Take it away, Joanna! :)
I think many of my generation struggle to embrace picture books in electronic format. We know the intimacy of reading a physical book to/with a young child. The sensorial experience it gives to the child in turning the pages, smelling, chewing etc is an important part of their early reading experience (and ours too as caregivers – holding a book and reading to a child is incredibly bonding). I came to PB eBooks with my preconceptions, and have become convinced that this is not an either/or question, but rather that they offer yet another opportunity to keep the reading doors open for our children. I believe e-Picture Books can add to our children’s reading experiences. More books, more easily accessible, in a variety of formats… this is a good thing. This is a lengthy introduction, but I believe to be involved in any eBook platform you should be convinced of their value in our children’s reading lives.
Whatever the publishing platform, the most important thing will always remain the quality of the story. I would not have considered submitting to uTales if I were not convinced of an appropriate level of quality editorial control. Two things convinced me of this. Firstly, an illustrator friend, Hazel Mitchell, whose work I much admire, submitted her beautiful retelling of The Ugly Duckling, and won an iPad for the official launch of uTales last year. Secondly, publishing veteran, Emma D Dryden, whose independent editorial services I use through her company, drydenbks, heads up the uTales editorial quality control panel. I think with any new eBook platform expanding its collection, there will be a great range of storytelling, but I am very happy with the editing and selection that is happening and we have been seeing a real flow of great quality stories being submitted as we grow in numbers of collaborators.
When you first sign up with uTales, you receive two weeks free access to every book in the library; thereafter you always have access to an 8-page preview of every book for free. That first fortnight, I think I read all the books they had, discovering the focus was more for the 2-5 year olds, though not exclusively, and the variety was enormous. I love the fact that we are a thoroughly international group and working towards publishing in several languages (so far English and Swedish, with Spanish soon to be added). Once I had researched the platform and felt convinced about its goals and authenticity, I set out purposely to write a story for uTales. How I came up with my story you can read about here.
SNOW GAMES went through exactly the same amount of rigorous revision that I would give any manuscript that I wish to submit to an agent or publisher (or self publish). Typically, I sent it off to my crit. partner first. Then it went through my normal online PB crit. group and a rhyming online PB crit. group, which formed out of PiBoIdMo. I sent the revisions back several more times to my crit. partner and my freelance editor also gave me valuable input. I want to underline that one should not seek an illustrator until one is confident about one’s story. Emma Dryden has written an excellent article for uTales about the importance of presentation, punctuation, and precision when it comes to creating successful picture books. - http://blog.utales.com/2011/11/10/to-keep-in-mind-when-creating-utales-picture-books/.
I took a little time finding the right illustrator - I think, in part, due to the complexity of having the four characters, requiring an illustrator who had the time to invest, not a small request for these freelancers. There is an active Facebook group, called uTales Collaborations, where illustrators and authors can find one another. Prior to writing SNOW GAMES, I had been involved in a collaboration project of 30 uTalers, who together produced THE FRIENDSHIP ALPHABET book. Maja Sereda had done an enchanting double-paged spread of “ogling owls” for the “O” page and seemed the perfect fit for my story – happily for me, she agreed. I sent her my paginated manuscript and Maja then took over. We had some fun communication back and forth, between France and South Africa for 2.5 months, as she worked on the illustrations; we have become firm friends. I am enchanted with her artwork for this book. One of the pleasures of working with uTales is the opportunity few have, for such collaboration.
Both illustrator and author are co-creators and have access to the uTales website “create tool” when they finally upload: images, text, sound, animation, caption, dedication pages etc. The uTales website has simple videos explaining each aspect if this process, and there is a technical team happy to respond to any questions. Once complete, you submit online via the uTales website to their Quality Editorial Panel (UQEP). If you count the fact that we live in different time zones to the panel (Maja and I are on the same longitude!), the response was immediate to our submission. For SNOW GAMES, the feedback was to increase the font size for better visibility on iPhones and to remove one preposition for better rhyming flow. I followed up on these suggestions and made the corrections. Our book was published shortly afterwards, with a five star rating.
1. Write a darn good story, thoroughly revised (nothing new here!)
2. Familiarize yourself with uTales and join the FB collaboration page.
3. Find just the right illustrator for your story and enjoy the collaboration process.
4. Look at the how-to videos on the uTales site.
5. Upload your images and text, and decide whether it is appropriate to then add any animation and sound.
6. Submit the complete story to the UQEP and be ready to respond to their helpful feedback. If a lot of editing is required, you may need to submit a couple more times (3 times maximum).
7. Start planning your promotion before the book is published.
8. Enjoy – it is a wonderful experience.
Susanna, thank you so much for shooting off an invitation to me to share on your blog, I think within minutes of you seeing SNOW GAMES had been published.
Thank you so much for visiting with us, Joanna!
You can visit Joanna's Website/Blog and "Like" her on Face Book.
And you can see the other stops on her blog tour at these fabulous blogs:
Wednesday, Mat 16th, Darshana’s Blog, Flowering Minds - Interview
Wednesday, May 23rd – Krista Rausin’s blog, Parenting with a Dash of Inspiration - Multiple Characters in Picture Books
Tuesday, May 29th – Sharon Stanley’s blog, Sharon Stanley Writes – Interview
Tuesday, June 5th - Clarike Bo Jahn, Clarbojahn’s Blog - The Story Behind the Story
Wednesday, June 6th – Diane Tulloch’s blog, The Patient Dreamer – Book Review
Wednesday, June,13th - Julie Hedlund’s Blog, Why uTales?
Monday, June 18th – Susanna Leonard Hill’s Blog - The Process of Submitting a Story to uTales
Wednesday June 27th – Patricia Hilton’s blog, Children’s Books Heal, Book Review
Before we go, I have a surprise for you! Remember that mini-series on self-publishing I told you about? Well, it has expanded to 4 posts! And all four will include giveaways! And although Suzanne's schedule does not allow, the others have graciously and generously offered to be available to answer any questions you may have after reading their posts - a truly priceless opportunity! Can it possibly get any better? :)
Friday June 22 we will learn from Suzanne McGovern, author of a delightful self-published picture book series about Gator And Pete. Monday June 25 Vivian Kirkfield will share the creation of her wonderful self-published picture book resource Show Me How - a book every parent and teacher should have a copy of! The following Friday (June 29) we'll be visited by Patrick Milne, author of the e-book The Adventures of Lucy Snigglefritz (also available in paperback.) And finally on Monday July 2 we'll wind up with Rita Borg, author of Meg The Egg. All of these authors have a wealth of information to share on the process of self-publishing and I hope you will find what they have to say as interesting and enlightening as I do!