On the Work of Writing

I answered some interview questions for a blogger and thought it would be fun to share a little about my publishing experience here, how my latest title came to be, and when/where people can ask me questions in person. Enjoy!

What genre is your newest book? Juvenile business (The Bridge of the Golden Woodfree this month on Kindle, #1 in 3 Amazon categories, with 5,000+ downloads), I hope it helps bridge the gap between what kids learn in school and what they need to know/do to succeed in life.
What draws you to this genre? Seeing a lack of kids’ curriculum on how money is made—how to earn a living. I used to be a recruiter in Silicon Valley; today’s graduates don’t seem as prepared for work as their parents. Many young people don’t know that failure is normal and can nourish future success.
Please describe what the story is about in one sentence. A child with a knack for solving problems learns that helping some hungry fish—who can’t pay him—facilitates his finding a treasure.
What was the time frame for writing your last book? A few days (illustration is the real work—and I had to do some on this book.)
How much research do you do? More for this book than a typical picture book; I had to present valuable tips and business ideas I’ve learned over the years.
Do you aim for a set amount of words/pages per day? No (but I spend hours on books/marketing every day)
What is the easiest thing about writing? Ideas that ambush me
When did you decide that you wanted to be a writer? In college … when I should have been doing my homework
What are your thoughts on good/bad reviews? Every review can be helpful (even bad ones contribute to visibility—and they offer great feedback)
Which do you prefer: Pen or Computer? And how do you stay organized (any methods, tools you use)? I usually write ideas on scraps of paper in odd moments/places, then I write out the story on my laptop.
How do you relax? Volleyball, music, films, books
What were your biggest learning experience(s) or surprise(s) throughout the publishing process? When my first publisher died; I had to learn the publishing business.
What would you have done differently if you could do it again? I would have sought more reviews for my early titles.
Something personal about you people may be surprised to know? No matter how many achievements I have, I struggle with self-doubt, fears, and (at the same time) self-absorption.
What’s next? What are you working on at the moment? Non-fiction stories about immigrant kids and more bilingual books
Do you re-read books? One book that you would read again & again? The scriptures
Your influence(s), favorite author(s)? I love history, so anything by David McCoullugh is ideal. Other authors I love: Tolkien, Harper Lee, C.S. Lewis, Clancy, Grisham, Shel Silverstein
What book(s) are you reading at present? Major Problems in American Colonial History by Karen Kupperman
Best piece(s) of writing advice we haven’t discussed? Write every day and join a writer’s group

See a trailer for The Bridge of the Golden Wood. For business and career ideas, see ChildrenEarn.com. I’ll be contrasting traditional publishing vs. digital/self-publishing at the Kearns Library in Salt Lake County on June 29 at 7 p.m., 5350 S. 4220 West, Kearns, UT 84118. Hope to see you!

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Anna’s Prayer Re-released

Almost ten years ago, I was getting ready for my wedding (which I, ultimately, didn’t attend). A publisher approached me about writing a non-fiction story about an immigrant child. I told them I had such a story in my family history. Former LDS Relief Society General President Bonnie Parkin had, in a General Conference talk, told the story of my Great-great Aunt Anna, who immigrated from Sweden as a child—without her parents. I had more details in my Great Grandmother Ida’s journal.

I contacted Sister Parkin and asked if we could collaborate. While she had other priorities on her plate, she sent me copies of Anna Matilda Anderson’s journal (Anna is her husband’s grandmother) and told me I could use it as I pleased.

It was fun to compare my great grandmother’s perspective to her sister’s. Each had her own miraculous experience in her youth, which bolstered their new-found faith. Each had frightening experiences traveling without parents—separating mid-journey to live in different states.

BYU illustration graduate Shari Griffiths was asked to illustrate the story once it was complete. While Shari and I each got painful educations in the publishing process, she did an outstanding job on the art.

The result was Anna’s Prayer, the true story of 10-year-old Anna, who arrived alone in Salt Lake City—not knowing anyone and unable to speak English. Alone in the train station in the middle of the night she prayed for someone who could speak Swedish to come to her aid. The answer to her prayer went beyond what she could have hoped.

The book was well received and sold out in some local Costco stores. After a few years, publishing rights to Anna’s Prayer reverted to me and illustration rights to Shari (who now has several active children—and no desire to illustrate). This year, I purchased rights to the artwork and, finally, have re-released Anna’s Prayer in more affordable, paperback and ebook versions. I’m now working on my great grandmother’s story—as a prequel to Anna’s. I’m so excited to tell this—also true—story to the world! Here are some links to Anna’s Prayer: http://gozobooks.com/annas-prayer.php       http://tinyurl.com/zgnb5ka

STEM Books Spark Curiosity

stembooksmAstronomy, entomology, awards and wit

 

MIDVALE, Utah, Oct. 12, 2016 – Three multicultural books teach astronomy, entomology, zoology (and Spanish) — but kids would never know it from the mysteries, activities and giggles.

Cover contest winner “Butterfly Blink: A Book Without Words” is a new picture book fantasy that helps children (ages 2 – 6) cement vocabulary as they describe the monarch from caterpillar to chrysalis to butterfly. Blink — and they multiply! The e-book version is free this month and includes habitat conservation information for all ages.

“Bright Star, Night Star: An Astronomy Story” (also a cover design winner) is a children’s book that accompanies an American Indian child in finding constellations, stars and other heavenly bodies. It exposes children (4 – 8) to the starry skies, Monument Valley, and a little space science. It is available in hard or soft cover — or as an e-book.

“She Doesn’t Want the Worms – Ella no quiere los gusanos: A Mystery” was named in the top 10 best books of 2011 by “ForeWord Reviews Magazine.” It is an educational activity book about a bi-racial girl who responds to some unusual animal gifts — that happen to be alive — and includes full text and a pronunciation guide in both English and Spanish. Kids (3 and up) or language learners can find and count insects, reptiles, a cat, and a bat. Get in Spanish-only, English-only, or bilingual versions as an e-book or in paperback.

The best-selling author of these nature books, Karl Beckstrand, has 17 multicultural books and more than 45 e-book titles – all family friendly. Beckstrand finds that Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) books can entertain while they educate (STEAM books include the arts). Raised in San Jose, Calif., he will present on publishing entertaining literature Tues. Nov. 1 at 6:30 p.m. in the Weber County Library 2039 W. 4000 South, Roy, Utah and Sat. Nov. 5 from 1 – 4 p.m. at the Viridian Center 8030 S. 1825 West, West Jordan, Utah.

Award-winning Premio Publishing & Gozo Books’ STEM books capture attention, create repeat readers and are nationally lauded (ForeWord Reviews, Horn Book blog, School Library Journal, Kirkus Reviews). Not about ethnic or racial diversity, they simply feature black, white, Asian, Hispanic, Pacific Islander and mixed-race characters. Find them at PremioBooks.com, online and at select retailers.

Publisher Interview via Twitter

Yesterday, I was interviewed on Twitter by Profnet–a media company with enough pull to get my photo up in Times Square. Here’s the transcript:

Profnet: Can you please tell us about your background? I was raised in paradise (San Jose/Silicon Valley) —the perfect climate, much like Valparaiso (Chile, where I lived for two years [LDS mission]). I have a bachelor’s in journalism (never planned to be a reporter) and a master’s in International relations. I teach media at a state college in Utah, and am an arts/media junkie (music, art, films, books, theater—oh, and history!)

How did you begin your writing career and have you primarily focused on children’s stories since then? This was a complete accident because I hated writing (and reading) as a kid. While I should have been doing homework in college, I would get ambushed by ideas for kid’s books and write them—thinking I’d get published when I retired from a “real” job. I joined a writer’s group and met a gentleman who wanted to publish one of my manuscripts. Unfortunately, he died the day we were to print. I got a crash course in publishing/marketing. One other publisher asked me to write a true story about an immigrant child. I knew about a girl in my family history who had arrived here alone, not knowing English. I found the account—and then got hooked on family history. Now I’m writing other true immigration stories. I have ideas for novels—but only one is published so far.

What’s the first thing a writer with an idea for a children’s story should do (besides write it)?  Hire a professional editor (even for kid’s books). They are affordable and will save you grief/help you stand out!

Karl, Where do you get your ideas and where can other writers find inspiration?  This is a hot button (for someone who works in perhaps THE most competitive genre). If you’re not constantly hit with ideas, then “I’d like to write a children’s book” is probably not justification for entering the field. My desk is covered with folders and papers filled with ideas: things people say, scenarios that explode in my mind, phrases that have a fun meter … I may never get them all published.

How can a writer find and work with illustrators? Should a children’s book be illustrated when you submit a manuscript?  Only get an illustrator if you self-publish (which I recommend). Otherwise, find a good children’s lit agent and let the publisher match your work to an artist. I find illustrators through networking (LinkedIn writer/illustrator’s groups, alumni groups, people whose work I’ve seen and fallen for—I just persuaded a genius artist I’ve been stalking for years to do one of my books!)

Once you have your book written, how do you find a publisher?  You must be unafraid to communicate (phone, mail, email, social media, in person) and you must be unrelenting (but get an editor before you drive agents/publishers crazy—which you will. The idea is that when they finally look at your stuff, it’s wonderful).

How is the process different with books for children and families compared to books for adults?  I try to write to entertain adults–regardless of the target age. Adults are the ones who will buy the book. I don’t want them to cringe when a kid asks them to read a Karl Beckstrand book; I want them to get the nuances and humor that the child may not get. I want the parent/teacher/librarian to stay awake and read my books even when they are alone!

Do you prefer having your books published by a publishing house or do you prefer self-publishing? What are the pros and cons of each?  After learning so much from publishers (learning isn’t always a good experience) I realized that I would rather control content, MARKETING, and revenues. Publishers make lots of promises, but the author is—really—always the engine for sales, even if a large publisher promises the moon. I don’t like spending 50% of my time marketing, but I would have to do it even with Penguin-Random House. Publishers used to have distributors in their pocket; now most anyone can access distributors.

Once you have your book published, how do you market it, and does it make a difference whether it’s self-published or not?  No big difference: you post it on social media; do giveaways on Goodreads, bookbub, Authorsden, Librarything (give it in exchange for a sincere online review—these are important); send press releases—call the media afterward about being a guest/interview subject; if you self-publish, Amazon’s Createspace.com can get you in with major distributors (but you must still contact distributors to truly get your work to booksellers). I don’t usually pursue book signings for two reasons: Bookstores are not the best place to stand out; and, unless you have a large following in a particular city (which you might) you won’t sell a lot of books. Presentations to groups/schools are great.

What are the biggest challenges in the publishing process?  Getting reviews/getting your book noticed.

Can you tell us about your latest novel?  It’s Young Adult suspense set in the Nevada silver rush: To Swallow the Earth. It won a 2016 International Book Award (also a Laramie finalist). I inherited the manuscript from someone who grew up exploring the Sierra Nevada Mountains on horseback nearly a hundred years ago. My challenge was to develop the characters while preserving the action and authentic language. It’s about a man and a woman who clash in a land scheme that leaves both unsure who to trust—and scrambling to stay alive. In addition to a tough outcast (half-Mexican, raised by Indians), there’s a gutsy heroine who’s unintimidated in the worst kinds of opposition.

Your work is racially diverse with many of your characters being of color and/or bilingual.  My stories are really not aimed at a certain audience—they’re not even about racial diversity. They are exciting/witty stories that just happen to reflect the diversity of the world in a natural way.

You speak Spanish?  Yes, my mother spoke broken Spanish to us as kids; then, living in South America made it my second language. Many of my books are bilingual with English-Spanish pronunciation guide. I’m learning German.

What are some of your future projects?  I’m working on a graphic novel, an audio book, biographies, and more kid’s books.

Where can we find your many books?  Amazon/Kindle, Nook, the major distributors (Ingram, Baker & Taylor/Follett, Brodart, BN.com, iBooks, Kobo, OverDrive, SCRIBD), and PremioBooks.com. If you email me that you’ll leave sincere comments/stars online, I’ll send you any ebook free: Karl@ PremioBooks.com.

How much of your personality and life experiences are in your writing?  My books are my life laid out in color (my food obsession has found its way into most of my works).

What is your writing schedule?  I write or research every day—usually in the morning.

Who were your early writing influences? Who or what has inspired you during your career and ignited your imagination?  When I got the measles in the third grade, my grandmother bought me a chapter book: Bicycles North: A Mystery on Wheels by Rita Ritchie. I learned that books can transport and excite. I love Shel Silverstein.

What is your favorite genre to read?  I love suspense.

Do you have a favorite comment or question from a reader?  I love it when someone says a book I wrote held them captive—or that the twists were totally unexpected.

Conviction & Accolades

After being named a finalist—but not winning—the Laramie (western novel) Award, and after getting Literary Classics’ seal of approval (but no novel award), I was beginning to doubt there would be any real recognition of my hard work. Yesterday I learned that my novel, To Swallow the Earth, had indeed won in the 2016 International Book Awards. If you know you have a quality product, never give up hope!

3 Diverse Spring Books Make Learning Funny

spring booksMIDVALE, Utah, March 25, 2016 – Award-winning author Karl Beckstrand is from San Jose, California. He has 16 multicultural books and more than 40 ebook titles — all of them educational — but kids would never know it from the mysteries, activities, and giggles. Here are three new ones.

“Butterfly Blink: A Book Without Words” is a picture book fantasy that helps children cement vocabulary as they describe the monarch from caterpillar to chrysalis to butterfly. Blink — and they multiply. Blink — and they’re gone! (Stories Without Words series, Ages 2 – 6, 24-page, 8″x 10″, wordless picture book on habitat conservation, ISBN: 978-0692648599)

“The Dancing Flamingos of Lake Chimichanga” is a witty, pink fest with a counting activity. Zany birds with a zest for life, revel, feast and dance on the shores of a shimmering lake. (Ages 3 – 8, 350 words, 24-page, 8.5″x 8.5″, children’s book, ISBN: 978-1512161786)

“Four Spanish-English Books for Kids – Cuatro libros bilingües para niños” is a set with a pronunciation guide in both languages plus opposites, insects and finding activities. (Ages 2 & up for ESL/ELL/ELA, 8″x 10″, soft cover bilingual book with characters of color, 100 page, about 2,000 words, ISBN: 978-1505672626)

Nationally-lauded (ForeWord Reviews, Horn Book blog, School Library Journal, Kirkus Reviews) these soft cover kid’s books capture attention and create repeat readers. Not about ethnic or racial diversity, they simply feature black, white, Asian, Hispanic, and mixed-race characters–with family values like courage, sharing, and loyalty. Find them online, at PremioBooks.com and select retailers.

Children’s Literature Grows Diverse

January 27 is Multicultural Children’s Book Day when bloggers, authors and publishers unite to showcase multicultural books for kids, libraries, schools and parents. Multicultural Children’s Book Day creators, Valarie Budayr and Mia Wenjen, enlist authors in book giveaways for educators http://multiculturalchildrensbookday.com/.

Award-winning author, Karl Beckstrand is from San Jose, Calif., but he has lived in many places—including South America. He speaks Spanish and English and can grasp German, Italian, French, and Portuguese. Two companies published his early works. Since 2004 he has run Premio Publishing & Gozo Books, which features black, white, Asian, Hispanic and American Indian characters.

“Twenty of our titles have characters of color,” Beckstrand said, “including a Young Adult novel set in Nevada’s silver rush. Our newest book is ‘The Dancing Flamingos of Lake Chimichanga.’ Many of our books are bilingual with a pronunciation guide in English and Spanish.”

“My first publisher died the day we were to print my first book,” Beckstrand said. “I had to learn the ropes of publishing and marketing.” With that lesson and experience with another publisher, Beckstrand has run PremioPublishing.com for more than ten years.

Premio Publishing has earned its share of recognition. “Bright Star, Night Star: An Astronomy Story” hit number two on Amazon’s Hot New Children’s Books list and won a 2014 UP Author’s design award. “To Swallow the Earth” is a finalist for the Laramie Award. “She Doesn’t Want the Worms – Ella no quiere los gusanos” was in ForeWord Reviews Magazine’s top 10 Best Books of 2011 and featured in School Library Journal. “Crumbs on the Stairs – Migas en las escaleras” consistently ranks in Amazon’s top 10 bestselling books for ESL, large print and Spanish children’s titles. “Bad Bananas: A Story Cookbook for Kids” was praised in Horn Book’s blog, and bilingual app/book “Sounds in the House: A Mystery” was given a nod by Kirkus Reviews.

“We’re working on a graphic novel and more multicultural/multilingual books,” Beckstrand said. “‘The Bridge of the Golden Wood’ teaches children how to earn and save money. ‘Agnes’s Rescue’ is the true story of a girl who walked a thousand miles across the plains into the Rocky Mountains in blizzard conditions (much of the way without shoes). ‘Butterfly Blink’ is the second in a wordless book series.”

All published titles can be found via Amazon/Kindle, Baker & Taylor, Barnes & Noble.com/Nook, Brodart, EBSCO, Flipkart, Follett, Gardners, iBooks, Ingram, Inktera, Kobo, Library Direct, Mackin, OverDrive, Quality, SCRIBD, txtr as well as free ebooks at http://GozoBooks.com.

Meet Mountain West Authors

Get gifts of fiction, non-fiction, teen fiction, and children’s books—autographed by their creators–at Local Authors & You. I’ll be participating with scores of other authors Saturday, Nov. 7 at the Viridian Event Center (8030 S. 1825 West) in South Jordan, UT. There will be writing and publishing workshops, readings, and book signings. Come meet and mingle with writers.

Multicultural Stories Grab Students and Educators

Midvale, UT, USA — Students and teachers love books with minority characters. For author Karl Beckstrand, it’s a lesson learned. School demand has grown for Beckstrand’s activity books, which feature black, white, Asian and Hispanic characters and come in Spanish and bilingual versions. Having protagonists that appeal to broad groups increases interest in the subjects–which include astronomy, mysteries with finding activities, nature and animals–even a cookbook for kids.

Families get instruction too–with stories and activities. This fall  Beckstrand will present his multicultural books at three book fairs. Beckstrand has had titles in Amazon’s top ten large print children’s books and their top ten Spanish children’s titles. She Doesn’t Want the Worms! A Mystery was named among the top ten books of 2011 by ForeWord Reviews Magazine and was featured in School Library Journal. Beckstrand also offers ebooks and a biingual app: Sounds in the House!

Beckstrand is writing a non-fiction series about immigrants overcoming obstacles. He hopes these true accounts will inspire people of all backgrounds to reach for good goals, regardless of circumstances. He regularly speaks about writing and publishing to classes, schools and other organizations. Beckstrand’s books are distributed via: Ingram, Brodart, Baker & Taylor, Follett/BWI, Amazon/Kindle, Bn/Nook, Sony/ibooks/Kobo, and Premiobooks.com

Original posted 2/7/2012 11:17 PM

U.S. Spanish book sales climb

Midvale, UT, USA — Publishing is evolving and crossing borders like never before, as is children’s literature. Amazon.com’s recent entry into Spain and the explosion of Spanish-language ebook platforms are indicators of the next big publishing market. 

Sales of Spanish language books in the United States demonstrate significant demand–including for children’s literature in Spanish. Bilingual author Karl Beckstrand has seen demand grow for his Spanish-language and bilingual picture books and e-books. Beckstrand has had three titles on Amazon’s “Hot New Releases” in Spanish list. His Spanish titles outsell the English versions, though most of his titles come with an English/Spanish pronunciation guide. Positive national reviews by the Horn Book blog and ForeWord Reviews don’t hurt either.

Customers are not all likely to be to Spanish-speakers. It may be that individuals, schools, and families agree with Amazon: an additional language is a good idea. Considering that native Spanish speakers are more common than native English speakers worldwide (the only other native language more common than Spanish is Mandarin, according to Time and Wikipedia), Amazon’s lead should be followed. Beckstrand’s picture books may be a good start.

Premio Publishing & Gozo Books has been delighting families and educators since 2004. Our multicultural app, non-fiction stories and biographies, ebook mysteries, and activity books (geography, astronomy, Spanish & bilingual, finding/counting, opposites, animals and nature, and a kid’s cookbook) have diverse characters in funny, engaging, vivid color. Nationally-lauded (School Library Journal, Kirkus Reviews) our educational stories capture attention and create repeat readers. Not about ethnic or racial diversity, they simply feature black, white, Asian, Hispanic and mixed-race children–with family values like courage, sharing, and giving. Find them via: Baker & Taylor, Barnes & Noble/Nook, Brodart, EBSCO, Follett/Title Wave, Ingram, Kindle/Amazon, Mackin, Overdrive, Quality Books, Sony/iBooks/Kobo/Android, and Premiobooks.com (SEE online books); a gift of laughter, learning & family fun for ages 2 and up (because bedtime should never put parents to sleep!).

Original Post by Karl Beckstrand: 11/22/2011 9:26 AM