Monday, May 17, 2010

Book Maps

Lately I have been using a nifty little tool called a book map to help me edit and rewrite my completed stories. Basically it is a storyboard. I can layout a story, rearrange spreads and get a better feel for the flow of the story.

Carol Heyer @ was kind enough to forward along her version of a book map and I have used it to map out three new stories and edit two others. Along the left margin of her book map she has included four different setups that can be used when a picture book is published making her book map quite versatile. Thanks Carol. She has given me permission to post it here all I ask is if you use it or share it please give her the credit or link to her website.

I modified Carol’s book map a bit to better serve my purposes. I always like books that have unique cover art and unique inside front and inside back cover art. I think that those unofficial “pages” should be used to enrich/extend the story so I added a few extra panels to accommodate that. My book map isn't as versatile as Carol's and I may have to revamp mine at some point but this is the setup that felt most natural to me. Feel free to use my map if you like but I ask that you give credit to me or link to this blog.

I have also been researching illustrator websites and blogs. I came across this useful link and wanted to share it with you:

A new record.

The following was written a couple weeks ago and then I got really busy with a rewrite and I am now just getting back to it…

I set a new personal record last week, four rejections in two days. How was I so productive? A few weeks ago I was researching handful of publishers that were going to be attending the LA Times Festival of Books. A quick Google search and I was able to find their contact info. One of those publishers accepted e-mail submissions. I have a submission packet set for each of my stories and so it was relatively easy to personalize a cover letter and attach the necessary files to an e-mail. I submitted two stories in two separate e-mails. The website guidelines stated that it would be six to eight weeks before I should expect a response. Just a few hours later I received a response. The personalized rejection letter responded to both of my submissions and caught one very embarrassing typo. I responded with a gracious thank you for taking the time to review my work and also for editing my book. The next morning during my run I thought I might as well send in another submission. After all I got a speedy response so I might as well and at the very least I will know the response fairly quickly. The third submission was returned within fifteen minutes with a rejection and comment about bright and rhyming verse. I just so happened to have one of those types of stories and submitted that immediately. What did I have to loose? Within ten minutes and probably closer to five I received a response. 4 for 4! That is pretty good for anybody. I responded with a light hearted response and thanked him for all his time.

Oh well, I am four rejections closer to a acceptance.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Portfolio Review

I attended my first Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) seminar and portfolio review Saturday. It was a small gathering of people who are interested in advancing their careers in as a children’s book writer or illustrator. It was nice to get out of my “bubble” and have some fresh eyes look at my stories.

The seminar topic covered marketing both before you are published and after. Why do you market before you get published? This is how you get your first book published. Conversation centered on creating a “packet” of art and info. This “packet” could be a folder, flyer, post card or all of the above. I have experience mailing submissions but it was clear that I could more. Some tips:

1. Only send your BEST images. Take another look at your choices and narrow cut the weakest.

2. Arrange illustrations by style if you have more than one.

3. Limit styles of illustrations to two or three per submission.

4. Send updates to contacts quarterly with new images and/or styles to remind publishers/agents that you are still around looking for work.

5. This was my “nugget” from the session. Make sure you state that you are willing to illustrate someone else’s work or that you are willing to sell the story separately (if you are) and/or that you are willing to rework pictures (if you are). I thought that this was a given but was convinced otherwise during this seminar.

I felt I had a good working knowledge of author responsibilities once a book is published. I have watched my mother do it for many years. Basically, unless you are insanely famous, you are responsible for most if not all of the post publishing publicity. Press releases, library and school readings, etc. fall into your lap. This may be the most daunting part of the job and I am sure that it will have a steep learning curve for me. Marketing will certainly keep you busy but technology can help. Tech tips from the seminar:

1. Maintain a website and keep it updated. This may be the only thirty seconds an editor or art director spends at your website. Make it attractive and easy to navigate.

2. Maintain a blog and link to other blogs and request that others do the same. This networking may be almost as powerful as that pyramid scheme you participated your roommate pitched to you while you were in college.

3. Social networking. Take your pick but beware of copyright issues and take precautions to protect your work.

4. Use web applications such as Google Alerts to track any mentions of you or your illustrations/books on the internet.