CHILDREN’S BOOKS AND “HAPPILY EVER AFTER”

Many of the submissions I receive as an agent are children’s books. I find that inexperienced writers often decide to write a children’s book because they think it is easier than writing for adults. That simply is not true. There is more latitude when writing for adults. Things like change of perspective or point of view, length of text, language and word choice are just some examples. When writing for children, however, there are certain things that will make your manuscript stronger. For example:

1. Keep the first chapter short. By keeping the first chapter short, the writer gives young readers a boost in confidence, a win, a success. Our youngest readers are often intimidated by the length of a book. By keeping the first chapter short, the reader gains immediate gratification and is more likely to tackle subsequent chapters

2. Do solve the main conflict of your story. Open-ended conclusions are fine for adults, but kids—especially young kids—need closure. They need to feel that all is right with the world—their world.

In Mercer Meyer’s classic picture book There’s a Nightmare in my Closet, a young boy is afraid to turn out the lights and go to sleep. He is absolutely positive there is a monster lurking in his closet. He solves the problem by confronting the nightmare—who is afraid of the dark, too—and inviting it under the covers with him. As the two snuggle down to sleep, the boy says, “There might be another nightmare in my closet, but my bed isn’t big enough for three.” That is a satisfying ending.

3. Do have your protagonist solve the main conflict in the story—not a doting auntie or kindly teacher. Give the power to the children—not the adults.

In my young adult novel The Cadence of Gypsies, three high-spirited 17 year olds, with intelligent quotients in the genius range, accompany their teacher and mentor, Carolina Lovel, to Frascati, Italy, a few weeks before they are to graduate from Wood Rose Orphanage and Academy for Young Women. Carolina’s purpose in planning the trip is to remove her gifted, creative students from the Wood Rose campus so they can’t cause any more problems (“expressions of creativity”) for the headmaster, faculty, and other students – which they do with regularity. Carolina also wants to visit the Villa Mondragone where the Voynich Manuscript, the most mysterious document in the world, was first discovered and search how it is related to a paper written in the same script she received on her 18th birthday when she was told that she was adopted. That search will fill in all of the missing pieces of Carolina’s past, but it also allows her students to discover something meaningful within themselves, accept their own pasts, and look forward to the future

4. Do have your protagonist change in some way by the end of the book. He or she should learn something significant about his or herself and the world. Valid changes must be gradual and tied logically to your plot and characterizations

5. Do remember to end your story when it ends. After the climax, when the main conflict is solved or the situation accepted, the story is over. Tie loose ends quickly. At the conclusion of Cinderella the glass slipper fits, crowds cheer, the wicked stepmother is foiled, and Cinderella and her prince live happily ever after. THE END. Readers aren’t the least bit interested in reading about where the prince took Cindy on their honeymoon, what they ate for breakfast, or who cleaned the cinders from the palace hearth.

6. Do offer honesty… and hope. Not every day is a sunny one, but your protagonist should always triumph, should always get what he or she deserves—and so should your villain.

The philosopher Aristotle believed that history shows us things as they are, whereas fiction shows us things as they could be or ought to be. Offer children a satisfying ending in which hope plays a paramount role: that they have the power to change their lives to what could be… and should be.

Next time I will discuss the different types of children’s books, current trends, and what needs to be included for the age they are written.

Thanks for stopping by.

Barbara

A QUICK OVERVIEW OF PUBLISHING: The Importance of a Marketing Plan

Never has getting published been more difficult than it is today. With computers, more people working at home, and the use of digital, lap-top, electronic, print-on-demand, and self-publishing, in addition to traditional publishing, manuscript submissions are at an all-time high. Publishing houses are inundated. With competition being at the level it is, less than 3 percent of all submissions are accepted for publication. This is astounding! Because of this, it is absolutely imperative that writers do everything they can in order to create their own edge. That includes preparing a workable, realistic marketing plan.

Whether a writer is approaching an agent or a publisher, professionalism is a must. This means clean submissions, properly formatted, carefully edited, and sent to the correct editor or agent with an appropriate cover letter. It also means following the specific guidelines requested by the agency or publishing house you are submitting to. It is like going to war with defined rules of engagement, beginning with the elements that must be included in a good cover letter: title of manuscript, word count, background information on the author, brief synopsis. Attach sample chapters and, of course, your marketing plan. This is such an important “first impression” step to getting a manuscript read that many times a writer will pay a professional editor to write the cover letter.

It used to be that once a publisher contracted for a work, he took on the responsibility of also marketing that work for the purpose of gaining the most sales. The most an author had to do was occasionally show up at a book signing event that had been arranged by the publisher. Today, most publishers reserve the bulk of their marketing budgets for their big-name authors already under contract. All of the other authors pretty much have to fend for themselves. This means going out and beating the bushes for book signings, speaking engagements, attending book events, writing news releases and anything else you can do in order to sell your book. Creativity is a definite plus.

I first got the idea for my novel, Shyla’s Initiative, when I read an article about a little-known offshoot from the ancient religion, Santeria. The story explained how even today it is practiced throughout the country, especially in South Florida. I immediately began visiting all of the botanicas I could find, interviewing Santeria priests who would talk to me. This background paved the way for Shyla’s Initiative, my story of a writer who was starting to feel trapped in an unhappy marriage. The fact that she had married outside of her culture contributed to the problem, among other things. Throughout the story, there is an underlying, mysterious thread that eventually connects my protagonist, Shyla, with Santeria that eventually reveals her purpose in life. In doing my research, one Santeria priest in particular was helpful and invited me to one of their services that included animal sacrifice. I even offered to pay him for any inconvenience, but he adamantly refused, saying he would be punished by the orishas if he accepted money. He asked only that I give him a copy of my book when it was published.

When my book was published, I returned to the botanica several times in order to give him a copy of my book, but he was never there. Weeks passed, and with the passage of time I began to get an overwhelming feeling of apprehension that I had failed somehow. Perhaps I had even angered the orishas.  I needed to get my book to that priest!

Eventually I did, and even though it had been several months since I had spoken with him, he recognized me. He smiled when I gave him a signed copy of my book, then he spoke in the ancient language of Santeria. I believe it was a blessing and not a curse since my feelings of apprehension quickly disappeared. After that I went back to all of the botanicas I had visited when gathering my research and left books for them to sell. It turned out to be a wonderful marketing tool.

So how do you go about preparing a marketing plan to include with a submission—either to an agent or to a publisher?

BE SPECIFIC: What can you do, personally, to promote your book? For example, if you are a school teacher, perhaps you can promote in the schools. What about business connections? Your activities in the church or synagogue? Does your best bud belong to a book club? Will the owner of the little gift shop you like to browse in be willing to display some of your books and sell them on consignment?

My novel, The House of Kane, is a mystery that takes place inside a major New York publishing house. Aislinn Marchánt, a writer and editorial consultant, is hired by the major New York publishing company, Kane Publishing House, to help determine why several submissions sent to them have mysteriously disappeared only to be published later by another publisher. Are the editors at Kane simply not being diligent enough with the in-coming manuscripts, or is there something more sinister going on? Because of my work within the publishing industry both as a published author and a literary agent, I was able to realistically portray what actually goes on with submissions behind the closed doors of major publishing houses, and because of this realism and the story itself, The House of Kane was considered for a Pulitzer nomination. Two years later, my novel The Gospel According to Prissy was also considered for a Pulitzer.  I didn’t win a Pulitzer, but the fact that both books were submitted for consideration has been a useful marketing tool.

BE PREPARED: Once your book gets published, marketing takes a great deal of time and preparation. Remember, the publisher is saving his marketing money for his big-name established authors, so it doesn’t hurt for you to plan a budget as well. Know in advance how much you are willing to invest in marketing your book. Personally visit the bookstores in your area and outside of your area if you are able to travel to let them know you are available to do book signings. Show the bookstore managers your book and leave information that they can review later. Send out news releases. Send out announcements. And get involved with social media on the internet.

BE CREATIVE: Think outside the box. One of my own personal favorite things to do in marketing is to introduce myself to the directors of libraries locally as well as regionally. I do this in person whenever possible thereby building a relationship with the people who work in the library. Then, when my next book is released, I take a copy by to donate to the library or to their “Friends of the Library.” Invariably, that leads to sales.

You will be able to come up with your own ideas based on what is going on in your life. Organize those ideas into a good plan that you can include with your submission to an agent or publisher. You will be surprised how this one element of your submission will contribute to your getting an offer of a publishing contract.

Good luck!

Barbara

THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO PRISSY BLOG TOUR

i will be visiting 28 different book blog sites on Thursday, November 21, to discuss my latest novel THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO PRISSY, a 2013 IPPY Award recipient for Best Regional Fiction. The schedule is listed below, so if you get a chance, please stop by and leave your comments.

I would enjoy hearing from you.

My best,

Barbara

1: Bunny’s Review
2: Farm Girl Books
3: fundinmental
4: Queen of All She Reads
5: The Hedonistic Minimalist
6: My Devotional Thoughts
7: Deal Sharing Aunt
8: Full Moon Dreaming
9: Reviews by Crystal
10: Renee Luke
11: Kit ‘N Kabookle
12: My Odd Little World
13: Wake Up Your Wild Side
14: Wicked Readings by Tawania
15: Margay Leah Justice
16: Tina Donahue Presents
17: Hope Dreams. Life… Love
18: Sharing Links and Wisdom
19: Serenity Reviews
20: Curse of the Bibliophile
21: The Women’s Fiction Review
22: The Write to Read
23: Book ‘Em North Carolina
24: Hello Romance
25: Long and Short Reviews
26. Welcome to My World of Dreams
27: It’s Raining Books
28: Straight from the Library

THE CADENCE OF GYPSIES GOES ON TOUR

THE CADENCE OF GYPSIES, written for both the adult and new adult markets, will be featured in the virtual book tour by Goddess Fish Promotions on Wednesday, August 28, 2013.  The hosts who will be discussing my book are listed below.  If you get a chance, do stop by and make a comment.  I will be checking in all day and will answer any questions you might have.

A brief description of The Cadence of Gypsies follows:

           

Dara Roux, abandoned when she was 7 years old by her mother.  Exceptionally gifted in foreign languages. Orphan.

Mackenzie Yarborough, no record of her parents or where she was born. Exceptionally gifted in math and problem-solving. Orphan.

Jennifer Torres, both parents killed in an automobile accident when she was 16. Exceptionally gifted in music and art.  Orphan.

Three high-spirited 17 year olds, with intelligent quotients in the genius range, accompany their teacher and mentor, Carolina Lovel, to Frascati, Italy, a few weeks before they are to graduate from Wood Rose Orphanage and Academy for Young Women.  Carolina’s purpose in planning the trip is to remove her gifted, creative students from the Wood Rose campus located in Raleigh, North Carolina, so they can’t cause any more problems (“expressions of creativity”) for the headmaster, faculty, and other students – which they do with regularity.  Carolina also wants to visit the Villa Mondragone where the Voynich Manuscript, the most mysterious document in the world, was first discovered and search how it is related to a paper written in the same script she received on her 18th birthday when she was told that she was adopted – a search, more dangerous than she could have imagined, that will fill in all of the missing pieces of her past and help each of her students to discover something meaningful within themselves.

For more information about The Cadence of Gypsies, visit www.barbaracaseyagency.com Available from Amazon.com and selected for Amazon’s List of Best Reads.

HOSTS FOR THE CADENCE OF GYPSIES VIRTUAL BOOK TOUR
1
 Blood Red Shadows
Full Moon Dreaming
LizaOConnor
Out of the Lockbox
Danita Minnis
Writer Wonderland
Reading In Twilight
Andi’s Young Adult Books
Sexy Adventures, Passionate Tales
10
 Reviews by Crystal
11 
Cabin Goddess
12 
Lisa Haselton’s Reviews and Interviews
13 
You Gotta Read Reviews
14 
On the Broomstick
15 
My Devotional Thoughts
16 
Dawn’s Reading Nook Blog
17 
Deal Sharing Aunt
18 
My Odd Little World
19 
Hope Dreams. Life… Love
20 
Dalene’s Book Reviews
21
 The Cerebral Writer
22 
Chris Redding Author
23 
The (Mis)Adventures of a Twenty-Something Year Old Girl
24 
Red Wine and Books
25 
A Writer’s Life
26 
The Simple Things in Life
27
 Bunny’s Review
28 
Farm Girl Books
29 
Renee Luke
30 
Nickie’s Views and Interviews
31 
Who’s Reviews
32 
Fiction Writing and Other Oddities
33 
Andi’s Book Reviews
34 
Wake Up Your Wild Side
35 
Hope Dreams. Life… Love
36 
fuonlyknew
37 
Musings and Ramblings
38 
Sharing Links and Wisdom
39 
Becky Flade Author


PRISSY SELECTED FOR PULITZER NOMINATION, “2013 BEST SUMMER READS”

I am excited to announce that my latest adult novel, THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO PRISSY, has been placed in nomination for a Pulitzer Award. Winners will be announced in early 2014.

I also am pleased to announce that THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO PRISSY has been selected by “Conversations Book Club – Conversations Live Radio” for its 2013 list of 25 Best Summer Reads.

It is available in soft cover as well as Kindle and Nook and can be ordered through the Internet or from your local book store.

BARBARA CASEY’S VIRTUAL BOOK TOUR IS SCHEDULED

Below is the schedule for my “Virtual Book Tour” featuring my latest novel, THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO PRISSY. I will be making 22 stops between May 20 and June 14, so if you are free to stop by and visit, please do.

THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO PRISSY has just received the IPPY Award for Best Book in Regional Fiction. The issues and conflicts I address in this story are complex, as are the characters. But in the end, I think you will be glad you read it and be left with a sense of joyful inspiration.

I hope to hear from you in the weeks ahead.

Barbara

VIRTUAL BOOK TOUR

5/20/2013 MeganJohnsInvites
5/21/2013 Lisa Haselton’s Reviews and Interviews
5/22/2013 Margay Leah Justice
5/23/2013 It’s Raining Books
5/24/2013 My Devotional Thoughts
5/27/2013 Novel Moments
5/28/2013 Christy McKee Writes for Women in the Sweet Spot of Life
5/29/2013 Tinasbookreviews
5/30/2013 Nickie’s Views and Interviews
5/30/2013 SECOND STOP Fiction Writing and Other Oddities
5/31/2013 Deal Sharing Aunt
6/3/2013 The Life (and lies) of an inanimate flying object
6/4/2013 Illustrious Illusions
6/5/2013 Book ‘Em North Carolina
6/6/2013 Hope Dreams. Life… Love
6/6/2013 SECOND STOP Stitch Read Cook
6/7/2013 Straight from the Library
6/10/2013 Read Your Writes Book Reviews
6/11/2013 4 the LUV of SANITY
6/12/2013 The Ink Spot
6/13/2013 United By Books
6/14/2013 Welcome to My World of Dreams

Barbara Casey,Author/Literary Agent, Will Read from her Latest Novel, THE CADENCE OF GYPSIES

I will read from my latest novel, THE CADENCE OF GYPSIES, on Saturday, February 25, starting at 1 pm, at the Chatooga County Library in Summerville, Georgia. The public is invited.

CADENCE OF GYPSIES Summary:
On her 18th birthday Carolina Lovel learned that she was adopted and was given a letter written in an unknown language left to her by her birth mother. After years of research she travels to Italy on a mission to find the truth about her past. Carolina is accompanied by three extremely gifted but mischievous students—the FIGs—from Wood Rose Orphanage and Academy for Young Women. In an effort to help their favorite teacher, the FIGs will have to use their special abilities to decipher the Voynich Manuscript, the most mysterious document in the world and the one thing that is strangely similar to what Carolina was given as a child. Their search will take them into the mystical world of gypsy tradition and magic, more exciting and dangerous than any of them could have imagined.