How To Write & Publish a #1 Bestselling Children’s Book to Amazon in a Weekend (Sort of…)

Thank You Bear COVER FINAL

The title of this post was the promise made by a recent free webinar I did recently. One of the people responsible for the “Chicken Soup for the (fill in profitable niche group here) Soul” publishers sponsored the webinar. Like most of these free webinars, it was well presented and had some great information, but I think the title, “How To Write & Publish a #1 Bestselling Children’s Book to Amazon in a Weekend” is a bit misleading.

The thing about these free webinars  is that they are part of a “funnel” to pull people in with an offer of something for free and then, at the end of the presentation, they offer a class or service (or classes and services together) that they say is worth in $2000-$3000 range (or more). When they hook you with the price of how much everything would cost separately, they cut it a few times to around $300 (give or take). It reminds a bit of the late, great Billy Mays of infomercial fame saying, ‘But wait, there’s more!”

Just to be clear, this is not a post about trashing these free webinars. I want to share my experience of trying out the information without buying the product offered at the end. I don’t know how much money the publishers make running these free webinars, but it seems like a great way of making extra income that also drives people to your books. If you get 100 people to pay $300 for the product, you make a nice paycheck. If anyone has run one of these and has numbers they would like to share, please contact me.

Most of the free “Write a Best-Seller Quickly” webinars I’ve participated in give the same basic information over and over:

  1. Do research on Amazon.com in the niche you want to write in. Then do a mashup, i.e. Something that is popular mashed-up with something else popular to make a new thing. This one takes a video game that is popular and mashes it up with the “Diary of a Wimpy” kid series.
  2. Write and publish your book. (Made to sound easy!!!)
  3. Drive people to the site and have a free offer to develop an email list.

The offer was for a lot of videos, a website for support, a promotional group, phone coaching and seemed like a great deal, but I didn’t take them up on it. I wanted to see if I could actually write and publish a children’s book in a weekend.

So I hopped in the shower, where I usually go to get good ideas for books, and when I came out, I had an idea. I did the Amazon research, but wasn’t ready to try a mash-up just yet. It seemed like animal books about bears were doing pretty well, so I went to Morguefile.com, a site that has licensed photos that anyone can use for free as long as they transform them into something else. I searched for photos of bears and other animals.

While searching, a little story started to form. The photos of the Sun Bear showed him being very expressive. He was a cute bear and I thought, “What if the Sun Bear was always being asked questions by the other animals?” Then, when Sun Bear answers them, they say, “Thank you,” and he says, “You’re welcome.”Definitely not a novel length story, but it seemed like a charming way to teach little ones about that concept and the photos were gorgeous and already licensed.

By that paragraph it seems that, “Bam!” I had a children’s book. But, no!

I had to gather all the photos and format them properly, write the rhymes for the story with pacing and rhythm that worked, bring in repetitive elements, find software that would compile the book, design a cover, write the front matter and back matter and put it all together, sign up for a Kindle Direct Publishing account and THEN publish the book.

It’s a LOT more work than it seems and this was a fairly simple picture book.

So, I gathered my photos and put them in different orders. When a photo didn’t work, I looked for others that did. Like I said, Morguefile.com is a free site, so some of the photos are brilliant and some are rubbish, you have to really search to find consistent quality. All of the photos I found were bright and clear with the animals doing dynamic things. That took about two days.

In the meantime, I wrote the copy. I edited the copy about 8-10 times for clarity, rhythm and rhyme. I kept trying to find just the right rhythms for a read aloud book. That took about 3 or 4 days to get right. My son, Willoughby, who is five, was a big help with this.

Then there was the software. I downloaded Amazon’s Kindle Kids’ Book Creator software from their site. It’s easy to use, but the user interface doesn’t have a lot of explanation. It took me several tries to figure out how to place text on the pages, how to keep the photos looking clear and how to add clickable links.

When I had the pictures and words of the book assembled, which took about three days or so, I wrote the front matter and back matter and tried to add links. The front matter was the copyright and title page, the welcome letter and the dedication page. My mother-in-law, who was like a mother to me, passed away recently, so I dedicated the book to her. Then I found a great quote from Dr. Seuss that seemed right, “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”

I wanted to include fun animal activities and interesting facts about the animals in the book, too. It took a few more days to come up with the animal activities and then I had to research the facts about the animals. I finished these two pages, then added a few “thank you’s” on the back page.

I also wanted clickable links in the front and back matter, so I spent hours trying to figure out how to make this work. I went to the Forums for help, but the help varied and kind of explained what was going wrong. No matter how much I tried, I couldn’t seem to get it to work. I finally stumbled on what I thought was the solution and tried that.

Then I designed and built a cover about 10 times. No matter what I did to the cover, it still ended up looking blurry when I uploaded the book to the Kindle Previewer. It looked fine as a thumbnail, but there is still something wrong with this part of the book. If anyone knows a solid solution to this, please contact me at pauljennynyc@gmail.com.

I signed into Kindle Direct Publishing on Amazon and went through the process to upload the book. I wrote copy for the landing page, describing ” Thank You, Bear!” and how the AGAIN, AGAIN books are meant to be read over and over so that children learn the words and concepts in the book.

When I finally checked all the proper boxes and figured out exactly what Amazon was asking for, I hit the PUBLISH button!

I now had a book on Amazon. Wow!

But it was a LOT more than just  a weekend. I took the free webinar on April 1 (no joke). I hit publish on April 6. Not too bad, but definitely more than a weekend.

I let the book be out there for a while before I ran a giveaway and invited friends and family to download the book for free.

They responded and left amazing reviews which drove “Thank You, Bear!” to #1 in ebooks for kids for Bears and Manners! The other benefit was I got to reconnect with a lot of friends I hadn’t spoken with in a long time. All of their news started showing up in my Facebook feeds since I had invited them to my virtual book launch.

After putting the book out there for several days, I realized there were a few problems with the book. The number one problem was the lack of clickable links. A good friend, the illustrator Anita Søelver, reached out to help.

After about 10 hours of searching forums, trying different things, she was able to find an article that showed how you had to REMOVE code from the page, not ADD anything to it. I finally had clickable links. We still haven’t figured out the cover issue.

So for about three or four days after I published the book, I was still tweaking things to make it better. Total time working on the book? I’d say about a week and a half, working on it part-time, three or four to five or six hours a day.

Conclusion:

You can write and publish a children’s book fairly quickly on Amazon with their Kindle Kids’ Book Creator, but it helps to have a knowledgeable community surrounding you that can help you when you get stuck. I think it might have been easier if I’d decided to sign up for the class, but then I would’ve added a few weeks to the process while I learned the information, processed it, and figured it out. I wanted to just jump in there and do it. I haven’t done a mash-up title yet, but I want to try that as well. I’ll post the results here.

I do have several more children’s books almost ready to go, but I’m taking a bit more time this time through. I want to avoid the constant updating of titles, descriptions, and covers that I went through the first time. If you ever need any advice or help, feel free to reach out to me. Here’s the next book’s cover:

SillyAnimalsCover

As always, I’d love to hear from anyone else about their experience of trying to publish something quickly. Please leave a comment and tell us all about it.

If you made it this far, I’d love it if you downloaded “Thank You, Bear! An AGAIN, AGAIN Book” and left a review. It’s only $1.99 right now. I’m running another FREE giveaway April 20, 21 and 22 for Earth Day. Just click the book cover to go to the page. Thank you!

Thank You Bear COVER FINAL

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Anne Lamott – Writing Quote Wednesday

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“Writing and reading decrease our sense of isolation.

They deepen and widen and expand our sense of life: they feed the soul. When writers make us shake our heads with the exactness of their prose and their truths, and even make us laugh about ourselves or life, our buoyancy is restored.

We are given a shot at dancing with, or at least clapping along with, the absurdity of life, instead of being squashed by it over and over again. It’s like singing on a boat during a terrible storm at sea.

You can’t stop the raging storm, but singing can change the hearts and spirits of the people who are together on that ship.”

                                                                                                                                           – Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird

 

 

Happy Birthday William Shakespeare!

Today is the day traditionally associated with the birth and death of the person (or persons) known as William Shakespeare.

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Shakespeare was an actor/manager as well as a playwright. He owned shares in the theatre and made really good money for his company, The Lord Chamberlain’s Men, eventually being sponsored by King James and becoming the King’s Men.

Shakespeare’s theatre, the Globe, had three different incarnations. The first burned down during Shakespeare’s play Henry VIII when a cannon  some embers caught the thatched roof on fire. The Puritans pulled down the second Globe when they declared theatre too sinful to continue. The third Globe now stands in Bankside, Southwark  near the original site of Globe one and two.

Sam Wanamaker, an American, built this monument to the great playwright and his plays. You can still see plays there during the warmer months. It is the only building since the Great Fire in London allowed to have a thatched roof.

Ben Johnson said the Shakespeare was the “soul of the age, the applause, delight, the wonder of our stage” and “…not of an age, but for all time.”

Shakespeare is also called the Bard of Avon and in the Victorian era, people so worshiped Shakespeare’s writing that George Bernard Shaw called it “bardolatry.”

Shakespeare was the third of eight children (only five survived into adulthood) and his younger brother, Edmund, was an actor as well.

His father, John, was a glover and leather worker and a “brogger” meaning he did a bit of illegal dealing in…wool…on the side. At one point John was also the town’s ale taster. How do you sign up for that job?

He worked his way up through political positions eventually becoming an alderman, but he also got into trouble for lending money with interest and withdrew from public life.

Shakespeare’s mother, Mary Arden, came from a wealthy family and inherited her father’s farm. You can still visit the farm in Stratford today. Shakespeare references the family name in his play, “As You Like It.” The play takes place in an idyllic place called the forest of Arden. There are also scholarly editions of Shakespeare’s works with really great footnotes called The Arden Shakespeare.

There are not a lot of records of Shakespeare’s life which has caused speculation that he could be more than one person. Some people think he was the Earl of Oxford, Sir Francis Bacon, the Earl of Derby or even Christopher Marlowe, a contemporary of Shakespeare’s, thought to be a spy and a “rake-hell” and killed by a dagger through the eye during a drunken brawl.

Shakespeare’s wife, Anne Hathaway (no, not the one from The Princess Diaries) was eight years older than he was. They had three children, Susannah and the twins, Hamnet and Judith. In his will, Shakespeare left Anne his second best bed. While many take this as an insult, because Anne was already established and the daughters would have needed more from the estate, he most likely left most of his furnishings and estate to his daughters. Hamnet died when he was 11 and some say he was the inspiration for Shakespeare’s most quoted character, Hamlet.

Shakespeare’s grave at Holy Trinity Church in Stratford has a curse on it so that no one digs up the grave. It says, “Good friend for Jesus’ sake forebear//To dig the dust enclosed here//Blest be the man who spares these stones//And curst be he that moves my bones.” A bit tawdry and simple, another reason people cite when they make the claim that perhaps Shakespeare wasn’t really Shakespeare.

Shakespeare wrote in early modern English and gave us over 2000 of our common words and phrases. Some examples of words first used by Shakespeare are: eyeball, puking, skim milk, obscene, hot blooded and…alligator! If you’ve ever used the phrases, “seen better days,” “it’s Greek to me,” “you’ve got to be cruel to be kind,” “you can’t have too much of a good thing,” “forever and a day,” “pure as the driven snow,” or even “high time,” you are quoting Shakespeare. Check out these two great videos for more phrases. (Horrible Histories, Kenneth Branagh)

Harold Bloom has said that no other writer has created utterly different yet self-consistent voices for more than 100 major characters and many hundreds of highly distinctive minor personages. He says that Shakespeare’s characters are not alive and yet they have altered all of our lives and may have even taught us how to be more human. Finally, Bloom, in his influential work, “Shakespeare The Invention of the Human” says that the “ultimate use of Shakespeare is to let him to teach us to think too well, to whatever truth you can sustain without perishing…”

Happy Birthday, William Shakespeare!

 

 

Coffitivity App – Enough Noise to Work

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Some of my favorite writing days have been when I was living in Chicago back in my twenties and had a long day all to myself at a local indie coffee shop.

The sound of the steamer frothing milk, the sharp bang of the coffee funnel on the counter, the grinder turning beans into the quickest way possible to get caffeine into my system and the low hum of conversations all contributed to creating just enough noise to get some great work done on whatever project I was working on at the time.

Now that I’m a Daddy Writer I don’t have as many of those leisurely days alone to ponder in random coffee shops.

That’s why this really cool app at Coffitivity.com was so exciting to find.

With a free download, you can have a coffee shop ambiance (either “Morning Murmur” or “Lunchtime Lounge”) anywhere you need it and you don’t have to pay $4 for a latte!

I really like the user interface and the sounds are calming. Check out the scientific research they cite to back up their theory that low-level noise actually enhances creativity.

Let me know if you try out the app and if it helps you with your writing. It’s available for both the iPhone and Android platforms. They also have a few other productivity apps as well.

Write Now! The Time We Have Left (in Jelly Beans) from @BuzzFeed

What will you do with the jelly beans you have left?

I want to spend mine on grand adventures of the mind and body and spirit, laughing as much as possible, hugging my four-year old and being with my family, learning new things and writing down stories for others to spend their jelly beans on.

Let me know what you’ll be doing with your jellybeans in the comments below.

Have an inspiring Tuesday!

PJ

10 Rules for Writing First Drafts

10 Rules for Writing First Drafts

Demian Farnworth has some pretty smart ideas on this poster from Copyblogger about how to get that first draft done.

I suppose if you follow number 5, however, you don’t really have to follow any of the others.

With the series of MG paranormal adventures I’m working on right now, my biggest problem is going back and editing nitpicky details before I’ve gotten a big enough chunk of writing done.

I struggle sometimes with letting a mess happen and trying to clean it up after that first draft is complete. I worry that I’ll forget which direction I was heading in with the ideas if I leave it and come back to it later. I’m trying to put more trust in that part of the process right now and the ideas on this poster are helping me with that.

How about you? Which of these rules speaks loudest to you?