Posted in Business Side of Writing, Promotion, The Nitty Gritty of Children's Writing

When Educational Publishers Ask for Your Résumé

Guest post by Jan Fields
Photo courtesy of wintersixfour on
detective.jpgA résumé that you send on first contact with a publisher (especially an educational publisher) is not the same kind of résumé you would use to find a job as a teacher or other position. The writer’s résumé is basically a map of writing experience and any useful knowledge/experience/expertise in your brain because that’s where the gems that interest the publisher lie. Approach your résumé by asking yourself, why does the publisher want to see my résumé? What’s in it for him/her? The publisher approaches your résumé like a detective: “what do I see here that I could make use of?”
So what kinds of things will you need to include? One very “normal” résumé item is education. Much of the time, the scope of your education doesn’t matter, but occasionally an editor will look specifically for someone with a certain level of education (this is especially true with assessment writing or when a publisher is looking for a specific kind of expert.) Or a publisher may look for someone who’ll look good in their catalogue because of education level. Education is almost always a bonus, but (most of the time) it’s not a deal breaker.
Another “normal” résumé item is job experience, but most of the time, the jobs you’ve held won’t be of interest to a publisher. However, if you have educational or classroom experience, or experience working with children in another setting, this will be of interest. It will suggest that any school scenes or similar moments in the book will be based on much more recent experience than your memories of your own childhood. For example, if you’re pitching a fiction series that takes place in the classroom to an educational publisher, you BETTER have classroom experience as a teacher, room mom or other volunteer or the publisher will pass because they will worry that your books won’t mirror modern classroom settings.
Even experience with children’s Sunday School or Girl Scout leader suggests you are familiar with children TODAY and won’t be writing with only your memories of what childhood was like when you were a kid. And if your experience is unusual, you never know what a publisher will cherry pick THAT part of the résumé and ask for a proposal on it. For example, I once volunteered to help with a creative problem solving competition. I mentioned that in passing to an educational publisher and was asked if I’d consider sending a proposal connected to that experience.
Focus on skills & experience
Any area where you are already an expert will shave time off the learning curve, so if you’re a licensed diver, or you’ve taken a flying course, or you can rock climb, or whatever – put it in. BUT be careful NOT to include things that you don’t want to write about. If you’re a licensed pilot but don’t ever want to write books related to flying, you might not want to mention being a pilot because editors will ask. So add in any unusual expertise, experience or interest. You honestly never know what will spur interest and result in an assignment offer.
Make the Résumé look LIGHT
The easier your résumé is to consume, the more likely an editor is to examine every item on it. Keep in mind, this is a different document than the one you would send when seeking a job. You don’t need to give addresses and dates and extensive information about each place where you’ve worked. The removal of all that extraneous detail will help you to make your résumé look like something a publisher could easily look over on even the most stressful day. So don’t overburden the document. Don’t try to look too academic. The look you’re going for is clean, light, and easily consumed. If you don’t have a website, but you’re regularly submitting to publishers who ask for résumés — consider getting a website. It’s a great place to put the more extensive details you didn’t put on the submitted résumé. And it’s a great place to load more writing samples. The kinds of editors who ask for résumés are also the kind who check out websites — so having a clean, professional website to back up your résumé is always a bonus.

Since my first magazine publication in the 1980s, I have been steadily writing for money in some form. Today I have over twenty books in print and still more in the pipeline – books for children and adults. I’ve also written for magazines, educational publishers and even a toy company! Writing is the only thing I’ve ever done really well that didn’t eventually become more like work than fun.
Read more here. And see her own résumé here.

Posted in Promotion, The Nitty Gritty of Children's Writing


(image courtesy of mantasmagorical on

internet.jpgPost by Don and Sue Ford

Q: Should authors/illustrators have their own website?
A: In our opinion, yes. Once you are published it is helpful to have a site to answer questions, advertise what you do, a place for people to learn more about you, find out what else you have published, share speaker information, and more.
Q: Where do I start?
A: First, purchase a domain name; often, it is something as simple as Domain names can cost around $10 per year. See resources below.* Next you’ll need to decide where or who will host your site.
Q: Host my site. What’s that mean? And how much does it cost?
A: Your ISP (Internet Service Provider) may already provide website hosting included in your Internet access fees. Check it out. If not, you will need a hosting service. Comparisons and reviews can be found at sites such as and Cost ranges from $1.50 a month upward depending on storage provided, data transfer limits, number of email addresses provided, and various other services. A basic plan is appropriate for your first website.
Q: Are there downsides to having my own site?
A: Yes, in the fact that it must be maintained and be kept current. Nothing worse than someone landing on a website and finding inaccurate and out-of-date information.
Q: What elements should a website have?
A: The basics for a book creator are: a book list, a bio, a picture of the author/illustrator, and contact info or a contact link.
Q: Does that all go on one page?
A: Not necessarily, unless that’s all the info you plan to share. First, you’ll have what’s called a “home page.” This is the “index page” or the page seen first. Try to find a happy balance between almost no text (i.e. “click here to enter Website” which annoys both of us) and an overwhelming amount of text. You’ll have links from your home page to other pages, plus a menu of other pages offered.
Q: Is that what is sometimes called a site map?
A: No. A site map or site index is a graphical representation of all of the pages in the website. This is usually a separate page, but is not required. Each page of your site should include a navigational area (a set of links) to help visitors find their way around your website. It can be a bar across the top, or a box on one side of the page. Often the bar across the top appears on every page, whereas the box may only have info applicable to each individual page. It is important for each page to have an obvious way to get back to the home page.
Q: What else can be on a website?
A: Your imagination is the limit. However, here is a list of possibilities:
• Your book covers
• Summary of each book
• Where to purchase the book(s)
• Testimonials to your writing or illustrating
• Book excerpts
• Upcoming projects or what’s next
• Writing or illustrating activities for kids or adults
• Links to other sites
• Articles or essays
• Speaking or school visit information
• Other services
• A blog
• Podcasts
• Your favorite books or authors or illustrators
• Pictures of your childhood, family, pets, office
• A downloadable press release
• Behind the scenes info (i.e. what inspired you to write a particular book)
Q: How many pages should I have on my website?
A: That’s a two-fold question. Your host may limit the number of pages. Otherwise, if your content is interesting, people will keep clicking to see what else they can find.
Q: Is it okay if someone can only see part of a page at a time on their screen?
A: Left and right, it’s better to fit one page. Top to bottom, sure, most browsers have a scroll bar and users are used to scrolling down for more info. You can have links with in a page to go to other sections of the same page, too.
Q: You mentioned links to other sites and now links within a page. How does that work?
A: Depends on whether you are building your website using HTML (the actual computer code for websites) or website building software. Basically, the former takes one off your site to another site. I like the open in another window option, so your site is still up. The latter is a clickable link that takes one to another page of your site or to another section on your page.
Q: Everyone seems to be blogging. How does that fit into websites?
A: It’s one way to have active content on your website. It’s also a forum to say what you want to say–though, of course, it should relate in some way to your website. Some blogs are set up so readers can sign up to receive posts automatically (recommended). Blogging works best when using special purpose blogging software provided by a web hosting service.
Q: Are there downsides to blogging?
A: Yes, of course. It requires a time commitment. Blog posts should be well written, free from grammatical and punctuation errors. Controversial posts can raise a furor of email.
Q: What’s a podcast?
A: A recording downloadable from a website for use on an MP3 player. The content of a podcast would be a complete discussion in itself. Podcasts are usually hosted on dedicated podcast hosting services that provide specialized software to support them.
Q: Okay. I want to create a website. I’ve purchased a domain name and have a hosting site. Now what?
A: Many hosting sites offer some type of user friendly software to create a website. These can include templates, formatting options for text and pictures. You may take a class or seminar on website building, where you get information and help as you build your website yourself.
Q: Speaking of pictures, what format do I use?
A: The easiest format is a jpeg (.jpg). When posting pictures, you want the images to be small (say less than 150 kbytes ) so that your website doesn’t take a long time to load. The more images per page, the longer it can take. Don’t use animated gifs (or Don will come after you). Okay, you can use one on your website, but that is it.
Q: I’m not computer savvy enough to create a website myself, so how do I get a one?
A: You can hire it done, or make friends with a nerd, who will build it for you for the fun of it. In either case, don’t forget you’ll need them to teach you how to update your website or have a maintenance plan as part of your agreement.
Q: I want to post original art, but don’t want anyone to be able to copy my images. How do I protect these pictures?
A: First, of all, posting small pictures (limited number of pixels) means these images won’t enlarge well. If someone copies one and tries to make it bigger, the resultant picture will be grainy and obviously not their original work. Some artists save a version of their work with a copyright notice or “for viewing only” or their name in “watermark style” lettering across the image itself.
Q: What can you tell me about fonts and colors?
A: You want your website to be readable and attractive. Fonts should be easy to read. No flashing text. Colors shouldn’t hinder readability. Look at websites you like and see what they’ve done. Compare them to websites you don’t like. This applies not only to fonts, colors, but formatting, etc.
Q: What else can you tell me about website formatting?
A: Your webpage formatting may change when viewed in different internet browsers (Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Chrome, Opera, etc.) If possible, view your website in more than one to see any problems.
Q: Will I make money selling books on my website?
A: Probably not much. Don’t forget you’ll have shipping for getting the books, and have to pay sales tax. If mailing books to customers, not only do you have postage, but you must pay for shipping containers. Reselling books is a lot of work that includes quite a bit of recordkeeping. Plus not all publishers allow their authors/illustrators to resell books–check your contract.
Q: Wow, there is so much to learn. It’s overwhelming. Maybe I should just forget it.
A: It can be overwhelming. But start with the basics and keep your website as simple as possible at first. As you get more experienced, you can add more to your website. See our list of resources, too.
Internet Resources about Websites
*Domain Registration Services aka Domain Registars
Five Best Domain Name Registrars
List Of Top 10 Domain Name Registrars

What Every Authors Website Should Contain

Why should an author have a website?

P.S. I have an article on website design in Writer’s Guide to 2012.

Posted in Promotion, The Nitty Gritty of Children's Writing

School Visits, the Extended Version

After sharing my last post with others I got great feedback from other writers, so asked their permission to share their wisdom, too. Of course, as usually happens, what they say makes me think of other things, too.
Affordable Rates
Trudy Ludwig also recommends, “due to lack of public school funding, authors can make their school visit rates more affordable for schools by recommending schools in close physical proximity join forces in co-sponsoring an author visit. That way, the two neighboring schools can share the author’s travel expenses and author visit fee.”
Cost Cutting Ideas
“Sometimes I offer to stay with a teacher or administrator at their home to save them lodging costs,” says Trudy. “Another way to help out schools with tight budgets is to ask if there are any school parents who would be interested in using their frequent flier miles to obtain an airline ticket for the author to save the school the airline expense. A public school in NYC actually approached me with this suggestion and I gladly accepted.”
“I’ve written/had published 19 NF children’s books and have struggled with getting school visit gigs in these tough economic times,” Mary Meinking says. “I recently did a school visit at a neighboring town’s elementary school (I live in rural Iowa), which I do for free since they’re in my community. Anyhow, since I didn’t charge them a fee, I sold books and kept the profit instead. I ended up selling 94 books, which actually made me more money than my usual $300/day fee. So it ended up being a win-win situation for everyone.”
School Visits via Skype
Rachelle Burk shared Skype an Author Network created by author Mona Kerby and Library Media Specialist Sarah Chauncey. Under “Author Visits in Your Library or Classroom” there are directions for authors and directions for teachers and librarians. Authors can ask to be included in the list. There are also Illustrators on this list.
“I’ve just started doing school visits,” Helen Landalf told me, “but one thing I’ve come across recently is schools canceling a scheduled visit. I’m not charging for my visits right now, since I’m a newbie, but when I do start charging, I’ll have to think about adding a cancellation fee to my contract.”
This reminded me of something I’ve had happen–as the teacher turned the class over to me, she said, “They don’t know why you’re here.” Aaugghh! She hadn’t even told the students they were having a special speaker. At least ask the teacher or librarian to introduce you. But better yet is if the kids are anticipating your visit! It’s worth giving one of your books or magazine stories/articles to the class ahead of time and asking the teacher to read from it. I’ve also sent printable-ready “about the author” flyers to help teachers/librarians have something tangible to share with their students. One school’s technology department had the student’s visit my website. That teacher used facts in my bio for the kids to figure out how old I was. So include something in your letter or contract about the school preparing the students for your visit. -Sue
Still worried about what to do for school visits? Or have some issues or concerns? Deb Lund, author, teacher and coach, will be speaking about school visits at the Oregon SCBWI conference this May. Plus Deb is offering a free webinar in May to those who subscribe to her blog. Meanwhile on her blog there’s a chance to win a school visit coaching give-away by Deb. Drawing is April 1st!
Author Kim Norman runs a site called Author School Visits by State. You can ask to be included by emailing Kim; see the directions on the site itself.

About the authors/illustrators interviewed in this piece:
Rachelle Burk is a magazine and picture book author and a children’s entertainer. Read more on her blog.
Helen Landalf‘s new YA novel, Flyaway, is recently out from Houghton Mifflin. It sounds fascinating! Read what else Helen has done here.
Trudy Ludwig is an award-winning author who specializes in writing children’s books that explore the colorful and sometimes confusing world of children’s social interactions. Read more about her and her books on her website.
Deb Lund is a picture book author and a writing coach. See all she does on her website.
Mary Meinking is an author/illustrator who does nonfiction books and magazine pieces. Check out her work on her website.
Kim Norman writes fiction and nonfiction for children. See what she has coming out this year here. Plus Kim has a blog about school visits and writing.

Thanks to Clarita on for the above image.

Posted in Business Side of Writing, Promotion, The Nitty Gritty of Children's Writing

Going Back to School

kidsinclass.jpgHave you ever thought of going back to school? To elementary, middle or high school that is? Many authors and/or illustrators supplement their income by doing school visits. But money definitely should not be your only reason to go back to school.
Why else do school visits?
You like to share with young people
A desire to learn and grow
To be encouraged – there really are kids out there who read!
Connection with your audience
To gain speaking experience
For inspiration and ideas
How do you get connected with a school?
If you have students (your own children, grandchildren, nieces or nephews) in school, volunteer to talk to their class about your art and/or writing.
If you live near a school, talk to the librarian, a teacher or a PTA member, about the school and ask if they have any special programs to encourage creativity. They may have, or participate in, the following and be looking for help:
– – – Young author programs
– – – PTA/PTSA Reflections
– – – Art programs
– – – Reading tutors
– – – Career days
If you’re visiting or live in your hometown, call or write to the schools you attended and ask if they’d like to have a “homegrown” guest speaker.
Talk to librarians and bookstore owners; they may know of schools looking for authors and illustrators.
Check with local writing organizations; many have speaker lists they provide to the community as a service.
Ask friends, business associates, and acquaintances for information about their children’s schools. Tell them why you’re interested.
Look on the internet for information about local schools.
How do you plan a program?
Start by asking yourself questions, such as:
– – – “What is one thing that excites me about creating?”
– – – “How did I get started down the creative path?”
– – – “What was hardest for me to learn, but when I got it, it was like the proverbial light bulb coming on?”
– – – “Where do I get my ideas?”
– – – “Is there something I do that is unusual or few others are doing?”
Plan and prepare for your talk…
– – – Pick an area or two from your starter questions–something you feel strongly about–and outline what you could tell a class.
– – – Consider whether you need to expand your knowledge with research or narrow your topic more.
– – – Think of examples and personal anecdotes to illustrate what you are talking about.
– – – Adjust outline accordingly.
Think about activities you can do with the students that would relate to your subject:
– – – question and answers
– – – brainstorming
– – – writing or illustrating exercises
– – – sharing illustrating or writing exercises
– – – reading a section of a story
– – – having students act out a story
Think about visuals – what can you show during a talk?
– – – Resources/tools you use when working
– – – Pictures
……….Content: personal pictures (you as a child or your studio/office now); stages of book production or illustration; information you researched doing your book
……….Format: slides; overheads; videos (often classrooms have televisions);PowerPoint presentations (you may need to provide your own computer and hookup to a television)
– – – Artifacts
……….Objects that inspire you
……….Objects used in a story
Practice. Planning done, you’ll obviously want to practice (outloud!) what you’ll say, how you’ll say it and how you’ll use your visuals to best effect.
Don’t over commit. Agree to speak to one class and see how it goes. You may decide you need to make changes in your program before trying it out again. Learn from each time you speak. Feel free to ask teachers for feedback and recommendations on what you can improve.
How to keep control in a classroom
Require a teacher to stay
Be prepared for smart remarks, students talking while you are talking, items being dropped, and other interruptions. Here are a few ways that work for me:
– – – Saying an obvious joke myself, rather than leaving it to the class “show-off” to spout off, seems to keep the student’s attention.
– – – Stop talking and wait for the room to quiet.
– – – Ask someone talking out of turn to answer a question.
– – – Move close to students talking.
In elementary classrooms, student’s names are often on their desks, making it easy for you to call on students by name.
Be prepared with answers for questions students often ask. Typical questions include:
– – – How much money do you make?
– – – How long did it take you to write or draw the pictures for your book?
– – – How old are you? (It’s not rude–adults ask them this question all the time!)
– – – Why do you illustrate or write for kids?
How much should you charge?
Until you have a bit of experience, you may want to charge nothing, or consider an exchange such as “may I observe your students for an hour if I speak to them for an hour?”
Speaking fees vary based on a number of factors:
– – – How well known you or your books are
– – – Your speaking experience and how well audiences receive you
– – – What schools in your area typically pay
– – – Length of presentation (Is it an hour presentation or will you be presenting all day? If presenting all day, how many times will you speak?)
– – – What other authors/illustrators charge in your area
– – – Travel requirements
– – – Audience (one classroom or the whole school in an assembly)
Don’t forget prep time when thinking of fees. A day spent in a school can require a day or more of preparation.
If possible, have schools pay for supplies used in classrooms (i.e. photocopies of a handout, drawing paper) or include the expense of these items in your fees.
If you need to travel for a visit, you may want to get reimbursed for mileage, have airfare, hotel and food costs covered, or charge more.
Be sure to specify how many presentations you’ll do per day and how long each presentation will be when discussing your fee.
Should you have a contract or written agreement with the school?
YES! This will cut down on painful misunderstandings.
– – – Even if you are volunteering, a letter confirming your agreement which includes what you’ll be doing, length of program(s), date(s), time(s), etc. is a necessity for a successful visit.
– – – If you are getting paid, some schools provide a written contract that each signs. Others won’t, so be prepared to provide a contract that spells out ALL details. You can get sample contracts online, from books or from other experienced speakers.
What if you feel you’ve failed?
Consider these thoughts.
Was your audience the right age group for what you wanted to teach/share? An older or younger group may be a match when this one wasn’t.
Does your talk need more pep? Or do you need more audience participation? Take what worked well and try it again. Change what didn’t work.
Perhaps you merely need more practice. Try it out on someone you trust. Volunteer again.
Consider providing a feedback form to the teacher so you’ll know what someone else thought of “what you did.”
Remember, kids are sometimes “too cool” to show they’re enjoying themselves. One author reported speaking to a class of seventh graders who were slumped in their seats throughout her talk. She thought they were bored stiff. Fortunately, when the class was dismissed, she overheard one student say to another, “That was really interesting.”
Going back to school as a guest speaker is challenging and is not for everyone. But many who have given it a try have found joy in communicating what they know with the next generation. Plus it is a way to augment your writing income.

School Visits Experts is a great resource by author Alexis O’Neill. She also writes articles for the SCBWI Bulletin on the topic.

Posted in Promotion, The Nitty Gritty of Children's Writing

Author Talks versus Workshops

If you will be speaking to writers, unless you were asked to do so, it’s doubtful that the organizers want you to give an “author talk” or a bookstore “book signing talk” where you share your journey on how you became an author. Of course, you will reference what you know, but this isn’t about you; it’s about your audience.
And who is that audience at a workshop or conference? Other writers. Writers listening to other writers want practical helps to take home. Think about what in your experience can encourage or inspire them. Think about what you’ve learned that someone else might be able to use. What practical tips can you share? What do you continue to struggle with?
One of the things I’ve found that people appreciate in a workshop is good handouts. They might be a copy of an article on the topic at hand, internet resources, a page of info they’ll probably want so they don’t have to scribble fast, a booklist for further reading.
Think about this tweet quote from Erin Bow: “BTW, the complete stack of MS for PLAIN KATE, which I use as a prop for my HS writing presentations, just *barely* fit in one suitcase.” (I know I’ve used this quote before.) Is she taking that large stack of manuscript pages to say “look how great I am” or is she taking it to show that writing a good book is hard work? I’m guessing the latter.
I love myselfIf you’ve heard writers speak at conferences and events, you’ve probably been disappointed at the ones who seem to have an ego larger than the stage. Keep your ego in check and attendees will appreciate it.
When a conference or event organizer gives you a topic and you agree to speak on that topic, don’t cheat and not give that talk. Yes, I know you may be asked way in advance to choose a title, but that’s a burden you should bear, not your audience. Attendees will be most likely be disappointed if they come to hear about “A” and are given “K” instead, no matter how good your speech is.
Of course, sometimes authors are asked to give an inspirational speech or keynote. If that’s the case you probably will mention some parts of your journey as that’s the one you know best. I saw good examples during keynotes at the SCBWI 2011 LA Conference (on tweetchat go to #LA11SCBWI for quotes and comments and/or go to the official SCBWI blog for a taste of the conference.)
Here are a few “thumbs up” tidbits from the conference:
Bruce Coville gave us 13 practical tips on “How to move in the world as a writer,” many of which he illustrated from his life. I loved his story of how he and Paula Danziger pledged to each other: if you don’t write 3 pages tomorrow, you will have to endure unendurable shame. At the end of his talk, Bruce said, “Don’t start with a message. Start instead with your good heart.” I’m so thankful that Bruce has a good heart and has been willing to share his wisdom and insights over the years.
David Small made us cry with tears of sympathy for the abuse of his childhood shown in his illustrated book Stitches, which has been a voice for others who don’t have a “voice.” After being the downer of the morning, according to David himself, he said, “I’m going to be the upper.” He gave us a hysterical visual view of book signings in chain versus independent bookstores. I’m thankful for the memories I’ll carry with me from his talk.
Libba Bray had us in a different kind of stitches–laughter–from the get go of her keynote as she talked about “Writing It All Wrong: a Writer’s Survival Guide.” But it wasn’t just sharing humor of how-she-did-it- wrong, she also gave some practical suggestions. The one that has been retweeted a lot is, “Your book is in there buried under the one you hate.”
Judy Blume and Laurie Halse Anderson both talked about their unhappiness before they became writers. How could we not be inspired by what they shared from their lives? Laurie reminded us we shouldn’t do so many writing related activities that we don’t write. (I’m sometimes guilty as charged!) Judy said, “The first draft is finding the pieces to the puzzle. The next draft is putting the pieces together.” She believes technology has made that harder as it’s too easy to go back and edit before the first draft is finished. Since Laurie’s keynote was the closing one of the conference, she ended with, “Go forth laughing and disturb the universe!”
These “big name” speakers ably demonstrated the purpose of their talks was to encourage, enlighten, inspire, and challenge their listeners. If we are asked to do those things, great. However, if we are asked to teach on a topic, we should teach.