Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Announcing: My Book Project!

People have asked about it; I've long thought about it; and at last, I'm delighted to announce: I might be publishing a book of my collected talks! Hooray! But whether I'm actually going to go forward with it depends on YOU, dear readers and friends.

Here is the text of the dialogue that I imagine might now ensue:

You: Cool! What would the book include?

Me: All the talks that were on my old website, including "Finding a Publisher and Falling in Love"; "The Rules of Engagement"; "The Essentials of Plot"; "The Art of Detection"; "Words, Wisdom, Art, and Heart: Making a Picture-Book Cookie"; "Morals, Muddles, and Making It Through"; and "A Few Things Writers Can Learn from Harry Potter," plus all the supplementary worksheets and other materials that went with those talks. It will also include various speeches that have not been published on my website, including the talk on developing characters I gave at the Missouri SCBWI conference in the fall of 2007 and the New Jersey SCBWI conference in the summer of 2008, and the three long talks on plot, character, and voice from the Missouri SCBWI retreat this past spring, which I'll be revising and reprising for the Western Washington retreat in November. (The book will feature the revised versions.) I'll also include the Annotated Query Letter from Hell and an Annotated Query Letter that Does It Right to talk a little more about submissions; some recommended reading lists for writers; and a number of Greatest Hits blog posts on submitting, editing, and publishing.

What will it be called?

This isn't yet final, but I really like Leaf and Tree: Some Talk About Writing.

Okay. But what do you mean, "It depends on us"?

I plan to self-publish the book, and in order to get capital for a 500-copy printing, I'm asking my blog readers, friends, and family to help me raise $2000 through The Kickstarter process also allows me to gauge interest: To raise $2000, all I really need is 200 people to give $10 each, which is more or less like buying the book, thanks to the rewards system below. And if there aren't 200 people willing to buy the book, then I shouldn't go forward with publishing it anyway.

What is "the Kickstarter process"? is an awesome website for people interested in finding grassroots funding for their creative work. If you'd like to see this book be published, you can bop over to my project page, click "Back This Project," and enter whatever amount you like -- $1, $5, $18, $347 -- to be charged to your credit card. That money will be processed through the Payments system and held there until the total goal amount of $2000 has been pledged. Once that happens, all credit cards will be charged, and then the money will come to me. If the project receives less than $2000, then under the Kickstarter rules, all monies will be returned to their pledgers and I get nothing. The project can also collect MORE than $2000, though, and all additional proceeds would then go to printing additional copies of the book. You can read more about how Kickstarter works here and check out some really cool projects already underway here.

What's in it for me to pledge?

If you pledge $5, you'll receive $5 off the cost of the book, excluding shipping (final cost not yet determined, but it'll probably be somewhere between $10 and $18). If you pledge $10, you'll receive $10 off the cost. If you pledge $25, you'll receive $10 off, plus you'll be added to a list to receive e-mailed versions of any future talks. If you pledge $50, you'll receive all of the $25 rewards, plus your name will be included on a "Thank You" page in the back of the book. If you pledge $100 or more, you'll receive all of the $50 rewards plus a selection of my favorite thank-you sweets, including home-baked Banana Oatmeal Chocolate Chip cookies (the ones from "Words, Wisdom"), yummy brownies, McVitie's, and Swedish Fish. And if you are incredibly nice and rich and pledge more than $250, some Thank-You Gift of Awesomeness will be devised especially for you.

(For the record, this project is entirely personal, organized on my own time, and separate from my day job, so I will not offer any rewards related to editing, reading manuscripts, critiquing submissions packages, et al. Continuing the disclaimers: My employer has not sponsored, endorsed, or approved this book or its contents, nor is said company in any way responsible for or affiliated with it; it is all me.)

You could also pledge because you enjoy this blog, or you read something useful to your writing on my website, or you took something away from one of my appearances or critiques, or you admire the books I edit, or you came to a Kidlit Drink Night, or you know and like me. Or simply out of the kindness of your heart. All reasons, and pledges, are sincerely appreciated.

How do I know you'll use the money to publish the book and not, say, go to Jamaica?

You know where I live -- on the Internet, anyway, and some of you in person. You'll keep me honest. Also, I sunburn easily.

Why are you self-publishing this? Why aren't you doing it through a regular publisher?

Self-publishing is right for some projects and not for others. I don't recommend it for any writers who might benefit from the editorial process, which I fiercely believe in; nor for anyone seeking wide distribution and good sales through bookstores, which only traditional publishing can provide -- and I fiercely believe in that model too. And I imagine that covers nearly all writers!

For this particular project, though, self-publishing makes sense. I don't need an editor for this, as I'm my own harshest critic. I'm competent enough at book design to put a decent-looking volume together. And this may be an excess of Midwestern modesty, but I don't imagine the audience is all that huge for this -- mostly people who know me through my blog, website, Facebook, and appearances. And if it IS mostly people who know me, then I can handle the sales and distribution myself. I'm planning for a first printing of 500-ish copies, with more available on print-on-demand, and I'll be very happy if it gets bought by 1000 people total. Those are more self-publishing numbers than professional numbers.

Finally, my talks are always written as talks, not as proper essays, and because each has been given to a unique audience, I often take material from one and reuse it in another. This means I would have to rewrite all of the talks more or less completely to integrate them into a proper writing book and satisfy my own standards for professionally published writing, and as I turn into a Raging Perfectionist Beast and my writing stalls out like a '77 Datsun whenever I consciously try to write for publication, this will provide the same basic information with much less time and mental anguish on my part. You writers who can get past this block have my admiration.

Will you ever put the talks not currently on your website but included in the book up on the website?

Yes, probably, but not until sometime in 2010.

When would the book be available?

I'm asking to receive all pledges through Kickstarter by September 1, 2009. Assuming the project moves forward then, I hope to have the actual book available by the end of the year -- ideally in time for the Western Washington conference in November.

Can I buy the book even if I don't pledge?

Sure! I haven't yet reached the "how this book will be sold over the Internet" stage of planning here, though my mom has kindly offered to help with distribution. Dibs on the first 500 copies will go to people who pledge more than $5; a certain quantity will be reserved for my appearances at writers' conferences this fall and next spring; and the rest will be available for purchase through me (and my mom). I also hope to have the text available through a print-on-demand service.

I have more questions.

Leave them in the comments, please, and I'll update this page as necessary.

How can I pledge?

Check out my project page here. And thank you!


  1. I think it's very exciting, Cheryl, and a great use of self-publishing and kickstart. You've got great material, and I know I'll be recommending it to many....

  2. What Greg said! I'll give a shout out on Twitter and FB.

    Your blog came up Saturday at our SCBWI Illustrators Schmoose when we were talking about portfolios. I mentioned your "Kids on a bus" idea.

  3. Me, too! Congratulations. Will be tweeting immediately.

  4. I am curious -- have you tried approaching any publishers. Laurie Schnelby did her ennegrams with Cider Press, and Kate Walker went with Studymates for her 12 steps to writing romance and it is now going worldwide. Studymates is a POD, I believe. I think if you have not queried a few of the writing publishers, you are suffering from an excess of Midwestern modesty. People will want to read the book. You might be surprised at the response.

  5. It makes perfect sense that an editor is the perfect person to self publish. Kudos to you for taking the initiative.

    I've enjoyed and learned from you posts and look forward to the book.
    Will tweet.

  6. This is a very exciting endeavor! I wish you much pleasure and success in the process. :)

  7. Very exciting. Heading over to kickstart. =)

  8. It IS exciting! Good luck, Cheryl!

  9. You should have your mom advertise this at the Cass Co Northern Resource center, plenty would pledge there and you could come home again and do a book signing/sale when you get it published! You have home town fans to count on :)

  10. Wow, Cheryl, Gregory K. told me about it and this is great!

    I had never heard of kickstart before but it's certainly interesting. Polyvinyl has raised $14,000! And there's a handful of others that have raised $1000-$3000, so it clearly has a lot of potential for situations like this. Hope it works for you!

  11. I read your speech "The Essentials of Plot," formerly "Aristotle, Austen, Plot and Pleasure". At first I was writing down a note or two on index cards, then some more, then started sweating I was writing so fast, then scrapped them all and pasted the entire speech into my Scrivener Writing Program research folder for inspiration. I've gone back often and told my parents to read it and now they're hooked too.

    You writing a book on writing, or a collection of writing essays or speeches, is a VERY good thing. I'm in (at least will be in the next week or two). And you coming to Western Washington for the retreat, possibly book in hand is exciting. Hope I can find a way to go to that. Cheers and good luck. Will spread the word!

  12. Hi Cheryl!

    While I haven't seen your speeches in person (although I would love to!), I am a BIG fan of them from the postings on your website. I've printed them out more times than I can count, underlining & re-reading numerous passages, especially those regarding plot.

    And while admire your bravery to go the self-publishing route, I also agree with Michelle Styles above, you are being WAY too modest. I think you should definitely at least query a few reference publishers such as Writer's Digest Books, Adams Media, or Sterling Publishing. I think you would be quite surprised at your potential readership. Having been a member of Verla Kay's message board for some time, I think there are great number of aspiring children's writers who know (revere?) you through your blog and/or website.

    But whichever way you decide to go, I will definitely buy it, as well as recommend it. Wishing you the best of luck! :)

  13. Awesome! I plan on contributing! :)

  14. Sounds like a great idea. I'm happy to hear you'll be coming our way (Western Washington) in November. I'm eagerly awaiting details about the retreat. Let's hope you'll have copies of your book by then. Now I'm going to hop over to kickstart and give it a kick!

  15. Okay, I did it. I'm an official supporter! I must admit: your baked goodies incentive was mighty tempting...:-) Good luck! Hope you reach your goal quickly so that you may start your book...

  16. Part 2... FYI, I attended a kid lit gathering you hosted in NYC during the SCBWI winter conference (a place called Wheeltap Pub?) and I'm a blog lurker in the process of outing herself. Mission accomplished. ;-)

  17. Great idea, Cheryl! I think you'll be delighted, ecstatic, and maybe blissful because I think it'll sell way more than the 1000 copies you say will make you "very happy." :-)

  18. I met you at the Michigan SCBWI conference where you gave an awesome talk and I was fortunate enough to get a critique with you. (I'm still working on my revisions.) I've thought since then that you should write a book. I agree with the others who say there is a market for your books. Your topics are specifically geared to children's writers, with lots of examples from children's books, and there are no other books with topics like plot, voice, etc. geared especially to children's book authors. I really think that you should consider at some point having it published traditionally. You are a well known blogger recommended on lots of blogs and you easily market it. I plan to donate to your cause and am so glad you're doing this. I'll be recommending others buy your book too. Good luck.
    Natalie Aguirre

  19. Congratulations and good luck!

  20. Great idea, Cheryl! I just put you over the $600 mark on Kickstart.

  21. I agree with others who say you'll sell way more copies than you think. In the past, I've suggested you publish your talks, which have helped my writing enormously, and I know you have a very large following. Writers are eager to read what you, an editor whose books are amazing, have to say. I think you'd be better off not self-publishing, and I also think you shouldn't so easily dismiss editorial help. I have done a lot of editing, but editing myself is a whole 'nother ballgame! Nevertheless, I'll head over to kickstart to see what's what.

  22. Wow, this will be a great resource! Thanks for letting us know!

  23. What a wonderful idea! Your speeches and blog posts have been a terrific source of inspiration for me, and I know countless others. I hope this project will reach an even wider audience. All the best!

  24. Oh, good. Now and then I thought, "Boy, it would be nice if she could get all those talks together into a handy dandy book," and now it looks like it's going to happen. I'll be getting a copy when it comes out, for sure.

  25. Also: Kousa dogwood leaves and a gingko leaf = pretty!

  26. Will you send cookies to Australia?
    I am serious.

  27. I am now another proud supporter your project. I love your lecture notes! It is hard to find things of their quality that are specifically for writing for children.

    As someone who has so has been so generous giving to the writing community, you deserve to succeed. Here you are finally publishing a book and you still haven't even taken the free stuff of your web site. :) Your generosity is invaluable to the children's book community. (I've also chatted with you at the NY conference and that is so encouraging to an aspiring writer. Very few editors are as approachable as you.)

    The only thing that worries me is that I think you are likely to get a bigger response than you and your mom can handle. :)

  28. I've always appreciated you sharing your speeches and musings on your blog. I'll happily support this project. Best of luck!

  29. It's so exciting to learn of your book, "Second Sight". This book is very much needed. I, for one, need one, the sooner the better. Based on Rose Green's review, I can't wait to get into it. I'm in the category it was written for. Once I have read it, I will recommend it to others.