Authors, want to know publishing? Local FREE experts await!

No one knows readers better than a librarian. (Photo credit: Ned Horton/Free

No one knows readers better than a librarian. (Photo credit: Ned Horton/Free

Not conference presenters.

Not self-help book authors.

If you want to know what readers are reading, ask a public librarian. These overlooked experts review pre-publication editions. They are resources for “coming soon” news.

A children’s librarian knows what kids, parents and teachers are seeking.

Other public librarians know what the book club members crave.

Library staff devour reviews. They compare notes with other librarians across the nation.

Try them. The price is right!



How This Book Was Made: A Picture Book Not Just for Kids

how-this-book-was-made-barnettHow This Book was Made: A True Story is sneaky, subversive fun.

Children may prefer illustrator Adam Rex’s story-within-a-story artwork. While kids might simply see a queen dining on a veranda, adults will read between of the lines as author Mac Barnett describes his New York City editor. “She is like a teacher, only she works in a skyscraper and is always eating fancy lunches.”

After all, as Barnett claims he wrote 21 drafts of his children’s book, adults will remember the subtitle promise that this is a true story.

How true? Adults will guffaw over Rex portraying himself as a leisurely illustrator who needed frequent naps before completing his assignment. Rex packs each page with action, showing a multitude of characters (including King Kong and Ben Franklin) who enjoy cameos in the behind-the-scenes hilarity.

Children who stay tuned for the entire book won’t be disappointed. It turned out THEY are the true stars. How? Barnett reminds us that “…a book still isn’t a book, not really, until it has a reader.”

Published authors and illustrators will giggle over their “been there, done that” reaction to How This book Was Made.

Just be ready to explain your inside-joke laughs with the kids you’re sharing this fun title with!

See for yourself with the book’s official trailer!

One writerly lesson from Susan Quiet Cain

quiet coverI was delighted to see a sequel (of sorts) to Susain Cain’s Quiet.

This new book (Quiet Power) brings hope and insight to younger readers. A voice for the voiceless, once again.

Seeing Cain’s “Quiet Revolution” website proves that she’s not done yet.

For frustrated writers or authors feeling invisible, let me share two writing lessons I’ve gotten from Cain’s success:

  1. Be sincere.
  2. Be consistent.

How many books are abandoned even before a first draft gets finished? There are readers who can relate to any theme, provided that the whole literary meal is on the table.

Pick a path. Stick to it. If you don’t believe, neither will the reader.

Onion satire skewers storytelling standards

This might make you cry. THE ONION will make you laugh. (Photo credit: Dirk Ingo, Wikimedia Commons)

This might make you cry. THE ONION will make you laugh. (Photo credit: Dirk Ingo Franke, Wikimedia Commons)

I love The Onion.

This showcase for sparkling satire and perfect parody is high-fiber fun. In other words, good for you and tasty! Best of all, these tales don’t give me bad breath.

This vignette was no different.

Why have I spent years avoiding writing workshops or college classes touted to make me a better author? I want to escape the cookie cutter of correctness. Must all stories be the same? This scenario isn’t as far-fetched as you might think.

I’d buy this mythical seven-year-old’s first book. Different is good.

Kudos to Dan Gutman for sharing this on Facebook. Dan is the funniest author I know in children’s lit today.

The reality of being a published author

George Washington bookWe’ve all had the dream.

Write. Get published by a mega-house.

Be careful what you wish for.

Scholastic pulled the plug on A Birthday Cake for George Washington, a picture book by Ramin Ganeshram. The publisher has “ceased distribution.”

In this first-person feature, the author explains how she was scapegoated and abandoned by her publisher. Racism? You be the judge.

Simply know that this could happen to you. You could take the blame for an illustrator’s misguided perspective. (Good luck finding any publisher who lets the author have veto power over illustrations, by the way.) Worse yet, your publisher may insist you stay silent, in hopes that protests will disappear.

This post isn’t about this book’s content. This is a wake-up call for authors. It could happen to you.




Picking at Billy’s Booger by William Joyce

BillyBoogerI never played any Beatle albums backwards to hear secret messages.

I think I found one, however, in the new William Joyce book.

First of all, don’t flick away (booger humor…sorry) the full title, which is…

Billy’s Booger: a memoir (sorta), by William Joyce and his younger self

When I saw the book, I geeked out. At last!

After all, I learned about the real-life story behind the story YEARS AGO. The project began when Joyce was a fourth grader. He mentioned the effort (on page 46) of his 1997 picture-bookish memoir, The World of William Joyce Scrapbook.

What he entered as a contest only got him a trip to the principal’s office!

Amazingly, this picture book has a recreation of his childhood edition. There’s a 12-page insert in the new book, a book showing Joyce’s classic, whimsical paintings. (Yes, the three preview paintings from 1997 are included.)

Writers, take heart. A project that was only a dream in 1997 became reality, waiting all those years.

Here’s the Beatle-like subtext I think Joyce has slipped in. Is it a retort for publishers? Retailers? Reviewers?

All of the above, perhaps. Billy’s controversial book becomes a cult classic at his school, it seems.

Starred reviews and national book awards, or the adoration of the reading public?

I think William Joyce has chosen.

I choose William Joyce. I hope you will, too.


Celebrating a birthday by giving a gift: a book!

Awesome imagery courtesy of Onyx and Alexa Aker.)

Awesome imagery courtesy of Onyx and Alexa Aker.)

Today is the birthday of my wonderful wife Diana Star Helmer.

She said, “Look what I found. June 13 is an event. World Wide Knit in Public Day. I’d love every one of those people to have a copy of Elsie’s Afghan. My gift to them.”

I said, “I know that June 11 is a milestone, too. We’ll be celebrating your birthday.”

Diana replied, “Let’s celebrate both days. Free e-books all around!”

Why this book? Elsie’s Afghan stars one amazing knitter. Along with her talented friends, they attempt to save the day by…

knitting in public.

This isn’t the first time Diana has shared her writing. Last year for Christmas, she wished that 100 readers would discover The Three Scrooges: A Christmas Parody. Please, check out what we learned from that adventure playing e-book Santas.

Here’s how the birthday/knitting party works:

Head to the Elsie’s Afghan page. Help yourself to this uplifting story about a shy knitter who uses her talent to make a dream come true. (Dog lovers will find extra joy in this book, by the way.) The free download is available June 11-13, through Saturday.

Next, please tell others. Last year, Diana wished for 100 downloads. If 200 people find Elsie’s Afghan, this will be one of the greatest birthday presents ever. If you’d be willing to leave an honest review at the Amazon site, I will try not to eat your share of the birthday cake next year. (And I thank you in advance for the husband extra-credit points!)

We’ll be posting download updates here, on Facebook, Twitter and Google Plus.

We believe in books, and in you. Thank you for your help.