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Nefertiti, the Spidernaut: The True Story of a Jumping Spider

One of the most exciting parts of writing nonfiction is the research. For my forthcoming book (October 11, 2016), NEFERTITI, THE SPIDERNAUT, I actually talked with an astronaut.


Nefertiti, the Spidernaut | MimsHouse.comNefertiti, the Spidernaut: The Jumping Spider Who Learned to Hunt in Space is on the 2016-17 Alabama Camellia Children’s Choice reading list for 4-6th grade nonfiction.


Research: Interviews with Scientists

I first heard Suni Williams on a radio program talking about a spider that went to the international space station. Because I’ve already written two animal biographies, Wisdom, the Midway Albatross and Abayomi, the Brazilian Puma, I was looking for another animal to feature. Spiders on the space stations sounded interesting, so I went looking for more information.

Writing a nonfiction picture book means lots of research. Many times, people are too busy to help, or are just not interested in a book about their topic. What you need is the one person who can connect you with everyone else and who is generous with time and information. I found that person in Stefanie Countryman, who works for Bioserve Space Technologies in Boulder, CO. Stefanie is in charge of all the live animal research projects on the International Space Station. It happened that we were going to visit my daughter in Denver, so we drove up to Boulder for the day to interview Stefanie.

Stefanie Countryman showing author Darcy Pattison the protype habitat for spiders on the International Space Station. | MimsHouse.com


Stefanie showed me the prototype for the insect habitat, which is only 6″ x 5″ x 3″. Everything on the International Space Station must justify its size and weight. Two habitats are packaged along with a camera in an experiment environment.

Insects on the International Space Station must live in this 5" x 6" x 3" habitat. Everything sent to the ISS must be efficient in the use of space and weight. | DarcyPattison.com
Insects on the International Space Station must live in this 6″ x 5″ x 3″ habitat. Everything sent to the ISS must be efficient in the use of space and weight. | MimsHouse.com

Stefanie talked me through the intricacies of the habitat, showed me the labs, and provided reference photos of the spider and the project. Without the cooperation of a scientist such as Stefanie, a book like this is impossible.

After the story is written, though, other experts come along side and vet portions of the project. Paula E. Cushing, Ph.D, Curator of Invertebrate Zoology, Denver Museum of Nature and Science read through and corrected information about the spider’s anatomy and natural history.

Most thrilling for me, Astronaut Sunita (Suni) Williams, Captain U.S. Navy, took time from a busy schedule to call and chat. After the two week experiment, Suni had a choice of packing Nefertiti back up or keeping her beside her work station. She chose to place Nefertiti where she could watch her often. Suni said that the spider was visually oriented. When she came close, Nefertiti’s eyes followed her around. It’s a small detail, but I added it to the story to lend it more emotion.

Research is the fun part of writing a children’s picture book. While I read everything ever published about a topic, nothing can replace an interview for adding in the right details to make a story come alive.

Read a review by Raif at KidsBookBuzz.
Midwest Book Review

The book includes an approximately full size illustration of the spider's habitat on the International Space Station. Art by Valeria Tisnes. | MimsHouse.com
Approximately full size illustration of the spider’s habitat on the International Space Station. Art by Valeria Tisnes. | MimsHouse.com

How to Order

If you can’t see the ordering information, click here.
Nefertiti, the Spidernaut | MimsHouse.com

Available on October 11, 2016


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eBook Formatting for Children’s Books

eBook formatting for children’s books is very complicated because of illustrations. Rarely can you take the print version and directly translate it into an ebook because the illustrations and text usually have to match up in some way. Controlling the display in an ebook reader is complicated. We’ll look at some solutions and provide some resources.

ePub Standards Affect eBook Formatting

Formatting any ebook should be simple because there are epub standards. ePub 2.0 was effective in 2009; ePub 3.0 followed in 2010. It’s relatively easy to follow the standards. But not all ebook readers support 2.0, much less 3.0. In addition, there are many older versions of ebook readers which supported a previous standard.

Want to publish a children's book, but don't know how to format the ebook? Tips, software and tutorials. | IndieKidsBooks.com


Lowest Common Denominator. I once submitted a couple ebooks to the Independent Book Publisher’s Association’s Benjamin Franklin Digital Book awards. I used InDesign to format the print version, and used its export to ebook function to produce the ebook. Indesign’s export supports ePub 3.0. I assumed my files were good. For one thing, the award committee would have the latest software, right? Wrong.

Some judges were using older software, so the eBooks didn’t show up correctly. Or, they had older versions of an ebook reader and files were displayed incorrectly. Maybe you’re thinking that my files weren’t formatted correctly. There’s a free validator program, but it limits the file size to only 10MG. We’ll talk more about file sizes in a minute, but for now, understand that 10MG may be a small ebook for picture books. I like to pay for a month at eBook Flight Deck because it does extra validation for different ebook stores. And yes, my files validated.

I learned that when you publish an ebook in today’s environment, you can’t assume that your reader will have the most up to date software. Instead, it seems wise to format for the lowest common denominator. Occasionally, I still get one-star reviews on picture books because the files don’t show up correctly on someone’s outdated ebook reader. In those cases, I suggest they ask for a refund.

Ebook Readers Complicate eBook Formatting

Wikipedia lists 104 different types of ebook readers, both current and legacy versions. The problem is that many of those older ebook readers are still in use. Each eReader interprets the ePub standards in a slightly different way. Besides that, they may add proprietary coding that affects only certain devices.

It’s virtually impossible to purchase all the varieties and test your ebook. Many people like to purchase a small selection and vet the ebooks in those. I prefer to use the Ebook Flight Deck and realize that I can’t maintain perfection for every single ebook reader in existence. I guess this is a call for ebook manufacturers to more closely follow the standards – but that’s a pie-in-the-sky wish for now.

Dealing with Illustrations: B/W within a Novel

Kell and the Horse Apple Parade  includes b/w illustrations. It's an example of how a children's flowable ebook uses illustrations. | IndieKidsBooks.com
Kell and the Horse Apple Parade includes b/w illustrations. It’s an example of how a children’s flowable ebook uses illustrations. | IndieKidsBooks.com
Let’s say that you have a children’s novel that will include black-and-white illustrations in the text. This is common for early chapter books, and becoming more common for middle grade novels.

There are different types of illustrations:

  • Full page illustration
  • Spot illustrations, which are small illustrations embedded in the text
  • Illustrations that form a border across two pages

The problem is that most ereaders allow the reader to increase or decrease the font size. This is a major problem when you want the illustration to stay with a certain text. As you change the text size, how does it shift the illustration?
The usual solution for spot illustrations is to format the illustration with an “align code” that forces the illustration to the right, left or center. For full page illustrations and some spot illustrations, it’s formatted with text above and below it. That may cause awkward page turns when the text size is changed, but it works.

The last type of illustration, the border across two pages cannot be managed without major coding. Ebook novels are almost always formatted as single page spreads that are flowable. You can’t combine that formatting with the double page spreads of color picture books as explained below. You’d have to split it into two images, and then live with the fact that the text and image may not match up.

Recommended software:
First a comment: every time I need to format a new ebook, I feel like I’m starting from scratch. An ebook is a set of files that are zipped together, and then given an .epub extension. But the programs to create .epubs change rapidly to keep up-to-date with new ebook readers being released all the time. These are my current recommendations, but this may change soon.

Jutoh. Jutoh is a solid program that is fairly easy for beginners, but has the complexity needed for advanced formatting.

Vellum. My current favorite novel program is this slick program, Vellum. This program has some built in styles that look nicer than the usual formatting. It allows for adding simple black-and-white illustrations and is very simple to use. Another great feature is that you can add in affiliate links to different ebook stores. When you do that, the output will include a different file folder for each ebook store, and it includes everything needed to upload. In other words, it will copy the cover file to each folder. You don’t have to go hunting for any files. A breeze to use. It doesn’t do fixed-format ebooks.

Dealing with Illustrations: Full Color Picture Books

When you discuss full color picture books, everything is more complicated. There two major problems: placement of text on the image and file size.

Burn: Michael Faraday's Candle is an example of a fixed-format children's picture book. | IndieKidsBooks.com
Burn: Michael Faraday’s Candle is an example of a fixed-format children’s picture book. | IndieKidsBooks.com

Placement of text is actually easy to solve by embedding the text in the image itself. The disadvantage of this approach is that it defeats the advantages of ebooks: flowable text, reader control of text size, and searchable text. Nevertheless, this is my strategy of choice because–see the discussion above–I format for the lowest common denominator. This type book is called a fixed-format ebook, as opposed to the reflowable format of novel ebooks.

I format my print book in Indesign, then export .jpg spreads at a lower resolution with all text embedded. Print files must be 300dpi for most printers. I export spreads for eBooks at 96dpi. Then there are several options.

Kindle Kids Creator Program. Kindle formatting is one of the most difficult because they add proprietary coding. I’ve concluded that it’s best to just go along with their program. I use the exported spread images and follow their directions. It has some advantages because it alloww you to set certain areas to zoom. This can make text more readable and image details show up better. It’s touted as an amazing addition to children’s ebooks, but I’ve rarely seen it used to a real advantage. Unfortunately, KKCP only exports Kindle formats and for every other ebook store, you must provide an .epub. That means you’ll have to create two different versions of the ebook.

File size matters for Kindle ebooks because Amazon charges $0.15/MG for a download fee that the publisher pays. Unfortunately, my color picture books are about 8MG. Priced at $2.99, 70% royalty rate, I should gross $2.09. However, the download fee of $0.15 x 8 = $1.20.

$2.09 – $1.20 = $1.09 gross profit.

Half the profit of a full color children’s picture eBook is eaten up by the download fee. This is motivation to keep the Kindle ebook as small a file size as possible. No other ebook distributor currently charges a download fee. If you publish at 35% royalty rate, Kindle doesn’t add in the download fee. If you choose the 35% option for a $2.99 price, you wind up about even with $1.05/sale.

For the epub version of the picture book, which goes to Apple, Nook, Kobo, and any other platform, I hand code the ebook, using template files. I’ve tried every program around and nothing seems to work well. Exporting to epub from InDesign gives you a ePub 3.0 validated file, but remember I’ve had problems with that on older ebook models. To understand hand coding, the best I can do is send you to R. Scot Johns tutorials and templates for fixed-format ebooks. In any case, his tutorials are extremely helpful to understand the issues involved in creating the fixed-format style. Even if you hire someone to format your files, it’s helpful to understand the format better.

My template files include the ebook packaging files, and a folder for images. For a new ebook, I must change the metadata to include the ebook’s title, ISBN, and etc. And then add in the images for the new ebook. I’ve standardized my file numbering system, just naming the files 1.jpg, 2.jpg, etc. That makes it simple to drop in the images for the new ebook.

Formatting children’s ebooks is complicated. But it can be done.

Here are some examples of my eBooks.

Kell and the Horse Apple Parade – Flowable Text Children’s Book

An example of a flowable text children's book. | IndieKidsBooks.com

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BURN: Michael Faraday’s Candle – Fixed Format Children’s Book

Burn: Michael Faraday's Candle - example of fixed format children's ebook. | IndieKidsBooks.com

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Reading a Digital Picture eBook with Kids

Reading a digital picture ebook with kids is simple when you follow some basic guidelines. The most important thing to remember is that reading a picture book is an interaction between an adult and child. That interaction, more than the simple story itself, is how and why children learn language. It’s not enough to merely read the story. Instead, you need to interact with the story as a model for children. And when they join in the interaction, you should rejoice.

Encourage interaction. Here are some things you want kids to do when they read a digital picture book.

  • Point to a picture and make a comment or ask a question.
  • Question the story.
  • Ask for an explanation.
  • Make up a slightly different story or ending.
  • Show emotion: laugh, cry, pout, outrage, glee.
  • Give you a hug.

Some great suggestions for reading ebooks with kids: remember the main focus is interaction with kids. | MimsHouse.com
Choose a simple format. Give yourself and the child room to interact. You don’t need an animated version, or one that you have to hunt for things that move. The story itself is enough. Well, it’s enough if you show up!

Turn off narration. Some parents and adults are uncertain about how they read the text and want a narrator to do it “right.” Wrong. Narration forces you to go one speed, it takes away from the adult-child interaction, and it’s just one person’s interpretation of the story. Read it aloud! It’ll help you interact with the child, as you respond to his/her reactions to the story.

Use manual page turns. Likewise, turn off any automatic page turns. The timing will invariably be off. Read at a speed that makes sense for you and the child.

Don’t fight over who turns the page. There’s something fun about turning pages on an ereader or tablet. Often younger children just want to page through the screens for the sheer joy of watching the images change. Hold the ereader with a thumb on the image to prevent unwanted page turns. Teach the child to wait until you tell them to turn the page.

Keep interaction your main focus. As other minor issues come up, remember that the goal is for you and the child to interact. All decisions about reading the ebook together must pass this criterion. Will it foster the interaction or not?

Digital picture books are so easy! Go and read a book with a kid!

Suggested Picture Books


Read more about these picture books.

The Aliens, Inc. Box Set

Those crazy ALIENS are back

The Aliens, Inc. Box Set by Darcy Pattison | MimsHouse.comThe Aliens, Inc. series is a 3-book set of easy chapter books. Third grade, science fiction fun, humorous aliens, and a great BFF – what more could you want in a book that helps kids transform into great readers.

Book 1, Kell, the Alien introduces the crazy aliens from the planet Bix. Dad’s kovitch (a kind of space coffee) spilled on their spaceship’s control panel, they shipwrecked on Earth. How can Kell survive third grade? Only with the help of his BFF, Bree. How can the Smiths make a living? By starting Aliens, Inc., a party planning service. And how can they avoid the principal, Mrs. Lynx, and the Alien Chaser’s society? It’s a fun start to the series.

Book 2, Kell and the Horse Apple Parade. Aliens, Inc. is asked to coordinate the Friends of Police Parade. but it’s Kell’s first parade ever. How can they fill in the slots, plan the route, and keep everyone happy? Oh, and by the way, Mrs. Lynx has an Alien Chaser’s app for her smart phone.

Book 3, Kell and the Giants finds Kell and Bree planning a party for the tallest boy in town. Son of a pro basketball player, he wants giants at his party: BigFoot, Cyclops, and Paul Bunyan. It’s all complicated when Mom finds out she’s allergic to bee stings and by Mrs. Lynx’s bloodhound, who is trained to sniff out aliens.

If you can’t see this video, click here.


Now available in an easy 3-Book Box Set:
Over 90 b/w whimsical drawings in each book.


“The Aliens, Inc. Box Set” by Darcy Pattison on Ganxy


Liberty: Free on Kindle

From the fascinating world of tall ships comes this unlikely tale of humble pigs who follow their dreams. Come and join the Talberts on their journey.

Free on Kindle – Friday through Sunday, September 9-11

When Santiago is thrust into the farm’s pigsty, Penelope is captivated by Santiago Talbert’s boast, “I plan to sail the Seven Seas.” Together, these extraordinary pigs escape the farm and cross into the land of Liberty, a parallel world where an intelligent human or animal can get ahead. They follow their dream to Boston Harbor, where they try to convince sea captains that pigs can sail. First, though, Santiago learns mapmaking, while Penelope works on the docks loading ships. Eventually Penelope signs onto the Ice King’s crew as he cuts and packs ice to ship to the far-flung corners of the world.

When the fleet of ice ships sails, Penelope and Santiago join the crew of the flagship, captained by Captain Kingsley, the Ice King himself. A massive polar bear, he harbors dark secrets, and the pigs face the shocking truth: they alone can save the friendly sea serpents from the Ice King’s clutches.

From the fascinating world of tall ships comes this unlikely tale of humble pigs who follow their dream. Come and join the Talberts on their journey.

Full price returns on Sunday. Take advantage of this opportunity to read this uplifting book. READ MORE ON THE KINDLE STORE.

15 Septembers Later: 11 Ways to Ruin a Photograph

With Patriot’s Day coming next week, 15 Septembers later, here’s a story that will touch your heart. I live near the Little Rock Air Force Base. For years, I’ve watched the heartache of telling a loved one good-bye as they go overseas on assignment. Military deployment is just one of the many sacrifices that families make to protect our nation. But how do the children handle the separation from their parent for months at a time? Read how one girl copes with humor!

Wow, this is a poignant military family story. Perfect for Patriot's Day, Veteran's Day and other patriotic holidays. | MimsHouse.com

11 WAYS TO RUIN A PHOTOGRAPH: A Military Family Story

When her father goes soldiering for a year, a girl decides that without Dad at home, it’s not a family photo album. Though her beloved Nanny is in charge of the album that year, the girl makes sure that photographs of her never turn out well. Photos are blurred, wind blows hair in her face. April rains bring umbrellas to hide behind. Halloween means a mask. This poignant, yet funny family story, expresses a child’s anger and grief for a Dad whose work takes him away for long periods of time. It’s a tribute to the sacrifices made by military families and to those who care for children when a family needs support.

Read with your classroom for military and patriotic holidays

  • Veteran’s Day
  • Armed Forced Day
  • Patriot’s Day
  • 4th of July

Understand Military Families Who Serve the United States

  • Gratitude for their sacrifices
  • Understand the family challenges
  • Support for deployment


10% Discount When you Purchase on the Mims House site


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Why Do You Self-Publish? To Build a Creative Life

Why do I self-publish? I get this question often and the answer lies in the creative life. This essay is an attempt to explain the two big reasons why I created Mims House as my publishing company.

Building a Creative Life

About five years ago, I found myself very discouraged about my writing career. I had good stories written, but couldn’t find a publishing home. I say that very carefully, “find a publishing home.” I’ve been published traditionally and my books have been strong mid-listers. But one of my publishers has a reputation for searching for best-sellers; their goal is to have book on the NYTimes Best Seller list. Anything less than that, and you’ll be overlooked the next time around.

Another house changed editors–a far more common thing than you think early in your career–and the new editor didn’t pick up my next story. In fact, that editor told me, “You just haven’t found your publishing home, yet.” Ouch! Translation: WE are NOT your publishing home.

With another house, I was lucky enough to have a picture book that won some awards. The Journey of Oliver K. Woodman was a 2004 Irma Black-Bank Street College Honor Book, and went on to be featured in a Harcourt reader textbook. The sequel, Searching for Oliver K. Woodman (now OP), didn’t do as well, and the editor rejected everything else I did. One particularly heart-wrenching rejection took 14 months.

I went through three agents: Number 1 sold nothing in six years. I fired her and sold two books, because no one cares as much about my books as myself. Number 2 failed to sell a novel, and we parted after nine months. Number 3 was lousy at communication. We submitted a manuscript in August to an editor I’d met at a conference. I gently reminded the agent to check on the status in December.

“Nothing,” he said.
In January. “No news,” he said.
In February. “No response yet,” he said.
And in March. “I’ll check again, but it just takes time,” he said.

Finally, in March, I nudged the editor who responded immediately, saying, “I rejected that in December and here the email that I sent to your agent.”
I said, “Good-bye, agent.”

I found myself being less and less creative in my writing. I didn’t want to take risks because, well, I knew what would follow: rejection. Things became worse creatively. Enthusiasm waned.

Now, look. For any other creative medium, an artist does the work. Basically, you craft something to suit yourself. Yes, of course, you worry about sales, but mostly, you’re doing it for yourself. Then the process of selling the work begins. There are many outlets from local galleries to craft fairs to online sales. I know I’m over-simplifying the creative process for visual artists. But from the outside, it seems like a very different process than that of writers.

Writing is this strange thing where you have to please an editor. You’re not working to please readers, at least not in the short term. First, you must please an editor or agent. I’ve seen crazy things happen. A writer I know went to a conference with the draft of a fantastic novel. An agent did a critique. Now this agent knew nothing about the writer; the agent only read 10 pages of the novel. And yet the agent had an opinion. The writer should totally (and I mean TOTALLY) rewrite the story and take it in a different direction.

I want to scream, “Read the story in front of you! Not the one you would have written if you’d had this idea.”

The writer has now spent a year revising the novel. It’s good–because she’s a good writer. But is it better? I liked the old version better.

But that’s typical of what writers endure in the race to publication. Strangers dictate a year’s worth of work, and who knows if it’s the right story even then. Can you picture that happening with an artist? Look at that 10″ x 10″ canvas. Could an art critic come in and make remarks such as these? You need more depth to the colors in the upper quadrant. And that oak is awful. Can you take it out and replace it with a pine? Your color palette is too pale. Deepen it.

No!
Only writers allow strangers to mess around in their art. Stop it!

Yes, that’s what I did. I stopped allowing it.
Of course, that meant I didn’t sell my manuscripts to a publisher. Self-publishing seemed to be the wisest course for me so that I could remain an artist. My creativity dried up under the current traditional publishing practices. But in the last three years as a self-publisher, I’ve published 20 books. My creativity is having great fun.

One reason I self-publish is so that I can feed my creative soul and give it the freedom it needs to thrive. My writing is getting better and better because I’m writing more and more.
Where will you thrive as a creative writer? In traditional publishing or as an indie publisher? Food for thought! | IndieKidsBooks.com

The Only Fish in a Small Pond

I often see the press touting the control issue as the key reason people self-publish. I guess you could say it that way. But it’s not how I see it.

Instead, I’ve chosen to be a Big Fish in a Small Pond.
Let’s say that I want to run a promotion on a book because there’s a local event that ties into the story. With Big5Publisher, could I do that?

Decision making with big publishers is slow. It has to be because there are so many layers involved. Editor, publicity, tech–all of them need to be on board, and need to be timely in their response. But how can they be? An editor may have contact with 100 authors. Your story gets lost in the shuffle. They must consider how your story fits into the bigger ecosystem of their backlist. Can they afford to spend time and effort for you on a local event? No.

With a large publisher, you are a Small (VERY SMALL) Fish in a Big Pond.
Do you want to be nimble and respond to some event with appropriate marketing? It won’t happen.

If, however, you self-publish, you’re the Biggest Fish in the Pond! You care only about your career and your books. If you want to turn on a dime and throw a big marketing push next week, then the only thing holding you back is your time and energy.

Does that mean I want control? No. I just want my books to be read. If I have to leap to a different pond so that my work is read, that’s what I’ll do. I don’t ever again want to be a mid-lister. It’s a deadly place to be for your creative life. Instead, as the ONLY Fish in my Pond, my books get the care they need.

Of course, I’m still inept or inefficient about many things as a marketer. It’s OK. I’m learning. A team behind me would be fantastic. But they were never really behind me, so I’m better off on my own. I’m learning. Look out!

I self publish because of one main reason:
In order to sustain my creative life, I need to be connecting regularly with readers. Self-publishing means I have creative and marketing freedom needed to find audiences for each and every book.

It’s most definitely not because I’m a control freak. It’s because I’m a creative writer. Period.

From “A Chemical History of a Candle” to Burn

Author Darcy Pattison answers questions about writing Burn: Michael Faraday’s Candle.

Why Did You Adapt “A Chemical History of a Candle”?

Question: Burn is based on an 1848 lecture by Michael Faraday, “A Chemical History of a Candle.” Why did you choose to rewrite this famous lecture?

Answer:
Since it was published in 1848, Faraday’s lecture has never been out of print. When I learned this startling fact, I was intrigued. What was it about this lecture that has kept it alive for so long? In fact, the lecture is a fascinating look at a common, everyday object of 1848, a candle. The topic is deceptively simple. Yet, Faraday managed to discuss the candle burning for six hour-long lectures. In the world of science and science education, his lecture stands as a shining example of how to make a simple subject both complex and interesting. The lecture was given as part of the Royal Institution Christmas Lectures and especially designed to teach children about a scientific topic. And yet, it has never been published as a children’s picture book. It was time.
Love this book! A fascinating look at what makes a candle burn! This book is great science and STEM reading for K-3. |MimsHouse.com

What Writing Challenges Did you Face in Writing Burn?

Question: What were the challenges in writing this picture book?

Answer:
The challenge of adapting Faraday’s famous essay, “The Chemical History of a Candle,” for a picture book format was immense. The first lecture is about 6000 words, and the language used in 1848 doesn’t always translate well for 21st century students. The reading level is 1240L, which is a 9th-12th grade reading level. (See the original text on Gutenberg.org here.)

In other words, Faraday’s lecture contained complex information, complex and archaic language, and informal presentation style suitable to an oral presentation. To adapt it for a children’s book, I had to first set the scene. Peter Willis’s whimsical illustrations captured Faraday’s enthusiasm and helped to expand on the simple text on page 4.

Next, it was important to select only the most important scientific details, and to explain the concepts with simple, direct language. The constraints of a picture book meant topics had to be presented succinctly, with clarity, and be factually correct. In addition, the text had to be short, and we managed to edit it to a mere 626 words, a tenth of the original text, with a Lexile of 660L or 2nd-3rd grade reading level.

Finally, we strove to imbue the text with Faraday’s passion for the topic. As a scientist, Faraday was known for his ability to design experiments. Even in such a short book, we managed to keep the bright light experiment that shows the hot air currents around a candle. Faraday went to the heart of the scientific method with his comment, “What is the cause? Why does it occur?” We made it a prominent part of the story.

In the end, Burn: Michael Faraday’s Candle is a simple text about a simple object. And yet, I hope that in the writing I was faithful to Faraday’s passions and intelligence. Faraday was a self-taught man, and learned much by attending popular science lectures. In his early days, Faraday often attended such science lectures, made careful notes, and then published a book that recreated the lecture. It was a way for him to make money, and also spread the information to others. In a way, I’ve walked in his footsteps by taking his candle lecture and making it accessible to children. I believe Faraday would be very pleased.

Paperback or Hardcover – Now 10% Discount

Burn: Michael Faraday's Candle book cover | MimsHouse.com

Zika: History of Mosquito-Borne Diseases

Here at Mims House, one project we’re working on this summer is MY STEAM JOURNAL: With Original Source Documents from American Scientists 1845-1996. This will be a workbook for elementary science students to record observations and laboratory notes. It features reproductions of notebooks from ten American scientists. Using those documents, MY STEAM JOURNAL lays out a simple progression of skills for recording in notebooks.

Fred Soper: The Mosquito Killer

Dr. Fred Soper, 1928.
US Library of Medicine. 1928 https://profiles.nlm.nih.gov/ps/access/VVBBCB_.jpg
African-American physician, Dr. Fred Soper (1893-1977) was known for his public health work, especially in fighting malaria and yellow fever in Brazil. He was known as the Mosquito Killer.

Soper graduated from the Rush Medical College at the University of Chicago in 1918. In 1920-21, he worked in Brazil to try to eradicate hookworms form the general population. Much of the work was public health education campaigns. Essentially rural Brazil had few clean bathrooms, so hookworms were rampant in the soil and easily transmitted to others. He worked with cities and villages to build and maintain clean latrines. This photo shows a young Brazilian boy holding a board displaying all the hookworms removed from his intestines by the doctors of the Rockefeller Institute.

A Brazilian boy holds a board displaying hookworms removed from him.
National Library of Medicine. https://profiles.nlm.nih.gov/ps/access/VVBBJC_.jpg

Soper then set to work on the “jungle yellow fever” and malaria, both borne by mosquitoes. He earned a reputation as the Mosquito Killer for this work. One of his strongest skills was as an administrator in charge of officials who went out to fight the mosquitos. They searched for standing water where mosquitoes might breed, and searching rivers and streams for the mosquitoes. While they were concentrating on the Yellow Fever problem, mosquitoes arrived from Africa:

Anopheles gambiae mosquitoes, the most efficient malaria vectors, were indigenous to Africa. But in 1930, Raymond Shannon, a Rockefeller Foundation entomologist, discovered that gambiae (apparently recently arrived from Africa) were breeding in Natal, Brazil. Three weeks later, a severe outbreak of malaria was underway there. Read more.

The threat was under-estimated and it took another 14 years to eradicate the mosquito from Brazil and prevent any more malaria outbreaks.

One interesting controversy was Soper’s view on DDT. The 1962 book Silent Spring by Rachel Carson reported on the unexpected results of DDT on the environment, and eventually it was banned. Soper agreed that DDT shouldn’t be used in agricultural setting. However, he thought it had a limited but important part to play in mosquito eradication. Malcom Gladwell wrote about the controversy in a July 2, 2001 article in The New Yorker.

One single mosquito is capable of passing malaria to over 100 people.

Gladwell wrote: The idea was not to kill every Anopheles mosquito in a given area, as Soper had done with gambiae in Brazil. That was unnecessary. The idea was to use DDT to kill only those mosquitoes which were directly connected to the spread of malaria–only those which had just picked up the malaria parasite from an infected person and were about to fly off and infect someone else. When DDTis used for this purpose, Spielman writes in “Mosquito,” “it is applied close to where people sleep, on the inside walls of houses. After biting, the mosquitoes generally fly to the nearest vertical surface and remain standing there for about an hour, anus down, while they drain the water from their gut contents and excrete it in a copious, pink-tinged stream. If the surfaces the mosquitoes repair to are coated by a poison that is soluble in the wax that covers all insects’ bodies, the mosquitoes will acquire a lethal dose.” Soper pointed out that people who get malaria, and survive, generally clear their bodies of the parasite after three years. If you could use spraying to create a hiatus during which minimal transmission occurred–and during which anyone carrying the parasite had a chance to defeat it–you could potentially eradicate malaria. You could stop spraying and welcome the mosquitoes back, because there would be no more malaria around for them to transmit. Soper was under no illusions about how difficult this task would be. But, according to his calculations, it was technically possible, if he and his team achieved eighty-per-cent coverage–if they sprayed eight out of every ten houses in infected areas.

He hoped to eradicate the mosquitos by spraying only in bedrooms of infected people. That limited use of DDT, he felt was justified.

Here’s an excerpt from Soper’s diary which described a different “silence.”
. . .description of a town in Egypt during that country’s gambiae invasion of 1943–a village in the grip of its own, very different, unnatural silence:

Most houses are without roofs. They are just a square of dirty earth. In those courtyards and behind the doors of these hovels were found whole families lying on the floor; some were just too weakened by illness to get up and others were lying doubled up shaking from head to foot with their teeth chattering and their violently trembling hands trying in vain to draw some dirty rags around them for warmth. They were in the middle of the malaria crisis. There was illness in every house. There was hardly a house which had not had its dead and those who were left were living skeletons, their old clothing in rags, their limbs swollen from undernourishment and too weak to go into the fields to work or even to get food.

In the end, DDT was banned for any use, even for killing malaria-infected mosquitoes. Fifty years later, the battle against mosquito-borne illnesses still rages. Zika is just the latest in a long line of deadly diseases courtesy of the mosquito.

Egypt, 1943. Mosquito inspector checks a puddle for mosquito larvae.
National Library of Medicine. https://profiles.nlm.nih.gov/ps/access/VVBBFN_.jpg

MY STEAM NOTEBOOK will briefly set up the stories of ten American scientists, using primary source documents. Their field notebooks will be reproduced and used to describe skills that students need to write in their science notebooks. Look for more on MY STEAM NOTEBOOK in the coming months.

FALL 2016: MY STEAM NOTEBOOK. This workbook for science classes has amazing stories of 10 American scientists. Using their notebooks, students will learn how to use a science notebook for observation and reflection. | MimsHouse.com

Selling Your POD Print Books Online

One compelling reason to self-publish is to cut out the middleman on sales. That’s an easier goal to state than to accomplish! For ebooks, most people sell through a large online store such as Amazon, iBooks, Kobo or go through a digital congregator such as Smashwords or Draft2Digital.

If you want to sell ebooks directly on your website, Jane Friedman has a good article on your options for Selling Digital Products. The Book Designer adds a few other options.

Print books are a different story. It’s very hard to sell direct to readers because of the infrastructure needed to warehouse the books, to accept credit card transactions, to ship books to customers, and to provide customer service.

Making it even more difficult, I use print-on-demand (POD) printers for my paperback and hardcover books, which means that I don’t have a stock of books available for sale. If I used offset printing and ordered 1000 books at a time, I’d be able to use several options to sell direct. POD is my preferred business plan, though, which means I need some workaround in order to sell directly to the public.

POD works well for sales though major online channels because most POD printers feed book metadata and sales into a major warehouse of books. Lightning Source or Ingram Spark both work through Ingrams Wholesale channel to put paperback and hardcover books into Amazon and other bookstore channels. Createspace, Amazon’s POD service, funnels paperbacks directly into Amazon.

Why you SHOULD sell print books directly to readers

For children's books, print books sell better than ebooks. For the best profit you need to read these options for selling paperback and hardcover Print-on-Demand books. | IndieKidsBooks.com

But what if you want to sell paperback and/or hardcover books directly from your own site? There are many reasons why you might want to do this. First, print versions of children’s books are preferred by many parents. For those parents, if you don’t sell print books, you won’t make a sale at all.

Or, you maybe you speak at a conference and you want to offer attendees a discount for a print book. Or maybe you want to offer a discount to a group of science teachers for a print book. As the publisher, you can’t do this, unless you have an online store where you control the marketing and sales. You need a way to provide a discount coupon or code to a small group for some reason.

Online stores that provide print book sales also cut out the middleman, increasing your profit margin. It gives you the flexibility to offer a book for a 25% discount and still make a profit on each book sale.

Finally, if you could sell directly, you would “own” your customer relationship. That means you can develop repeat customers. You’d be able to respond to the marketplace by running appropriately timed sales and promotions. One of the major critiques of traditional publishers is that they allowed bookstores to own the customer and never developed direct sales. A strength of indie authors is that ability to develop closer ties with customers. For children’s books, that means you need to know who is buying your books, and especially your print books.

To sum up, customers often prefer print children’s books. If you could sell print books from your website or online store, you could cut out the middleman to make more profit, and to own your customers. Unfortunately, right now, there are no perfect answers.

Options for Selling Print Books from Your Website

1) More profit with affiliate links. If a 5-10% bump in income is your priority, you may be fine with affiliate links with Amazon.com, Powell Books, etc. The exact percentages you earn through an affiliate link will vary. For example, see Amazon’s Affiliate Fee Schedule here.

For this strategy, you will use a unique code in your sales links to send readers to Amazon/your favorite online store to buy your hardcover or paperback books. The advantage is the ease of the process. It’s a simple link and the online retailer takes care of everything else. The disadvantage, however, is that you never “own” your customers. Sales only take place on the other company’s store, not your own.

BEST USES:
When simplicity is the priority.
When affiliate commissions are enough extra profit.

2) Online store platform, you fulfill orders. Shopify, Woocommerce (a WordPress plug-in) or similar online store platform, and you ship/fulfill all orders. Online stores work well if you do offset printing and have a stock to draw from to fulfill orders. If you do POD printing, you would have the disadvantage of ordering a stock of books, maintaining inventory, mailing books, and doing customer service. Still, it is an option that some indies may choose.

BEST USES:
When you have some technical capabilities to set up and maintain a complex program.
When you have the capital to invest in inventory.

3) Online store platform, POD fulfills order. The trickier thing to find is a way to take orders, maintain the customer relationship, and do it all with POD printers who will fulfill the order and deal with customer service.

Aer.io/Aerobooks is an interesting option. They work through Ingram’s API and allow you to add your books and anyone else’s books that are in the Ingram catalog.
I’ve set up a MimsHouse store with them here.

The advantage is that Aerobooks will allow you to sell both hardcover and paperback books; if you upload ebooks, you can sell those, too. You can embed a store and use all of your own branding, including logo and so on.
See a Aerobook sales links embedded in a Woocommerce catalog here.

The sales page is embedded in the MimsHouse website using Woocommerce as a catalog, but the actual transaction goes through Aerobooks, who does the financial transaction, ships and does customer service, and provides you with an accounting.

You can also download a list of all customers, so you can keep your mailing list in order.

Disadvantages are the extremely limited options for customization, and the uncertainty of their programming. I’ve tried several times to set up a discount coupon and nothing worked. I contacted the technical support folks multiple times and to date, it’s still not working. I can set a book to a general 10% off, but discount coupons aren’t working. UPDATE: Tech support set up a Skype call with me and figured out the problems with the discount codes. They rock!

REQUIREMENTS: Your books must be listed in Ingram’s catalog.
BEST USES:
When you want to offer both paperback and hardcover books.
When you want to sell books from other authors/publishers.
When you want to own your customer info.
When you only want to offer general discounts on books.

How to Set Up Your Aerobook Store

  • Create an account at Aer.io.
  • On the ADD INVENTORY tab, add your books.
  • To embed codes into your website for a BUY BUTTON, click on SETUP/EMBED and follow instructions.
  • If you prefer to use their hosting for a store, click on STYLE and follow instructions to personalize your store.

Createspace allows you to set up an eBook sales page for each of your books. If you POD with Createspace, you can also set up a print sales page for that book. To date, Createspace only PODs paperback books, so this limits you to only paperback book sales.

The profit margin is much better for a CS-eBook sales page. Let’s assume a 32-page children’s picture book, priced at $9.99. You make a profit of $2.34 when you sell on Amazon.com; through your CS-eBook sales page, you’ll make a profit of $4.34. You could afford to give up some of that profit to create a coupon for certain customers.

The default sales page is branded to Createspace. Instead, I chose to upload a banner that uses my publishing company logo for MimsHouse.com, so it appears to be a page on MimsHouse.com.

See the sales page for I Want a Dog: My Opinion Essay here. (For a 25% discount, use this discount code when you check out: 5FETYTVY)

The advantage is that all the Createspace metadata is carried over, Amazon ships the books and provides customer service. The discount codes are set up through randomly generated codes, and you can’t customize these codes. However, the codes work easily. Amazon owns this customer, and never shares info with you.

REQUIREMENTS: Your book must be POD with Createspace.
BEST USES:
When your priority is to provide discount codes for a certain paperback.

How to SetUp Your Createspace eStore

  1. Login to Createspace. From the Members Dashboard, click on the title of the book.
  2. On the book’s detail page go to the 4th panel and click on Distribute/Channels.
  3. On the next click to activate the Createspace eStore. Directly under this option, click on the link for eStore Setup.
  4. A new page opens with the URL (web location of your eStore) and places to add features. Such as, a banner, Continue Shopping URL,Continue Shopping Text, colors for the background, the headline, the text and links. This is where you make it your own. You should most certainly create an image for the banner so it removes the Createspace branding and logo. In the Continue Shopping URL box, I put the link to my website promoting the book: http://mimshouse.com/books and in the Continue Shopping Text box, I put a description of what to expect at that
    site: More info. about the book – contents, sample pages, etc.
  5. At the bottom of this page be sure to click on Save Changes. You can return to the setup page to edit whenever needed.

The search for an online bookstore for POD print books has been frustrating.

On MimsHouse.com, I use WordPress with Woocommerce as a catalog to maintain a place with information on each title. Combined with the blog capabilities of WordPress, it’s makes a good combination. But Woocommerce is only a catalog right now, because I don’t maintain a stock to fulfill orders.

The MimsHouse Aero-bookstore has great possibilities that I’ll be exploring in the next few months. For example, if you sign up for the MimsHouse.com mailing list, you’ll see exclusive discounts through the Aerobook pages.

I’ll use the CS-eBook sales pages for those times when I want to offer a discount to a special group.

Right now, the options for direct POD print sales are limited, with no one company offering a perfect system. If you use a different system or program, please provide info in the comments!

LIBERTY: August 9

A ROUSING TALE OF DANGER ON THE HIGH SEAS

August 9, 2016

Pigs are unlikely sailors. But they follow their dreams, through all the difficulties. Follow them on the journey of a lifetime! | MimsHouse.com

Liberty launches into the world next week! Well, it’s already available as an ebook a week early.

When Santiago is thrust into the farm’s pigsty, Penelope is captivated by Santiago Talbert’s boast, “I plan to sail the Seven Seas.” Together, these extraordinary pigs escape the farm and cross into the land of Liberty, a parallel world where an intelligent human or animal can get ahead. They follow their dream to Boston harbor, where they try to convince sea captains that pigs can sail. First, though, Santiago learns mapmaking, while Penelope works on the docks loading ships. Eventually Penelope signs onto the Ice King’s crew as he cuts and packs ice to ship to the far-flung corners of the world.

When the fleet of ice ships sails, Penelope and Santiago join the crew of the flagship, captained by Captain Kingsley, the Ice King himself. A massive polar bear, he harbors dark secrets, and the pigs face the shocking truth: they alone can save the friendly sea serpents from the Ice King’s clutches. From the fascinating world of tall ships comes this unlikely tale of humble pigs who follow their dream.

GoodReads Giveaway

Enter TODAY for a chance to win a copy. The giveaway entries end next week.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Liberty by Darcy Pattison

Liberty

by Darcy Pattison

Giveaway ends August 09, 2016.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

Hope you win!

CIP: Need it? What Cost?

As usual for indie or self-published children’s book, the question of Cataloguing in Publication or CIP data has a different answer than for adult self-published books.

For indie kids books, your audience is going to be schools and school librarians. They have to catalog the book and place it in their library. And for them, life is much easier if you have the CIP data available for them. Adult indies don’t always have the same worries – though sometimes, the CIP is helpful for them, too, especially if they have a book targeting the library market.
CIP Data for your indie kids book means it's easier for librarians to put it on their shelves. Help them by providing the right CIP data. | IndieKidsbooks.com

Cataloging in Publication

CIP is a program administered by the Library of Congress. Here’s how they describe it:

“A Cataloging in Publication record (aka CIP data) is a bibliographic record prepared by the Library of Congress for a book that has not yet been published. When the book is published, the publisher includes the CIP data on the copyright page thereby facilitating book processing for libraries and book dealers.”

Large publishers use the CIP, but for small and indie-publisher, there’s a work-around, the PCN, or Preassigned Control Number. The LOC explains the difference in the CIP and PCN programs:

“The Cataloging in Publication (CIP) program creates bibliographic records for forthcoming books most likely to be widely acquired by U.S. libraries. The Preassigned Control Number (PCN) program assigns a Library of Congress Control Number to titles most likely to be acquired by the Library of Congress as well as some other categories of books. The two programs are mutually exclusive.”

On a practical level, this means that a couple months before I publish a children’s book, I request a PCN. Usually, they are fast, answering with a day or so. Just click on “Open an Account,” and follow directions.

The true story of a spider who became an astronaut | IndieKidsBooks.comOK. So you get the PCN number. So what? The PCN number should be placed on the copyright page. But you should take it a step farther and get the CIP data block. This is the CIP block for my book, NEFERTIT, THE SPIDERNAUT, which comes out in October, 2016:

Publisher’s Cataloging-in-Publication data

Names: Pattison, Darcy, author. | Tisnés, Valeria, illustrator.
Title: Nefertiti , the spidernaut : the jumping spider who learned to hunt in space / By Darcy Pattison ; Illustrated by Valeria Tisnés.
Description: Little Rock, Arkansas: Mim’s House, 2016.
Identifiers: ISBN 9781629440606 (Hardcover) | 9781629440613 (pbk.) | 9781629440620 (ebook) | LCCN 2015920985.
Summary: A jumping spider is sent to the International Space Station to discover if she can hunt in microgravity.
Subjects: LCSH Space biology –Juvenile literature. | Animal experimentation –Juvenile literature. | International Space Station — Research –Juvenile literature. | Space stations–Juvenile literature. | Space flight–Physiological effect –Juvenile literature. | Jumping spiders–Juvenile literature. | BISAC JUVENILE NONFICTION / Animals / Insects, Spiders, etc. | JUVENILE NONFICTION / Technology / Aeronautics, Astronautics & Space Science.
Classification: LCC QH327 .P38 2016 | DDC 629.45009 –dc23

Does this look complicated? It does to me, too. I tried for a while to learn the intricacies of this info, but found it an unreasonable time drain. It’s one of the things I always find a freelancer for. You can ask a local librarian if they could do it. But I like to use Adrienne Bashista, Cataloguer-at-Large, because she’s reasonably priced, keeps up-to-date on changes in the CIP requirements, and is relatively fast. I’m not an affiliate or anything, just a satisfied customer.

The final step is to be sure to send a copy of your book to the LOC when it becomes available. That completes the registration for the CIP. When I file my copyright, I send the book at the same time.

Will this help sell your book? Maybe, maybe not. I know that librarians are much more comfortable placing my book into their school library when this information is present on the copyright page. It’s a small expense and well worth it to me.

Back to School Sale

Print Books Now Available

Print books – hardcover and paperback – are now available on the Mims House website. To celebrate the Back-to-School season, all children’s books are 10% off through August.

Resources for Back-to-School

Did you know that many of our books have teacher’s guides or worksheets to accompany them?

The Aliens, Inc. Series

The Aliens, Inc. Series has a teacher’s guide with simple lesson plans and audiobook samples.When I was looking for a great summer read for kids, I found this series. The Aliens, Inc. Series is great summer reading for kids going into 3rd-5th grades. I love series because it makes the choice of what to read next so easy. | MimsHouse.com

The Read and Write Series

The Read and Write Series: Dogs, cats, and writing--it's a natural combination in this series of fun books.The Read and Write Series has worksheets available. Watch this video about teaching narrative essays or opinion essays, and find out how to get the free worksheets.

Read Sample Chapters

Vagabonds by Darcy Pattison | NEW Cover for this middle-grade animal fantasy. Read more at MimsHouse.com/books/vagabonds Vagabonds:Galen, the nine-banded armadillo, must accept the Tex, the ambitious outsider, as leader of the search for the fabled Faralone Falls, a place they can finally call home. But on the frontier, survival is the only thing that matters. Follow the armadillos on this epic quest for a home.


Deliciously Creepy - Give your summer reading a chill. | MiimsHouse.comEvery block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it.”—Michelangelo
But what if an unscrupulous sculptor could trap someone inside a block of stone, just so he could carve them?
There’s darkness in this book, that nevertheless, manages to pull off not one, but two miracles–and brings Laurel home to stay.


Give a child a book of HOPE - a contemporary Hansel and Gretel. | MimsHouse.com This contemporary Hansel and Gretel novel is a heartbreakingly simple story that weaves through the tangled threads of a family and builds to an ending full of hope. Middle grade fiction at its finest.

Can Eliot save his family with a simple bread recipe? Longing for Normal is "a rare book" says Booklist. A boy unites an immigrant community and rebuilds his family–using a simple sourdough bread recipe.


Great resources for back-to-school. I love these sample chapters, audiobook samples, and lesson plans. #bestresourcesever | MimsHouse.com

ISBN: Need Them? Cost?

Do You Need an ISBN for your children’s books?

No and yes.

NO. If you only plan to sell ebooks of your children’s titles, and you only plan to distribute to trade ebook sites, then you don’t need ISBNs. Kindle, Kobo and Apple don’t require and ISBN to publish.

However, because this is about children’s books, you should also be selling to the education market. All of the education distributors, as opposed to those trade markets, do require an ISBN.

Each ISBN is assigned to one and only one book of a certain format. That means you need separate ISBNs for each ebook, paperback book, hardcover book, or audiobook. If you publish one title in all four formats, you’ll need four ISBN for that one title.
This simple article explains  whether you need an ISBN, how many and where to buy them. An essential step of indie publishing children's books. | IndieKidsBooks.com

How Much Will You Pay

If you live in Canada, ISBN are free. Other countries have their own method of assigning ISBN. In the U.S., Bowker.com is the provider of ISBN numbers.

If you look at the Bowker site (or myidentifiers.com), the US provider of ISBN, the advertised prices are as follows?

1 ISBN is $125 or $125/ISBN
10 ISBN are $295 or $29.50/ISBN
100 ISBN ar $575 or $5.75/ISBN
1000 ISBN for $1500 or $1.50/ISBN

Obviously, the most economical is buying a larger block.
But ISBNs are like any other product: they go on sale. You need to look for sales to buy a block. Different writers’ groups include periodic sales.

For example, if you’re a member of the Independent Bookseller’s Associaton, one membership benefit is 15% off on ISBN and other services from myidentifiers.com. That puts 1000 ISBN at $1275 or $1.275/ISBN. And there are often promotions lower than that.

In 2013, through a one-time promo for members of an indie writer’s group, I bought 1000 ISBN for only $850 or $0.85/ISBN

For me, buying a block of 1000 ISBN meant that I was all in on my new business venture. And it’s been a blessing because I don’t hesitate to use an ISBN. When I published audiobooks, one education distributor I was interested in is Findaway, which requires ISBNs because they distribute to bookstores who need it. Of course, if you publish on ACX, Amazon’s DIY platform for audiobooks, you don’t have to use an ISBN. But because I expected to use education distributors, I used an ISBN. If I had only bought 10, it would be harder to “spend” that ISBN, since they can never be reassigned.

Brilliant, says Midwest Book Review

We were thrilled this week to get a new review on Burn: Michael Faraday’s Candle.
Burn: Michael Faraday's Candle book cover | MimsHouse.com

Brilliant, says Midwest Book Review

“Burn: Michael Faraday’s Candle” is an exciting adaptation of Michael Faraday’s (1791-1867) original special Christmas lecture, “The Chemical History of a Candle.” Condensed from 6000 words to about 650 words for modern elementary education students, “Burn: Michael Faraday’s Candle” is enhanced by dashing, colorful, quirky illustrations bring to life the original author’s scientific lecture for juveniles, first delivered on December 28, 1848, at the Royal Institution in London, England. Mr. Faraday demonstrated several kinds of candles, including stearin, made of ox fat, a sperm candle made from the purified oil of the sperm whale, a bees-wax candle, and a paraffin candle, made from Irish peat bogs. Mr. Faraday taught everyone to observe experiments and ask, “What is the cause, why does it occur?” Mr. Faraday explains that capillary action explains who the flame in a candle gets hold of the fuel. Faraday continues to explain the oblong shape of the flame of the candle and the current of hot air draws out the flame, supplies it with air, and cools the sides of the cup of melted fuel. “Burn” is a brilliant reduction of a very famous British science lecturer that presents the information in a format appealing to children today. – Midwest Book Review, July, 2016

How to Order

PRINT
Paperback

Hardcover
PURCHASE ORDERS
DIGITAL
Kindle

Kobo
All formats also available on Follett, Mackin, Permabound, and Ingram.

READ MORE

Interview with Darcy Pattison on LitPick.

Writing Narrative Essays: Explaining Classroom Use Video

Since The Read and Write Series has been published, folks have asked for more information on how to use the books in the classroom. On this video, children’s book author Darcy Pattison explains My Crazy Dog: My Narrative Essay and how to use the book in the classroom.


If you can’t see this video, click here.
To get My Crazy Dog Printable Worksheets | Mims House, click here. (pdf)
To buy the powerpoint version of this book, click here.

a video on teaching OPINION Essays, click here.

Please share with a classroom teacher!
Amazing video! 15 minutes to the easiest and best narrative writing lesson ever! #BestResourceEver | MimsHouse.com

Writing Opinion Essays: Video Explaining Classroom Use

Since the publication of I Want a Dog: My Opinion Essay and I Want a Cat: My Opinion Essay, folks have asked for more information on how to use these books in the classroom. Today, we’re excited to share with you a 20-minute video with specifics on how to use the books in the classroom. One teacher wrote us to say that using the books was “the best day of teaching” in her career. Suddenly, opinion essays were fun!


If you can’t see this video, click here.
To get the I Want a Dog and I Want a Cat worksheets, click here.
To buy the Powerpoint version of the books, click here for DOG and here for CAT.

For a video explaining NARRATIVE essays, click here.

Please share the video with a classroom teacher!

20 minutes is all it takes to get a super-amazing lesson plan for writing opinion essays. #BestResourceEver Fun, simple - what's not to love? | MimsHouse.com

Designing Layout for a Children’s Picture Book

For children’s books, it’s essential that you learn about designing the layout for full-color picture book. Of course, you can hire freelancers to complete the process, but I’m a DIY-er and always think it’s best to understand the process before you hire it out.

Trim size. Early in the process of publishing a picture book, you must make decisions on trim size. While there are many options, I like the 8.5″ x 8.5″ format because it’s available in paperback from both CS and IngramSpark, available in hardcover from IngramSpark, and it turns into a nice ebook. The trim size is part of the specs that you provide to the illustrator.

Templates. IngramSpark provides cover templates and sizing information for the spine with simple calculators on their site. They will email templates for the book cover, if you wish. I like to provide these to the illustrator as they work, so they know the final sizes needed for the artwork.

Artwork. Once the art is delivered, it’s time to begin work. Illustrators usually use crop marks to indicate placement of the images on the page. I usually start with placing the artwork and then work on the text. If I need to do any resizing, cropping, touch-ups, etc on the art, I use Photoshop Elements, an small standalone version of the professional version of Photoshop. I ask illustrators to deliver the original photoshop files (.psd), complete with layers. That allows me to make minor changes as needed for hardcover, paperback, ebooks, audiobooks, or any other format necessary in the future. Also, be sure the art is delivered in 300 dpi, the minimum quality required by printers.

Text. Now, it’s time to choose fonts and create the text on top of the illustrations. I love Robin William’s book, The Non-Designer’s Design & Type Book, because it taught me so much about typography and design. Take the time to work through the book and learn your options. You’ll learn a lot about design! I also study current children’s books to see how the design and layout is handled. It’s impossible for me to advise you on which font is best for you book. I can say to avoid the cutesy and cliched fonts such as Comic Sans or Mountains of Christmas. Look for fonts that create the visual mood that’s right for your book.

PDF Files. Once the book is laid out, I export a print copy as a pdf. PDF files are the actual files that you’ll send to the printer. They require pdfs that fit a certain standard that makes for great printing. Currently, I export to the PDF/X-3-2002. The screen grabs below show that you can print pdfs to this standard even in Microsoft Word.

To print high quality pdfs from MSWord, Click Print, PDF, Adobe PDF. | IndieKidsBooks
To print high quality pdfs from MSWord, Click Print, PDF, Adobe PDF. | IndieKidsBooks

On this menu, choose the PDF/X 3-2003 standard. | Indie Kids Books
On this menu, choose the PDF/X 3-2003 standard. | Indie Kids Books


Copyediting. The first thing I do with a pdf is send it to my copyeditor, and make any corrections she suggests. Then, it goes out to reviewers who take ebooks, and I print about 50 paperback Advance Reader Copies (ARC) to send to traditional reviewers and anyone else who might have interest in this book. I also send to appropriate people to ask for a blurb or comment for the publicity materials. During this time, I collect any suggested edits for a final edit.

Final Edits. About 6-8 weeks before the book’s launch date, I make the final edits and upload files to all the distributors.
Here are 7 steps to a designing a great children's picture book. List of resources. | IndieKidsBooks.com

Resources for Layout Design

Great book to study about layout. Williams, Robin. The Non-Designer’s Design & Type Book, Berkeley, CA: Peachpit Press, 2008.

Good introductory tutorial on designing a book with Indesign. Step-by-step with lots of screenshots.

Lynda.com has many video courses on learning to use InDesign.

Novel Metamorphosis: Now an eBook

Since 1999, I’ve taught a Novel Revision retreat. In order to come, you must have a full draft of a novel. We spend a weekend discussing how to revise the novel. Invite me to teach in your area!

Popular Workbook Now an eBook

The popular workbook for Darcy Pattison's Novel Revision Retreat is Novel Metarmorphosis: Uncommon Ways to Revise. Hurrah! It's now available as an ebook. | MimsHouse.comIn 2008, I published Novel Metamorphosis: UnCommon Ways to Revise, the workbook for the retreat. Because it has several interactive sections–it really is a WORK book; you’re supposed to write in it–I resisted the idea of an ebook for a long time. But I kept getting requests for it as an ebook. I listened. It’s now available as an ebook on your favorite platform.

WHAT THEY ARE SAYING ABOUT NOVEL METAMORPHOSIS

“I found many books useful, but I found your Novel Metamorphosis absolutely the best for a workshop. For the first time in 18 years of doing The Manuscript Workshop in Vermont, I offered one this year for novels – for those who had a first draft or more that needed revision. The most interesting session was the one where we dealt with the Shrunken Manuscript, and we were all really impressed about how much we learned from this hands on activity.”

—Barbara Seuling, Director
The Manuscript Workshop in Vermont
www.barbaraseuling.com

“Darcy Pattison’s shrunken manuscript technique for analyzing the overall flow and pacing of my novel was the single most helpful tip I have ever picked up at a workshop. Highly recommended!”
—Carole Estby Dagg
www.caroleestbydagg.com
The Year We Were Famous, Clarion Books/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt,
2011. Would you walk over four thousand miles to save your family’s home?

“My initial reaction after finishing a first draft is to ask myself “Now What?” That question is answered and then some in Darcy’s novel revision retreats (I’ve done two so far). The large group sessions where Darcy discusses things like character, plot, setting and word choice help you wrap your brain around where your novel needs work. The break-out sessions with your critique group help you apply Darcy’s revision principles to your specific story. In the end, you walk away with a clear picture of how to take your novel apart and put it back together in a way that will make it a much stronger story. Hanging out with Darcy and other writers (at a retreat) who are in your shoes is a big bonus too!”

—Christina Mandelski
The Sweetest Thing, Egmont USA, 2011
www.christinamandelski.com

www.willwrite4cake.com
“Darcy gets you to see through your own words to find the heart and bones of your story, then gives you strategies that help you cut the fat away from that heart and keep it singing while you rearrange the bones and sinew to make the structure strong.”

—Sue Cowing
You Will Call Me Drog, Carolrhoda, 2011.

A debut middle-grade novel and a cleverly framed story of self-determination and family relationships. Fresh, funny, unexpected and, at times, just a little dark. “I revised a manuscript for an editor at Scholastic before it was accepted. His offer letter said, “The ability to have such insight about one’s own work is as rare as the talent to generate a fun and meaningful story.” Darcy Pattison taught me how to look at my own work with a powerful set of tools for considering voice, structure, action, sensory detail, and more. “It always feels magical to make a story better, but it’s not magic. It’s a matter of understanding and using the tools we writers have. Darcy built the toolbox for us with her blog, her workshops, and her book, Novel Metamorphosis. We still have to do the heavy lifting, but we’re not doing it alone.”

—Martha Brockenbrough
Devine Inspiration, Arthur Levine/Scholastic, 2012
http://marthabrockenbrough.com

Darcy Pattison’s shrunken manuscript technique pushed me to see my book in its entirety — what was working and what needed to change. On the micro level, I appreciated Darcy’s emphasis on imagery and the senses — particularly taste, touch, and smell — which bring to a story texture and depth.

—Caroline Starr Rose
May B., Schwartz and Wade/Random House Children’s Books, 2012
www.carolinestarrrose.com

“I’ve used the techniques that Darcy lays forth in Novel Metamorphosis, and my guess is you will copy, dogear, highlight, flag, and write all over this book. And while you’re marking up this text, your own novel will emerge cleaner, sharper, and more publishable.”

—Kristin O’Donnell Tubb, author of middle-grade historical novel,
Autumn Winifred Oliver Does Things Different (Delacorte 2008), which was accepted by the first editor who read it after Tubb revised it at Darcy Pattison’s workshop. Class of 2k8. www.kristintubb.com

How to Order

PRINT
Paperback
PURCHASE ORDERS
DIGITAL
Kindle

Kobo
All formats also available on Follett, Mackin, Permabound, and Ingram. Overdrive carries the ebook; ask your local library to purchase it.

What Will You Publish?

Early on, every indie or self-publisher must answer a crucial question: what’s the scope of your publishing program. Will you publish only one book? Will you publish every book you write? Or will you become a hybrid author, publishing some yourself and traditionally publishing others? There is, of course, no right or wrong. There are only options.

Becoming a Successful Small Business

I like to put the question of self-publishing into a wider business context. In the U.S., most small businesses fail within the first year. Usually it takes 3-5 years to turn a profit and start making money after the initial investments.

What that means in practical terms is that self-publishing a one-off book is the least likely to make you any money. Indies who do well think long term and think about overall income over a variety of books. Often at first, nonfiction takes off first, because nonfiction is written to solve someone’s problem. Finding that audience is often easier.

It takes time to build a reputation with fiction. For those authors who already have a reputation in the traditional publishing, it’s possible to do well with a one-off book, especially if you’re finishing off a trilogy or series that was dropped by a traditional publisher. You can do well, that is, if you’ve built a mailing list of fans and know how to contact them!

Most indie publishers will succeed if they have a long term strategy of consistent publishing in certain genres for certain audiences. The more you can concentrate writing and publishing in one area, the more likely it is that your reputation–and sales–will grow.

Projects of the Heart

For some people, though, making a profit as a small publisher doesn’t matter. For example, you may have a deaf daughter and want to write a story that helps other families with deaf children. For niche markets like this, you’re unlikely to turn a profit. If you must commission art and hire freelancers for editing and layout, then your budget is hard to balance. Some indie publishers will be happy with just breaking even on such projects. Nothing wrong with that. For these folks, maybe publishing just one books makes perfect sense.

Traditional Contracts – Will You Ever Go Back?

An interesting thing happens, though, as you start to self-publish. You no longer have to split profits with a publishing house. Your per book profit is much better. For ebooks sold on Amazon, for a $5 book, Amazon keeps 30% and the publisher receives 70%, or $3.50. Traditional publishers normally pass along 5% for a picture book ($0.18) or 10% for a novel, or ($0.35).

After a couple books under your belt, traditional contracts don’t look as enticing as they once did! This isn’t a post about contracts, but Kris Rusch has done a series about contracts that explains her indie mind-set. At the very least, Kris gives you lots to think about!

On the other hand, there are times when it does make sense to work with a traditional publisher. They have a wider reach and have the ability to make huge sales on certain projects. There’s nothing wrong with being a hybrid author who both indie and traditional publishes. Just go in with your eyes wide open.

If you choose to self-publish, the first question is what will you publish? Everything? Only some? Hybrid or full indie? These are crucial questions. | IndieKidsBooks.com

Do you have to choose the Scope of your publishing program? Yes and No.

Yes, you must decide what you plan to do. It’s important for many business decisions what you plan to do.

  • Taxes. If you only want to do one book, maybe sole proprietorship is fine; if you do many, you may want to incorporate.
  • Name and Logo. Will you publish under your own name or give your publishing company a more professional name? Please, please, please do not put your publisher as Create Space! I can’t think of a more amateur way to list your books. Unless maybe it’s one of the other scam “book publishers.” If you only publish one book, maybe your name is OK; if you plan many, you need to be a pro about †his issue and really create a publishing house.
  • Freelance or DIY. If you only publish once, maybe it’s fine to freelance everything; if you plan to do many, maybe you want to invest in learning programs to cut costs and gain control.
  • Publish wide or only Amazon. If you only publish once, maybe it’s enough to go exclusive with one distributor; if you publish many, maybe you want to maximize your income streams and not put your company’s success squarely on the shoulders of one fickle distributor.
  • ISBN. Will you buy a single ISBN or a block of ISBN? 10? 100? 1000?

The list could go on, of course. The decision of the scope of your publishing affects every other business decision you make.

No. You don’t have to decide what you plan to do. One idea in the business world is the “minimally viable product.” That means a business will bring a product to market as bare bones as possible and let the success or failure in the marketplace determine what comes next. They will add or subtract features based on customer feedback. It’s an interactive process based on the market the product finds.

My own experience in self-publishing has followed this trajectory in some ways. I first published a workbook for a novel revision retreat that I taught. Novel Metamorphosis: Uncommon Ways to Revise is in its second edition and doing well. My first children’s picture book, 11 Ways to Ruin a Photograph, was a learning book and hasn’t yet found its real audience (translate: poor sales). But the second children’s book, Wisdom, the Midway Albatross: Surviving the Japanese Tsunami and Other Disasters for over 60 Years received a starred Publisher’s Weekly review and has done well.

That early success with a science picture book has set me on a path of doing more science books. It’s a good market for me, with sales so far this year of 2900 in special orders alone. I also publish fiction picture books and hope they do well, such as Rowdy: The Pirate Who Could Not Sleep.

Initially, I planned to only publish the one workbook. But it was easy, the money was good, and I learned early on that I was a DIY-type person, so I could keep budgets streamlined. When I decided in 2013 to go full-time with Mims House, I bought a block of 1000 ISBNs to signal my serious commitment to indie books. The scope of my publishing has grown until I have about 30 titles, and about 60 ISBNs used between hardcover, softcover, ebooks and audiobooks.

You can choose one path and then change your mind later. You have options. But you must choose something, even if you later change your mind! What is the scope of your publishing?

Blue House: Which Photo is Mims House?

Mims House makes its home in the historic Quapaw Quarter of Little Rock. Houses in this historic neighborhood are named for the family who lived there in 1890. The Mims family gave their name to our office. About 20 years ago, it was gutted and rebuilt with reproduction wallpapers and beautiful hardwoods.

Which of these blue houses is Mims House?
The first correct answer will receive a paperback book of your choice.

House 1

House 1: Which house is Mims House? | MimsHouse.com

House 2

Is this Mims House?

House 3

Which blue house is Mims House? | MimsHouse.com

House 4

Is this Mims House? | MimsHouse.com

House 5

Could this be Mims House? | MimsHouse.com

Leave a comment with your guess of which house is really Mims House.

Illustrator Award: O’Neill Wins Muse Medallion for Cat Illustrations

Congratulations to illustrator Ewa O’Neill! She was awarded a Muse Medallion for a series of illustrations of cats in the 22nd annual Cat Writers’ Association Communication Contest.

2016 Cat Writer's Association Muse Medallion - Series Illustration for Ewa O'Neill | MimsHouse.com
2016 Cat Writer’s Association Muse Medallion – Series Illustration for Ewa O’Neill | MimsHouse.com



I Want a Cat: My Opinion Essay is Ewa O’Neill’s second book with Mims House. Her style is colorful, fun and exciting. Part of the challenge of this book was the variety of species. We looked at the top 20 most popular breeds in the U.S. (just as we did for dogs on I Want a Dog: My Opinion Essay).

I love seeing the different breeds of cats, especially when its from award-winning illustrator Ewa O'Neill. She was awarded the 2016 Muse Medallion - Series of Illustrations by the Cat Writer's Association | MimsHouse.com


I love the way Ewa captured the looks and personality of each cat breed. | MimsHouse.com
I love the way Ewa captured the looks and personality of each cat breed. | MimsHouse.com



I love that illustrator Ewa O'Neill shows kids and cats interacting in fun ways. | MimsHouse.com
I love that illustrator Ewa O’Neill shows kids and cats interacting in fun ways. | MimsHouse.com


REVIEWS OF THE READ AND WRITE series of popular books

“. . .fill(s) a niche for teachers. . .” – School Library Journal 5/1/15

• “. . .breezy and engaging introduction to genre writing.”
• “The model essay can be used across multiple genres (informational and narrative nonfiction in addition to opinion).”
• “. . .useful for teachers showing early elementary students the relevancy, power, and importance of effective writing.” –Booklist 6/17/15



PURCHASE ORDERS
PAPERBACK

HARDCOVER
POWERPOINT
DIGITAL
KINDLE

iBOOK

ePUB
All Mims House books are also available on Ingram, Follett, Mackin, Permabound, and Overdrive.

Digital Files: The Assets of an Indie Publisher

As an independent publisher, what are your assets? Your digital files!

As I uploaded files today to the EPIC! app, I was struck again with the fact that I’m in a digital file business. Every place that sells my books wants a digital file, even the printers who produce the print books. I recently uploaded my whole catalog to Overdrive, which sells ebooks and audiobooks to libraries. The upload included about 60 files; I was proud that only 3 files had to be revised slightly for their platform. Pristine digital files are crucial for indie publishers.
When I think about publishing, I think books. But the assets of a publisher are really digital files. Read about how to maintain and protect your business assets! | IndieKidsBooks.com
Organized. This means you must be strictly organized with your pdf and jpeg files that constitute the assets of your business. Of course, each book gets its own folder. I further subdivide a book’s folder into these subfolders:

  • Production (ebook, interior, covers). These include the original images, InDesign files, high-resolution pdfs for each platform, and ebooks for each platform.
  • Publicity or Promo (covers, sell sheet, reviews) includes everything that I might need to promote the book. One folder holds covers jpgs in every size and resolution that might be typically requested; I’ve gotten in the habit of generating the range of jpg files immediately when I finish the cover. The sell sheet includes all metadata, slugs, descriptions and any other copy that I might need to cut and paste to a sales platform. Reviews are collected in another folder.
  • Other folders might include book trailers, awards, updates, foreign languages, video, audio, contracts, etc.

Metadata files. Besides the actual book files a spreadsheet of metadata is essential. Typically, a platform that sells books will want to know ISBN of each format, title, subtitle, author, illustrator, narrator, description, category, keywords, BISAC categories, language, publication date, release date, age range, and maybe other things unique to the platform. I keep a Master MetaData list and update as often as needed. Still, it’s always a pain to create a metadata file for each different platform, as inevitably, their template lists items in a different order. Or, they require unique information. It’s a necessary chore because metadata sells books by allowing the reader to find your book.

Backup. Do I have to say it? If your business assets consist of digital files, then you should back up regularly. My computer’s video card went out recently and of course, it was right before I had to go out of town to teach. While Apple sent my Mac to Memphis for a new video card, my only recourse was to buy a new computer which I would return when my computer was repaired. My backup was a week out of date. Fortunately, nothing important was lost. But it reminded me of the imperative of keeping good backups of data.

Wisdom Multimedia: Enhance Lessons with Photos and Videos

One of the fun things about publishing a story about a wild creature is that the story is ongoing. Our book, WISDOM, THE MIDWAY ALBATROSS, features the oldest known wild bird in the world. Banded on December 10, 1956, she is over 65 years old and on February 4, 2016, she hatched a new chick. As I write this in summer, 2016, she is likely flying over the North Atlantic looking for a nice squid to eat. We’ll all hold our breath in early December to see if she returns to Midway again.

I love this cover of Wisdom, the Midway Albatross, the story of the oldest wild bird in the world. | MimsHouse.com
The US Fish and Wildlife Service continues to post many great photos and videos of the continuing story of the oldest known wild bird in the world. All FWS photos and videos are public domain and you may use them as you wish.


Here are videos about the book.

Wisdom Multimedia: Wisdom the Oldest Mother


If you can’t see this video, click here.

Wisdom Multimedia: How Big is an Albatross?

This was videotaped at an Arkansas Audubon Summer Camp. It’s a great way to show kids how big an albatross really is.

If you can’t see this video, click here.

Other Teaching Materials for Wisdom

Creative Coloring Pages
CreativeColoring-Wisdom

Wisdom: Mentor Text for Teaching Writing
Vivid Verbs Lesson by Marcia Atkins

Share Wisdom’s Story on These Special Days

These organizations have many teaching resources on their websites.

PURCHASE ORDERS
DIGITAL
KINDLE

iBOOK

ePUB
Print
Hardcover

Paperback
All formats are also available on Mackin, Follett, Permabound, and Ingram.