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It is my pleasure to announce our three winners for the March 12 x 12 in 2012 prizes! The first prize is a copy of Katie Davis’ outstanding ebook – How to Promote Your Children’s Book: Tips, Tricks and Secrets to Creating a BestsellerNext, I am giving away two free Brain Burps About Books iPhone apps because I love the podcast so much (and NOT just because I am sometimes in it. :-))

Winners, if you already have Katie’s book, or the iPhone app, OR don’t have an iPhone and therefore can’t use the app, please let me know ASAP.  I’ve kept the Random.org list of winners, and if you can’t use the prize, I will simply keep going down the list until I find someone who can.  Thanks!

And now, for the winners…. *CUE DRUMROLL*

Winner of How to Promote Your Children’s book is…..    BRENDA HARRIS!!!!!!!!

Winners of the Brain Burps About Books iPhone App are….    ROBYN CAMPBELL and JARM DEL BOCCIO!!!!!!!

Congratulations to all the winners! Contact me for info on how to claim your prizes.

Onward, ho!!!

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Well, here in Boulder March came in AND out like a lamb.  I’ve never experienced such a warm and early spring before.  I hope that is auspicious for writing!   12 x 12 in 2012 participants know that today is the day to check-in on your picture book draft for the month.  Did you complete one this month?

I completed a draft this month – once again on the second to last day.  You guys are such slave-drivers – LOL!  Seriously though, you all keep me so motivated and inspired.  You amaze me – truly.

Thanks again to Katie Davis for giving us fantastic marketing and promotion tips as March’s featured author.  If you left a comment on her March 1st post, you are automatically entered to win a copy of her book – How to Promote Your Children’s Books: Tips, Tricks and Secrets to Creating a Bestseller, regardless of whether you completed a PB draft this month. I am also giving away two of her Brain Burps About Books podcast apps. If you did complete a draft in March, let us know in the comments and that will get you another entry.  YOU MUST LEAVE YOUR NAME (FIRST AND LAST) IN YOUR COMMENT IF YOU WANT IT TO BE COUNTED AS AN ENTRY.   You have until midnight EST April 1st to leave a comment on this post and/or Katie’s original post to be eligible for the drawing.  I’ll draw a winner via Random.org and post it to the blog on Monday, April 2nd.

Don’t forget to come back tomorrow to see who’s on deck for April!!

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Today’s Tuesday 12 x 12 guest is Jennifer Young.  Jennifer’s clever story, Poison Apple Pie, was recently published by e-publisher MeeGenius.  Congratulations Jennifer! Here she talks about what the 12 x 12 in 2012 challenge has meant to her.  Welcome!  

Hello from South Jersey! I live right smack in between Philadelphia and Atlantic City. I’ m surrounded by farms, deer, and I even have a rafter of wild turkey that like to hang out in my backyard.

I’m lucky enough to be able to stay at home with my two little girls while my son attends second grade. My kids are a big inspiration when it comes to writing stories. They love helping me with ideas and my husband doesn’t mind critiquing one bit, or so he tells me anyway. All kidding aside, I’ve got some great listeners in my house which I’m very grateful for. It’s always busy here with miscellaneous family matters and unfortunately last year I lost some of my motivation to write. I still wrote but not as much as I would have liked to.

I enjoy participating in blog hops, writing contest, and I submit to agents and publishing house regularly. One of the reasons I wanted to join the 12 x 12 in 2012 challenge because I missed out in participating in the PiBoIdMo hosted by Tara Lazar. After I joined, I was thrilled to find out my critique partners Cheryl Velasquez and Kris Christopherson also joined in the fun.

Since the challenge started, I learned this group of writers and illustrators are all very different, but they are willing to share their talents with everyone. They jump to help others in need to help them succeed. I’ve been following the other members’ blogs which are full of great information like; how to query agents, helpful story starters, ways to organize your time and much more. I’m also happy to say I’ve joined an incredibly supportive critique group which includes four other 12 x 12 members.

Last thing I wanted to mention, even though I haven’t taken a class on how-to-write for children (though I want to badly), I kind of feel like I’m in one. Every time I visit the 12 x 12 in 2012 Facebook group I see members giving out writing tips, ideas, short-cuts and encouragement. So far this year, I’m proud to say I’ve been motivated and inspired to write and it’s all because I joined this group.

Jennifer Young enjoys writing quirky and humorous stories for children. She has a BS in Sociology. She was born and raised in Southern Connecticut, and she now resides in South Jersey with her husband and three children. She has one children’s poem published in Stories for Children Magazine and one children’s illustrated book under contract with Willow Moon Publishing due out before fall 2013. You can follow her at her blog Jennifer Young –Castles in the Sky: http://jennyleeyoung.blogspot.com/

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One of the lovely porticoes

Another crazy fantastic week in Italy – this time Bologna. Learned so much about the children’s book biz, including much ado about apps (more to come soon).  Bologna won me over with its lovely porticoes and outstanding food.  It’s a completely different world in Bologna from Florence, even though it’s only a 35 minute train ride.  If you ever go, make sure you pack your black.  It seems the only two colors people wear there are black and dark wash jeans.  I felt like an Easter egg in my wardrobe.  As a friend said, “Bologna – where black is the new black.”

Quotes on Gratitude

“Joy is not in things, it is in us.” — Joan Borysenko

“There is as much greatness of mind in acknowledging a good turn, as in doing it.” — Seneca

“Love is the true means by which the world is enjoyed: our love to others, and others’ love to us.” — Thomas Traherne

Gratitude list for the week ending March 24

  1. First, I am grateful for my in-laws, my stepmother and my mom for helping my husband hold down the fort while I took this epic trip to Italy.  Thank you!!
  2. Learning enough about apps and ebooks at the ToC Bologna conference to make my head spin.  Cheers to Kat Meyer and the entire O’Reilly team making it all happen.
  3. Meeting Katherine Paterson, author of one of my all-time favorite books – Bridge to Terabithia
  4. SCBWI Bologna dance party!
  5. The folks who put together the SCBWI booth program for the Bologna Book Fair – Kathleen Ahrens, Angela Cerrita, Kirsten Carlson, Bridget Strevens-Marzo, Tioka Tokedira, Chris Cheng, and anyone else I am forgetting.  These guys worked tirelessly to provide great programming, regional showcases, and opportunities for writers and illustrators attending the fair.  Grazie mille!

    The hard-working SCBWI team at the booth celebration

  6. Making wonderful new friends – including all of the above, plus Sarah Towle, Emily Smith Pearce, Danika Dinsmore, Susan Eaddy, Lucy CoatsBarbara McClintock, and Andi Ipaktchi.
  7. Hall after hall after hall of nothing but children’s books – enough said!
  8. Tagliatelle ragu and red wine with Danika and Susan – lovely dinner
  9. The city of Bologna itself, with its seductive porticoes, antiquarian bookshops, black-clad residents spilling into the streets from Enoteche at night, savory food shops and best of all, Gelateria Gianni!
  10. Receiving the best welcome home in history from my kids. The sign was fantastic, but the hugs and kisses even more precious.  How I missed them!

What are you grateful for this week?

The best part of the trip was coming home and knowing I was missed.

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The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore. The short film version of this app (which is also a storybook app) won an Oscar this year. I think that's proof of how big and important this market is going to be.

As some of you may know, I am committed to taking the story I entered in last year’s MeeGenius Children’s Author Challenge and developing it into an app.  I’ve been doing quite a bit of research, yet I feel I’ve only just begun my descent into the rabbit hole.  In reality this post should be titled, How to start THINKING about Creating a Storybook App.  There is a huge morass of information out there, much of it inconsistent.  It seems nobody has written Storybook Apps for Dummies yet.  I thought I’d take a crack at the very basics.

First, authors who are also illustrators have a distinct advantage in app development.  One reason it’s been so challenging to find information is because there are precious few resources geared toward “authors only” who have ideas for apps, beyond telling them to partner with an illustrator.  The best information I’ve found so far has been at e is for book, a blog written by a group of traditionally published, professional children’s book authors and illustrators who are working on various digital book projects, and Digital Kid’s Author, author Karen Robertson’s website.

Karen wrote and illustrated the app “Treasure Kai and the Lost Gold of Shark Island,” a treasure hunt adventure book.  Recently, Karen spoke on Publishing Insiders Blog Talk Radio series on Secrets to Creating Children’s Book Apps (the show is still available; you can listen for free).  On the show, Karen discussed 5 steps to app creation.  All of these steps assume the text is written, edited and ready to be developed into an app.

  1. Decide what kind of app you want to create: Think about how much interaction you want in the story. Think about what animation might enhance (vs. detract from) the story.  Do you want a “read to me” option, which requires narration?  Do you want touch-based animation?  Special sounds?
  2. Create a brief for your app: This is a document that details the text, illustration, sounds/narration and animation that goes on each page. Unlike a manuscript for a traditional picture book submission, here the author and/or illustrator does suggest page turns because they are critical to developing the interactive components of the app.
  3. Create art for your app: Again, this is where illustrators have an advantage because they can both write and illustrate the app.  If you are an author looking to partner with an illustrator, look for one that can work digitally.  Ideally, the art is created using digital layers to produce the best animation effects.
  4. Decide what narration, sounds and animation you want: Do you want music in your app?  Do you need to hire a narrator?  Do you have sound sprites planned (touch-based animation that triggers a sound, for example an animal noise or a drum beating)?
  5. Build the app: This is where the app developer comes in.  The developer creates the code that turns the static story and illustrations into an interactive app.  You can hire an independent developer or work with a company that specializes in app development.  An advantage of an independent developer is that they can usually create custom code for features specific to your app.  You might also be able to retain ownership of that code.  A disadvantage is being reliant on that person to maintain and update your app for its lifetime.  Development companies typically have expertise in app development, and will code your app based upon their platforms.  This might provide less flexibility for custom animation, but companies continue to become more sophisticated in their offerings.  Companies will almost always provide the maintenance and updates for your app on an ongoing basis.  Some companies even offer do-it-yourself drag and drop interfaces.

Our VERY favorite storybook app!

After listening to the radio show and skimming through Karen’s e-book, I am still left with the question of what authors are supposed to submit to app development companies in terms of proposals.  Is it just a manuscript?  A full brief?  Should it include a marketing plan?  I have Googled storybook app “template,” “proposal,” “submission,” “brief,” “specification,” six hundred ways to Sunday and still haven’t come up with a good answer.

In two weeks, I’ll be in Bologna, Italy attending the O’Reilly Tools of Change for Publishing Conference, focused exclusively on the children’s market.  I’m writing articles for SCBWI and The Children’s Book Insider.  Many industry thought-leaders will be in attendance, so I am hoping to dig much deeper into these issues on behalf of authors and illustrators.  Stay tuned!  I probably won’t be able to blog in real-time while I am there, but I will be tweeting and posting snippets and updates on my Facebook Author page if you are interested.

I know some of you reading already have experience creating storybook apps.  Any advice to share?  Does anyone have questions they’d like me to get to the bottom of in Bologna?  Leave feedback in the comments!

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Today is March 2nd and the good Dr.’s birthday, so of course I had to make a Dr. Seuss selection.  Today is also Read Across America Day, and Teaching Authors has a fantastic post about Dr. Seuss and how to celebrate.  Fox in Socks doesn’t seem to get the same kind of love as Seuss’ other books, but it is definitely one of my favorites just because it is SO FUN to read aloud.

Fox in Socks
Written and illustrated by Dr. Seuss
Random House, 1965
Suitable for:  Ages 3 and up
Themes/Topics:  Tongue twisters, Rhyme, Humor, Silliness
Opening and brief synopsis: “This Fox is a tricky fox. He’ll try to get your tongue in trouble.” Dr. Seuss gives fair warning to anyone brave enough to read along with the Fox in Socks, who likes to play tongue-twisting games with his friend Mr. Knox.
Activities: Just trying to read it out loud without making any mistakes is a great activity! It would pair well with other tongue twister books.  Also, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Eric Van Raepenbusch’s fantastic post on his blog, Happy Birthday Author, with amazing ideas for celebrating Seuss in general.
Why I Like This Book: Talk about a book that’s fun to read over and over!  That’s because you can seldom read it perfectly, so it becomes a challenge.  And the rhyme is mesmerizing for kids.
Finally, check out this video of a woman speed reading Fox in Socks.  It is unbelievable!

For more books with resources please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s blog and find the tab for Perfect Picture Books!

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You guys have heard a lot about Katie Davis on this blog lately, however, it’s all been in the context of ME being featured in HER space.  Today I am so pleased to turn the tables and announce Katie as our featured 12 x 12 in 2012 author for March.  Katie has been very busy this month spreading the word about her new eBook, How to Promote Your Children’s Books: Tips, Tricks and Secrets to Creating a Bestseller (see a list of all the stops Katie’s made on her blog tour at the end of this post).  Readers, I have read this book, and I must tell you this is MANDATORY reading for anyone who is serious about publishing and promoting their books.  Every question you could possibly ask about marketing and promotion is covered in this book.  What’s even better is that it’s written in Katie’s trademark voice, which means it is actually fun to read. AND, Katie is giving one lucky 12 x 12 participant a free copy of this book.

If you are a regular blog reader, you know I am now a monthly contributor to Katie’s Brain Burps About Books Podcast.  I’ve also been a subscriber of the podcast for well over a year. I’m continually amazed by the amount of information imparted in the shows.  Every time I have a question about something related to kidlit, I ask myself if maybe Katie’s done a show on the topic.  Recent examples of questions I had were on author websites, school visits, eBooks, writing retreats.  Podcasts addressing those issues?  Check, check, check and check.  Katie provides this great service for FREE.  I am so passionate about the value of these podcasts, (and NOT just because I am in some of them – I swear) that I want more people to take advantage of them.

Yes, you can listen to the podcasts directly for free.  However, I find that it is much easier to have the Brain Burps iPhone app.  All of the episodes are there and searchable.  You can stop and go back and listen where you left off.  You can “favorite” certain episodes.  But the best feature is that you have them with you wherever you go.  Standing in a long line?  Just pop onto the app and listen while you wait.  In fact, I love the app so much, that in addition to Katie’s giveaway, this month I will draw two additional winners who will receive the app from me as a gift!

Now you’re probably wondering when the heck Katie is going to show up in this post, and that is right now.  Lest you think her book, podcasts, etc. aren’t applicable to you if you are pre-published, I asked Katie a few specific questions on how the advice and tips in her books are appropriate for ALL writers – not just published ones.  Take it away Katie!

Many of this blog’s followers are pre-published authors.  Which chapters or parts of your book do you think are most critical for them to read and why?

I think Chapters 1-30 would be best. Oh, wait. There are 30 chapters in the book…

I really can’t choose just some sections because it’s one of those more-than-the-sum-of-its-parts kind of thing. All the chapters together teach a way to approach this business. Picking out one thing would be like pulling out one domino; they’re all interconnected.

Why do you think it is important, even for pre-published authors, to develop an online presence?

 I’ve heard of publishers looking online to see what kind of presence prospective authors have. I can’t believe if someone isn’t online it would jeopardize getting a contract if the story is publish-worthy, but imagine if you have an odd subject or niche book. An editor sees you have a following and knows that you’ll be proactive in the marketing support of that book. These days we all need an online presence and if you already have one firmly established, you’re that much more ahead of the game. But nothing will help a badly written book, so the thing you need to concentrate on most is writing well, learning your craft and making sure that you’re creating your best possible work.

The 12x team has been debating on the Facebook page whether or not they should use their names in their blogs or whether they should set up websites if they don’t yet have a book to promote.  What’s your advice?

I vote for using your name in your blog site. Your blog should be contained within your site so visitors don’t have to go to two different places to find you. Your name is what people will search for and you want it to come up on the first page of the search, right? Also buy your title.com the minute you know it – or just buy it if you have a potential title.

I am so happy I bought katiedavis.com when I did back in the late 90’s because do you have any idea how many Katie Davises there are out there? And at least two are authors, and another Katie Davies is a children’s author and published by S&S like me! So go buy yourname.com NOW.

I’ll wait here.

Okay, now that you’ve done that, let’s continue this interview.

 Actually, I have to interject here and agree wholeheartedly with Katie. I bought juliehedlund.com three years ago and I am just now starting to build my author site from that domain.  How happy am I that I own it now that I am ready?  Seriously.  It costs, like, $12 a year for a domain.  Go Daddy (which Katie mentions in her book) is the registry I use for all my domains.

What are the biggest mistakes newbies make with promotion activities?

  1. Forgetting that the more you give, the more you get. Remember to do things for other people first, and it’ll all come back to you, as sappy as that sounds. The minute, and I do mean almost to the actual minute I started looking outward and promoting other people, I could tell my career shifted.
  2. Being scared that you’re not doing enough and/or that you’re doing the wrong thing and then freaking out because of that. Do what you’re comfortable with. If you don’t like blogging, don’t do it. Pick something you can handle and most of all, enjoy.
  3. 3.   Forgetting it’s about connecting with people, not marketing.

What is your own biggest marketing/promotion blooper?

Where to begin?! I got a bunch of ‘em! I spent money on stupid marketing efforts that didn’t work, or I’ve spent a ton of time on a complicated idea that fell flat. During this blog tour for How to Promote Your Children’s Book: Tips, Tricks, and Secrets to Create a Bestseller one of the stops was all about my mistakes, called Banana Peelin’. The more you try, the more you fail, but the more chance you’ll have at succeeding.

What is your biggest marketing/promotion success?

 Being generous.

 If you were in a reality T.V. show about the “real” life of a children’s book author, what part of it would viewers find the most surprising?

Very weird you’re asking me this, since last week I was asked to be part of a pilot for a new “Housewives” type show! (I said no.) However, since you put “real” in quotation marks, I will take that as not real so I suppose you’d be most surprised at all the butlers I employ. They carry me from my front door to my studio so all my shoes remain spotless. This is also the technique I use to wear high heels so my feet never hurt. Plus I have an app that writes all my books.

Children’s author/illustrator Katie Davis has published nine books and appears monthly on the ABC affiliate show, Good Morning Connecticut, recommending great books for kids. She produces Brain Burps About Books, a podcast about kidlit, a blog and monthly newsletter. Katie has volunteered in a maximum-security prison teaching Writing for Children and over the last dozen years has presented at schools and writing conferences. She’s a 2010 Cybils judge and has also judged the Golden Kite, smartwriters.com, and Frontiers in Writing awards. Recently Katie was selected to be on the Honorary Advisory Board for the Brooke Jackman Foundation, a literacy-based charity.

Participants – to enter to win Katie’s Book and the Brain Burps app, you must be an official challenger and leave a comment on this post (INCLUDING YOUR FIRST AND LAST NAME) any time during the month of March for one point.  On March 31st, l’ll put a check-in post on the blog.  If you completed a picture book draft in March, you can let us know in the comments of that post for another point.  I will draw a winner using Random.org and announce on April 2nd.

Check out the rest of Katie’s blog tour stops!

Feb 1 – E is for Book – www.eisforbook.com

Feb 2 – Banana Peel Thursday – http://bananapeelin.blogspot.com

Feb 3 – Creative Spaces – http://chrischengauthor.blogspot.com

Feb 6 – DearEditor.com – www.DearEditor.com

Feb 7 – Writing With a Broken Tusk – http://umakrishnaswami.blogspot.com

Feb 8 – Shutta Crum – http://shutta.com

Feb 9 – McBookWords – mcbookwords.blogspot.com

Feb 10 – Kerem Erkan- keremerkan.net

Feb 16 – Elizabeth O. Dulemba- http://www.dulemba.com/

Feb 17 – Fiction Notes – http://www.darcypattison.com/

March 1 – 12×12 in 2012 – http://writeupmylife.com

March 2 – Christine Fonseca, Author – ChristineFonseca.blogspot.com

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