Tag Archives: children’s book

Author Interview: Wendy Gilhula

Last week, I wrote about Gilhula’s debut children’s picture book, Pika Bunny and the Thunderstorm. This week, you’ll hear directly from the author!

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First, she wanted to share her journey to creating this story and the other adventures of Pika Bunny. She writes:

While tutoring math in my home in Knoxville, TN, one of my students looked around at my small downstairs and innocently asked, “So, what do you do all day before tutoring?”

I just looked at him and smiled. What I wanted to say was, “Oh, I write children’s books that no one is ever going to read.”

But I kept thinking about his question. More importantly, I kept thinking about my answer! I decided to be brave and find a professional to help me in areas where I did not feel confident. That was the best move I could have made.

So, writers, be brave! Follow your dreams. Keep working, and reach out for help when you need it.

Now, here are the rest of Gilhula’s thoughts.

How would your advice for new writers differ from advice you would offer writers who have been in the game for a while?

The advice I would give to a new writer would be some of the same advice that I gave to myself.

  1. Just write. If you have a story to tell, tell it.
  2. Show your work to someone. Notice that I didn’t say, “Share your work.” Share sounds too intimidating. But don’t hide your work in a drawer for twenty-five years like I did, either!
  3. Pay a professional to look at your work on an artistic level, for consistency, and for editing and grammar in general.
  4. Join SCBWI or start networking in your area to meet people and share experiences.
  5. You are never too old to start. (I’m 52.)

When you take a break from writing, is it a full and total break or is your mind constantly parsing the world for fodder? What does that parsing look like? How does it make you feel as an artist? As a human being?

After college, I was a modern dance choreographer and instructor for almost twenty years. My creative brain has always worked while I am sleeping. The minute I awoke, I already had concepts and some of the choreography. Even today, as I have been a math tutor for almost fifteen years now, I will wake up with an answer to a problem that I didn’t have time to finish the night before.

In the morning, I will have my coffee and work on the latest ideas that I have for a book or my current project. After that, it is a total break for the day as I give try to give my students my full attention.

As an artist, I’ve always been told that I don’t think like everyone else. When I was younger, I didn’t like that comment, because I wanted to be like everyone else. Now that I am older, I embrace the difference.

As a human being, one moment I can I feel like I’m freely walking and weaving a path between art and humanity, and the next I feel like I’m tripping on air.

From your perspective as an author, what do you feel is the biggest challenge to the publishing industry today? Is there a way to solve that challenge?

Since I’m just newly published, I do not have a full understanding of the industry. But I can say that money and promotion are probably the biggest challenges.

What books are you currently reading?

Currently, I am reading books by my cousin, Scott Christopher Beebe, who does not believe in editing whatsoever. His writing is exposed and raw. Some of his thoughts progress halfway down the page before you see any punctuation.

These books are not my usual choices, and not my usual choice of words (and types of adult themes). But there is something transparent and crude about how he thinks that is intriguing and sometimes haunting.

Most days I like to read books on topics that I would not typically write about, like mystery.

Which authors do you think are underappreciated in the current market, and why? Which new writers do you find most interesting, and why?

I gravitate to new writers of children’s picture books that aren’t getting the big publishing house launches. Those writers who must create everything to launch their own work into the world intrigue me because of their sheer passion.

Finding the discipline to keep writing can be tough. Which “get writing” techniques are most effective for you?

Since I wake up with the actual drive, my tactics are more of getting the ideas to stop and slow down. Then I can evaluate and experiment. Not every idea is a good one on its own, but it may be the start of something that I want to pursue and explore.

Can you give us a sneak peek into your current project?

The next step in the Pika Bunny Learning Series is to illustrate the second book. Adrianna Allegretti is working on the illustrations now for Pika Bunny Has a Big Question. This one is due to drop in spring of 2018. It will be published by Apollo Publications.

A really different project is also underway. The illustrations for that are by Alexandria Walker. Mother’s Best is a rhyming picture book that is not part of the Pika Bunny series.

Anything else you think people should know about you, the book, or your process?

If there is a magic formula for writing, it would have to consist of investing the time and effort to write, being willing to display your soul (just a little at a time), trusting others to help you, and believing in yourself.

 

 

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What Children’s Books Can Teach Adult Fiction Authors

The AWP held their annual conference earlier this month. Among their other great offerings was a panel focused on children’s publishing.
One author stated that characters are paramount in children’s and YA stories. The plot comes from the characters. Who each person is in the story creates the story. Each is presented with challenges or obstacles they must overcome. From that comes the different plot points and thus the entire story.
Another point was that there are no pointless characters. If one shows up but never plays an important role, that character should be struck.
A different author noted that “rumination” is part of the story. That is, the characters have to have backstories, histories that detail where they come from and why they’re motivated to act certain ways.
Finally, in response to a question about how to write for the market, one author said to write what inspires you. From there, you can determine how best to pitch and place the work in the existing market.
All of these points apply equally to adult fiction. Characters do create the plot and impact the story. They should have backstories. No character should ever be pointless, and the author should always write what interests them rather than what they think will sell.
The only difference is that in children’s and YA publishing, the author utilizes different language, changes sentence layouts, uses less complex storytelling structures, and of course mostly will write shorter manuscripts.
Everything else is just quality fiction.

Numbers that Matter from Nielson’s Children’s Book Summit

Nielson’s 2014 summit offered statistics gathered for the previous 4 years in children’s/YA publishing. In addition to posting growth all those years, the categories that performed the best were YA and middle-grade books (also called chapter books).
2014 was reported to be the “best year ever” for the C/YA category. Last year, 17 of the 20 top-performing books were C/YA. A full 35% of the market for physical books is in this category for US sales.

2014 Book Publishing Up Thanks to YA

2014 was a strong year for publishing. The industry is up 4.9%, and for the first time in a while, print books are regaining their position over ebooks.
Trade sales are up 2.8% due mostly to a 22.4% increase in the children’s/YA category. I’ve been posting about the gangbuster sales YA and other juvenile titles have been seeing in recent years, rarely moreso than in 2014, so this comes as no surprise. But its impact has lifted the industry as a whole because adult fiction and nonfiction are down 3.8%. So not only did J/YA rise on its own, it also made up for real declines in other areas.
Currently 47 titles I’ve helped write, edit and pitch to publishers and agents are under contract. A significant portion are in the C/YA category. If you need help with your project, send me an email or call today.

2014 Book Sale Numbers; Children’s/YA Keeps Growing

These numbers just in from the Association of American Publishers:

In the first five months of 2014, total net book sales rose 3.9% over the previous year to $2.652 billion.

The children’s/YA categories continues to soar with sales up 30.5%, to $695.9 million.

Adult fiction and nonfiction fell 3.6%, to $1.726 billion.

Sales of religious presses slipped 0.1%, to $230.2 million.

Total trade e-book sales rose 7% to $669.7 million.

Trade paperbacks were up 6.3%, to $793.4 million.

Trade hardcover sales were down 0.2%, to $867.1 million.

Amazon’s KDP Kids

If you’ve ever considered self-publishing a children’s picture book or a chapter book (which also has a number of illustrations), you know the cost can be out of most people’s reach. Amazon has developed a program that helps you create and market a children’s book without having to spend a huge amount of money.

KDP Kids is the new children’s-focused illustrated and chapter book category in the Kindle Store. Amazon is also offering the Kindle Kids’ Book Creator for the creation and production of kids’ digital titles in a Kindle format. Authors can prepare their prose or illustrated books, upload them to KDP Kids and use a variety of filters for age, grade and reading levels to place the title and attract the specific customer leveled for their titles.

KDP Kids authors will also have access to marketing tools such as Countdown Deals and Free Book promotions. They are also eligible to enroll in Kindle Unlimited, Amazon’s e-book subscription service, and the Kindle Lending Library.

Advances for Children’s Book and Juvenile Authors #getpublished #pubtip

So often, I am asked what kind of an advance an author might expect.

Really, this is a question for which even your literary agent won’t dare to hazard a guess. The reason is because advances can vary so wildly depending on a host of factors outside their control…and even the control of the acquisitions editor.

However, there are some ranges that can be taken as averages. And the averages are different depending on the type of manuscript you’re offering.

So today, I’ll tell you some averages for children’s and juvenile authors. Over the next several days, we’ll look at other types of books from YA through adult fiction and adult nonfiction. The rates given here are for first books from authors who have not yet published with a traditional house.

A children’s picture book, which in final print form has 32 pages with an illustration on every page/for every two-page spread, will garner an advance of $8,000-$12,000. The author splits this with the illustrator, and the illustrator usually receives a larger portion of that advance. Royalty rates are also split, so the author will receive a 3.5%-6% royalty rate.

Easy readers, which are about the same length as the longest (atypical) picture book, generate an average advance of $5,000 to $8,000. Since neither the advance nor the royalty rate of 7-10% are split with the illustrator, they go fully to the author’s share.

Middle grade books, also called chapter books, will range higher on average. Any real range can’t be nailed down in part because the middle grade books parse down into so many categories, grade levels, and whether they are intended for academic or mainstream audiences. Generally, however, a range for the advance might fall between $6,000 and $20,000 depending on whether the author has other publication credits for different age groups, whether the work is a series, and other factors.

Young adult will be considered in the next blog post.