramSpark and Lightning Source are the same company. Lightning Source prints for IngramSpark, as a small self-publisher you should use IngramSpark. Their website is very user-friendly, you can figure out how much your books will cost and how much you will make on each using their charts.

Dayne Sislen Illustrator I also suggest you publish your soft cover books with CreateSpace and your hardcover books with IngramSpark. That way you have the best of both. You will always be listed as in stock on Amazon with CreateSpace and if you want to sell through B&N or an independent bookstore, you will do better with IngramSpark.

Dayne Sislen Illustrator CreateSpace is very easy for a non-professional to set up using MS Word. IngramSpark works best if you use professional software like Adobe InDesign. If you hire a professional children’s book illustrator and designer they can set everything up for you. If you want to also have an e-book CreateSpace and IngramSpark can convert your files. I have no idea what the quality is like.

Dayne Sislen Illustrator Be sure to buy your own ISBN number. Get them directly from the source Bowkers, http://.myidentifiers.com. Do not buy them from CreateSpace, Amazon will be your publisher of record. You really don’t want that.

Barbara Schuermann Stock Stuckey My book is all photographs, would that be something you would work with?

Dayne Sislen Illustrator Printing your books is really the easy part. The hard part is marketing them. Be prepared for almost a full-time job. Amazon makes the books available, but you have to get customers to Amazon. If you become a top seller in your category, Amazon will give your book a boost by suggesting it to customers.

Barbara Schuermann Stock Stuckey Wow, glad to hear you say that! It seems to be the hardest part for me. I have been marketing my book for years. I have read for schools, daycare centers, Barnes and Noble in Wisconsin and Barnes and Noble in St. Louis, all with very favorable reviews. I just can’t seem to get it printed. 🙂

Dayne Sislen Illustrator You also asked about taking you book as is from Shutterfly and using the files on another service. I am not familiar with Shutterfly, but I think you put it together online using their online tools. If that is correct, you will not be able to switch it over directly. But, you now have a very good idea of exactly what you want. Each POD service has their own method to prepare files.

Bowker | Identifier Services

My Identifiers is the only official website of the U.S. ISBN Agency. We provide you with the products and services to make your books more discoverable. Get your ISBNs today!

MYIDENTIFIERS.COM

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Abby Lamb Mathews Hi, Dayne! I have a few questions. 1. I want to self-publish the middle grades book I’m working on. I would like to put up a landing page announcing my book, and I would like a simple illustration with three of the characters. Where is the best place to start looking for an illustrator? I’ve found a few on Etsy and Instagram that I like and would love to work with. Is there a protocol for approaching an illustrator? And 2. (And I probably know the answer to this one, but may be surprised…) Would you recommend looking elsewhere (besides Etsy, Instagram, etc…) for someone who has specific experience illustrating children’s books and can guide me, rather than just hiring an illustrator whose work I like? I’m actually looking more for an illustration or two for my web page and then eventually the cover art. So since I’m not concerned with needing as much illustration as a picture book, is it ok to shop by “style” rather than by book experience.
Dayne Sislen Illustrator Another great question. Since you do not need the complete package as you would with a picture book. You won’t need as much technical publishing direction. It is important to find an illustrator who understands the middle-grade genre to design the cover. It’s not just the cover illustration, it’s the complete design. The font and how it’s customized and how the cover competes with other middle-grade covers.
Abby Lamb Mathews Is there a place where middle grades illustrators gather? Or how do you go about finding someone who is middle grades specific??

Dayne Sislen Illustrator I would look on the SCBWI.org website. There is a listing of illustrators who are members. Find one who’s work you like or find one close to where you live.

Abby Lamb Mathews I saw that on your website just now! That would be an awesome group to join, period! Thank you for your guidance! Glad I found you on Twitter!!
Dayne Sislen Illustrator I don’t know of any middle-grade specific illustrators. Go to your bookstore, find out who illustrates the covers you admire. I think a picture book Illustrator can do a good job on a middle-grade book if they study the competition and keep the ages of the characters shown age appropriate.
Dayne Sislen Illustrator Yes, SCBWI is a fantastic organization. It’s world-wide in scope, but there are many local chapters in each state. You should attend a workshop or conference. There you might just meet and make friends with the perfect illustrator for your cover and website illustrations. Good Luck.
Abby Lamb Mathews I am officially a member! 😉
Dayne Sislen Illustrator Good for you. You won’t regret it. I hope you make as many supportive good friends as I have.

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Angela Coulson
Hi Dayne, thanks for chatting. If I am shopping my book to traditional publishers, should I already have illustrations completed?

Dayne Sislen Illustrator Good question. If you are submitting your manuscript to traditional publishers or agents DO NOT pay an illustrator to illustrate your books before submission. If your book is selected for publication, the publisher will choose the illustrator and pay for the illustrations. You only need to get your own illustrations if you are self-publishing.

Angela Coulson Thanks for clarifying. Good information to know.

Dayne Sislen Illustrator You are welcome.

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Dayne Sislen Illustrator If you have more questions and I didn’t get to answer them today, visit my blog: https://daynesislendesign.wordpress.com/ and my website: http://DayneSislenDesign.com. On the blog search for past posting in the archives. On my website look under “Questions.” I like to talk to authors about their stories and how to get them published.

Picture Books, The Whole Story in 32 Pages

Don't Be a Pig in a Panic!Picture books are usually 32 pages long. As a children’s book author AND a children’s book illustrator, I have two different feelings about this total number.

When I am writing I feel like 32 pages are never enough. I always have a problem cutting my words down to 400 to 800 to hit the sweet spot of children’s picture books. It seems like 32 pages minus the title and copyright pages are never enough to say all the funny and clever things I want to say.

When I am illustrating for another author, I feel exactly the opposite. Thirty-two pages are a lot of pages to design characters and scenes for. There are so many decisions to make and get the author’s total agreement on. Each page must enhance and add to the text but also work well as a total design to direct the eye, advance the story and to flow to the next spread. It’s no surprise it usually takes between 4 months and 8 months to finish illustrating a picture book.

Some authors think they can just describe each scene or page as they see it and send this to the illustrator to work from. This technique seldom works. The whole story must be considered. The growth of each character and their interaction with each other within the scene is important. The images must flow from page to page. I always read your story over and over until I fully understand the characters and their interaction before I start. Page breaks are important. They can make or break a suspenseful or humorous scene. An illustrator brings enrichment and flow to a picture book. It’s not just a matter of drawing pretty pictures to match the words.

Can picture books be over 32 pages long? Yes, but usually the page-count advances in multiples of eight. This has to do with the way books are printed and the economic use of paper. Self-published books by CreateSpace and Ingram will let you add pages in multiples of two. They “gang” up several different books to save paper and ink. Can picture books be below 32 pages? Yes, but you won’t really be saving money. A 24-page book will feel like a pamphlet or brochure. It’s really too thin to have a proper spine for hardcover books. Usually, if a book is that short, blank pages are added at the beginning and end to make up 32 pages.

When authors write picture books, it helps to make a dummy out of typing paper. Just count out eight sheets and fold it in the middle. The first page is the title, the second page is the copyright and dedication page, the third page is the half title page. The story usually starts on page four. If you want to start your self-published book on a single page (instead of a spread), you can use the half title page (page three) as the first page of the story.

Now you can clearly see how many different scenes you will need. Just having characters standing around and talking to each other doesn’t make for a lot of fun action for kids. So think about action and change of scenery. Modern picture books use a lot of spreads. This means when the book is open and you see two pages next to each other, they are treated as one large image continuing over the gutter. Text can be on both pages, but never near the gutter. The action extends across the gutter.

Some pages can be broken up into many small spot illustrations to show fast moving action or a lot of little changes. The way each page is composed or laid-out can show a quicker pace or a slow down in pace. These are decisions an illustrator will suggest to create a more polished finished book.

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I love to work with self-publishing authors. Contact me and tell me about your book. Be sure to read my other blog posts and pages on this site to get suggestions and details so you don’t need to ask questions that I have already covered fully. Also visit my website to see more images and more suggestions

6 Steps to self-publishing a picture book

 

manu-girl_finalCongratulations! You have finished your picture book manuscript and decided you want to self-publish.  What’s next?

When self-publishing a children’s book you will need to have illustrations prepared by an illustrator and the book designed and assembled by a designer. It is your choice whether you choose a professional illustrator/designer or a non-professional. A professional illustrator/designer with experience in self-publishing will able to help you step by step through the process. They make the process as smooth and painless as possible and work with your printer to give you the best-printed results. They know what kind of cover will stand out on Amazon’s pages or a shelf in the bookstore. They will carefully read your manuscript over and over until they perfectly understand your characters and can see them clearly in their mind.

Never forget, your readers (or in this case the parents of your readers) buy books because the covers and the blurbs on the back cover appeal to them. If the illustrations in your book are not professional, they will reflect directly on the perceived quality of your book. You can have the most well written and clever book in the world, but if your cover and illustrations are amateurish, your whole book will be judged of as such.

1. The first step is to have your manuscript edited and/or critiqued by someone experienced in writing for children’s books. Modern children’s picture books are rarely longer than 800 words for ages 3-6. They are usually 32 pages long. Chapter books vary as to age range in length and number of illustrations.

2. If you choose me to illustrate and design your book, I will read your manuscript to determine if the story will fit with my illustration style and to decide if it’s a story I am interested in spending 6 months of my life working on. Yes, children’s books picture books take between four and eight months to illustrate. Illustration fees usually run between $5,000-$14,000 depending on the number and complexity of the illustrations. A simple contract will be created and a payment schedule set-up for 1/3 payments at the beginning, final approval of pencils and finished delivery of illustrations.

If I illustrate your book, I will work closely with you on your characters and style of illustration. As the author, you will have a chance to have input. I will prepare the rough drawing of your pages and prepare a dummy to show page breaks. Page breaks are very important for a story’s arc, suspense, and surprise. You will have a chance to approve preliminary work at each step. A preferred color palette will be developed before I start the finished illustrations.

3. You will be responsible for acquiring your own ISBN (International Standard Book Number) from Bowkers and setting up a “fictitious” name for your publishing company so you can have a separate checking account. Be sure to buy more than one ISBN ( one $125 -10 $250), you will need them for each cover type and edition of your book. You may also want to set up an LLC in your state. This is easily taken care of online (there is no reason to pay anyone to do this for you). You should own your own ISBN if you are self-publishing. Do not get a free ISBN from CreateSpace. If you do they will be the publisher of record for your book. Bookstores do not particularly like to work with Amazon. Your book is best published under your own publishing company so you have control. Have fun choosing a creative name.

4. If you are doing printed books, I suggest using POD (Print on Demand) either Create Space (Amazon) or Ingram Spark (Ingram book distributors). They are both very reasonable with very good quality. CreateSpace only prints soft cover books. IngramSpark prints soft cover and hard cover books. There are advantages to both. With CreateSpace, you make a little more selling on Amazon, but they don’t play well with Barnes and Noble and independent bookstores. If a bookstore will accept the book, you get a very small percentage. IngramSpark also sells on Amazon, you will make a little bit less on Amazon, but with IngramSpark you will have the advantage of not only hardcovers, but access to Ingram Books distributors access to independent bookstores and Barnes and Nobel with a better percentage.

5. If you are thinking about an e-book, the options are different and the art preparation is different. It is more challenging to do a children’s picture e-book because of the different screen sizes of the reading devices and the ability to change font sizes. CreateSpace and IngramSpark have an e-book conversion option, I have not heard particularly good things about these services. Perhaps, if you are not picky, this may work for you.

6. The biggest job you will have is marketing and selling your book. Just because your book is listed on Amazon doesn’t mean it will sell. It takes a LOT of promotion on your part. Be prepared.

Hope this helps. I like to help authors with their books. I would like to read your edited manuscript.

A New Year and new picture book beginnings for me.

Usually when the holidays and New Year come around, I am deeply involved in illustrating a picture book for someone else, because that’s what I do for my living. This year I finished one book in the late fall Fall, then the book I that was scheduled for the early winter into Spring was canceled. I was not totally disappointed, I always need a few days or so between books to clean up my studio and rest my mind so I can give a new project my full attention.

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This extra free time this year gives me an opportunity to work on some of my own story ideas. I have about four or five drafts of picture books and chapter books I have been working on in-between illustrating books for other authors. I now need to work hard on perfecting these drafts to get them to the point where they are ready for submission to agents and editors. My SCBWI critique group has seen most of these drafts. They have helped me to see where there are weaknesses in the story and character development. I strongly suggest everyone join a critique group of knowledgable writers.

Pen_sketchesBMost children’s book authors start their books very differently than I do.

Because I am an illustrator, I always start with a story idea, then do all the rough illustrations in dummy form. I only add the words when I am satisfied with the flow of the pictures. This is the exact opposite from the way most children’s book authors work. It’s not a perfect way to work so I don’t suggest it to everyone. I need the pictures to think the story through, but when I later add words there isn’t always a smooth flow.

Because I have carefully thought through the visuals in my mind, I know so much more back story than I can possibly show or write about in a 32-page picture book. I’m trying to work through this dilemma and get these stories in shape.

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Every year I participate in Picture Book Idea Month also called PiBoIdMo. I sign-up on Tara Lazar’s website to dream up 30 new ideas for picture books. I been participating for four years now, so I have lots of ideas. This year the challenge is called StoryStorm, Tara Lazar is the organizer. It’s starting right now. I think everyone should sign-up. Hurry the decline is soon.

 

It’s New Year’s resolution time again.

tree_growingEvery year I try to come up with some new goals to strive for. Something to enhance my life and others. In past years I have resolved to be more proactive with my career. To take more creative chances and try new things.

This year, I want to try to help others using my talents. I have gained a lot of knowledge and a lot of experienced through the many years I have been a graphic designer, teacher, children’s book illustrator and children’s book writer. All through my life others have mentored me and helped me to succeed. Now is my turn to pass on this knowledge. I want to share what I have learned with others to help them succeed.

Right now I am mentoring three young people. They all have an interest in illustrating and graphic design as well as writing. Their enthusiasm and creativity inspire me. I hope we can help each other become better artists and people.

I also love to talk to new self-publishing authors about their children’s books. I can help guide them to make the correct decisions to produce the best children’s book at the most reasonable price. Visit my website to read more about illustrating your children’s book and the services I can provide.

Clever way to teach you child how to become Santa

 

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This idea is so clever and so perfect, I just had to pass it on. I am re-blogging from the Unwindly.com website:

All parents fear it: the day their child stops believing in Santa. How can kids preserve the magic of Christmas if they think they were lied to all their lives?

This mom has found the perfect solution—teaching her children that ordinary people can become Santas. You must click this link and read this to try it with your kids.  http://www.unwindly.com/mom-teaches-child-santa/