On Episode 37 of the Writer’s Way, I chat with aspiring author Nathan Bateman about his plan to published journey! Subscribe to the podcast so that you don’t miss part 3!
Joining me for the first time? Start at the beginning HERE!
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RESOURCES We Talk About!
Link to the FREE Sucky or Stupendous Course
Link to the Profitable Picture Books: 30 Day Action Plan
The fart book or the lesson book?
Laurie: Hey, writers, welcome back to The Writer’s Way podcast. I’m Laurie and I’m here again with Nathan. Thanks for coming back, Nathan.
Nathan: Thanks for having me back.
Laurie: You’re not scared off yet.
Nathan: Not yet.
Laurie: Okay, so for anybody who needs a catch-up or needs to remember where we left off, you were wondering what idea to go forward with, an idea that taught kids a lesson, basically, or more of just a funny, fun to read, kids would love to read it over and over kind of a book. So you went off and did the Sucky or Stupendous course, and what did you decide?
Nathan: Okay, well, I don’t know, I’ll just kind of update people to where I’m at. So it’s been a little while since our last meeting and I am working full time and dadding full time, so I haven’t had as much time as I would like. But I think that other people might like to hear that too, is that it’s tough to write a book with regular life going on. And so I found it a little bit challenging to keep going. But it’s not like I’m gonna stop or anything, but it’s just tough to put aside time. So I buckled down, did the Sucky or Stupendous course, and I had some mixed ideas. So my one main book that I think I want to write about is called “I Can Do It.” And it has a moral, it’s obviously teaching something.
Deciding on a title
Nathan: And the funny thing was, is that I was talking to Laurie after the video and I found out she had a book called “I Can Do It” that I didn’t know about. And so I was like, “D’oh, that’s stupid.” But at this moment, I’m gonna leave it. And I think that’s one of the things that I found out with the Sucky or Stupendous course was that I’m not sure if I’m gonna stick with that title. I’m not sure if I’m gonna change it, but my story itself is not going to change. So that’s kind of what I wanted to talk to you about, too. I got my little notebook that we talked about, my wife gave to me, so I jotted some ideas down.
Nathan: In the course, it talks about writing down or researching books on the Amazon thing. So if any other people are doing this and they’ve researched it, they’ll know what I’m talking about. If not, take the course, you’ll know. So I wrote down, you probably can’t see it–
Laurie: Yeah, yeah.
Nathan: So I bring it up nice and close.
Nathan: That’s my topic, “I Can Do It.” I played around with maybe “Can I do it?” So I wasn’t really sure what I was gonna do. I found five books from that. I also, on the next page, did topic, farts. ’cause that’s what my other book is about, the ridiculous one.
Is “I Can Do It” a successful subject?
Nathan: So I did some comparisons about what’s what, or what I felt like was. So the five books that I found that are I can do it themed books, I’ll call it that, there was a wide range. So your book, Laurie, was near the top, selling well, looked like a decent title and research handle, it looked like it was pretty good. There was another book called, “I Can Do It,” and it was 582,000 ranking. So it was not selling well. And it’s an older book. So I wrote the years down. I wrote the authors down and I wrote what they were selling and was using your tool or the link that you had a tool for. So the second one that I researched was not doing well and it’s, whatever. And there was another book called, “From Head to Toe.” And so I wasn’t sure how that correlated, but when I put in, I can do it under Amazon.com books and everything, it came up as one of the top sellers. It’s obviously by a famous author, Eric Carle, who does the caterpillar ones and stuff. And he was selling in the 58,000 ranking. So it’s an okay book, doing well, but probably maybe more so what I thought was carrying off of his author name. And people were like, “Oh, I like him, I’ll try that book.” It didn’t have anything to do with I can do it, but it was a positive message. So I was like, okay, whatever. And then there was another book called, “I Can Do Hard Things,” by Gabi Garcia. And it was ranked about 6,000, it was very high.
Nathan: So it was doing well.
How important is the title?
Nathan: So I felt like that there was some that were like, whatever, totally off bases, some that were a lot better in that regard. So my question to you, and once I got into the course and once I got after the course and started researching on my own, I started to find there was a ton of discrepancy for title searches. And so I was not sure if, as we progress when I try to market my book, ’cause marketing is gonna come in to this, is how important is the title? Like is the title the main thing, that’s where you’re gonna get the most views, the most hits, the most researches? Because nobody knows who I am. They don’t know any book that I’ve written. I’m a nobody to mind. And so is it strictly the title that has to be punched into Amazon so they can find me? Because, otherwise, I don’t know how they can find it.
Metadata is key
Laurie: Yeah, so the Amazon system is actually really sophisticated. And when you put all the information into the, like your back office kinda thing, your dashboard area, you put your title, the author name, the illustrator. And then there’s something called the seven keywords. And this is known as your metadata. So you also put the grades and the age range. And so that’s why, in the course, I suggest you sort of compare those things as well. But the metadata keywords is when people type in book about I can do it. Probably, they don’t use those words, to be honest, right?
Nathan: Right, right.
Laurie: It’s more like how can I help my child, how can I help my kid, yadda, yadda, yadda. And so those seven slots where you put your metadata keywords is where you put what you want your book to come up for when people search.
Laurie: Is that a little convoluted? So like, how to help kids, empowering kids, or make kids more self-confident, or whatever. So that’s how they’ll find you. So maybe there might be one keyword in your title, like if you had I can do it in the metadata, I can do it in your title, then your book’s more likely to come up. But chances are people aren’t gonna be searching for that. I don’t think they searched for that when they find my book. It’s more like, how do I help or books about.
Laurie: So the title is not a make or break thing.
You can’t copyright a title
Laurie: And a funny story about Gabi Garcia’s book, so I’ve been planning the “I Can Do It” book since the fall, since last year ’cause it’s dedicated to a friend of mine. And I went to publish it around September, and Gabi had published hers right at the end of September, and mine was gonna come out at the end of October. And so I had to do a last-minute title change. And you don’t have to do that, I’m not saying everybody has to do that, but she came out with “I Can Do Hard Things” and that was my book, “I Can Do Hard Things.” And I thought, we’re in the same genre, we’re in all the same categories, our books are beside each other, and I just didn’t feel like I could put “I Can Do Hard Things” out a month after she put “I Can Do Hard Things” out. And in the end, it might have been fine. As you can see, there’s lots of books with this same title. It isn’t a make or break here. You can’t copyright a title so you could have 100 “I Can Do It” books. I can’t say anything about that to anybody, right?
Laurie: It’s a funny story because she came out with “I Can Do Hard Things” and I was like . So I know what you’re saying when you’re like, should I or shouldn’t I keep that? But the title isn’t the main thing you need to be worried about.
Nathan: Okay, so that’s something that I’ll come back to. I might change it.
Researching the Fart Book
Nathan: I might not. I think that in the research that I did, just for people’s interest, I went over the topic of farts and stuff.
Nathan: Lots of those books, they were ranked okay. They were decent books. But I think that there were very, very few that were exceptionally high. I think the only one that I found that was astronomical, it was ranked 398th, was the “My Butt Has a Crack in It” book, or whatever. It’s just all funny,
Laurie: Oh, yeah.
Nathan: A newish one, or whatever. So I’m gonna steer away from that one, I think, for my first book because I know that there is an investment, like a monetary investment to get a book published. And at this time, I don’t have money just to say, “I’d like to print off five books “and if one of them doesn’t sell, whatever, “I’ve printed off a book that I want, it’s great.” One day, maybe, when my books are really good and they do sell, then maybe I’ll write books that have nothing to do with anything and I don’t care if they don’t do well.
Parents want positive stories for their children
But for the first one I felt like it was a better trend, using that tool that things with the message do resonate with, especially in that almost all of these people, as I was doing the research, had a background in education, lots of teachers, psychologists, counselors, all these different things. So I know that there is a group of people and parents out there who are looking for positive stories for their children. And I think that, to myself, what I have in my head, I didn’t write anything down in my book again, I just kinda build my story in my head. But what I’ve got, I feel like, it’s a positive message, it’s upbeat, but it’s also funny.
Nathan: And so, I feel like I can combine that and make it a really good story and stick to a topic that is going to be successful, which is hopefully the case, and that’s what I would like to do.
Laurie: I think that’s probably the smartest choice, especially starting off, like you said, in a couple years you might build up a readership, or you might have a really good following and you could put out anything and people will love your style and love how you make their kids feel. But starting out, if you have some kind of benefit or message that will speak to parents and teachers and counselors, and they say, “Yes, that’s what I need,” my kid needs help with whatever that is, positivity, or whatever route you’re going. I think that books with those types of benefits are always gonna do better.
You could make it a series!
Laurie: And for the title, you could put your series, you had talked about a series, it’s like, “Mindful Mantras: I Can Do It.”
Nathan: Yeah, I noticed that quite a bit is that almost every story has some kind of series tied to it. And I think that’s a really good idea because it can allow you to explore a bunch of different techniques or topics that are gonna help people. And if it’s in this children help then that’s, the books that I research that I’ve found, like you’re saying, is they were all in the five to 12 age group, maybe.a little older, and most of them paperback. Some of them are only hardcover, but I tried to keep it in the same genre and style of book that I’d be doing. So it was, I don’t know, I felt like based on that research, I was able to get a good idea and say this is the right direction, let’s go with that.
Laurie: Awesome, and that’s the whole point of it is just to make that choice and be able to move forward.
Put the fart book in the parking lot
Laurie: And put the fart book in the parking lot for next year.
Nathan: Yeah, it’s gonna be someday, so.
Laurie: Well, you can just do that one yourself.
Nathan: My kids can enjoy those stories at home.
Laurie: I mean, all kids like that, but are parents searching for that?
Laurie: Are parents searching for, sorry–
Nathan: That’s okay.
Laurie: More books about farts for my kids?
Nathan: For sure.
Laurie: Probably not.
Laurie: Okay, so what’s next?
Nathan: Okay, so for me, I’m not 100% sure what’s next, but it my mind, I’d like to write down what I’ve got in my head. So we’ve got a little trip coming up. My wife and I are gonna go see some, her family in Portland. So no kids, they’re staying home with the grandparents. So we are off on our own for a bit. And that will give me some time to sit down and write what I would say is my first copy for the garbage, as we talked about last time.
Nathan: And whether it’s bad or good, whatever. I’m just gonna get it down on paper. I’m gonna write my ideas down. One of the things that I have thought about in my head and I haven’t put it to paper yet is is that on those books that I was researching, they were in that 28 to 50 page range. So I need say, do I have enough material to fill that many pages? Or, I might have too much material and the pages are now like this much words and typing and it’s just like that’s no longer a kids’ book. A kid can’t even follow it anymore, it’s too much.
How many pages is a children’s book?
Nathan: So I might need to cut it down. I might need to expand it. But I think that to get it on paper and say, okay, I’m gonna block out 32 pages, write the story, see what I think, and then go from there.
Laurie: So I remember your 32 pages, like the first page is the title page.
Laurie: And then the next one is the copyright, and then the dedication, and then it starts. And then at the end, you’re gonna have your bio. And some people do a stanza on the left-hand side and then the picture on the right. Right, if you go and look at your kids books, sometimes there’s no picture on this side and then there’s just a picture on this side. So if you’re worried about having too little, as long as the story gets told, moves forward, makes sense, all that kinda stuff, you can make up pages, right, with your illustrations and that.
Illustrating Nathan’s Imagination
Nathan: I was gonna say I think I talked to you, and I don’t know if I ever talked about it on the podcast last week, or if it’s just been in talking to you outside of that, but for me, a large part of the story will be told through pictures as well. So my words will convey a message, but the pictures will also inspire some imagination, ’cause a lot of the storytelling in my head, I can see it in my head and visualize it and be like, this is awesome. I can see exactly, there’s maybe facial expressions or body language that present a point that can’t be captured in the writing and it will enhance it with the combination of the two.
You’re ready to write it down!
Laurie: Absolutely, absolutely. This is exciting! You’re ready to write it down.
Nathan: Yeah, I gotta get it down. And then, from your perspective, is that just my next step?
Nathan: Is there anything else I need to do?
Laurie: Absolutely, so I would say get it written. Be okay with it being more frustrating than you think it might be, even though you feel like it’s all in your head. So a lot of times, you sit down to write and then it’s stare at the wall time. And that’s okay.
Laurie: But you do need to just write something down because you can’t edit nothing. A lot of people want to write a sentence and then edit. Oh, I’ve made that spelling mistake, that doesn’t sound right, or whatever. I highly discourage that. So if you can, let it flow, let it all come out, the ideas will be better that way. And even if it’s tons or just a little bit, and then don’t edit it even then right away. Go for dinner in Portland or do, I don’t know what you do in Portland, so.
Nathan: Me neither.
Laurie: What’s that?
Nathan: I said, I don’t know what we do there either. I’ll just be hanging around, so whatever.
Laurie: So leave some time, so leave some chunks. So chunk out an hour or two to write. And if you can, get it written. Like get the story written, and then leave it for 24 hours. So maybe it’s one or two hours everyday that you’re there or something and then read it again. And your first step, I would read for comprehension. So is there a beginning, middle, and end? Is there a bit of a problem? Or what’s happening in the story, it doesn’t make sense. Will it make sense to people as they go through it? And then you edit for spelling and grammar and that kind of stuff. And then you go through it again, so a day apart, and now it’s is it too long? Can you start, in your computer, chunking it into two lines here, two lines here, where it would go on a page more. And there’s lots of creative ways you can put it on the page, doesn’t all have to be in a chunk. So start thinking about stuff like that. And at that point, you might have to really cut down your words. So a lot of people will write and it’s stream of consciousness, which is fine for your first draft, but there’s a lot of filler words when you do that.
Show, Don’t Tell
Laurie: And I love the way you’re talking about, you’re already planning so much through the illustrations and the characters’ expressions and things. So to me, you’re already planning, like in the writing world we say, show don’t tell. So instead of saying, “He felt angry,” if you have the kid that is clearly angry from the illustration, you don’t have to say that.
Laurie: And so a lot of people, when they do the writing, “He felt angry, he said this, he said that.” And they go on and on and it’s too much words and too much filler, but you can do so much with your pictures. So I feel like you won’t do that, ’cause you’re already planning to do so much through your illustrations. So do try to capture as much of what you picture it being in your head, ’cause it’s always easier, I think, to convey what you’re talking about, especially if it’s a month or two down the road, it’s gonna be easier to convey to an illustrator this is what I was thinking. And then it will be a collaboration, so it might not be exactly. You’ll want, I mean this is getting ahead of ourselves, but you’ll want an illustrator who’s open to that, obviously. So some illustrators just want the words and they totally wanna interpret it themselves. But I feel like, especially with your first book, you spend so much time thinking about it and picturing it in your head, that you really know what it wants to look like.
Nathan: For sure.
Laurie: It’s important, you want that to come through. You want your vision to come to life.
Visualizing the book
Nathan: Yeah, and I get, obviously that is down the road and stuff but that comes to my mind all the time. It’s just like how do I make the illustrator get what I want onto the page, but how do I let them have the creativity that they want. And I think that’s important. And we can cover that later.
Laurie: We will, yeah.
Nathan: But yeah, good things to think about. When I write my first draft, what I’m going to do is I think I’m just gonna write it all down and then I’m going to actually take my book and label one to 25, or whatever, make the book 28 pages or 29 pages, or whatever. And then start placing it on my book. And so I can see it in my book, it won’t have pictures. I’ll jot down whatever little, like, okay, picture like this, have a side note if I have an idea of a picture, of what I want it to look like.
It’s getting exciting!
Nathan: And then, that way I can remember it, usually I’ll remember it anyway, but I think that’ll help me get a good idea of what the book looks like and what I can do from there. So I think those are good next steps. And I’m excited. I will obviously have to buckle down and get it done and be patient, so it’s exciting.
Laurie: It’s exciting. You’re right, though, as soon as the excitement wears off just a little bit, and real life creeps in a little too much, it’s hard to make time and hard to get that excited feeling back and just sit down and get it done. It’s a good thing you have me reminding you and sending you texts and…
Nathan: I know.
Laurie: Get writing . Everybody will want that, right?
Read your book to kids
Laurie: So if you get it written and you feel like it’s in a good place and it’s all ready and we don’t have a chance to talk again, the next step what I would say is read it to kids.
Laurie: So not your own kids that depend on you for living and food and stuff. If you can, other people’s kids, or even send it to a friend and get your friend to read it to their kids or even get them to record it in their phone. There’s a lot of voice recording apps that can speak it and then send you the recording. And all of those things help. So if kids are listening to you read the book, you don’t have pictures yet, obviously, if they’re clamoring to see pictures, if they’re standing up and going behind you, like, I wanna see, I wanna see, ’cause they always wanna see, then you know they’re interested and it’s good. But sometimes you’ll read it and they’ll leave because, right, kids are pretty odd.
Nathan: I have one kid that I won’t read it to because he’ll be leaving no matter what I read to him.
Laurie: Your little one?
Have other adults read it aloud to kids
Laurie: Yeah, he’ll like it when there’s pictures. But sometimes it is in the telling, but that’s really obvious. Like I have some people in my course, they were like, yes, I read it to a group of kids and half of them left, so I’m rewriting it. And it’s better to do that now, even though it hurts your feelings, than after you paid $2,000 for an illustrator. So do, if you get to that point, and you feel like it’s in a good space, send it to some friends, have them read it. And having other people read it out loud helps you with the cadence of your sentences and your phrases, because other people won’t say it the same way you’ve been saying it in your head for three months. Does that make sense? So then it helps you just to see if other people are going to read it the way that you think they’re going to read it.
The anxiety that comes with getting your book out there
Nathan: Yeah, that’s a good idea ’cause I’m excited about that. Like when I read stories and stuff, my wife’s always like, “You should be an orator, “you should tell stories.” “You don’t need to,” whatever, ’cause I like to get into it and stuff. So honestly, I have a certain style that I wanna tell stories. But then if you give it to someone else and they read it and they’re like boring, you’re like, well I could make this story interesting if I read it, but you, you can’t make it interesting. So I want it to be interesting that they can do. I don’t know, I’d like–
Laurie: That will be good down the line–
Nathan: I’m sure other writers–
Laurie: Oh, sorry, go ahead.
Nathan: Sorry, go ahead.
Laurie: I was just gonna say that’ll be good down the line. You can record it or you can do like a YouTube channel and you can read it to the kids and that can come into play. But for somebody who buys it and reads it to their kid, you wanna make sure that it–
Laurie: Yeah, you’re gonna be good. What, I was interrupting you.
The importance of others’ input
Nathan: Yeah, I was gonna say maybe, sorry, you know I was fine. I don’t know, I find it a little bit, not overwhelming, but a little bit scary to read it to people that I like. Like if I read it to somebody who I don’t know, I don’t care if they don’t like the story. But it’s like, I’m like, man, I’m gonna write my story, I’m gonna read it to my wife, and I already know she’s gonna be like, “Oh, you need to change this part right here, “it’s horrible,” and I’m gonna be like–
Laurie: That’s good.
Nathan: Oh, dang it. But it’s good though, you need it. And like you said, it’s good to get it out there before you get it published, before you get an illustrator and then you find out people are like, “Eh, it’s not that good.”
Laurie: Yeah, or the pictures are great, but the story kinda sucks.
Nathan: The story, it needs a little work.
Laurie: If you wanna read it to me, I’ll read it to my kids and let you know.
Nathan: Yeah, I’m probably gonna do that. I’ll send it around to people who have kids and just be like, “Hey, read it to your kids, “see what they think, give me some input.”
Nathan: And then the next one, and just give it to me and tell me what sucked and there you go.
But not all the input is valid
Laurie: Well, and some kids, you can take some of the advice, some of it will resonate and be like, yeah, that will really make this story better. And sometimes it’s just kids like, “I don’t like anything without a dragon. “So this story sucks ’cause there’s no dragon.” Don’t take all of the advice when it’s coming from kids.
Nathan: Yeah, for sure.
Laurie: But what will also be valuable is the parents saying, “This part, they were all so into, “but this part, not so much,” or, “It took a few pages for them to get into it.” And then, all that kind of stuff is what you wanna ask. Did they like the whole thing? Were they more into the beginning? Or did they really like the characters, or all that kind of stuff.
The Sucky or Stupendous Course
Nathan: All right, sounds good. So, I don’t know, I feel like I’ve got my next steps read to go, my next little plan. Is there anything else you think I need to do? Or you think that–
Laurie: No, I think it’s really good just to concentrate on this part. And so some of the suggestions about writing and editing and leaving it and all that kinda stuff are in the course. So if you feel like, oh, Laurie was so smart, what did she say, it’s in the course. so you can go look.
A Writing Retreat
Laurie: But yeah, I think you’re doing great and I’m super excited and Portland, big goals for Portland.
Nathan: That’s right, it’s a writing retreat I’m taking. I like it, I like it .
Laurie: Cool, okay, well we’ll schedule something when you’re back and it’s written and you’re wondering what to do next and good luck.
Nathan: All righty, well, appreciate it and yeah, we’ll see how it goes in a few days, or whatever, so.
Laurie: All right, cool, all right, talk to you soon.
Nathan: All right, thank you.
Subscribe and comment!
Laurie: Hey everyone! Thanks for listening today, what do you think, will Nathan actually get the book written while he’s away? Personally, I have great intentions for my vacations, but they are rarely realized because I’m having too much fun! Subscribe to the podcast to find out if he did or not!
Leave me a comment and let me know if you think his choice of which direction to go in is a good one or not!
Has Nathan inspired you to finally get your kids book published? Look on creativewrighter.com for the 30 Day Action plan! (The FREE course that Nathan talked about is on there too!)
See you next week, here on the Writer’s Way Podcast