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Sunday, 5 July 2015

Ask Tana: How do I write a book proposal?

Dear Tania,
My manuscript is being taken to an acquisitions meeting! It's very exciting, however, the publisher wants me to write a proposal rather than just the cover letter I sent with the manuscript. What is the best format for the proposal?

Hi, Kirsty,

Congratulations! That's wonderful news and one step closer to holding your precious book in your hands!

Writing a solid book proposal is important. You are effectively selling your book to a team. You want them to want it! Some publishers have a set format they require for book proposals, but if you are just asked to write one without guidance, here are my tips.

The publisher already likes your work, so their interest is a given. But an acquisitions team's main focus is:

a) does the work suit their ethos?
b) is it marketable/sellable?
c) is this author proactive, dynamic and able to help market their work?

Check the publisher's ethos or mission statement. Many have it on their websites and if they don't, you can get a solid understanding of what it might be from their current book list. Or ask the publisher directly.

For marketability and sales potential, you'll need to make your book sound 'needed' on the market. Does it align with current trends or current affairs? Is it unique in some way? Does it fill a market gap? Essentially, you need to ensure the book fits a spot in the market and an audience. Don't expect a publisher to find your audience for you. Think about where this book fits in the current market and who it would sell to. Research this well.

For proactivity, be sure to make it clear that you are active and willing to help market your book. More on this below.

Proposals vary enormously, depending on the book type in question, but in general, a proposal can include the following (if it's a long proposal, it should include a table of contents, but a short one doesn't need that):

  • A short overview of your proposal.
  • A clear and direct synopsis of your book. Make it relatively detailed but not too long. Like all elements of your proposal, it should be well-edited. Don't waffle and don't include too many personal elements. 'I wrote this book because...' is okay, but one or two sentences is enough--not an essay.
  • A idea of your target market--who they are, and why they will relate to or buy this book. Including some kind of stats or facts will help.
  • A short competitive analysis on books, websites or products that are similar to yours and compete with yours. Most importantly, state why your book stands out and/or how it is better/will attract more sales. Be factual and don't use hyperbole.
  • If you say your book is completely unique and has no competition, you will need to then prove it's not so specialised or whackadoodle that your buying market proves too small.
  • Provide an author biography with what you have already achieved and what you're working on. Are you a specialist in your field? What makes you stand out? List any other book titles here. Be sure to list memberships and affiliations (member of CBCA, SCBWI, etc). The more industry-involved you are, the better.
  • Show how present you will be if this book goes to print, and suggest ways you can market and promote it. Be sure to state your online presence, website links, social networking capabilities,  and other platforms or achievements, eg: I am a reviewer for BookBlogs, I already have experience with speaking to children, I have set up a blog for my work, I have media contacts, etc, etc. Be confident and firm about what you WILL do, not what you COULD do.
  • Provide three sample chapters for fiction and the entire manuscript for a picture book. Yes, provide the work again, even if it's already with the publisher. You may have made some fresh edits between now and then, so provide your best work (though not a complete redraft!).

When you're done preparing your proposal, go over it and ensure you've met the following:

  • The reason this book should be on the market and what its unique selling points are.
  • Who will buy this book? What will they love about it/get from it?
  • Why YOU? In what way would you make a valuable asset to this publisher's stable? Are you consistently writing new material? Are you target market savvy? Do you already have an audience or web-presence? Do you understand the importance of proactivity?
  • Can you be easy to work with? Show this by being well-researched, confident, warm, professional, direct and succinct. If you are faffing or asking a billion questions that you can easily find with a Google search, publishers may baulk no matter how much they love your proposal.

Good luck!

See all the questions so far ...

Friday, 3 July 2015

A Kids' Year Series!

Tina and I are delighted to reveal the covers to books 2 and 3 in the A Kids' Year series, which is now going international! A Scottish Year and An English Year will be released in the UK (with a small run in Australia and New Zealand) this September--and next year we'll be releasing two more titles (but the destinations are hush hush!).

We have so loved working on this series. A dedicated website for A Kids' Year books will soon be up and running, so watch this space. In the meantime, for those Aussies wanting to snaffle a copy of the limited local editions, you can pre-order A Scottish Year here and An English Year here.

More on the books, below.

A Scottish Year: Twelve Months in the Life of Scotland's Kids OUT SEPTEMBER
(September 2015, EK Books, $19.99, hard cover, 9781921966873)

Five little Scotts ready to take you on a journey through twelve months in the life of Scottish kids. Meet Isla, Sophie, Dominik, James and Rashida - Scottish children representing a multicultural blend of culture and race that typifies our beautiful country.

They will take you through a year in the life of Scottish kids, from celebrations to traditions to events, to our everyday way of life and the little things that make childhood so memorable. They are our Scottish childhood.

A Scottish Year is a picture book bursting with national pride. It is a snapshot of who we are as a nation, blending our modern-day culture and lifestyle with past traditions and strong heritage. Its pages feature meandering text, dates and gorgeous illustrations, showcasing our five Scottish children at play, at school, at home, and enjoying the sights and sites of Scotland - from our heather-strewn Highlands to our historical cities, pristine outer islands and charming rural towns.

An English Year: Twelve Months in the Life of England's Kids OUT SEPTEMBER
(September 2015, EK Books, $19.99, hard cover, 9781921966866)

Five little children ready to take you on a journey through twelve months in the life of English kids. Meet Aman, Victoria, Amelia, Tandi and George - English children representing a multicultural blend of culture and race that typifies our beautiful country.

They will take you through a year in the life of English kids, from celebrations to traditions to events, to our everyday way of life and the little things that make childhood so memorable. They are our English childhood.

An English Year is a picture book bursting with national pride. It is a snapshot of who we are as a nation, blending our modern-day culture and lifestyle with past traditions and strong heritage. Its pages feature meandering text, dates and gorgeous illustrations showcasing our five English children at play, at school, at home, and enjoying the sights and sites of England - from the northern moors and breathtaking Lake District, to our pebbly seasides, bustling cities and historical country towns.

Thursday, 2 July 2015

Finding Your Illustration Style

When you think of Graeme Base or Stephen Michael King, Shaun Tan or Dick Bruna, I’m sure an illustration style immediately pops to mind. Each of these talented people have a particular style they’ve honed over the years. It’s become a sort of ‘trademark’—instant recognition {also called visual branding} that’s highly beneficial in a marketing sense.

Illustrators often say they don’t ‘see’ their own illustration style, yet others can readily pick it in an illustration line-up. Less experienced illustrators say they have a dream style, yet they’re either not sure exactly what it is {lack of focus} or feel they’re not capable of it {lack of self-belief}.

I’m one of these people. I’ve watched and admired many illustrators over the years. Each time I’ve admired their work, a thought goes through my mind:

Monday, 29 June 2015

Ask Tania: What is the Most Widely Used and Accepted Illustration Software?

Dear Tania,
What is the most popular, widely used and accepted software used by illustrators for digital illustrations for children's books?

Hi, Catherine,

To be honest, it doesn't really matter how you produce your illustrations, so long as you can provide them in a format that suits your publisher--either hand-rendered illustrations that the publisher will have scanned, or as high-resolution digital imagery, most often PDFs.

Some illustrators (like me) create part of their work by hand and part of it digitally. I also use printed material and photographs which I scan into my computer and assemble into pages using Adobe Illustrator (AI). I find AI the most user-friendly when it comes to page assembly and layout, but that's probably because it was the first software I ever used.

Sunday, 28 June 2015

How NOT to Market Your Book

We hear so much about marketing books and how we can promote ourselves and our work. As with everything in our modern day world, the views on this topic are rapidly shifting, and what used to work is no longer as effective. In fact, it can even be detrimental to your journey or reputation. 

Here are my tips on how NOT to go about the promotion of your work.

Friday, 26 June 2015

The Types of Author You Don't Want to Be

I'm often asked questions on 'what to do' or 'how to be' something, and I love the challenge of answering these questions, but it's often the things we 'shouldn't' do that can have the most impact, and facilitate the most successful author journey. I've learned from many mistakes--both my own and the mistakes of others--and I continue to learn every day.

I hope this rundown on the types of author you don't want to be helps you avoid making common mistakes that may compromise your journey.

Thursday, 25 June 2015

Resources for Authors and Illustrators

I really do believe that sharing is caring, most especially when it comes to books. On my blog and via some external links, you'll find many and varied resources to help you on your writing or illustrating journey--and even if you don't write or illustrate (and are just a creative person trying to forge your ideal path), there's plenty here for you, too.

Listed below are several resources for you to enjoy and learn from. Most are free and the KBR eBooks are just $4.95.

There are articles, experiences, questions answered, and even an e-book crammed with over 25 years of writing, editing and publishing experience.

This is just an initial list. I'll be adding many more links these coming months.

I hope they help you shine, you clever thing.

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Frosty Canberra

Who says Canberra isn't beautiful? Even in winter? Deliciously frosty.

Saturday, 20 June 2015

Latest Peas in a Pod Reviews

Some more delightful reviews from lovely people--thanks, everyone! Our little peas in a pod are having a lot of fun out and about in the world.

Click the imagery to read the full reviews (where appropriate).

Pass It On
Honey Bee Books

Taupo Times, NZ

Bookie Monster review podcast

Upstart Magazine

Thursday, 18 June 2015


Do you think you can create a colouring that's unique--and nothing like anyone else can do? Well, then this comp is for you!

Peas in a Pod is a book about five little girls born the same. They sleep the same, eat the same, even cry the same. One day, they decide 'same' is no fun--the girls insist on being different, and chaos ensues! Mum and Dad step in to set everything right ... and things are the same again. Same same same.

But not for long!

This new book from an award-winning duo is a delightful celebration of what it means to be true to ourselves and dare to be unique. Featuring stunning illustrations, it's sure to make both kids and adults smile.


It's fabulous! The winner will score a signed copy of brand new Peas in a Pod, PLUS signed copies of the award-winning An Aussie Year, Tottie and Dot, and four of Tania’s Riley the Little Aviator books! They'll also win handmade Peas in a Pod greeting cards and activity book, a peg doll kit to make little peas in a pod, and some other sweet surprises!

All this is valued at over $120!

Entries will be judged by Tania, and she is on the lookout for something truly unique!


This competition is for children aged 10 and under.

Just select and print-out any one of the following Peas in a Pod images and colour it in the most fabulous way you can imagine. Be sure to add your name, age,  and a contact email address to the entry (entries without will be ineligible). Remember: this prize can only be sent to an Australian address.

And yes, you can enter more than once!

Entries can either be emailed to or posted to PO Box 1753 Woden ACT 2606.

Competition ends at midnight (AEST) on Friday 31 July 2015, and is open to anyone around the world but PLEASE NOTE that the prize can only be sent to an Australian address. This is a game of skill, not chance.

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Peas in a Pod scores a Kirkus Review

Tina and I are tickled [fuchsia] pink to be reviewed by Kirkus! Click the image to read the full review of Peas in a Pod.

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

How to be a Successful Writing Festival or Conference Delegate

AFCC, Singapore, June 2015

Here are my tips for a really strong, productive and successful time as a festival or conference delegate.

1. TALK TO PEOPLE. Don’t stick with who you know—stretch yourself and meet new people. You never know where it will lead professionally—and you might just make a new friend or begin an exciting collaboration.

2. BE INCLUSIVE. Most festival delegates are either on their own or know few people. Look out for that ‘lost soul’ who knows no one and invite them to join you for breakfast. Step back and give them a place in your circle. Introduce them to others. Ask them about themselves. Be kind, not excluding.

3. SUPPORT OTHERS. If you can, drop into the sessions of friends or colleagues. Not only is it supportive, it’s important to remember that your greatest industry ally is your colleague.

4. CARRY COLLATERAL. Festivals are a priceless opportunity to make contacts. Take everyone’s business card and offer your own (I keep mine in the back of the festival pass which hangs around your neck).
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