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Tuesday, July 4, 2023

You Can't Fix a Blank Page: Author Interview with Diana Aleksandrova

How did your writing journey begin? 
 When I first began writing children's stories, my manuscripts didn't match the typical American picture book format. Instead, they followed the European tradition that I grew up with. The tales were too long or too twisted. After researching the American market, I adjusted my stories to match the demand. This blend of influences gave my work a unique and imaginative touch, taking readers on captivating journeys outside the norm.

How long does it take you to complete one of your books? 

Each book takes me a different amount of time and goes through several revisions. Too Cute to Spook, for example, had at least ten different versions before becoming what it's now.

Are you active in any writing critique groups?

Critique partners were essential in helping me grow as a children's book author. I have participated in many critique groups through SCBWI, FB groups, and the 12x12 Picture Books Challenge. I exchange manuscripts with a few trusted critique partners and work with a few editors.


How did you go about finding an illustrator? 

When looking for a new illustrator, I typically look for a style to match my vision, the ability to complete a project, and affordability. Following the latest published indie books allows me to find new talents that fit my style. The fact that an illustrator has completed a book already is essential to me as it shows their commitment. And, of course, I should be able to afford them since my budget as an independently published author is limited.


What was the hardest part of putting together your books?

 I am a total introvert, so the most challenging part comes after the book is complete and ready to be released, which means getting the word out. With picture books, it's necessary to do a lot of in-person events like school visits, markets, and signings, which terrify me. I am not doing as much as I should.


Did you personally design the full book, or did you have assistance with formatting or cover design, etc?  

So far, I have been lucky to work with incredible illustrators adept not only in illustrating but also designing books. My input is usually minimum after we agree on the main characters' style and look. Once the illustrations are ready, we work together on the cover, and I format the files for print.


What's the best encouragement you've had from readers? 

Parents telling me that they've read my book "500 times and know the words by heart," but don't mind because they love it. Receiving emails from teachers telling me how much their students love my books. I value those encouragements the most – knowing that my books might be why kids fall in love with writing.

Marketing is the biggest key to getting sales. What is the best marketing source you've used that has produced more sales rather than just clicks?

 On a smaller scale, word of mouth works quite well. I often bring orders to coworkers, and when others see my books, they want them, too. On a bigger scale, most of my orders come from Amazon, and Amazon Ads sell the most books. It took me two years of researching and experimenting to profit from them. 


What do you know now about publishing you wished you had known sooner?

How much marketing I would need to do myself. Once the books are published and listed on Amazon, people don't just find them.  I have to show them to shoppers. I wish I had known how to do social media successfully much earlier. It took me two ears to start making a profit from my books, which could have been much earlier if I had known more about marketing.


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

Everyone has a "blah" first draft once in a while, or maybe more often than that. A bad first draft can be fixed. What you can't fix is a blank page—the advice I often need to remember myself. Like many authors, I strive for perfection, which can be quite hindering sometimes. Perfection paralysis is a real thing. Plowing through the first time and revising later is the best advice I have received.


Are there any other points about writing you would like to add? 

Writing is like playing sports. The more you do it, the better you become. If you want to be a professional writer, you must take it seriously like professional hockey players do and train daily. But at the same time, make it fun. When I am excited about writing a story, I know it will be a good one as I am enjoying reading and writing it. My next project is a cozy mystery series for adults, which is quite different from my current writing.  I am excited about taking on this new challenge.

Can you give me some details on your latest book? 

The Lazy Stork, which just came out, is very personal to me because my infertility journey inspired it. Something only a few people know about. I grew up with the legend about the storks bringing the babies. After years of struggling to get pregnant unsuccessfully, I blamed it all on one lazy stork. But I wanted the book to be a hopeful and humorous tale despite the not-so-happy story behind it. 

The Lazy Stork is a great way to show your kids how long you waited for them or why their baby brother or sister has yet to come.


I was a reader before I became a writer, and if my books are why kids fall in love with reading, my mission will be accomplished. 

That's all for today's interview. I encourage you to check out her website to learn about all her books. When you sign up for her updates, you'll get a FREE book. 

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