When I decided to write “Katie Shaeffer, Pancake Maker” I felt I could not find the just right book about pancakes to read to my preschool class. I was in search of a pancake book because I love to read a story and then extend the story somehow and making pancakes is a favourite activity for me to do with my preschool classes. Cooking is a great way to demonstrate science in a practical way as the ingredients are combined and then heated. Children can participate in an activity that is often done at home by only adults and the opportunities to smell and taste the pancakes are a bonus.
I love the wordless book by Tomie de Paola, “Pancakes for Breakfast” but I was looking for a different type of book. I’ve also enjoyed reading “Curious George Makes Pancakes” but at times, the book feels dated and some of the illustrations are a little small for the entire class to see. And I’ve been reading these books for so many years. In my mind it was time to write something original.
Interestingly, since learning more about writing for children, I have done some research on pancake books and found that ….surprise… there are quite a few other picture books out there!
When you look it up on amazon, there are 392 “pancake books” and yet only 13 “books about pancakes”. Of course, there is “If You Give a Pig a Pancake” by Laura Numeroff and Felicia bond, and “Pancakes: An Interactive Recipe Book” by Lotta Nieminen and Megan Bennet. The list goes on…
So what makes my book special? I think it is special because it is written by an early childhood educator who has worked with young children for many years and wanted to create a book that will lend itself to the type of story extensions that are really valuable for young children. I think it is special because it has a memorable repetitive rhyme that helps children participate in the story. And that’s what we want. We want them to chime in and experience the story as fully as possible. I think it is also special because I can now say to my preschool class, my group of parents, my umbrella organization that oversees our preschools, my children’s former elementary schools and my former workplaces and co-workers: here’s a book you can read to your children that is written by someone local, with a connection to you. (For those who don’t know, I’m from Vancouver Island!)
There are reasons children will identify with Katie too. Most children find waiting to be difficult. So does Katie. She loves pancakes and she wants to make them by herself now! The last thing she wants to do is wait until she’s older. And Katie loves building things but her creations don’t always work out as she has planned.
Katie Shaeffer Pancake Maker will be published soon! Keep visiting my author page for the upcoming release date!
My first experience working with a book designer is something I’ve looked forward to for a long time. Now it is actually happening!
As a teacher, I had hoped to do a lot of this work over the summer but that just didn’t happen. I admit, I got a lot of work done preparing the manuscript balanced with plenty of breaks for some fun in the sun but getting to the next stage proved to be impossible within my two months off. And as you may have guessed, September is a busy month for most teachers, including yours truly.
I was so excited yesterday when I realized I actually had some time to do the edits! Yay! And then when I was about 75 percent finished, what happens?
Microsoft Word decides to inadvertently quite right as I am typing.
Was any of my work saved? No, of course not.
This was the time for positive self-talk if there ever was one. Don’t Panic. I tell myself. You will remember everything you just did, just start over. Fortunately, the Aries in me kicked in and my stubborn determination actually did me some good. And this time I just kept hitting save after each page until…
My edits were done!
After one more quick review today I’ve sent the edits off to the book designer! Round one: done. Yay!!
Round two edits… I’m ready for you this time!
A hike is always a good thing for me. It starts out with promise. I love a new trail to explore accompanied by a friendly conversation as we make our way along the trail. It may be raining or sunny, warm or cold and as long as I go prepared, I am happy to tackle whatever might be in front of me. I don’t always know exactly what to expect.
Sometimes the path is a little longer or a little steeper than I expect.
Sometimes it is quite tiring but somehow I just keep going with the knowledge that once I get to the top of the mountain/hill/cliff, there will be a gorgeous view as my reward.
Writing starts with promise. That idea that pops into my head and just begs itself to be written into a story. Friendly characters are my company as I create them and decide what will make them appealing to children. The weather may not always be perfect and the characters have to deal with a few setbacks but they keep moving forward along the trail as I do putting one foot in front of the other. Like the meandering trail, I’m not always sure where the story is going. Usually, I make some progress and then there’s the work of rewriting and more rewriting and even more rewriting and that’s when I feel I’m really going uphill on the trail, perhaps in the rain and wind and I wonder if I will make it to the end. I’m sort of there now with “Katie Shaeffer, Pancake Maker”.
I’m at that part of the trail where it starts to get really steep; where I might need to use my hands to scale some of the rock face in front of me; where I have to slow down as it is getting harder.
I know the reward is there and I’m going to keep climbing. It is slow going now but I’m getting closer. I’m on the trail to becoming a self-published author and I can’t wait to see the view from the top!
So I’m going back to climbing and hoping to have this book ready soon…
Okay, I’ll admit I’m no expert but I do like to share so here’s my list of 50 tips for brand new writers and self-publishers of the kid-lit variety.
- Show don’t tell You will hear this a lot. In a nutshell, this means your words need to paint a picture by including details, coversation and action.
- Use dialogue to help identify your character When you write dialogue remember who is speaking and choose words that help define the character who is speaking
- It is not completely taboo to use the word “said” Don’t just flip through the thesaurus and swap other words in for variety. Choose words that add to the action or the character’s emotion.
- Write your story and then leave it alone for awhile When you go back to it you’ll have fresh eyes
- Watch out for things that don’t make sense
- Learn about child development Knowing and understanding your audience is hugely helpful.
- Make sure the images compliment the words Children will notice if there’s a disconnect
- The children in the story need to solve the problem, not the adults
- Each page needs to connect to the next one so that the story will flow
- Making a book ‘dummy’ can be helpful to see where the page turns will be
- Generally children’s books have a sense of being home, leaving home and then coming back home
- Find a group to share your writing with You need other people to read your writing. They will see things you cannot. A fresh perspective is so valuable.
- Write and revise over and over The more you work with a story the more it grows and changes to become something better than it was at the beginning
- Take notes When you get little ideas, jot them down and save them for future stories. You never know what you might be able to use.
- Join the SCBWI There is a huge resource of expertise available to you.
- Writing for magazines is a great way to start
- If you’re writing for children, then prepare to do school visits Most children’s authors sell their books through school visits in person or via Skype.
- Start a blog In order to sell books you need a platform and that platform grows from blogging. Blogging helps you practice your craft as well.
- Grow your blog with giveaways When you host a giveaway it brings more traffic to your site allowing more people to become aware of you and your books.
- Network Through your blog you can network with other writers. You can share ideas and learn from each other plus help grow each other’s blogs.
- Guest Posts Write guest posts for other blogs and invite others to post on yours.
- Do Some Research Learn all you can about self-publishing and how it works.
- A Good Editor is Extremely Valuable A good editor can guide you so that your unpolished work becomes polished and professional.
- Be Prepared to Spend Some Money to Get the Book Published Though it is possible to publish a book without spending a lot of money, you are better off to pay for the services that will make your book stand out.
- Non-Fiction Books for Children are in Greater Demand If you have the ability to write non-fiction books for children, it may be easier to sell
- Adding a non-fiction section at the back of a fiction book can be a way to make your book more marketable
- Books that deal with topics related to the curriculum are sought after
- Research the books that are already out there Write the book that you wish you could find but no one seems to have written yet.
- Diverse children’s books are needed
- An author website is essential
- Social Media like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are important ways to let people know about your book
- Book reviews are super important You need book reviews of 4-5 stars if you want people to buy your book
- Do not pay for reviews
- Doing a blog tour can help get the message out about your book
- SCBWI has book parties that feature newly released books
- Your book needs a marketing plan
- Spend a lot of time thinking about the title of your book, choose a great one!
- People do make judgments about a book based on the cover so make sure the cover is excellent
- You can use Goodreads to connect with readers and do giveaways
- Giving away your book for free might feel difficult but it is all part of marketing
- Book design is important If you know how to use Indesign then you may be able to do this yourself but hiring a book designer is worthwhile.
- Having your book available in as many ways as possible allows more people to buy the book so consider making it available as widely as possible
- Ebooks are different from the physical book and require formatting You can pay someone to do a conversion for you.
- Children’s picture books are more expensive to produce because of the colour images.
- Images for a children’s book should be minimum 300 dpi This will avoid having the images come out looking pixilated.
- Once your artwork is completed, you can have it scanned and converted to 300 dpi files There is a significant cost for this as well so be prepared.
- Read a lot!!! Read all kinds of books but especially the books in your genre.
- Reading and commenting on other blogs is important too.
- Look at other author’s websites to see how they are structured and how they do their school visits.
- The list seems long, but keep this quote in mind… “How do you eat an elephant? A little at a time.” – Creighton Abrams
“Katie loved building things, she loved collecting things but most of all she loved pancakes.”
–Katie Shaeffer Pancake Maker
Here’s an idea for those empty water bottles you may be collecting!
You will need:
clear plastic bottles
lily white corn syrup (if you use the darker corn syrup, you won’t really see the glitter inside)
glitter shapes or tiny beads
(do not use fine glitter)
Fill the bottles with 2/3 hot water and 1/3 lily white corn syrup. I measured and whisked this in a large measuring cup with a pouring spout and added a little food colouring before pouring the mixture into the bottles. Then I added some glittery shapes and tiny beads. Finally I glued the lids on tightly. It is a little bit like making your own snow globe. You can turn it or shake the bottle and watch the shapes and beads swirl around. Very peaceful.
If you place them in the sunlight and allow light to shine through, you will see a little extra sparkle. Try it out!
Katie Shaeffer, Pancake Maker will be my first self-published picture book. My goal is to have it released this November, 2016. Coming soon to an online book store near you!
Thanks for reading!
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