Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Free LIZZIE AND LOU SEAL ebook August 30 - September 5 by Patricia Keeler

LIZZIE AND LOU SEAL is FREE as an ebook 

August 30, 2017 to September 5, 2017

It's the end of summer and Lizzie has to go back to school, so I decided to give as many summer Lizzie ebooks away as possible! Oh, snap.

Here's what's real. I've been looking for new ways to market LIZZIE AND LOU SEAL since there are so few independent bookstores promoting new books. I had heard about BookBub being a marketing service, so when I attended Book Expo America I sat in on BookBub's workshop. I was suspicious, as no business outside the publishing house markets your book for free . . .
As an author/illustrator, this is what (I think) I've learned. Readers of ebooks sign up with BookBub for free at BookBub has a group of authors. BookBub sends emails to their readers each week presenting selected ebooks from their authors which are free or really cheap.

How do you become a BookBub author? First, you have to apply to be listed as one of BookBub authors. That's free. It can be a self-published book. For picture books, I understand you need more than 20 good reviews on Amazon or Goodreads to be accepted. I suspect they check to see how many social media followers you have too, but I don't know that.

Here is the link:

I applied and was accepted. Author/illustrators then want to apply for a Featured Deal. A Featured Deal costs $80.00. The tricky bit is that your publishing house must agree to make your ebook free or really cheap on the week that BookBub offers you.
©pkeeler 2017
If your publishing house agrees, that week your ebook Featured Deal will be offered to everyone that has subscribed to Children's Books on BookBub. That includes subscribers in the United Kingdom, Canada, India and Australia. Your free/cheap ebook will be available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple, Google and Kobo.

When I was at Book Expo America, I talked to Sky Pony's marketing manager and a representative from BookBub about getting a Featured Deal. Everybody seemed fine with the idea. I applied for a Featured Deal and was accepted. I paid my $80.00 to BookBub.

BookBub has millions of subscribers, but the children's category is still getting going. I'm not sure how many children's books readers or authors BookBub has. I know there are some great picture books on BookBub like Lisa Falkenstern's gorgeous book STEAMPUNK ABC!
©pkeeler 2017
From what I understand, BookBub Featured Deals increase hard cover sales. That may be because ebooks featured through BookBub deals give readers more exposure to an author/illustrator's work. It may be that readers like to see the entire book before they buy it in hardcover, like in bookstores. I've started downloading any free BookBub picture ebooks that look interesting just to browse through them.

I don't know how BookBub makes their money. Eighty dollars doesn't seem like much. Also, I don't know how to determine a BookBub Featured Deals impact on sales. I'm not even sure my Featured Deal will really happen. Here's hoping. . . 

Here's a YouTube desktop interview by Orna Ross from the Alliance of Independent Authors with Katie Donelan from BookBub.

Facebook:  PatriciaKeelerBooks
Twitter: @patriciakeeler
Instagram: @patriciakeeler

represented by Liza Royce Agency


Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Curating your work, Part I, by Mike Ciccotello

So, you put together a beautiful illustration portfolio and attended a conference for children's literature. You had your work reviewed by art directors, and editors. Sure there are some tweaks to be made, but that’s no problem. It’s all part of the journey. Not only have you created a portfolio, but you've made promotional images regularly, participated in online challenges, and daily warmup sketches. Congratulations! Good for you. This is fantastic and you should be proud of the work you are doing. All of this is moving you forward.

Now, how do you present that to the world? Website? Social Media? 

Let's break this down in two parts. This post will focus on the website.

This past summer at the NJ SCBWI conference, I had the pleasure of attending, Building a Digital Portfolio, a workshop run by, Maria Middleton, art director, Random House. Her workshop spoke volumes with me. Curate our digital content. Treat your space like an art gallery. It’s not just about having a website, it’s about the whole experience. The examples she showed were clean, easily consumed, and simple to navigate. 

Shortly after the conference, I decided to revise the approach to my website and social media. If I want to work creating illustration for children’s literature, I should make sure that people know that. There was work to be done, but it was a lot of work. The only way it was going to happen was if I made the time to do it. I created a staged plan, starting with my website. 
Cleanup. Reorganize. Redesign.

Clean up your site. Don't hoard work that isn't relevant to what you want to do. 

Clean up.

The first thing I did was remove a whole bunch of old work from my site. There was too much. I was hoarding my old work. It had nothing to do with my children’s literature work… it had to go. This decision will be different for each person. I would recommend that if you choose to show the old, don’t let it out-weigh the new. 80% new and 20% old might be an easy way to think about it. Most importantly, just like a portfolio, only show your best work. Now I believe you have a little more lee way with a website, but still, it's an important note to keep in mind.

Come up with a simple way to organize your site.


Once I removed all the unnecessary imagery, I needed to reduce the number of sections on the site. I used to have multiple menu items. Now, there are three top level options: Art, Store, and About. This is directly from Ms. Middleton’s workshop. Keep your menu simple. You can reference my site to follow along -

This is how my menu breaks down
- Color – Current color portfolio work
- Black & White – Current black & white portfolio work
- Pen & Ink – Inktober and other fun
- Coffee Cup Doodles – Daydreams caught on a coffee cup
- Painting – Some of my older work
Store – Links to my online store
About – Contains my headshot, bio, and contact form
Finally, I developed a look. I went with a white background, placed imagery on paper/canvas with a slight drop shadow. I designed a simple logo that sits below the menu. The type treatment is reinforced on my business card and postcards. The image of me is in the favicon for the site and all of my social media. 

Each section contains a small gallery. The Color as well as the Black & White galleries are both designed on a similar paper and drop shadow. The Pen and Ink gallery uses a sheet of sketchbook paper. The painting gallery uses canvas and the coffee cup doodles are actual photographs of each cup. Eventually, I will phase out the Coffee Cup Doodles and the Painting section, and replace them with my 10 minute sketches, making my site completely children's literature focused. 

Why does all of this matter?

If someone happens upon your site, you want to put your best foot forward, right? The day I finished my site, I texted an author friend and asked her to take a look. She texted back saying she liked it and tweeted the link. Later that night, I got an email from my agent. She was contacted by an editor that came across my site (which I believe was connected to my author friend) and really liked my work. The editor bookmarked my site and hopes the right project will come along for me. I hope so too.

I realize our art needs to shine the most, and it should. But by following these simple steps, you can give your visitors a clear idea of what it is you do, where to find what, and how to get in touch.

Next time I’ll talk about social media and more specifically, Instagram. 

Represented by Rachel Orr
For more info contact 

Twitter: @ciccotello 
Instagram: @ciccotello 

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Process Story by Jason Kirschner

In preparation for this post, I’ve gone back and reread a few of my more recent posts.  It occurs to me that for a site who’s title includes the words “drawn” and “picture books”, I’ve done very little talk about either of those things.  I was also inspired about Diana’s most recent post which talked a bit about process. I thought I could do a step by step about my latest illustration.

I had two tasks I thought I could combine.  The primary task was to create a new summer-themed postcard to mail out to art directors.  The second, more minor task, was to supply myself with “sketches of the day” that I could post to my Instagram feed (which I’m woeful at keeping up with but follow me anyway).

I did a really really really rough sketch to just map out my idea.  It’s my equivalent of thinking out loud.  I think on the paper. It's usually rougher than rough. The sketch for this one was so ethereal and incomprehensible that I couldn't get a good scan of it.

Once I saw proof of concept, I sketched out all the characters separately-- first with roughs. This is how I always work. I draw all of the different pieces, characters, backgrounds, props on their own. Then I scan and “cut out” each in Photoshop.  I used the individual sketches for instagram posts to accomplish goal #2.
Then I basically collage the whole mess.  I enlarge certain things and shrink others.  I move the pieces around on my canvas until I have the arrangement that I like. I also play with opacity.  I like to fade the backgrounds out so focus remains on the characters. When I've got it mostly there I print out and draw cleaner versions of the characters and rescan.  At this stage I also add a texture layer over the whole thing. I really love jpgs of old papers I find online. It helps to keep the piece looking handmade and not digital.   I lock those down and start to color.

Layout with rough sketches.
Newer layout with more final sketches & texture applied. Moved some stuff around.
Character colors painted in. No highlights yet.

Here's my folder for Mouse.

First I block in the main color for each on a “multiply” layer above each character. For each character I also add separate layers for shadow (another multiply layer)  and highlight (normal or overlay layer depending).  Linking these layers per character allow me to move things around a bit when I need to.  Or I throw them all into a group folder. I sometimes add eyeballs later so I can control who's looking at who.
I also add shadows to ground the characters —although here none of them are on the ground.  Jerks.

Here's what I posted on Instagram.

I tweak things forever.  Seriously.  I can’t help myself. I’ve even moved things around since I posted the image.   The only thing that saves me from working on it forever is a deadline or a more pressing illustration.  I have been known to take out drawings from graduate school which was  <REDACTED> years ago and add some fixes.  It says a lot about me. Most of it--not good.
Couldn't help myself and kept moving things around. Here's the final. For now.

I think this was more of a look into my psyche than my process but either way I hope it was useful and/or enjoyable.  I'm always interested in how other people work.  If you ever want to share your process, let me know. 

By day, Jason is an Emmy nominated set designer for television, with credits that include Harry, The Meredith Vieira Show, Late Night with Conan O’Brien, and The Late Show with David Letterman. By night, Jason is an author and illustrator of children's books. You can find his debut picture book, Mr. Particular: The World's Choosiest Champion on shelves in bookstores everywhere. See Jason's work, both illustrations and set designs,  at . Follow him on instagram @jkirsch118. 

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Public Speaking for Those Who Turn Red When Nervous – By Barbara DiLorenzo

Several years ago, I won a writing contest and had to read my story in front of a small group. The crowd consisted of people connected to the contest, friends and family. These people were happy for me, yet I was so nervous and unprepared. I had my text, and painted accompanying illustrations–so I thought I was prepared. But I had no experience with public speaking. I was TERRIBLE at it. Not only did I not know how to read a children's story to a group and make it interesting, I turned bright red from being nervous, which I could feel as heat on my cheeks, which only made me more nervous, which made me sweat more while my face got redder. I sped up my reading to just get through it, losing opportunities to connect with the audience.


While I'm sure this reading was painful to watch, I learned so much from this experience. I never wanted to let down a crowd again, so I walked into to my local library and asked if I could volunteer to read during story time. The librarians were happy to have extra help, and allowed me to add a watercolor painting activity at the end of the reading. While that may sound interesting, it was really just a way to add to the program without singing songs to the toddlers. I wasn't ready for that yet. 

I watched the children's librarian for a few sessions, and noted how comfortable she was reading to the kids, gently guiding the children when they bent the rules, and her ease in switching the activity to singing and dancing when they got wiggly. She made it look effortless. I was in awe. By the time I got to run the story time on my own, I felt I was letting the toddlers down somehow, taking away their fun librarian and putting a sad substitute in her place. I smiled a lot to make up for it. But they were probably transfixed by the tomato-red that my face turned when I was nervous.

I volunteered for years, until a move prevented me from being able to show up on a regular basis. But the librarians and some of the families stay in touch. The change in my ability to speak was so gradual, I don't think I really noticed anything for a long time. I teach art classes too, but somehow that feels different. A reading needs to be entertaining to keep little ones in their seats. If you are boring, they walk away. Simple as that. Adults don't do that, and I was used to adults. 

Most introverts that create picture books (whether author, illustrator or both) are content when puttering alone in the studio. Nothing feels better than a full day with the family members off at school and work, and hours to yourself to write or paint or study books. Or just daydream.

But here's the tricky part – when the work you created in your cozy studio is finally published, you will need to emerge from your safe space, and speak to the public. For many of us, this transition can feel awkward. The good news is that like anything else on your road to publication, these skills only need to be practiced to be mastered–or at least functional. None of us could jump right into drawing characters on the first day of holding a pencil. Nor could we make an interesting sentence when first learning to write. We had miles of marks to make before we felt confident. So to, we need to stand up in front of people and talk a lot to make the transition from creative introvert to creative public speaker. 

While there will always be speakers that you compare yourself to, keynotes at conferences that move you to laugh one minute, and cry the next, comparison is not helpful here. Of course studying what works for others can help your speaking experiences flow more smoothly. But resist the temptation to tell yourself that that person was born ready to both write award-winning material AND to wow a crowd. Instead, admire that their style must have evolved over many experiences sharing their work in public. Assume everyone started where you feel you are today. 

Similar to writing or drawing, take steps in this journey. No cutting corners or magic pills. And no hiring look-alikes to deliver your speech for you. (I'm sure the most terrified among us have considered this option.) Volunteer at your local library! No matter what, you will learn something while helping others. 

As I gear up for this school year and hopefully a lot of school visits for RENATO AND THE LION (so much history to talk about!) I find myself practicing again. This time, in front of children ages 5-18 in the ArtsExchange program at the Arts Council of Princeton. While I used to lead art lessons with somewhat of a dry lecture, I'm learning that I can be fun in front of a crowd. The last few lessons, I've encouraged the crowd to participate with me on designing characters and joke with me about what I was demonstrating. Last night, I didn't turn red at all after doing a blind contour drawing of the HomeFront coordinator. I was so happy when the room erupted in laughter when I revealed the funny drawing. And that's when I knew, if I can learn to get a crowd of young folks on my side and make them belly laugh, absolutely anyone can.

Watercolor activity after reading RENATO AND THE LION. Apparently I forgot to give Renato a fidget spinner.

QUINCY watercolor activity after reading the book. Children drew Quincy's thoughts on his skin.

Note my face starting to turn red...

People too polite to just get up and walk away like bored toddlers do. Thank you people!

Less red at the Books of Wonder author panel on July 16, 2017.

by Barbara DiLorenzo
Now booking author visits for 2017-2018!

Barbara is represented by Rachel Orr of the Prospect Agency.
Twitter: @wavepaint
Facebook: @BarbaraWillcoxDiLorenzo

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Picture Book Dummy Process by Diana Ting Delosh

My picture book dummy Hard Copy process used to be very time-consuming and tedious. It involved lot's of rubber cement and took about 3 -5 hours, probably due to all that rubber cement. Than one day, I came across Meredith McKean Gimbals' blog post, Putting Together a Dummy the Smart Way. WOW! Mind blowing stuff. I just had to try her process on my next dummy. Best of all no smelly, gooey, mind altering, rubber cement was involved.

You will need Adobe InDesign and I used my local Fedex/Kinkos.  I'm using CS6 not sure what INDesign Meridith used but her instructions are different from mine. FYI: I already knew how to set up my  dummy in INDesign and make the Lo-res PDF But the hard copy dummy had me flummoxed.

1: Sketch. Paint create your dummy art per your usual way.  Scan and name your files. Example My files might be named, 1-BunnyWaves-SK.jpg or 16&17-BunnyDancing-COL.jpg, etc. Save files as 300 dpi, RGB, JPG.

2: Open up a New Document in Indesign - now the fun begins. Fill in the info. My dummy book has 32 pages. It starts on pg 1. The page size is 8 x 10".  Click on Facing pages.  Put in your margin guidelines. Input your bleed info .25". Note I only added the bleed on the top, bottom and outside. My Art spread size including bleed is 16.5 x 10.5" which centers nicely on 17 x 11 paper.

Click OK
3- PLACE your images on the pages in your INDesign Document. Go to File and select PLACE or use keyboard shortcut  Command D. Page 1 is your Dummy front cover and Page 32 is your back cover.

Note if your images look blurry, you may have to go to VIEW, go down to DISPLAY PERFORMANCE and click on High Quality Display.

Now that wasn't too bad. Right?
Open INDesign document will look like this -Only showing pages 1 -5 above.

4- Need a Lo-res PDF Dummy to E-submit to an editor or agent. In INDesign go to FILE. Select ADOBE PRESETS and select (Smallest File Size). Under PAGES select ALL and make sure you select SPREADS. Click Export. Voila! It's ready to send.

5- Sometimes only a Hard Copy Dummy will do.  Using the same INDesign document as before go to FILE select ADOBE PRESETS  select (High Quality Print). Under Pages select ALL but this time select Pages. Don't fear INDesign will cut your spreads precisely and they will come together when it's collated as a a booklet - magic.

If your document has bleeds, go on the left side and click on Marks and Bleeds
Select USE Document Bleed settings. If you don't your bleed areas will not appear in your PDF. 
I didn't, but you can even get fancy and click on Crop Marks. Now, Click Export.
6- Copy your High Quality PDF to a memory stick/flash drive and take it to your Fedex/Kinkos. Ask them to print it as a BOOKLET and to staple it. My Fedex rep asked if I wanted it to be stapled in the corner or in the middle. I wanted it stapled in the middle like a real soft cover book. They used 2 staples down the "spine". They are stapled far enough away from the edge so I can trim off my bleed.

You may also experiment with different weights of paper. For example if you're meeting with an editor you might want a heavier, pricier paper. But if you're snail mailing it and you know they will not return it, you may want to go with a lighter weight paper.

7- IF your dummy has bleeds like mine - take it home and trim off the bleed on 3 sides. Using some blue tape, a metal ruler and a razor.

You can barely see it, but I've marked where I'm cutting with a pencil. The dummy pages are blue taped together to prevent them from shifting. I use a metal ruler as my straight edge and with a razor, using multiple shallow cuts until I've cut all the way through. Repeat on the next 2 sides.  Lastly, I erase any pencil marks that weren't trimmed off, if any.  
I don't know If they have a cutter that could have trimmed off the bleed for me. When I asked about the placement of the staples because I needed to trim off my bleed. They didn't offer the additional service of cutting it. So, I assumed they didn't.

8- Need to attach your dummy to your portfolio? No  problem. I used a push pin to poke a hole about an inch from the bottom in the fold. Use a big eyed needle to attach embroidery thread/string/ribbon to your dummy.

Dummies are attached to my portfolio with ribbon.
FYI: my dummies are mainly made up of pencil sketches with 4 - 5 finished illustrations, including the cover.

Twitter: dtdelosh

For your picture book creative process
Check out: 
The BIG ThumbNailer

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Random Acts of Art - By Deborah Cuneo

So... what do you do when it's your turn on the kid-lit group blog and although you've been busy working 24/7, on fun book projects, for months, but you're not allowed to share a single thing yet? You post random images of other artwork that you created in every area that you like to create in!

Girl Character  -  Pencil sketch
Duck and egg sketchbook doodle - pencil and ink
Decorative Type doodle - markers and paint pen
Decorative Type doodle - paint pen and ink

Puppy sketch...gotta have a puppy sketch!

Fiber Art

painted color sketch - Watercolors and marker

Girl Character - digital color study

Hope I get the OK to share some of the more "secret stuff" by the time it's my turn again!

Twitter: @debcuneoart 
 Instagram: @ataleof2studios