Wednesday, August 30, 2017

KidLit Cares: Hurricane Harvey Relief Effort by Kate Messner - (This blog post only, written by Barbara DiLorenzo)

I had an entirely different post planned for today, but in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, I'd rather use this platform to promote helping those affected by this storm.

Yesterday I found author Kate Messner's fundraising website KidLit Cares, where agents, editors, authors, and illustrators donate their services, books and art to be auctioned to the highest bidder for the direct benefit of Red Cross disaster relief fund. She coordinated this effort to benefit victims of Superstorm Sandy in 2012. She was successful in raising over $35,000 for their relief! You can read more about KidLit Cares here.

From Kate Messner's website:

People who write children’s books and work in this industry have a wide range of interests and talents. As authors, illustrators, agents, and editors, we do different jobs, and we love and create different kinds of books. But one thing we all tend to agree on is using your powers for good in the world.

We are heartbroken that Hurricane Harvey and related flooding is having such a devastating effect on those in the storm’s path. Today and in the weeks to come, the Red Cross will be serving thousands of families displaced by Hurricane Harvey and related flooding. Those families include so many kids who read our books. We’d like to do what we can to help, and that’s what KidLit Cares is all about.

My Donation

Barbara DiLorenzo is the author/illustrator of RENATO AND THE LION (Viking 2017) and QUINCY (Little Bee Books, April 2018).
She’s offering a painting of your child with the lion character from RENATO AND THE LION. Barbara will work with you to create the likeness of your child riding on the back of the stone lion.

Opening bid: $100
Auction ends: Wednesday, September 7, 2017 at 10pm EST.

If you’d like to bid on this auction, please visit the official web page for this item:

Please also visit the website of the 197 other auction items! Just click on their links to find details and to bid on the items.

Thank you for your support!

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Beyond Submission REJECTION by Diana Ting Delosh

Unfortunately, rejection is a part of an illustrator/writer's life. If you're creating and submitting your work, you're going to face it at some point. Even when you know it's professional and not personal, it may still sting. The only way around it, is to not submit ever. Chicken. As a veteran of the submission game, here are a few of my strategies to lessen the sting in random order.
Summer Raccoon Girl © Diana Ting Delosh
Ink & Watercolor.
1 - Submit. Yup, sounds counterintuitive but this actually works. It doesn't have to be the same project - just submit something, ASAP. Every one of your submissions represents hope. If you have a lot of submissions out it's more likely that something will come back accepted. Don't put all your dreams into one project submitted to only one company.

2 - Work on a new idea - even better fall in love with your new project. Keep your mind focused on something positive and moving forward.

3. Focus on the process not the result.  Right now I'm challenging myself to submit something 4 times/month. It can be an art sample pack, promo postcards, website url, a Picture book dummy /manuscript proposal, whatever. The question, "Who am I submitting to and what" keeps me moving and the checking off  - "Yay, I did it" helps give me a mental boost.  It also makes me realize that I need to create more things. A challenge to try is: Submit 10 different things to 10 different places in 10 weeks. The closest I've ever come to meeting this challenge is 5 different things submitted to 10 different places in 10 weeks.

4. There's safety in numbers.  Nowadays most publishers accept multiple submissions, as long as you let them know. Research whom you think is a good fit for your project and submit. I do it in small batches in the hopes I won't hear NO from everyone on the same day. Now that could be depressing.

5.  Accept it when they say it doesn't suit their needs or they have too many hibernation stories at the moment. It's them not your project. Move on. Someone else may love it.

6. Wallow. When all else fails OD on the chocolates and hide under the blankets just set a limit. Allow yourself to feel sorry for yourself and your project, even shed a few tears - you're human - just remember to get back on track, ASAP.

7. Learn from your mistakes. Take a cold hard look at your project. Is there room for improvement?  Revise, edit as needed and send it to others.

8. Work on your craft. One day, you may be pleasantly horrified by some of your earlier projects and relieved that they were rejected.

9. Diversify. Learn new things. Your writing may be selling at the moment but your illustration may not, but at least something is getting a positive response. This also allows you to submit to different markets, maybe even discover a new source of income.

10. Adapt. There may be nothing wrong with your project. It could be something you can't help like the economy or the market. Be willing to repurpose your art. So the picture book market is down maybe adapt the story for an early reader or chapter book Or try working on art for an older market or something entirely new.

11. Try Semantics, for some reason, "they passed on my project," sounds a lot kinder to me than "they rejected my project." I keep a submission log and I find PASSED looks a lot nicer on paper then REJECTED.

12.  Celebrate the different levels of rejection. Give yourself a pat on the back if you get a personal letter from the editor vs the standard form rejection... or nothing. It should also be noted that in this day and age where most companies only respond when interested, a rejection is a concrete response. Thankfully, when E-submitting, some companies have an auto-reply so at least you know they received it.

FYI: This is an updated version of a post I originally published 10/15/10 on my Art blog. Hey it's summer. Here's the original post, if you're curious:  The Hare Illustrat√®re: REJECTION! - A few Antidotes

Twitter: dtdelosh

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

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.