Blog Archive

Tuesday, February 20, 2024

The Factors Involved in Putting Together a Picture Book: Author Interview with Kelly May Harris

You’ve now published 4 picture books under your name, but your first one was co-published with another author, Linda Goldfarb. What did you learn in working with Linda, that helped you in publishing your next books?

The fast answer, I learned I didn’t have the skill set, patience, or desire to self-publish. I say this in jest but it takes a whole different ability to navigate self-publishing.
Truthfully, the power of story has always fascinated me. Not just any story however, a real story, the kind that moves people through the power of the Holy Spirit. Years ago, I began going to a Ladies Bible Study with Linda Goldfarb leading the class. I was drawn to her use of story in her teaching. In time God moved. He opened the door to a mentorship and a friendship which Linda and I still treasure today.

I came alongside Linda in her business and together we published two Lovey Mouse Books. Lovey Mouse in The Night Before Christmas and Lovey Mouse in an Easter Story. Sitting with Linda during the process of publishing Lovey Mouse, I gained insight, information, and familiarity which indeed helps guide my writing today. From the language, to the process, and the follow through, it is safe to say the average person has no idea what all goes into getting the book in their hands onto the shelf.

Most of all though, I believe the biggest thing I learned from Linda Goldfarb is the Holy Spirit uses transparency to transform lives and I was given the blessing to witness her faith in action as she navigated being the author, speaker, and podcaster she is.

Dave O’Connell is the illustrator you've used for your picture books. How did that collaboration occur? What is that process like?
Actually Dave O’Connell was presented to me by my publishing company EABooks and it has been a great joy to work with him throughout the process. Dave is a man after God’s own heart and shares the passion for children that I do.

Our initial project was a double book project inspired by the journey I had with my daughter Kayla throughout her medical diagnosis, hospital stay, and ultimately her promotion to Heaven from Acute Myeloid Leukemia. God is Always Chasing After You is a series of letters to the reader that share our journey as we lived out our lives for Christ in that journey. Each letter is accompanied by a Smiles to Share section containing a children’s story or poem along with questions geared to help families going through hard times such as illness or death to simply have something else to talk about. Then there is the Smiles to Share book which is the same stories accompanied by Dave’s colorful illustrations.

Every interaction will vary between author and illustrator. For us, Dave reads the text then he and I chat on the phone. He, “picks my brain” to understand the goal for the project. Sometimes we brainstorm a little, but then he utilizes his God given imagination to sketch out a map of what the illustrations might look like. While I have had a few specific requests, mostly, I ask Dave to let his imagination run free. Once the map is agreed to he begins working on each piece and sends them my way when they are completed for approval. Truth be told, I’ve really enjoyed seeing my stories come to life through his imagination.

You’re an indie author, which means you’re in charge of everything from writing to publishing and marketing. What do you hire others to do?

I purchased a package from EABooks Publishing that included many great services. However, the process began long before submitting the text. Many of my stories had been reviewed by fellow authors from my writers critique group. They are a test audience and helped me iron out any issues they saw with my work. Then before I decided to move forward with the story, I had to decide if the story lined up with my mission as an author. 

Once I've determined a story lines up with my mission, I release it to EABooks who  reviews the story. From there Cheri Cowell, the founder of EABooks, suggests the package she feels best suits my needs for each project. Payment and paperwork are all worked out.

In each case, their editor reviewed my text and sent revisions. I can accept or reject these edits and do any rewriting needed. This was a bit discouraging because often things that made perfect sense to me as I wrote and revised were not as clear to the editor -- who truly acts as a pilot reader for the book.

Once the text is good to go it went to the illustrator. In turn, the illustrator sends his files to the designer who formats the book and fits it together with all of the requirements for publication. Next, author proof copies are ordered and reviewed with revisions submitted. Once approved the designer makes the book go live to publication.

The next step is the marketing journey. The publishing package I purchased included some assistance in learning to navigate the marketing piece. There are many options for marketing from networking, to pitching the book, in person presentations,  social media presence, building a platform and advertising. I will be spending most of 2024 marketing these books and building my platform.

Currently I participate in a monthly market days event. This gives me a way to connect with my community and in essence provides me a store front for word of mouth type advertisement. It also allows me to hear the feedback from parents and readers to possibly inspire the next project.

What do you know now about publishing you wished you had known sooner?
Honestly, I wish I had known sooner to just trust the timing from God. I wanted to push trough years ago and did a great deal of wheel spinning in my own power. But when God’s timing was in place, He opened the doors each step of the way.

What is the best writing advice you’ve received or could give?

Spend time ironing out a mission statement and writing goals. Allow time and prayer to earnestly figure out the mission and audience God has called you to serve in. A mission statement and goals, as it does for any business, will help as you move forward in knowing the best next steps and allow your yes to be yes and your no to be no in each decision you have as an author.

Are there any other points about writing you would like to add?
There is far more to writing than just putting ink to paper! If you’re curious about it, plan to attend a writers conference or workshop just to get a feel for what all is out there.

At the same time if you feel you have a story, go ahead and write it. Draft out the story, just get it out onto the paper. Editing and revising the work can come in time and it is always possible that you are the intended audience for your writing.

What is the next book coming out? Can you give me some details? 
I just released The Skunks Run Amuck this month. Here are the details.
Some people like planning. They like the idea of knowing what's coming and have a clear path ahead. Truth is this world comes up with stinky situations. Thankfully love comes between us and protects us. In this playful story, a boy stands witness to the power of love, but is he aware of all the trouble? As the illustrations add an untold story a boy learns the benefit of listening.

Treasure Hunt will follow in April or May and be a bit of a different vibe. It was written in response to the felt need for books that help families talk about death. Treasure Hunt will face the topic of grief and loss head on as the main character journeys through a family gathering after her sister went home to be with Jesus.

That's all for today's interview. If you'd like to know more about Kelly's books, here are some links to get you started.
Website: Here you'll find free downloads of coloring pages as well as a matching game that accompanies each of the stories within Smiles to Share
Amazon Author Page: 
And here's a bonus for my readers... Use this link to get a free eBook of children's short stories to read at bedtime.

Saturday, February 17, 2024

Discoveries as You Write: Author interview with Rebecca Velez

Your first three novels were historical fiction set in Old Testament times. Since then you’ve written books outside of Biblical times.
 What made you decide to switch genres?
Esperanza Ranch is a contemporary fiction novel about a group of young women recovering from PTSD. It began as a writer’s prompt and took on a life of its own.

My favorite genre to read is historical fiction, so other than Esperanza Ranch, I’ve written in that genre. The idea for my new series was sparked when I lived in New Braunfels, Texas, which was foun, ded by a German prince, the only American town to be founded by European nobility.

How do you go about doing research for your books? What’s one of the most unique facts you’ve discovered in doing your research?
I do a lot of research online. It’s much easier to research now than when I started in the mid-1990s. Email makes it easy to reach out to potential sources, too. Of course, I still learn a lot from books. My favorite way to research is in-person. I visited the living museums of Hessenpark in Germany and Heritage Village in New Braunfels to see how people lived in the 1840s.

One funny tidbit I learned was that doctors thought the speed of train travel—up to 30 mph in the mid-1800s—would be bad for your health.

What’s the best encouragement you’ve had in your writing?

A reader wrote on FB that my first novel Such a Time as This was one of her favorite books. 

Marketing is the biggest key to making sales. What is the best marketing source you've used that has produced more sales rather than just clicks?
Interacting on the Avid Readers of Christian Fiction FB group has brought in the most sales for me.

What do you know now about writing you wished you had known sooner?
I was a journalism major in college. I wish I’d been taught about contracts, taxes, and marketing your books, the business side of writing. 

What is the best writing advice you’ve received or could give?
 “Butt in the chair,” or as Nike would say, “Just do it!”

I’m a planner, so I try to plot out my books, but they never go the way I originally imagine. Sometimes I have to glue myself to the chair and push through.

 Are there any other points about writing you would like to add?
In a nod to my heritage, I’ve gifted Annika’s family with a two-hundred-year-old antique passed down through my family. It’s a cabbage-shaped sugar bowl that traveled from Virginia to Missouri by wagon and has the scars to prove it. My mother would have liked its inclusion in my latest novel, but like Annika’s Mutter, mine has passed away. She died in 2022 while I was writing this book. An avid reader, she always supported my writing and read my drafts. I miss her and dedicate A Place for Annika to her. 

You just released A Place for Annika. Can you give me a short synopsis?
Since her mother died, Annika’s life in Hesse has deteriorated. At seventeen, she’s nearly old enough to marry and establish a happy home of her own, but her plan to marry the farmer next door is dashed.

Nursing a broken heart and bruised ego, Annika takes a job as a seamstress in the city. Professional success and a suitor make her dreams seem within grasp. But Annika comes to realize she needs more than a handsome husband to fill the void in her life. 

That's all for today's interview. If you'd like to learn more about Rebecca's books, here are some links to get you started.

And here's a bonus for my readers, leave a comment on this post with your name and we'll pick one reader who'll receive an eBook of A Place for Annika. So do that now. It can be as simple as I want to be in the giveaway. We'll chose a winner next Friday!