2019 Advent Calendar for Kids—Children’s Book Recommendations

2019 advent calendar for kids lisaferland

Create your 2019 Advent Calendar for kids with a new book every day.

Give the gift of books  to your favorite young readers this holiday season.

You’ve already read The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, so add these  independently published children’s book to your bookshelves this year.

Below are my recommendations to create an Advent Calendar for kids of children’s books for your kids to open every day of December. 

All of the links below are Amazon affiliate links to which I receive a small commission at no additional cost to you.

Budget-friendly options for book Advent calendars 

I know that not everyone has the budget to purchase 24 books in a month, which is why I propose the following budget-friendly options:

  • Create an ebook Advent Calendar for Kids

    • Sign up for Kindle Unlimited on Amazon US here
    • Or purchase the Kindle version of each book at a discounted price from the physical books
    • Kindle Unlimited is $9.99/mth and there is even a 30-day free trial if you’ve never tried it before
    • Nearly all of the books below are also available on Kindle Unlimited
    • To create an ebook Advent calendar for kids:
      • download all of the ebooks beforehand to your Kindle-reading device and place the title of the book on a slip of paper in an envelope so your kids have something to open.
    • Reading the ebooks are also a great way to see if your kids love the books before you invest in buying  physical copies.
    • The authors will still get a small royalty for your Kindle Unlimited read.
    • Be sure to leave a review!
  • Blend old and new books into your Advent calendar for kids 

    • Select some of the books on the list below that interest you the most and wrap some existing books from your children’s bookshelves into your Advent calendar collection.
  • Borrow books from the library to supplement your Advent calendar

    • If you can’t find the books below in your local library, then supplement them with another Christmas title. Your librarians will be happy to help you find a favorite.

Children’s book recommendations the 2019 Advent Calendar for kids 3-8 years

1—A Silly Milly Christmas by Sheri Wall

Is Milly naughty or nice? Does she get a glimpse of Santa Claus?

Available here: https://amzn.to/2Kvd5iS

2—The Mouse in the Hammock: a Christmas Tale by Bethany Brevard

A book that teaches children how Small Acts of Kindness can make a big impact.

Available here: https://amzn.to/33YOx9Q

3—Tomten Saves Christmas by Linda Liebrand


With just two more days till Christmas, will an invite for Christmas coffee be enough to melt Farm Tomten’s grumpy heart so Farm and Yule Tomte can save Christmas together?

Available here: https://amzn.to/2qmZHXa

4—When the Clock Strikes on Christmas Eve by Lisa Ferland

  It’s the most wonderful time of the year and kids can’t wait for the fun of Christmas morning! 

Available here: https://amzn.to/2OmUUwT

Shameless plug, I know 😉

5—Where Would Santa Go? by Julia Inserro

If you could travel the world, where would you go?

Available here: https://amzn.to/2rVTzWr

6—Humphrey’s First Christmas by Carol Heyer

We’ve all heard the story of the three wise men who brought their gifts to Baby Jesus. But what about the camels who carried them? 

Available here: https://amzn.to/2CYX3d8

7—My Teacher is an Elf by Joey and Melanie Acker

 

It’s that time of year again and Ms. Holly’s class thinks she might be an elf!

Available here: https://amzn.to/2Ok3cWq

8—Never Let a Unicorn Meet a Reindeer! by Diane Alber

A story about a little girl that wants a reindeer for her birthday!

Available here: https://amzn.to/2NWR3aO

9—Santa’s Story by Will Hillenbrand

Santa is ready to leave on Christmas Eve, but he can’t find the reindeer anywhere.

Available here: https://amzn.to/2KzoEWd

10—Zetta the Poinsettia by Alma Hammond

Zetta is excited about the holidays but before she knows it, its over.  What will Zetta’s purpose be then?

Available here: https://amzn.to/2NZGTq5

11—Secret Santas and the Twelves Days of Christmas Giving by Courtney Petruzzelli

 

This heartfelt story has inspired a movement of anonymous giving across the nation.

Available here: https://amzn.to/2OpIvIC

12—Bear Stays Up for Christmas by Karma Wilson

Bear’s friends are determined to keep Bear awake for Christmas!  Bear stays up—by discovering that giving is one of the best Christmas presents of all!

Available here: https://amzn.to/2XqYdr6

13—Little Squirrel Squish Gets his Christmas Wish

Little Squirrel Squish wished all his life to be part of Santa’s flying crew but only reindeer were allowed.

Available here: https://amzn.to/2rXSY6G

14—The Elf Who Couldn’t Read by Sonica Ellis

Santa wants Jingles to help read the Christmas list, but Jingles doesn’t know how to read yet.

Available here: https://amzn.to/2rZXhOZ

15—Lulu and Lainey: 12 Days of Christmas

While baking holiday cookies, Lulu and Grand-mère amuse themselves by singing a clever rendition of the beloved Christmas carol using knitted items as the gifts.

Available here: https://amzn.to/343fiKm

16—The Magic Friendship of Snow by Andi Cann

Jojo looks around and everyone seems to have friends but her. She feels sad and lonely. How do you make a friend?

Available here: https://amzn.to/35biCD2

17—The Christmas Crocodile by Bonny Becker

When Alice Jayne finds a crocodile under the tree on Christmas Eve, her family goes into an uproar!

Available here: https://amzn.to/32WKQA1

18—Mission Fat Hearts by Rebecca Yee

Are your kids ready to be secret agents? If they are, here is a Christmas mission the whole family will love!

Available here: https://amzn.to/2KDfh8e

19—Christmas Farm by Mary Lyn Ray

Year after year, Wilma and Parker nurture their trees, keeping careful count of how many they plant, how many perish, and how many grow to become fine, full Christmas trees.

Available here: https://amzn.to/2puQnjC

20—The Animals’ Christmas Eve by Gale Wiersum

A sweet rhyming story in which a group of animals recounts the events surrounding Jesus’ birth in the manger, and the parts some of their ancestors played in it.

Available here: https://amzn.to/2XppF8I

21—The Amazing Snowman Duel by Yossi Lapid

There is a new snowman in town! Or is he a bully? This charming story will teach your little ones that bullies do not always win and force is not the only way to settle disputes.

Available here: https://amzn.to/2XrORvf

22—The Legend of the Poinsettia by Tomie dePaola

This Mexican legend tells how the poinsettia came to be, through a little girl’s unselfish gift to the Christ Child. 

Available here: https://amzn.to/2OrDpvn

23—Dasher by Matt Tavares

Dasher is an adventurous young reindeer with a wish in her heart.

Available here: https://amzn.to/2r8GCbe

24—The Night Baafore Christmas by Dawn Young

Bo just wants to fall asleep before Santa comes, but when the sheep he’s counting rebel and wreak havoc around the house, Christmas Eve starts to go baa-dly wrong.

Available here: https://amzn.to/2KAdn82

I hope you enjoy these new Christmas stories and discover some new favorites.

As always, authors always appreciate your reviews! 

2019 advent calendar books for kids lisa ferland
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Animal lovers take over Kickstarter: Opossum Opposites by Gina Gallois

Opossum opposite cover square

Gina Gallois knew she wanted to launch Opossum Opposites on Kickstarter.  She knew she had to build an audience and keep them engaged during her campaign.

We worked together and in only two sessions, Gina was on her way creating funny opossum memes and articles that her readers love.

In this interview, I asked Gina about her experience building an audience from scratch, her Kickstarter campaign, and her plans for her future books.

What surprised you the most about running your Kickstarter campaign?

It really is a lot of work. I was surprised about the amount of upfront work, before the first backer has even pledged.

I would not have done near as good a job making sure all of my links were consistent and working together if I had not had Lisa’s help.

It takes a long time to get all of the advertising materials together – even though I didn’t do any paid ads, I made a lot of memes and graphics to post throughout the month.

Also, the work that went into the “simple” video, the Kickstarter page was a lot more than I expected. 

However, it was a great exercise because now I have all kinds of info ready to go, and I basically pinned a post to the top of my blog with all my lovely Kickstarter info so people who visit the page will see that first.

What was the best aspect of crowdfunding your campaign?

We made our goal and went well over, so now I can invest in my Spanish translation and my French editor.

It was great to see how many of the backers came from the Kickstarter community—over $1K of the funding.

What was the worst aspect of your campaign?


Being obsessed with checking my numbers for several days! Then, thank goodness I calmed down a bit once I reached my goal at the start of day 11.

I still kept pushing through the month, but I let off a bit for about 2 weeks to give people a chance to breathe before the final call for pledges. I didn’t want people to get sick of me.

What were the best strategies you did to build your audience before you launched?

I started pushing my email list really hard, and that worked pretty well—for my particular case, I promised special exclusive memes about opossums.

I mostly needed email subscribers since I was pretty much starting that from scratch, but I already had over 1000 Facebook followers, and I’m still building that audience all the time.

I think it also helped that I wrote on Medium and got my call to action out there in lots of articles related to my book (that was Lisa’s idea, and was really helpful).

You said you build your audience from zero.

What strategies did you use to build you readership before launch?

So, I am in five or six different private Facebook groups about opossums and each day of the week for several months, I made my own memes with pictures people had posted of their rescue opossums (I always credited the photos on the meme).

I posted the memes on my IG which simultaneously posts on my FB page.

Then I shared that FB post in each group with a different little quip in each new post.

People in each group saw my FB page each time I posted and sometimes they mosey on over and follow me.

Even if they only go to my page and like a post, I could scoop them up that way by inviting them to like the page later. 
 
I think the secret is that I was always giving them something entertaining and sneaking a little info and/or link in with the meme, so it didn’t annoy the crap out of people that all I was ever doing was pushing my book.
 
I rarely shared direct marketing things for my book in these groups—only to announce the beginning of the Kickstarter and maybe one to say it was about to end.
 
Otherwise, I usually got my link in the first couple of lines, but the star of the show was always the original meme.
 
I was getting over 200 new followers every month for several months.
 

What advice did you receive that helped you the most?


To write related articles, to have things ready in advance (although I could have done much better with that, I had time to do it during the month, too, luckily).

I also emailed about 200 people individually, and I think that helped even if a lot of people didn’t reply at all.

Some people I didn’t really expect to hear from were super excited about my book.

What advice would you give someone thinking about crowdfunding their book?


Get help from Lisa Ferland! Read as much as you can, study the projects that are not working and figure out why, look at the ones that are and analyze that too.

Make it yours, make it clear, make it great.

Would you crowdfund your book again?

I would if I had to, but it was so much work (and since I did pretty well), I plan to use the funds to get my publishing empire rolling and then reinvest in my next couple of projects.

I finally found a day to draft most of the next book I’ve been percolating, so I want to use all the money the first one brings in to keep going and hopefully not annoy my friends and family with guilt trips for cash anymore. Don’t want to run out of goodwill.

Although, crowdfunding is a very good way to get to people you wouldn’t normally have reached. Those super backers are nothing to sneeze at!

Final thoughts?

I learned and am still learning so much from all of this that I wouldn’t have necessarily learned so easily if I had not gone through the process of crowdfunding my book.

I could not be happier with my results. I feel prepared for anything!

Bio

Gina Gallois bio

Gina Gallois is a longtime opossum enthusiast. She recently left teaching college French to be at home with her infant daughter and to write.

In addition to children’s books, she also writes humor and personal essays on Medium.

Gina is the proud, incredibly lucky mother of two bilingual children. She’s married to an imported Frenchman who recently became a US citizen.

Connect with Gina on her website: https://livingimperfection.com/

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/LivingImperfection/

Instagram @artemisopossum

 

Are you interested in crowdfunding your book in 2020?

Do you want four weeks of free coaching, an accountability group of fellow authors, video tutorials, email templates, and resources to help you save time?

I have a new program that is perfect for you but I’m only taking in a few authors.

Want to know more?

Email me at admin@lisaferland.com with the email headline,

“I want more info on group coaching” and I’ll get back to you right way.

Seats are limited, so email me TODAY if you’re interested.

Translating Your Books Into Foreign Languages

translating childrens books pirate ship

Want to reach more readers by translating your book into foreign languages? Be sure to read this article to see if it’s a good idea for your business.

Translating books


Many indie authors are interested in translating their books into other languages to reach as many readers as possible.

As the publishers of our work, we own the rights to translate our words into any language, which is pretty amazing.

However, translating books can become an expensive endeavor with very little return if you don’t think through every aspect of the publishing process.

Foreign publishers contacting you

Sometimes, a foreign publisher will contact you offering their translation and publishing services of your book into their language.

I recommend hiring a foreign rights agent to help you negotiate these contracts so you get the best deal possible.

Contacting foreign rights agents

John Penberthy received almost $40,000 in advances when he sold the foreign rights for his motivational self-help book, To Bee or Not to Bee, to multiple foreign literary agents. 

He researched the email addresses of foreign literary agents and sent them a descriptive email, including a link to his book trailer. 

This effort resulted in offers and translation rights in Korean, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Slovenian, Chinese, and Romanian. 

He said, “I strongly recommend using literary agents (as opposed to contacting publishers directly); they are worth their weight in gold.” 

If you’re interested in learning more about translating your fiction/nonfiction, head to ALLI’s blog on how to sell your foreign rights.

For children’s book authors, keep reading.

You’ve been warned—this is about to get ugly.

translating childrens books pirate ship
Image by Tumisu from Pixabay

Translating Children’s Books—especially those that rhyme

Working with foreign rights agents may work well for straightforward fiction and nonfiction, but it’s a different story when it comes to children’s books—particularly books written in rhyme.

Balancing proper rhyme, meter, story plot, and reader interest is difficult to do in any language and often doesn’t translate well.

Rhyming books will never translate directly between any two languages (nothing ever does), and the language for children needs to be applicable.

This always results in the creation of a new storyline.

Oh, and you’ll need a snappy new title with market appeal in your target language.

A revised storyline requires one of two approaches:

—commissioning new illustrations ($), or
—shoehorning your new story to match your existing illustrations.

Translating a rhyming children’s book can become quite expensive for the indie publisher and difficult to market if you don’t know the language.

Click the image to purchase the hardcover version
VI FIRAR HALLOWEEN INBUNDEN
Klicka länken att köpa inbunden boken

My experience translating English rhymes into Swedish

When I originally planned to publish my books in two languages—my native English and my adopted language Swedish—I didn’t fully grasp the consequences of my idea.

I was naive in thinking that since my books were short children’s books, we could find words that rhyme in both languages.

It doesn’t matter if your books are 300 words or 3,000—if there is rhyming involved, you might want to reconsider taking on this arduous task yourself and pay a foreign rights agent their hard-earned 20%.

Merely finding a Swedish author to help me take on this task took a few months.

I reached out to numerous children’s book authors who wrote in Swedish rhyme, but nobody seemed interested. It’s a tough job!

I finally connected with a local author, Veronica Linarfve, who was a delightful collaborator and relished sinking her teeth into a new project so different from her novels.

Veronica had to do the heavy lifting as I could not offer intelligent alternatives to improve the meter. I can barely trust my ears to hear meter cadence in English, let alone detect it in my second language.

Fortunately, Veronica is super talented and stuck with me. We found words that worked and Swedish kids and parents absolutely love the book. 

Veronica Linarfve o Lisa Ferland
Photo credit: Veronica Linarfve

Ohh, but merely translating the words does not a book make. 

You may need new illustrations ($$)

Fortunately, I was able to crosswalk most of the existing illustrations from the English version and repurpose them for the Swedish book.

VI FIRAR HALLOWEEN spoke

Kevin the ghost needed a new costume with the words “Bus eller godis” but otherwise remained the same

Other considerations included a new book title, book cover design, title page, copyright page, ISBN, updated sales page description, and a marketing plan.

You’re definitely going to need a new title

Your translated work may have a completely different title based on the market appeal and genre of your book.

“When the clock strikes…” is a well-known phrase in English, but it doesn’t mean anything in Swedish.

The new title has to mean something to potential readers, so we changed it to, “Vi firar halloween” (Swedes don’t capitalize their titles like we do in the US/UK) which translates to, “We celebrate Halloween.”  

It doesn’t have quite the same gravitas as “When the Clock Strikes…” but Swedish readers are enjoying it and that’s the most important part.

How are you going to market your translated book(s)?

Oh yeah, marketing, don’t forget about that! No book sells itself, and neither will your translated book(s).

If you don’t know the language, you’re going to struggle to get it in front of potential readers. Google Translate will only take you so far.

Writing persuasive copy in your native language is tough and now you’re in charge of doing it in a foreign language? Ehh, ok. 

I live in Sweden, so I can take my book around to markets and stores and sell it in-person.

If you’re translating your book into Korean and you live in the US, how are you going to get it in front of Korean readers?

My long-term solution is to get my Swedish books into the Swedish version of Amazon (bokus.se) via a local fulfillment center.

Until I can get the books in circulation, I’m selling them on my Shopify website, which has been quite simple to set up and get moving.

I’m directing traffic to that site via Facebook ads.

None of this is remotely easy as I’m working in my minority language.

Again, Google Translate can only do so much.

US-based solutions, like Shopify, are super helpful but their buttons aren’t in every language so some English may remain on your page.

Here’s what my Swedish book looks like on my Swenglish Shopify page.

An Alternative Solution for Rhyming Books

But wait! I don’t come to you with only problems, I also offer potential solutions.

Tamara Rittershaus is an experienced poetry coach and editor living in Mexico.

Her family is trilingual, and she understands the need for books to be available in multiple languages.

“You need a translator and editor experienced with stories for children, because translating stories is it’s own art form,” Tamara explains.

“The translated text not only has to convey the story itself, but the jokes and puns still have to be funny, the language rich and beautiful, and the vocabulary simple and accessible to children.”

Tamara has teamed up with other bilingual professionals to offer translation services for children’s book authors in English and Spanish.

If your story is in rhyme, you have options: 

1. The story in verse can be translated as a story in prose. A good translator can use rich language to bring your story to life without using rhyme and rhythm.

2. The story can be translated to have a lyrical, rhythmic feel, but not be in rhyme. This is a step harder for the translator. He/she will need the freedom to change small details, like the order of words or the details described, to make the meter work. 

3. The story can be translated into poetry in the target language. Most likely, this is only possible with straightforward texts. It will probably require editing some details of your story and maybe even changing the illustrations. Depending on the topic and tone of your story, it may not be possible. 

Note that Option 3 is the path I chose for my Eng-Swe books. I wouldn’t really recommend it to everyone.

Be sure to contact Tamara about these options and discuss your manuscript with her team. 

They can help you decide which option is best for your story.

Pro tip: Wait until your manuscript is FINAL before attempting any translations whatsoever

If you’re publishing two separate editions —an English edition and a Spanish edition— wait for translation services until everything in your original version is finalized. 

If you’re still making changes to your text or illustrations, it’s not time to start another language edition yet. 

If you’re publishing a bilingual edition, you need to have your bilingual text ready for the illustrator early on so he/she can create the space required for the text within each illustration. As you make changes, you’ll need both an English and a Spanish editor to review the finished manuscript before publication. 

Tamara and her team offer a complete translation & editing service: 

– Professional translation services 

– Professional editing in English and Spanish 

– Digital text placement for your bilingual or Spanish edition 

They also offer marketing assistance to help you sell all of those beautiful books you had painstakingly translated.

Tamara’s website: https://www.picturebooktamara.com/

I will admit that I was a bit ambitious with my first books and eager to get them to market despite it taking an entire year. 

It will take time for me to get the books into Swedish circulation but I know that it’ll be successful once it does. We learn by doing, which is often a bit painful and expensive, but that’s how we make progress.

Whew! Ok!

So how are you feeling about translating your book?

Ja? Nej?

 

Shine Your Light Books—Surprising Lessons Learned from 2 Kickstarter Campaigns

and so much more

Children’s book author, singer, and all-around super talent, Jessica Collaço, launched her children’s books on Kickstarter.

Her first campaign raised over $12k and her second raised over $20k!!

Find out some major lessons in audience building, publishing, and crowdfunding in this interview with Jessica.

Jessica found success on Kickstarter in 2013 and 2016 and while social media strategies may change over time, her advice is timeless.

How much audience building did you do before launching your first campaign?

 
By nature, I’m not much of a planner—I tend to go for things and figure out how fly while I’m free-falling. Not always the smartest way to conduct things, but, in this case, it worked out well.
 
For both campaigns, I did very little audience building before the campaign started, save for my usual social media posting.
 
My audience before my second campaign was built very much by my first campaign and the other readers I gained from “Firenze’s Light“.  
 

What type of preparation, education, or research did you do before launching your first campaign? 

 
I had no intentions of self-publishing. The more research I did on traditional publishing, the more I realized I would have to grind just as hard to market my book, but for less of a cut in the traditional model.
 
Each time I tried to blow off the idea of self-publishing, the perfect resource or information would show up.
 
For instance, I had no idea how to find an illustrator. A friend of mine happened to work for Jim Henson Productions and put me in touch with some interns in their art department.
 
I had no idea how to get a book printed. My cousin happened to know someone who worked for a printer in China and she talked me through the process and estimated costs.
 
Most of my research was focused on the process of self-publishing and the costs. 
 
I have a rebellious streak and have a sometimes-good-sometimes-bad habit of ignoring “the way things are supposed to be done”.
 
For my second campaign, I did a lot of research on crowdfunding and how it had evolved since my first campaign for “Firenze’s Light”. The “Firenze’s Light” campaign happened when crowdfunding was relatively new.
 
By the time I campaigned for “And So Much More”, everyone and their lost dog had a crowdfunding campaign.
 
It felt much harder to get people’s attention.
 
There were also many campaigns that raised hundreds of thousands of dollars because they had a huge marketing budget to put behind it.
 
Rather than get discouraged by the slick, meticulously planned campaigns, I stayed simple. 

As a rule, I stopped researching and worrying about too much planning, and just stuck with what worked the first time: a good story and a clear, simple campaign.
 
I did reach out to more bloggers and publications for my second campaign, but I almost felt like it would have been more valuable to spend that time directly approaching new potential backers. 
 

“I stopped researching and worrying about too much planning, and just stuck with what worked the first time: a good story and a clear, simple campaign.”

Did you get a lot of repeat backers who supported Firenze’s Light to support your second campaign?

 
I did get a lot of repeat backers and a lot of new ones as well. I made it a point to approach my original backer list first because I had faith that they would be excited about my next book. 

 

What surprised you the most about launching on Kickstarter?

I knew it would not “just happen”  after my campaign went live, but I was surprised how it was a full-time job for 30 days.
 
I spent that time texting, emailing, messaging, social media posting, singing songs, making up new reward categories, doing FB live, making videos—anything I could think of—to get more eyes on my campaign. It was non-stop—and I have 3 kids LOL. Thank goodness for my husband!
 

What advice would you give someone considering crowdfunding their book?

Keep it simple.
 
A lot of people replicate their campaigns off of the most-funded campaigns that have a huge budget and staff that can support crazy, swaggy reward tiers.
 
Even if you’re not looking at the big dogs, the smaller dogs replicated the medium dogs who replicated the big dogs.
 
Shipping and random rewards like t-shirts, plushies, and toys can eat your budget so quickly and steal your focus from getting your book made when your campaign is over.
 
My rewards were mostly books.
 
Some of my higher level rewards were illustrating people into my book, self-publishing consultations, original songs, author readings—all things that are easily deliverable and that are services rather than products.
 
None of those items had shipping costs—speaking of which-spend a lot of time budgeting out your costs including your reward shipping, taxes (you have to pay taxes on your donations), Kickstarter’s cut etc. 
 
I also love the idea of having some “back-pocket” rewards to add value throughout the campaign.
 
These are rewards that you add to the 5 or 6 base rewards after the campaign is running.
 

When you’re on day 21 of 30, no one wants to hear about your book one more time. 

But they may want to hear about that original poem you will write their kid when they pledge $100 or tier up from $25 to $100. 

It keeps things fresh and can goose someone who already backed at a lower tier to a higher one. 
“Crowdfunding is great, but I find it takes me on a detour away from selling the books I already have.
 
I simply can’t wear all of those hats at once.”

Would you launch future books (or other creative projects) on Kickstarter?

 
I am very proud that the two books I have written have funded the beginning of my third.
 
My goal has been to self-fund the rest of my books by reinvesting all my profits.
 
If I get to Spring 2020 and I need printing funds, I might consider doing a small campaign to finish up, but I’d honestly rather publish a Kindle book or two this fall and get it printed that way.
 
Crowdfunding is great, but I find it takes me on a detour away from selling the books I already have.
 
I simply can’t wear all of those hats at once.
 
If I had to chose between 30 days of Kickstarter and 30 days of creating two Kindle Books, I’ll take Kindle.
 
However, if I were starting all over again today and didn’t have that choice, I would most likely do it. 

What would you do differently?

From a crowdfunding point of view—not much.
 
From a publishing point of view—I’d have the knowledge I have now, 5 years later.
 
I know so much more about writing for the market, good covers, great titles, smart writing.
 
I’ve spent a lot of time backtracking or working around those mistakes. 
 

Anything else you’d like fellow authors to know?

 
When you are doing a crowdfunding campaign, any time you talk about it, in any group, list your link.
 
I see so many people post in FB groups about their campaign and they don’t have a link.
 
Also, have fun  and enjoy the ride! It can be thrilling.
 

Bio

jessica collaco

Tired of searching for books that both empowered and entertained, Jessica set out to write ones that do both. She loves writing books that cultivate a world with more kindness, love, peace, compassion and connection.

Connect with Jessica at shineyourlightbooks.com.

 

Check out Jessica’s books here

Learn to Hook Your Audience from Disney/Pixar Films

first words starting story lisa ferland

At the 2019 Stockholm Writers Festival,  Julie Cohen presented on how to learn story structure from Pixar films and it got me analyzing everything in a new light.

Now, I’m much more mindful of the hook of a story and I notice when there is none.

What is it about a movie or book that sucks me in within the first minute of watching/reading? 

During her wonderful presentation, Julie went into great detail about story structure and how to create inciting events, climaxes, and resolutions but for this article, I’m going to focus only on the beginning of a story since so many of us (myself included) get it wrong.

But first, take two minutes and watch the opening scene from Cars below.

Opening scenes should plunge you into the action right away

The scene in Cars starts in all black and you hear the main character giving himself a pep talk before his big race. There are bright lights, the cheers from the crowd, engines revving, and rubber flying.

There’s nothing but action in the first two minutes of the film.

That’s how your book should start—jump straight into the action—hook your reader and get them flipping the pages.

Almost every writers festival has a “first pages competition” where writers submit their first 2-4 pages of the book they are writing for critique. 

Make your first lines count

Why are those first pages so crucial?

Those first few pages are what hook your reader and get them to keep reading.

The judges from the Stockholm Writers Festival said that the first line of the story was the most important. They could tell if a story would deliver or not after reading the first line alone.

Since then, I’ve analyzed a lot of first lines of all books in all genres.

Here are a few first lines worth mentioning:

“The two would-be jade thieves sweated in the kitchen of the Twice Lucky restaurant.”

Jade City by Fonda Lee

“Where’s Papa going with that ax?” said Fern to her mother as they were setting the table for breakfast.”

Charlotte’s Webb by E.B. White

“All children, except one, grow up.”

Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie

“If your teacher has to die, August isn’t a bad time of year for it.”

The Teacher’s Funeral by Richard Peck

“Jim Gallien had driven four miles out of Fairbanks when he spotted the hitchhiker standing in the snow beside the road, thumb raised high, shivering in the gray Alaska dawn.”

Into the Wild by John Krakauer

“When the clock strikes one…mummies come undone.”

—When the Clock Strikes on Halloween by Lisa Ferland

(Hah! I couldn’t resist!)

Get to the point

Disney/Pixar movies are pared down, fast-paced, and simplified—that’s why they are so enjoyable.

All authors are competing for our readers’ attention. There is no time to waste because a whole digital world of “whatever I want to explore” is sitting right next to them or is resting in their front pocket.

Jumpstart the beginning of your book—children’s book, nonfiction, or fiction novel—with something magnificent.

The authors of the First Pages competition at the Stockholm Writers Festival said that they spent hours rewriting their opening lines.

Make your opening scene hook your reader and move quickly into motion.

 

Short stories should start fast

Like in a drag race, you don’t have much time to get your story going if you’re writing a short story.

Practicing flash fiction is a great way to exercise your short writing/sprinting muscles.

I subscribe to the Flash Fiction magazine newsletter to see what people are writing.

Testing out your flash fiction chops on Reddit is also a great way to get reader feedback and hone your writing for free

I recommend reading: How to Write Short by Roy Peter Clark

This book has great tips for writing better emails to your readers, Twitter posts, and Kickstarter campaign pages.

It also has exercises at the end of each chapter so you can practice, practice, practice.

What is the first line of your book? Share it below! 

110 Backers on Launch Day: Advice for Getting Your Personal Network onto Kickstarter from D.K. Ackerman

princess pirates

D.K. Ackerman went into her book’s Kickstarter campaign with a very small social media presence.

By connecting with people individually, Dana was able to connect and leverage her personal network to make a big impression on Kickstarter. 

She exceeded her a goal of $5k and raised $7,085 from 214 new readers on Kickstarter for her children’s illustrated book, Princess Pirates.

Knowing the importance of launch day, Dana conducted extensive audience outreach and education prior to launch.

Find out how she secured 110 backers on Day 1 of her campaign while avoiding social media entirely in this interview with D.K. Ackerman. 

Establishing an Audience

In terms of reaching outside of my own personal network of friends and family, I didn’t do very much. Full disclosure, I hate social media!!

So, while I did get a professional Instagram and Facebook page and even looked into hashtags and did some “follow for follow” stuff, it didn’t do very much.

Probably because I just hate posting all the time though!! It’s something I’m realizing I especially need to work on now, though!

“I sent somewhere close to 300 emails or Facebook messages the week leading up to my launch date.”—D.K. Ackerman

Pre-launch campaign preparation

I did quite a bit of research into other successful campaigns in the children’s books genre. I looked at their campaign pages and videos and even messaged a few of them to ask their advice on what were the biggest things they did to gain momentum.
 
I joined author Facebook groups which were super helpful and I still learn a lot from. I talked with my brother in law who ran a super successful campaign himself about what he did, and his approach is what I really owe my success to. 
 
So, as a preface, I already said I was pretty bad at getting an audience before the campaign started, but just so you understand how small even my personal network is: I was home schooled my entire growing up years, went to two years of community college as a teenager and then transferred to a University and graduated from there after just two years. 

I married really young and had our first child and decided to stay home with her very soon afterwards, so I didn’t have any connections in the workplace really.
 
I’ve been a stay at home mom for years, and my average Facebook post gets around 30 likes or so. Not so encouraging when you are about to launch something like this!!
 
But, something my brother in law did was he sent individualized e-mails to friends and family. So, that’s what I did!
 
I sent somewhere close to 300 either emails or Facebook messages the week leading up to my launch date.
 
I tried to make as many messages as personal as I had time to.
 
I asked everyone 1). if they would back my project on DAY ONE and stressed why that was important and 2). share it with people they thought would appreciate a project like mine on day one as well.
 
That really made the biggest difference and I think was the biggest reason I was able to do what I did on my first Kickstarter. Not all of those people responded or could back my project, but a lot of them did and shared, too. 
princess pirates
Click to pre-order

Surprising aspects of the campaign

I was actually really surprised at 1). How much support I got on day one! I really stressed to everyone how important it was to get momentum on day one, but I was still so excited to see how many people paid attention ha!

And 2). I was surprised at how much support I got from Kickstarter itself.

Over 20% of my sales came directly from Kickstarter’s platform.

I was selected as one of their favorite projects and was able to become really visible.

I chose Kickstarter because I thought it would be a good way to launch my book, but I never imagined I’d get that much support just from people cruising the site!

Best advice for others

People underestimate the power of their own personal network and overestimate how much of that network sees their Facebook posts.
 
Friends and family WANT to support you, but don’t get discouraged if you post about your book and no one responds–they either didn’t see it, or didn’t realize how important it is to you.
 
Let people know what you’re doing in personal ways so they can recognize the work you’ve actually put into your project and of course they will want to support you!

Worth doing again

It is a pain in the butt getting everything done, not gonna lie!

But, not only did Kickstarter offer me a way to reach a whole set of people I couldn’t find on my own, but it also gave me the push to make sure when I launched my book to pre-order, I did it right.

Lessons learned

Oh man, this being my first Kickstarter there are so many things I’ve learned!

Next time I would make my page more fun and focus on adding graphics so it looks more engaging.

Due to a lot of complicated reasons, I didn’t actually know my start date until two weeks before I launched, which meant I couldn’t really reach out to a lot of outside sources with enough time to get the word out.

Next time I’d have a fixed launch date months before and so I can go to news organizations, influencers, and other outlets with enough time for them to get my messages and be able to create content that can come out during the Kickstarter.

As it is, I’m getting responses from people who want to feature my book now that my Kickstarter has ended.

I am also looking forward to creating a bigger following on social media (as much as it pains me to say!) before my next launch.

Advice for other authors

Having a book launch, whether through Kickstarter or on your own platform is invaluable!!

It forces you to do so may vital things like solidifying your message and why your book is important; creating content that helps people connect with your book; seeing if there is actually a market for your book; not to mention not having to invest your own money before you jump into something this big!

Kickstarter is especially awesome for finding new people who are interested in your book, but I recommend have a really clear message if you’re going to go that route.

You can have a successful pre-order launch on your own site and use your own personal network.

However, if you want to reach other groups of people Kickstarter can offer that, but the only way those other people are going to see your project is if you have a fantastic first day and make your message clear and important.

I really feel like there were so many more things I could have done.

Bio

Dana Ackerman headshot

D.K. Ackerman was schooled at home by a stay-at-home feminist and a dad who always encouraged her to chase her dreams. She graduated from BYU-Hawaii at age 19 and was married and started a family soon after.

She is now mother to three girls and boy and spends her day going on adventures with them. When she’s not with them she is helping her husband run his businesses and writing about her children. She is passionate about letting children be children and believes that creating spaces where their creativity can be limitless means their futures can be too.

Click here to pre-order Princess Pirates: https://dkackerman.com/

You might also enjoy

How to set up your own crowdfunding-esque pre-order system

The best month to launch your book’s campaign

5 Obstacles Crowdfunding authors want you to know before you launch

Need more help?

Schedule a free 20-minute session with Lisa to get customized help for your book’s crowdfunding campaign.

Click here: https://go.oncehub.com/lisaferland

 

5 Things Crowdfunding Authors Wished You Knew

Crowdfunding a book is not an easy task. It requires a lot of research, planning, and preparation.

Then, you deal with people’s misconceptions and misunderstandings about your goals (most people think you’re begging).

Worse yet, your well-meaning friends and family reassure you that they’ll “buy it when it’s available on Amazon,” even though you both know they won’t.

So, before you start your crowdfunding journey, here are 5 things crowdfunding authors want you to know:

#1 It’s difficult to educate people on your reasons for crowdfunding your book

Elisavet Arkolaki at Maltamum.com was shocked at how difficult it was to educate her readers on the time-sensitive nature of crowdfunding.

When the clock is ticking and the stakes are high, you have to educate your audience well in advance of your campaign launch so that everyone is on board.

Additional resources: Book Pre-launch Audience Education: Why it’s so important

Elisavet’s behind-the-scenes look at her Kickstarter campaign

#2 It’s hard to be heard on social media these days

Lindsay Achtman was surprised to discover that even posting 2x/day on her social media pages wasn’t enough to move the needle in pledges to her Kickstarter campaign.

“I need to be posting in multiple groups, at least 10 per day, to get the engagement I wanted. I had a lot of luck posting in garage sale sites (on Facebook)!”

Additional resource: The Secret to Marketing Your Book Without Annoying People

#3 Most people are confused about Kickstarter vs. GoFundMe

Rebecca Hamer says that most of her friends and family confused her Kickstarter campaign as a charity fundraiser.

“Most people had no idea how crowdfunding and Kickstarter worked. They thought it was a charity thing… I had to educate my audience on Kickstarter…”

It’s important to make clear in your audience education efforts what crowdfunding is and how it works.

Rebecca Yee Peters also struggled with the pre-order vs. donate concept during her fixed funding IndieGoGo campaign.

“Most people kept saying in posts “Donate to Rebecca’s movie.’ Even after I kept telling them it’s not a donation. People also don’t seem to realize what “all or nothing’ means. Even at 10% funded, everyone is like “you’re doing well!” I say every time “No, I don’t get to keep that money.”

Tip: Be sure to create multiple visuals explaining your goals, the process, and how they can support you. Feel free to borrow the text from the images below.

Giving thanks to the authors is always appreciated if you use these resources—share our books on social media, buy our books, or recommend them to a friend. 

#4 You can’t always rely on friends and family to support your campaign

Some authors have very generous friends and family patrons who go above and beyond (AND WE LOVE AND APPRECIATE YOU), however, some authors do not.

For those who don’t have friends and family who are interested in our books, we must rely on connecting with strangers to pre-order our books.

Connecting with strangers requires more touch points (getting the same message in front of the same people before your deadline), more time, and convincing copy.

Jennifer Senne discovered how difficult it can be to make these genuine connections during her IndieGoGo campaign and warns other authors not to rely solely on friends and family. 

Not only is it difficult to convince strangers to pre-order your book, they often cancel their pledges at the last minute, which is extra gutting when you’re running an all-or-nothing campaign.

Additional resources:  What Actually Motivates Someone to Support a Crowdfunding Campaign

Why You Can’t Copy Someone Else’s Campaign Strategy

#5 External press doesn’t usually convert into new backers

Getting external validation (bloggers, news articles, radio features, etc.,) is GREAT social proof that your book is well-received by people outside of your friends and family network but frustratingly, doesn’t always translate into new backers.

Elisavet Arkolaki explains,

“My press coverage was great but it did not lead to sales as I expected it would (0 conversion rate). I proceeded to use the press features as proof that I was doing something noteworthy.”

Sheri Wall had a disappointing outcome with the social media influencers for her IndieGoGo campaign and said, 

“I had three influencers with large email lists who said they’d share my campaign with their followers. Not one of them actually included the campaign in an email.”

Tip: Use customized links via bit.ly or Kickstarter/IndieGoGo itself to track backers coming from various sources and evaluate your return on investment. 

Want to work together 1:1?

Find out if I can help you reach your crowdfunding goals and schedule your free 20-min consultation here.

 

Why We Need More Kid’s Books About Farts

Ask any kid if they think farts are funny and 99% of them will giggle and say yes. 

Despite a clear flashing green light from our target audience (KIDS), many children’s book writers respond with strong negative emotions when confronted with farts in kid lit.

“I will never buy a book like that for my kids. Not ever.” 

“We don’t discuss those things in our house. It’s not proper.”

“Literature doesn’t need to stoop to such levels to entertain. We need better kid lit than this.”

Clearly, even talking about books about farts makes people uncomfortable.

If you’re a parent or a writer (or both) who thinks that fart books are gross and inappropriate, please hang in there with me and read until the end.

In this essay, I’m going to present 5 reasons why we need more fart books in our kids’ lives. 

1—Laughing about taboo topics opens a dialogue between adult and child

Having frequent conversations about small issues (like farts) paves the way for parents to have future discussions about much more important topics.

Life changing topics like sex, pregnancy, rape, homosexuality, abuse, and other things that are much weightier topics than stinky airy flatulence.

If a parent struggles with talking about natural bodily functions, how do you think future conversations about the darker topics like sex and rape are going to go?

I volunteer with my local women’s shelter and believe me, we need to be having lots of conversations about sex, rape and abuse with our daughters and sons. 

Reading books that make your kids laugh about a silly taboo topic (like farts) shows them that you’re open and willing to have these conversations with them.

You become and remain their safe space for these types of things.

By reading to them about all topics, you’re telling your kids that they can come to you about any problem they may be facing.

Reading a book about farts at age 5 can lead to a conversation about teenage pregnancy later one, which might prevent one and wouldn’t that be great?

See? Books about farts may prevent teenage pregnancy albeit, in a very indirect but important way. 

Conversation starters about farts may lead to other interesting conversations you didn’t know you needed to discuss.

As a parent, it’s our job to have these difficult conversations with our kids regardless of how uncomfortable we feel.

2—Silly books improve literacy

Stinky things are funny.

Kids like to laugh. Kids like to watch movies and read books that make them laugh.

Do we need poetic books with elegant prose? Of course. But we also need books that kids like to read.

My mother has been an elementary teacher for over 35 years and as soon as I became pregnant, we instantly acquired an extensive children’s library in our house.

Her most consistent advice about developing literacy in children is to first develop a love for reading.

When it comes to books, parents should take the fun job—make reading as fun as possible for your kids and they’ll learn to love to read.

Make the teachers force the boring literature onto our kids.

If your kid will devour books about underpants or farts then stock the library up and watch them read. In my opinion, it’s better that the kids read something, anything than nothing at all.

There will be plenty of time for the classics but without a foundational love of reading, they’re never going to want to read the classics.

3—We need more books that normalize our body images and self-worth

Fart books are really good for girls to read. Why? Because girls aren’t supposed to fart.

Uh huh, riiiight.

The sooner girls accept their bodies as they are, the sooner they stop hating their bodies for how they are made.

We’re not supposed to acknowledge that everybody farts because it’s taboo.

As a result, we have girls thinking it’s wrong and boys thinking girls who fart are gross.

Proud mama moment: My 8 year old son had his friend over to play and they were sitting together when she let an audible toot slip out.

“Oh! I farted. I’m sorry!” she said, embarrassed.

“No problem. Everyone does it.”

And they went back to playing as if nothing happened at all.

There was no body shaming, no guilting, and no weirdness at all. Total acceptance of something totally natural.

We need more books that normalize the human body for kids. 

4—There’s a huge gap in the market for funny books

From a writer/business perspective, this should get your attention. There is a huge hole in the market for smart humor that is well done in this genre.

Traditional publishers are looking for high quality work that makes kids laugh.

We’ve already established that kids laugh at fart books and pee jokes are always crowd pleasers.

If you have a smart idea and execute it well, your book on farts should perform really well.

Just look at I Need a New Bum which has 450 5-star reviews on Amazon at the time of this writing. 

Walter the Farting Dog has 600 5-star reviews.

Every writer knows how difficult it is to get reader reviews on Amazon and there’s no denying that these books are a hit with tons of readers.

While some writers may turn up their noses at fart books, they are overlooking a very viable marketplace that could pay their bills.

Pay the bills with fart books and write your less lucrative high brow literature on the side. 

The market is telling you what it wants.

5—There is power in having fun with your kids

The time you have with your child in your lap is limited and precious. Reading a funny book that makes your kid giggle can relieve tensions and stress at the end of a long day.

The time before bed is some of the best parent-child bonding time we have during the day. It’s nice to fill it with books that are fun.

Books represent safe fun—nobody can get hurt reading a book and they’ll learn something new about themselves or others.

Making space in your child’s life for fun at the end of their day is a great way to heal some of the stresses or worries they may have experienced at school or while you were at work.

Don’t underestimate the healing power of laughter.

Takeaway message:

Don’t take farts or books about farts so seriously. They will help you bond and connect with your kids which will help you have rich conversations about important matters later on in life.

What do you think?

Sound off in the comments below.

Writer’s Block is a Privilege

Did you know that the keyword, “writer’s block” is Googled 9,000 times/month?

Nine thousand times. It looks like a lot of writers experience writer’s block and while we all feel blocked or discouraged at times, writer’s block is a privilege.

“I don’t know what to write.”

“I know what to write but the words come out all wrong.”

If you are in a position where you don’t have to write to pay your bills, you are privileged. 

I’m privileged—tremendously. I’ve been blocked on my Christmas story for months. I had something written but it’s ridiculously awful and I can’t bring myself to mold it into something better.

Why?

Because I don’t have to.

I can work on other projects, tackle  my marketing logistics for my other books, and distract myself with other shiny objects. 

The privilege of being blocked

Cassie Gonzales cited writer’s block as privilege at the Stockholm Writers Festival when asked how she overcomes occasional blockages.

“It’s a total privilege to have writer’s block, isn’t it? My mom is a copper mine truck driver in Arizona and she has written her books on her iPad while sitting in the cab of her truck.

She has one minute while the truck is being loaded up and in that minute, she writes as much as she can. Her books read like they’ve been written in one minute chunks because they have. But she has manuscripts written down on paper.

Anytime I want to complain about writer’s block, I think about my mother and what she’s overcame to write her books.”

Tips from other writers on overcoming writer’s block

“I have a Spotify playlist for each of my characters and mood boards for each character. Whenever I start to feel stuck, I start to listen to that character’s playlist to get me back into the mood.” —Jess Lourey

“Set word count goals. Everyone can write one sentence at a time.” —Paul Rapacioli

Manipulate your emotions to break a block—it doesn’t mean your writing will be good but you’ll get unstuck.”—Cassie Gonzales

 

Everyone gets stuck sometimes

Your first draft is going to be horrible but nobody is going to see it so keep writing.

Everyone is really uncomfortable with their writing at first and it’s only until draft #10-#70 that you start to feel like a genius.

To break through my Christmas story rhyming disaster, I’m listening to Christmas music on YouTube, reading rhyming quatrains for inspiration, and putting words down on paper that will never see the light of day.

The best way to break writer’s block is to write.

Write down any words that come into your mind and eventually, your mind will spit out something worth keeping.

Angela Castillo Launches a Little Narwhal on Kickstarter

Angela Castillo has authored 30 books ranging from Christian fiction, random fairy tales, and now children’s fiction.

She decided to launch her latest children’s book on Kickstarter with a modest goal of $1200 and I wanted to find out more about her experience.

But even modest goals require a TON of work and effort and Angela details her work below.

You’ve successfully published a lot of other books—mainly adult fiction—what made you decide to set up a Kickstarter campaign for your children’s book?

I chose to launch a Kickstarter for this book mainly because kid’s books are more expensive! Since I’m not an artist, I needed help with funding for art and formatting. Also, I’m a marketer at heart, so I saw Kickstarter as an excellent way to reach a new audience.

What type of research did you conduct before launching?

I grilled authors who had done crowdfunding projects similar to mine. I also spent hours and days scrutinizing other Kickstarter campaigns, studying their reward tiers and videos.

The great thing about Kickstarter is they keep a project up for all eternity after it ends so that you can look at thousands of projects relating to yours.

I also read tons of very helpful blog articles, including several by an amazing Kickstarter Queen. Lisa, what was it? Ferland? You might have heard of her. Anyway, she’s great.

What was the most time-intensive part of the planning or crowdfunding process?

My established audience was primarily adults, so I started from scratch to find an audience interested in children’s books.

I spent about five months before my Kickstarter campaign launched creating giveaways, writing blog articles geared toward parents, and sending out a kid-related newsletter.

I was building my kid-focused audience while trying to maintain my adult audience. Not easy!

What surprised you the most about crowdfunding on Kickstarter?

Even though my goal was to reach new readers, I was amazed by the number of backers who were drawn in by Kickstarter alone–about 60 percent.


(Lisa’s note: 60% Kickstarter-only backers is fairly high for books. Most book campaigns garner 1%-20% new folks from Kickstarter)

You received a Kickstarter Project We Love recognition—do you think you saw an increase in backers due to that?

Kickstarter has a nifty tool that shows you where your backers are drawn from. I had exactly one supporter because of the Projects We Love. Not complaining—every supporter counts!

Even though it was an honor to be chosen, it’s something they give out to a lot of people, so you end up being one of maybe a dozen per day. I was still thrilled to receive it. Very validating after working your guts off on something.

What advice would you give someone considering crowdfunding their book?

a. Listen to advice from people who’ve had success and failure.


b. Make sure you have an excellent product with commercial appeal.


c. Do the math. Have someone help you run through every possible expense.


d. Prepare for international backers. I charged extra for international shipping and I had over a dozen backers from other countries who paid way more than I would have expected for a little paperback book. But you have to prepare; otherwise, international shipping can eat up your profit very quickly.


e. Set realistic goals. For instance, let’s say you want hardcover copies, but that would add 3,000.00 to your budget. If you think it’s doable, go for it. But publishing your book and paying for illustrations out the gate is more important, set your focus on that. You can always do hardcover as a stretch goal.


f. Remember, you have to deliver. I only had to ship out about 50 books but manually package, address, and stick on the postage. It’s a lot of work and was rather daunting.

g. Set aside a few months of your life. It takes a ton of time and effort to do this right. Don’t expect to launch it and let it run by itself.

Do you think you’ll crowdfund your books in the future?

I’m too fresh off this one right now. Ask me again in a year!

If you could do anything over again, what would it be?

I would not stress so much in the middle. I was freaking out because I hadn’t fully funded in three days.

It’s really a marathon, not a sprint.

Anything else you’d like fellow authors to know?

This publishing journey is an expression of art and creativity.

When we get caught up in the finances of fundraising, I think we can lose sight of that.

It’s important to take time and remember why we are creating this book. In my case, it’s because I love it. I don’t ever want to lose that passion because of stress.

Check out Little Narwhal's Day on Amazon

Bio

Angela Castillo is an Amazon best-selling author from Bastrop, Texas who loves to ramble in the woods and explore eccentric shops. She writes Christian fiction, children’s fiction, and random fairy tales, as well as freelance blog articles. Her work has appeared in publications such as Thema and The First Line. She homeschools four little explorer/creators. Click here to find her books on Amazon. 

Click here to check out her Kickstarter campaign.

 

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