Tell me a little bit about your first book, "Sammy's Shell!"
Sammy's Shell is a children's rhyming story about kindness. Sammy is a sea snail who gives her shell to a crab who doesn't have one. She unknowingly causes a pay-it-forward effect as different sea animals choose to help someone in need. I have also created a free Sammy's Shell activity library (coloring pages, language and learning worksheets, etc.), for parents and teachers on my website, mollyheckbooks.com.
Wonderful! I love the pay it forward message. And free activates are always fun, especially with World Oceans Day approaching! What do you hope to achieve with your story?
I work with children to develop their language and communication skills, so I've seen first hand how powerful books can be in supporting language, preliteracy, social awareness, and so much more... At the very least, I hope the book helps young children build a foundation for understanding emotions and the impact that our decisions and actions can have. Ideally, I'd love to see families and early educators using the book and free activities to help children talk about the story and practice those skills.
Absolutely, and you've provided such a great foundation for families and educations to easily access and utilize resources from. What do you like to do when you're not writing?
I am a speech-language pathologist, so I work with children in a school setting to develop their communication skills. I also have 2-year old twins who keep me super busy at home.
Wow you have your hands full! I love how the message and goals of your book works hand and hand with your profession. It lends so much expertise behind your book that readers will benefit from. What has been your reader's reaction to the book?
My own kids each gave it 1 star when I asked, but to be fair they don't really understand numbers or rating systems yet :) In all honestly, they were my first beta readers and even though they could probably recite the story by now - they still love looking at the pictures and reading it with me. The book was released May 16th, and so far the reactions have been overwhelmingly positive. It has been steadily showing as a #1 New Release in multiple categories. I'm excited for more feedback as it reaches new readers.
I'm sure your kids meant number one, which is an amazing accomplishment to have it ranking as a #1 New Release. Congrats! Who is your favorite character from the story?
In terms of personality, I'd have to say Glowfish, because when he had the opportunity to help someone, he was exceptionally brave. For the illustrations though, turtle takes the cake.
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Tell me a little bit about "The Grands Go - Oh No! The Great Smoky Mountains."
I am writing a travel series for grandparents and grandkids. The books feature a family of pygmy goats, Grandbuck, Grandnan, Billy, and Lilly grandkids, who take trips together and learn to see the silver lining when plans fall apart. The website for the book helps grandparents plan trips by providing suggestions for accommodations, restaurants, parks, activities, and playlists.
Awesome! What inspired you to write this story?
I was looking for a location-specific book for my granddaughter while on vacation. I couldn't find what I was looking for, so the next morning, I wrote "The Grands Go - Oh No! The Florida Panhandle." After a positive reaction from family and friends, I decided to see how far I could get with self-publishing.
Congrats on starting your self-publishing journey! What do you hope to achieve with your story?
I hope children will engage with the story, and grandparents will be proactive in taking their grandchildren to fun and memorable places. One of the saddest things about the pandemic was the loss of time with older family members. I think we all better appreciate time together now and will be more intentional about how we invest our time.
I agree. There is never too much time spend with loved ones. You mentioned this book was apart of a series, and have mentioned a few titles so far. Can you tell me about future plans and any others that are coming out soon?
The second book is "The Grands Go- Oh No! The Florida Panhandle" and the third is "The Grands Go - Oh No! The Grand Canyon. Book two is being illustrated now and I just finished writing the third. I hope to have them all available by Grandparents Day in September
What a wonderful day to celebrate! You've got your hands full! What has been the reader's reaction to the book so far?
I have been surprised at the reaction to the book since publishing on April 1. Most of the buyers so far are from this area (East Tennessee) and have the same memories I do of visiting the Smokies. I wrote the book for kids, but adults seem to like it just as much. My favorite thing is when I get a picture of a child holding the book or reading it.
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What inspired you to write your newest book, My Big Welcome?
On May 3, 2016, My family and I were one of the 90 thousand people that fled the Fort McMurray wildfires. As a result of the wildfire, we lost our house and were displaced from life as we knew it. It was quite overwhelming, especially for my older daughter, who was six years old at the time. We moved to the city of Edmonton and had to just start over. My daughter had to go to a new school, but she was so scared. She was so worried about being the new kid in school and thought people might not be so nice. That all changed the moment, we stepped into her new class. The kids were AMAZING! I must say I have never met kids as nice as that before. They were all over her, ready to be her friend. That show of love, that gesture of kindness, turned the fear in my daughter's heart into hope. That was what inspired My BIg Welcome.
That gives me full-body chills. I'm so happy that the children were so welcoming to her, such a nice contrast to the tragedy you and your family experienced. What are you hoping to achieve with My Big Welcome?
I hope to highlight the power and importance of kindness in our world. My hope is that children will be inspired and equipped to be kind. Kindness can be learned and taught. I believe kindness heals and does make the world a better place. What better way to teach kindness than to show an example of kindness, which is shown in My Big Welcome.
I agree. Your book is powerful! Are you already thinking of your next story idea?
Yes, I am! I have a few stories I am already working on.
Exciting! When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
I have always written. I remember being a kid and always scribbling stories. I had a lot of lined notebooks filled with some of my stories. My no. 1 reader was my younger sister. I am so thankful for her! I believe this passion grew when I was about 13.
Wow, that is amazing! It would be fun to revisit some of those stories. What do you like to do when you're not writing?
I like to play. I love playing lego or just playing pretend with my kids. We make up a story and pretend to be the characters. I enjoy making very silly character voices. I also love listening to music!
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Tell me a little bit about "A Lost Star Named Stella."
Stella is a sweet little star who loves to sparkle in the night sky. One night, she gets hopelessly lost in the dark. After meeting three different and equally unhelpful celestial bodies, Stella encounters the Bright Morning Star, who knows both her name and the way home. With musical rhyme, whimsical illustrations, and a tender ending, A Lost Star Named Stella is a darling faith-based picture book sure to warm young hearts and draw them closer to Him. Its beautiful pictures will captivate babies and adults alike, and its heartwarming message is relevant for all ages as well!
What inspired you to write this story?
Stella's story was inspired by Isaiah 40:26, which says, "Lift up your eyes and look to the heavens: Who created all these? He who brings out the starry host one by one and calls forth each of them by name. Because of his great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing."
What do you hope to achieve with your story?
I hope to encourage children and adults alike to follow God because He is willing and able to guide them along their life's journey. I also pledged to donate $1 from the sale of every ALSNS book to Starlight Children's Foundation, an organization dedicated to delivering happiness to seriously ill children and their families (see https://www.starlight.org/).
It is so heart-warming that you are donating $1 to the Starlight Children's Foundation! Was there a point when you wanted to give up on writing your book?
Yes, when I reached out to unresponsive or expensive publishers before I realized I could self-publish!
Congrats on taking your publishing journey into your own hands! What do you like to do when you're not writing?
Bake, read!, Pilates, catch up with friends, try new restaurants with my husband, travel, love on my kids.
Wonderful! What is your favorite part of the publishing journey?
Seeing my words come to life through illustrations.
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Celebrate Earth Day with the "Save the Earth" children's book series. Read a new story every day of Earth week!
Celebrating Earth Day with children with earth-friendly stories is an exciting way to welcome kids into an environmentally conscious mindset as they learn real-world problems told by relatable fictional characters!
Bethany Stahl's Save the Earth™ series tackles a different ecological problem in each book, from recycling and composting to the importance of biodiversity and the human impact.
The Save the Earth™ series is filled with exciting green living ideology perfect for classroom learning to bedtime stories. Celebrate the wonders of earth with these delightful planet-friendly stories. Don't forget that Bethany Stahl has created animated audiobooks to enjoy her stories for free!
Check out her Animation playlist on YouTube
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What is the title of your debut children's book?
It is called "The Girl and the Dragonfly."
Exciting! The title immediately has piqued my curiosity. Can you tell me a little about it?
Dragonflies usually represent change and living in the moment. “The Girl and the Dragonfly” is a story about a little girl who meets a dragonfly. The dragonfly helps the little girl learn how to live in the moment while also bringing her happiness.
Your story has a beautiful message, one for children and adults alike. What inspired you to write "The Girl and the Dragonfly"?
The Girl and the Dragonfly” was inspired by my mom and this story is also dedicated to her. My mom was diagnosed with an incurable disease when I was younger and has been battling non-alcoholic liver disease for more than 15 years. Every year I attend a charity 5K to walk in honor of mom and help raise money and awareness about the disease. However, since the COVID-19 pandemic hit this year, the annual 5K had to be canceled. Since the event was canceled, I wanted to find another way to raise money for the American Liver Foundation in honor of my mom. This is when I decided to write a children’s book and donate a portion of the profits made from book sales to the American Liver Foundation. Every purchase of “The Girl and the Dragonfly” will help me raise money for the American Liver Foundation in honor of my mom. I hope this book will also make children everywhere smile no matter what they may be going through in their life.
This is truly touching and such an honorable way to support not only your mother but everyone connected to the American Liver Foundation. I, too, have a loved one affected by a non-alcoholic liver disease, and I wholeheartedly thank you for your work. Do you have any plans for another book?
I have actually already written and published second children’s book titled “Leo the Dragonfly.” My second book released in January 2021. I am thinking about creating an entire children’s book series based on the dragonfly character, Leo, who is introduced in “The Girl and the Dragonfly.”
That is amazing! I'm so glad to hear Leo's character continues in stories that we can all fall in love with. Thank you for taking the time to share about your books. I look forward to seeing more from you in the future!
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Janet Gurtler has been an author for ten years! Her most popular book, I'm Not Her, was published traditionally in 2011. Since then, she has published several books but has recently started publishing her first indie picture books!
Janet started Eman Books in 2020 with a vision to produce personalized books for children and dogs! Yes, dogs! Janet has enjoyed embarking on the indie frontier and finding helpful tips along the way from Bethany Stahl's content.
What is the name of your newest book?
I have two! First is Who's a Good Dog which is the customizable name of the dog book written to the dog. The second is I Love My Mom, the customizable title of the dog book written to the dog owner!
Wow! I love the personalization aspect! I read all of my books to my furbabies, but I love how your book is created just for them! Can you tell me a little more about your books?
These personalized books are adorably illustrated and intended as gifts for dog owners! The books are easy to read and feature the recipient's cartooned dog on the cover and the name of the dog in the book as they try to figure out who the good dog is, with the help of some other cartoon dogs along the way. They review some behaviors, and there is a little worry, but then the big reveal comes at the end!
I know my dog would enjoy finding out who's a good dog! So what inspired you to write this story?
My dog Betty White, I love her a little too much. And I love books. And the thought of making her a cartoon and putting her in a book gave me so much happiness. I looked around at the personalized books available, and there are some that feature pets in stories. I wanted a book that was actually about a dog instead of putting them in a fictionalized story. So I created a new one. I think it’s a great gift for spoiled dogs. And the humans who love them.
I am all about honoring pets through putting them in stories, but making yours personal is such a sweet touch that everyone can enjoy, and I agree your books would make phenomenal gifts! So how long did it take you to write these books?
I’ve written many novels, so I was surprised how long it took me to get it to the point where I was happy with my picture book prose! Of course, with this book, I also had to hire an illustrator, designers and figure out how to put it all together, so it was a lot of work in a different way. I don’t feel like these dog books will be completely done, as I personalize the content, and still need to still slowly add more dogs for the covers and big reveal!
Writing in any aspect is no easy feat, so congratulations! It sounds like it has a lot of room to grow in the future. Is this book apart of a series, or do you have any future plans?
Similarly, I also have a series of personalized books about kids as they discover a new sport. The first is done, and it's called A Swimmer's Best Time, written for competitive swimmers. The next books are Hockey Goals, Soccer Goals, and Dancing Feats. They're all personalized with the child's name and the name of the team they are on.
Amazing! Thank you for taking the time to share about your books. I look forward to seeing more from you in the future!
Tell me a little bit about your book Arturo's Workshop.
The story is about a kind old man named Arturo who has a magical workshop where he fixes broken hearts. Hearts come in many sizes and break in different ways, but when a frightened heart arrives and hides under his workbench, Arturo tries everything to help the scared little heart to heal and grow.
That is a beautiful concept! How long did it take you to write this book?
It was written, illustrated, and published in less than three months.
That is amazing, especially since you illustrated the book yourself! What do you hope to achieve with Arturo's Workshop?
I want to give hope to people. Everyone in every culture at any age knows what a broken heart feels like. I wanted to create a character that people could believe in. That's it's okay to be sad, and someone out there cares and wants to help.
Hope is a beautiful gift to give, and I love the message. Was there a point when you wanted to give up on writing your book?
There were a few moments of self-doubt. Was the story good enough? Were my illustrations stupid? I had never written a children's book before, was I doing it right? I remember working on an illustration, thinking about giving up, but as I worked on I started noticing little tweaks I could make, and when I looked at the finished product, I thought, "Whoa, I did that? That's not bad." and I kept going. It was then I learned to stop worrying about the what-if and trust that I was making something good.
I am delighted to hear you didn't give up! Overcoming self-doubt is so tricky, but I've heard the response to your book has been outstanding. Can you tell me a bit about the reader's reactions to Arturo's Workshop?
In a little over a month since it's been published, it has gotten positive feedback. Friends have been sharing videos and pictures of their kids reading the book. People have been buying extra copies and donating them to local libraries (including the libraries of the city I grew up in. Which blew my mind). Friends who are teachers have been buying copies for their classrooms. It's a wonderful feeling that the book is being read and loved by both children and adults.
Thank you for taking the time to share about your book Stanley! I look forward to seeing more from you in the future!
A Few Tips:
As authors, we are always looking for new ways to get our books in front of a new audience! I have compiled a list of resources that will promote your free e-book for free! Some of them do offer paid promotions, but that is up to you and your relationship with the resources. I haven't tried any paid options yet, and still, see considerable numbers in downloads.
For each resource, there may be a few different rules, so before you submit your book, make sure it meets the requirements (ex. reviews, pages, subject, etc.) I've listed the requirements I've found but they may change!
I will add more as I find more over time!
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