So you wrote and published a book? Next step: Get some reviews! (Hopefully positive ones!)
Without at least 10 reviews on Amazon, most folks won’t be interested in buying the product. That said, soliciting book reviews for a newly published book is a delicate process. I’m on the upward swing of the learning curve as we speak, but I’ve had some pretty fantastic feedback so far. Here’s some of the tricks I’ve picked up.
Use your network – ask your friends, family, neighbors, co-workers, dog-walkers…
Offer free copies of the book to reviewers!
Make it easy: In your emails/messages include the link to the pages where you need reviews posted
Follow up review requests and gifted books in a couple weeks with a tactful reminder (e.g. what did you think of the book?)
Although it’s definitely not ethical to ask for a good review, asking people to leave a review if they liked the book is perfectly reasonable
Work the social media groups – Facebook offers some fantastic groups of writers, business entrepreneurs, work-from-home parents, illustrators, etc.
I am a danger to my bank account whenever I go into a craft supply or art store. Online shopping for art materials is nearly as dangerous…
I decided to stop and remind myself of the art materials I have ready access to. We moved last year and have yet to discard the vast majority of boxes from the unpacking process, so you may notice a recurring theme… Ready to get inspired?
Build a castle – toilet paper tube turrets, egg carton draw bridge, the whole nine yards
Design a family crest, make a shield, a helmet, a full set of plate box armor… to go with the castle of course.
Big box? Climb inside and color!
Beans/rice/pasta (the dry ones that have been in the cupboard for longer than you want to think about…)
Attach to cardboard with a little Elmer’s glue for mosaics. For an example: WeeFolkArt
Believe it or not there’s some pretty AMAZING coffee painting out there! Use it on heavier paper (or cardboard!) with a brush, just like ink or watercolors! For an example: BoredPanda
Braided rugs – this one requires some extra equipment (i.e. a sewing machine or needle, thread and patience). I want to try it though. For an example: LittleHouseLiving
Simple stuffed animals (I love making horses out of out-worn jersey gloves)
Sock puppets (use cardboard here again to great effect!)
Some of these are more DIY projects than arts, but perhaps there’s something here for everyone: Artist to parent to recycling enthusiast.
Self-reflection on this post: Many of these ideas seem very upper middle class, upon closer inspection. Most assume access to basic materials such as glue, scissors, crayons/markers, needle and thread, but more importantly, they require time. The poverty experienced by many families is most crushing in its limitation of the most invaluable resource: time. Time to reflect. Time to imagine. Time to create.
Even poetry requires more than a pencil and paper. It requires time.
For anyone creative out there… ten places to look for inspiration.
In a book! Go read for half an hour (yes, everything else can wait). Better yet, visit the library. Read something you might not normally read. Check out a book from the nonfiction section on a new subject.
In the woods, by a lake, in a park, up a tree, under a log… Take a hike.
At a museum, the zoo, or an art gallery
In your friend’s lives (check out their social media!)
In music (listen to something new)
In a child’s imagination – ask them to tell you a story
At a bird feeder
In an arboretum or garden (see if you can discover a new kind of plant)
In an elder’s memories (ask a friend or family member over the age of 75 to tell you about their childhood)
Look up! You might see a story unfold right in front of you.
Costs nothing, connects people, helps writers/illustrators become known
Follow them on Twitter
Like and Share their Facebook pages/posts
Follow and read their blogs
Still no cost, minimal time required, breaks through some of the silent “void” author/illustrators often feel when posting on social media about their work
Share a link to their book/art on your favorite social media platforms
Recommend their book to libraries and book stores when you visit
Comment on their blogs
Minimal cost, some time required, a desire to read is useful at this level of engagement
Buy their book/art! (Buy local if you can – locally owned book stores are struggling!) Share your actions on social media.
Buy the book on Amazon (If you go this route, see Above and Beyond)
Recommend the book to a friend by sharing a link to buy the book with them on social media (or get it as a gift for them)
Above and Beyond:
Requires a copy of the book – you can ask an author/illustrator for a copy to review, believe me, they will be happy to help – and the time to both read the book and write a paragraph about the book
Write a review!!!! Post your review on Amazon, Goodreads, and of course social media. Reviews, especially positive ones, are pure gold for newly published authors/illustrators. It’s almost impossible to sell books on Amazon without them.
When Nancy Murphy and Mary Jo Sterling write a character for our stories, they often make a list of the qualities that character has. For example: Bentley, the elephant in Jungle Kings, is kind, loyal, and considerate. He is also flexible, humble, and loving.
My task, as an illustrator, is to create a character that looks like they possess these virtues. I usually start my research with pictures of the animal, but then I have to consider the expressions I want to show in the animal’s face so that they can show the virtues they are practicing.
Here’s an example:
Often, I will do many sketches, experimenting with the faces of my characters to determine which features can be stylized to best express a given virtue.
Eyes and mouths are particularly expressive, but eyebrows are also fairly essential to determining expression.
As you can see, even very simple lines can create a basic emotion. Expressing a virtue is more nuanced and usually requires other cues like the interaction of one character with others. The body language of an interaction can both tell the story and show the virtue of the characters.