New Cover For Children’s Book, Johnny Mustang

While the initial cover was nice, I thought it was lacking in background scenery making it a little lopsided, so I had my awesome illustrator, Ghia Mercado, add more detail. Below is the result. I love it! Thanks Ghia!

 

Johnny Mustang Illustrated Children’s Book Released!

You heard about it, saw a few illustrations, but then…nothing.

Well, here it is!

My illustrated children’s book, Johnny Mustang The Adventure Begins.

Currently only available on Amazon and here on my site.

 

Joe Chiappetta Interview, Author of Silly Daddy Illustrated Fiction

What made you decide to write/create an illustrated book?

I was somewhat raised on comic books. Much of my early and teen development was shaped by panel to panel illustrations. As such, the directness of communicating with pictures has always held a special power in my life. My observation, raising three kids and having tons of comic pals, is that I am not alone.

In fact, many people are visual learners and are pulled and retained into stories where there are more pictures. Pictures also can cut across language barriers and tend to be more universal. That combined with a lifetime of drawing Silly Daddy comics made the decision to make illustrated books a very natural progression.

How did you decide on the age level and genre? Was your book always geared toward this age level/genre or did you change it to fit?

Since I became a Christian in 1998, I started making works that were safe for all ages. However, anything before that period I cannot vouch for–I was pretty out there. All my eBooks have a pretty wide appeal. Star Chosen, my sci-fi space opera novel, can be appreciated by readers from 10 to 110. It’s basically Battlestar Galactica meets the Bible. Along with the sequel, Power Pendant of Planet Pizon, they’re the only books of mine that are not illustrated.

All my other works are illustrated by me and cover slightly different genres. Silly Daddy in Space has the widest appeal as a sci-fi cartoon book. It’s for ages 6 and up.

Also heavily illustrated is my book Armed with Intergalactic Weapons. That is actually my life story, but told as if it were a science fiction story set 1,000 years into the future when outer space gets colonized. I actually consider this a new genre: autobiographical science fiction.

The Back Pain Avenger, my newest release is a non-medicated memoir of my rehabilitation from decades of chronic back pain. That’s also a mix of comics and straight text narration, for ages 16 and up. It reads like a “how to get healed of back pain” book as well as a warm and funny slice of life story.

Did you have an idea of what you wanted your characters to look/dress like?

In drawing the covers for Star Chosen and it’s sequel, Power Pendant of Planet Pizon, I had to picture real people and blast them into futuristic styles and planets. It helps me to have a real voice and image in mind to launch out from when creating characters. That the fun part of writing fiction.

How did you decide how many illustrations to include in your book?

I try to have at least one in each chapter, but often it ends up like 6 comics in a chapter. Plus my chapters tend to be short so the books are full of comics and illustrations, hearkening back to my do-it-yourself zine days. That’s sort of an intuitive area for me. It’s not an exact science, but more about adding value and helping readers remember more. People tend to retain the visual stuff.

I’ve seen some posts on various boards concerning illustrated books detracting from the reader’s enjoyment of creating the characters in their own mind. Do you agree with this?

That’s one of those opinion matters where there’s no real right or wrong. Debating about it seems a bit silly in the larger scheme of things. If the creators want to define the look of the characters, great. If not, that’s fine too. It’s just a different experience. I like to define most of my characters so I can more easily picture them moving forward. I need something concrete.

Do you feel your illustrations enhance your book? How?

Since I’m known as a cartoonist with over twenty years in the industry, many of my readers expect illustrations. So I deliver. As for how the illustrations enhance the book, I can say this: Formatting eBooks is a relatively new trade. And I have seen some poorly formatted eBooks from others with illustrations that were definitely not designed for the small screen eReader experience. So I have an advantage in that I am specifically creating comics and illustrations that I prefer to be viewed on small screen eReaders. It’s a quality control issue. My wife and I proof my books on a Kindle. If the illustrations and cartoons don’t pop, then I know somethings wrong. So I make sure they pop.

What has been the response from your readers? Did you notice your fan base increase dramatically?

My fan base has been increasing every year for quite some time, and it is neat to see my work reaching audiences that I hadn’t imagined. For example, I have about ten chapters of Star Chosen available for free online and that’s been read over 50,000 times. The book hasn’t even been out two years yet. That’s not bad.

How did you promote your book?

The usual stuff. I send out press releases, highlight it on my blog http://joechiappetta.blogspot.com, use social media, send review copies out, and offer free samples.

Can you explain your formatting process and any problems you encountered with uploading/viewing your book?

I write most of the books in HTML code as part of the creative process. I know that sounds bizarre, but that really helps me make sure I am thinking about end user experience if I know what code is there. Images take a little time to figure out for Kindle. Reading up on the Amazon Community image file specs for Kindle, it quickly becomes clear that there is not one standard. So you have to experiment a little. I find that 520 pixels wide by 622 high images work best, but 450 pixels wide by 550 pixels high is safest. It depends on what an author wants to do with the illustrations.

Do you offer a print version or digital only?
Star Chosen has print and digital versions. All other books are digital only–for now.

How did you determine pricing?

I try to equate pricing with time spent on the project and quantity of content. For instance, Star Chosen is over 60,000 words and took five years to complete. So that eBook goes for $4.99. However, shorter works sell for 99 cents.

How many illustrated books have you written/have for sale?

I have published about 30 books over the years, almost all of them have been heavily illustrated. Five of the most recent works are available as eBooks on Amazon, B&N plus my own site.

What advice would you give other authors who have or would like to publish illustrated books?

Keep the illustrations fairly high contrast. Make sure your blacks are solid blacks or they might get converted into a washed out look on Kindle’s black and white E Ink screen. If there is text lettered into the illustrations (like in my comics) make sure the lettering is very large. Zooming in is not a pleasurable reading experience.

Lastly, I would think through why you want to put out a book. Write your reasons down on paper, and then discuss it with people you trust. Then see what they have to say.

Joe ChiappettaJoe Chiappetta is an American author and cartoonist, grateful to be happily married with three children. Currently living in North Riverside, Illinois, his formal education was from Northern Illinois University, where he received a Bachelor of Fine Arts, with an emphasis in painting.

While trained in the more traditional visual arts, his lifetime creative focus has been in writing and cartooning. As one of the key members of the Independent Comics Movement of the late 1980s and 1990s, Chiappetta’s work is respected around the globe. He is best known as the man behind one of the longest running autobiographical comics, SILLY DADDY, which has been a rewarding creative endeavor since 1991. The series has received the following professional recognition:

Xeric Award Winner
Ignatz Award Nominee for Outstanding Story
Harvey Award Nominee for Best New Series

While the bulk of Chiappetta’s work has been within autobiographical comics, he has also maintained a focus on science fiction writing. SILLY DADDY plots are notorious for taking off on sci-fi themed subplots. As a natural progression, Joe’s 2010 release, STAR CHOSEN, is a science fiction space opera for the whole family. That book is his first full length novel without pictures.

In 1998 Joe became a Christian, which is often evident in the world view represented in his writings thereafter. Due to personal experience with a number of health impairments, Joe also writes about disability issues in his work, combining humor with the intent to help others have more compassion for those in need.

From his stories, one can tell that Joe enjoys spending time with God, family, other people with disabilities, science fiction geeks, and corny jokers. Also, at a moment’s notice, he’s usually up for a good game of chess, bike riding, building forts in the woods, wrestling, foam sword fighting, and Bible study.

Simon Haynes Interview, Author of Hal Junior Illustrated Science Fiction

What made you decide to write/create an illustrated book?

To be honest, I felt it was expected when writing for middle grade. We have a gigantic stash of books for that age group, and many of them have illustrations. A stray picture here and there can help to break up the text, particularly if you’re writing a longer book. (Hal Junior is about 30,000 words. In comparison, my adult books are about 80,000)

How did you decide on the age level and genre? Was your book always geared toward this age level/genre or did you change it to fit?

My original plan was to write novels featuring the character from my adult books as a boy. I thought back to my own childhood, and I realized the overriding memories of my teen years involved zits, braces, awkwardness with girls and other unpleasantness. On the other hand, life at ten or eleven was uncomplicated and a whole lot of fun.

On top of that, I’ve done a lot of school visits for middle grade classes. At that age many kids still think authors are pretty cool.

Do you also illustrate your books? If not, how did you find your illustrator/artist? Any suggestions for hiring an illustrator?

My original plan for Hal Junior was for a very low-key release. I even designed a cover using my own vector art, which came out well but looked too young for the book.

I drew all the internal art with pencil, then scanned it into my computer and manually re-traced it using vectors.

At this point, six weeks before release, I decided to approach the cover artist from my adult novels. We shook hands on an agreement (via email) and he turned in a fantastic piece of work. It was all kept very simple, contract-wise, but we’ve known each other for quite a few years now.

Did you have an idea of what you wanted your characters to look/dress like?

I did share a few ideas. It was a little easier because he’s based on the adult character, so that was a basis for the image. Putting him in a space suit bypassed the need for futuristic clothing. (Hal Junior is set in the distant future.)

How did you decide how many illustrations to include in your book?

I wanted one or two per chapter. I think I ended up with 30 or so, and there are 25 chapters.

I’ve seen some posts on various boards concerning illustrated books detracting from the reader’s enjoyment of creating the characters in their own mind. Do you agree with this? Do you feel your illustrations enhance your book? How?

Yes, seeing the character in the flesh can detract from imagining them yourself. I’ve seen middle grade fiction where the characters on the cover look like 18-year-olds, but apparently this is an industry thing where kids (apparently) don’t want to read their own age group, they want to read and experience life as older characters. That’s one reason I decided my original cover wasn’t up to the job.

Re the illustrations, they’re a great way to explain something without filling the text with info-dump. For example, the characters use an airlock, and instead of explaining at length I just included a diagram. Another character feels ill when he learns where their food comes from, but instead of going into the whole process I illustrated it.

There are also many sight gags. E.g. Hal Junior notices how spaceships, stations, etc, all seem to be the same shade of grey (gray, even.) There’s an illustration showing piles of paint cans with ‘Grey’, ‘More Grey’, ‘Yes, it’s Grey’ and ‘Red’ on the labels. (The latter crossed out with ‘Grey’ written in.)

What has been the response from your readers? Did you notice your fan base increase dramatically?

It’s still a week until the official release, and first reader feedback on the images has been sketchy. (Hah!) One reviewer commented that the illustrations were ‘witty’, and that’s good enough for me.

How did you promote your book?

Do we have another 2000 words? 😉 I don’t set much store in trailers, I’m afraid. I’d sooner spend the money giving away free copies. I do have a website, and I’m active on many forums and book sites. It’s important not to annoy people by posting ‘buy my book’ messages all over the internet.

I believe libraries and schools will be the primary market for my book, so I’ve been concentrating on these venues. There’s a big hole in the market where junior science fiction ought to be.

Can you explain your formatting process and any problems you encountered with uploading/viewing your book? Do you offer a print version or digital only? Any tips you can offer?

I’m offering Hal Junior as an ebook and a print title.

I’m a programmer as well as an author, and one of my projects is the yWriter novel-writing software. I recently modified the program to make it easy to export to ebook-ready HTML and print-ready LaTeX (which can be converted to PDF.)

Once the programming was done, I laid out my novel in yWriter in such a way that I could generate both types of file from the same project.

What are your sales numbers? Are your illustrated book(s) selling better than your other titles?

It’s too early to answer this yet – not released.

How did you determine pricing? Have you played with pricing? How has it affected your sales?

I looked at similar titles with a similar page length. I believe $4.99 for the ebook is about right, and $6.99 for the paperback is cheap. I can always raise the paperback price later if need be.

How many illustrated books have you written/have for sale?

Hal Junior is my first illustrated book. None of my adult titles contain illustrations.

Do you have more planned?

I’m torn between writing Hal Junior 2 and Hal Spacejock 5. The Junior books are quicker and easier to write, but Hal 5 is well overdue!

What advice would you give other authors who have or would like to publish illustrated books?

Decide what you want the illustrations to do. Are you adding to the text, or supplying full-page illustrations of scenes from the book?

Simon Haynes was born in England and grew up in Spain, where he enjoyed an amazing childhood of camping, motorbikes, mateship, air rifles and paper planes. His family moved to Australia when he was 16.
From 1986 to 1988 Simon studied at Curtin University, where he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Film, Creative Writing and Literature.
Simon returned to Curtin in 1997, graduating with a degree in Computer Science two years later. An early version of Hal Spacejock was written during the lectures.

Simon has four Hal Spacejock novels and several short stories in print. Sleight of Hand won the Aurealis Award (short fiction) in 2001, and Hal Spacejock: No Free Lunch was a finalist in both the Ditmar and Aurealis Awards for 2008.
Simon divides his time between writing fiction and computer software, with frequent bike rides to blow away the cobwebs.
His goal is to write fifteen Hal books (Spacejock OR Junior!) before someone takes his keyboard away.
Follow Simon on Facebook and Twitter.

Children’s Book Market

I dug out a children’s book I wrote six years ago for my grandfather. I’m wondering if there’s a market for children’s picture ebooks since most kids don’t have their own Kindle or other e-reading device, at least those between the ages of eight and thirteen, which is my target audience. I’m also wondering about the picture part and how intriguing a black and white illustration will be on e-readers unable to display color.

I’ve read conflicting reports by authors on various forums claiming there isn’t much of a market for children’s books, but then there are those authors claiming to be selling children’s books quite frequently. Not sure what ‘frequently’ means.

I performed a search on length and word counts for children’s books and came across a host of information mainly directed at the traditional publishing world. I wanted to make sure my book wasn’t too long or short or advanced. After talking to other indie publishers and reading numerous posts in the indie book publishing community I learned I just need to write the story I want to read. Sure I need to keep in mind that a five-year old won’t be able to read four syllable words and I need to keep the sentences short and to the point without running off on two paragraphs of backstory, but in the end it’s my own style, pacing, etc. that needs to come through.

I’m intrigued by the illustrated ebook market, so am launching a series of interviews in the coming weeks with authors of various types of illustrated ebooks including children’s, comic, how to and whatever else I can find.

Stay tuned!

Illustrator Commissioned!

It’s official! I have commissioned an illustrator to start work on the illustrations for my children’s book. I’m so excited I have to plug her, Ghia Mercado.

When you have a chance, check out her gallery. I’ll post back with the cover design she’s currently working on.

I found her through posting on DeviantArt.com. There are thousands of artists there, so I encourage all of you who need an artist either for photos or various art including web stuff, to check it out and post in the jobs offered forum.

I asked for a sample from a few of the artists who responded to my post and here are their submissions. Only two and one of them is Ghia’s. Oh well! Artists are busy too! A big thanks to all of the artists who contacted me especially Ghia and Jordan. Please visit their pages for more information and to see other art they’ve created.

Yes, my children’t book is set in the old west, hence the ‘cowboy’ nature of the samples. I’ll reveal more when the book cover is finished.;)

Ghia Mercado SampleCowboy Kid Sample by Jordan Race

Children’s Book Market

I dug out a children’s book I wrote six years ago for my grandfather. I’m wondering if there’s a market for children’s picture ebooks since most kids don’t have their own Kindle or other e-reading device, at least those between the ages of eight and thirteen, which is my target audience. I’m also wondering about the picture part and how intriguing a black and white illustration will be on e-readers unable to display color.

I’ve read conflicting reports by authors on various forums claiming there isn’t much of a market for children’s books, but then there are those authors claiming to be selling children’s books quite frequently. Not sure what ‘frequently’ means.

I performed a search on length and word counts for children’s books and came across a host of information mainly directed at the traditional publishing world. I wanted to make sure my book wasn’t too long or short or advanced. After talking to other indie publishers and reading numerous posts in the indie book publishing community I learned I just need to write the story I want to read. Sure I need to keep in mind that a five-year old won’t be able to read four syllable words and I need to keep the sentences short and to the point without running off on two paragraphs of backstory, but in the end it’s my own style, pacing, etc. that needs to come through.

I’m intrigued by the illustrated ebook market, so am launching a series of interviews in the coming weeks with authors of various types of illustrated ebooks including children’s, comic, how to and whatever else I can find.

Stay tuned!