Category: Mims Kids

Timely fiction and nonfiction for kids.

Printables: Worksheets, Coloring sheets and Teacher’s Guides


Teachers, we have free printables to accompany many of our book titles. We are always happy to create a printable for a special project, Just let Sue know what you need.

The Aliens, Inc. Series

These short chapter books are perfect for the 1-4th grade who is moving up to independent reading. You’ll find a variety of activities for individual books and for the series.
The Aliens, Inc. Series is great summer reading for kids going into 3rd-5th grades. |

The Aliens, Inc. – Teacher’s Guide

Wisdom, the Midway Albatross

Wisdom, the Midway Albatross | Surviving plastic pollution and other disasters for over 65 years. | Mims House
Starred Review in Publisher’s Weekly. Click to learn more.

To accompany, Wisdom, the Midway Alabatross, illustrator Kitty Harvill. Kitty has prepared coloring pages with partial drawings for the child to complete.
Complete The Albatross. Printables for Wisdom, the Midway Albatross |
Click to download un-coloring pages.

The Read and Write Series: Printables for Opinion Essays and Narrative Essays

These printables for I Want a Dog and I Want a Cat include worksheets for prewriting and writing an opinion essay.

Opinion Essay Printables |
Click to download printables.

My Crazy Dog focuses on narrative essays. The printables include all you need for prewriting and writing a narrative essay.

My Crazy Dog: My Narrative Essay Printables | Mims House
Click to download printables.

The Nantucket Sea Monster: A Fake News Story |

A Fake News Story from 80 Years Ago

On August 7, 1937–exactly 80 years ago–the Nantucket Island Inquirer and Mirror newspaper led with a startling headline:
A Sea Monster | Bill Manville Says He Saw One Off Nantucket. Insists He was Not Dreaming. Hopes I Appears Again to Verify His Story.

See the digital copy of the article here.

Planning a Hoax

This was an elaborate hoax in which the newspapermen knew that the story was fake. It took a long time to prepare for, but no one knows exactly how long.

Here’s what we know about the sea monster

Tony Sarg was a master puppeteer and ran a local Curiosity Shop on Nantucket. He was responsible for the original design for the massive balloons that flew in Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. He saw them as upside down puppets or marionette. If you’ve ever watched the balloon handlers, you can understand how apt this analogy was.

For the 1937 Parade, Sarg designed a massive sea monster balloon. Sometime that spring or early summer, Sarg and Macy’s officials agreed to do a publicity stunt and float the balloon off Nantucket Island. They talked with the newspaper editor of the Nantucket Island Inquirer and Mirror, who agreed to go along and to print articles, even though he knew they were fake. Another newspaperman who worked for a wire service agreed to reprint the story and send it out on the wires.

To make the hoax a reality, the Akron Rubber and Tire Company, the makers of the balloons, shipped the balloon, along with several thousand pounds of compressed air to fill up the balloon.

For two weeks, newspapers printed stories about the sea monster. The story itself spread from Cape Cod to California. Finally, on August 18, 1937, word went around that the sea monster had been caught by Tony Sarg. People flooded the beach to see it–only to discover that it was a rubber balloon.

Researching the Book

To research the book, I went to Nantucket Island in 2011. We rode bicycles across the island, stopping at cranberry bogs, and visiting Mandaket Beach and the beach where the balloon was pulled out. The historical museum had an interesting archive of material. However, they mentioned to me that another author, Melissa Sweet, was researching Tony Sarg. When I went home, I contacted her and learned that she had a contract for a book. That was Balloons Over Broadway, which was awarded the 2012 Robert F. Sibert Medal, and the 2012 NCTE Orbis Pictus Award.

After emailing with Melissa, I knew my story was dead in the water.
But here’s the thing: I was never interested in the same thing as Melissa. As an artist herself, she was interested in Tony Sarg’s art and life. I was only interested in the sea monster hoax. Still, no one would touch my story after her brilliant book.

Non-Political Fake New Story

But time moves along. And this year, in 2017, after a grueling election process in 2016, I began to hear teachers, parents, and librarians ask for a particular kind of book: A non-political fake-news story. I pulled out the research and looked at it again. Yes, this was a non-political story. And it was definitely a fake news story. Whether you call it a hoax, a fake new story or a publicity stunt matters not. The fact is that newspapermen knew the story was false when they published it.

To make the book useful in the classroom, I added a discussion of the First Amendment. I found two contradictory statements from Thomas Jefferson, the third U.S. President:

1) “Where the press is free, and every man able to read, all is safe.” Source
2) “Nothing can now be believed which is seen in a newspaper.” Source

Historical Archive of Photos

One of the fascinating things about this event are the photographic records. The Nantucket Historical Society maintains a Flickr album with many b/w photos that were invaluable to illustrator Peter Wills as he worked on this book. See the Tony Sarg’s Sea Monster in Nantucket Flickr Album.

Here are a couple photos from that album.

Tony Sarg's sea mosnter | Mims House
See the length of the sea monster (135 feet) and compare the size to people.

Sea monster footprints on Nantucket Island |
Measuring the sea monster footprints on the beach.

Tony Sarg and spectators pose in front of the sea monster's mouth. |
Tony Sarg and spectators pose in front of the sea monster’s mouth.

How to Order

The Nantucket Sea Monster: A Fake News Story comes out on September 12, 2017. Sign up below to be notified when and where it’s available.

The Sea Monster of Nantucket: A Fake News Story

The Nantucket Sea Monster: A Fake News StoryA JUNIOR LIBRARY GUILD SELECTION

Publication date: September 12, 2017

Please let me know when the book is available.

We won't send you spam. We'll just let you know when this book is available. Powered by ConvertKit

Teaching Kids to Write in a Science Notebook

American Scientist: Donald S. Erdman

When you teach kids to write in a science notebook, it helps to first look at historical science notebooks. What did real scientists do with a notebook? Today, we’ll look at a fascinating trip to the Arabian Sea in 1948 by a Smithsonian fish scientist.

Donald S. Erdman was a ichthyologist, or fish scientist who was invited to the Arabian Sea in 1948. Erdman worked for the Division of Fishes, Unites States National Museum (USNM) (A Smithsonian affiliate). An American oil company, ARAMCO, was considering doing more business in the Persion Gulf and the Red Sea. Before investing money, they wanted to know if they could feed employees stationed in the area.

To answer that question, they asked Erdman to do a survey of the fish of the Arabian Sea, especially whether or not there were edible fish in enough numbers to operate a cannery. While on the trip, Erdman collected over 5000 different kinds of fish and found plenty of edible fish.

An Ichthyologist’s Science Notebook

We know about this trip because Erdman kept a diary and later used it to write articles about the trip.

Here are a couple interesting pages from his notebook. Please notice how he used color. When scientists write in their notebooks, they often draw specimen, too. Here, Erdman is using color to give information. When the fish were preserved, they turned a brownish-black color, losing all the color of their natural state. To save that information, Erdman colored his fish.

For example, look at the fish drawn right in the middle of the page. Erdman wrote around the drawing.
Page from science notebook of Donald Erdman

Sometimes, he used words to describe the fish, too. He explained that the colors were spread out except the purple blue spots on his head. The light steel blue color was found on the top, mixed in with yellow. Faint black bands seemed to be random.

The words alone wouldn’t give the same information; this scientists needed drawings, including color to record information accurately.

Other pages from Erdman’s Diary:

Page from science notebook of Donald Erdman

Page from science notebook of Donald Erdman

Page from science notebook of Donald Erdman

See more photos at Donald Erdman’s Field Notebook on the Smithsonian Flickr account.

MY STEAM NOTEBOOK: 150 Years of Primary Source Documents from American Scientists

My Steam Notebook | MimsHouse.comErdman is one of eleven scientists highlighted in My STEAM Notebook. STEAM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math. Each discipline is represented in questions/activities at the end of the book.

The book uses the notebooks of these American scientists to discuss a progression of writing skills that can be used to teach students how to use notebooks for scientific observation. Here’s the progression of skills explained in the introduction:

  • simple lists
  • drawings + text
  • interdependence of drawings + text
  • description and scientific language
  • narratives
  • botanical illustrations/using magnification
  • using color to add information
  • visual details
  • photography
  • informational writing

NSTA Recommends

The National Science Teacher’s Association publishes a site that recommends books for teaching science, NSTA Recommends. This is their review of MY STEAM NOTEBOOK (emphasis added).

Reviewed by Steve Canipe
Director, Science, Mathematics & Instructional Design Technology

This book, written by Darcy Pattison and entitled My STEAM Notebook: 150 Years of Primary Source Documents from American Scientists, at first look might well draw a startled reception from teachers and parents. The reason for this is that the book is mostly blank pages. A reader might well think what is this? Ms. Pattison, the author, explains her reasoning for blank pages in the well–written introductory notes. She has poured through many scientific notebooks used by American scientists, ranging from those in the mid–1800s to the end of the 20th century and it appears her purpose is several fold. One, she wants to introduce the idea that all scientists keep a journal, notebook, or other record of their observations, experiments, experiences, etc. Two, she wants to inspire young scientists to start or keep doing good record keeping and has provided a blank template to follow.

The presentations of the 10 historical scientists and their notebooks/journals are very short and each occupies only two facing pages. Following each scientist’s two–page description, there are 10 blank pages for doing recording, making observations, etc. The first notebook described was one done by Alexander Wetmore who started his journaling at the age of 8. He published his first article at age 15 describing his observations of red–headed woodpeckers. As an adult, he became the sixth secretary of the Smithsonian Museum from 1925–1952. Pattison uses a mnemonic of shadowed and outlined letters (STEAM) to help readers identify the STEAM aspects contained in the work of each of the 10 scientists she describes. She describes both process and product notebooks/journals. The point is clearly made that the process–type notebook is most useful for formative feedback and that product–types are most often used for summative feedback. The book’s blank pages are designed more for process than product, but as the author points out, additional document pages can be glued or stapled in the notebook thereby making it a sort of hybrid notebook and more useful for a summative assessment.

The book has 36 blank glossary spaces where the student scientist can record any unusual or unknown words. In addition to the glossary, there are discussion questions posed for each of the 10 scientists’ work. These questions are divided into the various STEAM areas identified and focused on in the readings. Additional helps in the form of photo permissions and references for further exploration are provided at the end of the notebook. Inspiration garnered from the scientists’ work being described is a focus for all young scientists. The author notes that the reading level is geared to the third grade, making this book useful for early grade and older students. Parents and teachers would benefit from using this book to guide observations and further study from their young people. Perhaps the next Wetmore is using this book as a guide right now.

Young scientists are taught to record not their feelings but observable things like taste, touch, smell, sounds, sight. Feelings are subjective, like “I love hearing red–headed woodpeckers making a sound” but observations are objective, for example “Red–headed woodpeckers make a hammering sound when they are searching for food.” This book is a well thought out presentation and one that, even if not used for each person (it is meant for individual student use), can serve as a model for a teacher or parent to have students do their own STEAM notebook. It is a nuts and bolts process book. Users can use illustrations in this book or in their personal versions using drawings and sketches or even digital photography. Keeping good records is the point that is made throughout the book. The historical notebooks/journals pieces point this out. With the use of the outlined STEAM words, it’s easy for students to see the linkages of each of the fields (science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics) to the observations and experiments. Keeping journals is strongly recommended for all scientists but especially for young ones and this book has a clear–cut process for getting this point across for the beginning scientist. The book or its equivalent should be used as a guide for everyone interested in getting more scientists started on the research path.

How to Order

My STEAM Notebook is available in paperback or as an ebook (modified to fit the format).

View on Mims House site.

Order Paperback or eBooks

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

Junior Library Guild Selection – A Fake News Story

Junior Library Guild selection - The Nantucket Sea Monster | MimsHouse.comMims House is very excited to announce that our fall picture book, THE NANTUCKET SEA MONSTER: A Fake News Story is a fall Junior Library Guild (JLG) selection. The JLG is a book club for libraries and before a book is published, they select the best of the coming season for their lists.

JLG says:

We read thousands of books every year and select only the best.
The JLG editorial team reviews more than 3,000 new titles each year, in manuscript or prepublication stage. We’ve developed a keen sense for finding the best of the best. Over 95 percent of our selections go on to receive awards and/or favorable reviews.

How do you discuss with your students the reliability of news in print or online?

The Nantucket Sea Monster: A Fake News Story |

Announcing a children’s color picture book about Fake News.
Available, Fall, 2017

August 7, 1937
Headline in the Nantucket Inquirer and Mirror newspaper:


Bill Manville Says He Saw One Off Nantucket.
Insists He Was Not Dreaming. Hope It
Appears Again to Verify His Story

Read a reproduction of the article here.

It was the beginning of a two-week flurry of excitement about the possibility of a real sea monster, or sea serpent, being sighted on the Atlantic Coast of the U.S. How did this Fake News story get such wide circulation?

Non-Political Fake News Story: A Junior Library Guild Selection

During the furor of the 2016 U.S. Presidential election, the term “fake news” surfaced. See, for example, articles in the UK Telegraph and in HuffPo, It’s certainly not the first time, nor the last time that reliable news will be a concern in our society. For teachers, though, it’s an opportunity to talk about Freedom of the Press, a crucial section of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

First Amendment:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

The incredible true story of the 1937 Nantucket Sea Monster provides a stirring story, as well as a springboard for discussion of the advantages and pitfalls of a Free Press.

Be One of the First to Know When the Book is Available

The book will be available in September, 2017. If you want to know when review copies are available, or when the book is available to order, please sign up here. We will ONLY contact you regarding this book and will not use your email for any other purpose.

The Sea Monster of Nantucket: A Fake News Story

The Nantucket Sea Monster: A Fake News StoryA JUNIOR LIBRARY GUILD SELECTION

Publication date: September 12, 2017

Please let me know when the book is available.

We won't send you spam. We'll just let you know when this book is available. Powered by ConvertKit
A great book for daughters to give to Daddy on Father's Day! |

Happy Father’s Day

A great book for daughters to give to Daddy on Father's Day! |

Father’s Day is rapidly approaching. We’ve got a special book for fathers with daughters.

This Rowdy Pirate Captain can’t sleep. She sends her crew a’thievin to find a lullaby.

“I’ll give a chest of me finest gold,
for a simple lullaby.”

Not just any lullaby will do, though. Those scalawags find lullaby after lullaby, but she still can’t sleep. It’s not till her “own dear Pappy” arrives that her rowdy heart is stilled.

“Then Pappy sang of slumber sweet
while stars leaned low and listened.
And as the soft night gathered round,
the pirates’ eyes all glistened.”

I love Ewa O'Neill's stylistic drawing of a father singing to his daughter. The rowdy pirate captain can't sleep until "me own dear pappy" arrives to sing her a lullaby. Great Father's Day story. |
Pappy singing a lullaby to his rowdy daughter.

This is the perfect gift for young daughters to give to Daddy on Father’s Day.

How to Order




Also available from Ingram, Follett, Mackin, or order locally.

Watch Dads Reading to Their Daughters

There’s no perfect way for a father to read a book with his daughter(s). It’s just important to take the time to read bedtime stories. Here are four fathers, each with a unique style of relating to his daughters.

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

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

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

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

Children’s Book Week – Free Books – This Week ONLY

Mims House celebrates Children's Book Week by giving away our most popular book. | MimsHouse.comMims House is a proud member of the Children’s Book Council. We’re happy to support Children’s Book Week from May 1-7, its 98th anniversary year. It is the longest-running national literacy initiative in the country.

This year, Mims House is celebrating Children’s Book Week by giving away our most popular children’s book, I Want a Dog: My Opinion Essay. It’s available as a Kindle (.mobi), epub, or pdf (Low-res).

Get Your Free Book by Clicking Here

FREE book during Children's Book Week: I Want a Dog: Book 1, The Read and Write Series. Dennis uses 10 criteria to choose a dog.

Children’s Book Week Activities and Resources

You can also find special resources for Schools, Libraries, and Bookstores including printables, a display contest, information on how to vote on the Children’s and Teen Choice Book awards, and more.

Get Your Free Mims House Book Here

Offer expires on May 7, 2017

Do Your Students Believe Everything They Read in the Newspapers or Online? A Fake News Story

How do you discuss with your students the reliability of news in print or online?

The Nantucket Sea Monster: A Fake News Story. Full color children's picture book available Fall, 2017 | Mims House

Announcing a children’s color picture book about Fake News.
Available, Fall, 2017

August 7, 1937
Headline in the Nantucket Inquirer and Mirror newspaper:


Bill Manville Says He Saw One Off Nantucket.
Insists He Was Not Dreaming. Hope It
Appears Again to Verify His Story

Read a reproduction of the article here.

It was the beginning of a two-week flurry of excitement about the possibility of a real sea monster, or sea serpent, being sighted on the Atlantic Coast of the U.S. How did this Fake News story get such wide circulation?

Non-Political Fake News Story

During the furor of the 2016 U.S. Presidential election, the term “fake news” surfaced. See, for example, articles in the UK Telegraph and in HuffPo, It’s certainly not the first time, nor the last time that reliable news will be a concern in our society. For teachers, though, it’s an opportunity to talk about Freedom of the Press, a crucial section of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

First Amendment:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

The incredible true story of the 1937 Nantucket Sea Monster provides a stirring story, as well as a springboard for discussion of the advantages and pitfalls of a Free Press.

Be One of the First to Know When the Book is Available

The book will be available in September, 2017. If you want to know when review copies are available, or when the book is available to order, please sign up here. We will ONLY contact you regarding this book and will not use your email for any other purpose.

The Sea Monster of Nantucket: A Fake News Story

The Nantucket Sea Monster: A Fake News StoryA JUNIOR LIBRARY GUILD SELECTION

Publication date: September 12, 2017

Please let me know when the book is available.

We won't send you spam. We'll just let you know when this book is available. Powered by ConvertKit

Earth Day – April 22

Earth Day started in 1970, just as the environmental movements were starting. It has been a day to consider the health of our planet and to encourage conservation, environmental thinking, and to enjoy the beauty of the world.

Each year, around Earth Day, I join with Authors for Earth Day to present a school program. Before I go, I ask teachers and students to consider five different environmental organizations. They look up information on the goals of each organization and vote on their favorite. Then, a portion of my speaking fee is donated to that organization in honor of the school.

During the school visit, I discussed the three nature books listed below. Students were interested and asked piercing questions. Even the kindergartners surprised me! One kindergarten student correctly knew the difference in nocturnal (awake at night) and diurnal (awake during the day). For Abayomi, the Brazilian scientists are still working to create wildlife corridors that will enable them to live in the urban landscape. Students understood that easily and wondered where there were corridors in their own city. Plastic pollution, which endangers seabirds, was a source of surprise. Students were amazed that the most common piece of plastic found in a bird’s stomach was toothbrushes and cigarette lighters.

Watch this video to understand plastic pollution in the Pacific Island – 15 minutes of CNN report on 11/30/16:

If you can’t see this video, click here. Some scenes may be upsetting to young children.

This 2009 BBC video is shorter and just shows the plastics found on Midway Island laid out in categories. More appropriate for younger children.

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

This year, $150 was donated to the Florida Wildlife Corridor in honor of the students and teachers at Thomas Jefferson Elementary, Little Rock, AR.

Wisdom, the Midway Albatross – Starred Review in Publisher’s Weekly

This is the story of the oldest known wild bird in the world and how she has survived for over 65 years. |
Click the cover to learn more.

Abayomi, the Brazilian Puma: 2015 National Science Teacher’s Association Outstanding Science Trade Book

Abayomi, the Brazilian Puma: The death of this cub's mother sparked interest in a puma corridor in Brazil. | Mims House
Click to read Abayomi’s story today. 2015 NSTA Outstanding Science Trade Book.

Nefertiti, the Spidernaut: 2017 National Science Teacher’s Association Outstanding Science Trade Book

This amazing spider traveled on the International Space Station for over 100 days! Read her inspiring story. |
Click the cover to learn more.

AMS Ads: KDP’s PPC Advertising Option

Amazon has allowed authors to advertise their ebooks for several years, but it was limited to those ebooks enrolled in KDP Select. In December, 2016, though, they opened it to any ebooks.

The AMS (Amazon Marketing Service) ads are the latest addition to options for authors to advertise their books. Like any small business, advertising should be a big part of your budget. The biggest advantage of AMS ads is that you will be advertising on Amazon, the biggest online store for books. That alone makes these ads worthwhile.

The biggest problem is the clunkiness of the program.
Overall, the program runs much like any other PPC — pay per click — advertising platform, except it’s more limited. If you’re confusing at this, look for basic tutorials that explain how a PPC ad works. In AMS Ads, you only pay for clicks, not impressions. Keywords are always a broad match and not an exact match.

Let’s dig into some details of my results and evolving conclusions.

My AMS Ads: From March 1-March 23 – THE RESULTS

36 ads set up, 2 rejected, 34 served
#ads served 3,407,928 times | average of 100,233/ad
#clicks 11,650 clicks | CTR of 0.0034185%
$spent $172.06 | highest spend of $21.60 | lowest spend of $0.00 ( a 2-day old ad)
$ earned: Gross of 581.84
Gross x 70% = approximate net: $407.29
236% return on investment (For every $1 spent, I receive $2.36.)

AMS Ad Screenshot |
This is an example of a successful AMS ad. I spent $8.59 and the gross income was $92.42, for an aCOS of 9.29%.

NOTE: AMS reports gross sales, the money they actually collect. But your ebooks are set at either 35% or 70% payment rates. Therefore, you must adjust the gross to understand your net income from the ad. If most of your ebooks are set at 70%, you can estimate by multiplying the gross by 70%. If most of your sales are paperback, you can estimate by multiplying your gross by 40%. If you have a mix of ebook and paperback sales, you’ll have to decide on an acceptable aCOS.
INDIE AUTHOR - How to Use Kindle PPC Ads to Promote and Sell Your Book |

AMS Reporting

First, AMS reporting is awful. You don’t know if you have sales for 3 days. Ridiculous. It appears that all other data is reported daily. Apparently, though, ads for products other than books have this same delay in reporting. For Amazon, it must be the norm.

Beyond that, AMS only reports aggregate numbers. Your options are to manually copy data daily, or daily download a .csv file and then figure out a spreadsheet formula to calculate a graph of daily clicks/sales—or something. After doing this diligently for a couple weeks, though, I’ve decided that there’s really only one number you need to track daily and that’s the aCOS%. This is the Advertising Cost of Sales: Amount spent on a campaign divided by total sales during the campaign run dates.

What I care about are sales. If the aCOS% is zero, the ad isn’t selling books, no matter how many clicks it gets. If the aCOS% is under 70%, I’m probably breaking even. If it drops to 10% aCos, I’m making money because that means for every $1 spent, I receive $10. Since sales reports are three days late, you must run an ad a minimum of four days to know if there are any sales. Therefore, on the fourth and fifth days of an ad, I’m watching carefully the aCOS% to see if there are reasonable sales. If it goes three days with no sales, I’ll check the number served and clicks, adjust keywords, etc., or perhaps kill the ad.


Overall, it’s hard to predict which keywords will do well and which won’t. Last month, I tried ads with auto-targeted keywords suggested by Amazon, and they didn’t sell any books. This month, I’ve only tried manual keywords. I haven’t heard a limit on the number of keywords possible for an ad; many people report they use 1000 keywords for each ad. I’ve tried these keyword options: book titles, author names, and keywords about the topic of the book. Overall, book titles do best. However, I can never predict which titles will convert for my books, which is frustrating. It means I have to try a huge range to find the few that work.

Often, out of 500 keywords, only ten are getting clicks. If you put those into a separate ad, they still get clicks. I’m in that 3-day-no-sales-report period, so I don’t know if they will get sales. In other words, single-keyword ads are still a test for me.

And, BTW, is you find some great keywords, work them into your product description. It’s easy to update your descriptions on AuthorCentral.


The suggested starting point for keyword bids is $0.25.
For novels, I’ve found $0.25 works because the actual bids run about $0.15-0.25.
For fiction children’s picture books, I might leave it at $0.25, or so, but usually bids are under $0.10.
But for nonfiction, children’s picture books, I often bid $0.10 and get plenty of impressions at pennies.


Lots of clicks doesn’t always mean a sale. If a book isn’t selling in spite of lots of clicks, I look to see if there’s a keyword getting lots of clicks, but no sales, and kill that keyword. For example, the keyword “children’s book” might be getting all the clicks, but it’s too generic to specifically target my title.

For a couple books, I’m getting good clicks, but few sales in spite of tweaking keywords. I need to reevaluate their sales pages, work on getting more reviews, reevaluate covers, and so on.


  • Books that already sell well, do best with the ads. More ads served, more clicks, more sales. I can get ACOS% of 7-30% with some predictability.
  • In my experience, good ads with good sales rarely performs more than a week or two. Then, it slows down: number of impressions goes down, so clicks/sales drop. But when I duplicate that ad, it may or may not get sales. Duplicating success is unpredictable, at best.
  • For the backlist titles and poor sellers, AMS ads do get sales. For the first time, I feel like I’m supporting all my titles with the marketing each deserves.

  • Tweaking an Ongoing Ad

    The only thing you can change in an ongoing ad is the keywords. You can add more, pause keywords, or change bids for individual keywords.

    Pause Keywords. Sometimes, I’ll kill a keyword that gets lots of clicks but produces no sales, such as the generic “Children’s book.”

    Add keywords. If I suddenly had a thought about new keywords, sometimes I’ll put it into an existing ad. The best thing would probably to start a new ad, but sometimes, I’m lazy and add to an existing ad.

    Change keyword bids. I have played with changing bids, especially bidding higher for well-performing keywords. This rarely has any kind of noticeable impact. The bids remain pretty consistent within just one or two cents. Changing the bid seems to have no effect.

    What Books Work Best

    Does this work for bestsellers, backlist titles, midlist titles? What books will benefit? My front list titles do best; however, the midlist and backlist titles are finding new life with the advertising program.

    Surprise – Sell in All Formats

    I only have a couple books in audio: The Aliens, Inc series, Saucy and Bubba (novel), and The Girl, the Gypsy and the Gargoyle (novel). They sell zero. As in zero.

    During the time period of this report, they’ve had 8 sales. That was a nice surprise. It’s not a big chunk of money, but it was something.

    In other words, it doesn’t matter what version of a book you advertise; on Amazon, people will buy their preferred format. Advertising will move books across all formats. For adult books, it moves ebooks the most. For children’s books, it moves paperbacks the most. Across the board, though, books sell in all formats.

    Surprise – Teach Amazon How to Sell My Book

    Another surprise has been the overall effect on a book’s sales. I had a nonfiction picture book, targeted at a small niche market, and it wasn’t selling. Before I started advertising it, I checked its sales page. All the copy was good, the cover is good, but there were no sales. On the page, there were no Also-Boughts shown, at all.

    I targeted books in its niche and ran ads. Within a week or so, the book’s page started to show Also-Boughts. I interpret that to mean that Amazon’s algorithms had finally categorized it correctly. In spite of putting the book into appropriate categories and using appropriate keywords, it wasn’t getting shown by Amazon. The sales copy, categories and keywords weren’t enough to tell Amazon how to sell the book. However, the ads were “teaching” the algorithms where to show the book to get sales. Sales have been good (not spectacular, but good) on the book since running ads.

    Scaling Ads

    As Mark Dawson, the indie publisher guru on advertising for books, said, the problem with AMS is scaling. He’d love to spend $500/day, or maybe more. But he can’t get Amazon to spend the dollars and show the ads.

    He solved it by setting up ads at $1/day and has over 200 going at any one time.
    My results aren’t supporting that kind of ad, yet. When I set the daily limit to $3, I get fewer impressions (ads served). If I set it at $1, I am afraid it will be even less. Further, it seems that the ads with a $20 daily limit are shown more, which results in more sales. They still don’t spend the daily limit, but they spend more than those with lower daily limits. It’s not easy to figure out, but my best guess (for my books in the month of March!) is to use a higher daily limit. I’m going to try more of these.

    Further, right now, I have three ads for one book running. One has become dominate and churns out sales. The other two are barely being served. They do get impressions, but not as many. However, they all have similar keywords. The next thing for me to try is low $/day, and each ad has unique keywords. If I can get three ads working, instead of one, it might increase sales. As always, it’s a matter of testing.

    Overall, AMS has quickly become a strong tool for generating sales for my books. Even when there are few sales, if an ad gets an average of 100,000 impressions, the exposure can’t hurt. I suspect that AMS Ads will become an ongoing experiment to get things right because there are so many factors: different times of year, different titles, book cover, reviews, etc. But even with the volatility of the ad platform, it sells books. And I’m loving it.

    Have you tried AMS Ads for your books? Any tips to share?

    Typical Day at the Offfice

    I go to work.
    My husband and I own a 3-story Victorian house in the historic Quapaw District of Little Rock, AR. My office–home of Mims House publishing–is the attic of the Mims House. In the historic district, the houses are named by the family who lived there in 1890. Our house is the Mims House, hence the name of my publishing company.

    8 am. I got to work at 8 this morning. I had a Skype visits scheduled at 9 a.m., so I set up for that by pulling up the right programs and logging into Skype. The teacher called for a quick check of the connection and then I had about 30 minutes to work. I’m changing the service I’ll use for email lists, so I had some work to do on that to fill the odd space of time.

    I Want a Dog: My Opinion Essay, Book 1 of THE READ AND WRITE SERIES | IndieKidsBooks.com9-10 am. I’m registered on Microsoft’s Educator site that lists Skype Lessons with a proposal to talk about How to Write Opinion Essays. I read the book, discuss worksheets and answer questions. This time, I Skyped a fifth grade class in New York. Of course, this promotes my picture book READ AND WRITE series, especially Book 1, I Want a Dog: My Opinion Essay. They’ve done well and the illustrator is working on Book 4, My Dirty Dog: My Informative Essay.

    10-noon. I had various emails and tasks to attend to. An order came in, so I printed the invoice/packing slip and packaged up the books. Answered a few emails about an upcoming writing retreat that I’m teaching.

    Noon – 1 pm. Lunch at the Rivermarket with my husband.

    1-4 pm. Right before I left for lunch, I heard from Peter Willis, a UK illustrator. He’s working on a new picture book, The Nantucket Sea Monster: A Fake News Story. Peter said he’d sent me “scamps.”
    “Dictionary definition of scamp: “verb (used with object)4. to do or perform in a hasty or careless manner: to scamp work.”

    His rough illustrations or scamps are always wonderful. But that meant I had work to do. When I get roughs from an illustrator, I like to put them into the Indesign Template so I can see what we’ve got. He was one or two spreads shy of what he needed. Also, when I roughed in the text, I saw some interesting things. About six of the spreads had the text in the same position on the spread (2-pages together). It was on the upper left hand side. Nothing wrong with that, but the repetition of that placement was a bit too much.

    I wrote about a page and a half of notes to Peter about the illustrations, discussing things like that. A few spreads, I just wrote: “Love it!” But most had some additional comment. I love his work! But there are always tweaks to get the best possible book.

    At this point, I encourage illustrators to discuss anything! I want their input as professional artist on what they think works or doesn’t work. But I also have to make sure they are thinking about the overall book. Avoid the gutters (the space between pages where the art and text will disappear). Leave room in the art for the copyright info, for the text, vary text placement, overall balance the images, keep everything funny, and so on. It’s a balancing act all the way across the book.

    I modified the text slightly to set up two great page-turns. In other words, the text sets up an expectation and makes the reader want to turn the page. I couldn’t do that before I saw the rough illustrations!

    The Blue Planets World series.

    While working on the Rough PDF, I got a shipment of books. These are ARCs (Advance Reader Copies) for my release of SLEEPERS, a middle grade novel, Book 1 of a series.

    Read the free Prequel: ENVOYS !

    I’ll be sending out about 30 paperback copies of the book to reviewers, educational distributors, and other interested folks. This is a big chunk of my publicity budget for each book – ARCs.

    4-5 pm or thereabouts. Write this blog post.
    5:00 pm Go home.

    So, it’s been a busy day! I started with some technical things on email, went into a teaching mode about opinion essays to promote a picture book, filled an order, answered emails on upcoming events, ate lunch with hubby, and then dove into the layout and design of a forthcoming picture book.

    Things on my To-Do List that didn’t get done: Book order form sent to school for an upcoming school visit, registering copyright on February release, send science/nature books to a science review service, write on Book 3 of The Blue Planets series, and send emails about the winner of a book giveaway.

    Add to that To-Do List for tomorrow: Prioritize writing on novel, send out ARCs.

    Every day is a wild mix of creative, administrative, business, sales, marketing, and teaching activities. Never a dull moment for an indie author and publisher!

    What's it like to be an Author-Publisher? Here's a typical day. |

    66 Year Old Bird Hatches New Chick

    If you follow my writing, you know that toward the end of January or early February, I start to get anxious for Wisdom. She’s a Laysan Albatross who lives on Midway Island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Here’s the great news: She’s back and she’s hatched a new chick!

    IF you can’t see this video, click here. Also see USFWS Tumbler account
    Wisdom and her new chick, February 2017.

    She’s the oldest known wild bird in the world

    Let me break that down:

    Oldest – Wisdom has been continuously banded since December 10, 1956. At that time, she was presumed to be at least five years old because these birds start breeding at about five years old. She was sitting on a nest near the Charlie Barracks when banded. Hence, at least five.

    Known – If Wisdom is five years old, it’s very likely that there are other Laysan albatrosses who are older. We just didn’t happen to band them. Sometimes, science is based on a bit of luck. We got lucky with Wisdom, but who knows how old her neighbors are?

    Wild – There are older birds in captivity. Parrots are especially known for living a long life in captivity. But in the wild, she’s the oldest known wild bird.

    She doesn’t hatch a new chick every year. Last year, for whatever reason, her egg didn’t hatch. Perhaps, it was cracked, or perhaps it was just a bad egg. No one knows. Also, Laysan albatrosses are known to take a sabbatical, or a year off now and then. Scientists started really paying attention to Wisdom in 2002, when she was recaptured, ironically by the same ornithologist who had originally captured her, Chandler Robbins. They realized then that she was 51 years old, among the oldest known wild birds. They put a red band on her leg, Z333, so she could be easily identified while in flight. They know that she has continuously nested since 2008. So, if she doesn’t come back next year, she could be lost to the wild, or she could be taking a sabbatical.

    Each year, I wait in December to see if she’s returned. Then, I wait in February to see if she’s hatched a new chick.

    Also see USFWS Tumbler account.


    Wisdom, the Midway Albatross | Surviving plastic pollution and other disasters for over 65 years. | Mims House
    Starred Review in Publisher’s Weekly.

    Prices are 10% discounted.



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

    See Teacher’s Materials here.

    Science Notebook: Write and Draw About Science

    With the implementation of the Next Gen Science Standards, more attention has turned to what tasks students are asked to do in elementary and middle school science classes. Increasingly, teachers ask students to write about projects in a notebook. The science notebook has been talked about but few have laid out a strategy for teaching kids to write in a science notebook.

    Our February release, MY STEAM NOTEBOOK, takes the actual notebooks from American scientists and looks at how they used the notebook to record, explain, question and work with their material.

    Observing historical science notebooks

    Argentinian scientist, Donna Maria and American scientist, Agnes Chase at the top of the highest mountain in Brazil. | Smithsonian. Acc 000229, Box 20, Folder 1; Photographs documenting Mary Agnes Chase's field work in Brazil, 1924-1925.
    Argentinian scientist, Donna Maria and American scientist, Agnes Chase at the top of the highest mountain in Brazil. | Smithsonian. Acc 000229, Box 20, Folder 1; Photographs documenting Mary Agnes Chase’s field work in Brazil, 1924-1925.
    To write this book, I looked at hundreds of different notebooks from a variety of American scientists. Most came from the Smithsonian Field Book project and the National library of Medicine. Notebooks from biologists and doctors are different. Throw in the notebooks from the Silicon Valley engineers housed at the Computer History Museum, and scientists’notebooks expressed many different goals and approaches. Some emphasized one step of the scientific process more than another. Each notebook looks different because scientists were trying to accomplish different goals. Even the shapes of the physical books varied. Engineers tended to emphasize idea generation, the design phase, or drawings of how to build something. Biologists tended to tell a narrative of observing or collecting specimens in the wild. In the laboratory, notebooks tended to be more procedural, or “this is what I did and how I did it.” Medical research included be exact chemical procedures in a laboratory. Notebooks for those researchers held pages of mathematical figures, dense tables of data, and little narrative. Doctors involved in public health, however, traveled to sites with disease outbreaks,worked with community organizers to make changes, or worked on public education campaigns. Their notebooks are often travelogues with notes on disease scattered throughout.Some scientists were compulsive about writing down everything, while others merely jotted things now and then. Overseas travel often inspired a detailed diary, and then the scientist wrote nothing for a decade. But through the varied experiences of American scientists, the notebooks are there. Why?

    Scientists felt compelled to keep a notebook for many reasons. For engineers, a notebook could be a legal document, the basis of a patent filing. Other scientists seemed to have a sense of destiny and wanted to record something for later generations to read. Others were just bugged by an idea and wanted to work it out on paper. Essentially, they all had to address the basic question of all writing: who is your audience? Yourself or others?

    Process v. Product based Notebooks

    Most notebooks I looked at took a process-based approach, which means the notebook was a record of the process of exploring science. These notebooks were written by the scientists for themselves. Even when there was a sense that this record might be historically important, scientists often skipped days in recording data.

    By contrast, most recommendations about student science notebooks take a product-based approach. Students must complete a project with certain required elements, and the teacher grades the notebook. Scientists are focused inward on their own goals, experiences, and projects.

    Students, because they produce a product-based notebook, must look outward. Scientists write for themselves; students write for their teacher. Like any writing project, audience is a key consideration of what and how something is written.

    One element almost universally required in student notebooks is a question. Often called a focusing question, it serves to guide the rest of the inquiry. After examining historical examples of notebooks from scientists, I rarely found a focusing question. That’s not to say that the question wasn’t in the scientist’s mind, but it wasn’t expressed on the pages of notebooks.

    Scientists were usually clear in their inquiry goals and didn’t need to state the question so others could evaluate it. Again, it’s the difference between inward or outward facing purposes for a notebook.

    Another way to say this is that process-based notebooks are best used for formative assessment, those which monitor student understanding and then modify the course work to aid understanding. Product-based science notebooks are best for summative assessment such as when the teacher evaluates and assigns a grade.

    150 Years of American Scientists

    Bird Scientist Alexander Wetmore, age 15, with a stuffed bird and the magazine with his first published article. |
    Bird Scientist Alexander Wetmore, age 15, with a stuffed bird and the magazine with his first published article. |
    The scientists whose notebooks are included here span about 150 years of American scientific study, from the mid-1800s to the end of the 1900s. In the process of researching available historical notebooks, I concentrated on seeking examples that would help students learn to use their own notebooks to record questions, observations, and conclusions. The historical notebooks are arranged here in a progression that will help students understand the potential for what a notebook can do for their scientific understanding.

    If you pare it down to essentials, the only things recorded in a notebook are words and drawings. Of course, photographs, worksheets, or other memorabilia can be fastened inside the notebook, but what students will actually write are words and drawings. Students need to explore a variety of ways to use text and art. The scientists are presented in a logical order that develops a student’s skills with text, art, or a combination of text and art.

    1. Student Task: WRITE A LIST. Alexander Wetmore, nicknamed Alick (pp. 16-17), is presented first because his first recording of a bird occurred at age eight while in Florida on a vacation. He described the pelican as a “great big bird that eats fish.”5 Throughout his teen years, he kept a monthly record of all the birds he saw. By age 15, he had published his first article in 1900 in Bird Lore magazine, “My Experience with a Red-headed Woodpecker.” (See pp. 148-149 for a reproduction of that article.) Wetmore’s notebooks show that observations can be done at any age. Lifelong passions can begin in an elementary school science notebook.
    2. Student Task: Draw and Label the Drawing. Martin H. Moynihan (pp. 28-29) presents a variety of options: text only, drawings only and a combination of text and drawing. Sometimes, text dominates, and other times drawings
    3. Native Alaskan woman drawn by William Dall on an exploration expedition. From Dall's field book. Example of original source documents in MY STEAM NOTEBOOK. |
      Native Alaskan woman drawn by William Dall on an exploration expedition. From Dall’s field book. Example of original source documents in MY STEAM NOTEBOOK. |
      Student Task: Draw, then write an explanation that can’t be understood from the drawing alone. Likewise, William Healey Dall (pp. 40-41) gives students a look at additional options possible in a notebook. He drew maps, native people, and interesting objects while he kept a careful record of his travels to Alaska. Look especially at his drawing of native pottery. While it’s interesting, the drawing alone doesn’t tell enough because we don’t know the scale. Only the text explains the size of each pot. Students need to learn to use text and drawings together to give a more complete understanding of what is observed.
    4. Student Task: Describe with words. A basic skill that students need is the ability to make a careful observation. Joseph Nelson Rose’s cactus example (pp. 52-53) is excellent because he includes descriptions of color, size,shape, and number. Notice too that he uses scientific vocabulary. As students write in notebooks,observations will be more exact as they learn the scientific names for objects, anatomy,and so on. For that, use My Glossary in the back of this book. However, remember that studentsmay also choose to define words in context.
    5. Student Task: Describe with a narrative (time-order) essay. Lucile Mann (pp. 64-65) was the wordsmith in the family, leaving the public speaking to her husband, William “Bill” Mann, Director of the National Zoo. Because she worked first as an editor, her diaries are carefully typed and edited. One type of writing found over and over in science notebooks is a narrative, or a description of something that happened to them.
      Mann’s narrative writing skills are shown by her use of sensory details in her travel descriptions.
    6. Student Task: Write with voice. Fred Soper (pp. 76-77) also recorded narratives in his diaries kept during public health work in Brazil. He not only records scientific observations, but does it with humor. His writing voice was warm, sarcastic and funny.
    7. Shifting focus to the drawings, several scientists were especially adept at sketching.

    8. Student Task: Draw something that you couldn’t capture with a photograph. Mary Agnes Chase (pp. 88-89) originally worked as a botanical illustrator. Early in her career, she learned to use a microscope which helped her make observations that brought her work to life. She also used photography extensively later in her career, and it’s interesting to discuss with students the role of a botanical illustrator as compared with a photographer. Illustrators are free to combine elements from different seasons: for example a flower and a fruit. Photographers are restricted to only what their cameras can record. Also look at how carefully her type-written pages are edited.
    9. Student Task: Draw and use color to add information. While many of the scientists included drawings, Donald S. Erdman (pp. 100-101) took them to a new level with color (although shown in b/w here). But he didn’t use color just to use color. Instead, he describes the reason for color: that preserved fish quickly lose any color.For proper identification and understanding of the fish, color was required. Students should learn to use whatever tools are necessary to record observations.
    10. Student Task: Draw a map. Robert E. Silberglied (pp. 112-113) had an amazing eye for visual details. Notice the elaborate key and compass indicating north that he used on his map of Gomez Farias in Mexico. Silberglied also specialized in photography. He used ultraviolet light in his studies and photographed flowers in ultraviolet light. Optical microscopy allowed him to zoom in close on a butterfly’s wing. Though he didn’t use it, we introduce the idea of aerial or satellite photography and electron microscopy in the discussion questions.
    11. Student Task: Describe physical location and conditions. Almost all these American scientists collected specimens. Throughout, you’ll see discussions of objects that are sent back home for further study. From Chase’s grasses to Wetmore’s bird skins, collecting items for further study is an important part of observation. Scientists were careful to record exactly when and where the items were collected. Often the descriptions involve a physical location (e.g. Silberglied’s “. . .2 miles off Mexican Highway 85”6)Temperature, weather, elevation and other conditions are often reported. Students need to learn to record these type of variables.
    12. Example of original source documents in MY STEAM NOTEBOOK. Watson Perrygo prepares a snake for display in the Smithsonian Museum. |
      Example of original source documents in MY STEAM NOTEBOOK. Watson Perrygo prepares a snake for display in the Smithsonian Museum. |
      Student Task: Write an informative essay about objects or results of an investigation. Watson M. Perrygo (pp. 124-125), as a taxidermist and museum curator, shows one of the final stages of observations and collection of specimens. The objects are available for various scientific studies, and they are also made available for the general public to view in a museum setting. The specimens are important historical snapshots of an ecosystem and can be compared to contemporary conditions. But they are also an entertaining way to learn more science. Museums write informational materials to help the public understand what they are seeing.

    This amazing interactive notebook for kids has fascinating info. Diaries, drawings, and much more to help kids learn how to use a scientist's notebook. Useful and interesting. |
    This amazing interactive notebook for kids has fascinating info. Diaries, drawings, and much more to help kids learn how to use a scientist’s notebook. Useful and interesting. |
    MY STEAM NOTEBOOK: 150 Years of Primary Source Documents from American Scientists shows original drawings, writings, maps, photographs and more. From that students should learn to write in their notebooks in ways that help them record and understand scientific observations. Available on February 21, 2017.

    h3>Sign up to be notified when this book is available

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    Submit to Book Awards!

    As in indie author do you submit to book awards? It’s one marketing strategy that might be a long shot, but if you win, it could pay off. I often enter my books into book awards. Here are some of the winners!

    2017 National Science Teacher’s Association Outstanding Science Trade Books

    Named a 2017 NSTA Outstanding Science Trade Books
    Also on the Alabama Camellia Children’s Book Award reading list 2016-17

    2015 National Science Teacher’s Association Outstanding Science Trade Books

    2015 NSTA Outstanding Science Trade Book

    Muse Medallion for Cat Illustrations

    2016 Muse Medallion for Cat Illustrations |

    Writer’s Digest Self-Published Award for Children’s Literature

    **Starred Publisher’s Weekly review **

    Writer's Digest Self Published Children's Book Award

    How to Submit

    When you consider submitting to a book award, you should consider this process as part of your marketing and publicity. Each book award looks for certain types of books to honor, so there are a wide variety of choices. As you consider where to send, pay attention to these things: entry fees, membership requirements, criterion for judging, deadlines for submission, and number of books required. Some awards are too pricey for me. I’ve seen some require a $75 entry fee, along with ten copies of the book to be given to judges. That’s a lot of investment into a single award. I tend to avoid those. For more on contests to avoid, see the recent ALLI post, How Indie Authors Can Avoid Predatory Awards and the Award and Contest Ratings. Also, be aware that an award by itself won’t sell books; however, the recognition is useful in your overall marketing; it may also lead to marketing in a niche market that fits your book.

    Some reasons to submit:
    When you’re traditionally published, the editor/publisher must decide which books to submit to which awards. I realize that my books probably would NOT have been submitted for awards that I’ve won. More established writers would have taken precedence, especially when there are costs of fees/books. As an indie publisher, though, I decide which to submit. And I always err on the side of taking the risk to submit.

    First, I think the odds are much better. If you want your book to stand out in “today’s crowded market,” it’s hard. These awards, however, have a small number of entries. The recent NSTA Outstanding Science Trade Book award had about 200 children’s science books submitted and about 50 were recognized. The odds are much better that you’ll be noticed. Submissions to other prizes will vary, but usually the pool of books is smaller than what you’ll find in the general market.

    Second, I want to publish the best books possible. Someone once said that they didn’t want to compete against Mo Willems for awards. Well, I do! I want to compete against the very best of children’s books and find a place of excellence for my work. Win or lose, you’ll learn something about levels of quality (from that particular set of judges, anyway). And that’s helpful for the next books and for your long term publishing program.

    Third, if you win, your marketing gets a boost. It gives you something to talk about, an audience to address, and a long-term boost.

    Where to Submit: Children’s Book Awards

    The list below is a work-in-progress list of children’s book awards. Please research each list carefully and consider entry fee, membership requirements, criterion for judging, deadlines for submission, number of books required, and your own criterion before submitting. Some lists will explicitly say that they are open to indie/self-published books, while others say nothing about that. I always assume that submissions from my publishing house, Mims House, are welcome.Email me with an update or addition to the list.


    Multicultural Children’s Book Day January 27, 2017

    Multicultural Children's Book Day |

    In honor of Multicultural Children’s Book Day (MCCBD) on January 27, 2017, the Children’s Book Council is teaming up with MCCBD on a very special blog series: the #ReadYourWorld Book Jam. Running from January to February, the series will shine the light on 24 children’s book authors and illustrators and their favorite diverse books. Mims House’s Darcy Pattison will be featured on January 3 discussing books about adopted and foster children. Her list concludes with her book, Longing for Normal.

    Booklist says, “Pattison’s characters provide a reason to keep reading. In voices old before their time, due to years in the system, they describe their desperate attempts to stay relevant to the adults in their lives. A rare book featuring foster kids in realistic scenarios.”

    Can Eliot save his family with a simple bread recipe? Longing for Normal is "a rare book" says Booklist.

    Below is the lineup of participating children’s book creators:

    • January 2: Jo Meserve Mach and Vera Lynne Stroup-Rentier
    • January 3: Darcy Pattison
    • January 4: Sandra L. Richards
    • January 5: Linda Williams Jackson
    • January 9: Francisco Vallejo
    • January 10: Michael Smith
    • January 11: Curtis C. Chen
    • January 12: Shannon Jones
    • January 16: SF Said
    • January 17: Stephanie Campisi
    • January 18: The Editors at Science, Naturally
    • January 19: Luis Amavisca
    • January 23: Erin Dealey and Luciana Navarro Powell
    • January 24: Louise Gornall
    • January 25: Carl Angel
    • January 26: J. Torres
    • January 30: Farhana Zia
    • January 31: Cynthia Levinson
    • February 1: Aram Kim
    • February 2: Julius Lester
    • February 6: Stacy McAnulty
    • February 7: Alice Pung
    • February 8: Soman Chainani

    Stay tuned for the Multicultural Children’s Book Day celebration in January!


    National Science Teacher's Association names NEFERTITI, THE SPIDERNAUT a 2017 Outstanding Science Trade Book. | MimsHouse.comLITTLE ROCK, AR – December 13, 2016 — For 100 days in 2012, a Johnson jumping spider (Phiddipus johnsonii) circled Earth while aboard the International Space Station. She circled the Earth 1584 times, traveling about 41,580,000 miles. When author Darcy Pattison heard the story, she researched and wrote a children’s picture book, Nefertiti, the Spidernaut: How a Jumping Spider Learned to Hunt in Space, which had just been named a 2017 National Science Teacher’s Association Outstanding Science Trade Book.
    Brochure here. (pdf)

    Click Here to READ the Book NOW

    NEFERTITI, THE SPIDERNAUT has been named a 2017 NSTA Outstanding Science Trade Book | MimsHouse.comThe spider was included in the space mission because of an international YouTube competition, which asked youths worldwide to create a video suggesting an experiment for the International Space Station. Amr Mohammed of Alexandria, Egypt won the competition by proposing to send a jumping spider to space. Most spiders spin webs and passively wait for prey to be caught. Jumping spiders, however, actively hunt. When they see prey, they pounce! But what happens when a spider jumps in space? It will float. Amr hypothesized that the spider wouldn’t be able to hunt in the microgravity of the space station and would starve to death. In honor of his country, he named the spider Nefertiti.

    The book tells the story of Nefertiti, the Johnson jumping spider, from her hatching through the exciting days of the experiment, and her final days at the Smithsonian Museum. Scientists tested her ability to survive the rigors of space, including extended periods of dark and cold. After passing those tests, she was loaded onto an unmanned rocket and sent to the International Space Station. Scientists stocked her habitat with fruit flies, and then videotaped her for two hours a day for two weeks. Astronaut Sunita Williams, Captain U.S. Navy said, “It was a suspense story for me as it happened.”

    This is an astonishing story of change: through the dark and cold, in spite of being weightless and isolated, this incredible spider adapted and learned to hunt. Against all odds, she survived to return to Earth, where she had to re-adapt to Earth’s gravity. Nefertiti’s story of survival brings hope that we, too, can adapt to a changing world.

    Pattison has won this prestigious recognition for her work before in 2015 for Abayomi, the Brazilian Puma (Mims House), and 2013 for Desert Baths (Arbordale). For more, see

    Children’s book author Darcy Pattison finds inspiration in writing about science and nature; three times her books have been honored as NSTA Outstanding Science Trade Books. Her nature picture books include Nefertiti, the Spidernaut: How a Jumping Spider Learned to Hunt in Space (Mims House), a 2017 NSTA Outstanding Science Trade Book; Abayomi, the Brazilian Puma: The True Story of an Orphaned Cub (Mims House), an NSTA 2015 Outstanding Science Trade Book; Wisdom, the Midway Albatross: Surviving the Japanese Tsunami and Other Disasters for Over 60 Years (Mims House), a starred review in Publisher’s Weekly; Desert Baths (Arbordale), an NSTA Outstanding Science Trade Book 2013; and, Prairie Storms (Arbordale). Burn: Michael Faraday’s Candle (Mims House, Spring 2016) is a physical science book about how a candle burns, based on Michael Faraday’s famous 1848 juvenile Christmas lecture.

    Other picture books include The Journey of Oliver K. Woodman (Harcourt), which received an Irma Simonton Black and James H. Black Award for Excellence in Children’s Literature Honor Book award, starred reviews in BCCB and Kirkus, and has been published in a Houghton Mifflin textbook; Searching for Oliver K. Woodman (Harcourt); 19 Girls and Me (Philomel); and 11 Ways to Ruin a Photograph: A Military Family Story (Mims House). Her series, The ALIEN, INC. CHAPTER BOOK SERIES includes Kell, the Alien; Kell and the Horse Apple Parade; Kell and the Giants; and Kell and the Detectives. She is also the author of middle grade novels and teaches nationally a Novel Revision Retreat. For more, see

    In her debut picture book, Columbian illustrator Valeria Tisnés, charms with her anatomically correct, yet exciting work. Her passion for accurate scientific illustrations is fueled by the textures and details she observes in nature and in animals.

    Established in 2008, Mims House publishes children’s picture books and novels, teacher resource books, or how-to-write books. Located in the historic Quapaw Quarter of Little Rock, AR, the publisher takes its name from the Victorian House where it resides; the homes in the historic district are named after families who lived there in 1890. Mims House is a member of the Independent Book Publisher’s Association and the Children’s Book Council. Our books are widely available through online, educational, and library distributors.

    80 Books in 4 Years: Sally Huss

    Today, I’d like to present a case study on an indie children’s book author-illustrator-publisher. Sally Huss has an amazing career that includes tennis, art and a successful career writing and illustrating children’s books.

    As a child, Sally was always interested in art and painting. But she took a break from art to pursue a career in tennis. She won U.S. and Wimbledon Junior Championships and was a semi-finalist in the Women’s division at Wimbledon; later in life, she was a top senior player. Following that career, she and her husband opened several art galleries, where she painted and sold art. Her galleries were eventually closed because of changes in the economy and Sally found herself needing a new career.
    Indie Kids Book author and illustrator, Sally Huss, explains how she's published 80 books in 4 years.. |

    Beginning in 2012, she started illustrating and publishing her own children’s books. Focusing on happy stories that center on developing social skills/emotional skills, she illustrated with a simple, loose style that perfectly suits the stories. Sally said that she also does a daily panel for newspapers with an inspirational quote that she’s done for years. She always wrote stories and just stuffed them into a drawer.

    She’s drawn on this vast catalog of stories and art to create her stories. She includes only one illustration per page, which allows her to easily create ebooks in Kindle Kid’s Creator Program. Books also became paperback books through Createspace.

    Her strategy from the first has been to publish exclusively with KDP Select. At first, KDP paid authors on the number of books read. Huss participated in the KDP program that allowed her to give her ebooks away “free” (for a period of time) to gain followers and encourage sales.

    Then KDP changed its method of paying, not for the actual sales, but for borrowed books. This payment was no longer on each loaned book, but on the number of pages read. Huss, along with many other children’s book authors, no doubt, objected loud and clear, and was probably part of the reason that Amazon started paying a bonus to “All-Star” children’s independent book authors/publishers who had stellar sales. Now, she consistently gets those bonus payments for her books.

    Sally Huss's Christmas Story. She's written 80 books in 4 years. See how. | IndieKidsBooks.comHer business strategy of relying on KDP Select has paid off in a surprising way. Huss is now getting requests to sell her books to schools. Presently, she’s working to putting the books into hardcover for that market through IngramSpark. Huss is moving slowly through her list because it takes time to convert files to meet the specs of printing hardcovers.

    Find Sally Huss’s extensive list of children’s picture books here on Amazon.

    Jumping Spiders: How They Hear

    What do we mean by a sense of hearing? Humans hear by translating sound waves, through the mechanical systems in the ear, into signals sent to the brain. The human brain learns to interpret a variety of sounds, including human speech, into something meaningful.

    This amazing spider traveled on the International Space Station for over 100 days! Read her inspiring story. | MimsHouse.comJumping spiders, including Nefertiti, the Spidernaut (Phiddipus johnsoni), do not have ears. Until recently, scientists thought that jumping spiders do not hear. New research shows that the hairs on a spider’s legs translate sound into brain signals. Further, spiders can recognize the menacing sound of a wasp approaching.

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

    Read the whole article about research into how jumping spider hear.

    While Nefertiti was on the International Space Station, Astronaut Suni Williams said that the spider often seemed to follow her with her eyes. Perhaps part of the attention was also based on noises that Nefertiti heard.

    Animal Biography Series – Lesson Plans

    The Animal Biography Series

    With the publication of Nefertiti, the Spidernaut, the animal biographies we publish has become a series. We are working on a set of Lesson Plans geared toward the NGSS.

    Click here to download the lesson plans.

    This is an early draft and we’d love input on how you use the books in your classes (Email:

    Wisdom, the Midway Albatross

    This is the story of the oldest known wild bird in the world and how she has survived for over 65 years. | MimsHouse.comWisdom, the Midway Albatross is the story of the oldest known wild bird in the world. She has been continuously banded since December 10,1956. This is the story of her remarkable survival for over 65 years. And amazingly, the story is ongoing: on February 4, 2016, she hatched a new chick!

    Multimedia resources for Wisdom

    Abayomi, the Brazilian Puma

    2015 NSTA Outstanding Science Trade Book

    How does an orphaned cub survive on his own? | MimsHouse.comWhen a mother cub tries to catch a chicken for her cubs, she’s caught in a trap. She dies in the ensuing struggle, leaving at least one cub on his own. This is the story of how Abayomi survived.

    Nefertiti, the Spidernaut

    2017 NSTA Outstanding Science Trade Book

    Nefertiti, the Spidernaut | MimsHouse.comThis is the amazing true story of a Johnson jumping spider who survived 100 days on the International Space Station. The experiment centered around her ability to learn to hunt in space. Most spiders are passive hunters, just spinning a web and waiting for prey to come to them. But jumping spiders actively hunt their prey.

    Click here to download the lesson plans.

    Christmas Gifts List

    Here’s our Recommended Christmas Gifts for your favorite kid, librarian, writer, or book lover on your list.

    1. GIFTS FOR KIDS: Get the App That Encourages Kids to Read Great Books

      EPIC! is an amazing book app for kids and one my grandkids actually read. How do I know?
      EPIC! emails me a weekly report on what they’ve read that week.

      It’s the exact books that you want kids to be reading. How do I know?
      All Mims House books are on this app.

      It’s the right price! How do I know?
      Because it’s only $5 month. But don’t take my word for it. EPIC! offers a free trial month!

      Take advantage of it now!
      Gifts Subscription on Epic!
      Give the Gift of Reading
      FOR TEACHER OR LIBRARIAN: EPIC! offers a free educational version of the app. Check it out now.
      When you sign up for the app, be sure to search for and READ Mims House books!

    2. GIFTS FOR GIRLS: Baby, Toddler and Young Girls T-Shirts – I’M ROWDY!

      T-Shirts to accompany ROWDY: THE PIRATE WHO COULD NOT SLEEP. Perfect bedtime book for fathers and daughters. Watch videos of fathers reading to their daughters here. T-shirts available in baby and children’s sizes; different colors available. Only available until December 31.

      I'm Rowdy - Baby T-shirt in White to accompany the ROWDY book. | MIms

      Kid's T-Shirt to Accompany the ROWDY book. |

      Gift the Gift of Empowerment
      I'm Rowdy - Baby T-Shirt in Pink to accompany the ROWDY book. Great gifts for kids.|

      Give the shirt and the book!
      Rowdy: The Pirate Who Could Not Sleep. Gifts for kids.|

    3. GIFTS FOR FANS OF CANDLES: Faraday Explains Your Favorite Candle

      Who’s Candle Crazy in Your House? There’s bound to be an aunt, grandmother or teenage kids. They love those candles, but sadly, they don’t understand them. The perfect gift for the candle-lover is Burn: Michael Faradays Candle, along with a special candle. To accompany BURN: MICHAEL FARADAYS CANDLE, buy this cinnamon-cider Aromatique candle. |
      I live in Arkansas, the home of the Aromatique candles. My favorite scent for the holiday season is Cinnamon Cider. I use it for Thanksgiving and Christmas. I know. They make other scents for Christmas, but this one just says holidays.

      To accompany our science book, BURN: MICHAEL FARADAY’S CANDLE, we suggest the Cinnamon Cider Pillar candle. You can’t do Faraday’s candle experiment with candles in a jar; it’s got to be the old-fashioned candles that go into a candlestick holder, or a pillar candle like this.
      Gift the Gift of Light and Enlightenment
      Burn: Michael Faraday's Candle book cover |

    4. GIFTS FOR KIDS WHO GET TABLETS: Let Reading Rule on Tablets

      Will someone you know give a tablet to a child? All that screen time competes with reading! But you can fight it by paying fora year of the EPIC! app. Also, load up your favorite ereader app with some great books. Whether you choose the iBook app, the Kobo app, or the Kindle app, you’ll find Mims House books waiting to be loaded up. Get the kids started on the path to reading on their tablets.

      A great place to start is a simple series of book. The short chapter series, The Aliens, Inc. is a funny, family-oriented look at how aliens make a living on Earth. Kell Smith, with the help of his BFF, Bree, make cakes for birthday parties and help plan the parties. When Bree wants an alien-themed party, Kell is stumped. How can this lovable alien family pull a great alien party without exposing who they are?

      Give the Gift of Reading!
      The Aliens, Inc. Box Set by Darcy Pattison |

    5. GIFTS FOR WRITERS: Scrivener

      When they first start writing, most people choose to use a word-processor, such as Microsoft Word or WordPerfect. A more professional software, though, is Scrivener because it allows you to focus on the organization of your writing. For nonfiction, it’s amazing to see the chapters divided out. Research is a breeze because you can pull in websites and not have to go looking for obscure sites later. I’ve written about its uses several times.

      Give the gift of Writing!
      Buy Scrivener 2 for Mac OS X (Education Licence)

    6. Give the gift of writing

      For those writers in your family, we have several books.
      This workbook is a gem! It helps you write the book of your dreams. Info on writing ABCs, rhyming picture books and much more. |

      30 Days to a Stronger Novel |

      Start Your Novel the right way with 6 easy steps. |

      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. |

    Book related gifts for kids, librarians, and that picky aunt. |

    Note: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links, which means that if you choose to make a purchase, I will earn a commission. This commission comes at no additional cost to you. I recommend these gifts because they are fun and interesting, not because of the small commissions I make if you decide to buy something. Please do not spend any money on these products unless you feel you they are perfect for your Christmas list.

    Spot the Space Station

    Nefertiti, the Spidernaut

    This amazing spider traveled on the International Space Station for over 100 days! Read her inspiring story. | MimsHouse.comDo you ever think about what goes on overhead? Every day, airplanes, satellites, and the International Space Station circle the Earth.

    Launching today is our latest nonfiction picture book for kids. Nefertiti, the Spidernaut is the story of a Johnson jumping spider who went to the International Space Station for 100 days. It’s a story of change: through the dark and cold, in spite of being weightless and isolated, this amazing spider adapted and learned to hunt. She survived to return to Earth, where she had to re-adapt to Earth’s gravity. Nefertiti’s story of survival inspires hope that we, too, can adapt to a changing world.

    When Will the Space Station be Over Your Location?

    When you read this story with kids, they are sure to ask more about the International Space Station (ISS). Here’s a great, free resource to use with your class. NASA provides this widget to help you keep track of the ISS. Get the widget here for your classroom’s website. Or you can sign up to be texted when the ISS is overhead.

    If you can’t see this widget in your email, click here to try it out.


    This amazing spider traveled on the International Space Station for over 100 days! Read her inspiring story. |


    Ask about volume discounts.

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

    Deliciously Creepy: Not One, but Two Miracles

    Just in Time for Halloween


    Do your readers want something creepy, not horrifying?

    Creepy Halloween Book: The Girl, the Gypsy, and the Gargoyle cover“Every 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? And can miracles come from tragedy?

    Threatened with the loss of the only home she’s known, Laurel listens to a proposal from Master Gimpel, a deformed stone carver. He intrigues Laurel when he offers a path to untold riches. Master Gimpel explains that his Troll’s Eye, a red jewel, is a doorway into the stone world where a treasure cave awaits. From the moment Laurel looks through the Troll’s Eye, she and her gypsy companion enter a dangerous race for their lives.

    This is a rich, surprising, and sometimes disturbing tale of gargoyles, and those who carve the creatures from solid stone. There’s darkness in this cautionary tale, that nevertheless pulls off not one, but two miracles, and brings Laurel home to stay.

    Follow Laurel’s harrowing journey toward miracles.

    Read Sample Chapters

    Read files in your choice of formats: epub, Kindle, or pdf.

    Wow, a perfect middle grade novel. NOT horrifying, but just the right touch of creepy.  DOWNLOAD SAMPLE CHAPTERS. |

    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. |

    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. |
    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. |

    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. |
    Approximately full size illustration of the spider’s habitat on the International Space Station. Art by Valeria Tisnes. |

    How to Order

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

    Available on October 11, 2016



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

    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. |

    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. |
    Kell and the Horse Apple Parade includes b/w illustrations. It’s an example of how a children’s flowable ebook uses illustrations. |
    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. |
    Burn: Michael Faraday’s Candle is an example of a fixed-format children’s picture book. |

    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. |


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

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



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

    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. |
    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.