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5 Basic Stages of Writing and Self-Publishing a Children's Book
First, you should know that some frustration is part of the process ... and it’s going to take time. If you're entering into the publishing industry for the first time, you'll have to expect that you’ll face a lot of unknowns. But all of those unknowns can be worked through and figured out … one unknown at a time. With that being said, here are the basic phases I use when publishing a book. STAGE ONE Research... research... research When I decided to self-publish children’s books, I grabbed a notebook and started writing down all the questions I needed to know to be successful and then began on a journey of finding the answers. This led me to read a lot of books, blogs, and the beginning of my collection of children’s books for reference. I read about self-publishing as well as storytelling. By doing my research, I have strengthened my foundation in self-publishing as well as storytelling while also providing myself with a source of inspiration. If you don’t already have a story idea or plot in mind research can lead you to one. P.S. One of the things I do when I come up against writer’s block is read. Sometimes, I read books in the genre I’m writing in but, other times, I will read or watch the making of a series... movie, book, etc. Seeing how others tackle storytelling can be very inspirational regardless if it’s a written or visual medium, especially since as children book authors we work in both. The store 2nd and Charles has a large selection of used books if you’re looking to start a collection. STAGE TWO Stage two of the process is getting to a strong rough draft that is ready for a final edit. Rewrite it as many times as it takes to get it right. First drafts are never final drafts. Make sure you have a good story structure; beginning, middle, and end. Make sure your book is speaking to the target audience. Children’s books are short stories. You have about 1000 words, in a picture book, to tell that story. So keep the story focused—one plot. The problem you start off solving is the only problem that should be solved. That means any sentence that doesn’t drive the story to solve that one problem needs to be deleted. I know as writers we have a lot to say, but all of it doesn’t need to make it into the final draft of a book. Keep your book focused and moving along. Use the rule of three to build anticipation. While working on your rough draft make sure you’re using words appropriate for your target audience; word choices for younger readers are very important. Make sure you have a list of sight words. Reach out to beta readers for feedback. Send your story out for a critique. I recommend that when you get to the editing stage that you have someone do a line edit with annotations first, and then once you make all of your corrections, have a copy edit done for a final polish. P.S. Don’t forget to write the dedication page, back copy, synopsis, and start working on the copyright page. It also wouldn’t hurt to write ad copy to use for marketing your book. Send all of it to have edited with your book. In stage 4, you will need to have your ISBN# that will be included in your copyright page so leave space for it. STAGE THREE Once you have your final edited draft, you can start looking for an illustrator. Note: Don’t start illustrations until have you have a final draft and have gone through the editing process; otherwise you could be spending time and money for illustration changes. This is also the phase you’ll pick the size of your book and the printer. Most picture books are 8x8 or 8.5x8.5. When looking for an illustrator, I would suggest you look for an illustrator that works in the style that you want your book to be illustrated. If they can layout your book as well that’s a bonus. If they can’t, you’ll have to find a graphic designer to do that for you. Note: The turnaround time for illustration work will vary but you should expect anywhere from 1 – 6 months. This will depend on the number of illustrations, the level of details, and the speed of the illustrator. STAGE FOUR Stage 4 is your book layout stage. The purpose of this stage is to take your text and illustrations and turn them into a final book. A graphic designer will use fonts, placement, etc. to further bring your book to life. Don’t underestimate this phase. The layout of your book plays a big part in the reading experience. Note: The layout of your book should be considered during the illustration phase. You’ll have to know your page breaks and the placement of your illustrations so that it all flows together. Note: This is also the stage you’ll need your ISBN# and barcode. If you print with Ingram Sparks they will use your ISBN# and create a barcode for you. E-books do not require a barcode. All printed books need an ISBN#. That means if you plan to print a hardcover and a paperback copy of your book, you’ll need a minimum of 2 ISBN#s. You can get your ISBN# at www.myidentifiers.com. STAGE FIVE Stage 5 is the printing, marketing, and distribution phase. Note: Although this is stage 5 of the process, you should know who you are printing with and how you plan to distribute your book in stage 3. You have to decide if you’ll be using a print on demand company or are going to offset printing which will not come with any form of distribution but, the print price will be better because you will have to print in large quantities. What you don’t want to happen is that you decide to print a hardcover 8x8 book and can’t get it printed with the company you selected. Make sure the printer has the ability to print the size and cover type you have chosen. Also, make sure they offer distribution if that’s something you want. Now that your book is printed, and you’ve set up your distribution, it’s time to start marketing and selling. Build a website, grow your reader base, and start writing your next book. P.S. Ingram Sparks doesn’t have the best print quality, but what they do have is distribution. So, if you want to see your book on Amazon, Walmart.com, Target.com, etc., they are worth considering. I wish you much success on your journey. Also, please check out my books and author services at WorldsToDiscover.com/authorservices
5 - Stars from Readers' Favorite
When I started writing, I didn't know how my books would be perceived. Sometimes I get in my head, especially after spending months... sometimes years working on them. So, it's nice to see the 5-star reviews from Readers' Favorite.
Sana - Last Day from Prologue to Book
I've been looking at the cover for Sana - Last Day for months now. The illustrations were finished last year, and it has some of my favorites. I even shared some of them on my IG. It'll be my 10th book, although it was written after Anyia - Dream of a Warrior, my first published book. In Anyia - Dream of a Warrior, Anyia finds out that she must help those who will defeat Empress Zarina. For me, the next book that needed to be released was a book that would introduce some of those characters. Sana - Last Day was the prologue to that book (a book that I hope to release this year). But for a prologue, it was over 14,000 words and too long. For a long time, I didn't know what to do with it. At first, I cut 1000s of words, hoping that it would fit better by compacting the story, but that didn't work. I was going to scrap it all together until I wrote Anyia - It Begins. While I was working on the 2nd book, Anyia - It Begins, I kept getting stuck. For over a year, I was stuck. I would write a few chapters and then scrape them. It didn't feel right. Then I got into a flow, got the rough draft of the first chapter... and got stuck again. Then one day, Sana appeared, and the plot all came together. I was out of my writer's block. It was then, I also realized that the prologue was really about Sana's journey and all the pieces connected. I reworked the prologue and turned it into a book, a short story that is the backstory to Sana. It's an excellent anchor to the series and will connect some dots for those who want to know more about the characters and the world. Oh... yeah! Sana - Last Day sparked the story for my first picture book, Baby Princess and the Last Doll. If you haven't already, sign up for my e-newsletter to be notified of the release of Sana - Last Day. (P.S. I'm starting a review team for my books; if you would like to be part of the team, please contact me and let's talk.) And as always, to leave a comment, you have to be logged in.
Becoming an Illustrator
After high school, I thought I would attend ITT Tech in Nashville. I passed the entrance test and was approved for student aid, but then I found out about the Digital Animation degree at Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU). The degree fascinated me, and there was no turning back. At that time, I hadn't realized that I would also have to have an art minor. Surprise! Even now, the thought makes me laugh, but I got through it. I came out with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Mass Communication with an emphasis in Digital Animation and minors in Art and African American Studies. Fast forward years, years, years, and more years later, I decided that I would become a children's book author. It wasn't until after my second book, Talee and the Fallen Object, that there was even a thought of illustrating. A friend at the time kept asking me why I didn't illustrate my books. I don't remember my response to her, but I remember that the idea kept nagging at me, especially since I inked my Talee book. So, I brought some sketchbooks and started sketching. My stick figures were awful, but I was determined! Determined to get better, I began watching youtube videos, signed up for a few online classes, and then worked with an online art teacher. Years after pushing myself, I illustrated my first book for another author, and Wacom reposted one of my images on their google+ page. Then I decided to start illustrating the next books in the Anyia and Talee series but trying to match the first two illustrators' styles was impossible, so I decided to work with an illustrator. The style isn't the same, but the feel is similar enough that it works. Now that I have an illustrator to work with me on those series, I'm about to start the journey of illustrating a story I've had in my head for months—a book about a young girl that is the sister of the new emperor and the trouble she gets into. Here's a rough sketch.
Writing Talee and the Fallen Object
One of the things that attracted me to the Talee adventure was the floating landscapes. Most stories, for me, start with a character, but this series started with the world. And then Talee came, and she brought everything to life for me, a curious character that loves exploring her world and going on adventures with her best friends Cora, her next-door neighbor, and Nola, her animal friend. The crazy thing, for me, about the Talee adventures is that it started as a coloring book adventure, and I wrote it through images. I planned out the adventure and then wrote down the description of each image. It wasn't until after getting the rough illustrations back that I decided to write an early reader chapter book. In the first release of Talee and the Fallen Object, the early reader chapter book, I didn't color the illustrations because I still wanted the coloring book feel, so I left the illustrations for the readers to color, but after talking to some parents, I realized it wasn't a good idea. There was no need to buy both if their child could color the illustrations in the early reader. So, for the 2nd release, I changed the cover and added full-color illustrations. If you've read Talee and the Fallen Object, I would love to hear your feedback to see what stood out to you. And if you don't mind, I have a quick favor to ask. If you don't mind, please take a quick moment and leave a review on Amazon; that would be amazing! It's one of the best ways to help an author grow. Thank you so much for your continued support! 😊 (P.S. I'm starting a review team for my books; if you would like to be part of the team, please contact me and let's talk.) Book Synopsis: Meet Talee! A fun, curious little girl that goes on adventures around her planet Gala, which has two moons and landmasses that float. In her first adventure, she travels out to find out what falls from the backpack of a mail flyer. Join her on this fun adventure in this great early reader chapter book with an easy to read, engaging story for ages 6-8. Please Note: To leave a comment, you have to be logged in.
Writing Anyia, Dream of a Warrior
I hope you're having a great new year. 2020 was a year of a lot of downs but some great ups as well. My plan for 2020 was to publish four books, and I ended up published six, two of which were journal books. As I start planning my books for 2021, I want to take a moment and share some of my insight into the books I've already written, starting with my first book Anyia, Dream of a Warrior. It was published in 2010, reissued with a new cover in 2017, and has received a 5-star rating from readers' favorite and has a 4.8-star rating on Amazon with 38 reviews. When I first started writing, my focus was to write an epic adventure book with characters of color—something I would have loved to have read when I was a child. So, I began writing a book about friends who would have to come together to defeat an enemy. While writing several drafts for that story with a different main character, I hit a point where the story wasn't working anymore. To break through my writer's block, I began writing character journals. It was during that time Anyia stood out to me. I began to see her... to see a character that grew up being told who she should be but a character that would also have the courage to go on a journey that would allow her to become who she was meant to be. It was a character arc I could relate to, and I was excited to write about it with the hope that readers would connect with her drive and fearlessness, which are the characteristics I love the most about her. She's a warm, loving character looking to find her place in her world, which is her series's overarching theme. If you've read Anyia, Dream of a Warrior, I would love to hear your feedback to see what stood out to you. And if you don't mind, I have a quick favor to ask. If you don't mind, please take a quick moment and leave a review on Amazon, that would be amazing! It's one of the best ways to help an author grow. Thank you so much for your continued support! 😊 (P.S. I'm starting a review team for my books, if you would like to be part of the team please contact me and let's talk.) Book Synopsis: Growing up in Nagoran Village kept Anyia safe from Empress Zarina, Thor Warriors, and the stolen magic they used. But, being safe also meant she was kept from the outside world. Locked in a tradition that she saw no value in, she was determined to follow her dream of becoming a warrior. To do this, she will disregard the Chief's orders, her father, and venture into the forest to find Amoonda, the only female ever named a warrior. Crossing the border, she will leave the safety of the magic treaty into a place patrolled by Thor Warriors, and her actions will threaten the one thing that protects them all. Anyia, Dream of a Warrior is the beginning of an epic story of a feisty and determined young girl's journey to follow her dreams. She will encounter magic, a Sif, and Thor Warriors. It explores themes of community and determination and is sure to become a favorite in any beginning library. It's perfect for readers ages 8 to 12. Please Note: To leave a comment, you have to be logged in.
Anyia, It Begins
I released Anyia, Dream of a Warrior in 2010 and reissued it with a new cover in 2017. In 2020 I released the first short comic story, Anyia, Warrior's Challenge but Anyia, It Begins is the story I've been looking forward to releasing for many years. I'm happy to say it's finally here. Book Synopsis: For over 14 years, Nagoan Village had been safe from Empress Zarina and her Thor Warriors. The magic treaty, although frail, had been maintained. To help maintain that treaty, Anyia’s father, the Chief, kept magic out of the village to protect them. Anyia grew up not knowing she had magic, but an earlier meeting with Amoonda changed that. With her magic awoken, she was now able to charge her battle stick, and her Kail training was more intense than ever. But it all might have been for nothing. Thor Warriors captured her mother and took her to Thor City to Empress Zarina to break the magic treaty. To get her back, Anyia must go into the heart of Thor City, the place of stolen magic, and face her enemies. The cost will be high, and if she wants to succeed, she will have to give up her identity, trust a stranger, and rely on new friends. Anyia, It Begins is the second book in an epic story of a young girl’s journey to follow her dreams. This book explores identity and trust themes and is an excellent addition to any fantasy reader’s collection. It’s perfect for readers ages 8 to 12. Pre-order Now: WorldsToDiscover.com Buy on Kindle: Amazon.com
Pick your favorite cover!
I'm working on my first picture book and need to choose a cover. Help me decide... which cover is your favorite? Tell me your choice in the comments. Please Note: To leave a comment, you have to be logged in.
Writing Anyia – It Begins
This book has taken a long time to come for readers and me, but I'm happy to say it's almost here. For me, little girls of color must get to see themselves in books of fantastical adventures. Without boundaries or judgment. Without the feeling of less than. Anyia represents that to me. When she first came to me, it was all about having a dream that she was told she couldn't have. A dream that didn't fit the norm of her village. And although she grew up being told who she should be, she dared to say no and go on a journey that would lead her to who she was meant to be. This next book will take her deeper into that journey. In the first book, Anyia - Dream of a Warrior, Anyia doesn't mean to defy her father... but instead, she's following her path... the dream of who she was meant to be. This choice will dive her into a situation that will test that. How much does she want it? How much will she give for her your dream? And what will she do when her dream requires her to give up what she identifies as being her? Who are you when you have that very thing taken away? That's the foundation for me for Anyia - It Begins. But it didn’t come right away. Over the years, I’ve written outlines and rough drafts of book two. But none of them felt right. Then one day, I was writing and flowing with the book, and a scene unfolded that sent me in a completely different direction. A direction that quite frankly scared me. I’m writing for 9-12-year-old girls… this can’t be the journey. But it was. I usually don’t ask people what they think about the plot of a book… but this book required me to do so. And I got stuck on it for monthsssss, and I think the reason why was because I had to make peace with the path Anyia needed to go on… not for Anyia of course but for me. It, of course, all came together and worked is way out but it took time. In the next book, readers will go on a journey with a girl who will face the question of whether you are willing to give up what defines you to follow a dream that was meant for you without any guarantees or expectations that you will ever get those things back. It's one thing to have them taken from you. It's a whole different thing to give them up willing. For me, this journey was about a girl who will face a history that stripped a people of who they were and forced them on a journey that would forever change the course of a people, and she decided that she would go on that journey with them. Now it’s time to go to the final edit and release it to the world. :) Also, Let me introduce you to three new characters in the Anyia series; Yannie, Kamy, and Jamila.