Children’s Books

Why I’ve switched to self-publishing

24 July 2014

From author Diana Kimpton via An Awfully Big Blog Adventure:

It wasn’t an easy decision to make. I knew I already had two publishers eager to see my first novel for older readers. I knew that if I went with one of them, I’d be likely to get a good advance and good sales.

But I also knew that the world of publishing was changing fast. Self publishing was now a viable option – I’d already tried it with two backlist titles so I knew what was involved. And I also knew that There Must Be Horses was the best book I had ever written. Did I want to hand it over to someone else or did I want to stay in control?

In the end, I decided to do it my way, and I published There Must Be Horses myself in October 2012. The ebook came first, closely followed by a print-on-demand print version and a few months later by a short print run organised and distributed by Troubador because I’d discovered that I hated handling orders.

Almost two years on, I’m convinced I made the right decision. I probably would have sold more copies initially with a traditional publishing deal, but I make more per book so I don’t mind. Despite being self-published, the book has been reviewed in PONY magazine and The School Librarian, and it’s still selling steadily, often featuring in the best selling list for its genre. (It’s topped it once or twice.)

. . . .

Would I do it again? Now’s a good time to ask that as I’ve just had the latest in my Pony-Mad Princess series, published traditionally. On the plus side for the traditional route, the advance for Princess Ellie’s Perfect Plan was very welcome. I’ve enjoyed working with a very pleasant bunch of people and the final book looks good. On the minus side, I’ve had to give up the rights to my book for many years to come. I’ve missed the fun and satisfaction of self-publishing and, right now, I’m missing the instant access to sales figures that I get when I use Kindle Direct Publishing and Createspace.

That’s why I’ve decided to stick with self-publishing for the foreseeable future.

Link to the rest at An Awfully Big Blog Adventure

Here’s a link to Diana Kimpton’s books

 

This is the absolute worst way to teach your kids to read

14 June 2014

From Slate:

Recently, while cooling my heels at the airport, I overheard a boy of about 6 begging his mom to let him play with the family iPad. “No screen time until you do an hour of reading first,” was her reply. The child flung himself back in his seat and opened a paperback book with a disgruntled sigh.

I winced. Of course parents need to supervise their kids’ use of digital devices and the Internet. God only knows, plenty of adults have a hard enough time managing their own screen time.

. . . .

Most parents are also acutely aware of the importance of good reading skills to their children’s academic future. If they’re particularly well-informed, they’re aware that a recent report from Common Sense Media indicates the number of children aged 8 to 17 reading for pleasure has dropped significantly in the past few years. Digital media is frequently blamed for distracting kids from books, and so perhaps it’s not surprising that some parents have gotten the idea of using screen time as an incentive for page time.

The site Reading-rewards.com, for example, was set up by parents who decided to “put a system in place whereby their kids had to earn TV or game console time by reading: 1 minute TV time for every minute of reading.”

. . . .

But there’s the rub: Reading should not be a chore. Chores are tasks that nobody wants to do but that have to be done all the same. Life is full of such activities. Part of being an adult is learning to suck it up and take care of them, yet another thing parents have to teach their kids. Kids often have to be bribed to do this with an allowance or game tokens or some other treat because kids aren’t big on the long view. They don’t care that if they don’t wash the dishes tonight; there will be no clean ones to eat off of tomorrow because tomorrow seems so irrelevantly far away.

To make an hour spent with a book into the equivalent of loading the dishwasher is to send the strong, implicit message that reading is a similar task, one that will never be a source of pleasure. You may end up with kids who have logged in lots of hours of reading, but that won’t makereaders out of them. There’s a vast difference between dutiful, grudging, joyless reading and the kind of hungry, engaged reading that makes for a good student and a thoughtful citizen. It’s hard to be good at something you don’t enjoy.

Link to the rest at Slate

Why Aren’t Teens Reading Like They Used To?

13 May 2014

From National Public Radio:

Harry Potter and The Hunger Games haven’t been big hits for nothing. Lots of teens and adolescents still read quite a lot.

But a roundup of studies, put together by the nonprofit Common Sense Media, shows a clear decline over time. Nearly half of 17-year-olds say they read for pleasure no more than one or two times a year — if that.

That’s way down from a decade ago.

. . . .

Steyer has four kids and has seen the trend most with his 16-year-old. “I start to see it in our 10-year-old, as well, because he is less and less reading, and more and more attracted to some of the digital media platforms that he has access to, and that he did not have access to when he was, say, 6 or 7 years old,” he says.

The studies do not say that kids are reading less because they’re spending more time online. But Steyer is convinced that’s at least part of the answer.

“First of all, most children now have access to e-readers, or other smart electronic devices like phones and tablets,” he says. “And they’re spending time on that. Numerous reports show the increasing use of new technology platforms by kids. It just strikes me as extremely logical that that’s a big factor.”

. . . .

“Kids with parents who read, who buy or take books out of the library for their kids, and who then set time aside in their kids’ daily schedule for reading, tend to read the most,” he says — whether it’s on a book, an e-book or some other gadget.

Link to the rest at NPR and thanks to Joshua for the tip.

‘We Need Diverse Books’ calls for more representative writing for children

8 May 2014

From The Guardian:

A campaign to address the continuing lack of diversity in children’s literature has been kicked off by a group of authors who are hoping to “raise [their] voices into a roar that can’t be ignored”.

The social media campaign, from authors including Ellen Oh, Aisha Saeed and Chelsea Pitcher, is being launched with a “public call for action” over the next three days. On Thursday, the campaigners – who have set up the We Need Diverse Books website – are asking readers to take a photo holding a sign that says “We need diverse books because … ”

. . . .

“Recently, there’s been a groundswell of discontent over the lack of diversity in children’s literature,” say the authors, with a US study in March showing that of 3,200 children’s books published in 2013, only 93 were about black people, 34 about Native Americans, 69 about Asians and 57 about Latinos.”

. . . .

“At every conference I or my writer friends attend, there are kids asking why they can’t find books with characters who look like them, either on the cover or in the pages,” wrote Oh on her blog . “The same thing happens at book signings, except there the kids are saying they’ve always wanted to get into writing, but don’t think they’ll be successful because they’re people of colour.”

Link to the rest at The Guardian

PG suggests this is another area where indie authors could fill this market more effectively and faster than tradpub ever will.

McDonald’s offers kids free e-books

30 April 2014

From The Bookseller:

Fast food chain McDonald’s is teaming up with Kobo to offer free downloads of children’s books for the first time.

From today (30th April), every Happy Meal box will come with an e-book voucher allowing customers to download Famous Five book Five and A Half-Term Adventure by Enid Blyton (Hodder Children’s Books).

McDonald’s said it decided to venture into e-books after consultation with the National Literacy Trust (NLT), whose research shows that kids’ ownership and access to tablets has grown in recent years.

. . . .

However, McDonald’s said it is not deserting print books and the Happy Meal boxes will also contain one of six Secret Seven stories, again written by Blyton and published by Hodder, and a £1 voucher that can be used to buy a Secret Seven or Famous Five book at WHSmith or Eason.

Link to the rest at The Bookseller

Hooking Boys on Books

25 April 2014

From author Elizabeth Spann Craig:

This post is written by both Elizabeth the Mom and Elizabeth the Author.  Although the subject of encouraging boys to read is one that’s been important to me for seventeen years, it recently came to the forefront of online debates with the publishing of a report by UK writer Jonathan Emmett.  

. . . .

The report focuses on the gender gap in both reading ability and interest in books, and looks for possible causes.

. . . .

What I wanted to cover today was primarily ways that we can hook boys (early) on books and reading. Early action is best since it’s too hard to play catch-up after boys have had years of poor reading experiences…and have moved on to gaming, television, and other mediums that get it and target boys. 

. . . .

As another note—ordinarily we think of our girls being shortchanged, as they have so often in the past.  Here is an instance where our boys could be shortchanged…and in an area where we should try for some balance.

. . . .

I think that the controversy stirred up by the report, Cool not Cute, was caused by news agencies in the UK focusing on the fact that Emmett mentions gender imbalance in publishing as one contributing factor of boys having difficulty finding engaging books. (Imbalance in publisher acquisitions, reviewing—Porter Anderson shares Emmett’s chart showing gender balance of UK children’s book reviewing, library acquisitions, classrooms, and the fact that most children’s books are purchased for kids by women.)   This is, clearly, a loaded subject.

There may be another angle here—money.  This ties in a bit with publishers choosing books that they feel may appeal to female buyers. Money is usually at the base of many decisions made by publishers…understandable, since publishing is a business (something that’s frequently forgotten).  But I wonder if there might be something of a vicious cycle going on there—publishers/editors aren’t choosing content targeted at boys because they haven’t historically been strong sellers.  But are they slow sellers because there’s not enough out there targeted to boys…and we’re losing them to other media?

. . . .

The hardest part of the process, I think, was picture books and early readers/first readers (books with a maximum of about 1500 words) for my son.  We rarely got books for him in the new release section of the picture book area…we relied heavily on classics—Dr. Seuss, Curious George, Thomas the Tank. Because of the rate we were reading, we went through books quickly and read them over and over.  I had a tough time finding him exciting early chapter books.  I talked to librarians, I quizzed other parents, I pored over websites and book blogs.

When my son was in first grade, I started spending multiple hours a week researching books.  My solution to the problem was to quickly advance his reading level (spending many more hours with him—reading to him and listening to him read) so he could have more choices.  I could afford to make the time and had the passion for encouraging reading for both my children—but what happens to children when parents can’t make the time?

Link to the rest at Elizabeth Spann Craig and thanks to Deb for the tip.

Students Reading E-Books Are Losing Out, Study Suggests

11 April 2014

From The New York Times Motherlode blog:

Could e-books actually get in the way of reading?

That was the question explored in research presented last week by Heather Ruetschlin Schugar, an associate professor at West Chester University, and her spouse, Jordan T. Schugar, an instructor at the same institution. Speaking at the annual conference of the American Educational Research Association in Philadelphia, the Schugars reported the results of a study in which they asked middle school students to read either traditional printed books or e-books on iPads. The students’ reading comprehension, the researchers found, was higher when they read conventional books.

In a second study looking at students’ use of e-books created with Apple’s iBooks Author software, the Schugars discovered that the young readers often skipped over the text altogether, engaging instead with the books’ interactive visual features.

. . . .

While young readers find these digital products very appealing, their multitude of features may diffuse children’s attention, interfering with their comprehension of the text, Ms. Smith and the Schugars found. It seems that the very “richness” of the multimedia environment that e-books provide — heralded as their advantage over printed books — may overwhelm children’s limited working memory, leading them to lose the thread of the narrative or to process the meaning of the story less deeply.

This is especially true of what the authors call some e-books’ “gimmicks and distractions.” In the book “Sir Charlie Stinky Socks and the Really Big Adventure,” for example, children can touch “wiggly woos” to make the creatures emit noise and move around the screen. In another e-book, “Rocket Learns to Read,” a bird flutters and sounds play in the background.

Such flourishes can interrupt the fluency of children’s reading and cause their comprehension to fragment, the authors found. They can also lead children to spend less time reading over all: One study cited by Ms. Smith and the Schugars reported that children spent 43 percent of their e-book engagement time playing games embedded in the e-books rather than reading the text.

Link to the rest at The New York Times

Should UK Children’s Books Be Non Gender-Specific?

20 March 2014

From Publishing Perspectives:

The Guardian reports that “a national campaign to stop children’s books being labeled as ‘for boys’ or ‘for girls’ has won the support of Britain’s largest specialist bookseller Waterstones, as well as children’s laureate Malorie Blackman, poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy, Philip Pullman and a handful of publishers.”

The campaign is called Let Books be Books, and aims to put pressure on retailers as well as publishers not to market children’s books that promote “limiting gender stereotypes.”

. . . .

Philip Pullman, author of the His Dark Materials trilogy said: “I’m against anything from age-ranging top inking and blueing, whose effect is to shut the door in the face of children who might enjoy coming in. No publisher should announce on the cover of any book the sort of readers the book would prefer. Let the readers decide for themselves.”

And author Laura Dockrill told the Guardian that the project as an “urgent campaign that everybody need to get behind.”

“Children should have the right to choose their own literature and we should be supporting them to carve their paths of interests instead of narrowing them. It is ignorant, old fashioned and ugly to isolate anybody from the beautiful freedom and escapism of the mind that reading for pleasure brings,” she said.

A spokesman from Waterstones told the paper, “Gender-specific displays are a definite ‘no’…if a shop ever goes off-piste and does one we soon find about it and get it removed…There’s no need for them and there are far more intelligent ways to display books.”

Link to the rest at Publishing Perspectives

May the Stars Drip Down

17 March 2014

Gender-specific books demean all our children. So the Independent on Sunday will no longer review anything marketed to exclude either sex

16 March 2014

From The Independent:

Sugar and spice and all things nice, that’s what little girls are made of. And boys? They’re made of trucks and trains and aeroplanes, building blocks, chemistry experiments, sword fights and guns, football, cricket, running and jumping, adventure and ideas, games, farts and snot, and pretty much anything else they can think of.

At least, that’s the impression that children are increasingly given by the very books that are supposed to broaden their horizons.

An online campaign called Let Books Be Books, which petitions publishers to ditch gender-specific children’s books, has met with mixed success recently. Last week, both Parragon (which sells Disney titles, among others) and Usborne (the Independent Publisher of the Year 2014), agreed that they will no longer publish books specifically titled “for boys” or “for girls”. Unfortunately, Michael O’Mara, which owns Buster Books, pledged to continue segregating young readers according to their gender. Mr O’Mara himself told The Independent that theirBoys’ Book covers “things like how to make a bow and arrow and how to play certain sports and you’d get things about style and how to look cool in the girls’ book.” At the same time, he added: “We would never publish a book that demeaned one sex or the other”.

. . . .

There are those who will say that insisting on gender-neutral books and toys for children is a bizarre experiment in social engineering by radical lefties and paranoid “femininazis” who won’t allow boys to be boys, and girls to be girls.

. . . .

I wouldn’t mind, but splitting children’s books strictly along gender lines is not even good publishing. Just like other successful children’s books,The Hunger Games was not aimed at girls or boys; like JK Rowling, Roald Dahl, Robert Muchamore and others, Collins just wrote great stories, and readers bought them in their millions. Now, Dahl’s Matilda is published with a pink cover, and I have heard one bookseller report seeing a mother snatching a copy from her small son’s hands saying “That’s for girls” as she replaced it on the shelf.

. . . .

Happily, as the literary editor of The Independent on Sunday, there is something that I can do about this. So I promise now that the newspaper and this website will not be reviewing any book which is explicitly aimed at just girls, or just boys. Nor will The Independent’s books section. And nor will the children’s books blog at Independent.co.uk. Any Girls’ Book of Boring Princesses that crosses my desk will go straight into the recycling pile along with every Great Big Book of Snot for Boys. If you are a publisher with enough faith in your new book that you think it will appeal to all children, we’ll be very happy to hear from you. But the next Harry Potter or Katniss Everdeen will not come in glittery pink covers. So we’d thank you not to send us such books at all.

Link to the rest at The Independent

Since PG is not very familiar with The Independent, he will invite British visitors to comment about whether the Independent’s book review policy is likely to be influential or not.

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