July 4

Lack of Information About Children's Paperback Book Marketing and Sales

roast potato potty potatoes books

So, this post took a while to get to the site. This is because I have been researching, studying, pulling my hair out and otherwise living the life of a self-published children’s book author these past few weeks. For those of you that don’t know, I am the author of the Potty Potatoes series of books for children. I didn’t plan on being a children’s picture book author (I can’t draw even a recognizable stick figure), but was approached by the creator and illustrator, Steve Scatcherd, a few years ago to write the books and help him bring the characters to life.

Now, let me be clear. I love writing these books. They are fun, my kids adore them, and it helps me feed my passion to inspire kids to read. BUT…it can be immensely frustrating at the same time, because for indie authors of kids’ picture books, it’s a constant struggle for sales and attention. There’s just not a lot of money in indie picture books; you do it because you are passionate about it, or you sell no copies at all.

My illustrator and the characters’ creator doesn’t come from a background in self-publishing, and while I know marginally more than he does, I still don’t know everything. (He thinks we should be the next Mr. Men by now…maybe we should, but I’m afraid that’s not how it works!)

While we’re learning how to best market and produce these books, I thought that it made good sense for me to document some of the things that we’re doing with them. See, one of the problems I have found during my research is that although there is a lot of great advice for self-published children’s book marketing, there’s a gap in the info that pertains specifically to picture books.

Children’s picture paperback book marketing

Ebooks are so popular that most advice is geared towards promoting them, whereas picture books tend to be more popular as a physical book. Think about it. Would you want your toddler’s favorite book to be only accessible via your iPhone or tablet? Probably not.

Traditionally published picture books tend to have a glut of marketing professionals behind them, but indie authors of these types of books have to wing it. And, many self-published authors have grown accustomed to strictly promoting a digital product that people don’t necessarily have to see and hold before they buy it. That doesn’t really work for children’s picture books that don’t have an established reputation and following.

So, I’ll be doing some posts about our marketing methods and strategies, plus I’ll let you know how we do with sales. So far, to be honest, it’s been pretty dismal. But, we’ve recently added three titles to our collection, and we now have five in total. I’m optimistic that we’ll see success, though probably not as quickly or as phenomenally as my partner would like, lol!

Are you a self-published children’s picture book writer? I’d love to hear your comments and tips. I think we’re one group of authors that needs to pull together more to help get these great indie picture books into the little hands that will love them!

September 10

Fun Kids' Activity Alert!!! Make Your Own Bath Paints

shaving foam bath paintThis has to be the easiest way I’ve ever seen to get your kids in the bath. For real, it’s so easy, my two-year-old helped make it.

Let me start by apologizing for the lack of photos. My kids had this stuff whisked away and in the bathtub before I could even reach my phone to get the finished product documented. But let me just say, it’s pretty. And, it’s fun.

All you need for this fun project is shaving foam and food coloring. That’s it. Nothing fancy, and you probably already have these at home right now. It just sounds really cool when you tell people that you make your own bath paints.

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I used an old muffin tin that we had lying around to make small batches of the bath paint. This also ensured my kids didn’t blow through an entire can of shaving foam, since my husband still has to shave with it.

Fill each muffin hole with shaving foam. Add a few drops of food coloring to each pile of foam, and mix with a spoon or spatula until the foam is colored all the way through. This is actually quite soothing, in my opinion! The foam looks so pretty before it is completely colored, when it still has a whitish, marbled look to it.

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Once the foam is mixed up with color, let the kids paint the bath tub with it. We did a trial painting in the bathroom sink, and it didn’t stain the porcelain, but I wouldn’t leave it on for too long. Also, I wouldn’t use too much food coloring. You really don’t want to explain to your child’s teacher why your nine year-old daughter has a blue face (yeah, we’ve been there).

shaving foam bath paint

Still, for a fast, fun activity, you just can’t beat this. And it gets your kids clean while they play with it. Bonus points if you let them paint the dog!

August 4

Do You VUDU?

vudu movie screen

When my family decided to cut the cord, cancelling our cable tv services once and for all, we knew we wanted to be able to watch certain things that weren’t going to be on Netflix or Amazon Prime for a while. We happened to be flipping through the channels on our Roku box, and discovered an app called VUDU. We noticed that they were offering a free rental credit for signing up and activating the account on the Roku, so we gave it a shot.

We have never looked back.

VUDU is a platform that allows you to rent or buy movies and purchase television shows if you don’t want to pay for cable or satellite to watch them. For example, we ditched our cable, but I absolutely had to see the season finale of Doctor Who. Yes, I am a shameless Whovianbut that’s a matter for another post!

We started off with a few movies on VUDU, then added more when some of the DVDs we bought in stores came with digital codes to redeem a copy on VUDU. At first we were like, what’s the point? I mean, we already had the DVD. But, have you ever been faced with a whiny toddler who wants to watch Frozen for the millionth time, and couldn’t find the disc? It’s not pretty.

cranky toddler

If you have a copy on VUDU, you don’t have to find the disc, put it in, etc. You just select the movie you want to watch from a list of movies you own, and nobody gets hurt.

VUDU is available on loads of platforms, from your computer to your smart tv and even your iPhone. We have it on game consoles, Roku, an iPad and a Bluray player. So, availability is not a problem for us, but if you don’t have quite as many gadgets (my husband suffers from Shiny New Object Syndrome, lol!), you may be able to pick up a set top box from Amazon.

One of the neater services that VUDU offers is something called Disc to Digital. You pay a couple of bucks to have your DVDs put onto your digital account, making the disc totally unnecessary. This has made a huge difference in the way we watch movies, particularly kids’ movies. No more digging through dozens of DVD boxes just to find something to watch! Even better, they GIVE you free movies to start your collection. Gotta love FREE!

I also discovered a great benefit when we went to my Mom’s house recently. It’s a four hour drive to get there, but we downloaded a couple of our VUDU movies onto my tablet computer and the kids stayed quiet for ages. Bliss!

If you’ve seen the VUDU logo on your mobile device, Bluray player or internet-connected television, but didn’t have a clue about it, now you know. It’s easy to use, super convenient, and can save you money, especially if you catch movies on special offers. Check it out for yourself, and let me know how you like to VUDU in the comments section below!

July 20

How Your Kids Can Get Free Stuff (Including Money) For Reading

read this summer

 

You’ve probably heard it said that reading is one of the most important things your kids can do to avoid the summer brain drain that affects so many children. It’s true, reading is important, and it’s awesome fun, but if your child just isn’t motivated to read during the summer months, how can you get them to pick up a book? How about free money?

I always enroll my kids in the summer reading program at our local library, where they can earn lots of fun freebies, including a free ticket to a baseball game. But when my oldest started balking at the library’s offerings, I did a little digging and found some other great summer reading programs that offer kids rewards for reading. After all, I don’t know a kid who doesn’t love to get free stuff, especially by doing something as easy as picking up a book.  Here are three that are well worth your child’s time, so break out the books!

TD Bank

TD Bank offers anyone who has a Young Saver’s account $10 just for reading ten books. Just drop by your local branch and pick up a reading log, then cash in by August 31st to get your money.

Barnes and Noble

Barnes and Noble offers kids a choice of a free book from a list of books that they have in-store. Print off the reading log from their website and log eight books to collect the free book.

Scholastic Summer Reading Challenge

If your child loves a little competition, this is the perfect motivation. As they read, they can clock their minutes online at the Scholastic website. They get to see how they compare to other kids when it comes to time spent reading, and they can earn virtual rewards with every book they read. Plus, they can win real prizes (books), too. Sign up online at the Scholastic website.

Go ahead and get a book in their hands, and they’ll thank you for it when they pick up all their great freebies!

March 29

Spring Clean Your Finances

Five things you can do right now to improve your family finances!

I was just reading up on a few of Dave Ramsey’s posts on his website when I found this great article. I love Dave’s no nonsense approach to getting control of your money, and these tips are so easy, you can do them today!

1. Review all your insurance policies.

Dave makes a great point about reviewing all your insurance policies–home, life, and auto–in order to see if your circumstances have changed and to see whether policy changes could save you money.

2. Cut the grocery spending.

Rather than using coupons to save on shopping, Dave advises his readers to try cutting the monthly food budget by $10, and moving that money to another area of your budget. You could use this to pay off extra debt, or simply put it into a savings account. You won’t have to sacrifice much, and the money could be put to much better use in another part of your budget.

3. Review your cell phone plan.

This one is definitely worth doing, because most of us never use every feature of our plan that we pay for. Data usage is on particular area where people often overpay, so check your usage and see if you could save money by lowering your data limit.

4. Combine two items into one.

I really like this tip…it is especially useful for people like me who tend to break their budget down into waaaay too many categories. He suggests combining budget items to save money. You could combine things like ‘eating out’ and ‘entertainment’ to save more money every month.

5. Take a look at the kids’ extracurricular activities.

Again, this one hits home with me. It can get very expensive trying to keep three kids happy and entertained with their hobbies and after school activities, not to mention overwhelming for the kids if their schedules get too out of hand. Pick one favorite activity, and find the least expensive way to do it, and everyone wins!

What tips do you have for tweaking your budget this spring?

October 16

5 Top Tips for a Cheaper Halloween This Year

Yes, I know Halloween is just a few weeks away…my eight year old has been reminding me hourly. Seriously, just the thought of dressing up and scaring her little sister, plus eating all that candy, has her getting goofy already! She wants a very expensive costume, I want to save money…sound familiar? If so, read on to see how you can make Halloween less expensive, but no less fun, this year!

1. Popping tags at the thrift shop
You know that song by Maclemore, ‘Poppin Tags’…well, he’s one smart dude, because that’s exactly where I go first for costume ideas. I go to the local thrift shop and look for inspiration…not just at the clothes but any accessories that you might need. Some of the bargain bin items that no one wants are perfect accessories for monsters, hobos, tacky celebrities…you get the picture. Plus, you won’t mind cutting up clothes you paid a buck for if you need to cannibalize something to create the perfect costume.

2. If you can’t buy it, make it
Or, make something that looks as close to it as possible. I can’t sew to save my life, even though I have a really nice sewing machine. But, I can superglue like nobody’s business. And what on earth did you think double sided tape was for? It’s just one night, bodge it, fake, do whatever but make it!

3. Accessorize to emphasize
If your homemade costume looks like crap, then distract the locals with some great makeup. Halloween makeup is cheap, especially if you supplement with stuff out of your own makeup stash. Don’t we all have a few butt ugly colours we know we’ll never wear, just waiting to transform your child into something slightly hideous? No? Just me then…but seriously, if you aren’t good at Facepainting, ask a friend who is to help out. If you both help each other your kids will be ready twice as fast, and eating candy in no time!

4. Candy do’s and don’ts
Skip the high end candy that costs a fortune…try watching the salespapers at places like Walgreen’s, CVS and the Dollar stores for specials on things like peppermints, dum dums, and gum. Believe it or not, kids still like the cheap stuff. Plus, those little beggers can’t be choosers, right? 🙂

5. Safety first
Don’t send the kids out without an adult and some way of being seen. We love flashlights, but my kids tend to shine those in people’s eyes because they are sort of careless. I also love decking them out in glow sticks from the Dollar Tree. They love wearing them, I don’t mind paying a buck for a pack full of them. If they don’t have them, or if you don’t have a Dollar Tree near you, Amazon usually has a great selection for a very decent price, like the ones below.

Finally, remind your kids to eat NOTHING til you’ve checked it. That way, you get first pick of the goodies as a reward for all your hard work. Isn’t being a parent AWESOME?!

Share your Halloween money saving tips-serious and otherwise-right here!

August 29

Doing Good Things: 12 Year-old Steps Up to Help Mom Battle Cancer

You always hope that you’ve raised your kids right, with a willingness to work hard and help others, and one Missouri mother has realized that she has indeed done something very right while bringing up her son. Twelve-year-old Devon Melton has stepped up big time to help his family find the money to pay off mounting debts after his mom, Christina Craig, was diagnosed with breast cancer.

The full story can be found here: http://www.ksdk.com/news/article/395098/3/12-year-old-son-raising-money-for-struggling-family

” The bills are starting to add up and she and her husband are worried about their finances. Christina’s son, Devon, overheard a private phone conversation about the troubles and decided to do something.

“I can give up a couple of my things and go in and put the hard work in and she takes care of me, so I thought I should take care of her for once,” Devon Melton, Christina’s oldest, said.

Even though he’s only 12-years-old, Devon took control. He started walking the neighborhood asking for things he could sell in a garage sale. It was a surprise to Christina.

“I see my son come down on this skateboard and he’s got a trash bag and the trash bag is full of stuff and I thought he went dumpster diving,” Christina said. ”

I can’t begin to imagine what a strong bond this family must have! What a resourceful and thoughtful young man Devon is…I hope the people in his community are proud of him and inspired to follow his lead!

The article goes on to explain where Devon has learned such generous behaviors:

“The word has spread through Facebook and now Christina is getting notes left at her door, piles of stuff for the garage sale left at her house and 60 plus emails from people wanting to help.

She has already had the lump removed from her breast and is deciding what route to take for treatment, but in the meantime she’s doing her part, just like her son.

“I actually draw strength from her, to see and know what she’s going through and just the strength that she have,” said Maya Rivers, who volunteers with Christina at the King of Kings food pantry every week.

“If I can do something, I am going to,” Christina said.”

It’s inspiring to see someone battling cancer who still feels compelled to give back to her community. If we all felt this way, the world would probably be a nicer place!

“Mom always told me do good things and good things will come back to you,” Devon said.”

I think Devon says it perfectly: do good things and good things will come back to you.

I hope you have a wonderful Thursday…don’t forget to do good things!

August 13

How To Save Money On Back To School Clothing

Quick! Have you kitted your kids out in the latest and greatest trends for their return to school in a few weeks time? No? Well, good for you! You may have just saved yourself some money and hassle.

According this article on DailyFinance.com, people jump to buy too quickly and may miss out on deeper savings.

“In the summer, you’ll find plenty of back-to-school apparel sales, but beware of kid-branded promotions in August. According to DealNews.com, Old Navy had a 20-percent-off back-to-school sale in early August 2010. Just 10 days later, however, the company had a sitewide sale, offering 30 percent off the same items. So, you see, a few days can make all the difference.

If you can hold out until September, you’ll find the best discounts during Labor Day sales. In 2012, DealNews also reported that back-to-school supplies, “including apparel and dorm goods,” were priced at their last and lowest markdowns of the season.”

http://www.dailyfinance.com/2013/08/06/save-on-back-to-school-clothes-savings-experiment/

It’s true that a lot of parents get caught up in the hype of back to school shopping, but just waiting a few weeks can save you a lot of money.

Can’t wait because you need school uniforms or your kids have just grown too much over the summer? Buy online for the next best discounts. Plus most online retailers offer incentives such as free shipping or future discounts for shopping online, and most offer no worry returns via mail or their local stores.

Another benefit of shopping online is the fact that you can please even the pickiest fashionistas without fighting the crowds, a win for everyone!

Checkout the Amazon School Uniform shop for some great savings on uniform essentials, or check out their other more unusual offerings, such as this adorable school-themed outfit:

So, slow down, save some money and take some of the stress out of back to school shopping!

How do you save on school clothes for your kids?

August 11

Back to School Lunches That Won't Break the Bank

My kids are like night and day when it comes to school lunches. My son wants cafeteria food…it probably has something to do with all the ‘extras’ the school offers, like soft pretzels and pizza by the slice. My elementary school child would rather take a lunch box filled with PB&J sandwiches every day.

At just over $2 per day, the standard school lunch isn’t too expensive, but it adds up fast, especially when you add on the ‘extras’. Lunch boxes save money, but they can be boring or worse…uncool! I scoured the web for some money-saving ideas for school lunches that won’t come back uneaten.

Elementary School
Little kids need something easy and quick to eat, since they often only get about 25 or 30 minutes for lunch. Sandwiches are usually a good choice since you can change up the fillings. Try using fun cookie cutters to make shapes…my kids love this! It’s easy and quick, too. Pack fruit that is precut and washed; apple slices are easier than a whole apple for little hands and mouths, and pre-cut oranges make for easier eating.

Get veggies in with carrot sticks and other dippable veggies. Include a small container of ranch dressing or yogurt dip to make eating more fun.

Top tip: Freeze or partially freeze a small bottle of water or juice pack to place in the lunch box to keep food cold all day. It will thaw and be ready to drink by lunchtime!

Older Kids

Nobody in middle school or high school wants to be caught dead with an uncool lunch, so appearances are everything when it comes to packing a lunch for an older child. In place of boring sandwiches try whole wheat wraps filled with chicken salad or ham and cheese. My son prefers crusty rolls or hoagie buns from the bakery for his sandwiches. Pretzels and fruit with a pot of yogurt round it out, and flavored water or juice keeps their thirst quenched.

Top tip: Flavored water can be expensive and full of sugar that’s of great for kids. Try adding a splash of fruit juice to plain bottled water and add a tiny bit of Stevia if they want it sweeter!

Every Age

If you want a fun, cool lunch at any age, go Bento, baby! Bento is a Japanese style of packing all of the food in one container. It’s all about presentation and packaging, though the style leans toward simplicity.

For som great Bento suggestions, check out Lunch in a Box. This site has some easy and fun Bento lunch ideas that anyone can implement.
Some of my favorite Bento must-have items are from Amazon and are a cheap, cheerful way to create a great lunch box. Check out these:

Get creative and have fun, but don’t forget to get your kids involved in the decision-making process when choosing the foods!

How do you feed your family during the school year? Please leave comments and share your tips here!

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August 7

Save Money on Back to School Items

Green Apple on BooksIt’s that time of year (thank goodness!) when summer starts to wind down and our thoughts turn to going back to school. Whether you are sending your kindergartener off for the first time, or packing one off to go to college, here are some helpful money-saving tips to keep more cash in your pocket!
Tax free savings
Some states still have a tax free weekend during which you don’t pay sales tax on certain products, such as school supplies, computers and clothing. This is really useful for larger purchases if there are no value limits imposed, but be careful not to overspend just because it’s tax free. Our weekend in SC has just passed, but there are still some tax free weekends coming up in other states for 2013, so check to see if your state has one.
School supplies
Do you have a membership to Sam’s Club or Costco, or any other ‘superstore’ that offers discount prices for bulk purchases? Why not pair up with one or more other parents and buy school supplies in bulk and split the cost. You can see the most savings on things like tissues, hand sanitizers and office supplies (think dry erase markers and paper) by doing this.
For things like crayons and pencils, keep your eye on the local ads. Stores like Walmart and Target often offer school supplies at ridiculously low prices just before school starts, but stock up while you can. Often the items are hard to find later in the school year, and they are always more expensive. Buy more than you need, then keep extras in a plastic storage box with a lid so you can easily see what you have when you need it.
Computers
Missed the tax free weekend but really need a new computer? Don’t just go to Best Buy or any old electronics store without doing your homework first. If a computer is required by your child’s school or college, find out the minimum requirements and start from there. Do your homework and compare prices among at least three stores before you even consider going in to look at one.
Display models can often be a lot cheaper—by as much as a few hundred dollars—if you don’t mind one that has been ‘used’. Another fantastic way to get a lower price on a great computer is to see if the store sells refurbished ones with a warrantee. Apple stores do this, and they guarantee the used computers for one year from the date of purchase. This is a great way to get an otherwise unaffordable computer fairly cheaply.
Classifieds
Ebay, Craigslist and other local online classifieds can be a great way to pick up used scientific calculators and textbooks, but beware that you are getting goods that aren’t damaged. It’s a good idea to try the item out before handing over any cash, or you could be wasting your money.

Another great place to get books and supplies is Amazon. Many of the items sold there are already pretty cheap, like this cute pink calculator, and you can always read through the reviews to see if the item seems to be a good one.

What tips do you have for saving on back to school costs? We’d love to hear them!