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


Tuesday, June 6, 2023

Planning a School Visit

 By Susie Kralovansky

When I signed my first book contract, I thought the hard work was over. I was so wrong.

The hard work was just beginning.

Then I planned a hugely successful book release party, and I thought the hard work was over. Again, the hard work was just beginning – I realized that I needed a plan for continued book sales and an income while writing that next book.  

I muddled through what would have been a breeze if I’d had Kim Norman’s book Sell Books and Get Paid Doing Author School Visits. I’m a former librarian and an author who has done tons of author visits, and I still found Kim’s book filled with valuable advice. She systematically covers everything from creating presentations to needed equipment to organizing your contracts.

Norman begins by walking you through creating your presentation. As Kim says, “Author visits are as different as the books they’re about.” (p.7) She also covers:     

          • Setting up an author visit
          • How much to charge
          • Where to find schools that host authors
          • Contracts
          • Book sales
          • Book signings
          • Author websites
          • Staying organized
          • Promotion
In Kim’s final chapter, she shares advice from her writing friends. Rachelle Burk, Kelly Milner Halls, Marc Tyler Nobleman, to name a few, shared advice, humor, and “war stories.”
Aside from practical insider information and action steps, Norman shares the pleasures, pains, and strategies of author visits. In this in-depth, how-to, she shares the mistakes she has made, the secrets she has learned, and the joys of talking books with hundreds of thousands of children over the past dozen years. Kim is a great and generous teacher. She puts everything she does into simple terms, providing templates that allow us to replicate her methods step-by-step.

Tuesday, May 23, 2023

Organize Your Work With a Writing Journal

 By Susie Kralovansky

​You might think you’re organized, but are you really, really organized?

I thought that I had a great filing system. It's one that I had been using for years.
Then, I read my friend  Nancy I. Sander’s blog on writing journals. Previously, I always began each project with a new folder where I stuffed every slip of paper, note, magazine article, and photos on my current project. 

My materials were together, but they were a mess. I was continually looking for a line, phrase, page, etc. that I knew I’d written, but couldn’t get my hands on.

​I assumed that this was just part of the creative process. It never occurred to me, until reading Nancy's first post, that there was a much, much better way to keep track of your work. I’m embarrassed to say that I have actually spoken at conferences on organization and writing. Yikes!

Nancy is truly the master of organization. Imagine this - a Table of Contents! And notes!  

More importantly, imagine being able to  know exactly where your images, quotes, resources, reference tools,  opening and closing lines, etc. are!
Nancy explains her system in a series of seven posts. After these first few, each one will include organizational skills that every writer needs to know, right down to putting a sticker on the upper right-hand corner of your journal’s Table of Content since you will be flipping back to it so often.

One of my favorite posts was an explanation of the topics Nancy puts in her journal. This gem will always be on the inside cover of my writing journals.

​I love notebooks, markers, stickers, and glue sticks. As a former librarian, I love cataloging information. This writing journal stuff was made for me. And now I can say (thanks to Nancy) that yes, I am really, really organized. 

Learn more about Susie Kralovansky and her writing process at https://www.susankralovansky.com/

Tuesday, May 16, 2023

How to Generate a Winning Idea for the NF Writing Contest!

For details on the contest visit:


What's the Question?

 By Christine Liu-Perkins

My favorite book on writing nonfiction is Thinking Like Your Editor: How to Write Great

Serious Nonfiction—and Get It Published
 by Susan Rabiner and Alfred Fortunato. One key concept they discuss in Chapter 2 is the importance of having a question that drives the book: "Every work of serious nonfiction begins with a question the author has about the topic and ends with an answer the author wants to provide." (p. 77) That question determines how interested editors and readers will be in the book.
I find that asking an overall question also focuses my writing. Knowing what question I'm trying to answer helps me decide how to structure the book and helps in making those many decisions about what to keep and what to leave out. For At Home in Her Tomb, my question was, What do the tombs and their artifacts tell us about life in ancient China?
Sometimes authors reveal in interviews, Author's Notes, or blogposts what question(s) inspired them to create their books. Here are a few examples:

  • In Presenting Buffalo Bill: The Man Who Invented the Wild West, Candace Fleming explored: "Who was Buffalo Bill? Was he a hero or was he a charlatan? Was he an honest man or a liar? Was he a real frontiersman or was he a showman?"



  • In her Author's Note for The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus, Jen Bryant said she wanted to know, "Who was this man Roget? . . . And what compelled him to undertake this immensely difficult task?"



  • At the end of her prologue for Bonnie and Clyde: The Making of a Legend, Karen Blumenthal wrote of the two outlaws, "They are romanticized, celebrated, and remembered as the stuff of legend. But why?"

To identify the question driving your own project, Rabiner and Fortunato recommend recalling what originally captured your interest in the subject "and why you find it compelling enough to write a book to answer it . . ." (p. 78).
What's the question driving your work-in-progress? Defining that question will help you research, write, and market your book.
Happy questioning!

Tuesday, May 9, 2023

Five Tips to Help You WIN the Writing Contest!

Are You ready for the Nonfiction Writing Contest? These five tips from Ninja Susie Kralovansy could help you become a winner!


Are you ready for an Agent???

 By Stephanie Bearce

Anybody who has been writing for a while has been hit with the agent questions. It’s whispered and chatted about at conferences, workshops, and in critique groups. The questions sound like:

 Do you have an agent? 

How did you get your agent? 

Can you tell me how to get an  agent? 

Can I contact your agent?”

           A good agent is worth her weight in toner ink and paper! She can negotiate a contract, critique a manuscript, and answer fifty emails all before her cappuccino cools. That’s why everybody wants an amazing agent. But--and this is a very big BUT –- an agent is only as good as the writer she is representing. To get an excellent agent you need to be an excellent writer.

            New writers often believe that getting an agent is going to solve all their writing problems. The agent will edit their manuscripts, sell their work, and get them on the The New York Times Best Seller list. It’s a lovely dream, but it is not reality.   Experienced writers WITH agents will tell you that it is no guarantee that their manuscript will sell. If the editors are not looking for a book about three-toed sloths and vampire bats – it’s not going to sell. What an agent can do is help you to navigate the market trends and get your work in front of editors who are looking for manuscripts in your content area. They can also be your biggest cheerleader.

            BUT you may not be ready to look for an agent if you are not a polished, experienced writer. You only have one chance to make a first impression. You want it to be a good one. This is a check list that can help you evaluate whether or not you are ready for an agent.

1. Do you belong to an active critique group?

            This is probably the single best thing you can do to prepare for an agent. Find a group who will tell you what is WRONG with your manuscript. You want people who are honest and will help you learn how to improve. And every manuscript can use improvement.

2. Do you have more than one polished manuscript or proposal available?

            That’s right – more than one! Agents often want to see three polished picture book manuscripts. If you are writing for middle grade or young adult you need a full proposal and some additional ideas already in the development stages. Most agents want to work with you on multiple projects and you need to show that you are at that stage with your work.

3. Have you attended conferences and had professional critiques of your work?

            Before you send your work out to an agent – get it evaluated by other professional writers. They can tell you if your story is ready or if it needs more work. And listen to their advice! Too often new writers discount the advice of other writers. If an experienced writer gives you suggestions for revision – consider it a gift and go revise! Negative feedback is not meant to hurt you-- it is meant to make you a stronger writer and build a better manuscript.

4. Have you had work published previously?

            Have you published magazine articles or had work in professional journals? Have you done work-for-hire and learned how to partner with an editor? This can be a big plus when you are a nonfiction writer looking for an agent. Don’t discount the value of publishing in a variety of venues including hosted blogs and professional journals. Working with editors to hone your writing will be a huge advantage as you look for that perfect agent and those book contracts.
            These are just suggestions for what you should do before you look for an agent. There are other things like contests, e-zines, and mentorships that can also help you reach the writing level that is necessary to attract a good agent.
         Remember there is no substitute for hard work and lots of revision. Your manuscripts should be as perfect as possible before submitting to an agent. And then – if she is a fantastic agent – be prepared to some more revisions!

              Good luck!

Learn more about Stephanie and her amazing literary agent at www.stephaiebearce.com