ETA: Although the contest is now over, I’ve kept this post as I originally wrote it with one exception: MeeGenius took down the link to my story on their website, so I have removed the links that were in the original post. 3/3/12
Many of you know by now that I recently submitted one of my stories to a contest with MeeGenius – an e-publisher. For the past week, I’ve been emailing contacts and posting it on Twitter and Facebook – getting my first real taste of promoting a book. Hands off to published authors – it’s very time-consuming, difficult, and if you are like me and not used to self-promotion, pretty uncomfortable. It just feels strange to contact people and say, “Hey, look at me! Vote for me! Please!”
I decided I’d feel better about it if I shared a little background behind the story. Because every story has a story!
This book, A TROOP IS A GROUP OF MONKEYS, was one of the first I wrote once I decided to try my hand at children’s picture books. My husband came up with the original idea after he found a website with a list of some of the collective nouns for animals. He thought I should write a simple book with just the group name. A group of monkeys is called a TROOP. And so on.
When I looked over the list, I was surprised to see how few of the group names I actually knew. I’d heard of a pack of wolves, a herd of buffalo and a pride of lions. But a float of crocodiles? An ostentation of peacocks? Those were entirely new and fun to discover. I also enjoyed the fact that the group names tended to describe either the animal’s appearance or behavior. So I decided to write the story as a concept book (rather than one with a plot), and use rhyming couplets to teach both the collective nouns and one fact about each of the animals.
A couple of years ago, after putting TROOP through a few rounds of critiques, I submitted it to a few editors. I got a couple of “helpful” rejections with the message that the story wasn’t “big” enough to be a trade picture book and that there were other, similar books on the market. In my own research, I had found a board book with a few collective nouns and a book of the type my husband had suggested I write, but none just like mine. Nevertheless, I moved on and kept TROOP in a virtual drawer.
I never stopped loving it though, and two years later, with the world of publishing turned upside down as a result of e-books, e-readers, and apps, I started
thinking about bringing TROOP back from the dead. I think the book would translate very well to the enhanced e-book format. I envision kids pressing on the owls and hearing them hoot, or tapping the peacocks and seeing them shake their tail feathers. And although it’s a dirty word when submitting, I gathered so many of these collective nouns in my research, I have enough for a series based on different types of animals – birds (a convocation of eagles), aquatic (a smack of jellyfish), insects/reptiles (a rhumba of rattlesnakes).
Finally, there are many ways to use a book like this in the classroom, the least of which being the difference between collective and singular nouns. It’s an opportunity to teach interesting vocabulary and tie it back to the animals. What does ostentatious or shrewd mean, and why do we use those words to describe peacocks and apes, respectively? There’s a “green” element to the book with its final plea to take care of the earth and share it with animals. There’s also a science and geography component – where do these animals live? What do they eat? How do they behave? I look forward to doing these presentations in classrooms myself! In fact, if I win, my kids’ school library gets a complete library of MeeGenius books for free!
While I don’t love the promotion aspect of this contest, I do believe in this story and want to see it published. Furthermore, I am set on publishing it in an e-book format. The MeeGenius contest is a good opportunity to try to make that happen. I wish the winner was chosen entirely on editorial judgement so I could hide behind my laptop, but I have to admit I’ve learned a lot from putting a tiny toe into the waters of promotion. So here it is once again. If you haven’t already, please take a look at A TROOP IS A GROUP OF MONKEYS, and if you have a Facebook account, vote for it if it speaks to you.
I know there are other picture book writers who follow my blog who have also entered this contest. I invite you to include links to your stories in the comments. I know I’ve “liked” several from the PiBoIdMo group, but there may be more. Feel free to share the “story” behind your stories if you are so inclined. 🙂
Thanks for reading! I feel better having provided some background on this story, how it came to life, and what it means to me.Categories: Children's Books, Digital Publishing, ebooks, Picture Books, Poetry, Publishing, Queries, Rhyming, Works in Progress, Writing · Tags: e-books, e-publishing, Julie Hedlund, MeeGenius Author Challenge, Picture Books, Poetry, Publishing, Rhyming, Works in Progress, Writer, Writing