Promoting Your Children’s Book

There are many ways to promote a book, but some are a little more spectacular than others.

Pictured here is my debut picture book, “Where Do Butterflies Go at Night?” The artwork by illustrator Stella Maris-Mongodi is so rich, and truly magical.

I wanted to capitalize on that and get the book’s image, plus information about it, into the hands of those who would want to sell it – butterfly gardens and conservatories. And what better way than to send it to them?

I created a postcard for a mailing – a perfect 5 x 7″ size that won’t get lost in the incoming mail; have done some research; and have a list of these organizations to send to. The plus with this book is that it also has back matter addressing the importance of butterflies as pollinators. Something a butterfly conservatory may want to share with its patrons by way of education.

Digital promotion is very important, of course, but it’s much easier to ignore and delete an email than it is to toss away a gorgeous piece of art in your hands. A piece of art that may also bring an organization more money.

If I can help you promote your book, please let me know.

Workshop

Can I do a workshop for you?

As a published author and illustrator, graphic designer, and experienced public speaker, I am available to do a presentation on Self-Publishing 101 for Children’s Books.

I would be more than happy to educate your group on all that is entailed in self-publishing a children’s book. Workshop contents include critical points such as:
* Idea/concept
* Story
* Importance of a dummy
* Design
* Illustration
* Traditional Publishing vs. Self-Publishing

Interested? For complete details please contact me and inquire. I’d love to hear from you!

Please note that workshops need to be in reasonable travel distance from my home. Thank you!

Self-Publishing VIII – New Challenges

A recent self-publishing project has been my second with author, MJ Zonfrillo. The Boy Who Found His Talent is a picture book story of a boy who’s bored, but doesn’t know what he wants to do, and his journey to finding what that is. It’s always great working with someone I’ve worked with before; it makes the whole process easier and more fun.

Let’s look at some of the successes and challenges in creating this book. MJ does a great job of doing a dummy, but … it was put together for me after the illustrations were done and that created some missed opportunities.

The illustrator, who is very talented, never did a picture book before. Sandy’s forte is animals, so a complete book with humans presented some challenges, but MJ had taken care of all that before the art was presented to me. One of the things I would have liked to see done differently would have been a much more extensive use of 2-page spreads. In this book, there are only two.

The result was that there are too many pages with an illustration on one side and the opposite side has only a few lines of text, (see above.) This misses the opportunity to use full color throughout, but also gives the child reader far less to look at.

Another issue was not apparent until I received the art and that was that the artwork itself was not painted out far enough to provide for the full bleed for the page size. In some cases, the illustrations could be slightly enlarged, but in others, it meant my having to paint in areas to provide the needed bleed. Also, the scans, which had been made by a print shop, had a somewhat greenish cast to them, and much color-correcting had to be done.

The last challenge was that the illustrator had not been asked to do a separate image just for the cover, so MJ and I were left to figure out which interior images might be used for this purpose. As it turned out, this was pretty do-able and we were able to use one for the front cover, and a different one for the back cover.

All in all, it still went quite smoothly, and having a client who’s great to work with makes it all so much easier (and fun!) The Boy Who Found His Talent looks great with attractive front and back covers, and plenty of interest on the inside portraying a solid story, which also includes photos of the main character in his various theatrical endeavors.

What could have been done differently? As mentioned in earlier posts, there is a great advantage to working with the designer early on, and before giving the assignment to the illustrator. This could have provided many more 2-page spreads and a better use of the 4/color availability for picture books. This way the illustrator understands exactly what’s expected of him/her, especially if they’ve never done a picture book.

My second recommendation is to utilize an illustrator who has experience in picture books and understands all that is required to give me properly sized, finished art so I can just pop it in on the page. I spend more time than should be needed in correcting things, which adds to the final cost, and which would have been avoided if an illustrator experienced in picture books was hired.

So that’s it. Another great collaboration and another beautiful book finished!! Ready to start your self-published book? (Or other graphic design project?) Reach out; I’m happy to help!

Self-Publishing VII – More on Illustration

Let’s take a moment to talk about the importance of illustration – good illustration – when self-publishing your book.

Here is an example of spectacular illustration, and I can proudly say that this – Where Do Butterflies Go at Night? – is my own debut picture book, and yes, it is traditionally published. But …

… this illustrator provides amazing art to both publishers and individuals alike. In fact, she, Stella Mongodi, has illustrated more picture books for self-publishing individuals than anything else.

One of the things I often see in self-published picture books is less-than-spectacular art. Why is that? Many first-time authors are excited about being published and appearing on Amazon, but when it comes to the art, they want to save money. I have come across this numerous times. The result? Not the best looking book!

The question is, do you want to sell your book? If you do, you will need to be prepared to pay a good illustrator and a good designer. You are competing with many, many other titles whose artwork is both eye-catching and professional. And those are the books that sell!

Next, you ideally want an illustrator who has some experience in picture books, or who can render illustrations to the size you require. If you’re doing an 8 x 8″ book, they should understand how a 2-page spread will lay out, how the art will fit in that format, and know what a bleed and a gutter is. As a children’s book designer, I spend a lot of time, which must be charged to the client, fixing and adjusting artwork that could have been done correctly initially. A good illustrator is so important, and It also helps greatly when you work with a good designer from the beginning.

The takeaway here? Do things in the proper order if you’re new to all this – a designer first to help with a dummy, book size, etc., and illustrator next. When the artwork is done, the designer will pull it all together for you. And be willing to invest what it takes to make your book shine and stand out in a crowd!!

Pictured here are the bookmarks I designed for my book. If interested, Butterflies is currently available for pre-order on bookshop.org, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble.

Is This Your Year to Be Published?

It’s a New Year, and it’s time to think about where you’re headed. So many people have a dream of being published, of actually having a book in their hands that has their name on the cover as the author, and maybe the illustrator, as well. You may have that dream, too, but perhaps feel compelled to keep it a little quiet. After all, isn’t that a bit of a luxury to go and have yourself published? Maybe not.

Do you have something important, something relevant, or just plain fun, you’d like to share with children? Some part of your life experience that might make a difference to someone? Something you know or feel or dream about that could bring knowledge, a smile, or enlightenment to another. I believe we all have something to bring the world, and perhaps a book is the avenue for you to express it.

If you think you would like to be a self-published author, I’d be happy to help you achieve that dream. Above are just a few of the books I’ve had the privilege of bringing to life; each one has a post about it here on this site where you can read more. You can also find out more of what self-publishing is about on any of the tabs up top.

Is 2022 going to be your year to be published? Let me know!

Make A Bookmark Fun

Bookmarks are hardly my biggest projects … but they are often the most fun. Why? Because they’re little pieces of art that serve a great purpose … helping someone keep their place in their book and promoting you!

And when you are creating them for a really colorful and entertaining book, there’s no way the result can’t be engaging, too. Pictured here is the bookmark I just created for Laurie Wallmark‘s new picture book, Dino Pajama Party. Having access to all the images in the book allowed me to cut and silhouette a variety of dinosaurs and include Laurie’s favorites, too.

A bright and friendlybookmark helps make reading even more fun for little ones, too. How can I help you? Let me know!

What Grabs Your Attention?

When you’re looking at a few publications, what draws you in? It may be the subject matter, but given the subject matter is the same, where do you look? I’ll tell you – you look at something that is well-designed. You are likely not even aware of it, but that’s what grabs your attention.

Here’s an example. This is ZoonooZ, the official newsletter of Popcorn Park Animal Refuge. I’ve been its editor and designer for many years, and while I’ve always been evolving its appearance over time, recently I’ve been been able to make some exciting updates. What’s the difference?

Expanded use of color combined with use of the bleed makes for a much more attractive look. There was a time when using a bleed (extending color or graphics right out to the very edge of the page), upped the printing costs considerably, but with most printers nowadays the cost is the same or the difference, nominal. Result? More design freedom and a look that draws you in.

Here’s what the newsletter looked like 10 years ago. Working with a non-profit can mean keeping a close eye on expenses. Even 10 years ago, 4/color printing cost sufficiently more than 2/color that we stayed within an economical look in black and brown. With the wider availability of digital printing, prices for the two became comparable, and we brought the ZoonooZ into full color.

Here’s page 2 of the same two issues. While I was already moving forward with more inviting use of color and design in the winter issue (left), by the time we got to summer? I was having way more fun. And which overall look are you most drawn to? I suspect it’s the issue on right.

I say fun, because design work should be fun. That’s my thought, anyway. And knowing that good design can draw people in, means they’ll look longer and get more involved with the subject matter, in this case a wildlife refuge. And what do we always hope? For a non-profit, we hope that this will translate into donation dollars for the charity. In the case of a business? More sales.

If I can help you/your organization bring you more attention with some wonderful design, feel free to let me know!

Change Is Good – Especially in Design

Everything in life is always in a state of change; that’s just a given. But it can be a definite good thing when we’re bringing something new and attractive to the table.

Redesign is often a challenge, but when you’ve already been contemplating doing something new, it’s one of the best. Featured here are two covers of the official publication of the humane organization I work with. The cover with multiple images at left is from October 2020 and followed the format we’ve been using for quite some time, featuring multiple animals and their rescue stories. Even though we’d been doing that for a while, I’m still actually pretty happy with it, but it was time for something new.

I did a few mock-ups for a new design, and the cover below was declared a winner. I agree. Although it features only one animal, the photo is fantastic. There are some outstanding photographers on staff, and it’s not too big a chance to take to assume there will be plenty more great shots to choose from going forward.

I took the short index under the small cat photo in the “Inside” box, and went to a broader listing of the contents in a contrasting type color. There’s a subtle sheer black box behind the white text to help it stand out. And I went full bleed.

The result? Something that really stands out. It has been very well-received with plenty of compliments on the change. In addition, I have continued the redesign in the interior for even more appeal.

Take a quick look here, and you’ll see the evolution of this cover, starting back in 2007. However, I began working with them sometime earlier when that same cover was only two colors – primarily black and white with spot color in one signature.

Improving the look of an organization’s or individual’s communications works, and attracts more donors or customers. Change is good!

How can I help you? Please reach out!

Self-Publishing VI – Illustration Layout Challenges

Every story being self-published has a story of its own for the designer. What made it fun and appealing? What presented challenges? How were they resolved and could they have been avoided?

Doctor Whisper and Nurse Willow is an 8×10″ picture book by Susen Edwards, illustrated by Lindsey  Johnson, and had two interesting challenges – one that is not so unusual for a first-time author and a first-time illustrator, and a second which, surprisingly, was due to the 2020 Coronavirus pandemic.

Susen, the author, was a delight to work with, and she had found a young illustrator with a charming and simple style, though no experience in picture book layout. The story is about two cats, who, in the face of their little boy being ill, transform themselves into Doctor Whisper and Nurse Willow to provide the special care that our animal companions so often provide.

What I sometimes find with first-time picture book illustrators is that they are not aware that their 2-page spread drawings have to accommodate the gutter in the center of the book. Once the book is bound, a portion of the illustration is lost in that fold, so the artist has to plan the elements of the illustration carefully. In this case, a couple of Lindsey’s illustrations had  cats placed across the middle of the drawing .

This is where a designer able to work in Photoshop is a great asset. In two cases, I literally moved one of the cats to another location on the left or right page, where no one would ever know they’d been “cut and pasted” with a new background “painted” in  where they had been. 

The two halves of the original illustration with Dr. Whisper across the middle, baseboards not lining up, and gray at the edges of the drawing from the scanner. Moving the images closer left the illustration not wide enough, and Whisper still in the middle. (White area is for text.)

After some work in Photoshop, we now have Whisper on the bed close to Bobby, the center section cleaned up and the baseboards aligning properly. Now neither cat’s image will be lost in the gutter.

The other challenge, which no one could have anticipated, is that when Lindsey took her illustrations to the local copy shop to be scanned, the shop was closed because of COVID. Her only recourse was to scan them on her own smaller scanner bed in two parts. This presented a problem because when lined up as 2-page spreads in Photoshop, they occasionally were a little “grayed-out” at the edges and didn’t always match up. This, unfortunately, left Susen with some unanticipated extra design time while I had to enlarge a little here, reduce a little there, and do a little extra Photoshop work to make the illustrations “whole” again.

Another example of the finished spread where each cat is now on its own page. The original drawing had Nurse Willow across the gutter with her head right next to Dr. Whisper’s. In Photoshop, I moved the entire cat to the left page, and re-created the center portion. 

The result, however, is a very lovely picture book, and the Photoshop work was actually an enjoyable challenge. I had fun with the cover in choosing a light, Victorian-style wallpaper which complimented the drawing style plus a frame for our two main characters. What could have been done differently?

As for the scanning? Nothing. This was just an unfortunate turn of events that no one could have predicted. The image of the cats getting lost in the gutter? That could be remedied by working with a designer who is familiar with children’s books (such as myself!) where a dummy could be put together before illustrating began, thus assuring proper placement of all pictorial elements. The key here is a dummy (and the subject for another post.)

Doctor Whisper and Nurse Willow is suitable for young children, ages 3-6, and can be found on Amazon.

If looking for a skillful job in bringing your picture book to life, feel free to inquire.

 

A Functional Business Card (aka Bookmark)

People are still reading. A lot. The New York Times still has a best-seller list; sales on Amazon are doing great; children’s books have increased in sales; and NPR has TV programs about their favorite books each year. What does that mean to you? That promoting your endeavors with a bookmark is still a great idea. Think of it as a functional business card.

It goes without saying that authors, whether traditionally or self-published, can use this valuable promotional tool and keep themselves in the public’s eye. Laurie Wallmark, author of numerous picture books whose focus is women in STEM, has had the great fortune to have her stories illustrated by some excellent artists. Her most recently published book is Numbers in Motion about the mathematician Sophie Kowalevski, illustrated by Yevgenia Nayberg. I am the lucky person who designs Laurie’s bookmarks, and this one was a real treat because I am just enamored of the art.

I chose vignettes from two of Yevgenia’s  illustrations plus Laurie’s web presence for one side, and all of her published books to date, including the book cover slightly larger, on the reverse. The result is a visually pleasing collection of beautiful illustrations, an invitation to learn about this book, and the others as well. You can do the same at Laurie’s website.

But what if you’re not an author? Is there something you do that you want to promote?

An example here is my own shop on Etsy which focuses on a growing collection of cards and other items for the French Bulldog. Any books? Not a one. But does every sold item I send out have a promotional bookmark tucked in? You bet!

And I’m hoping that buyers from my Etsy Frenchie art shop may use and enjoy that bookmark and come back and visit, even if just to check and see what’s new in cute Frenchie stuff.

One of the beauty of bookmarks? They are not terribly expensive and can be produced by any number of reputable online printers.

Another wonderful use for a bookmark is for your organization. In this regard, I’m thinking particularly of non-profits, but if the design is appealing and provides the recipient with the information and inspiration to check out a company’s website and/or social media, then it’s worth it!

Pictured here is a bookmark I designed for the Associated Humane Societies and Popcorn Park Refuge here In NJ. It was part of a larger fundraising appeal I created and I do believe that this lovely bookmark had something to do with the results being much better than the year prior. Who can resist a (shelter) dog putting his paw in your hand? Or one of the refuge tigers napping on a sunny rock?

Here’s the bottom line. Although we live in a very digital world, people are still reading. There are also some programs available for the “lay person” to create their own promotional materials. I have seen some excellent examples from some talented people, and some that are truly cringeworthy. The thing is … you want to be remembered positively. If beautifully done graphic design is not your area of expertise, don’t put out something half-baked.

Get great results with a pro … and here I am! Just contact me – I’m happy to help!