About Karen Cioffi

Karen Cioffi is an award-winning author and children's ghostwriter. She loves to help those who want to be the author of a children's book fulfill their dream. Contact Karen today to get your story started!
Feb 18

The Business Side of Publishing a Picture Book

Picture Acquisition ProcessIn a children’s picture book workshop, the editor (from Scholastic) delved into why editors are so choosy when finding their next project.

‘Children’s books’ is a business. And like any other business, publishing houses think profit and loss. The editors are very aware of this and their reputation depends on them finding stories that will sell.

The editor conducting the workshop, Natalia Remis, was very upfront about what goes on behind the scenes and what takes place once she likes a manuscript.

Editors can’t afford to step out on a limb. And, even if an editor wants to, there are hoops to jump through to actually get a story acquired.

The first thing editors need to look at is the story’s appeal to the mass market.

Picture books need to sell to a wide market, to the mass market. This means they need to sell to the majority of people.

Publishing houses are thinking of schools, Target, and other large outlets.

A small niche story won’t cut it with the big companies. They want broad appeal.

Next, editors actually have to fight to get their books acquired.

Editors want their books to be acquired and to get the attention.

The more profitable books an editor takes on, the more respected she will be as an editor. It’s a boost to her reputation.

If an editor likes a picture book, she has to go over a list of considerations:

1. Is the book right for the publishing house: Does it have enough commercial appeal and kid appeal? Does it have the right hook for Barnes and Noble and the mass market?

2. Does it have enough institutional appeal for awards? It’s always a plus if a book wins awards.

3. Is the book from a known author, possibly one from another publishing house?

4. Does the editor want to spend the next two years working on this particular book? Publishing a picture book is a LONG process. The editor needs to stay motivated and engaged throughout the process.

If at this point, the editor decides it’s worth moving forward with a book, it needs to be approved by the Acquisitions Committee.

This committee has all the top marketing people in it and the editor has to:

– PROVE that they’ll make their investment back in the FIRST YEAR.
– Prove that there is a market for this particular book.
– Show that it will be a valuable product for the publishing house.

Choosing a book, seeing that ‘something’ in it is a very personal thing. The editor needs to see and feel ‘it’ in order to be willing to do battle for the book.

Editors fight hard to get a book acquired and published.

So, if you’re asked to make non-contractual revisions, jump at the opportunity.

This means the editor sees potential in the story, but it needs to be in its best shape possible to appeal to the acquisitions committee and get approval.

An editor can’t take a chance on a new author unless they see something special. And, it’s that ‘something’ that the editor needs to convince the acquisitions committee of. The editor’s reputation is on the line.

It was an enlightening workshop.

I had no idea how difficult it is for an editor in a large publishing house. It’s now easier to understand why the submissions process is like it is. And, why it’s so difficult to get a contract with the large houses if you’re a new author.

A BIG thank you to Natalia Remis for an information packed workshop.

I hope this information on editors and picture books has been helpful.

To find out what editors are looking for in picture books, check out last week’s post:

Picture Books – What Grabs an Editor?

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Being a writer, like being any kind of artist who creates something from nothing, is an amazing ability. It’s almost like magic. And, you are in control. You decide what to create. The only limit you have is the cap on your imagination.

Check out my 170+ page ebook (or paperback) that gives you all the basics of WRITING FICTION FOR CHILDREN. It’s newly revised and includes information on finding a publisher or agent, and marketing your books.


Feb 11

Picture Books – What Grabs an Editor

Picture booksI attended a ‘live’ two hour writing workshop through SCBWI: Hook, Line and Sinker: What Catches the Editor’s Eye with Scholastic editor Natalia Remis.

It was an amazing workshop and not only was the information excellent, the editor gave the first page of the attendees’ manuscripts a critique!

I try to keep up with the children’s book industry, but online you get this opinion and that opinion and the other opinion.

There’s quite a difference hearing it directly from someone in the trenches.

Okay, so let me get to it. I took lots and lots of notes.

The Business End

The BIG publishing houses, like scholastic, want to sell to the mass market.

When Scholastic contracts a manuscript, they’re thinking of the trade side: book fairs in the school system, book clubs, Target, and so on.

This means the manuscripts they sign must appeal to the needs of the schools whether in NYC or Arkansas or California – across the nation. In other words, to the mass market.

So, what do the publishers want?

They want stories that kids will want.

How Do Publishing Houses (Editors) Find the Books?

1. Editors acquire books from authors they already have under contract.

They love having a proven author who keeps cranking out books. It takes some of the unknown out of the profit/loss equation.

2. They acquire books from agents they trust. Remis strongly advised that authors be agented.

3. They do some leg work. They actually look at writing blogs.

If Remis likes the writing style of the blog, even if it’s not a children’s author’s blog, she will reach out to the blogger and see if s/he’d be interested in writing for children.

This should be a wake-up call for authors who don’t think they need an author website or a blog.


4. A smaller percentage is from unagented authors.

The PB Market

Picture books are getting harder and harder to publish.

The audience is shrinking.

By second-grade, kids are reading chapter books. So, picture books must be written for a younger child. This means the text must be geared toward a younger child.

Writing for younger children isn’t as easy as it sounds. A lot goes into it, including:

– An age-appropriate storyline
– One point-of-view
– Age-appropriate words
– Tight writing to keep it under 800 words
– Grabbing and engaging enough for a child to want to read it over and over and over
– It has to be written with the illustrations in mind

What Makes a Book Appealing to an Editor?

This is the thing every children’s picture book author wants to know.

What’s the magic formula?

The choice to take on a book is a personal one for an editor. Remis said a colleague chose a manuscript based on ONE line in the story. Another chose a book because of an illustration in the manuscript.

She likes vintage stories, particularly stories about New York City.

So, how do you get to the heart of an editor?

1. The very first step is to make you and your book visible.

a. Attend conferences and workshops.

Publishing is tough. The more people you know the better. Kind of like the who’s connected to who.

Like with the workshop I attended.

The editor is allowing the attendees to send in their PB manuscripts. This is a HUGE deal! Because of the workshop, she’ll actually look at the manuscripts.

b. Research agents and book publishers. Know which ones are a good match for your book. Know what they publish. And submit to the right ones.

Remis emphasized this with a story of a cook book manuscript someone keeps sending her. Even after she told the author that she only handles children’s books, the author keeps sending it back to her.

c. Look at recently published books in the library that are similar to your niche. Look at the imprint for the publisher. That house might be a good fit.

d. Write the infamous query letter.

This is where you need to know what the publishing house publishes because you should mention why you think your book will be a good fit for that house or agent.

Let the agent or editor know you’ve done your homework.

2. Write a strong story.

a. Keep the length of your manuscript in mind. Picture books aren’t long.

The typical PB is 32 pages, but two or three of those pages are for the front matter (title page, copyright, dedication). So, you have around 28 or 29 pages of actual story and illustrations to work with.

Every word in your story must be chosen carefully. Use simple and engaging words and sentences.

Remis did note that if you just can’t get the story within 28 pages, you can go for 40 pages. Those are the TWO options.

b. Write knowing that illustrations will help tell the story. They enhance the story and fill in the missing pieces as picture books are a marriage of text and illustrations.

c. You need a plot with the elements of a good story.

This means you need a beginning (opens), a middle (explores), and an ending (resolves).

You also need conflict in your story. There must be an emotional journey for the protagonist and the reader.

What needs to be solved? This is a must. And, it must be known at the beginning of the story. Get to it quick.

In just about all the manuscript critiques she gave, the conflict, the reason for the story was missing.

Remis suggests using a dummy story board or a similar method to see how the story can be laid out.

You’ll also be able to see which pages have too much text or too little and get a better idea of how it flows. It will help you give your story balance.

Another tip she gave is to pick a book from a book store, like Barnes and Noble, and type it out word for word.

This is also a copywriting trick. It teaches the brain to write good text.

This is just a writing exercise though. You cannot use it as your own story – that would be plagiarism.

d. You need a satisfying ending, but you don’t want to tell the reader what to think. Leave room for kids to imagine. Let them have their own take-away.

3. Read your story out loud.

As you read it, watch for where you pause or stumble.

4. Read your story to children and watch their reactions.

– Where do you lose your audience?
– Where are they most engaged?
– How long did each page take?
– How did it flow?

Watch for pausing, stumbling, and unnecessary text that slows the story down.

Remis said she occasionally reads to groups of school children to see their reactions to stories she’s working on. She ends up revising the story as she’s reading to the kids. She’ll eliminate words, sentences, even pages.

Picture books are meant to be read out loud. Your story must read well out loud.

Couple of Odds and Ends

1. Page Breaks and Numbers: Remis said you can supply page breaks or numbers when submitting your manuscript. But be careful here. Check the guide lines of the publisher or agent you’re submitting to.

2. Social Media: A social media platform can be a big deal. It’s important for young adult authors, but it’s a good idea for picture book authors too.

If a publisher knows you have a nice size following on Facebook, Instagram, or other popular social network, they’ll feel more comfortable that you can help sell your books.

Problems to Watch For

1. Don’t forget about illustrations: The first problem Remis mentioned is lots of authors forget there will be illustrations. The picture book must be visually interesting. You must be able to see how the text and illustrations will work together.

The dummy story board should help with this also.

To get an idea of how it works, study PBs focusing on the illustrations. See how they add to the story.

Leave room for the illustrator to fill in the blanks.

Remis recommended “Picture This” by Molly Bang. It shows how a PB works.

2. Don’t add a lot of Art Notes.

3. Don’t tell the editor or illustrator how to layout the book.

4. Don’t talk down to kids.

5. Don’t tell your story – show it.

6. Don’t overdo the dialogue.

7. Make the protagonist child-like (young, like the reader). Write for the young reader. This includes the dialogue and the storyline – keep it age appropriate.

8. If you’re not a skilled illustrator, don’t submit a picture book with illustrations.

There was a five-minute Q&A at the end and I asked this question:

Should your protagonist be older than the targeted reader?

Answer: Children do like to read-up, but the protagonist should be around the same age as the reader. A 12-year-old is too old as a protagonist in a picture book.

My take-away for this is if you’re writing for the four to eight-year-old market, the protagonist should be eight, possibly nine You don’t want to make the protagonist under eight because then the story won’t appeal to the older end of your market, the eight-year-old reader.

This was an eye-opening workshop.

Next week, I’ll go over the acquisitions process according to Remis. It’s very interesting stuff.

Children's ghostwriter

Whether you need rewriting or ghostwriting, let me take a look at your story. Just send me an email at: kcioffiventrice@gmail.com. Please put “Children’s Writing” in the Subject box.

Or, give me a call at 347—834—6700

Let’s get your book in publishable shape today!

Feb 04

Get Your Books Found on Amazon

Book Marketing on AmazonEveryone writing a book should realize that once it’s done, you will need to get it published, distributed, and visible.

If you’re traditionally publishing, you don’t have to worry about the publishing and distribution. But, no matter what publishing path you take, you’ll need to learn about book marketing.

This article deals with being discoverable through Amazon in particular, but the content will be applicable to anywhere you’re distributing your books to, including Barnes and Noble, iBook, and so on.

Okay, so you have your manuscript, whether ghostwritten or you’ve written it yourself. If you need illustrations for your children’s picture book, you’ve researched and found a great illustrator.

Everything is done, including editing, and your manuscript is ready to go.

According to an article at MichaelHyatt.com, research shows how a potential reader looks at your book, in the order that she actually looks:

1. She looks at the title, so it should definitely be grabbing (an attention getter) and reflective of the book’s content.
2. She looks at the cover.
3. She looks at the back cover.
4. She looks at the flap (this is applicable to hard cover books with dust jackets).
5. She’ll glance over the Table of Contents.
6. She’ll glance at the first couple of paragraphs at the beginning of the story.
7. She’ll look at the price (be comparable to other books in your genre).

We’ll focus a bit on 1, 2, and 3.

The title

Up till now, you might have been using a ‘working’ title. It’s time to step up your game and create a killer title. As you can see above, the title is the NUMBER ONE element a potential reader will look at.

It’s a good idea to include a subtitle also. This will further help the reader and search engines find your book and help them determine what it’s about.

This is especially important in series.

The title and subtitle will be the first bit of information a potential reader will get of your book.

The title should be:

– An attention getting (as mentioned above)
– Be relevant to the book itself – giving information as to what the reader can expect
– Be memorable (if at all possible)
– Be easy to say

The last two attributes are akin to your website’s domain name. Don’t make it a difficult one to pronounce or remember. People want easy and quick.

So, why do you want your title to be memorable and easy to say?

You want the reader to tell his friend that he read “Your Book Title” and loved it. You want the friend to remember the title so he can look it up and buy it.

After the title, the potential reader will look at the cover.

Do your research to get it right.

The front cover

This is definitely not for amateurs. Your cover illustration and design need to be professionally done.

While much of creating a book today can cost no money or very little, you should invest in the cover. And, it doesn’t have to be expensive. There are a number of services, like Fiverr.com, that have very good graphic designers.

The key is to find the right one for your book.

After the title and cover design, the potential reader will look at the back cover. This is usually enough for her to make a decision.

The back cover

Now, do you know what you want to do with the back cover?

While the front cover and title are your most important selling features, the back cover is the next most important thing in giving the reader a reason to buy your book.

– Do you want your author bio and picture on the back? (Not unless you’re James Patterson or Stephen King.)
– Do you want back cover copy that will help motivate the reader to buy the book? (Yes.)
– Do you want an illustration included? (If at all possible, especially for a children’s book.)

These are things to think about.

A good way to help decide is to go to your library and look at recently published books in your genre. She how these publishers designed the back covers.

Another factor

On a lesser note, some readers want to know about the author. They may scan the back of the book to check out the author bio. This make be the factor that gets the buy.

This is why you should have an Author page.

Self-publishing companies

Now it’s on to researching a quality company to take your manuscript (and illustrations if applicable) and turn it into an ebook and/or a physical book.

The self-publishing company or distributor will ask you to come up with keywords, a description, an author blurb, back cover copy, and possibly dedication copy.

Don’t just jot anything down. Think carefully. Take your time. Research keywords and what to say for the other elements.

Whether your books are listed on Amazon or elsewhere, the site’s visitor search engines will look at those optimized elements to provide an accurate answer to a visitor’s query.

SIDE NOTE: Most of the self-publishing companies offer packages. It could be illustrations, editing, providing the keywords and description, and so on. It will be an additional fee though. And, keep in mind, most are not interested in you selling your books – most of them make their money directly from you.

So again, take the time and research how to choose the categories and create your own optimized keywords, and so on. Give your book every opportunity to be discoverable.

At this point you might be wondering what this all means. Well, let me give you an example.

How Amazon’s search works – Basically

Pete wants to buy a book for his middle-grade son who loves fantasy adventure stories. So, Pete inputs MIDDLE GRADE, FANTASY, ADVENTURE, BOOK in Amazon’s search box.

My small traditional publisher knows a bit about online marketing, so created relevant keywords and a description for my middle-grade book, “Walking Through Walls.”

My book’s keywords and description include the keywords Pete used in his query.

Guess what?

Based on the optimization of my book, Amazon knows that it’s a good match to Pete’s query so they may very well give my book as one of the search results.

While there are other factors involved, this is basically how it works.

This is the power of optimizing your book for visibility. Keywords and categories especially make your book more discoverable.

How to find effective keywords . . . and categories

Just knowing you need effective keywords isn’t going to help you much. To find those keywords think logically – use common sense.

1. What is your book about?
2. What words would you use to describe your book?
3. What words would you use in a search box to find a similar book?
4. What words do you think a reader will use to find a book like yours?

Let’s say your book is a romance set in Tuscany. Come up with a list of keywords you think a person might use to search for that kind of story. Maybe it deals with a vineyard or tourism.

Along with the obvious: romance, Tuscany, love, think long-tail keyword.

A long-tail keyword is a more specific keyword. In addition to the basics, like romance, include ‘love in Tuscan,’ ‘romance Italian style.’ Maybe even something like, ‘love and wine and romance in Tuscany.’

You get the idea, elaborate. But, always make your keywords relevant to your book.

After you have at least 10-15, go to Amazon and input just the beginning of ROMANCE in the search box. In the drop-down box that appears, what key phrases does Amazon bring up?

When I did it, I was given:

Book MarketingAdd the relevant ones listed to your own list.

Next, go to similar books on Amazon. Find a couple of good matches to yours and analyze them.

As an example, I searched for ROMANCE IN TUSCANY. While there wasn’t a drop-down list of keywords, it did bring me to a page with books that have “Tuscany” in it.

For the book “That Month in Tuscany” toward the bottom of Product Details, you’ll find what it’s ranking for (the categories):

Book marketing

This book is ranking well (#1816) for: Books>Romance>Contemporary

In the More About the Author section, toward the bottom it shows what the author’s Author Rank is and for what categories:

Book visibilityThe author is ranking high for Kindle eBooks>Romance> Contemporary>Books>Literature & Fiction>Contemporary Fiction

Researching this gives you a lot of useable information.

NOTE: it’s advisable to do this research on books that have a good ranking – that are doing well on Amazon like the book I referenced above.

Categories are kind of like keywords but it gives a broader look at what your book is about.

It’s in the keywords that you’ll get more specific. If they’re appropriate for your book, you might use TUSCANY, ROMANCE IN TUSCANY, ITALY, FLORENCE, TUSCANY VINEYARDS, RENAISSANCE ART, MICHELANGELO’S DAVID.

Okay, so you have a good list of keywords and categories. Now choose the ones that the ‘good ranking’ books are using, plus add ones that are more specific to your book (long-tail keywords). Possibly, romance in Tuscany.

What about the book description?

Amazon is great in that they allow up to 4000 words (last time I looked). If you’ve written a novel or full-size nonfiction book use all the words allowed.

If you have a children’s picture book, obviously you wouldn’t use all those words. But, you should write a motivating description and possibly elaborate on how the book will be relevant or beneficial in school settings or at home.

Think outside the box. Make your book description as enticing as possible.

If you’re working with a self-publishing company, they’ll most often tell you how many words you’re allowed.

The Amazon Author Page

Not everyone knows about the Amazon Author Page, but now you do. Be sure you create one and fill in every feature offered.

Readers often want to know about the author of a book. This will give them what they want to know and it can very well help motivate them to buy your book.

You can find information about creating your own Author Page at:

You can also see how I created mine:

Taking advantage of Goodreads

Goodreads is probably the largest reader site. Readers list the books they’ve read, are reading, and want to read. And, a lot of the users give reviews of the books they’ve read.

How you can use this for your research is to go to the site and, like Amazon, use the search bar to put in your keyword and see what their search engine brings up.

If you look at a particular book, it will also give you the categories (genres) used.

While you’re on the site, create an account and list your books.

Wrapping it Up

There are many strategies you can use to help market your book. Having your book on Amazon is probably on the top of the list. Just be sure to optimize your listing to help make it discoverable. Research effective keywords, categories, and descriptions. Analyze what other books in your genre are doing in this area. Take what you learn and create a slam-dunk Amazon book strategy.

For even more information on Amazon book marketing, visit:
Improve Your Book Descriptions and Audience Targeting

If you need help with your author online platform, WOW! Women on Writing has some great e-classes that will help. Check out:

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Basic Website Optimization, Blogging Smart, Email Marketing, and Social Media Marketing

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Jan 29

Barnes and Noble Press – Another Self-Publishing Option

Self-publishing optionsI usually only post here once a week, but this is interesting news.

There’s now a Barnes & Noble Press (a self-publishing suite).

I guess it’s their take on Amazon’s KDP.

When I first heard about it, I was thrilled, especially since Createspace is getting rid of their author services. But, I’m not quite sure if it will be similar.

With B&N, you can upload your manuscript in a Word doc format, fill out the vendor information forms, and they will publish it into an e-book.

They say that within 72 hours or less, your e-book will be available for sale at BN.com and “all Nook reading devices and apps.”

It is a little more involved if you want a POD book in that you, as far as I can make out, will need to “prep your manuscript files, upload your interior page” as well as upload the front and back covers.

This is what a lot of authors need help with – formatting the manuscript and the rest of the book in order to upload it for printing. If you don’t get it right, the book won’t print right. It won’t look professional.

I wish they were more explicit in their promo as to whether they offer author services. They do mention a suite of tools rather than a suite of services, so I’m not sure. But, it’s probably a DIY thing.

If you’d like more information on the topic, go to:



It seems they’re just getting in on the game, but if you want an e-book, it’s another self-publishing option.

I’m beginning to believe that if you’re a writer of picture books and want to self-publish a quality book, you need an illustrator, a service or individual to format the book for publishing, and a publishing company, like Createspace or IngramSpark to turn it into a physical book or e-book.

Children's ghostwriterWhether you need rewriting or ghostwriting, let me take a look at your story. Just send me an email at: kcioffiventrice@gmail.com. Please put “Children’s Writing” in the Subject box.

Or, give me a call at 347—834—6700

Let’s get your book in publishable shape today!

Jan 28

Fiction Writing – Do It Right

Tips to writing fictionI’m reading a book on writing fiction. It’s Writing Fiction – The Practical Guide From New York’s Acclaimed Creative Writing School.

It’s written by the Gotham Writers’ Workshop faculty and Alexander Steele is the author of Chapter One, “Fiction: The What, How and Why of It.”

Steele explains, “Promising ideas + hard work = good fiction. Well, not quite. Something is still missing.”

So, what’s that something?

You need to invest time, effort, and yes possibly some money to learn at least the basics of the writing craft.

I’ve written about the importance of learning the craft of writing in number of articles. It’s so important to learn how to write if you want to be an author of fiction stories (and nonfiction stories).

There are things like:

– Knowing how to write dialogue
– Knowing how to use showing rather than telling
– Knowing the elements of fiction writing
– Knowing how to use quotes in nonfiction writing
– Knowing how properly format a manuscript

Learning all this and the many other rules of writing shows you took the time to do it right. It shows you care about your writing . . . and you care about your audience.

Think of it as playing an instrument, say the guitar. You figure out the very basic chords, but that’s it. You might be able to strum those chords, but would you call yourself a good guitar player. Do you think anyone would pay to hear you play? Would anyone want to listen to you for free?

Stelle equates it to building a chair. You might be able to put one together, but will it support the weight of a person? Will it look good? Will someone want to buy it?

I think you get the idea.

While anyone can type away and create a story or article, will it be professional. Will it be a quality story? Will it be marketable? Will you be proud to be the author of it?

Self-publishing has opened the door to fulfilling dreams of becoming an author. It’s true that anyone can now publish a book, but how much better will your book be if you learn at least the basic rules of fiction writing.

As Stelle puts it, “The ‘rules’ of fiction craft weren’t created by any one person in particular. They simply emerged over time as guiding principles that made fiction writing stronger, in much the same way the mortise-and-tenon joint emerged as a good way to join parts of a chair.”

The rules work and once you learn the craft, even if you’re just beginning, it can make your writing easier. The guess work is eliminated and you’ll have a better idea of when and where to break the rules to make your story unique.

So, how do you learn the craft of writing?

You learn to write fiction the same way you would learn anything – by studying it. Take writing courses and/or sign up for a writing program. There are plenty of online and offline places that offer writing.

You can even learn a lot by reading the blogs of ‘quality’ writing sites. And, be sure to join writing groups. Often there are discussions on the craft of writing.

In addition to this, READ!

Reading books from traditional publishers will help train your brain to know what ‘good’ writing is and what marketable writing is. And, unless you’re writing just for you and your family, you will want to create a marketable book.

You should also read books on the craft of writing.

Journalist and author Hunter S. Thompson said, “Anything worth doing, is worth doing right.”

Children's ghostwriterWhether you need rewriting or ghostwriting, let me take a look at your story. Just send me an email at: kcioffiventrice@gmail.com. Please put “Children’s Writing” in the Subject box.

Or, give me a call at 347—834—6700

Let’s get your book in publishable shape today!

Jan 21

Writing – Time Management and Organization

Tips to improve your writing.When I first started out in my writing career, I began to think more and more about organizing my writing. But, I was in what I call, slow mode. I worked on my stories with the intent to eventually… hopefully get published. However, I was in no rush; writing came after everything else I had to do.

That changed. Being a former accountant, I decided to make writing my second career.

Suddenly, I was writing and illustrating a book my family decided I should self-publish. That meant researching companies that offered print-on-demand service along with working on the book itself. While in the process of doing this, I was writing other works and submitting them to publishers and agents. As with most of us, I received rejection after rejection.

I also joined the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) and joined a critique group. Then finally, I came across writer’s coaching club for children’s writing. This is when my writing took on more depth and I entered the business of writing.

At the time I joined the writing club, my book was in the process of going to the printing stage of publishing. So, I had to include learning about marketing and publicity on a very low budget. I also became a member in several children’s writer’s groups online. Juggling all these things was a true challenge, one that I didn’t always live up to.

In addition to all this, I tried to participate in every teleseminar and teleconference I came across as well as doing research on writing and marketing. To add more on my plate, I became a co-moderator in a very active critique group, and I created a website and a blog. At times, it felt very overwhelming.

What I finally realized, out of necessity, is that I had to create and enforce a time management schedule.

This came to a boiling point when I received a letter from an agent requesting 3 chapters of my short story along with a 3-5 page synopsis.

I was so overwhelmed at the time, I didn’t immediately respond. Okay, it was also because I didn’t have a 3-page synopsis ready. Because I was so frazzled I sent the agent the chapters she requested, but told her if she still wanted my synopsis after reading the chapters I would love to send it.

I still cringe at my stupidity when I think of this . . . at the lost opportunity.

Okay, after this long, long lead in, my advice is: don’t wait until you become so frazzled by an overwhelming workload and lack of organization that you become your own stumbling block to success.

If you’re reading this now and don’t have a time management schedule in place, MAKE ONE TODAY and try your best to stick to it.

Be a children's writer

Being a writer, like being any kind of artist who creates something from nothing, is an amazing ability. It’s almost like magic. And, you are in control. You decide what to create. The only limit you have is the cap on your imagination.

Check out my 170+ page ebook (or paperback) that gives you all the basics of WRITING FICTION FOR CHILDREN. It’s newly revised and includes information on finding a publisher or agent, and marketing your books.

Learn to write for childrenWriting for children tipshttp://www.writersdigest.com/editor-blogs/guide-to-literary-agents/pros-cons-publishing-small-press

Writing a Fiction Story – Walking Through Walls Backstory

Picture Book Writing Style

Writing Picture Books for Young Children – A Different Writing Style

Jan 14

Your Author Platform – Is it Ever Too Soon to Start?

Creating an Author PlatformNewbies to the writing arena have many questions about creating an author platform. And, the most puzzling one is whether they need a website before they have a book published or in contract.

In fact, I’ve recently been questioned twice about whether a newbie with NO book on the publishing horizon should bother to start working on a platform and more specifically on an author website.

Both individuals felt it would be like putting the cart before the horse.

It’s important to know that this though is far from the case.

Creating a website at the get-go is putting the horse before the cart. It’s one of the forces that will pull you forward and help you establish your online platform, your presence and visibility.

So, the answer to the title question is NO. It’s never too soon to begin your author platform or your author website:

– If you want to be a writer or an author,
– If you intend to submit manuscripts to agents and/or publishers,
– If you intend to self-publish a book, the answer is still the same.

The time to get your online platform started is RIGHT NOW. And, the foundation of your platform is a website.

Keeping up with Marketing Trends

When one author mentioned she was writing a children’s middle grade book and didn’t have a website, I responded that it was a mistake. I told her websites are an essential part of an author’s online platform.

Her reply caught me by surprise. She was advised by a well-known and respected educational site for children’s writing that she should wait until she received a book contract before creating a website.

If this were 10 or 15 years ago that advice would make sense. But, today, agents and publishers want to know what the potential new author’s platform is beforehand.

Please note that this revised article was originally written in 2013, hopefully the views of this site has changed.

The size or lack-of-size of an online platform can make or break a contract.

The powers-that-be expect you to have a website in place and be involved in social networks before you even submit a manuscript. They expect you to be a big part of the marketing involved in selling the book.

Jane Friedman, Media Studies instructor at the University of Virginia and former publisher of Writer’s Digest, says, “You must cultivate a readership every day of your life, and you start TODAY.” (1)

Why do you need to start your online platform TODAY?

In a single word, the answer to that question is TIME. Establishing an online platform takes time.

It takes time to establish yourself as an authority in your niche. It takes time to develop a relationship with your readers. It takes time to develop trust. And, it takes time to broaden your reach.

Real life example:

One of my former clients created a website. And, she created pages on two of the major social networks. She did all this way before she started to get her book written.

The results? She has thousands and thousands and thousands of followers on both social networks. I’m talking about well over 30,000 followers.

You can be sure I added this information when writing the query letter for her.

Do you think this will make a difference in a publisher or agent’s view of this new author?

You bet it will.

They’ll know she’s able and willing to help sell her books.

Since your website is the foundation of your author platform, it’s absolutely, positively necessary to get a website setup and optimized as soon as possible.

It’s from this focal point, your hub of information, that you will draw the attention of the search engines and readers. You may even catch the attention of a visiting editor, publisher, or literary agent.

Your website is also the place you will get readers to sign-up for your mailing list – further building your marketing reach. It’s the place you will begin a long-term writer-reader relationship.

Think of your author website as the launching pad of your book marketing platform.

(1) http://janefriedman.com
(Sorry, this was revised from a 2013 article and I can’t find the URL to the article.)


Check out my e-class through WOW! Women on Writing:

Build Your Author/Writer Platform
More Readers, More Authority, More Sales

It’s a 4-week in-depth and interactive e-class through WOW! Women on Writing and covers all the tools you’ll need to build visibility and traffic, and boost sales.

Build your author-writer eclass

Jan 07

Walking Through Walls Book Trailer

Middle-grade fantasy adventure storyWalking Through Walls was honored with the Children’s Literary Classics Silver Award.

Set in 16th century China, this middle-grade fantasy adventure is about 12-year-old Wang. Not liking to work, it really bugs him that he has to help his father tend the wheat fields. Thinking he can bypass work and struggle (and become rich and famous), Wang sets off on an amazing adventure to find the Eternals, a legendary group of mystics who can perform magic!

The story is based on an ancient Chinese tale.

You can find out how the story came about at:
Writing a Fiction Story – Walking Through Walls Backstory

As book marketing is an essential element of an author’s life, here’s a book trailer I created for my book. I’d love to know what you think of it in the comments!

If you’d like to order your own copy of Walking Through Walls, please go to:

Amazon – Walking Through Walls
4RV Publishing (the publisher): http://www.4rvpublishingcatalog.com/calderwood—cioffi.php

Before you click on Amazon, find out why you should buy directly from book publishers:

As this site is for those wanting to become a children’s author and those wanting to learn about writing for children, I think it’s important you know that supporting book publishers is essential.

Distributors like Amazon may be convenient, but buying directly from the publisher puts more money in the publisher’s pocket and in the author’s pocket. This MATTERS!

And with Amazon allowing third-party sellers, you don’t know who you’re buying a book from or where they got that book. Some of them sell for well under retail and others sell for a crazy amount above retail.

Why not support book publisher and authors and buy directly from the publishers. The cost is about the same, so please support the book industry!

Children's ghostwriterWhether you need rewriting or ghostwriting, let me take a look at your story. Just send me an email at: kcioffiventrice@gmail.com. Please put “Children’s Writing” in the Subject box.

Or, give me a call at 347—834—6700

Let’s get your book in publishable shape today!