Kid Lit Author and Advocate

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What’s the Dollar Store have to do with launching a book?

Isn’t that where books go when they die?


I write kids’ books. Okay, I have written one picture book. I am an indie-author (sounds much hipper than self-published). So, other than myself, no one is making the rounds to promote my little gem. After spending a pretty penny to bring my book to life, I didn’t have a lot to spend on its launch. So, what’s a gal to do?

Go shopping!


Let’s back up a little. Location, location, location-right? I had to choose a venue for the party. I reached out to our local animal shelter, and they graciously lent me their banquet room. The Animal Rescue League of Iowa recently underwent a major remodel. It now feels more like a community center than a shelter. It was an ideal spot for the event. I donated a portion of my proceeds to the ARL, which came out to $456.00 that night.


Now, on with the shopping. I knew I wanted to serve cookies at the event. I also wanted to give out some swag.  But how?

Ta-Da, The Dollar Store.


Do you know you can get a package of 16 chocolate chip cookies for $1? Do you know a child who does not like cookies, or a parent who doesn’t like free?



I was also able to score 6-packs of bottled water for a buck! Napkins? Yes, please. Another buck. Fancy, silver serving trays? I got those too (I don’t think anyone suspected they were plastic).



What about the swag? Even at $1 each, I could not afford to give out unlimited freebies. So, I advertised that I was giving out free fairy wings OR bunny ears to the first 50 kids (my book is about fairies and dust bunnies). Guess what I found at the Dollar Store? Yep, strap-on fairy wings and headbands with bunny ears.



The party was a huge success, and one family went home with more than a book-they adopted a pet that night!

Can’t find that in The Dollar Store!


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It’s Picture Book Month.  And I am celebrating my favorite genre all month.  Throughout the month of November, I’ll post tips, links, and articles pertaining to my favorite genre.  I hope you’ll discover something to enhance your family’s shared reading experiences.  I’ll also be participating in fellow-bloggers’ PBM events and challenges.

I am thrilled to count myself among the ranks of children’s book writers.  I shared a little about my self-publishing misadventures in a previous post, Pinterest Devoured my Soul, and All I Got was This Lousy Bookmark  In that post, I reveal the hidden horror behind self-publishing…BOOK PROMOTION!!!!

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Yes, I must try to convince other people that my children’s picture book,The Legend of Dust Bunnies, a Fairy’s Tale, is worth their consideration.  I invite you to sign up for my  Goodreads Giveaway but I’d also like to celebrate Picture Book Month by thanking the awesome bloggers who bless me with their posts and sense of community.

For the month of NOVEMBER, anyone who leaves a comment, on this post, sharing a a favorite picture book memory or quote, will be entered to win a copy of my book.  I will also donate a copy to a local children’s charity.   Oh, I almost forgot.  Promoting a self-published kids’ book makes a person do some cray-cray stuff.

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At the top of my cray-cray list is “adoptable Dust Bunnies”.  I created the “Dust Bunny Rescue Club” to raise funds for our local animal shelter. The Animal Rescue League of Iowa is hosting my very first book signing event, on November 13. The margin on a self-published book isn’t great, and I was determined to give the ARL more than $1 per book.  So, I’ll be donating 100% of the $5 Dust Bunny adoption fee to the ARL as well. The winner of the WordPress drawing will receive a copy of my book and an adorable Dust Bunny, complete with adoption certificate and pet carrier.  The book and bunnies are featured in my super-professional  iPhone shots below.  Be sure to leave your comment about your favorite picture book.  Thanks everyone, and Happy Picture Book Month!

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As I make my way through the self-publishing world, I continue to be amazed at the kindness of strangers.  I have been touched by individuals I call “Cyber-Samaritans”.  From gestures as small as a website “like”, to those as grand as spending their hard-earned free time tutoring me…I am blessed.  As I stay the course, I hope to pay my blessings forward and back.

My first shout-out went to fellow indie kids’ book author, Aaron Peters. This time, it’s a two-fer. I’d like to recognize the dynamic duo, Judy Voigt and Karen LoBello. This sister team forged a path, as indie authors and self-publishers, while creating The Great PJ Elf Chase, a Christmas Eve Tradition. I ran across their blog very early in my self-publishing journey. I was on a mission to learn everything I could about self-publishing. I’d make my way from post to post, site to site, in search of knowledge. I’d dive into one “online haystack” after another, hoping to find that needle (in my case a compass needle to direct my path).

Typically, I’d dive in and 27 clicks later, I had found no practical advice for self-publishing a children’s picture book. Instead, I’d wind through a labyrinth, ending in advertisements for vanity presses and/or a push to buy a how-to book on publishing a novel or an ebook.

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So, imagine my delight when I stumbled upon The Great PJ Elf Chase site. There it was, a blog about self-publishing a children’s picture book! More than a blog, it read like a personal diary, chronicling their every step and misstep. I couldn’t read through the posts fast enough. Suddenly, I believed I could do this. I could publish a bookstore-quality picture book. Like me, both women are teachers and moms. So, I felt a connection with them. I found their comments page and left a note thanking them for their inspiration and information. I also bought a copy of their book.

Since that time, I’ve corresponded with Judy a few times. She’s been kind enough to answer questions and offer her advice. I continue to read their blog and learn from them. You may want to check out their latest blog post Website Design Tips for Authors: An Interview with Jessica Zeigler.

I truly believe reaching out to helpful, knowledgeable, people like Karen, Judy, and Aaron helped pave the road to publishing my first children’s picture book, The Legend of Dust Bunnies, a Fairy’s Tale. I hope to pass on what I learn about the crazy and beautiful process of bringing a book to life. I keep this thought in mind: We can’t help everyone, but we can ALL help someone. I can’t buy every indie book, but I do buy as many as I can. My collection is growing as are my connections in the indie publishing world.

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“Write a book, they said. It’ll be fun, they said.” It all started innocently enough. A children’s picture book, about fairies…what’s the worst that could happen? No, the fairies didn’t transform into zombies and begin eating children. It’s much, much, worse. I self-published a children’s picture book. Not scary, you say? Try promoting it.

Yes, book promotion is the dark underbelly of the kiddy-lit world. It makes seemingly normal people do very un-normal things (like make their own bookmarks). If you are at all squeamish, it may be best to change the channel. The ending is pretty graphic.

You might assume, as I did, that a children’s author lives in a land filled with only rainbows and butterflies (yes, once in a while a unicorn pops by). Clicking away at the computer, she releases musical notes with each keystroke. That’s how it started (except in my story, the unicorn is actually a hairless cat perpetually curled up on my lap). Anyway, it was all good; I birthed that first story in record time. I connected with an illustrator, who brought my story to life in a way words alone could never do. I found a “publisher”. No, not a real publisher. I am self-published via a Print-on-Demand service called Lightning Source. So, I am able to order print copies, and my book is available on Amazon. It’s actually a pretty cool thing. But, I digress.

Was it scary to approach a complete stranger, online, and ask him to illustrate a book about dust bunnies and fairies? Yes, yes, it was. Was it frightening to reveal to him that I am just a mom, from Iowa, with absolutely no experience writing or self-publishing? Abso-freakin-lutely!  But that’s nothing compared to the horror that is book promotion.

(Insert Twilight Zone intro music, Rod Serling voice, optional) Imagine being born prior to 1970. Now imagine your only experience with social media has been email and Facebook. I know, freaky, right? You’ve just written and self-published a pretty darn good kids’ book. The good news is that people like it; they actually really, really like it. The bad news is that you are related to, or acquainted with all of those people. The walls begin to cave in as you realize YOU have to convince other people that THEY will really, really like it. Yes, you have to promote it, “duhn, duhn, duhn” via the internet.

Thus began my horrifying journey into the realm of social media. Remember, I am a child of the 70’s. When I hear the word troll, I think of the fuzzy-haired, bubble-eyed dolls we all collected back in the day. You charge me with the task of creating a blog, website, and Twitter account…and I’m instantly transformed into one of the crappy tributes from the Hunger Games-the ones who get picked off in the first battle. But, crappy or not, I must fight to survive.

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Finding my way around building a web site was a bit like an ape teaching herself how to tie her own shoes (not pretty to watch, nor is it necessary, but it can be done).   With shoes tied, Gorilla-girl went on to create a blog (imagine the ape teaching herself to tie her shoes, blindfolded). Twitter, I’m still trying to figure out that whole mess.

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Fast forward a few months. I’m blogging away, dutifully updating my website, and haphazardly tweeting. Oh, and I’ve got my book as a giveaway on Goodreads to boot (shameless plug, self-publishing made me do it). I’m so busy bopping around, online, that I lose sight of the fact that I have my book launch party scheduled for November 13. I am thrilled to be holding the event at our local animal shelter. I want to make it special, and I want it to be a fun night for the kids and their families. Oh, and I want to give out some freebies. Reality check…I just spent a small fortune to get this book made. Sorry, sister, no money for freebies.

What’s a girl to do? Here comes the scary part…”Go ahead”, says one of the voices in my head. “Check out some ideas on Pinterest. It won’t hurt, it’s just a look.”  I know, I know, I should have known better. I’ve been sucked into the Pinterest vortex too many times to mention. But, like the clueless chick in the horror movie, I wander into the darkness.

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What’s the worst that can happen?  It’s not like Pinterest can devour my soul.   I know I can never duplicate the absolute perfection I see proudly displayed on the Pinterest boards, but I’m drawn to them, like a moth to the flame.  Each time, I enter, it’s the same routine.  I flit from one pin to another, soaking up the warmth.  Hours later, I extract myself, feeling overwhelmed and inadequate. But, with slavish-trust, I repeat the cycle again and again.

Yes, Pinterest devoured my soul, and all I got was a lousy bookmark….and a few other crafty ideas for my book launch party.

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It’s Raining Books, Hallelujah It’s Raining Books!  At long last, the first shipment of The Legend of Dust Bunnies, a Fairy’s Tale books has arrived!  Is it wrong to dance around, in the garage…in my pajamas?  The doors are closed, so what the heck?  I am dancing with joy, and a whole lot of relief, since I scheduled my book launch party before I actually had books in hand.  The hardcover books are still in route, so I am not entirely out of the woods.  But, the paperback books are beautiful!  Please check out my free book giveaway on Goodreads or get your copy at Amazon


If you’d like to learn more about my self-publishing journey, check out this short book preview video:

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I am thrilled that my first children’s picture book, The Legend of Dust Bunnies, a Fairy’s Tale is now available at

The book turned out more beautifully than I could have ever imagined.  I am grateful that artist Kevin Richter had faith in my project and agreed to join me on my maiden voyage into the indie-publishing realm.  It was a pretty remarkable leap of faith for an established illustrator to collaborate with a never published, stay-home mom, pitching a story about crumb-spitting dust fairies.

It can be tough to get an indie kids’ book noticed.  So, here comes the “pretty please with fairy dust on top” part.  Please take a peek at my amazon page or my website.  If you like what you see, please spread the word about my book.  I am offering a free Goodreads Giveaway as well.

You can learn more about the book and the story behind how we made it by watching the preview video.

Thank you!

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As I make my way through the self-publishing world, I continue to be amazed at the kindness of strangers.  I have been touched by individuals I call “Cyber-Samaritans”.  From gestures as small as a website “like”, to those as grand as spending their hard-earned free time tutoring me…I am blessed.  As I stay the course, I hope to pay my blessings forward and back.  My first shout-out goes to fellow self-published children’s author, Aaron Peters.

“I don’t know nothin’ ’bout birthin’ books!”

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Prissy, from Gone with the Wind, didn’t know nothin’ ‘bout birthin’ babies, and a year ago, I certainly didn’t know nothin’ about self-publishing a book. I also didn’t know nothin’ about twitter, blogging, tags, categories, hashtags, trolls, or the true value of caffeine.
I thought once I had my manuscript polished, I was on my way to realizing a lifelong dream of being a children’s author. I quickly discovered that notion is like finally getting pregnant and expecting to hold your baby a few weeks after. Well, a baby typically takes two people to create, and the woman’s body takes care of the rest. A book, not so much. I created this new being, but I needed a heck of a lot of help to get from conception to delivery of my book.
First, I had to figure out how most picture books are put together. It turns out there is a pretty standard format as far as length and layout. But, there’s a slight problem…I can’t draw. Kind of hard to put out a picture book with no pictures. Mission Impossible…find an illustrator. Mission made Impossible-er…find one who will work with a first time, self-publishing, stay-home-mom, from Iowa, with a budget barely breaking 4 digits.
Time to throw in the towel.

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Not an option. I’ve already told my 8 year old son that his mom is going to be an author. Time to consult YouTube, the all-knowing Yoda/Oprah of everything. Search for self-published children’s authors who have actually survived the process and are willing to tell their tales.

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Enter Aaron Peters. I found and watched his You Tube video about how he self-published a kids’ book for his niece, Proof that I’m a Princess, After watching his video, I’m thinking: What a cute book. I sure wish I knew this guy, so I could ask him some questions. Hey, look at that, below his video it says,If you have any questions send me a comment or check out my website for other cool stuff.” I’ll type him a note, but I probably won’t get a reply.

Well, I was wrong about that. Aaron did reply. Not only did he answer my questions, he provided the framework for what would become the path to getting my book published. Oh, and remember my Mission Impossible-er? Aaron helped me solve that problem as well. Thanks to him, I connected with illustrator, Kevin Richter, via a service called Elance. How does a mom, from Iowa, team-up with a South-African guy, living in Great Britain, to create an awesome children’s picture book?

To be continued…

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Ann Handley is the Chief Content Officer of MarketingProfs and the co-author of the best-selling book on content marketing, Content Rules (Wiley, 2012)

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