Thinking Thursday – Book Reviews (#PBReview)

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Thinking Thursday – Book Reviews

Book Reviews…. How do authors, illustrators, agents, and editors love you? Let us count the ways.

Yes, WE BOOK REVIEWS! <– Yes, I just shouted that.  😀   Because we do!!!

It’s like a High-5!left_hand.svg.med

stickman-hugging-md
Or a warm, fuzzy hug!

clapping-hands-mdOr a stand “O”!

Now seriously, tell me WHO doesn’t like that???!!!???

As you know, The Children at the Playground has been released into the wild. I’m excited, because a few reviews have begun to come in. Click on the links and see what people are saying about my book:

Reviews help get books noticed. Here is a graphic I found to show you about how book reviews can influence Amazon:

amazonreviews

:::LEAVE ME A COMMENT:::

Have you read any good books?
Do you post reviews on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million, on a blog?
Do you post your reviews on other social media like Twitter and Facebook?
Do you let the author, illustrator, or publisher know about your review?

Until next time…

Happy Writing!
~t

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Shaping Up The Year book       RibbertsWayHome8x300[1]       LGHL-small       justthethingtobe8x300       ADT-8x150       Arachnabet       The Children At the Playground

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Monday Marketing & A CTA #TCATPG

Marketing and a CTA – #TCATPG

Marketing can be a challenge.

You have ups and downs Some things work. Others don’t. Marketing can be done in so many ways. I thought I would try something that a writer/illustrator colleauge of mine, Debbie Ohi, is doing…

It has to do with book trailers. Book trailers are a great way to get people interested in your book. They are used like movie trailers. They give the potential consumer a glimpse of the work to hopefully get them interested in buying the product.

There are plenty of companies out there who offer this service. OR if you are handy with some software and are creative, you can make your own. As some of you may know, I  have done 5 of my 6 book trailers. I happen to have a book coming out in May, and have been trying to come up with a different approach to a book trailer. I wanted to do something different. Something to get people more involved. Debbie gave me a great idea and that’s where you come in…

swing_set.svg.medTHE CHILDREN AT THE PLAYGROUND  (Xist Publishing) will be released into the wild in two months.
AND I need YOUR help!

CTA – #TCATPG

Here’s where you come in:

  1. Take a picture or a short 5-7 second video of your children having fun at the playground.
  2. Add the hashtag #TCATPG to your pictures
  3. Send it to tcatpg@traceymcox.com
  4. Use #TCATPG in your subject line.
  5. Give me permission to use your child’s picture in my book trailer.
  6. If it is okay for me to list your families name, please state so.
  7. I will send you a confirmation email as soon as I make sure it came in clear.

I plan on using the photos and videos I receive to make a book trailer for The Children At The Playground. I think it would be great to show what everyone likes to do. The video will be around 1 minute long. Depending on the participation, I may not be able to use everyone’s photo or video.

Thanks everyone. I hope to have a great turn out.

:::LEAVE ME A COMMENT:::
What do you think about this marketing angle?
What do you think about Book Trailers?
Do you make your own or use a company?

Until next time…

Happy Writing!
~t

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Shaping Up The Year book       RibbertsWayHome8x300[1]       LGHL-small       justthethingtobe8x300       ADT-8x150       Arachnabet

Marketing Your School Visits… WHO to contact

contact

Marketing Your School Visits… WHO to Contact

Today I’m continuing my block of posts on…

SCHOOL TIME + AUTHOR VISITS = LEARNING STUDENTS

So you  are a published author. You have several presentations ready.You want to get the word out that you are available for visits. Now you have the daunting task of trying to determine who to contact.

Here are some things I learned by trial and error:

START LOCAL / BUILD A COMMUNITY

Most of the people in your local community will probably already know you are a writer… especially your local librarian.  🙂
Contact the public libraries in your area and see if you can come in for story hour. Or maybe the would be interested in starting a story hour and you would love to help kick it off.

Contact your local schools. I call the front desk and speak with the receptionist. I tell them several things:

  1. Who I was.
  2. What I did.
  3. Where I lived.
  4. What I wanted to achieve.

Hi! I’m Tracey M. Cox, a children’s author. I live here in Georgia. I would like to send your contact person some information about my presentations I offer for school visits. Can you help me with that information?

By using those keywords of “author”, “school visit” “contact person”, I usually don’t have a very hard time finding out who I should contact.

CHARGING A FEE

Ahh, The sticky question of money. I will confess this. The first year I did not charge a fee. I went around locally and didn’t ask for mileage reimbursement either. I DID require them to allow me to sell my books. I wanted to get my ‘sailor legs’ under me. They were my guinea pigs *heehee* and I learned more than they could ever pay me for.

Now? Now I charge a fee, I charge for mileage (outside a 30 mile radius), and I require them to allow me to sell my books. Sometimes I can get them to pre-sell my books too, which is wonderful! Because I hate to run out of a particular book.

I think you should base your fees on three major things:

  1. WHERE are you located?
    Think honestly about this. I live in a rural community, 1 1/2 hours from a big city, 2+ hours from any major city. They will not have the funds a major city will have. They will not have the resources (unless they have an amazing volunteer-parent program) to do research on funding, grants, donation out reach. Because of these factors, I do not charge as much as someone in Atlanta or New York City.
  2. WHAT can you offer?
    How much knowledge do you have?  Experience is key. The more you know, the more you can offer.
    What all do you have to offer? Presentations are key here. Are you going to read a story? The writing process? Ideas session? How to become submission ready? Writing workshop? Specialty program? All this can lead to different types of presentations.
  3. AWARD-WINNING
    Well-known awards speak volumes. Lesser known awards may or may not help with the rate you charge. So take into account of this.
SPREADING YOUR WINGS

Once you’ve gotten some great contacts locally, spread out. I radiated out of my local area and eventually put together a list of contact people in my whole state. After a few phone calls, you will begin to notice a pattern of who your contact person will be. I switch over from phone calls to websites. Most school’s websites list an email for you to contact.

I have found that your contact people can change from state to state…

  • Principal / Head Master
  • Media Specialist
  • PTO/PTA
  • Superintendent / Chief School Administrator

These are the main titles I have found for the contact people.

INFORMATION OVERLOAD!

To keep all my information straight, I store everything on a spreadsheet. This helps keep everything in one spot. I include the school’s name, address, and phone number, and the contact person’s name and email. This way when I do a follow up OR begin again in the next school year, all my work has been done. All I will need to do is update any information as needed.

This is my School Visit Information spreadsheet. Feel free to use or modify to suit your needs.

GET YOUR NAME OUT THERE…

Now that you have a contact person, start sending out your introductory email. Keep it brief, but informative. Get them hooked into wanting to book you. Kind of like all those queries we’ve been writing.  😉

Don’t forget to do a follow-up email 2-4 weeks later. This is a great ‘reminder’ that you had contacted them already and know they have busy schedules.

Contact them at least twice a year (this doesn’t include follow-up emails) I will do one at the beginning of the school year and then another one after winter break. You want to remind them about you and your presentations, but not seem too pushy.

I hope this helps break the ice on you getting your name out there. It’s another scary place us writers/illustrators put ourselves in. First with our stories and editors/agents. Now with our books and schools. Good luck!

:::LEAVE ME A COMMENT:::
Let me know what you think about this post.
Do you have other tricks on finding out who your contact person is?
Have a suggestion on something you would like to see covered?
Let me know!

Until next time…

Happy Writing!
~t

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#summersparks DAY 14: Hope In Your Heart by Carol Gordon Ekster

Summer Sparks

Hope in your heart
by Carol Gordon Ekster

 

 

Hang in there and have hope in your heart. If you are a writer who has submitted work this could be the day. Okay, maybe not today. It’s a holiday. But maybe tomorrow. There could be a letter in the mail asking you for a rewrite. There could be an e-mail telling you they want to acquire your manuscript. It only takes one such communication to change everything and bring the hope of having your work published. That keeps me going, along with the love of the craft. That must be there. Focus on writing your best story, fine-tuning your words to sing. If you don’t worry about publication, you’ll put your energies where they belong – on the writing.

It’s happened to me a few times– the e-mails and even the letter. “We’re interested. How about rewriting it like this….I’ll take another look if you wish to revise. We want to acquire this manuscript, etc.” And the excitement spills out as happy tears. But it’s the hope of what that will look like…children holding my book in their hands and being touched by my words… that keeps my coming back for more. We must hang in there because this writing process is arduous, at times torturous. And there are so many ups and downs…from the time you hear that good news, until you get the contract, until you see those first sketches and even after your work gets published. Then you’ll deal with issues about marketing, sales, and reviews.

So hope will keep you going for those months, if not years, from this first communication until that manuscript is a bound book. Hope and trust in the process is my mantra and I’m sticking to it, as I wait to see the art work for my third picture book coming out January 1, 2015, as I wait to hear from editors about the many manuscripts I have out in snail mail and e-mail, and as I wait while another book has begun the acquisition process. And with this post complete, I’m off with hope in my heart and trust in the process to work on a revision.

 

Carol Gordon Ekster

Carol's professional photo for books

 

Carol Gordon Ekster was a passionate elementary school teacher for 35 years. Her first published book was, Where Am I Sleeping Tonight?-A Story of Divorce, Boulden Publishing, 2008. It was an About.com Readers’ Choice 2012 finalist for Best Children’s Book for Single Parents. “The Library Is The Perfect Place”, was in Library Sparks magazine, 2010.  A picture book, Ruth The Sleuth and The Messy Room, was on Character Publishing’s debut list, 2011 and was awarded the Children’s Literary Classics Seal of Approval.  Her newest picture book, Before I Sleep: I Say Thank You, will be out January 1, 2015 with Pauline Books & Media. Retired from teaching, Carol now spends time in critique groups, doing exercise and yoga, and working on her books. She’s grateful that her writing allows her to continue communicating with children.
 

Carol is the author of:

cover-Ruth The SleuthRuth the Sleuth
&
wais bk coverWhere Am I Sleeping Tonight

 

FIND CAROL GORDON EKSTER

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WRITING PROMPT

Oh, but first I must give you a “spark” to ignite your creative juices. And because it is July 4th, Independence Day, it is the perfect time to think of child’s journey to independence. Maybe think back to your own childhood. Or imagine another child showing off their independence or attempting something they feel they are ready for…probably too early if you want to add that tension in your picture book. Everyone always wants to do things to feel older than they are…unless they’re an adult! So if you’re not too busy barbecuing, get writing…with hope in your heart. Tomorrow may be your day.

 

Missed a SUMMER SPARK? Don’t worry, you can find them here:

Day 1: In Celebration of Summer Magic  by Kelly Milner Halls
Day 2:  The Power of Doodling  by Alison K. Hertz
Day 3: Cause & Effect  by Alayne Kay Christian
Day 4: How to be a Marketing Ninja  by Corey Rosen Schwartz
Day 5: A Visual Writing Prompt: Begin at the End  by Julie Gribble
Day 6: The Final Word  by Jodi Moore
Day 7: Inspiration Station  by Susanna Hill
Day 8: Voice and Word Choice in Picture Books by Tara Lazar
Day 9: Platform Building Can You Build It? Yes, You Can!  by Tracey M. Cox
Day 10: 5 Ways to Hook Your Reader with Your Very First Line  by Kirsti Call
Day 11: Burning Down the House aka Revision by Donna Earnhardt
Day 12: Persistence  by Donna M. McDine
Day 13: Writing Your Way to a Spark  by Kris Dinnison
Day 14: Hope In Your Heart  by Carol Gordon Ekster
BONUS: What Songs Rock Your World?  by Claire Rudolf Murphy
THAT’S A WRAP!
Follow-up #1: TIPS
Follow-up #2: 9 Ways to Tighten Your Story
Prize Announcement: Winner! Winner! Chicken Dinner!

#summersparks DAY 11: Burning Down the House by Donna Earnhardt

image

Burning Down the House (aka Revision)
By Donna Earnhardt

 

In 1958, George Plimpton interviewed Ernest Hemingway and asked about his rewriting process. This is part of that interaction:

INTERVIEWER: How much rewriting do you do?

 

HEMINGWAY:  It depends. I rewrote the ending to Farewell to Arms, the last page of it, thirty-nine times before I was satisfied.

 

INTERVIEWER: Was there some technical problem there? What was it that had stumped you?

 

HEMINGWAY: Getting the words right.

— The Art of Fiction No. 21,

Paris Review, Spring 1958, No. 18

 

It is my opinion that revision can be just as hard as writing the original story. And sometimes, even harder.

 

The Process

There’s this thing I do that drives my kids batty enough to grow wings and hang upside down in caves.

I don’t make them dissect Hemingway’s work or memorize Shakespeare over the summer. I don’t make them scrub the bathroom floor with a toothbrush or wash their clothes by hand in the creek.

So what is the terrible, horrible, no good thing that I do?

I ask my kids to listen to all manuscript revisions. It’s part of my process. And they usually indulge me. I pay them in chocolate, so it’s a win-win. But does it really help? Yes… and no.

My early process looks something like this:

1. Write part of the manuscript, reworking it as I go.

2. Finally finish it. Then shuffle a few more things around.

3. Read it aloud to my kids.

4. Watch their faces, then have them give feedback

5. Rewrite parts that were not received as they should have been. Rearranging what I can.

6. Reread it to the kids.

7. Note their giggles… and their silence.

8. Feed them chocolate.

9. Promise I won’t read it but a couple more times.

10. Tweak again, then read it aloud one last time

11. START TRUE/DEEP REVISIONS.

Notice that my true revisions don’t start until after the early revision. And if I’m being honest with myself, my early revision is more like rearrangement.

Rearrangement of my manuscript is the equivalent of moving around my couch, lamp and table in my house. Same stuff, different place. Maybe I get rid of the junk on top of the entertainment center. It feels a lot cleaner. But it’s the same ol’, same ol’.  In my manuscript, (just like in my house), moving stuff around happens all the time. So that can be part of the process of revision. But it is NOT true revision.

My true revisions don’t start until after I’ve already written a rough draft, read it aloud a few times and rearranged some stuff. True revision looks like more like a new couch, newly painted walls and new rugs. (And maybe a few demolished walls!)

Truly, there are days that my revision looks like gutting the whole house. I might salvage the beginning, middle and end. But even those are subject to the recycling pile. I’ve even considered burning the whole thing down and starting from scratch. Unless, of course, I have a perfect first draft.

But let me be honest… that’s never happened.

So while I’m gutting my masterpiece, what are some things that help me work through the process without banging my head against a newly painted wall?

· I ask my critique buddies for honest (and sometimes brutal) critiques. They can see things that I am temporarily blind to. I get a type of “see-sickness”. They help bring my vision back in focus.

· I am willing to hear with my head AND my heart that my story has parts that stink. If my characters are shallow, I need to know. If my plot is weak, I need to strengthen it. If my premise is tired, it’s my job to fix it. I don’t need to waste precious time trying to defend my manuscript. Either it works, or it doesn’t. And if it doesn’t, I need to make it work.

· I read my work backwards. Yes, it sounds weird. But reading the storyline backwards helps me see things that might be out of whack. Reading backwards also helps visualize timeline issues and plot holes.

· If I’m writing a picture book in rhyme, I try to rewrite it in prose. I might end up sticking with the rhyming version, but putting it in prose helps me see where plot issues might be. It also helps me determine if rhyming or non-rhyming is the best vehicle for the story.

· I get rid of characters that don’t move the story along. Even if I love a character, he (or she) might serve only one purpose – such as comedic relief. I can attribute that one characteristic to a more important character, especially if I find out one of my characters is shallow. This could help give that character depth.

· I make sure the beginning, middle and end are solid. If the first page of a book doesn’t grab a reader, the rest of the book might not get the chance to redeem itself. The beginning needs to be unforgettable. The ending needs to make me sad the book is over, but still be satisfying. The middle of the story? It’s like the kitchen. It supplies the reader with the “meat”. Without it, the readers are hungry and angry — hangry. And we know that never ends well.

· I get rid of situations that aren’t appropriate for the story. For instance, in Being Frank, the “carnival scene” was once a school dance. But as my wonderful editor pointed out, this book was aimed at 3-7 year olds. They don’t have to deal with school dances for at least a few more years.

· I make sure my big girl panties are on. This business is tough. We can’t settle for “okay”. We can’t settle for “it’s better than what’s on the bookshelves now”. That is a slippery slope that leads to mediocrity. And mediocrity is not what agents or editors are looking for. I am not suggesting losing your vision in exchange for someone else’s. But we need to be willing to re-vision our story to make the vision come to life.

Some great go-to resources for help with revision:

1. Revision & Self-Editing: Techniques for Transforming Your First Draft Into a Finished Novel by James Scott Bell

2. 9-1-1 help for Revising your Picture book by Cynthea Liu http://www.writingforchildrenandteens.com/revision/revision-9-1-1-for-fiction-picture-books/

3. Second Sight — General Help for all writers of children’s books by Cheryl Klein http://cherylklein.com/second-sight/

 

One last thing… I ran across an interview that Kelly Barnhill gave on John Brown’s blog. She makes a good point that is worth printing and pasting on our computers…

“That’s the magic of revisions – every cut is necessary, and every cut hurts, but something new always grows.”  — Kelly Barnhill

(for more of her interview, check it out here: http://johndbrown.com/2011/02/interview-with-author-kelly-barnhill/)

 

p.s. And if you’re wondering, I read this post aloud to my oldest kiddo. She’s now demanding chocolate.

 DONNA EARNHARDT
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Bio: Donna Earnhardt is the author of Being Frank, illustrated by Andrea Castellani (Flashlight press, 2012). When Donna isn’t homeschooling her three children, chauffeuring them from place to place, or battling the laundry, she’s writing children’s stories, poetry, songs, and mysteries. You might find her fishing the Pee Dee River, hiking in the mountains with her family (while simultaneously keeping an eye out for Bigfoot) or visiting her hometown of Cordova, NC. She lives in Concord, NC, and Being Frank is her first picture book.
DONNA IS THE AUTHOR OF:
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FIND DONNA:

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Writing Prompt:
Hi everyone. Tracey here.
One writing exercise I like to do is called scenes from the hat. I gather different characters in one pile, different problems in another one, and setting in a third pile. Place your character pile into a hat, swish around, and pull one. Remove the pile and do the same with the problem and setting piles. Now look at your character, his or her problem, and their setting… Now GO!

Characters
King
Chipmunks
Girl
Boy
Farmer
Skater

Problem
Heir to thorn
Winter
Food
Broken ?
Scared
________

Setting
Forest
Beach
City
Moon
Country
Store

 

Missed a SUMMER SPARK? Don’t worry, you can find them here:

Day 1: In Celebration of Summer Magic  by Kelly Milner Halls
Day 2:  The Power of Doodling  by Alison K. Hertz
Day 3: Cause & Effect  by Alayne Kay Christian
Day 4: How to be a Marketing Ninja  by Corey Rosen Schwartz
Day 5: A Visual Writing Prompt: Begin at the End  by Julie Gribble
Day 6: The Final Word  by Jodi Moore
Day 7: Inspiration Station  by Susanna Hill
Day 8: Voice and Word Choice in Picture Books by Tara Lazar
Day 9: Platform Building Can You Build It? Yes, You Can!  by Tracey M. Cox
Day 10: 5 Ways to Hook Your Reader with Your Very First Line  by Kirsti Call
Day 11: Burning Down the House aka Revision by Donna Earnhardt
Day 12: Persistence  by Donna M. McDine
Day 13: Writing Your Way to a Spark  by Kris Dinnison
Day 14: Hope In Your Heart  by Carol Gordon Ekster
BONUS: What Songs Rock Your World?  by Claire Rudolf Murphy
THAT’S A WRAP!
Follow-up #1: TIPS
Follow-up #2: 9 Ways to Tighten Your Story
Prize Announcement: Winner! Winner! Chicken Dinner!

Monday Marketing: Google+

googleplus

 

Yes, Google+ is important. Yes, you really should have an account.  And I can give you one GIGANTIC reason why… *hint* it’s the first word… “GOOGLE”.

Google is the #1 search engine. Think about it. A few years ago, you talked about searching for something on the internet. Today we say, “Google it.”. Boom, Bang, Done.

Google+, like any smo, has it’s pluses and minuses. You can find family and friends, create circles, and join communities. BUT there are also Hangouts on there. You can talk to someone face to face and have an actual social interaction with them. WHICH IS GREAT! Who doesn’t like human contact, to see someone smile, or to hear them laugh!

For your business sense, it’s great. I’ve created several circles to where I can send messages to specific individuals. Like writers, family, friends, media specialist, etc. This way you don’t have to worry about bothering everyone else about your latest presentation for schools or the new book signing you may have coming up or the family vacation pictures of you on the river with NOOOOOOO make-up.  See, not meant for everyone’s eyes. hahahhahahaa.

While it is another smo to keep up with and remember to post and share across, I have found that it is a valuable asset to someone with their own business.

Hope to post some tips about Google+ next week.

:::LEAVE ME A COMMENT:::
Let me know…
What you use Google+ for?
What are the benefits?
What ideas on marketing have you found useful?

until then…
~t

 

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