“Road To Reviews,” Iggy Loo, Day 12


In Idaho today! I had to see the craters of the moon! Created over 15,000 years ago by lava flowing from the Great Rift. A sight to see.

And how can one not see the Idaho Potato Museum while in Idaho! The museum is dedicated to you guess it the spud. Did you know a potato is made up of 80% water? I didn’t know there was so much to learn about a potato. Hey, what do you call a baby potato? A small fry! Ha!

Okay, let’s get serious. I headed over to my friend Kayla where she is going to review one of my favorite holiday books, Iggy Loo.

Kayla: Maria Ashworth’s “Iggy Loo” will bring you back to all of your Holiday memories. The little red head knew just what to do with Iggy Loo to conserve his memory and pass him down to her own child. Such a well written children’s book and the pictures add a world of visual that bring the book to life. This is just what is needed to cherish the holidays. I enjoyed the “how to”, it adds a more personable touch to the end. Definitely adding this one to the collection.
http://www.projectmomdotme.wordpress.com, @pretty_L_mamas

Available: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Clear Fork Publishing. Ask for it at your local book store and library.
Hard Cover $16.99
Soft Cover $10.99


Toenails For Sale

Someone congratulated my husband recently on my successes as a writer. He said, “You can quit your job and go fishing all day now.” My husband laughed it off and thought, If he only knew. And my book ledger proves his thought. My husband shakes his head at my career choice. Last night he said, “You’d make more money selling your toe nails on the street corner.” I laughed. I probably could. I could make a caboodle amount of money with the amount of hours I put in to a real paying job. I think about the countless hours I spend on my laptop. But I’m not a unique writer. All writers go beyond the Monday through Friday 9-5 work week.  We spend many hours behind our desk. Typing on the couch. Writing on the train. Taking our laptop on vacations. Using our weekends for book signings and book festivals. Somedays I feel like one of thse kiosk people with the cart at the mall you try to run away from. “No, thank, I’m good,” I tell them.

Mack Collier  states, “The amount of your advance will not come close to covering the amount of time it will take you to write the book.”  Let’s assume that you spend just 10 hours a week on writing your book, and that it takes you a total of 8 months to finish it.  That’s 320 hours you have invested in writing this book.  Assuming you get a $5,000 advance, that means your hourly rate for writing the book was $15.63.  This doesn’t count for the time we put into marketing and promotion.

Then why do we write?

Authors create books for many reasons. Here in the chart you can see a writer’s greatest reason is to entertain. The least reason is for fame. why-writers-write2Where on the chart does it say to become rich? Well, I’m going to let you know if you’re not a big named author chances are slim. Authors are usually supplementing their income with school visits, speaking engagements and whatever other creative ways to make a buck. Yet, one would think, you’re an author, you’re banking. Truth be told. You are broker than broke. When they say, “Don’t give up your day job,” they mean it.

You make a decision at some point in your writing career which route you plan to take. First to agent or not to agent. That’s a choice. Do you need to have an agent to be published? No. Why did I? I threw my fishing line into the pond and caught the fish. I had an agent for two years. While I enjoyed sitting back and waiting on a yes or no from editors. I waited. And waited. And waited. Two years of no control. Not knowing what was happening day to day. While I found having an agent very prestigious, the waiting game for me gave me ants in the pants. Don’t get me wrong. I loved saying I had an agent.I loved my agent. It made me feel someone other than myself believed in my work. But I hated the wait. Did I say hated? Also, you need to come to terms when you land a book deal your agent gets 15% right off the top.

If you are accepted by a publisher you feel you’ve hit the jackpot. Big house, advance. Small house, likely no advance. But you have a contract.When we are accepted by a publishing house we’re offered an advance between 1,000-10,000. The advance will vary. Don’t be fooled though. The advance must be paid back through book sales. Yes, an author doesn’t get a dime (royalties) until you’ve acquired sales to pay back or earn your entire advance. Meaning your advance is 1,000 you must acquire 1,000 dollar in book sales. Now stick with me here. When a book sells in the store for $16.00 the author doesn’t get the entire $16.00 toward their advance. They get a very small percentage. After the advance is paid either as a percentage of the price of the book or as a percentage of publishers net receipts which vary from publisher to publisher then you earn a royalty. There are numerous different types of royalties that may be paid at different rates. So for example, if an novel book is listed at $25.00, that means that if your contract says you get 10% royalties off list, then you will get $2.50 per book.  If you are getting 10% of net profits, common practice with a small press, then you’d get around $1.25 per book.  Let’s say you get a $3,000 advance for your book and you get 10% royalties net profit, and the book’s list price is $16.00. That means you are making $1.25 per book, and that you will need to sell 4,000 copies of your book just to break even.  It can take a lifetime of the book to sell that many books. The average US non-fiction book sells about 250 copies a year and around 3,000 copies over its lifetime. Some will never earn a royalty because their book has not earned out. Then we haven’t even talked about those bins where the book has been discounted to half-price. Eek! So if you’re making $1.25 or $2.50 off a book think about how many books it would take to pay back a 3,000 advance. If you built a good following than you might get it paid off a lot quicker.

Now the picture book market is crazy competitive. Are we making a Jimmy Fallon salary? Nada. Wait did he even write that twenty word book? A picture book author makes 3-6% off retail with big name publishers. If the book sells for $16.00 you will get the 3-6% off the selling price. With a small press it’s usually the average offer is 10-15% off net profit. So it’s not off of the $16.00. It’s the profit after the expenses are paid and its what’s left. Have you figured out the numbers yet? So if you the reader goes into the store and pick up a picture book for $16.00. That author is making somewhere between .16-.85 cents. Maybe slightly more. Yes, the author is making that much off your purchase. Someone’s making the money. It’s just not the author. Sad but true. This might help.


Image result for bug eyed monkey picGeez, then why are we in this career? Why do we write? Why do we put so much time in doing this? Like the pie chart you looked at earlier. To educate. To express. To help. Do we want to get rich off this gig? Heck yes. Is it possible? Double heck. But is it realistic to believe it’ll happen? We can only hope.

My husband is supportive and proud of my writing successes but some days I really think he rather me sells my toenails.

*Disclaimer: I’m dissecting my own experiences and research. I have tried to get the facts correct. I’d love to hear some feedback.

Finding My Illustrator

Where did it all begin? Or should I say how?

I had the story, Step One, Step Two, Step Three and Four, so all I needed was the illustrations. Where did I look? I solicited local artists. I was knocked over when I found out price per page. And if you’re going to pay that type of money you better love it. Well I didn’t love them. So I waited. I researched. One of my writer friends had her book totally done by Createspace. It’s when they had an illustrator team. They did away with it.

I found dragonpencil. You could do everything there in one spot. The illustrators were priced low to high. You could tell why they were priced that way. But nonetheless, there was some good ones in there. Still I wasn’t satisfied with the price. I kept looking. I heard a lot about freelancer.com. Some people having great luck and some did not. I thought I’d give it a try. I plugged my book in and in seconds had a good handful of offers. Most or shall I say all were from other countries. I checked their turnaround time, their star rating and reviews. Some were relentless and wanted a chance at illustrating your book. I requested an illustration. Some will agree for no fee. I took those seriously. I felt they wanted to work. One gal caught my eye after she illustrated a sketch the way I had envisioned. She was from Romania and wrote clear emails. She knew english quite well. I created an illustrator contract on my own and we both signed and were off and running. The book took four months to complete. Way longer than the contract anticipated. We had a difficult time getting the measurements right for Createspace. I’m not sure if measurements are different there. We were both frustrated. The time change was a killer. One message went between us each day which dragged this out.

Would I have used freelancer.com again, yes. Was it economical? I got to say it was a price I could live with. I definitely would be thinking more around the same time zones. Nbearot soon after, I was seeking another illustrator for My Big Tree since it had it rounds with the agent. We exhausted the industry and I didn’t want to shelve it for five years. I thought it had a multi-premise and saw big things for it. But, this time I didn’t use freelancer.com. I chose a different route.

I heard a lot about fivver.com. I was curious. How could people do stuff for five dollars? Well not everything is five dollars. That’s just to get you to check them out. I thought it couldn’t hurt to take a look. I researched children’s illustrators and went through screens and screens of candidates. I found a gal from THE STATES who could draw a pretty fine looking dog. I fell in love with him. I wanted him but I didn’t have a dog in my book. I messaged her and asked if she could draw me a bird. Boom! Amazing and adorable. We signed the contract. The relationship was flawless. I assumed from her handwriting she was a senior citizen with a slew of grandchildren who lived on a farm and raised chickens. Boy was I wrong. Fresh out of high school and into her first year of college. In three months the the illustrations were completed (even with adding a dog last minute) No problems with the cover or set up. If I did she was very accommodating. Would I do fivver.com again? Yes, best experience. Did I pay five dollars per illustration, no. It goes by how many characters per page, etc. Was the price fair? YES! Be careful because some want you to pay a fancy rights fee which I didn’t think they should charge. If you have a contract to buy all rights you shouldn’t need it. Only drawback is you cannot contact them off the site. The website won’t let you trade information.

I had it set up My Big Tree with Createspace. I was waiting to get the cover uploaded. In the meantime, I went to the Texas Library Association in Houston. I met a publisher who said he’d mention my name to another publisher and three days later I received a call. We chatted about my work and My Big Tree found its home.

Hey, look at me, I’m an Indie author!



Tiny Talk Tuesday with . . .Kathi Appelt

kathi Kathi is the author of more than 30 books. She writes novels, picture books, poetry, and nonfiction for children and young adults. Her publishing credits stem way back to 2006, stacking up a slew of writing credits under her belt. Her books have been translated into several languages: Spanish, Chinese,French and Swedish.when-otis-courted-mama

Her first novel was The Underneath, published by Simon & Schuster in 2008. It features a cat and dog who live mainly beneath an old house in the Louisiana–Texas bayou. For that work she received the annual Children’s Literature award and she was also a runner-up for the National Book Award and the American Library Association Newbery Honor Book. Her recent works include Counting Crows and When Otis Courted Mama.

She has two grown children and lives in Texas with her husband. Visit her at KathiAppelt.com.

And now the tiny talk. Enjoy!

ME:  What is your greatest accomplishment?

KATHI: Raising our two brilliant sons with my brilliant hubby.

ME:  Do you have a special talent?

KATHI: I think I’m good with cats and small children.

ME:  If you can spend a day with one of your book characters who would it be, and why?

KATHI: I’m working on a new story now, so I’m spending a lot of time with that main character.  It would be so great if she were a real person and could just tell me her story.  Then I wouldn’t have to make it up.  But . . . wait . . . that’s the fun part, making it up.

ME: Tell us five words that describes you as a writer.

KATHI: Tenacious, avid, slow, serious, muddled.

ME: Are you a Pantser or a Plotter?

KATHI: I’d say I’m a bit of both, but at the end of the day, I appreciate an outline.

I am privileged to had the chance to interview Kathi. I can’t wait to see what she comes up with next.

Tiny Talk Tuesday With . . . Dee Leone

dee Dee and I go way back. Way before I started writing. I got to know her on a more personal level. I moved out of the area for a couple of years. Then one day I was at the Houston SCBWI conference and we bumped into each other. I’m like, “You’re a writer?” And she’s like, “You write too?” And sincebizz that day, we’ve been critique partners ever since. What I didn’t know when we first met was she has a knack for writing poetry and has quite a humorous writing style when she wants to.

Last year, Dee delighted us with the news that she was to have her first children’s book published with Penguin. Bizz & Buzz are two adorable bees who are great friends that love buzzing around together. In this book they decide to recreate a favorite recipe, but make simple mistakes. When they need a little flour they decide to find a little flower. A great play with homophones.

Dee is not new to the writing world. She has written several reproducible books for the educational market, covering themes such as science, language arts, and holidays. In addition, many of her stories, poems, plays, and activity puzzles have appeared in children’s magazines. She presently is represented by Jennifer DeChiara.

Now  IMG_1870 for the interview with one of my favorite authors.

ME: Tell us something that has been in the vault. Something hardly anyone knows about you.

DEE: In high school, I was determined to make the gymnastics team. One practice session, the coach told me I should consider trying a handspring vault. Not wanting to mess up in front of her, I later set the apparatus on a low setting and had two students spot me. What they “spotted” was me flying completely over the vault and crash landing.

The coach didn’t see that 2.0 performance but was impressed with my other skills. She took me aside and basically told me I’d make the team if I tried out. I was thrilled… until I learned how much the team apparel was going to cost. There was no way my family could afford it.

The next day, I told my mother I was ill. It wasn’t exactly a lie because I was sick to my stomach. I missed school and tryouts. To this day, my mother and the coach have no idea why. There you have it… what’s been “in the vault” all these years.

ME: Shh . . .I won’t tell.

ME: How do you want to be remembered?

DEE: It’s standard for studios to develop feature-length animated films in-house. I’d like to break that mold by selling my current screenplay project as an individual. After all, I’m writing in my house, so I figure that should count, right?

ME: I can’t wait to see it on the big screen. Love those canine pups.

ME: Describe your writing style.

DEE: My writing style varies with the project I’m working on, but I especially enjoy creating protagonists with a sense of humor and stories that involve puns or some kind of word play. And horror of publishing industry horrors, I love to write in rhyme.

ME: And you are the best rhymer I know.

ME: Are you a Pantser or a Plotter?

DEE: I’m going to call myself a plantser… a pantser with an “l” for loose outline. I tend to dive into a story to find the main character’s voice before developing any real plot. Taking the “pl” out of plotter, I know I otter make it easier on myself and create an outline first.

ME: If you could spend a day with one of your book characters who would it be, and why?

DEE: I’d choose Rosie, my MG protagonist whose story is currently in the submission stage. I have a thing against lying and thought it would be interesting to create a character with that flaw. Besides delving into the reasons Rosie acts the way she does, I’d get to hang out with her at gymnastics. (Spoiler: Her nemesis is beam, not vault.)

ME: I had the pleasure of meeting Rosie. I love her.

ME: I want to thank you Dee for doing my “Tiny Talk.” I can’t wait to see more great things from you. I’m pretty lucky to get a first look at a best seller every week.

DEE: Maria, I can’t tell you how thrilled I am to be a guest on your blog where you’ve interviewed the likes of Jay Asher, E.B. Lewis, and Debbi Ridpath Ohi. Thank you so much for having me.

ME: The pleasure is all mine.

Tiny Talk Tuesday with . . . Mandy McGinnis

I was introduced to Mindy by a critique partner of mine. She knew I liked to hunt and thought, NOT A DROP TO DRINK would be right up my alley. She nailed it. I didn’t think I’d ever get into a dystopian novel (my critique partner favors). But this environmental futuristic story where water is worth more than gold. The teenage character Lynn is a strong female who learned how to defend the family pond and how to survive on instinct. I truly enjoyed the read and the fluidity of Mindy’s characters. I thought it would be a miss if I didn’t get to interview Mindy. Her next book IN A HANDFUL OF DUST sits on my night stand.

Mindy McGinnis is an assistant YA librarian who lives in Ohio and cans her own food. Mindy runs a blog for aspiring writers by featuring interviews with agents, established authors, and debut authors. Check her out at http://www.mindymcginnis.com.

Now for the “tiny talk.”

ME: Tell us something that has been in the vault. Something hardly anyone knows about you.

MANDY: That’s a hard one because I’m an extreme extrovert. Um… I wax my eyebrows a lot.

ME: How do you want to be remembered?

MANDY: As an example that you can be kickass and tough without being mean.

ME: I love hanging with people like that. I’m one of them.

ME: Are you a Pantser or a Plotter?

MANDY: Pantser all the way.

ME: If you could sit and have a drink with famous author dead or alive who would it be, and why?

MANDY: Percy Bysshe Shelley because I think he was a dick to his wife and needs a comeuppance.

ME: Who influenced your writing career/passion?

MANDY: No one really. I’m pretty self-driven.

ME: I definitely saw a lot of that in your lead character, Lynn, in NOT A DROP TO DRINK.

I want to thank Mindy for taking the time to answer a few questions. I look forward to more dystopian (I never thought I’d ever say that). I truly enjoyed it. Good luck in everything you do.

Tiny Talk Tueday with . . . Jessica Lanan

I gal from Colojessicarado spent her free time drawing pictures. She created her first picture book at age eight, called “Skeleton Dog.”

Later, she earned a BA in fine art with a focus on sculpture. She was the recipient of the 2011 Portfolio Mentorship Award at the SCBWI Los Angeles conference, and is currently working on a new picture book with Lee & Low Books, slated for sometime in 2015. Jessica has written picture books, Good Fortune In A Wrapping Cloth and Great Uncle Alistair.

I noticed Jessica’s work through Facebook. Her black and white drawing were so detailed. They evoke a lot of emotion. Her color drawings are just as wonderful. Jessica does her work from Denver, Colorado.jessica 1

And now for my Tiny Talk interview with Jessica.

ME: How do you want to be remembered? 

JESSICA:  I think I’d like to be remembered as someone courageous, who wasn’t afraid to break the rules, and who wasn’t afraid to fail spectacularly. There’s a lot of rejection and self-doubt that comes along with writing and illustrating, and I think it takes courage. I think there’s something respectable about someone who can fail, then pick themselves back up and keep going. 

ME: Great advice to us writers and illustrators.

ME: Finish this sentence: A perfect day would involve…

JESSICA: Coffee, spending time outside, my husband, laughter, good food, and a sense of accomplishment, chocolate.
ME: Can’t forget the chocolate!

ME: Who influenced your writing career/passion?
JESSICA: My grandfather loved illustrated books, and when I was a kid he would send my sister and I the most beautiful picture books he could find. I treasured these books and still have most of them. I feel a little sad that he was never able to know that I pursued illustration as a career path.

ME: That is the best answer ever. A great memory.

ME: Where do you get your inspiration from?
JESSICA: Creativity is something that grows organically for me. I really can’t force it. All I can do is try to foster an environment where it can grow. It helps when I get up early and create something just for me before the day begins. I’ll sit down with just a pencil and paper and think “where do I want to go? Who do I want to meet?” Often those morning doodles and drawings are much more interesting and have a much truer sense of voice than my other work. They might not be finished illustrations or ideas, but can end up being the seeds for future projects.

ME: And it truly shows in your work. They’re beautiful.

ME: If you could sit and have a drink with a famous artist or illustrator dead or alive, who would it be and why?
JESSICA: Just one? I guess I’d have to go with Trina Schart Hyman. I’ve adored her illustrations since I was a kid. I’d have her sign my battered copy of “Saint George and the Dragon.”

ME: Perfect!

I want to thank you, Jessica for taking time out of your day to answer my questions. I look forward to more of you beautiful work. Good luck in your future successes.