Tuesday, November 7, 2023


By Peggy Thomas                    

Once you have sold your manuscript, revised, and met editorial approval, you will inevitably get an author questionnaire from the marketing department. I dread filling these out because I usually don’t have the information at my fingertips. Instead, I’m doing google searches for bookstore contact info and slogging through my files to find the last time I was interviewed and by what press. So, I suggest building your marketing toolkit now, so you’ll have all the material in one handy place.

Start with:

1.      Your bio: I have a short one that is about 50 words, one that is around 100 words, and a fuller bio of about 300 words. Most people request the short one, but be prepared.

2.      A list of honors, awards, or prizes you have received: for writing, unless you are a champion pole vaulter and your book is a how-to.

3.      Academic affiliations: Universities or colleges you attended, degrees and dates. 

4.      A list of your books: Also keep a list of any magazines, newspapers, or journals you’ve written for.

5.      A list of blogs where your work has appeared.

6.      Your digital presence: Are you on Facebook, X, Instagram? List your account names, which hopefully are the same or similar to keep you “on brand.”

7.      A list of media contacts: You don’t have to know a specific person, but list the names and contact details for local newspapers; television news; regional magazines, etc.

Now comes the tricky part. Marketing departments want to know who you know. Who might be willing to endorse your book, or write a blurb? Which “influencers” could help spread the word through social media? This is where I struggle because I don’t like to bother people. But I know these folks are vital to a book’s success. So, make a list of your support team.

1.      Author friends. The Ninjas are always cross-promoting each other.

2.      Experts who helped with research.

3.      The subject’s family if you wrote a biography – Nancy Churnin says the families are some of her best book cheerleaders.

4.      Teachers and librarians who support your work.

Influencers are people on social media who have a large following. Look for parents, teachers, librarians, and anyone who may have a special connection to your subject matter. My new title is a board book about forests, so I am making a list of parent influencers who have a special interest in nature. Fueled with this information, the marketing department can reach out, provide a digital review copy in the hopes that the influencer likes it enough to post a review, recommend, or host a giveaway.

I am also compiling a list of organizations centered around trees and forests. According to Tessa Houstoun, marketing manager for Phaidon Press, she can then ask if they would like to host a giveaway or offer a discount code to their members.  

Last but not least, make a list of holidays related to your subject. Besides Arbor Day and Earth Day, there is also National Forest Day, National Love a Tree Day, Plant a Tree Day, International Day of Forests, and National Forest Product Week.

So, start making your lists, and when that author questionnaire comes, you’ll wow the marketing department with your PR prowess.

For more ideas on marketing check out Chelsea Tornetto’s blog post

Happy Marketing!

About the author:

Peggy Thomas is happiest with her feet in the soil and her head in the trees, and now after dozens of award-winning books she will finally have a book about soil and another about trees. THE SOIL IN JACKIE'S GARDEN (Feeding Minds Press) and A FAMILY OF TREES: MY FIRST BOOK ABOUT FORESTS (Phaidon Press) will be released in May 2024. 

Wednesday, September 6, 2023

Winners of 2023 NF Ninja PB Contest

 It was a tough decision!

We had over 120 amazing entries. And we read every single one. More than once! That's how hard it was to choose winners from this talented field of contestants. 
Thank you to everyone who was brave enough to share their stories. Thank you for being a part of the NF kidlit community. And thank you for being such an amazing group of caring and sharing writers!

Now drum roll, please....

Tuesday, August 1, 2023

Use Your Writing Strengths

By Christine Liu Perkins

Being aware of our writing weaknesses is helpful so we can work on them. On the other hand, being aware of our writing strengths can help guide us to our best creative work — and the joy that comes with it.

Paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould observed, "The problem is that the things you're good at come naturally. And . . . what comes naturally, you don't see as a special skill." Gould recommended that we discover and pursue what we're good at, rather than fret over our weaknesses. (Uncommon Genius: How Great Ideas are Born: Interviews with 40 MacArthur Fellows by Denise Shekerjian, p. 3)  ​
Over the years I've experimented with writing personal essays, articles, folktales, picture books, rhyme, biography, how-to's, inspirational pieces, historical fiction, contemporary novels, book-length nonfiction, and academic papers. As I experimented, I noticed things about myself:
  • I dive into research for whatever I'm writing. I revel in the treasure-hunting and unexpected discoveries. I even find myself making excuses to do research!
  • I love finding connections between ideas that seem unrelated. It's fun to weave pieces together into a new framework
  • My writing tends to be concise, clear, and logically organized.
  • I persevere when a project is meaningful to me. Whether or not it gets published, I feel the pursuit is worthwhile because I learn something of value.  
Recognizing my writing strengths helped me figure out that nonfiction is my niche. Knowing my strengths makes it easier to decide which projects to pursue — projects that will keep me happy through the (sometimes years-long) process of working on them.
What are your writing strengths? How can you use your strengths to bring you joy in your writing?
For more thoughts on this topic, check out these two blog posts:
Amy Benson Brown, "The Importance of Recognizing Your Strengths as a Writer"
Colleen M. Story, "The One Thing Writers Miss When Trying to Improve"

 Learn more about Christine Liu Perkins and her writing strengths at www.christineliuperkins.com

Wednesday, July 5, 2023



Are you ready for the first EVER Nonfiction Ninja Writing contest?
We sure are!

The Ninjas are excited to read your stories! We know our readers are the smartest, most creative writers on the internet. Reading these entries is going to be fun!

And even more fun will be working with our mentees.

Six talented writers will win a three-month mentorship with a Nonfiction Ninja. You can use those three months any way you want. Perfecting manuscripts for submission or career consulting. We will be at your disposal. Our goal is to help writers move forward in their careers.

One grand prize winner will move to the head of the submission line with Storm Literary Agent Lisa Amstutz.

All winners will receive a written critique of their manuscript.

YOU could be one of the winners!

The rules are simple
1. Submit a NONFICTION Picture Book of no more than 1,000 words.
2. It must be typed in Standard Manuscript Format
3. Send us a cover letter that includes your contact information and a brief bio. 
4. The manuscript should be attached as a word.doc. 
(This contest does NOT include informational fiction.)
5. Submission window is July 15 - August 1. No exceptions.

Also - please remember to follow us on social media!

Tuesday, June 13, 2023

Unnatural Narrators in Nonfiction

By Linda Skeers

You’ve gathered your information. Checked your facts. You’re ready to start writing but

stop and wonder, WHO is telling this story? WHO is presenting the information? WHO is my narrator?

​Maybe it’s not a WHO, but a WHAT.

An inanimate object. A thing.


Let me explain.

Many wonderful books have been written about Martin Luther King, Jr. How do you introduce him to children in a fresh and unique way? That was the task Eve Bunting gave herself -- and she succeeded with THE CART THAT CARRIED MARTIN.

The focus is on the simple, worn down cart that carried his coffin. Bunting was able to show MLK Jr.’s character by comparing his work ethic and struggles with that of the hard-working cart. By stepping back and creating a bit of distance, the story is still emotional – but not sorrowful.

This was just an ordinary cart – that eventually found a home in the MLK Jr. National Historic Site. “This is the humble cart that, not so long ago, carried greatness.”

Sometimes the perfect object can speak volumes.

That’s exactly what happens in Janet Nolan’s THE FIREHOUSE LIGHT.

Nolan had stumbled upon a fascinating little tidbit – a light bulb in the Livermore-Pleasanton Fire Department has been burning for over 100 years!

And nobody knows how.

Great fact. But is that a STORY?

It became one when she took a giant step back, looked at the bigger picture and wondered about all the events the light bulb would have witnessed through the years.

And THAT became the story!

The book follows the evolution of firefighting from volunteer bucket brigades to sophisticated equipment and new and improved techniques – always being illuminated by that single, amazing light bulb.

How do you handle an intense historical event filled with violence, hatred and prejudice in a picture book?

Sounds impossible.

When Rob Sanders first entertained the idea of writing about the Stonewall riots, he thought so too.

Until he stepped back and focused on the two buildings that joined together to become Bonnie’s Stone Wall restaurant – the centerpiece of the event.

You’ve all heard the saying, “If these walls could talk”? Sanders gave them a voice. And they had a lot to say in STONE WALL – A Building, An Uprising, A Revolution.

By allowing the building to describe the events as they unfolded, it gives the reader an extra bit of space – space to take it in, understand it, but not be completely overwhelmed by it. It’s a safe space to view something so intense and powerful.

Looking for a fresh angle on your subject? Don’t stare at it too closely or you could miss an important element. Step back and look again – what else do you see? Specific objects? A place? What’s lurking in the corners?

By exploring your subject AND everything surrounding it, you might discover a unique and unusual way into your story – one that makes it stand out AND pull readers in.

Linda Skeers teaches how to wrote picture books at the Whispering Woods Retreat. You could be one of her students! 

The Three Step Self-Edit

 By Lisa Amstutz

As writers, we spend so much time agonizing over our words that we tend to get attached to

them. It’s hard to look at them critically when it comes time to revise. Here are some tips to help you edit your own fiction or nonfiction picture book in three simple—though not necessarily easy!—steps.

Step 1: The Big Picture
Before you worry about the nitty-gritty, make sure your story works at the “big picture” level. Ask yourself the following questions about your story.

  • Is your story arc strong? Does it flow smoothly and in a logical manner from beginning to end?
  • Does the beginning of your story clearly establish the main character’s problem (if applicable)?
  • Does your main character solve that problem after several failed attempts that build toward the solution?
  • Does the main character’s personality/experience play into the solution somehow?
  • Does your story have a satisfying ending?
  • Does your story have “heart”—an emotional story arc or connection?

Step 2: Scene by Scene
Now let’s zoom in a little closer. Start by breaking your story into spreads. You can do this by making a dummy or by simply leaving an extra space between spreads in your manuscript. You’ll need 12–14 spreads for a traditional 32-page manuscript.

  • Does each spread contain a complete scene, with a character, a setting, and an action or change of some kind?
  • Think about what the art might show on each spread. Is there enough variety to make the book visually interesting?
  • Does the tension build from scene to scene?
  • Finally, look at your transitions. How can you tempt the reader to turn the page?

Step 3: Polish Your Prose
Now that you’ve looked at the big picture and the scene by scene view, it’s time to zoom in even closer and scrutinize each sentence.

  • Scan for adverbs and adjectives. Try to replace them with stronger nouns and verbs if possible (e.g., instead of saying someone walked quickly, say they trotted or jogged).
  • Do you have a lot of "he saids" and "she saids" in your text? Replace some of them with actions instead.
  • Look carefully at each sentence. Are you telling the reader something that will be shown in the art? If so, take it out.
  • Sprinkle in some alliteration, internal rhyme, onomatopoeia, or other literary devices. Try reading the story aloud to see if it sounds satisfying.

Happy revising!

Lisa is an author and literary agent. You can learn more about her at https://www.lisaamstutz.com/  or