From Blank Page to Published (Part 4): Writing the 'Other Stuff'
While the books were being edited and illustrated, I started to work on writing the other stuff such as blurbs, author bio, acknowledgements, author's note, dedication. (Technically, the term is 'front and back matter', but I like saying the 'other stuff.' Haha!)
Below are descriptions of what they are, and my own thought processes while writing them. It may make more sense to read this post after reading the books so you can relate what I am referring to in here to what I have written in the books.
The most difficult thing to write were the blurbs. It was more difficult to write than the actual book, and I'm not even joking! I wrote one for the picture book and one for the early reader. I think I spent a whole week going back and forth - editing and tweaking them. They have the same overall storyline but the have different focuses and details. I don't know why it was so difficult but I really struggled. I couldn't even describe the story in a way that makes sense without giving too much away. It's not like writing a summary of the story - that might have been easier. You need to write a hook that would get the readers' attention and interest. You also need to write something that appeals to the parents, and convince them that it's worth buying for their child.
The picture book had a longer blurb with a short note at the end targeted to parents which describes what the book aims to achieve. I ended up writing a shorter blurb for the early reader with more questions to hopefully draw them to want to read the book to find out the answers.
Here are the blurbs I have got - they are also posted on the home page but I'm reposting them in this blog. I'm still working on the blurb for the early reader as I'm not quite happy with it. I've tweaked it a little now (see below - changes coloured in brown). Let me know what you think! There are still a few weeks until the early reader will be ready to launch so I have some time to play around with it. The picture book blurb is final and has already been uploaded for the cover.
Children's Picture Book (ages 8+)
"Can You Hear Me, Daddy?"
Renee keeps a diary after she finds out her daddy is sick with cancer. She even starts praying and asking God to make him better. But, what if he doesn’t get any better?
She is worried that she won’t be able to talk to her daddy after he has gone, but her daddy encourages her to keep talking to him, no matter what.
“But how will I know if you can hear me?” she asks.
“Just have faith,” her daddy answers.
Even as he becomes sicker and weaker, she learns about the meaning of faith and sees how we can still have peace and joy during such a difficult time.
This is a story about hope, and how faith can bring us peace and comfort, knowing that death is not the end, but the beginning of an eternity with our loving Father in Heaven.
Early Reader Book (ages 10+)
“Can You Hear Me?”
Can good things really come from bad things?
Why does God allow bad things to happen?
Is God punishing my daddy because of me?
Will Daddy still be able to hear me from Heaven?
These are just some of the questions Renee starts thinking about after she finds out that her daddy has cancer. She feels very sad and struggles to understand why this is happening. There’s still so much they haven’t done yet! All she can think to do is pray and ask God to make her daddy better. But when she realises he isn’t, she begins to wonder what God’s plan is, and whether God can hear her prayers at all.
She documents all the things that are happening in her diary as she watches her daddy go through the stages of cancer. Through this painful experience, she learns about the meaning of faith and how she can stay connected to her beloved father after he is gone.
As a first-time indie author, it's very important to write an author bio to introduce yourself to readers and tell them who you are, and why they should trust you and read your book. For authors of children's books, the bio needs to include something for the kids AND the parents. You want to show the kids a fun persona that they can relate to, or tell something interesting and unique to you that they would easily remember. You also want to show parents that you can be trusted and that your words will have a positive influence or impact on their kids. Show them why you are a suitable person to write children's books and what prior experience you have with children that would make your writing appealing to them. Normally, the author bio is within 300 words. The good news is that you can keep updating your author bio with every book that you write.
I still don't really know if my bio is a good or not. Even after reading up on all the advice and blogs on how to write a compelling bio, actually writing it is still a challenge. The Author Bio in a book should be written in third person, like someone else is writing about you, even though we all know that most authors write their own bios. It felt really strange to write about myself in the third person. I had all these questions pop up as I was writing it: 'Should I include this? Is this bragging? Does this make me sound professional?' I really struggled! Honestly, it was the second hardest thing to write after the blurb!
Here is my Author Bio on Amazon Author Central: https://www.amazon.com/Y-Y-Chan/e/B0879GXN5Z
I wasn't sure if it was necessary to have an acknowledgements page - in the early reader, that is. It's just a short book. (I don't think I've seen them in picture books either - they're even shorter!) But in the end I decided to write one for the early reader because I really did want to acknowledge the people in my life that helped make this dream come true. There are really no rules in terms of word limit for an Acknowledgements page. You can be as short or as long as you want.
I started sharing my journey with some more friends and family while the book was being edited, and some of them have been extremely helpful and supportive! I needed opinions on phrasing, titles, illustrations, blurbs, book covers etc. and sent messages to different people to ask for their thoughts, feedback and ideas for improvement. They were all so willing to help! I had to make over a thousand decisions (maybe I'm exaggerating, but it feels like a thousand!) and it was so hard trying to make those decisions on my own! Having such great friends really helped me get through each stage of self-publishing! As a first-time author, there are so many things to learn and navigate around that I couldn't have done it without everyone's support and encouragement. I also joined a bunch of groups on Facebook and a group chat on Twitter where we ask each other for their thoughts and opinions and share all things related to reading, writing, publishing, and so much more. These groups and communities are so important for an indie author! I don't know if I could have made it this far without them! So they all really deserve a shout-out in my book as they were an important part of my journey and process.
This was probably my favourite part to write out of all the 'other stuff'. It was my opportunity to tell my story and motivation behind writing the book. My main reason and motivation was that I wish I had read a book like this when I was younger - to understand loss and grief a little better - to make that process easier and to know that what I was feeling was normal and common. I didn't have a strong faith to hold onto during those months leading up to my father's death, though I wish I had. It was only months later that I rediscovered the meaning of faith and reconnected with God. So I wanted to tell a story of hope, peace and joy in the midst of pain and grief - to know that death is not the end - before the inevitable happens. It's a story that I wish I had experienced in my own life.
The Author's Note is a personal message to your readers. I think it is an important part of the book to tell readers where the story came from and why you want to share it with the world, or even how it can be used. I only included this in the early reader version as there is limited space in a picture book. But I think this is really valuable and worthwhile to have in a book. I don't always read the Author's Notes, but now that I have written one, I have a stronger desire to go back to some of those books I have read to read them. It makes the story personal and meaningful and helps you to connect on a more personal level with the author.
I knew before I even began writing the story that I would dedicate the picture book to my dad. There was no question about it. This was before the early reader version was born. When the longer story came about, I had an opportunity to add more people. My mum was the next obvious choice. Then, during the editing phase of the book, my grandmother had passed away. I felt that it was important to dedicate it to her, too, as the book was about loss and grief. I never expected to see her go so suddenly and going through that while working on the book felt a little surreal. It felt like I was writing a book I needed to read to remind myself that she in a better place with God (and with my dad) in Heaven. I imagined my grandma and my dad walking side-by-side in a garden admiring the beautiful flowers and the butterflies all around, with big happy smiles on their faces. When I visit their resting place in the memorial garden next time, I will definitely be bringing the book to read to them.
I had the idea to include discussion questions in the early reader to encourage readers to reflect and share their thoughts and feelings about their own experiences as well as identifying them in the character of Renee. I wanted readers to dig deep into their own thought processes to understand why they have certain feelings and what the cause of them were.
One of the biggest questions I had growing up was 'Why do bad things happen?' and later 'Why does God allow bad things to happen?' I never understood it. If God exists, wouldn't He be able to stop all the bad things from happening? I don't think I ever found the answer until three years ago when all the bad things that could possibly happen to someone happened in my family. I went through a period of sadness, regret, anger and hopelessness because I was blind to all the good things that happened. I wish I had noticed them earlier. It was only in retrospect after months of healing and time in a grief support group that my eyes finally opened to all those good things. I want readers to reflect on their own experiences and write down their own list of good things as well. When you are going through those difficult times and challenges, it's easy to focus on all the bad. It just takes one person or one simple reminder to find something good to turn it around and take you out of that black hole.
I hope that the book can be a resource for kids, not just those going through loss and grief, but all kids who have ever wondered about the end of life and what happens to our loved ones when they pass away. Because, whether we want it to or not, it is going to happen at least once your lifetime. How do we prepare ourselves for something like that?
A lot of these things may not make sense without reading the books, so I really hope that you will get a chance to read at least one of them!
These books have become extremely special to me over the last few months and I am so grateful that I finally got the chance to write my story, get it illustrated, move forward to publishing, and into the readers' hands! It's also a bittersweet moment because I wish my dad could be here to see all of this happen. But if he were here, this story would not have been written.