Fran Cannon Slayton - The Wild Ride To Publication (Children's Book Version!): March 2008

Monday, March 24, 2008

Book Contract!

Well, I’m signing my first book contract today! Hooray!

One thing I was surprised to find out about the publishing business is that contracts don’t always come in the mail the day after the BIG phone call. It can take weeks or even months for them to come. Who would’ve thunk?

Friday, March 21, 2008

Highlights Foundation "Life in the Spotlight" Workshop: Installment #1

Okay, as promised, here is installment 1 from the Highlights Foundation’s "Life in the Spotlight" workshop led by Indiana Professor of Journalism Peter Jacobi.

First, let me say that if you have a chance to go to a Highlights Foundation Founders Workshop – GO! Do not pass go, do not collect $200 – just get yourself there. Set in the Pocono Mountains, Honesdale, PA is an oasis of children’s book and magazine publishing just about 2 ½ hours from the hustle bustle of New York City. It’s a place to get away from it all in your own little cottage – a lovely place to read, write, learn and make friends. Simply top notch in every way.

And the FOOD! My goodness, the food is unbelievably wonderful. Don’t even get me started! Suffice it to say that meals are prepared by Marcia, who won the highest award at the Culinary Institute of America at the time she was graduated. WOW. I’ve really been missing Marcia since I came back home . . .

Anyway, the workshop, oh yes. It was great! We started with a tour of Boyds Mills Press and Front Street. There we met a number of the editors on the Highlights magazine staff as well – a sort of "nice to get to know you" kind of tour. The next morning SCBWI NJ Regional Advisor Kathy Temean presented just about everything you’d ever want to know about websites and web marketing. Kathy has her own web consulting business – Temean Consulting, - for those of you looking for a web designer. I took about a jillion notes and came away with my head spinning as to the number of things I can do to promote my book on the internet.

First and foremost – have a website! You should register your domain name and possibly other sub-domains to help people more easily find you. You’ll also need to determine your web host. I looked around a lot before I committed. If you google "best web hosts" you’ll find lists where several organizations have rated web hosts based upon various criteria. I use IX Web Hosting because they have 24/7 help and because if it doesn’t work out I could get my money back. (But hey, it’s working out!) Another thing you might want to consider when deciding on a web host is whether you’ll be using their template to design your site, whether you’ll be using a web designer, or whether you’ll be using third-party software to create your site. If you are planning to your web host’s template, be sure you check it out first and feel comfortable that it will give you what you want. Many web hosts allow you to test drive their templates before you sign up.

One bit of important information Kathy Temean passed on to us is to develop a signature for your emails that helps promote your book and your website. Sign your name, but also add your book title and website link so that every email you send helps people find you (and your book). I developed a new signature as soon as I got home. It’s taking a little getting used to, I have to admit – makes me feel like a bit of a "self-promoter." I’m not sure that it’s perceived that way, though. And I’m certain it’s helpful, because I always love being able to link to another person’s site when I’m interested. I’d love to hear what others think about it.

One benefit of using a web designer is that a good one also understands how to market your website once it is online. They know mystical things like Search Engine Optimization (SEO), meta tags, meta robots, meta keywords, and how and where to submit your site to search engines. Of course, you can always do a little reading and learn something about these things on your own!

Another thing Kathy had us consider is print promotional materials. Once my final artwork is done for my book cover, I plan to talk to Kathy about designing a school visit brochure. This kind of brochure can be invaluable when you go to conferences where lots of teachers may be gathering.

And of course, new authors (and gee, old ones too!) should have a business card to pass out, containing at the very least your name and website information. I also plan to have the cover art and title of my book as well.

A lot to do? Sure seems that way! But it’s kind of fun, too. And definitely a learning experience!

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Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Editing When You're Sick: Part II

You might remember from Monday that my answer to "What do you do when you're sick, but your edits are due?" was this:  

Just Edit.

Well, yesterday I found out that sometimes that just isn't possible.  

Yesterday my head was so gunky that no thoughts could swim their way through the bacteria to the surface of my brain, much less make their way down through my fingers, through the keyboard and up onto the computer screen.

So I finally hauled my sorry self to the doctor and got an antibiotic and a special squirtie thing for my nose.

Not that it helped immediately.  Yesterday nothing got done.  Nada.  Zilch.  

But today I woke up and . . . I'm still sick!

But at least today the thoughts (so far) appear to be able to swim their way through all the junkie stuff and cough themselves up onto my computer screen.  Progress!  I'll take it!

So after a little breakfast smoothie, I'm taking up the mantra again:  Just Edit!

Wish me luck!

Monday, March 17, 2008

Editing When You're Sick?

Okay, I know I promised the lowdown on the Highlights Foundation workshop I attended two weeks ago - and I will do it, I promise!

But here's the deal.  I'm sick.  As a dog.  As a big dawg.

And here's the other deal.  My editor called Friday and I need to do edits for my book.  As in now.

So, um, I guess I'm learning what an author does when she has to do edits while she's sick.  The answer?  Well, last night and the night before the answer was "go to bed early and pray to feel better in the morning."  That didn't happen exactly the way I'd envisioned - I'm still sick.

So today the answer is tending toward the Nike:  Just edit!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Class of 2k9, Here I Come!!

I am VERY excited to tell you that I will be a member of the Class of 2k9!  

You may have heard of the Classes of 2k7 and 2k8 - two groups of debut middle grade and young adult children's book novelists who banded together to promote themselves in the past two years.  They proved there is power in cooperative book marketing - I know for a fact that I became aware of many of their books by virtue of their participation in their "Class."  

What are the benefits of being in the Class?  Well, I'm sure I don't know all of them yet, since I'm only at the beginning of the whole process.  But I have followed the other classes a bit, and I know one of the benefits is friendship - we'll all be experiencing the ups and downs of having a book published for the first time, so we'll all be able to share and learn from each other's experiences.  As I've learned from hanging out on Verla Kay's website, there is nothing like being able to celebrate - and commiserate - with people who are going through the same thing you are!

Another benefit is that automatically, my message will be amplified by 29 (or by however many people are ultimately in the Class).  29 other blogs connecting to my blog; 29 other websites connecting to my website; 29 other Myspace sites connected to mine . . . and vice versa.  Plus a separate Class of 2k9 Website, Blog, and MySpace Site . . . as you can see, suddenly my cyber world has just expanded by about a jillion!

Another benefit is diversity.  You know how the financial advisors say to diversify your portfolio?  Well, being in the Class of 2k9 has done that for me on a professional level.  I'm not a librarian, but now I know one.  I'm not a teacher, but one of my Classmates is.  I'm not a professional web designer or PR person either - but now I'm banded together with some!  And I can contribute my own experience as a former legal publisher, lawyer, and avid reader of book marketing books.  Pretty cool, eh?

Plus, the whole thing is pretty dang fun to boot!  What more could a first-time author want?!  

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

I have been at a Highlights Foundation workshop (yes, it's put on by the Highlights Magazine folks) for the past week.  Almost phoneless.  Almost email-less.  I've realized how addicted I am to the internet!

Here's one thing (among many) that I learned this week.  If you are a writer who is going to have a blog, you need to update it regularly. People depend on you, and when you disappoint them it is not good for many reasons.  It lowers expectations.  It makes you less of a "go to" source.  It makes your readers wonder if you've spontaneously combusted.  (The answer is no to that last one, in case you were wondering).

So, my dear cyberfriends, I offer you a hearty apology for leaving you for almost two weeks without a post.  And without forewarning.  Please forgive me.

Lesson learned!

More on the zillions of things I learned at the Highlights Workshop next time . . .