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Illustrating for Authorhouse children’s books

Posted by Scott Gregory on

AuthorHouse publishes tons of children’s books each year. Many of those books fall short on their appeal due to amateur illustrations. Even the illustration services that they provide (by way of India and southeast Asia) are sadly inadequate for today’s discerning tastes. Simply having illustrations is not enough. The artwork in your children’s book should be outstanding. Customers WILL judge your book by its cover and by its artwork. In a contemporary children’s book the text is integrated with the illustration. You won’t find that in most AuthorHouse children’s books. Unless, you allow Dragonpencil to illustrate your book for you. We have illustrated dozens of children’s books for POD companies such as AuthorHouse. We have 20 illustrators who are real, actual professional artists. AND we have real people for you to call and to manage your illustration project. Which artist do you want to for your book?

Publishing Biz/Book Promotion/Self-Publishing/Writing

Dallas Clayton : Awesomly Self-Published Success

Posted by Scott Gregory on

In 2005, Dallas Clayton did what so many parents think about doing themselves. He wrote and illustrated a children’s book for his son. The book was called simply, An Awesome Book! It was a 64 page picture book chock full of inspiration for Dallas’s son to lead an awesome life. Dallas put the book on his website for free for others to look at. Other people wanted it for their child after seeing it, so Dallas had some printed. That was 50,000 copies ago.

Dallas now has 6 books, all similar to the first, and spends much of his time promoting them and doing readings. He has signed a 3-book deal with Harper Collins and a 2-book deal with Candlewick. And I’m sure that those deals were made on his terms, and not theirs. His success with children’s books has also provided him with offers to do other work related to movies and TV. Dallas Clayton is living the dream.

The world is full of Dallas Claytons. Creative men and women with a story to tell and the drive to see it through. But most of those people will never take that first step towards self-publishing. We are afraid that our story isn’t good enough, or that the publishing world is too exclusive for us to break into. No longer. There are too many success stories out there to believe in those negative thoughts. It is time to cast away doubt and dive in. It’s time to be AWESOME!

Publishing Biz/Self-Publishing

Last Penguin Standing

Posted by Scott Gregory on

Random House, Penguin, Alfred A. Knopf, Doubleday, Crown, Pantheon, Ballantine, Viking, Putnam, Dutton, and many other publishing houses are now only one publisher. This new behemoth is called Penguin Random-House. I guess Penguin House sounded too silly. Along with Random Penguins there are only 4 other big publishers; Hachette, Macmillan, HarperCollins, and Simon & Schuster. If you thought getting a publishing contract was impossible before then it is now double impossible. Self-publishing gets a bad rap because there is little if any quality control. But the marketplace is now the filter. Amazing books are published by independent authors. I know, I helped launch quite a few of them.

None of the big publishers were interested in The Elf On The Shelf and today it is practically synonymous with Christmas. They even had a giant balloon in the Macy’s parade this year.

How a Self-Published Book Became a Best-seller

Publishing Biz/eBooks

Ebooks on the New iPad’ aka ‘iPad 3′ aka ‘Retina Display iPad’

Posted by Scott Gregory on

Wondering how your ebook will look on the new iPad with the high-resolution display? Let me break it down for you.

Existing Ebooks

Firstly, your antiquated ebook made two months ago can be reformatted specifically for the iPad3. The images can be made larger to suit the higher-res display which has more pixels than HD TV. On older iPads this higher-res art will be scaled down to look fine. Unfortunately, the reverse is not true. Like baby chicks, images do not scale up gracefully. Your images that looked great on the iPad2 will look slightly jagged and pixellated on the new retina display of the iPad3.  If your images were not optimized, they may already be big enough (but probably not).

Not bigger in your hand but bigger pain for developers.

Text is usually rendered on the fly by the device so it will be fine. The exception to this is text that has been rasterized. You’ll have to treat rasterized text just like images and double the size of the art for the new iPad.

Formatting rules are the same. Elements on your pages will not shift around unless your ebook is formatted with absolute pixel values. Dragonpencil always uses percentages and we recommend you do the same. For example you could shift an image away from the right edge with image:left-padding100px but, like $20 of gas, those pixels now get you only half as far they did before. The better way to do it would be image:left-padding20%. The exact syntax will vary depending on how you implement your formatting.

New Ebooks

Expect new ebooks to have larger file sizes unless they have no images. This means longer download times. We are designing all new ebooks to this new higher-res standard. Dragonpencil is also the leading children’s book app company and our apps will also now be scaled up. While apps are always over 20MB, picture books have not been. But now file sizes will quadruple. This means that they won’t be downloadable via 3G/4G which limits downloads to 20MB. Not a huge deal but might push some publishers to apps vs. ebooks which is already the trend in picture books. Once a kid gets a reaction from touching an image in a book app, there’s no going back.


Your existing ebook can be reformatted if it looks clunky on the new iPad. New ebooks will have larger images and file sizes and work retroactively on the older iPads. And the iPad4 will make everything obsolete, especially this blog post.

Book Apps/Book Apps

From Interactive Book to iBook

Posted by Scott Gregory on

Some time ago, I worked with a very clever author named Karen Robertson. She created this book/game called Treasure Kai And The Lost Gold Of Shark Island and I’m proud to say that I played a small part in its development.

Treasure Kai was an interactive book before interactive required an iTunes account.

Affixed to the book are a number of treasure chests, each containing a different toy. The goal is to find the chest with the gold. Opening the wrong chest sends you on various suspenseful adventures within the book, each ending with yet another chance to uncover the correct chest. Having been published prior to the release of  iPad (hallowed be its name), it was very much the pinnacle of an interactive book. Since the iPad, Karen has recast her vision in app form, turning Treasure Kai into a game app. She quickly fell in love with apps and has been helping other authors develop their own apps. So if you are interested in turning your book into an application, head over to Digital Kids Author .com and seek out the treasure which awaits!

Publishing Biz/eBooks

Ebooks are toppling the empire!

Posted by Scott Gregory on

Everything is new for children’s publishers now. The barriers to electronic books have been finally dismantled in 2010. First, the iPad surged onto the scene and provided us with a color reading device. Despite its high cost, parents showed little reluctance to their kids putting their sticky hands on it. The direct interaction of fingers on screen is exactly what tykes crave. Try showing a two-year old how to double click and you’ll understand. In the first half of the year, children’s books accounted for 81% of all iPad books downloaded.

The combination of ebook and on-demand has put authors in control.

Clearly there was some pent-up demand for a device like this. Barnes and Nobles responded to this apparent market by hurrying out a color Nook. And many other color readers are emerging in quick succession. So that was the first hurdle. The second hurdle was on-demand children’s books. If you wanted to release a book in electronic form, then on-demand makes the most sense for those who still desire a paper version. If you dismiss the printed book altogether, you would miss out too many customers. If you print thousands of books, you’ll risk too much investment. How many printed books can we expect to sell? Hard to say, especially when you factor in buyers who choose ebooks instead. Well good news to us! We can now print hardcover, color children’s books on-demand. Again, a new revelation for 2010.

So, the game has changed but publishers don’t want you to know it. The entire publishing industry is built around the big publishing houses and the big retailers. Ebooks and on-demand books bypass their entire establishment. Small publishers can now release a book in just a few months and get as many sales as the big guys and without the costs. Now, the big guys are also enjoying the higher profits and lower costs of ebooks but they see it only as a bonus to their traditional methods. If you, as a talented author, decided to publish your own book, you easily could now and you will eat away a tiny fraction of their sales. As more and more of us do the same thing, we dismantle the establishment like ants at a picnic.

Don’t think it will last forever though. A new establishment will form, somehow, to protect the market share of the elite. It always happens. Just the natural evolution of the marketplace. So, if you have been waiting for the right time… tick tock.

Publishing Biz

Publishing Toll Booths

Posted by Scott Gregory on

Today I finished the Useful Organizations page of Most of the content is cut and paste, but with a bit of commentary thrown in. In putting this info together in one place, I came to realize that all these organizations charge something. The last on the list is Castlebridge Books, my own publishing house, which isn’t free either. My point is, I guess, that nothing seems to be free in the publishing business anymore. There seem to be many toll booths on the road to sharing your creative labors with the world. Useful Organizations page just added to the Dragonpencil website.

I have written at least 4 children’s stories that I didn’t publish because of the cost (money and timewise). Maybe I’m just not passionate enough about any one of them. And I have seen the passion that my most successful clients have for their books. I’m not sure I’m capable of that. Gone are the days that you can pay someone to be passionate for you. Today an author needs to be in the driver’s seat, not just along for the ride. Even better is a passionate author with a fully supportive spouse. Hmmm…. maybe I do have what it takes.