6 Tips to Encourage Your Child to Read

This is an oldie. It’s important to stress the impact of reading to your little ones at this time of year.

Dayne Sislen Children's Book Illustration

These six steps will start your children on the road to a lifetime of learning and reading.

  1. Read to children as often as possible. If you expose them to reading early and often, it will become a pleasurable experience they will want to repeat when they read on their own.
  2. Picture books can help struggling readers to comprehend a story before they can read all the words. Let them enjoy the process, without getting bogged down with the exact words. Let children ‘pretend to read’ using the pictures for guidance.SCBWI_Postcard_sm_sq_WP
  3. Encourage young children to write and illustrate their own stories. Children have great ideas, make sure they are able to express these ideas freely.
  4. Set aside family reading or story time. This can be a read-aloud by the parent or by an older child. As children get older, this time can set aside just for independent reading, for adults (yes, you too)…

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Holiday gift idea for the talented writer on your list.

When I tell people I meet I illustrate children’s books, they almost always say they have always wanted to write a children’s book. Many parents and grandparents already have great children’s book ideas from the stories they have invented for their little ones. Most tell me they have a great idea for a picture book but have no idea where to start.

Don't Be a Pig in a Panic!

“Don’t Be a Pig in a Panic!” picture book I illustrated for Leila Leidke

I work with new authors all the time. I know what it takes to get your manuscript ready for publishing, find and hire a professional illustrator to bring your picture book to life with great illustrations, design an exciting cover, and put everything together ready to print. The printing of the book using Print on Demand services such as IngramSpark or Createspace ( now KDP Print) is practically free. The illustrations for the book do need to be paid for, but it’s money well spent. A good illustrator/book designer can help you navigate the entire process so you get the most professional end product.

What a great gift idea for yourself or someone you love! A chance to bring your story to life in a printed and published book to share with your family and sell on Amazon. You can even arrange to have your book available in your local library and in your favorite bookstores.

Contact me if you want to finally publish your story idea or make a gift of a book illustration package to a talented friend or relative so they can publish their own story idea.

There's a Mouse on My Head

“There’s a Mouse On My Head!” picture book I illustrated for Donna Warwick

Visit my website: http://www.DayneSislen.com

Contact me below.

 

That Thankful Time of Year

Each year I write about thankfulness. We all should be thankful every day of the year. I know that I am, but I don’t always express this feeling out loud. So once a year, I make a point to let everyone know how important they are to me and how thankful I am that they are apart of my life.

Mouse jumping on bread-trampoline

Thankful for my daily bread

First I want to thank my family and friends. In so many ways they make every single day better and fuller. My dear husband puts up with my erratic hours and patiently reads the drafts and dummies of my picture books over and over.  My kids and their spouses likewise make my life full and are very understanding of my flights of fancy. My grandkids are the joy of my life. I am also blessed to have a great group of loving and supportive friends.

As an artist, I am also thankful for the magic of living a creative life. I can’t imagine a life without my art and creative writing. It’s not always a smooth path, there are extreme ups and downs. But I wouldn’t want to live my life any other way.

Give yourself a few minutes this week to stop and think about all that you are thankful for. Your friends and family and special talents all add to your unique life.

If you want to talk to me about illustrating your picture book use the form below to contact me.

 

 

 

Two picture book reviews

I read a lot of picture books. You could say picture books are my “thing.” Every once in a while I run across a picture book I absolutely love. When this happens I tend to tell everyone I know, even people who (you won’t believe this)  never read picture books even to their children or grandchildren.

Last month I was lucky enough to run across two picture books that found that special place in my heart. I would like to share them with you.

With your Paw in Mine Cover

“With Your Paw in Mine” Is a beautiful and well-written book. It’s about baby otters and their moms.

Written and illustrated by Jane Chapman. The illustrations of the precious baby otters are incredible. I just couldn’t stop admiring them.

Miki is an otter pup. She loves to snuggle and nap on her mommy’s tummy while her mommy floats in the water. She learns to swim while holding her mommy’s paw. One day her mommy wraps her in seaweed and tells her to stay put. Miki paddles over to a new friend named Amak. Together they learn to hold each other’s paws to survive the sudden storm. This book is available on Amazon.com and BarnesandNobel.com.

With Your Paw in Mine   With your Paw in Mine


“No Frogs in School” This book is far from serious. It’s about a little boy named Bartholomew Botts who loves all kinds of pets.

No Frogs in SchoolWritten by A. LaFaye and illustrated by Eglantine Coulemans. The pictures are lively and colorful.

Bartholomew loves his pets so much he doesn’t want to go to school without at least one. First, he chooses his Frog, Ferdinand. Ferdinand causes much disruption and chaos in his classroom, his teacher says, “No frogs in School.” Bartholomew takes the teacher’s words quite literally and brings his salamander the next day. A salamander is not a frog. Then, his teacher said no amphibians. Next, he brings his hamster, Horace because he’s not an amphibian.  You get the idea. The end of the book is surprising and extremely satisfying. This book is available on Amazon.com and BarnesandNobel.com.

 

No Frogs in SchoolNo Frogs in School

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hope you enjoyed these book reviews. What are your favorite picture books? Have you ever thought about writing your own picture book? So far, I have illustrated 11 picture books for authors and publishers, I can make the process a lot easier for you.

Fact: Well designed book covers sell children’s books

We all know the old phrase, “you can’t judge a book by its cover.” Is it true? The big publishers believe covers sell books. They spend mega marketing dollars testing out covers for their big-name authors. Will a red background sell better than a yellow background? Should the main image be a close-up of the main character or show the character at a distance?

As an indie author, you probably don’t have the funds or the ability to test market different covers. But ask any author who had a poorly selling book with a bargain basement cover about the turn around in sales when they hire a professional cover designer to design and illustrate a new an improved cover. The results are amazing.

The cover of your book is the first thing buyers see. From this first impression, they will judge the quality of your writing. Is this fair? No. But it’s a fact.

Today I want to talk about what goes into designing a cover for the chapter book “Little Dreamer” by Nell Jones. The author and I discussed what she wanted to show on the cover. We considered many scenes some are shown below, but many more that are not shown here. We tried Little D dreaming about becoming an astronaut. And we tried Little D giving a picture to her teacher Miss Amelia. But most of all we agreed that Little D should be dreaming of her future while in her classroom.

Sketches for cover

So the final cover design shows Little D in her classroom daydreaming about her future instead of listening to her teacher Miss Amelia. The caterpillar represents her metamorphosis from a young girl to a young woman throughout the story. The window frame and wall of her classroom have dissolved to reveal the boundless world that is available to dreamers.

Cover art for "Little Dreamer" chapter book cover

Colors were given special consideration. Of course, red, bright orange and green colors jump off the shelf. But in this situation, we felt a softer color scheme would show the dreamy quality best. Just because a bright color jumps out at a potential customer is not the best reason to use it. The color scheme must fit the tone and subject of the story. This is a chapter book, so it has a little older audience. I have shown the artwork on the left and the book cover with all text on the right.

 

If you are interested in talking to me about illustrating your children’s book or designing a cover for you, contact me by using the form below.

 

 

Creating the main characters for children’s books

Bringing the main character for a chapter book to life.

When I illustrate books for other authors it is a collaborative process. I want the author to love the characters I create for them as much as I do. Many of my clients send me photos of people they know that they would like the characters to resemble. I say resemble because I don’t create portraits for each page. That would require many photos from many angles of each character and take much too much time to get them just right.

LILd 20

This is the picture I was given for the young Little D for the latest book I illustrated.Yes, the image was this blurry and very small. From this image I had to create the main character.

Sketches for book

It took many rounds of sketches until I finally found the right look for Little D that I was happy with and the client loved.

On the next blog post, I will show you how the cover is planned and put together to print.

I illustrate picture books and chapter books for publishers and self-publishing authors. If you would like to talk about illustrating your picture book or chapter book use the form below to contact me.

Becoming a chapter book

In my last post titled “The Birth of a Chapter Book”, I talked about the process of breaking down the pages to make sure your story will fit on the number of pages available and to make sure the illustrations are distributed throughout the book.

When I started with the author, Nell Jones, all the illustrations ended up in the first 10 pages. After that, the illustrations popped up every 8-9 full pages of text. Some early chapter books use a small black and white illustration at every chapter heading, but Nell wanted to have full-page illustrations in black and white every few pages.Little Dreamer storyboard

The text had to break at the right places so the illustrations would make sense. I had to figure out roughly how many words would fit on a page and where the page breaks would come. This meant that some of the author’s favorite scenes had to be eliminated and other illustrations had to be added later on in the story so everything would even out.

images of characters

The images the author sent to use for inspiration for the characters.

Before I started the pencils for each spread, the author sent me photos of what she wanted the main characters to look like. My characters didn’t have to be exactly the same, but at least a resemblance to the photos.  In some cases the photos were small and blurry, so I did my best.

My next blog post on this subject will show how the actual illustrations developed from rough pencils to finished.

 

 

 

 

Contact me using the form below if you want to talk about illustrating your book.

The birth of a chapter book.

I am very lucky to be working as the illustrator with children’s book author Nell Jones on a new chapter book Called Little Dreamer. It will be the first book in the Institute of Higher Fun and Learning Series. Many authors I work with prefer to keep their covers a secret until publication date. When that is the case,  I can’t share anything I am working on.

Nell has agreed with me that the sooner friends and potentials customers can become a part of the process the better. Nell’s book will not be published for several months, but we are going to share the process.

You will be able to see the step-by-step process involved in creating a children’s book. Below to the left is the finished cover. To the right is the rough pencil created for the cover

LILD small color cover

little pencil cover

Nell and I have worked together to develop the characters and the scenes. Nell even sent me photos of some people she knew that looked liked her characters. Nell lives in Ogalala, Nebraska and I live in St. Louis Missouri, so this means a lot of emails and phone calls back and forth.

We have been working together since early May. A lot of details about the breakdown of pages and how many illustrations were needed had to be settled before I even started on the rough pencils. Below is an early sample of the method we used to break down what pages would be text and what pages would be illustrations.

LILD sample breakdown

In future blogs, I will continue with our step-by-step creative process of illustrating a children’s book.

Is your your self-published children’s book doomed for failure?

Some self-published children’s books look unprofessional because of the poor quality of the illustrations. It won’t matter that your book is well written, has great characters, and a terrific plot. Customers will only see the cover. All your hard work will be judged not worthy in a few seconds.

Self-published children’s books need professional illustrations. I encourage you to hire a professional illustrator/designer to present your book in the very best possible light. Hiring a professional will give your book an advantage over books illustrated by amateurs. So give your book a fighting chance and find a pro to do the job. It is important for self-publishing authors to choose their illustrator carefully. After all, with a picture book, the illustrator is telling one-half of your story. The illustration on the cover and the cover design will either encourage or discourage customers to pick up and buy your book. The inside illustrations will keep a child’s attention on the story and please the reader of the book.

A beautifully illustrated cover will add credibility to your picture book. Reviewers will be more likely to give it their time. Parents and grandparents will pick your book up off the shelf (or the Amazon page) and want to buy it.

Screen Shot 2018-08-05 at 1.36.30 PMIf you are self-publishing a picture book you might wonder why children’s books need illustrations. Most authors really don’t want to spend the extra money to hire a professional illustrator. There is one very popular children’s book on the market now called “The Book With No Pictures” by B.J. Novak. It doesn’t use pictures but it does rely on cleverly designed typography to keep kids interested.  The words on the page graphically whisper and scream silly words. A professional book designer was used for the book.

Other than that one book, I can’t think of any other children’s book without pictures. Chapter books have only a few illustrations. The cover, of course, and maybe at each chapter heading. The illustrations are there to just add a touch of interest and break up large areas of text. Lately, there is a movement to add more illustrations to newer chapter books. Some old favorites are being republished with more illustrations. Kids love them.

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Examples of chapter books

Picture books are entirely different. The illustrations in picture books play a major role. The illustrations provide visual clues that are important to understanding the story. On each page, the illustrations act together with only a few carefully chosen words to create a complete story that is understood by children and enjoyed by parents.

Don’t doom your picture book to failure. Contact a professional children’s book illustrator to present your book in the most desirable way.

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Examples of picture books

There are many places to find professional illustrators. Try these websites: The Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrator’s website (SCBWI), The Children’s Book ArtistsChildrens illustrators, and Upwork.

I am listed on the SCBWI’s website (Dayne Sislen). I also have a website portfolio: http://DayneSislen.com

Contact me using the form below. I am happy to talk to you about your book. I am a professional children’s book illustrator and book designer with experience with picture books and chapter books. I promise not to share or abuse your contact information.

MY_BookCovers

A few of the covers I have illustrated and designed.

How to find the perfect illustrator for your self-published children’s book.

Don't Be a Pig in a Panic!

Many children’s book illustrators are resistant to work with self-publishing authors.

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 anything about their book. Is it a picture book, chapter book or middle grade? How many illustrated pages they need or how many characters? Occasionally an author will say I don’t need a big fancy book, they only want a small book. Don’t spend much time on it, I don’t have much money. How much will that be?  These questions put me in an awkward position. I don’t have enough information to give them a price or decide if I want to illustrate their book.

Mouse artists working together

Some authors 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 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 Rover (they do have many 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 some authors 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

• Here is a link to another post of mine that shows where to find illustrators.

• 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 adding and packaging the text be done by a professional graphic 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. 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 time and enough money 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. Failure to respect an illustrator’s time, and expecting illustration work for nearly free is the reason most professional illustrators will not work with self-publishing authors.

 

Shark Dentists and Other Stories by Vincent Immordino Illustrated by Dayne Sislen

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 and type of book 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.

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I illustrated the picture book spread shown above this blog for the book “Don’t Be a Pig in a Panic!” written by Leila Leidke.

 

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

What Print on Demand service is best for your self-published picture book?

My SCBWI Banner 2017Left

Your manuscript is finished. You’ve had it critiqued and beta read and proofread several times. Now, what? It can take months or sometimes a year to hear back from traditional publishers or agents. Maybe, you don’t want to wait that long or go through the lengthy process.

So you’ve decided to go the self-publishing route.  There are so many choices, you don’t know where to turn. The information you find online is sometimes misleading. Every site seems to have an agenda, pushing you towards their product.

I hope to make your selection process easier with some comparisons and facts. I have printed books with three of the major Print on Demand (POD) services. I know which ones offer what you need and which ones are expensive. It is very hard to compare services because each service offers something different. These prices are based on printing an 8″ x 10″**- 32-page full-color picture book. The profit is based on using the retail price of $9.99 for the soft cover book.

(Note: It was just announced 8/28/18 that CreateSpace will not be printing books. Amazon’s KDP Print will be taking over. All books now printed with CreateSpace can be transferred over to KDP). I will update this chart soon.

POD chart

All pricing is based on 8’ x 10” full-color 32 page picture books. Profit is based on selling the softcover at $9.99 retail. Purchase price is based on 50 quantity before shipping and tax is added.

**Sizing on Lulu is 8.5” x 8.5” because  8” x 10” is not available.

* Bookstores will not usually stock books unless they are returnable, but they may special order a book. IngramSpark gives you a choice.

***The CreateSpace fee $39 is for the first year ProPlan which gives you better royalties as shown on the chart.

***The IngramSpark $49 set-up fee is credited back to you when you order 50 books.

**** IngramSpark has several choices for discount rate. 40% was used on this chart. Bookstores expect 40% to 50%. You can use 30% if you are not concerned about bookstore sales. 50% with returns if you want bookstores to stock your books.

I prefer working with IngramSpark. I find their quality is better and I love their hardcover books. But, I must point out, they are set-up to work with professional book designers. They are not as easy to use when you are unfamiliar with file types and are trying to use Microsoft Word to compose your book. They prefer files created in Adobe InDesign and converted to correctly sized and formatted PDFs.

CreateSpace is easier to work with, but their printing quality is spotty. Lulu is expensive unless you only sell your books on their website. Compare prices and quality.

I hope I have helped you make up your mind. I am a children’s book illustrator and designer, contact me if you need your book illustrated and/or formatted for print on demand. (I will not share or abuse your contact information)

The Benefits of Picture Books for Building Reading Skills

reading time

This blog is from an EBSCO Post. I thought it was valuable reading for those with young children or teaching young children.

For young readers, picture books are an important part of learning how to read. Usually, this type of format marks the first step in introducing a child to reading and is often the start of language development for many children. Libraries that include picture books to promote literacy to young readers are boosting beginner-level vocabulary skills, introducing sentence structure and developing story analysis. 

Here is the link to read more of this blog about The Benefits of Picture Books for Building Reading Skills.

If you have an idea for a picture book and want to know more about finding an illustrator and getting your book published, contact me. I have been illustrating picture books for ten years. I love to talk to authors about their picture books.