Feedback for “The Artist”

So one of my old friends recently bought a book (Yaayyyy!!) and emailed me the other day with this:

“We have been really enjoying reading it at bedtime and any other time momma’s hands are dry!  I love the art and the note to your readers at the end especially,  it made us feel like you, as the author, actually cared and you weren’t just some distant random person out to make a buck! God bless you on your adventures.”

Thanks so much, Gwyn!!

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Review for “The Artist and the Clay”

This almost made me cry. One of my friends shared “The Artist” with her daycare students, ages 5-9, and asked them what they thought. “Awesomest book ever!” “Total epicness” “She is one of the bestest writers ever!” “I liked her letter to us at the end.” Diana said, “It has already become a favorite for them and we tied it to the scripture too.” -Diana Herzog and the God’s Giants class of All God’s Children Childcare.

This made my day and my night and probably my week, too. 😀 That’s why we do it.

P.S. I got my first book signing!!!! In Nampa, ID, at Pearson’s Twice Sold Tales, on Saturday, Aug 15, from 10am-2pm!!!! 😀

Why I Wrote the Book

Before and during college, I struggled a lot with what I was supposed to do, career-wise. Though prayer and Bible reading, I came to this conclusion: God creates people different from each other, with unique gifts and talents. He did that for a reason, and it’s a good thing. Throughout the Bible, God talks about forming us like a Potter forms clay, and compares us to a body, with different parts with different purposes.

So I thought this idea was worth sharing. But how would I explain this concept to my little niece or nephew? Ergo, the story was born. I was (and still am) exploring my artistic talent, so I started drawing pictures to go with the story, just for the joy of creating beautiful spaces. Matt encouraged me, and I came up with something decent.

I’ve gotten some amazing encouragement from people who read the story, and now the book is printed and available on Amazon.com or from me personally. All proceeds will go towards my next book and a new project called the Genesis! game that my husband and I are working on.

The-Artist_looking-around_stained-glass

How to Format and Publish a Children’s Picture Book for Kindle

Pay someone to do it, or follow these steps:

Note: I’m assuming you already have the print version of the book in InDesign, or at least PDF or JPEG. I’m also assuming you have basic web navigation/filling out blanks skills.

1) Download the Kindle Kid’s Book Creator from this page. That’s right, it’s not the normal Kindle book creator. I spent hours trying to make the normal Kindle book creator work, and it’s just not meant for children’s books. I’m a blonde, I should have figured they wouldn’t make it THAT hard. But they don’t make this fact very obvious at all. So there IS a special formatting program for both children’s books and textbooks as opposed to normal trade books.

2) Once you’ve installed the Kindle Kid’s Book Creator, followed the directions to importing your book, and created the text call-outs, you’ll be able to save for publishing. You’ll end up with a .mobi file. Note: I customized my pages, text sizes, and change layouts to make it better for Kindle. So if you have an interior designer, don’t shut them off once the print version is done! You might need them to help you with the Kindle version. I changed page size to more closely match the Kindle reader size. Also, since quite a bit of my book was in full, two-page spreads, I had to make it look good displaying as a single page (i.e. I put the text on one side and the artwork on the other, or split up the artwork between the two pages). This took a lot of time but was worth it, in the end, to see the beauty of the book in the finished form.

3) Head over to the Kindle Direct Publishing section of Amazon. Sign in or follow the steps to creating an account. I’ve been messing with this for years, so I really don’t remember if I had to add on much for my Kindle publisher’s account or if it’s just my normal Amazon account. Head to the dashboard, where you will see all the buttons and links for creating a new title. Follow the instructions.

4) 35% or 70% royalty? I spent a lot of time looking and comparing the differences between the two. Why would I ask for a lower royalty if I could have 70%?!?! Basically it comes down to rights, pricing, and availability. If you don’t have the full rights to the book (if you’ve already given rights to a publisher, you aren’t the original author, etc), or you can only sell it in certain countries, you might not be able to get 70% royalties. If the book is primarily public domain work(s), you can’t get 70% royalties.

You are limited to a $2.99 – $9.99 price range with 70% royalties, whereas you have a range of $0.99 – $200 for 35% royalties (although size also factors into this one). For the full specs on pricing and royalties, click here.

The other factor is delivery cost. With 70% royalties, you also get charged the delivery cost of the book ($0.15/MB). When calculating, remember that your final Kindle book will be even fewer MB than the .mobi file you’ve come up with. I chose 70% royalties, because I can, set the list price at $3.50, and will be getting $1.89 per sale, because it’s a very art-heavy book.

Note: Among other things, before you publish you might have to fill out tax and bank info for your earnings.

Hope my hours of figuring this out helps someone! Let me know if you have any questions!

Why Most Self Published Books Suck

Self published books suck. The majority of them are a waste of a good tree. Lately I’ve been editing books for a vanity publisher, and only one has been any good.

But I’m self publishing. Why? Because I am persuaded that it’s a good way to go for someone who is able to learn new things and has the resources and time to take on the massive marketing and learning it takes to do everything yourself.

So why are so many self-published books so bad?

Criticism. The biggest problem with self-publishing is the lack of critics that stand in someone’s way of getting published. In the traditional publishing industry, you have to be polished and have your game together, along with marketing ideas, to even get noticed by an editor. And then it goes through revision after revision before it ever gets in print.

This makes it hard to get noticed, but it also weeds out a lot of junk. It makes writers take a second and third look at their manuscript before sending it off. It forces potential authors to refine their craft and their word choices and structure. Yes, there are also books that get in just because of a marketing scheme or a well-written query. But I know from experience that when you know you can get rejected, you put a LOT of thought into whatever you send.

Criticism is tough to take. Each rejection letter is a blow to a shaky self-confidence. But that’s the only way you ever get good at anything. I’m not very qualified to write this, I’m just learning to take criticism. With my first books, instead of rewriting, I just wrote new books. But that’s okay. My first books sucked. Write five more, concentrating and learning what makes bestsellers good, and then read the first bits of what you wrote. You’ll be disgusted. Appropriately so.

So here’s my advice to all writers: find somebody who will tell you that you suck. Find someone who won’t spare your feelings and knows something about good writing. Then, be a good enough sport that they are willing to pick apart your writing with you. Learn to take criticism.

So, what do you think? What’s your process when you buy a book? What helps you make your decision when you’re browsing?

Book Marketing Ideas and Pushing Down Panic

We’re expecting the finished books to be delivered within a couple of weeks. As we started discussing the size of the shipment, panic began rising in my throat. What am I doing? I can’t sell that many books! It’s not good enough!!

For most authors and artists, marketing is the bane of their world. But as I’ve slowly gotten some ideas and feel like I have a grasp on what I’m supposed to do, the panicky feeling has subsided. It’s a decent book, especially for a first attempt. I’m always very critical of my own work, so I know it’s acceptable if I think it is. (And I’ve gotten confirmation of that from several more objective sources).

But the other day I started reading my proof pages aloud and was surprised NOT to feel the disgust of disapproval coming over my heart and mind. I’ve written and read these words a hundred times. I’ve refined them, if not to divine perfection, to a decent shine.

So I’m slowly coming up with unique ways people who are interested can find my book. And I’ve come up with a few.

  1. We’re currently working closely with several orphanages and children’s homes, which are so unique in how they run that they have gained a very wide worldwide audience. In connection with this organization, I may be able to do a campaign to donate a few dollars from every book sold to their emergency care fund. That would give back to them, while also opening up an audience of parents and Christians via their FaceBook page, people who would specifically be interested in The Artist!
  2. Guest blogging on parenting blogs. I’m hoping to do some guest blogs on some parenting blogs soon. If you have a favorite, let me know! I can’t claim to be an expert, but through one way or another, it’s easy for me to understand why kids are doing stuff and what they’re going through (especially since childhood wasn’t that long ago).
  3. Personal connections and contacts. I’ve found people really receptive when you take the time to contact them personally. The book I’m reading, The Well-Fed Self-Publisher (highly recommended, by the way) expounds on the importance of finding key influencers in your genre and asking them what they think. Their recommendation and network are much more effective than any mass advertising you can do (Malcom Gladwell also expounds on this idea in The Tipping Point (?) It was one of his books). That does, however, take for granted that you have a stimulating idea/platform and/or a good book (also a very effective promotional strategy, ha ha).

I’m still developing other ideas, obviously. We’re also planning on networking with as many churches as we can. But, the point is: marketing your own book is doable. Even in an ad-saturated society. Think about it. With all the books that are written, people still hunger for good ones. And sometimes good ones go unnoticed because readers never find them in the places they’re looking. So think of where you go to find a good book, figure out where your PARTICULAR audience will go to find YOUR book, and just have your book there. It’s harder than that, but the idea is simple.

But this is just my story, go make your own!

What is it About? The Artist and “Pitching” to random strangers

The Artist is a children’s picture book about a young clay figure who decides he doesn’t like how the Artist is forming him. It reminds us that God creates each of us uniquely and we can trust Him.

Then the Artist,

Turned and looked at the clay.

“Why do you cry?

I’ve formed you this way.”

One of the first things you’ll learn if you’re trying to publish a book is this: be ready to pitch at all times, in season and out of season, in sickness or in health. But it’s hard! Especially since I’m a shy girl with some sense of pride. This is hard for most authors, though. We’re artists, not businessmen.

But when I decided to self-publish, I made a disastrous, self-contradicting commitment to “pitch” my book to everyone I knew and strangers they knew, as well. Most of my “selling” (pre-selling the book to raise money for the printing) has been on a personal basis. FaceBook status updates don’t generate much interest. And it has stretched what I thought I could do.

ONGL0185Now, as we travel down this road, I’m preparing to go far out of my comfort zone. I know this is a good message. I know it may help. So I will keep going.

Pitching advice: read a lot of pitches, the first line off the back of every book, or the subtitle or sometimes the tag line on the front of the book. What catches your attention? What makes you want to read the book?

Also: What made you want to write this book? What pushes you?

ONGL0255Also: PRACTICE. Pitch it to your husband, your uncle, your college roommates. Ask if they would read the book after hearing your few words. A pitch is one, sometimes two sentences that intrigue a potential book-buyer into looking at your full pitch summary on the back of the book. It’s also what you’re going to be repeating a lot when people ask “What is it about?” It’s the single bit of writing that will sell the most books. I know a lady who had a really good pitch and sold thousands, despite the book being a mumble of typos and rough writing. It’s important. Figure it out. Spend time on it.

The Story Behind The Artist

So everyone kind of asks when they hear about my soon-to-be-born book, The Artist. And, in some stumbling, run-on sentences, I answer. But what really inspires a book? Why would anyone give years of their life to a project that no one may ever see?

I’ve written this like 10 times, because in the process of making The Artist, so many stories have come to be connected with it. But I only have to read the dedication to remember why I really first wrote it.

“To Matthew, who was made for a purpose. You’re very different from everyone. Your God made you that way for a reason. Remember your highest calling.”

Matthew was, and is, one of my best friends. At that point, I didn’t know if he would ever be anything more. I was trying to figure out if someone could be a dedicated Christian and have a career in something besides ministry. Matthew was a genius in tech and math and programming. Literally. MIT accepted him on the basis of an algorithm he invented. He had a freelance career in programming and web before he graduated high school.

Why did God make him that way? Shouldn’t he be, like, a brilliant speaker if he was supposed to be a dedicated Christian? But he wasn’t. Should he abandon his talents and pursue more “holy” tasks?

This question went along with my own. If I love God, shouldn’t I be a traditional missionary or nun or something? But I LOVE design and art and writing, and generally, if you love something, you can get pretty good at it. (I’m not saying I am, but I have the potential, ha ha).

So that added up in one bigger question.

Why does God make people with different passions and talents? Shouldn’t we all be traditional evangelists or preachers?

Does God not control how we’re made? Or does He give these things to us to tempt us away from our “true calling?”

Then, one day I remembered the analogies God makes about His people. He compares us to a body, with different parts and different functions. He also compares us to clay pots. He’s the Potter, he creates each of the pots for different uses. But that doesn’t mean one is better than the other, or that one loves the Potter more than the other. Their love is measured by their willingness to let the Potter form them as He wishes.

A lot of this has to do with a trunkful of trust. In order to let God make you into who He wants, you have to love Him, let Him work on you (even when it hurts), and give Him your fears and desires. This is HARD. But it also brings peace.

So, in conclusion. God makes people for certain purposes. The overarching reason is to be in relationship with God. I can’t begin to express the importance of this. In your relationship with God, important things become important, and trivial things become trivial. It’s a struggle sometimes, don’t get me wrong. We’re still sitting on a muddy messy earth. But you have somewhere to turn, you have a goal besides yourself, besides this earth. You treat others the way they should be treated.

But when you are in relationship with God, you still have a specific part to play. For some, that may be preaching, or loving and teaching children, or being the brain behind revolutionary new ways to spread the Gospel, or making the building a clean place to be. Or making it possible for evangelists to evangelize. Or worshiping God and helping lead others to do the same. There are SO many different jobs for people who love God.

And this whole concept is what I’m trying to show in The Artist. In simple story form, I hope I can pass this idea on to someone who was struggling like I was. I hope it encourages them to trust and turn to God. If it does it for even one person, it was all worth it.