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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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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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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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Smile, You’re on Katie Davis!*

That’s the way I feel today as I have the extreme honor of being Katie Davis’ first Brain Burps About Books podcast guest of 2012.  I am so excited I’ll be throwing the link around all over the place – in this post, on Facebook, on Twitter, email.  Want to make sure everyone in the world who wants to hear it gets a chance. 🙂

Before I write another word, here’s the link to the podcast.  http://traffic.libsyn.com/brainburps/78_JulieHedlund.mp3.  You can listen to it on your computer just by clicking the link, or you can do the same by clicking the link from your smart phone or tablet and listen to it from there. Or you can listen from the link on Katie’s blog here: http://katiedavis.com/78/

On this podcast, in a fitting tribute to the new year (because Mayans or no Mayans, we’re going to do our best work!), Katie and I talk about anti-resolutions (based on this post) and the need to set goals from a positive place rather than beating ourselves up over (perceived) failures from the previous year. What struck me during our discussion was how we all face doubt and disappointment, regardless of how far along we are in our careers.  It’s easy to look at a successful, multi-published author and think, “Oh s/he’s made it.”  However, that author may very well be plagued by the same doubts and frustrations.  So Katie and I discuss how to overcome that, and how being an active part of the writing community helps.

We also discuss the 12 x 12 in 2012 picture book writing challenge and other opportunities for writers to get a head start in the new year.  I had so much fun recording this podcast with Katie, and I hope you enjoy listening to it just as much!  It’s a great “feel-good” way to hit the ground running in 2012, if I do say so myself.

If you have never listened to a Brain Burps About Books podcast, you can start with the one with ME in it!  Then, get thyself over to Katie’s website and download and listen to the rest.  I’ve been a subscriber for a year now, and I’ve learned so much.  Every show is great. It’s like having portable conference sessions that you can listen to at your convenience.  And they’re FREE!  Or you can do as I did and buy the app from the iTunes store for $1.99 and have all the episodes in one place.  People, it’s a bargain.  Katie is an exceptionally talented, multi-published author/illustrator, a whizz-bang marketing guru and a pioneer in using all forms of media in the children’s book arena.  She recently published an e-book entitled, How to Promote Your Children’s Book. Best of all, she has her bio written in both haiku and limerick form (among others).  Sounds like a lady you can learn a lot from, no?

What can you learn from these podcasts, you ask? Well, Brain Burps About Books is all about children’s literature and has held the #1 in the iTunes store in Children’s Publishing since it began almost two years ago.  It has been downloaded in 40% of the world’s countries. If it has to do with the children’s book business – whether it’s craft, creating a platform, developing eBooks and apps, or supporting a small business as a writer, it’s fair game. Interview subjects include authors, illustrators, librarians, editors, app creators… anyone in the field covering anything under the umbrella of children’s books. Regular features include a “Take 5 Marketing Tips” by Dianne de Las Casas and picture book and middle grade reviews by contributors Betsy Bird of SLJ’s Fuse #8 Production, “Mommy” blogger Julie Falatko, Travis Jonker of 100 Scope Notes, and YA reviews by Bookalicious Pam.

I happen to know that in this episode, you get a double-dose of Julie, as 12 x 12 challenger Julie Falatko provides a review at the end of the show.  That’s 2 Julies for the price of one! An offer you simply can’t refuse.

Thanks again to Katie for making the start of 2012 especially awesome by inviting me to come on the show.  In conclusion, I’ll leave you with this trailer of Katie’s book, Little Chicken’s Big Day.  Warning: it is off the cuteness meter!

*My weekly Wednesday Artist’s Way Check-in will be posted tomorrow.

Questions or comments about the podcast? Leave them here!

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Hi everyone,

I’ve spent some time cross-referencing the comments on my MeeGenius contest entry post with the results post to determine who wanted which prizes.  Here is the list of the prizes and recipients.  Some of you left your email addresses in the comments and some did not. Whether you think you have already given me your email address or not, PLEASE LEAVE A COMMENT ON THIS POST WITH YOUR EMAIL ADDRESS INCLUDED so I can contact you offline for prize distribution.  At this busy time of year, it would be helpful to have that information all in one place so I don’t have to check multiple posts.  Thanks!

A few people who commented on the first post did not elect a prize.  If this is you, please do so by December 31st, as I would like to wrap this up before the new year.  The agent list and writing critiques are available on an unlimited basis.  I have one IndieBound gift card left and two picture books.  If I do not hear from you by December 31st, I will assume you do not want a prize.  Thanks!

A couple of you left comments on the second post but not the first.  In order to keep it fair, I could not enter you for the monetary prizes.  However, please let me know if you would like the agent list or a writing critique.

iPOD SHUFFLE: Ellen (tannawings)!

INDIEBOUND GIFTCARD: Sabrina Martinez

PICTURE BOOK OF CHOICE: Deborah Cavitt

AGENT LIST: Joanna Marple, Jennifer DuBose, Donna Martin, Tanya Konerman, Jennifer Kirkeby, Cathy Mealey, Jodelle Brohard, Jennifer Rumberger, Lori Mozdzierz, Stacy Jensen, Louise Behiel, Coleen Patrick, Jarm del Boccio, Jenny Sulpizio, Penny Klostermann, Darshana, Robyn Campbell, Ellen Ramsey, Sharon Mayhew, Elizabeth Stevens Omlor

CRITIQUE: Erik, Nancy Hatch (whenever you have something ready); Also, Susanna Hill and Renee Tullipe – I’ll be happy to trade manuscripts sometime this year.  Let’s plan on choosing one of our 12 x 12 drafts at some point during the year!

FOLKS WHO ARE ELIGIBLE AND HAVE YET TO SELECT A PRIZE: Kaitlin, Diane Estrella, Debbie Allen, Patientdreamer (Diane)

FOLKS WHO ONLY LEFT A COMMENT ON THE SECOND POST (Can choose critique or agent list): Loni Edwards, Kate Kresse,

If I am in error on any of these, please let me know and I’ll check again.  As a reminder, the agent list will be distributed by December 31st.  Critiques will be completed by January 15 (unless we’ve specified otherwise).  The tangible goods/prizes will be sent as soon as I get contact information.

PLEASE remember to leave your email addresses on this post so I can get prizes out efficiently.  Thanks!

THANK YOU again to everyone who participated.  I know there were many people who voted and promoted who did not enter the contest too, and I am just as appreciative for your help!!  You all know I am here when you need assistance in return.

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With everyone’s help, I developed the strength of TEN Grinches! Plus two.

Last Sunday, I launched a contest to help promote my entry in the MeeGenius Children’s Author Challenge.  Everyone who entered promoted their hearts out all week.  What’s more, MANY people who did not enter the contest did the same.  What meant the most to me, even more than the votes and promotion assistance, were the comments of support and encouragement I got from people about both the story and my promotion efforts.  At the end of the day, I wanted people to help because they loved the story as much as I did, and I was so heartened by all the feedback I got from you.  I can honestly say that whether I make the final round or not, this has been a tremendous experience.

As I said in my Gratitude Sunday post yesterday, at one point during the week I felt I would explode with gratitude.  In that moment, I decided there would be no “winners” of my contest because everyone would be a winner.  That’s right! Prizes for ALL who participated. After so many people did so much for me, I would have felt stingy and Grinch-like drawing only a few winners from those who entered.

I can still only provide one iPod Shuffle, 2 IndieBound gift cards and 3 picture books, BUT the other prizes will be unlimited, so the pool of entrants vying for the others will be much smaller – hence, a greater chance of winning.

So here’s how this will work.  First, you must have left a comment on my contest post, as that was how I was tracking official entrants (Erik at This Kid Reviews Books, you are the exception because you left a comment about the contest on one of my blog tour posts, so I put you down).  Provided you were officially entered, you simply need to leave a comment letting me know which prize you want.  If you want one of the tangible items, please list your first, second and third choices.  Here is what is available:

  • List of 100+ children’s book agents (the Big Kahuna) = Unlimited (You want it, it’s yours)
  • Critique of a full PB manuscript or first 10 pages of any other genre = Unlimited (You want it, it’s yours)
  • iPod shuffle = 1 available (If more than one  person elects this as a first choice, I will draw a winner from among them)
  • $25 IndieBound gift certificates = 2 available (Same as above)
  • One picture book of your choice = 3 available (Same as above)

In your comment, please state the prize you want and your email address so I can contact you offline about details.  Please note: the agent list will be delivered by December 31st.  I just want to go through it one more time to clean it up and make sure it’s updated.  It is all publicly available information, but things change quickly in the industry, so I’ll double-check the data.  Writing critiques will be turned around by January 15th.  All other prizes will be ordered and shipped this week.

THANK YOU again to everyone, those entered in the contest and those not. I truly appreciate you all!

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VOTE FOR MY STORY HERE!Today, as part of my blog tour for my MeeGenius Author’s Challenge story A TROOP IS A GROUP OF MONKEYS, I am guest posting over at my friend Nancy Hatch’s blog Spirit Lights the Way.  Nancy herself is a very generous spirit, and she provides loads of thoughtful and fun content on her blog.  So please head over there today if you can.  Thanks!

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CLICK HERE TO VOTE

Special post today.  Gratitude Sunday will be back next week.

ETA: IMPORTANT! PLEASE LET ME KNOW IN THE COMMENTS IF YOU ARE ENTERING THE CONTEST. Some people may vote just to vote (not to enter), so I want to make sure I count everyone who does.  Thank you!

Alright everyone, I may not know a ton about marketing, but I do know when to pull out the big guns.  Luckily I have one of those in my arsenal.  Her name is Laura Barnes at Laura B Writer.  Laura is a marketing consultant and children’s book writer who helps authors build their online media presence.  A while back, I signed up for one of her blog critiques through her Monday series From A Marketing Perspective, and she scheduled it for this week.  While evaluating my blog, Laura noticed that I was in the middle of promoting my entry for the MeeGenius Children’s Author contest, and offered to help with that instead.  I’m sure she could see me sweating, struggling and even floundering straight through the Internets.  Needless to say, I jumped on her offer.

Be sure to visit Laura’s blog tomorrow because she’s providing the juicy details behind all of the suggestions she gave me (awesome).  Meanwhile, I am using this post to implement one of her suggestions – to run a contest to help me spread the word about my story. (For background on the MeeGenius contest, please visit the How It Works page.  For background on my entry, please read this post).

Why I Need to Reach Out

People within my own Network, both offline (friends and family) and online (blog followers, Facebook friends and Twitter followers), have been immensely supportive, and a great percentage of them have voted for my story.  I’ve been in the Top 50 (out of 400+) since the contest began on November 28th.  While this is fantastic (THANK YOU), Laura pointed out that for marketing to be truly effective, you need to reach beyond your own network.  In other words, you need people to help spread the word to their networks.  One way to do that is to run a contest with prizes that are of value to the people you are asking to help.  I wouldn’t want to ask for help without offering something in return, so that works perfectly for me. Here goes.

The Contest: What’s In It For You?

Grand Prizes

I know that many of my blog followers are writers, so I am offering up what I call the Big Kahuna.  For the past 18 months, I have kept a spreadsheet to track children’s book agents, especially those who represent picture books.  On this spreadsheet, I have the agent’s name, company name, website (both personal and corporate), email address, Twitter, Facebook and blog information (if applicable), submission guidelines, which genres they accept and any notes I’ve taken on who they represent, specific interests, etc.  There are more than 100 agents on this list who are currently accepting submissions.  This will be one of the Grand Prizes.

I also wanted to have a Grand Prize for non-writer followers and/or writers who already have agents and therefore would not benefit from my spreadsheet.  So the second Grand Prize is a brand-new iPod shuffle.  I figure everyone could either use one or find someone on their list to give it to this holiday season.  If not, it would make a great donation to a Toys for Tots-type organization.

Note: If both Grand Prize winners want the spreadsheet, I am willing to give two of them.  I can only provide one iPod shuffle, however.  The first GP winner will get first choice.  If that winner chooses the iPod shuffle and the second GP winner also wanted that, they can be moved to a First Prize position and I’ll draw another GP winner.  To speed this process along, if you plan to participate in the contest, it would be helpful (although not mandatory) to leave me a note in your comment letting me know which GP you would prefer if you win.  Make sense?

First Prizes

I will give away two first prizes, which will be the winners’ choice between a critique (of a complete Picture Book manuscript or the first 10 pages of a manuscript in any other genre) OR a $25 IndieBound gift certificate.

Second Prizes

Three lucky winners will get a brand new picture book of their choice.  That’s right. ANY picture book the winner wants will be theirs.

I will ship any prize internationally.

What is the Timeline?

The contest starts today – GO! – and will end when the MeeGenius contest ends, at midnight EST on Sunday, December 18th.  I will give myself a day to sort out the winners (selected from Random.org), and will announce them on Tuesday, December 20th.  Happy Holidays! 🙂

How to Enter

You may pick and choose from the following activities to enter the contest.

  1. Vote for my story on the MeeGenius contest page. (2 points – one time only).  You do need a Facebook account in order to vote, but even if you don’t have one, you can do any or all of the other activities.  I know many of you have done this already, and I am aware of most of them.  If you left a comment with your vote and I replied to you (via Facebook), you do not need to take any additional step.  I will be able to count your vote.  If you simply “liked” without leaving a comment, please let me know that you voted in the comments of this post.
  2. Promote my entry via Facebook. (2 points – one time only) Note that this step can be combined with #1.  If you leave a comment with your vote promoting the story, that comment will appear on your Facebook Wall.  I am checking these regularly, and I will reply to each and every one.  That way, you will know your FB promotion has been counted toward the contest.  Same for those of you who have already taken this step.  There is no need to repeat it (unless you want to of course!).  If you voted anonymously and would now like to promote via Facebook for the points, you can do so by sharing a link to my entry and urging people to visit and vote.  Here is an example of the type of comment that’s most effective, left on my entry from my daughter’s teacher.  “Please “like” this story to help a parent in my class get her phenomenal children’s book published.”  If you are promoting separately from your entry vote and we are not connected on Facebook in any way, please leave a link in the comments section of this post.
  3. Tweet to your followers asking them to vote.  (1 point per day, starting today, for a total of 8 possible points) In order for these points to be counted, you MUST use the hashtag #JHMeeGenius with your tweet.  That is how I will track and count them.  You must also provide a link to my entry in each tweet.
  4. Blog about the contest. (3 points – one time only) In your post, you must provide a link to this post, a link to my entry, and a link to my post providing background on the story.  In order to receive the points, you must leave a link to your blog post in the comments.

Comments on this post should be used for letting me know you are entering, your Grand Prize preference, informing me of previous MeeGenius votes you need counted, and/or providing links to blog posts or Facebook promos.  The comments section can also be used to ask any questions you may have about the contest.  However, comments on this post do not count as points for the contest.  In order to enter, you must take at least one of the steps outlined above.

In Conclusion

Laura refers to her blog as an “experiment in author marketing.”  I think this blog contest is also an experiment to see how much of a difference social media can make in marketing and promotion within a tight time-frame.  As of this writing, I have 186 votes and my entry is ranked #48 overall.  It will be fascinating to see what happens to those numbers over the course of this week.  Of course I realize that if nothing much happens, it will be a bit embarrassing for me.  But it’s a chance I am more than willing to take.  Regardless of the contest outcome, I will write a post next week detailing my “lessons learned” from marketing and promoting for my MeeGenius entry.  Hopefully we can all gain from that.

So followers, start your engines!  Off we go!

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From Picture Book to App - Snuggle Mountain by Lindsey Lane, one of the presenters at the conference

It’s astonishing how much the conversation about digital publishing, self-publishing and indie authors has changed in just one year.  Last year at the Rocky Mountain SCBWI conference, agents and editors said things like, “Yeah it’s out there, but it’s not a huge factor in children’s books yet.”  This year, publishing houses are racing to set up digital publishing arms, E-book sales are outpacing hardcovers in the adult market, and a few breakout indie authors have made millions outside of traditional publishing.

While e-book sales of picture books are not at the level of adult e-books by any stretch, it is only a matter of time before it explodes, IMHO.  Why?  Picture books are the perfect medium for “enhanced e-books”(read: apps).  Also, the expense of printing full-color picture books requires retail pricing of around $16 per book.  Compare that to .99 cents to several dollars for an app or e-book, and suddenly you can imagine how this might revitalize the picture book market down the road.

With this in mind, last weekend I attended a Symposium hosted by the lovely Austin SCBWI folks entitled, Storytelling in the Digital Age. What I learned is that the more you learn, the more you realize you have LOTS more to learn.  But you know what? So does everyone else.  Presenters and attendees agreed that right now, it’s the Wild West out there in publishing.  One thing that’s certain is that no matter how you plan to publish – traditionally, indie, or self – understanding digital publishing is no longer optional for writers.

For that reason, I am going to write a series of posts on this topic with the intention of creating a forum where we can share what we know and ask questions about what we don’t know.  For this, the first, I figured we’d better begin at the beginning.  Definitions.

Deanna Roy of Casey Shay Press provided very clear definitions of the types of books in the marketplace today.  In my own words:

  • Print Books: You know – those paper thingies that people say are going to be made obsolete by e-books because they’ve forgotten that people said that T.V. would make radio obsolete and VCRs would make movie theaters obsolete.  If you’re still not sure, watch this video.  Sold in bookstores, retail stores, online stores and available in libraries.
  • E-Books: This is a digitized version of the print book.  It has exactly the same material but has been formatted to run on e-readers.  Unfortunately, there is not yet a standard e-book format, so the same book will have to be formatted multiple times to work on all e-readers (Kindle AZW, ePub, Mobi and PDF are the major ones. Look here for a list and comparison of formats).  Because most picture books are imported to the e-book formats as a fixed-width (i.e. exactly as the pages appear in the book), and the width of the e-readers vary, the illustrated pages have to be re-sized for each device.  Sold primarily in online stores, although physical bookstores are also devising ways to sell them in-store.  Likewise, many libraries already make or plan to make e-books available for patrons to borrow and read on their e-readers.
  • Enhanced E-Books:  Deanna Roy said, “A true enhanced e-book is one that changes the way you experience the book.”  Not just an extra chapter, for example.  For a novel, an enhanced book might include videos embedded with scenes from the book, an interactive map of a fictional world, music, etc.  For picture books, an enhanced e-book is called a storybook app.  The app combines the art and text of the book and adds sound, animation and interactive features.  While some apps are created from existing picture books (like Snuggle Mountain), many stories are now being written directly for the app market.  An author/illustrator can work directly with an app developer to create a storybook app.  Sold in the iTunes store (or the Android app store, etc.).

So that’s it for now – just a few definitions.  Not too complicated right?

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