OLD POST ALERT! This is an older post and although you might find some useful tips, any technical or publishing information is likely to be out of date. Please click on Start Here on the menu bar above to find links to my most useful articles, videos and podcast. Thanks and happy writing! – Joanna Penn
While adult narrative fiction moves easily into the digital environment, children's books are a different challenge. In today's podcast interview, children's author and illustrator Katie Davis talks about writing, illustrating and marketing.
Children’s author and illustrator Katie Davis has published ten books and appears monthly on the ABC affiliate show, Good Morning Connecticut, recommending great books for kids. She produces Brain Burps About Books, a podcast about kidlit, a blog and regular newsletter. You can watch the interview on video here, or listen as above.
- How Katie got started with writing and illustrating. Her first book came out when she was nearly 40, so it was a long journey, although she was in writing and marketing businesses before that as well as supporting herself with her art. She talks about the lack of confidence she has in her own artistic ability – something we all struggle with!
Aspects of being a successful children's author
- To be a children's writer, you only need to have been a kid. You don't need to have kids (Maurice Sendak didn't). One of the things newbies get wrong is to only write in rhyme. The story needs to be the driving force, not the need for rhyming language.
- The other error is over-emphasizing the lesson, instead of the story. It's important to respect the child's intelligence. Don't talk down to them. Talk in their language, but don't baby-talk.
- How long it takes to write a children's book, when the choice of a few words can make all the difference.
- On traditional publishing vs self-publishing for children's books, which are often more expensive especially picture books where color makes them expensive to print. Katie says that the stigma within the industry has really changed, but you need to know how it works in order to submit correctly. Katie recommends SCBWI.org as a great resource to find out more. Plus Children's Book Insider and 12 x 12 which was about writing 12 children's books in 2012.
Ebooks vs apps for kids
- Ebooks are defined as ‘Electronic version of a print book, or a book composed and published electronically with minimal interactive elements.” Whereas apps have interactive elements. It's important to make sure the format fits the story, and not use the format to try and shoehorn the story into interactivity. Read the whole article on Create your own storybook app at Writer Unboxed.
- Apple really is the market leader for children's books and apps. You can create your own art for iTunes using iBooksAuthor Book Creator
How to find an illustrator for your children's book
- Check out ChildrensIllustrators.com which also sponsors the Bologna and London Book Fair. Also HireAnIllustrator.com
- Look at books that have won Caldecott awards, to at least understand the styles you like in order to help you get started
- Make sure you have a written agreement around delivery dates, expectations, numbers of illustrations, printable formats.
Marketing books for children
- Katie shares a lot of tips in her new book (for adults) ‘How to Promote Your Children’s Book: Tips, Tricks, and Secrets to Create a Bestseller'.
- Whether you market to kids or adults is based on the type of books you're writing. Clearly, picture books for aged 4-5 need to be marketed to adults.
- Establishing your platform is just as key in selling kid's books. Katie mentions John Green, YA author with a hugely popular YouTube channel with vlogbrothers which appeals to his market of teenagers. Recently, he sold out Carnegie Hall for a variety show for teens, covered by the NY Times and USA Today.
- The principles of reciprocity, generosity and social karma are really important in the online space. Help others and it will come back to you. This is how you should approach the online marketing environment.
- Katie mentions the Grad School rap which author Adam Ruben created for his book ‘Surviving Your Stupid, Stupid Decision to Go to Grad School‘ and it got picked up by national media and sold a ton of books. Video can really work if it gets attention.
- Having fun marketing – is it possible? Redefine it as ‘talking to people and making friends'. Katie uses the example of Twitter Book Birthday.
- For video, you can record interviews like these. If you're worried about using your own face, you can use animation e.g. GoAnimate.com . But eye to eye contact can be very powerful. It doesn't matter what you look like. People don't care. They want information or entertainment, and connection is important. Free information will ‘buy' people's trust and loyalty and this will translate into sales in the long-term.
You can find Katie at KatieDavis.com and her podcast Brain Burps About Books.
You can also check out her video course VideoIdiotBootcamp.com
You can find the interview Katie did with me here on self-publishing.