Thursday, July 31, 2014

COSCBWI Meeting July 2014: Book Promotion 101

This month's COSCBWI Writer Meeting featured YA author, Jody Casella.  Casella's debut novel, Thin Space, came out in 2013, but it was many years in the making.  During those years, she attended workshops, honed her craft, practiced writing query letters, and learned the many (many) skills it takes to get published.  But she also discovered the importance of self-promotion, from pre-publication to the book launch and beyond.

Casella shared her wealth of self-promotion advice with the group.  While many writers and illustrators don't think promotion is important until a book is ready to come out, Casella argued that it is never too early to start promoting yourself and your work.  If you don't like tooting your own horn, you will need to become comfortable doing so in order to champion your book and win over your audience.  And the best time to practice is now before you're in the spotlight!

Long before you snag your first book deal, Casella said that it's wise to start planting the seeds of promotion.  One way to do so is by creating an address list of everyone you know who might ultimately be interested in your work or career.  This could be family, neighbors, long-lost high school friends, and even your postman and dog groomer.  While these people probably won't set up a blog tour for you when your book launches, they may buy a copy or pass along your info to someone else.  You never know what small ripples may lead to, like a new connection with a librarian or teacher, or someone who knows J. K. Rowling!

Casella also stressed the importance of online social media for self-promotion. There are countless ways to get involved online, including Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and Instagram.  Blogs and websites are popular, too.  Becoming active online has many benefits.  It can connect you to other writers and illustrators, and give your work more exposure.  It can also help you build your audience gradually, so when your book comes out, you'll already have people eager to read it.  Nowadays, most editors and agents expect you to have a professional online presence (even if it's just a small one), and they will Google you.  When they find your name associated with a budding blog or active Twitter account, they'll be impressed that you're already taking strides to become involved in the online community. 

Casella cautioned about becoming overwhelmed by social media, though.  Don't feel like you need to be involved in everything, but pick one or two sites to try out.  Don't expect a billion followers in your first week, and test the waters slowly.  Hanging back and observing can help you understand the social etiquette for a site, as well as let you practice with the technology.  (And wouldn't you rather make a silly mistake now than during the week of your book launch?)  Once you feel comfortable with a site, stay active on it.  An agent doesn't want to find that your blog hasn't had a new post since 2011.  Lastly, remember to post carefully.  Anything you say or do on social media could come back to haunt you, so be kind, be considerate, and don't say anything that would make your mother cringe.

If you follow this advice and do the best you can, you'll be a self-promotion pro by the time your book is published!  (And if you want more writing tips and wisdom from Casella, be sure to check out her blog at

You can find out more about COSCBWI at  Be sure to "like" the group on Facebook, too!  I hope to see you at the August meeting!

Note: Cover image for Thin Space is from

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Summer Update

I feel like it's been a little quiet around here recently!  Apart from my regular COSCBWI meeting summary posts, I haven't had much time for blogging this summer.  Travel and showers and weddings have kept me busy, with lots more to come!  I've also been hard at work wrapping up a few projects, and am starting to get my portfolio and manuscript ready for the upcoming Northern Ohio SCBWI conference in September.  (Phew--I feel like I could use a nap just thinking about all that!)

I am very happy that I can finally share some finished projects with you today!

If you've been following my COSCBWI posts, then you'll know the group has been working on a fairy tale/nursery rhyme/folk tale project.  The goal was to create a portfolio piece by putting a unique spin on a well-known story.  I chose "Hey Diddle Diddle."

"Shoot for the Moooon"

Unlike the actual nursery rhyme, my poor cow didn't quite make it over the moon...

If you've been hanging around this blog for a while, you may remember that I sketched this illustration during a similar COSCBWI project in 2013.  I've wanted to paint that sketch for over a year now, and this seemed like the perfect time to do so.  I had a lot of fun playing around with textures in this illustration, and trying my hand at a whimsical style for the background.  It was an udderly good time!

My other big project was creating concept art for my dear writing friend, Rick Morrison.  He's writing a very cool fantasy series that has some fascinating creatures.  One of these creatures is called a "Horgon."

It's a half-horse, half-dragon, super-awesome monster.  (I don't think I'd want to meet one in real life, though!)  Since most of my portfolio consists of cute and smiley critters, this dark beast was a fun challenge.

Now that these projects are done, it's time to jump into a bunch of new ones!  Between my writing, illustrating, and travel, this blog will probably stay quiet for another month or two.  But rest assured, I'll be toiling away in the background!  I can't wait to share my next batch of illustrations with you!

I hope all my readers are having a very lovely summer and enjoying a bit of sun!  Does anyone have fun travel plans or projects they're working on? 

Art is (c) me, Kathryn Powers.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

July 2014: COSCBWI Illustrator Meeting

This month's COSCBWI Illustrator Meeting was packed with eager artists.  Since so many new illustrators have recently joined COSCBWI, Illustrator Coordinator, Stella Hickman, first provided an encore demonstration on how to build a character model using wire, aluminum foil, and modeling clay.  (You can read about the process here from my summary of the February COSCBWI Illustrator Meeting.)  With astonishing speed, Stella sculpted an adorable bust of her mouse character.  At Stella's request, another member brought in her own finished model of a feline character, complete with posable, jointed arms and legs.  The possibilities are endless when it comes to building a character model, and they can be as simple or complex as you choose to make them.  Even the simplest figure will still help an artist draw their character consistently from different angles, and Stella highly recommended that all illustrators try this technique.
After the demonstration, Stella led a group critique session for the fairy tale/nursery rhyme/folk tale project.  As I mentioned in my prior posts, the COSCBWI illustrators have been hard at work creating portfolio pieces based on well-known tales (like Goldilocks and the Three Bears), by putting their own unique spin on the story.  Many members brought their art to share, from final illustrations to work-in-process pieces.  Stella provided constructive feedback and opened the floor to group feedback, too.  It's always wonderful to see everyone's art process, from sketches to fully-rendered pictures.  (I'll be sharing my finished piece on my blog soon!)

Once the critiques were done, Regional Advisor, Linda Miller, gave some announcements about COSCBWI's exciting upcoming events, including the August 2nd Query Workshop with YA author Mindy McGinnis, and the 2nd Annual Member Exhibition (set to open in late 2014).  You can find out more about those awesome events here:

If you'd like to learn more about COSCBWI, please check out the link above, and be sure to "like" the group on Facebook.  I hope to see you at the next meeting!