“June Cotner's book proposals are the gold standard.”
~ Denise Marcil
Marcil-O’Farrell Literary LLC
~ Guest blog by June Cotner
If you’re a nonfiction writer who would like to have your book traditionally published, you will need a book proposal. In this post, I will be sharing ideas I have used to secure contracts with large publishers such as HarperCollins, Random House, and Hachette, as well as medium-size publishers such as Chronicle Books, Henry Holt, and Andrews McMeel Publishing.
The most important principle is that your book proposal is a business plan prepared for the publisher to show them why your book will be successful.
Here is a sample Table of Contents:
2. Description of the Book
3. Comp Books
4. Delivery Date
5. The Market (or The Audience)
6. Special Sales
9. About the Author
10. Sample Content
A proposal may vary from 5-35 pages in length, plus sample content.
You will create:
More about this later.
2. Description of the Book
This includes number of pages and perhaps a suggestion about the book package—trim size, hardcover or paper, and number of photos.
3. Analysis of Comp Books
There are three types of comp titles: competitive, complimentary, and comparative. Also mention why your book will stand out from the competition.
4. Delivery Date
When will you deliver the complete manuscript?
5. The Market that exists for this book
Include statistics—if your book is about dogs, you can list the number of households in the U.S. who have dogs.
6. Special Sales
This section lists places that sell books outside of a traditional bookstore, such as Paper Source, or a catalog such as Bas Bleu. Be very specific and selective about your suggestions. You should be clear about your rationale why various special sales markets will have an interest in your book. Perhaps your children’s book is about art museums, so you should include a link of all art museums in the U.S. If you think it’s perfect for The Land of Nod and Pottery Barn for Kids, go online and see if they sell your type of book. If so, list the chain’s online books link in your proposal.
I often call this section “Author’s Promotional Contribution,” so it’s clear to the publisher what I will undertake to make the book successful. In this section, I list traditional media (print, TV, radio) and blogs in which I’ve been featured. I include all of my social media links and the number of friends or followers for each one.
If you have a sequel or series idea, list it.
9. About the Author
Write in third person. List why you’re an expert on this subject, along with any major book sales and awards.
10. Sample Content
List all of your chapter titles and give a succinct description of each—no more than 3-5 sentences. After that, insert your first chapter. For your second sample, use a chapter that demonstrates why your book is a unique contribution to the marketplace.
My favorite book about writing book proposals is How to Write a Book Proposal: The Insider’s Guide to Proposals that Get You Published, © 2017 by Jody Rein with Michael Larsen.
The rest of my post is devoted to something new I’ve developed. I use the first page after the Table of Contents to present one page that will serve a dual purpose: First, I want to give the publisher a succinct overview of the book, why the market is perfect for it now, and why my target audience will be eager to read the book. Secondly, I make the first paragraph bold and I write it like a book description that would appear on Amazon.
Here is the first page from the proposal for BLESS THE EARTH, coauthored with Nancy Tupper Ling. It resulted in a contract from Convergent/Penguin Random House.
BLESS THE EARTH
Overview and Description
Bless the Earth: A Children’s Book of Prayers and Poems for Honoring the Earth celebrates the miracle of our planet Earth and offers a spiritual dimension of caring for our world through universal prayers of gratitude and earth-related inspirational poems. Bless the Earth is the only children’s anthology for 4–8-year-olds that knits together humanity, the environment, and spirituality in an engaging way that is simple for young readers to understand.
Moreover, nine-in-ten Americans believe in a “higher power” (Pew Center).
Bless the Earth will be a welcome addition for 90% of families.
We live in an age in which 17-year-old climate activist Greta Thunberg received TIME’s 2019 Person of the Year award. Climate change and environmental awareness are at the forefront of topics that parents and teachers discuss with children. While no one wants to alarm young readers, a book like Bless the Earth fosters an awakened appreciation for the world around them.
In support of these developing environmental efforts, Bless the Earth shows the importance of caring for our world, treating our neighbors—humans, plants, and animals alike—with respect, and imagining a positive future. While many contemporary children’s books focus on “being green,” Bless the Earth introduces a spiritual dimension not featured in comparative books.
The book is compiled by bestselling anthologist June Cotner, whose books have sold more than one million copies, and multiple-award winning author Nancy Tupper Ling, whose children’s books have been published by major publishers. In Bless the Earth, writings from Karla Kuskin, Mary Oliver, Theodore Roethke, Emily Dickinson, Lao Tzu, Paramahansa Yogananda, and Kahlil Gibran intermingle with voices of celebrated poets such as Charles Ghigna, Patti Tana, Janine Canan, and Barbara Crooker.
Bless the Earth will contain approximately 60 selections divided into five chapters below.
There is no one right way to write a book proposal. Do make sure you have shown the publisher why they should invest their money in publishing your book.
June Cotner is the author of 38 books including the bestselling books, Graces, Bedside Prayers, Wedding Blessings, and House Blessings. Her books have been published by both major houses and mid-size publishers. Collectively, her books have sold more than one million copies and have been featured in many national publications. To find out more about June and for helpful publishing tips, visit her website at www.junecotner.com. You can also find her at https://www.facebook.com/June.Cotner.Books and on Instagram (@junecotner) where she posts sections from her book proposals.
Guest Blog by Valerie Bolling
My husband and I set goals every year, as individuals and as a couple. In 2017, one of my goals was to explore the possibility of writing picture books. It wasn’t a SMART goal (more about that later), but it still propelled me forward.
That year I reached out to people I thought might be helpful to me in my “exploration.” I went to libraries and bookstores to do “research” – reading a myriad of children’s books and taking notes. I took a children’s writing class at Westport Writers Workshop where I now teach. I wrote and revised several stories. I even participated in a Twitter pitch, entered a contest, and sent out 16 query letters. Granted, that last sentence should be deleted. It was too early for me to take advantage of those opportunities and expect success. After all, I didn’t even have a critique group and hadn’t studied picture book structure and craft sufficiently. But I didn’t know that at the time.
My goals have become SMARTer over the years. A SMART goal is Specific, Measurable, Accurate, Relevant, and Timely. Therefore, instead of my nebulous goal about exploring the picture book genre, I could have written a goal like: By March 31, I will read 100 picture books.
In addition to creating goals that are SMART, goals should have other components that lead to achievement.
1. Think broadly about what you want long-term, and then break that down into a smaller goal.
2. Name the specific steps you’ll take to reach your goal.
3. Be accountable to yourself and to someone else.
What’s most important is that your goals work for YOU. Here are some things to consider:
I have witnessed the power of setting goals. Not just setting them, but committing to them. That exploration goal in 2017 turned into the acquisition of my debut, LET’S DANCE!, in June 2018 and its release in March 2020. I’ve continued to set goals and, as a result, have two books releasing this year – TOGETHER WE RIDE (illus. Kaylani Juanita, Chronicle) in April and RIDE, ROLL, RUN (illus. Sabrena Khadija, Abrams) in October – and more on the way in 2023 and 2024.
My goal for this year is to write a chapter book series. I’m currently revising my manuscript for the first book, which I plan to share with my agent in March. What do you hope to accomplish this year, and what goals will you set to get there? I wish you all the best as you turn your goals into successes.
~By Megan Litwin
A former K-2 teacher, I’m a big fan of schedules and routines. I know how important it can be to have a structure to the day you can count on, yet one that also leaves room for organic detours. Schedules can be powerful - and comforting - for children and adults alike.
Of course, life hasn’t made it easy to keep to any sort of schedule lately. But this January, I felt determined to start off on the right foot. 2022 brings with it my debut picture book, and I could not be more excited! At the same time, that means I’ve found myself with extra balls to juggle and new roads to navigate: a website, a wonderful co-marketing group, planning for events and school visits. All very good things indeed. But all NEW things, too. Now, besides time to write (to daydream, draft, revise, and more), I need a chunk of time just to keep up with being an “author.” No matter where any of us are on this journey, there is a certain amount of attention that needs to be paid to the business side of things.
But how to make time for these different roles, without dropping any balls or feeling frazzled?
I needed a comfortable routine I could count on.
First, I thought about the time frame of my work day (something that looks different for everyone). My best work hours are absolutely when my kids are in school.
Then, I thought about the flow. I knew I wanted to fiercely protect my writing time, no matter what got thrown my way each day. So actual butt-in-chair writing is the morning’s first work. I’ve committed to at least one hour a day for that. Or more! But setting a realistic minimum helps me stay true to that goal. If I’m in the groove and really deep into the work, that could stretch by hours – and I love when it can. Or I might write for just that hour and then do something else writing-related, like critiques. There is a certain amount of open-endedness built in. And a whole lot of morning coffee…
No matter how it’s going, by the time lunch rolls around, it’s time to switch gears to author business. Choosing ONE focus per day helps, and that focus varies with deadlines and such. I might work on my newsletter, write reviews, or make pins on Canva (where I definitely can fall down the rabbit hole…). But when these tasks are not creeping into my writing/craft time, I actually enjoy them!
After the writing and author work, I scheduled some reading time. Yes, I said “scheduled reading” – because it’s important to me, and my routine should reflect that. I might read a new pile of picture books, some poetry, or a beautifully crafted chapter book. My children get home around 2:30, so scheduling my reading to coincide with that allows me to model my commitment to reading AND encourages them to join me with their own books. Win-win!
And finally, we all have many more roles and responsibilities other than writer/author/reader. I might have an appointment, get called to substitute teach, or have a sick child. And even on a perfectly organized work day, it is my role as Mom that is most important to me, and that one requires most of my attention once my kids are home. At that point, I tuck the work away and promise to return to it tomorrow, just like I would if I were leaving the classroom or office.
Schedules work best when they are flexible structures. After an inspirational virtual webinar with Bethany Hegedus at the Writing Barn, where she talked about setting goals for each quarter of the year, I realized that maybe schedules could also be seasonal structures. I decided to call this a WINTER work schedule, and I already felt a lot less pressure to make it perfect. It may change when spring arrives, and then change again to fit the cadence of my summer days. But it suits me right now. It makes me feel full and warm – because I am making space for what matters to me, day in and day out, as this new year begins.
And…it is an acronym!! Because, after all, I’m forever-at-heart a primary school teacher!
A WARM Winter Work Schedule:
No time slots. No word counts. No pressure. These are simply the daily roles I want to spend time on, and in this order.
What kind of an overarching structure works for YOU? What does your “winter writing season” look like? I hope it is warm and wonderful and full of whatever you need…right now.
Megan Litwin is a children's book author and regular contributor for 24 Carrot Writing. Her debut picture book TWINKLE, TWINKLE, WINTER NIGHT, illustrated by Nneka Myers (Clarion Books) will hit the shelves October 2022. To learn more about Megan visit her at www.meganlitwinbooks.com/.
Guest Blog by Nancy Tandon
Hello and thank you to everyone at 24 Carrot Writing for hosting me on your blog during a very exciting time for me! After eleven years and close to 200 combined rejections across multiple manuscripts, my very first middle grade novel will be published tomorrow! This is especially rewarding for me since I thought I would be celebrating this accomplishment in the fall of 2017. Yes, you read that correctly. My book launch was delayed by five years.
Most 24 Carrot readers will be familiar with the concept of publishing being slow. But even insiders agree mine was one of the more slothy paths. What happened? How did I keep going? And how will you stay motivated on your journey?
I sent my first query letter, on 3/9/2010. I know the exact date because it was my 40th birthday. It was an underbaked picture book manuscript, and I addressed the letter To Whom It May Concern. Spoiler: I never heard back. But the important thing is that I was signaling to myself and the universe that I was ready to pursue publication in earnest.
Over the next several years, I did all the things. I joined SCBWI, became active in critique groups, went to conferences, read books in my genre, read literary blogs, and of course…even wrote from time to time. I was focused on learning the craft of writing picture books, while also plugging away at a longer piece that began to take the shape of a middle grade novel.
During this time, I continued to submit to agents, editors, magazines, and contests. As my little baby rejection pile grew, my belief that I would find success shrank. Then, in 2014, I learned that a selection from my middle grade novel had been awarded the Ruth Landers Glass Scholarship from NESCBWI. It was just enough encouragement to bolster my drive to keep working.
With the help of my critique group, I completed and revised that novel and in 2016, submitted it to a small publishing house. A few months later, things seemed to happen very quickly: an offer, a phone call, a book contract! I was thrilled! Still un-agented, I used the services of a lawyer who was familiar with literary contracts, and also educated myself using a book called The Writer’s Legal Guide by Kay Murray and Tad Crawford before signing. (I highly recommend this book whether you are agented or not.)
Everything looked great. Publication was set for fall 2017. I joined a debut group. This was happening!
There was a wrinkle. The small press had been acquired by a larger publisher. They were willing to take on my manuscript as part of the deal! I was relieved, happy, even excited about this chance to be published by a bigger house.
Publication was moved to 2018. I joined and became active in another debut group. This was happening!
After a year of working to negotiate a new contract (I had learned just enough from The Writer’s Legal Guide to know the first offer was not favorable to me), I still had not heard from my new editor. And the contract negotiations were spinning in circles. I found out that the second publisher had decided they were not moving forward with my manuscript. My heart sank. I had told everyone about this book deal. I had celebrated with champagne. And now, nothing.
Worse, I had to buy back the rights from the first publisher. (Which is completely on the up and up business-wise, by the way. And in truth, the editing done by that first house was worth the cost. But still, it was painful.) I was embarrassed, disheartened, and very close to giving up all together.
Luckily, past me (the one who’d had a book contract and was all excited about kidlit) had signed up for two well-known New England spring conferences that year, NESCBWI and Whispering Pines. I forced myself to attend both.
After the New England conference, I earnestly studied the list of agents and editors and sent my work back out there. It felt like I was shouting into the wind, but at least I could still say I hadn’t given up. Not fully, not yet. Even though my heart did very much want me to.
The second conference, Whispering Pines, included a one-on-one consultation with Rachel Orr from Prospect Agency, who represented (among other amazing authors) a writing friend I’d met through the 2018 debut group (which again I was now no longer a part of – cue tears). That friend, Samantha Clark (The Boy, the Boat, and the Beast; Arrow), alerted Rachel ahead of time that she’d be meeting me and gave her the heads up about my manuscript’s twisty past.
That meeting did not result in an offer of representation from Rachel. (I know! I wanted the story to go that way, too!) But, Rachel passed my work to a new agent at Prospect and I was agented at last!!
Ready for another plot twist? Meanwhile…
Karen Boss, an editor from Charlesbridge, had gotten my query and read my fist chapters. She asked to read the full manuscript. There were other in-house readers, and a presentation at their acquisitions meeting. I hoped for the best and braced for the worst.
Then in September 2018, it came. An email that made me shriek and cause a scene in the coffee shop where I was writing with a friend. Re: Offer…
This time, I didn’t have to negotiate on my own, or spend money on a lawyer. My agent at the time, Emma Sector, made sure my interests were represented while also easing the process of getting back my rights to the work.
Everything looked great. Publication was set for 2021. I joined a third debut group. This was happening!
Due to circumstances at the publishing house, the date of publication got pushed back to 2022.
I’m not embarrassed to tell you I cried. However, my disappointment was strongly tempered by the fact that in fall 2019, my agent sold my second novel (The Ghost of Spruce Point, coming from Aladdin in fall 2022) within a week of being on submission!
And then of course 2020 and 2021 happened, which weren’t great years to debut anyway (when you can, please show love to writers who did debut in the past two years!!). During this time I also navigated an in-agency switch as Emma left agenting for a new adventure, and I gratefully landed in Charlotte Wenger’s web (Prospect Agency).
And now: I have held my first novel in my hands. And tomorrow, it will wing out into the world to have an adventure all its own. I’m revising my second and have seen amazing cover art.
Friends, it was a long road from desperation to celebration. And if you have read this far, you might be a person who is in the exact position I was in. One breath and one keystroke away from giving up. Please consider this a sign from the universe for you to keep going.
Give it time.
Give it space.
Don’t give up!
Nancy Tandon is a former speech/language pathologist and author of two middle grade novels, The Way I Say It (Charlesbridge, 1/18/22) and The Ghost of Spruce Point (Aladdin, 8/2/22). Her short story, Finders Keepers, was published with Heinemann for the educational market. Nancy lives in Connecticut with her family and is a fan of popcorn, reading, and literacy outreach programs of all kinds. To find out more, or to get in touch with Nancy go to www.nancytandon.com, Twitter @NancyTandon , Instagram @_NancyTandon_, or Goodreads.
Order a signed copy of THE WAY I SAY IT.
~ by Amanda Smith
The sweet time between Christmas and New Year is when I usually ponder writing goals: What worked the previous year? What didn’t? How far did I come? Where am I heading? And my trusty bullet journal serves both as memoir and roadmap.
In preparing my bullet journal for the new year, I wanted to write the year 2022 for my cover page in a unique way. Last year I had handwritten it using brush pens, which was fine, but I felt that the new year deserved some more flair. So, after playing around a bit, I landed on something I’ve never done before – Zentangle.
Using my inspiration quote for the year, I knew I wanted something botanical, and after using WordArt to set the outline of my numbers and googling some Zentangle designs, I set to work. It took some time to find my rhythm, but I finally figured out the scale of the design and the limits of my chosen font and everything went fine and dandy with that first two and half the zero.
But all of a sudden, a little flower decided to jump the outline.
“Huh,” I said.
“Why are you squashing me like this?” asked the flower.
I sat back and stared at that rebel flower, the sharp ends of its petals stubbornly poking outside the soft rounded line. Maybe it had a point. Maybe it didn’t have to be all neatly contained within the oval line of the zero. What if the flowers bloomed outside the lines of the other twos?
I loosened my design. And I listened to the flowers. And I watched them grow and BLOOM!
And as I worked, I thought about my goals and hopes and dreams for this year. To reach past limits. To listen to my art. And to Bloom!
As you think and plan your writing goals for the new year, I want to encourage you to do the same:
During the month of January, Annie, Kelly, and I will be posting our yearly goals into the 24 Carrot Writing Goals tab. Take a look (you can also see my complete, blooming 2022 zentangle there) and then set your own goals and dreams for this year. And be sure to post them somewhere you will see them often.
Together, let’s burst out of the constraints this last year or past habits might have placed on us. Let’s become green-thumbed curators of our vibrant, fragrant story-gardens.
How will you grow this year? At 24 Carrot Writing we believe that goals are like a garden trellis. They provide structure, shape, guidance, and support. And they help us reach ever upward.
Take a look at our goals for 2022 and perhaps peek back to see what we have planted in the past. Gather some seeds, clip some cuttings, and have fun planning your own writing-garden for the new year.
24 Carrot Writing is here year-round to help you stay on track. We have fabulous bi-monthly blogs and book picks planned to help us grow, as well as an active Facebook community to offer support and encouragement.
Bloom beyond borders!
Reach past my limits. Listen to my art. Bloom!
Novel in Verse
Revise simmering manuscripts and get them submission ready.
MG fantasy: monthly
PBs: 10 queries every two months
Poetry: Every other month
Blogs and reviews for 24 Carrot Writing and ASW (alternate months)
Attend local workshops / conference / retreat
Participate in Picture Book Group
Participate in Critique groups
Below is the final result of my blooming zentangle. Read more about it here.
Trust Your Story and Your Path
Write, Revise and Submit:
Craft & Community:
Craft & Community:
Dear 24 Carrot Writer,
What a year this has been!
If you had written
words and stories,
If you had queried,
or launched a book into this world.
If you had hustled with marketing,
or had dipped deep
into the well of online classes
to grow and improve your craft,
we applaud you.
And if, this year,
your pen was dry,
your fingers quiet,
your stories dormant,
because you had to be there for others,
because you had to take care of yourself,
we send you hugs and encouragement.
Because even if stories weren’t written,
they are still there:
until your heart can open up for them,
until your fingers can pen them.
So for now,
take a break.
You deserve it.
Cuddle with loved ones,
read fluffy novels,
watch tinsel movies.
And when you feel ready,
start dreaming -
gentle dreams about gentle goals.
But in the meantime,
all of us at 24 Carrot Writing
wish all of you a beautiful,
Amanda and the 24 Carrot Crew
Need gift ideas for your critique partners? Your writing friends? Or a hint to sneak on a list for yourself?
Look no further!
Our wonderful guest bloggers (aka gift elves) have joined us to share their favorite writing, illustrating or book must-haves.
You’ll find serious and practical suggestions our guest bloggers use daily, as well as fun and whimsical items that bring joy and offer motivation.
Peruse and enjoy our 2021 Writer’s Holiday Wish List! (Then maybe forward it to your favorite shopping elf!)
Julie Rowan-Zoch is an author/illustrator. She followed her illustrator debut, Louis by Tom Lichtenheld (Clarion Books, 2020), with her author/illustrator debut of I'm A Hare, So There! (Clarion Books, 2021), and there are more projects coming. Learn more about Julie here.
Kristi Mahoney is a picture book writer whose work was featured in both the 2020 PBCHAT and 2021 PBParty picture book showcases. She’s a guest contributor for http://www.24carrotwriting.com/. Find out more at @kristi_mahoney.
Megan Litwin is the author of the upcoming Twinkle, Twinkle Winter Night (Clarion, 2022) and a guest contributor to 24 Carrot Writing. A former teacher (and a forever one at heart), her lifelong work is growing lifelong readers. Visit her at www.meganlitwinbooks.com.
Amanda Davis is a teacher, artist, writer, and innovator who uses her words and pictures to light up the world with kindness. 30,000 Stitches: The Inspiring Story of the National 9/11 Flag is her debut picture book.
Find out more at https://www.amandadavisart.com/
Sarah Jane Abbott is an editor and ghostwriter, who has a passion for helping authors write the very best version of a story. To learn more about Sarah Jane and the services available at Sarah Jane Abbott Editorial visit her website here.
Kelly Carey is the co-founder of 24 Carrot Writing and the author of How Long Is Forever (Charlesbridge, 2020). Learn more about Kelly at www.kcareywrites.com.
Nancy Tupper Ling is an award-winning children’s author, poet, book seller, and librarian, who has great fun teaching poetry to all ages. Her picture books have received starred reviews from Kirkus and Publishers Weekly, and her newest anthology entitled For Every Little Thing (Eerdmans Publishing) hit the shelves in September 2021. Visit Nancy's website at www.nancytupperling.com/
Founder of the Writers’ Loft community, and developer of the Creatively WIN method for writers, Heather wears many hats. She is a professional mentor, publisher, editor, author, conference director, and Pokémon catcher. Her most recent project is a non-profit she co- launched with Kristen Wixted that aims to get books into the hands of vulnerable kids. To learn more about Little Book Locker, click here.
Find out more about Heather at www.heatherkellyauthor.com
Kristen's picture book, Miss Rita, Mystery Reader, which she wrote with her nephew Sam Donovan (who spent a lot of time sitting in the chair when they were revising) is coming out May, 2022 from MacMillan FSG Young Readers. When Kristen is not writing she's usually working on Little Book Locker which people can find out about at LittleBookLocker.org.
Her website is kristenwixted.com
Annie Cronin Romano is one of the co-founders of 24 Carrot Writing and is a published picture book author. In addition to her love of kidlit, she also writes adult fiction, works as a bookseller and library assistant, and is a literary associate with Olswanger Literary. Learn more about Annie at www.anniecroninromano.com.
Amanda Smith is a co-founder of 24 Carrot Writing. Her poems "Stingray" and "Cuttlefish" can be found in the Writers' Loft's newest illustrated anthology Friends and Anemones: Ocean Poems for Children. Learn more about Amanda at AmandaSmithWrites.
Bonus Gift Ideas:
Let's be honest. We don't always need more stuff. Often an experience or thoughtful donation to a bookish cause will warm the cockles of a writer's heart more than any physical object. Consider giving a yearly membership to a local writing organization or community such as the Writer's Loft, a craft related online course or workshop, or an SCBWI-membership. Or perhaps donate towards a worthy organization, such as Little Book Locker, in the name of the writer in your life, and let them know.
By Kelly Carey
If you are reading this blog, then you already know the benefits of perusing great blogs as a reader, but blogs can also be a tremendous help when you are trying to market your book. Two of my writing friends are launching amazing books soon and they asked me for advice on setting up a blog tour. I’m going to share that advice with you too!
Don’t have a book contract yet? That’s okay. Read the tips and advice and learn how you can position yourself now to be ready to send your book out on an amazing blog tour when you do have a publishing date!
#1 Your KidLit Community Is Flush with Wonderful Bloggers
The authentic time and energy you have put into building your KidLit community likely means you know a few KidLit bloggers. Have you met authors at conferences who have blogs? Have you met bloggers at book signings? At retreats? Those relationships are the best place to start when deciding to reach out to bloggers for spots. Your KidLit friends are going to be excited about your upcoming success and if they have a blog, they will be happy to boost your news on their site.
Don’t have any blogging contacts? Don’t worry, it’s okay. Ask your critique partners if they have any connections. Reach out to the relationships you have in the KidLit community and ask if anyone could introduce you to bloggers they know.
For those of you who are pre-published, work on building relationships now so that you will have a long and comfortable list of bloggers ready to trumpet out news of your debut!
#2 Offer Relevant Content to the Blog
If you are asking for space on a blog, you need to honor the theme, format, and audience of the blog. The blogs that will host you are those that see you offering good content. Make sure you have read the blog and that you have a clear idea of how you and your book fit the blog’s structure and how you and your book could be featured.
For example, does the blog routinely run interviews with debut authors, like Lindsay Ward’s CritterLit blog? Offer an interview. Does the blog feature authors with a unique hook, like Nancy Tupper Ling’s Author Acrostic blogs? Offer to write a poem. If, like 24 Carrot Writing, the blog offers tips and advice to writers, offer to write a helpful post on a relevant topic as Cathy Ballou Mealy did for 24 Carrot Writing here.
Know how the blog handles guest authors, debut books, and cover reveals and be specific in your request. A straight ask to “please review my book,” is not the best method. Leave that type of request to the publicist at your publishing house. At 24 Carrot we never review books on request. That’s not our format.
The best way to know how you can fit into a particular blog is to be a regular subscriber of the blogs you love and might want to see yourself on someday. If you are pre-published, be a patron of your favorite blogs. Comment, retweet and repost your dream blogs and you’ll be ready to fit into their format when the time comes.
#3 Be an Easy Guest
Many bloggers are busy wearing multiple hats and love finding guest bloggers who provide everything needed to assemble a great guest spot.
Make sure your request to be featured on the blog is easy.
In your initial email offer up the following:
Once you have a spot make sure you:
Even if the blogger hasn’t asked for these things, make it easy for them to pop this information into a post. If you have provided it and it is readily available, chances are you’ll see it in the post.
#4 Timing Can be Flexible
If you are setting up a blog tour for your launch, you’ll want blogs to post ideally the month prior to your launch and the month of your launch. This will create that wonderful buzz you want to generate and hopefully drive preorders as well as post launch purchases. Many blogs schedule their posts three to six months out, so it’s a good idea to start asking for spots four to seven months before your launch month.
Worried you’re too late? You’re not. Bloggers are always looking for great content and sometimes have spots in their schedule to fill. They might love a last-minute booking. And remember, if the only spots left are months after your launch, a post at any time can still help readers find your book. Suggest a date tied to the theme of your book, even if it is a year after your launch, it will still help readers find your book.
#5 Don’t Rely Just on the Publicists at Your Publishing House
The publicists at your publishing house will reach out to bloggers and reviewers on your behalf. But publicists are busy folks and if you have personal contacts, they will be happy that you reached out. If your publicist sees you working hard to promote your book, they will be happy to work hard alongside you.
Your publicity team is never going to be upset if you have already secured spots on blogs - go for it!
#6 Don’t Worry About Over Saturation
Marketing stats say a person will need to encounter your book 7-10 times before they decide to purchase it. That means they need to hear a friend talk about it, see it on social media, read about it in a blog, and/or spot it in a bookstore a handful of times before a purchase might be made.
Every blog about your book is a chance for a reader to find and hopefully purchase your book. Every blog gives you a reason to repost and retweet things on social media that will keep your book news buzzing.
Remember, not every reader will see every blog you appear on. You want to maximize your visibility. When it comes to a blog tour, you want lots of venues.
#7 Asking for Group Spots
If you are in a Marketing Group that’s wonderful! If you are not check out this post about the benefits of group marketing and how to find a group here.
I reached out to bloggers that I knew for my Soaring 20s Picture Book marketing group, and I have to say, asking on behalf of others was a bit easier than asking just for myself. Other members of our group did the same. Many bloggers, offered to let members of our group contact them individually while others opted to host us as a group. Either way, we were grateful for the opportunity. Make sure you take advantage of these offers when they come your way.
All of these tips are made easier if you are already a follower of the blog. While you are awaiting your first or next contract, spend time connecting with the KidLit community and be a regular reader of your favorite blogs.
When you ask them to support your marketing efforts, you will be glad you did!
Guest blog by Cathy Ballou Mealey
It's International Sloth Day and we have the perfect guest!
No, it's not because she lazes around and moves in incremental steps! Cathy is a busy writer who moves at a wonderfully productive speed. Her debut, When A Tree Grows (Sterling, 2019) was joined this year by Sloth and Squirrel in a Pickle (Kids Can Press, 2021). It's that wonderful sloth character and her decision to write him dialogue free that makes Cathy the perfect guest for International Sloth Day!
My thanks to everyone at 24 Carrot Writing for inviting me to publish a guest post on this most auspicious International Sloth Day!
Sloth, co-star of my new picture book Sloth and Squirrel in A Pickle, is patiently awaiting his celebratory cake, champagne, flowers, and fan mail. But he probably won’t complain if the deliveries are delayed, or even if they never arrive, because Sloth does not speak!
I became enamored of sloths after reading an article about the power of animal ambassadors to boost zoo attendance. I thought a sloth would make a great picture book character, but there were already many books about these cute, sleepy creatures. How could I make my book stand out?
I decided to pair my serene sloth with a speedy squirrel in an unlikely friendship story. Squirrel’s desire to travel fast with his buddy Sloth leads to their adventures as pickle packers to earn money for a tandem bicycle. My first drafts featured typical picture book dialogue:
“Sloth, I want a bike just like that. We could go fast!”
“I don’t know, Squirrel. I like to go slow.”
Then I revised in some fairly terrible ways to drag out Sloth’s speech with way-too-many-vowels-and-hyphens:
“I don’t k-n-o-o-o-w, Squirrel. I like to g-o s-l-o-o-o-w.”
While I felt happy with the emerging story structure, the dialogue was messy and too difficult to read. Was I heading down the wrong revision path? I decided to study some famous comic duos for inspiration, which meant watching clips of Ernie and Bert, Laverne and Shirley, and the classic odd couple, Oscar and Felix. I finally found story magic when I saw Penn and Teller, the Las Vegas illusionists. Penn is the jovial, front-facing raconteur and Teller is the silent but essential partner in their silly shtick – just what I needed for Squirrel and Sloth!
Now my revisions flowed onto the page with ease. Sloth became the deep thinker and idea generator whose body language communicates everything. Sloth’s slow shrugs, nods, smiles and even slurps are the leisurely counterpoint to Squirrel’s rapid-fire, motor-mouth impulsivity.
When the talented Kelly Collier illustrated our story, she completely embraced and enhanced the silent Sloth character and played up his body language with hilarious subtlety. Sloth’s one-eye opened, slack limb gestures are accentuated with cartoony dizzy spirals, sleep drool and quizzical eyebrows. Perfect picture book humor and heart!
Although Sloth has no further words of wisdom to add here, he encourages you to explore opting in or out of dialogue in your stories. Consider characters whose actions may speak louder than words. And when it comes to the old axiom “show don’t tell,” an illusionist (or sloth) might suggest just the right magic to make your story sparkle!
Cathy Ballou Mealey is a scone lover and author of two picture books, WHEN A TREE GROWS and SLOTH AND SQUIRREL IN A PICKLE. Her short story UNDER THE DOCK was published in the July 2021 issue of Highlights for Children. She has planted acorns and pickled cucumbers but spends most of her time writing picture books north of Boston where she lives with her husband and two children. And while she has seen a wild moose, Cathy hasn’t met a wild sloth, yet.
To find out more, or get in touch with Cathy:
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