"Do as I say, AND as I do." Me.
Again, not the first likely to say this, but people often ask me what I did to become a published author. When I tell them, they usually look a bit bored, and like they are waiting for the magic answer. But THIS. Stuff like this.
It's a good rule of thumb to read books as a writer AND as a reader. I read them as a writer the first time (as it's fresh) and as a reader the second time, straight through. Of course you can reverse that. Whatever works, right?
Evaluating what makes OTHER books sell as opposed to our own is priceless. Heck, I even see books I don't like and can identify why they sold over something of mine I like.
CLEAR HOOK. At least 3 of them!
So in continuation of our study, here are a few more books from my "To Read" pile:
FOOD TRUCK FEST by Alexandra Penfold.
Illustrated by Mike Dutton.
Farrar Strauss Giroux, 2018
BEGINNING: Over at the depot and up with the sun, the food trucks get ready. Today will be fun.
COMMENTS: It's pretty evident that this book leans toward the younger picture book set, so there's also a clear market (young pre-readers who like trucks). Of course, there have been many books about trucks, but NOT Food Trucks! See that new and different approach that editors are looking for?
But Starting with the title, there's consonance which makes it catchy and an exclamation which promises excitement. But most of all there's TRUCKS. I feel there's three hooks put out by just the title alone. Next, the sing-songy rhyme is catchy and the phrase "up with the sun," alerts me that there will likely be a lot of active phrases. And there were. These phrases keep the attention of little ones and move the story forward, like:
Engines, rumble, start to roar.
Close the windows, shut the door.
Ready and loaded with tons of good eats,
the fleet of mighty food trucks takes to the streets.
EVEN MORE -- this book features some ethnic food! Alexandra Penfold is an Agent with Upstart Crow, so she has obviously studied what sells and was able to make her idea work.
Not a truck lover myself, but I read it and think little ones will LOVE both listening to it AND looking at the pictures. FOOD TRUCK FEST is a slam dunk for it's target reader.
SAMSON IN THE SNOW by Philip C. Stead
Neal Porter Books, Roaring Brook Press, 2016
BEGINNING: On sunny days, Samson tended his dandelion patch. Stepping carefully, he used his long truck to pull up botherson weeds. When he was finished, he stood in the sunshine, hoping for a friend to come along. Samson waited quietly with his flowers to keep him company.
COMMENTS: From the onset, we can see and hear that this is a quiet book. The soft s in Samson and Snow, the soft dark pastel-y cover. And yet, whether or not you lean toward soft books. First - is that a wooly mammoth? YES! And then, a question -- what is he doing in the snow? And then, snow itself. Snow has been a part of several popular books and is nice to see, especially without freezing in it. So there could be considered two or three hooks on the cover, especially if you like snow.
Stead opens with the ordinary world of a sunny day. But you saw the snow on the cover so a storm is imminent, acting as another hook to pull the reader into the story and have them turn the page. This is sweet and simple and could appeal to younger readers, but also older readers because of the friendship theme. And page after page the story presses on to a well-woven and satisfying ending. And, importantly, the art is absolutely beautiful!
Covers sell books, but you have to sell the book first, without the cover, so your story needs to have what it takes.
READ THE BOOK, LEMMINGS! by Ame Dyckman
Illustrated by Zachariah OHora
Little Brown and Company, 2017
Edited by Mary Kate Gaudette
BEGINNING: Foxy found a quiet spot to read his book about lemmings. "Huh!" Foxy said. "Says here, lemmings don't jump off cliffs."
Jump? I'll jump! said a lemming. Me too! said a second. Ditto! said a third.
COMMENTS: The title is active and engaging, and Lemmings! The fact that the word book is in the title will work for book lovers, librarians and teachers alike. The art is fun, so at least three hooks coming out of the gate. Of course it wouldn't have had the art to rely on in the beginning, but still, it stands out. Like in Samson, the premise is a hook. The author has set up a situation you will want to follow. The book says that Lemming don't jump off cliffs, but the lemmings say, jump! What happens after that? You will be hooked and will turn the page just to find out.
Notice to the devices. Three beats and repetition. The repetition makes it funny -- yes, another hook!
These were random books in my pile. I did not even know if I would like them or not. I liked two more than one of them ONLY because of my personal inclinations toward wooly mammoths and lemmings, but I found them all highly saleable. I am sure you can see why.
Keep following this blog, and reading and evaluating these books and your own in this fashion, and you will soon see the way you look at your own stories change. For. the. better.
PLEASE follow this blog so you don't miss any tidbit of information and please feel free to leave any comment or question you may have. I will do my bes to answer all!
Lynne Marie is the author of Hedgehog Goes to Kindergarten - illustrated by Anne Kennedy (Scholastic, 2011), Hedgehog's 100th Day of School – illustrated by Lorna Hussey (Scholastic, January 2017), The Star of the Christmas Play -- illustrated by Lorna Hussey (Beaming Books, 2018), Moldilocks and the 3 Scares -- illustrated by David Rodriguez Lorenzo (Sterling, pending) and Let's Eat Around the World -- illustrated by Parwinder Singh (Beaming Books, 2019). You can learn more about her at www.LiterallyLynneMarie.com
To order the Star in the Christmas Play, click the title.