Category: Mims Kids

Timely fiction and nonfiction for kids.

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. |

    2 Reasons Your Self-Published Children’s Book Doesn’t Sell

    For the last year, I’ve been taking a serious look around the landscape of self-published, or indie, children’s books. I get the daily BookBub listing for children’s book category, and I often download the free or inexpensive books. I’ve joined several listservs, Facebook Groups, etc. of people writing and illustrating children’s books. I’ve started to see a couple threads running through the comments, especially that children’s books are hard to market. Indeed!

    I’m going to give you my opinion on why many of these books aren’t selling. It’s just my opinion, feel free to disagree. First, though, let me tell you my background and where I’m coming from. I “grew up” in the traditional world and am still a hybrid author with a couple books still with a traditional publisher. More than that, I established the Arkansas chapter of the Society of Children’s Bookwriters and Illustrators (, and ran a conference for them for twelve years. In 1999, I established the Novel Revision Retreat, which I’ve taught across the US and Canada. To attend, you must have a complete draft of a novel, and then we spend a weekend discussing how to revise your novel. After the retreat, many authors have broken through with their first publishing contract, and a few have won major awards or starred reviews for their revised stories.

    This summer, for the third year, I’ll be teaching at the Highlights Foundation. The first class is PB&J: Picture Books and All That Jazz, co-taught with Leslie Helakoski, the SCBWI Regional Advisor for Michigan. I’ll also teach Self or Indie Publishing: Answering the Big Questions. Based on my extensive teaching, I’ve also written several books on how to write. In other words, I have been and still am steeped in the traditional publishing world. Everything I learned there, I bring to the indie kids book world.

    What’s your Literary Aesthetic?

    Given that perspective, the first reason many self-published books fail is they follow a different aesthetic. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, they say. And that’s absolutely true in publishing, where you live or die by your opinion. The traditional publishing world demands excellent writing, art and graphics. The indie world fails most often because they follow a different aesthetic.

    I’m not saying your book cover, layout and design is awful. If you think it’s beautiful, who am I to say different? But I do say that many indie books adhere to a different aesthetic than traditional publishing and that aesthetic hurts them in the marketplace. Sometimes that aesthetic labels them as definitely self-published and inferior. Right or wrong, the marketplace still understands the traditional aesthetic better than it does the other.

    Too many times, I see artwork, graphic design of the cover, and so on that fails by the traditional aesthetic. It’s what you hear when people talk about adult self-published books: hire a cover designer and get the book edited. For illustrated children’s books, I would add, hire an art director. I understand that you may want to illustrate something yourself, but then you need someone pushing your art to its highest level. If you have little experience with children’s books, you shouldn’t rely on yourself to be the art director.

    I highly recommend Robin Williams book, The Non-Designer’s Design & Type Books. It’s out of print, so you have to get used or Kindle copies. It’s a combination of two books, The Non-Designer’s Design Book and The Non-Designer’s Type Book. Buy them that way if you prefer. But get them. You need them. Williams is clear, easy to understand and can pull your book cover toward the traditional aesthetic.

    Too many times, I go to Amazon and Look Inside an indie-published short chapter book or middle grade novel, and I can’t get past the first page. There are too many things that don’t fit the aesthetics of traditional publishing. Jefferson Smith’s Immerse or Die issues a challenge to indie authors and their books. He walks on his treadmill for 40 minutes a day and while walking, he reads an indie book. He notes the time at which he stops reading because the writing has caused him to pull out of the story. Read his post on the 51 things that break reader immersion. It’s as good an explanation as I’ve seen — for indie or traditional publishing — of why novels or short chapter books don’t succeed.

    Another good starting place is the classic book, Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Brown and Dave King. Before people attend my Novel Revision Retreat, I require them to read this book.

    Of course, if you really like your aesthetic, don’t change it. But realize the your sales may suffer no matter how big you grow your mailing list (or by following the marketing-technique-flavor-of-the-month).

    Do You Respect Your Audience?

    Another problem I see with self-published children’s books is a lack of respect for their audience. There’s often a condescending attitude: Poor little baby/child. Let me tell you a pretty story.

    Any time I see the words “little” or “sweet” in a book title or description, I cringe. “It’s about a sweet little bee. . .” ACK!

    No. I believe that you should treat your audience with respect. Sure, they’re young and don’t understand everything. But don’t underestimate their ability to understand when you’re talking down to them. Too often, I hear the comment, “It’s JUST a kid’s book.” By which they mean, quality doesn’t matter. Anyone can write a children’s picture book, it’s simple.

    No. Writing a complete story in 500 words is hard.

    But it’s not just that. It’s as if people think kids should be happy with the crumbs. I’ll spend my time writing my epic fantasy and get it edited and a great cover. But the kids’ book? I’ll toss that off in thirty minutes. (I’m not arguing about the time involved, just the casual-doesn’t-matter attitude.)

    Walter dela Mare has said:

    “Only the rarest kind of best in anything can be good enough for the young.”

    That quote is at the top of this blog/site. It’s an attitude of respect that I adhere to.

    Adult writers, who think you can get rich by publishing a children’s book, please leave. Unless you have a deep respect for this audience, please don’t try it.

    Likewise, I’ve heard an author say, “Well, I don’t want to compete against traditionally published books. It’s not fair to pit me against someone like Mo Willems.”

    Well, I want to compete with the best. I’ll likely fail, but by striving to meet that traditional aesthetic, I think I push myself toward a better book for kids. Because I still think the traditional aesthetic is great.

    Get an Art Director and an Editor

    My biases are pretty clear. I love books with a great artistic aesthetic that skews toward the traditional side; that goes for the art and the writing. Those books, I believe, will sell better. If your book isn’t selling well, in spite of vigorous marketing efforts, look again at the book.

    Hire an artist or graphic designer to give you an overhaul on the art; if you’re the artist, ask someone to act as your art director.

    Hire a great copy editor, at the least. Even if you don’t go back and do it for backlist, try it for your next release.

    Let me quote Walter de la Mere again:

    “Only the rarest kind of best in anything can be good enough for the young.”

    2 Simple Reasons Why Your Self-Published Book Doesn't Sell |

    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.

    Children’s Books Sell Online: Data Guy on Juvenile Sales

    Data Guy is a statistician who has taken on the role of analyzing book sales and comparing traditional v. indie publishing in many ways. He presented his latest report at Digital Book World in January, 2107. Slides from his presentation are available at

    The results have been discussed and analyzed in many ways. One of the most startling findings is that for traditional publishers, 48% of their sales are online in the form of either audiobooks or ebooks. And overall, about 70% of US fiction sales are online as either audiobooks or ebooks.

    Kristine Kathryn Rusch makes the starting conclusion that these statistics means there is no compelling reason to look for a traditional publisher. If your goal has been to be in a brick and mortar store, then traditional publisher can only deliver that half the time. In other words, with books sales moving online, they are selling on venues where indie authors can compete effectively. That includes upselling in digital formats, control over pricing and having a great reach than traditional publishers.

    Is that true of children’s books, too? Or is that only adult fiction? Fortunately, Data Guy gives genre breakdowns in many of his slides. Let’s look at what it says about children’s fiction and non-fiction.

    Raw Numbers

    First, I love the raw numbers. In 2016, there were 35 million print sales of juvenile non-fiction at tradition brick & mortar stores. Wow! That’s a lot of books. The National Center for Education Statistics says that in Fall, 2016, there were 35.4 million students in K-8 public schools. That means about one non-fiction book per child. There are an additional 26 million books from combined online print, ebooks and audio sales. That puts it at about 1.6 books per student.

    For juvenile fiction, there are 117 million print books sold at brick and mortar stores, or about 3.3 books per student. Online there were 77.2 million sold (print, ebook and audio) or about 2 per student. Totaling up all of that, 7.9 or about 8 children’s books published each year for every student. Of course, if you include private schools, that number will go down some. Still, there are a lot of new books to go around each year.

    Online v Brick & Mortar – Children’s Books

    Data Guy asserts that the real question for the coming years is the difference in online sales versus offline sales in a real store. For adult books the shift is clear. But it’s not quite as clear for juvenile fiction. One reason for this is that Data Guy is looking mostly at Amazon’s data obtained by spidering the site with a bot. He doesn’t look at sales from educational distributors like Follett, Mackin, Permabound and so on. That’s a huge market just by itself, and isn’t counted in the data here. However, going just with Data Guy’s data, we’ll look at trends.

    For the data below, ONLINE means online print sales, audiobooks and ebooks.
    Indie means self-published.

    For traditionally published books only:
    41% of children’s non-fiction book sales are online
    40% of children’s fiction books are online.

    You can almost ignore these figures because it ignores the impact of indie sales. Instead, look at the combined sales below.

    For traditional, Indie, and Amazon-imprint:
    5% juvenile non-fiction are Indie.
    14% juvenile fiction are Indie.

    For traditional, Indie, and Amazon-imprint:
    45% juvenile non-fiction are bought online
    48% juvenile fiction are bought online

    In other words, indie publishers of juvenile materials have an incredible opportunity right now. Just under half the books are sold online, where indies can compete easier. With only 5% and 14% of juvenile non-fiction and fiction sales, respectively, coming from Indies, there’s tremendous possibility for growth.

    For example, in adult fiction 42% are from indie publishers and 77% are bought online, compared to 14% of juvenile fiction from indie publisher and 48% bought online. If juvenile books can bring the numbers closer to the adult fiction market, indie juvenile sales will boom. In other words, juvenile books (fiction and non-fiction) are an area under-served by indie publishers.

    Category of sales

    Data Guy has one fascinating chart that breaks down the categories of books for juvenile non-fiction online sales from Indies or Amazon imprints. He charts the percentage of US online book purchases of Indie + Amazon imprint titles (first percentage below) against the percentage of US online book purchases that have gone digital (ebooks, audio) (second percentage below). All percentages are approximate. See the chart because otherwise, this can get confusing!

    Animals – Less than 1% | Less than 1/5
    Concepts –8 % | 5%
    Holidays/festivals/religion –9% | 3%
    History/sports/people/places –10% | 5%
    Education/reference/language –15% | 10%
    Games/activities/hobbies – 20% | 18%
    Biographies/autobiographies – 28% | 12%
    Social situation/family/health – 22% | 65%

    Data Guy data on juvenile non-fiction categories. |

    Does this mean that the sales go to traditional publishers because their books are better illustrated and published? Or because there are so few indie books in these areas? When I see that sales are very low percentages for Indie books, I think growth potential. For example the social situation/family/health category is 65% sales online, yet indies only represent 22% of titles. In every juvenile category, the percentage of indies is low and represent incredible growth categories. If you choose a sub-category, it would be even easier to find success with great books.

    For juvenile fiction categories, online sales.
    The first % is digital sales (ebooks and audiobooks); the second is % indie titles. Again, see the chart.

    Concepts – 6% | 5%
    Classics – 18% | 2%
    History/people/places/sports 25% | 10%
    Social situations/family/health 30% | 8%
    Holidays 32% | 12%
    Animals 40% | 18%
    General juvenile fiction 52% | 35%
    Juvenile Sci-fi & fantasy 70% | 38%

    Data Guy's statistics on juvenile fiction categories. |

    However, Data Guy breaks the Juvenile sci-fi/fantasy into YA/Teen and Children’s.
    The first % is the digital sales (ebooks and audiobooks); the second % is indie titles.

    Children’s science fiction/fantasy 28% | 10%
    YA/Teen science fiction/fantasy 85% | 58%

    Clearly, the YA/Teen market is strong in the science fiction/fantasy category, and much weaker for children’s. The average ebook for self-published YA/Teen SFF was $3.23 for indie publisher and $7.41 for traditional publisher (Non Top 5) and $9.06 for the top 5 publishers.

    BIG Opportunity: Growth Potential

    There is immense growth potential for children’s indie published books; this includes digital and print books. In almost every category except YA/Teen SFF, indie books are under-represented. Since about half of all juvenile books (45% non-fiction; 48% fiction) are sold online, indie publisher need to sharpen their marketing skills to reach more of their audience online. It’s time to focus on up-selling the digital formats, experimenting with prices to find the maximum profit range, and connecting with your readers.

    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.

    The Aliens, Inc. Box Set

    Those crazy ALIENS are back

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

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

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

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

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

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

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