Baby Author Me

Baby Author Me, Writer Interviews, Writing Tips

Lessons for Baby Author Me — Barbara Lowell

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I’m excited to welcome author Barbara Lowell to the blog this week! In addition to sharing some tips for her Baby Author Self, Barbara is also revealing the cover of her new book, My Mastodon, with artwork by Antonio Marinoni, slated for publication in February 2020. Without further ado, here is the FABULOUS cover:

Sybilla cover

As a lover of bones, and book and adorable dogs, I cannot get enough of this gorgeous image! Thanks for sharing, Barbara!

Now it’s time to offer some words of wisdom to your Baby Author Self. So…

512b2rcGt7LWhat would you tell Baby Author You about your contract?

You have an agent, so you believe you’re all set – nothing to do on your part. Sorry. It’s important for you to read over your entire contract, no matter how many pages there are. Make notes on the questions you have and the areas you don’t understand. Because there will be many. It’s extremely important for you to know exactly what you will be signing. It may seem overwhelming at first, but learning to understand all that legalize is empowering and it will protect you.

The next step is to discuss your contract with your agent, over the phone or on Skype, etc. A back and forth discussion is better than one by email. When the contract negotiations by your agent are complete, read the contract again to ensure that you fully understand it.

What if you don’t have an agent? You may want to contact agents you think are a good fit and let them know that you have received an offer. They may offer representation. You may want to hire a lawyer who specializes in book contracts. You can join the Author’s Guild, submit your contract, receive advice and then negotiate the contract on your own. Or, you can find books or online resources about book contract negotiation and do the work yourself. What’s most important is that you fully understand all aspects of your contract. You will then write a letter outlining the changes you would like. These changes may or may not be accepted. But most publishers will be reasonable about not requiring that they have the exclusive right to your next work.

You have your first book contract and earned one-half of your advance. Celebrate!

51qOxDTFNiL._SX409_BO1,204,203,200_What’s next? The editorial letter. It’s another milestone in your journey as an author. Before reading it do something fun or relaxing and calming.

Then, read the entire letter, line edits, suggestions, etc. It’s probably not what you expected. You thought your manuscript just needed a bit of tweaking. And now you have lots of revision to do. And you loved your story the way it was. Put the letter away. If you need to vent, call a supportive friend – do not vent to the editor. That’s a big no-no.

The next day, take the letter out, no more complaining – get to work. Make a plan. Will you work first on line edits? Will you cut what needs cutting first? Will you rethink the sections of your manuscript that need the most work? Ask your editor if you have questions. BE NICE. Don’t be surprised if there is a tight deadline. It’s up to you to meet it.

51XRVHoPHMLWhen your revision is finished, you probably will find that the story you thought couldn’t be better is now greatly improved. That’s why there are editors. Send your revision back. Most likely, you will receive requests for more revisions. This may go on for a while – so be strong. And one day, you will receive an email saying that your manuscript is accepted and the second half of your advance is on the way (sooner or later.)

You are finally close (in a year or two or more) to the magical day when you open the box of YOUR FIRST BOOK. Hooray Baby Author You! You did it!

Barbara Lowell is the author of Sparky & Spike: Charles Schulz and the Wildest, Smartest Dog Ever about young Charles Schulz, the creator of Peanuts and his dog Spike, the inspiration for famous pup Snoopy. Her books include the nonfiction early readers Daring Amelia and Alexander Hamilton, American Hero..And the forthcoming picture books My Mastodon  (2/25/2020) and Behind the Bookcase: Miep Gies, Anne Frank and the Hiding Place (2021.)  She lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma and is a member of The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI.) You can visit  her at and on Twitter at:

Baby Author Me, Writer Interviews, Writing Tips

Lessons for Baby Author Me — Jonathan Roth

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This week, I’m excited to welcome Jonathan Roth to the blog and to celebrate the release of a brand-new, special edition of BEEP AND BOB! It features all four books in one! Wow!

Beep and Bob 4 in 1 cover

Author-Illustrator Jonathan Roth is a public elementary school art teacher who lives in Rockville, Maryland, with his wife, two kitties and three or more bicycles. Though Jonathan has never left Earth, he has met four of the astronauts who have gone to the moon. Beep and Bob (Simon & Schuster/Aladdin) is his first series. Learn more at

Now, it’s time for the main event! Are you ready, Jonathan? Let’s step inside the Baby Author Time Machine. Imagine that you could sit down with Baby Author You the day before your book sold and offer him some sage advice on the road to come. What would you have done differently? What words of wisdom are you dying to share?

Over to you, Jonathan!

Book promotion: Think of yourself as a small business and act accordingly. Go on the assumption that unless you have a lead title or special circumstances, your publisher will certainly do some things behind the scenes to help your book(s), but you won’t usually know what they are or how well they’re working. Be prepared to do as much as you’re able yourself and to use some of your advance. Be creative and work to your strengths, push yourself to try some new things and accept that you won’t be able to do everything! Plus your job is also to work on future books. No pressure!

Launch parties: Launch parties are a great way to kick things off and rally your local friends, family, students and colleagues. Prepare well. They’re going to be a blur. Be sure to give thanks to the venue and to anyone involved with your book’s journey.

Reviews: You’re going to care a lot at the outset and seek them out to read; but soon you’ll start to forget about them. Like sales, the only thing you can control is your ability to accept.

Book sales: Don’t obsess (yeah, right). And even if you do, keep in mind you won’t know your actual sales numbers, even when you get a royalty statement (they’re very complicated, and don’t reflect future returns, etc.) and anything you glean from other sources gives a very incomplete picture.

Book signings: Book signings are a fun way to connect with readers, but don’t go too out of your way unless you enjoy it. Focus on events with talks, and team up with others when you can. Attendance at libraries and bookstores can be 25+ if the event is well advertised and in a good location, but be prepared for far fewer.

School visits: School visits are the best! You get to meet tons of eager students and educators. Prepare a really good show (informative, relevant, entertaining, humorous) and tweak it constantly to make it better. Try to partner with a local indie to take care of pre or post sales. (note: I’m a teacher and am very comfortable educating and entertaining students; if talking to hundreds of boisterous kids sounds like a horror to you, it probably will be.)

Revising: You’ve revised and revised to get to this point and you’re going to have to revise and revise and revise before publication. Most of writing is rewriting, but you already know that so you’re good to go!

Critique groups: I can’t imagine doing it without a good, honest, supportive critique group. Plus the better you are at listening to others, the better your chances of making it through the submission, revising and editing processes.

Rejection: It’s a good thing you’re so very practiced at getting rejected, because even after a sale you’re going to get rejected lots more! Not just on future ideas and submissions, but by some book festivals and organizations and media outlets and more. If you can’t stomach the thought of ever more rejection, get out now!

Money (Advance, Royalties, Taxes): You’re not going to make nearly as much as you dreamed (and certainly not as much as people may assume) and you’re going to spend more than you planned. Yay for day jobs!

Final Words of Wisdom: Because you care so much, you’re going to at times feel elated and at times feel defeated. That’s just the cycle. But also because you care so much you’re going to press on no matter what. Follow your passions, you have something very valuable to offer to kids!

Love, love, love!!! Thanks so much Jonathan, and everyone go out and buy the new, super-cool edition of BEEP AND BOB!


Baby Author Me, Writer Interviews, Writing Tips

Lessons for Baby Author Me — David Neilsen

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(Full disclosure: this baby photo of David may not be 100% accurate)

David Neilsen, welcome to the blog! First things first, enjoy a complimentary soda on the house. Now sit back…close your eyes…

I want you to go on a journey with me, back to your newborn authors days. Remember all the joy, the self-delusion, the crippling fear and anxiety? Think of all the things you would have done differently. Now imagine that you could sit down with Baby Author You the day before your book sold and offer him some sage advice on the road to come? Guess what? It’s too late for you–sorry David!–but it’s not too late for all the other Baby Authors out there. So let’s dive in. The wee Baby Authors of the world need your words of wisdom.

What would you tell Baby Author You about…

drfellBook promotion:

David. The year is 2016. Last April, your agent called you out of the blue to tell you he’d sold Dr. Fell and the Playground of Doom. You did a happy dance. Now the book is a few months away from coming out this August.

Start promoting like mad. This is your job. The publisher will not do it for you. Get on blogs. Get folks to review it. Contact people you haven’t contacted in years to see if they can help you promote it. Do you know some teachers (you do), get them to bring you to their school.

You thought being a writer meant you job was to write. You were wrong. It is to promote.


Don’t read reviews. And when you do read reviews, don’t pay any attention to them. And when you do pay attention to them, don’t let one person’s opinion get you down or raise you up. You believe in your books, so keep believing in your books. And when you read the reviews anyway and get upset that they don’t like you, don’t punch anything solid.

And seriously, ignore Kirkus. They just don’t like you.

School visits:

School visits are possibly the most important thing you can do to help your book and your career. Do them. Do a lot of them. Contact a zillion schools. Keep contacting them year after year. You are a children’s author, therefore you need to be introduced to children. There are lots of children at schools (it’s kind of a law thing).


Listen to your editor. She is all-knowing. Trust me. All-knowing.

beyondWriting first drafts

Stop trying to be perfect with your first draft. It’s annoying and pretentious. Just get the story down on digital paper, because then you will begin…


This is where you’re gonna do the work. Fix all the little things that need to be fixed. Fix the big things. And above all, CHARACTER, CHARACTER, CHARACTER. Plot is nice, but give the reader a character who grows or is changed by the events of the story. Without that, your book is pointless and won’t get published.

Critique groups:

Have other people read your work. Let them tell you what they like and don’t like. Listen to them and pay attention to things that keep coming up. Once you’ve done that a few times and have a draft you like, send it out again to more friends. Then pretty much ignore any negative criticism at that point because you’re too far along in the process and what do they know anyway, right?


 That was a lovely advance. It is all you will ever get for your book. Deal with it.

Hahahaha, so true!!! Thanks for stopping by, David, and for sharing your words of wisdom.


Screen Shot 2019-08-26 at 6.00.42 PMDAVID NEILSEN is the author of two Middle Grade horror/comic/fantasies published by Crown Books for Young Readers. His debut novel, Dr. Fell and the Playground of Doom, was named an Editor’s Pick by Amazon, won the Silver Falchion Award for Best YA/Tween Horror or Fantasy of 2017, and was a Semifinalist for Best Middle Grade / Children’s Book in the 2016 Goodreads Choice Awards. His second book, Beyond the Doors, was published in August, 2017.

Before turning to slightly-creepy children’s literature, David spent a dozen years working as a writer in Hollywood, culminating in optioning a pilot to 20th Century Fox (that went nowhere), and penning the screenplay for the Straight-to-DVD film “The Eliminator” (rent it, he dares you).

A classically trained actor, David works as a professional storyteller based in Sleepy Hollow, NY and spends much of October spooking the bejeebers out of people or performing one of his one-man shows based on and inspired by the works of H. P. Lovecraft. He lives with his wife, son, daughter, and two very domineering cats.

Learn more about David on his website.