Guest Joanna Marple Demystifies The uTales Process

Today I have such a treat for you!  Please join me in welcoming talented new author Joanna Marple whose book Snow Games was released last month from uTales.

If you have not had a chance to view other posts in Joanna’s blog tour, you can see the schedule and links at the end of this post.  Other topics have included reviews of the book, an interview with Joanna, and where she got her inspiration, but today she’s going to explain how uTales works.

Take it away, Joanna! 🙂

I think many of my generation struggle to embrace picture books in electronic format. We know the intimacy of reading a physical book to/with a young child. The sensorial experience it gives to the child in turning the pages, smelling, chewing etc is an important part of their early reading experience (and ours too as caregivers – holding a book and reading to a child is incredibly bonding). I came to PB eBooks with my preconceptions, and have become convinced that this is not an either/or question, but rather that they offer yet another opportunity to keep the reading doors open for our children. I believe e-Picture Books can add to our children’s reading experiences. More books, more easily accessible, in a variety of formats… this is a good thing. This is a lengthy introduction, but I believe to be involved in any eBook platform you should be convinced of their value in our children’s reading lives.
Whatever the publishing platform, the most important thing will always remain the quality of the story. I would not have considered submitting to uTales if I were not convinced of an appropriate level of quality editorial control. Two things convinced me of this. Firstly, an illustrator friend, Hazel Mitchell, whose work I much admire, submitted her beautiful retelling of The Ugly Duckling, and won an iPad for the official launch of uTales last year. Secondly, publishing veteran, Emma D Dryden, whose independent editorial services I use through her company, drydenbks, heads up the uTales editorial quality control panel. I think with any new eBook platform expanding its collection, there will be a great range of storytelling, but I am very happy with the editing and selection that is happening and we have been seeing a real flow of great quality stories being submitted as we grow in numbers of collaborators.
When you first sign up with uTales, you receive two weeks free access to every book in the library; thereafter you always have access to an 8-page preview of every book for free. That first fortnight, I think I read all the books they had, discovering the focus was more for the 2-5 year olds, though not exclusively, and the variety was enormous. I love the fact that we are a thoroughly international group and working towards publishing in several languages (so far English and Swedish, with Spanish soon to be added). Once I had researched the platform and felt convinced about its goals and authenticity, I set out purposely to write a story for uTales.  How I came up with my story you can read about here.
SNOW GAMES went through exactly the same amount of rigorous revision that I would give any manuscript that I wish to submit to an agent or publisher (or self publish). Typically, I sent it off to my crit. partner first. Then it went through my normal online PB crit. group and a rhyming online PB crit. group, which formed out of PiBoIdMo. I sent the revisions back several more times to my crit. partner and my freelance editor also gave me valuable input. I want to underline that one should not seek an illustrator until one is confident about one’s story. Emma Dryden has written an excellent article for uTales about the importance of presentation, punctuation, and precision when it comes to creating successful picture books. – http://blog.utales.com/2011/11/10/to-keep-in-mind-when-creating-utales-picture-books/.
I took a little time finding the right illustrator – I think, in part, due to the complexity of having the four characters, requiring an illustrator who had the time to invest, not a small request for these freelancers. There is an active Facebook group, called uTales Collaborations, where illustrators and authors can find one another. Prior to writing SNOW GAMES, I had been involved in a collaboration project of 30 uTalers, who together produced THE FRIENDSHIP ALPHABET book. Maja Sereda had done an enchanting double-paged spread of “ogling owls” for the “O” page and seemed the perfect fit for my story – happily for me, she agreed. I sent her my paginated manuscript and Maja then took over. We had some fun communication back and forth, between France and South Africa for 2.5 months, as she worked on the illustrations; we have become firm friends. I am enchanted with her artwork for this book. One of the pleasures of working with uTales is the opportunity few have, for such collaboration.
Both illustrator and author are co-creators and have access to the uTales website “create tool” when they finally upload: images, text, sound, animation, caption, dedication pages etc. The uTales website has simple videos explaining each aspect if this process, and there is a technical team happy to respond to any questions. Once complete, you submit online via the uTales website to their Quality Editorial Panel (UQEP). If you count the fact that we live in different time zones to the panel (Maja and I are on the same longitude!), the response was immediate to our submission. For SNOW GAMES, the feedback was to increase the font size for better visibility on iPhones and to remove one preposition for better rhyming flow. I followed up on these suggestions and made the corrections. Our book was published shortly afterwards, with a five star rating.
To summarize:
1.     Write a darn good story, thoroughly revised (nothing new here!)
2.     Familiarize yourself with uTales and join the FB collaboration page.
3.     Find just the right illustrator for your story and enjoy the collaboration process.
4.     Look at the how-to videos on the uTales site.
5.     Upload your images and text, and decide whether it is appropriate to then add any animation and sound.
6.     Submit the complete story to the UQEP and be ready to respond to their helpful feedback. If a lot of editing is required, you may need to submit a couple more times (3 times maximum).
7.     Start planning your promotion before the book is published.
8.     Enjoy – it is a wonderful experience.
Susanna, thank you so much for shooting off an invitation to me to share on your blog, I think within minutes of you seeing SNOW GAMES had been published.

Thank you so much for visiting with us, Joanna!

You can visit Joanna’s Website/Blog and “Like” her on Face Book.

And you can see the other stops on her blog tour at these fabulous blogs:

Wednesday, Mat 16th, Darshana’s Blog, Flowering Minds – Interview
Wednesday, May 23rd – Krista Rausin’s blog, Parenting with a Dash of Inspiration – Multiple Characters in Picture Books
Tuesday, May 29th – Sharon Stanley’s blog, Sharon Stanley Writes – Interview
Tuesday, June 5th – Clarike Bo Jahn, Clarbojahn’s Blog – The Story Behind the Story
Wednesday, June 6th – Diane Tulloch’s blog, The Patient Dreamer – Book Review
Wednesday,  June,13th – Julie Hedlund’s Blog, Why uTales?
Monday, June 18th – Susanna Leonard Hill’s Blog – The Process of Submitting a Story to uTales
Wednesday June 27th – Patricia Hilton’s blog, Children’s Books Heal, Book Review

Before we go, I have a surprise for you!  Remember that mini-series on self-publishing I told you about?  Well, it has expanded to 4 posts!  And all four will include giveaways!  And although Suzanne’s schedule does not allow, the others have graciously and generously offered to be available to answer any questions you may have after reading their posts – a truly priceless opportunity!  Can it possibly get any better? 🙂

Friday June 22 we will learn from Suzanne McGovern, author of a delightful self-published picture book series about Gator And Pete.  Monday June 25 Vivian Kirkfield will share the creation of her wonderful self-published picture book resource Show Me How – a book every parent and teacher should have a copy of!  The following Friday (June 29) we’ll be visited by Patrick Milne, author of the e-book The Adventures of Lucy Snigglefritz (also available in paperback.)  And finally on Monday July 2 we’ll wind up with Rita Borg, author of Meg The Egg.  All of these authors have a wealth of information to share on the process of self-publishing and I hope you will find what they have to say as interesting and enlightening as I do!

60 thoughts on “Guest Joanna Marple Demystifies The uTales Process

  1. Stacy S. Jensen says:

    No. 1 on your list is so true! I love reading about your process to write Snow Games. My two-year-old son and I both enjoy it. The illustrations are beautiful too. What do you mean by a “paginated” manuscript? I'm looking forward to the upcoming series.

  2. Iza says:

    Congratulations, Joanna! It loos like a lovely book. And I like what you said- that it's not an either/or question but rather another opportunity to keep the reading doors open to children. So true!

  3. Joanna Marple says:

    I am so happy that Enzo (and you) have been enjoying SNOW GAMES, Stacey.

    By paginated, I mean a dummy, or break down of the text onto the pages. I intentionally still write in the 32 page format, though this is not strictly necessary for an eBook. In traditional publishing this would be the job of an editor (and art editor?). I felt it would be helpful for Maja to have this (and it isn't so hard with the consistent rhyming pattern), though I did say I would be happy to discuss things if she felt it should be different. I know some illustrators would prefer it unpaginated, so I think it should be discussed.

  4. Beth Stilborn says:

    Thank you so much for sharing your uTales process with us, Joanna. Thanks especially for noting that you were initially concerned about ebooks in general — I'm older than you, so I'm even more wedded to the joy of the physical book. Your thoughts are helpful to me. And again, congratulations on Snow Games! I look forward to reading its sequel.

  5. Joanna Marple says:

    I found it interesting doing the school visits, Beth, as i saw how much pleasure the children had listen to the story and looking at the screen – just as much as if I had been turning pages of the print book in front of them. Indeed, I kind of liked having my hands free to gesticulate a bit as I narrated!

  6. Joanna Marple says:

    Susanna, I just have to say that I am continually impressed that France maintains second place in the blog visitors list. Do you have family over here?? 🙂

  7. Tiltonph says:

    This is the most indepth interview of all. I know now where to look for information. Especially the submission process. What I'm not sure about is, do you enter the copy on the illustrated pages, or does the illustrator? Using rhyme symplifies. But prose will be more challenging — a reason the content must be tight. Since you wrote in rhyme, Maja didn't have to worry about taking out words etc. Couldn't click on the site above — wouldn't open for me.

  8. Joanna Marple says:

    I did indeed upload the text on top of the illustrations, but Maja could have done this too.

    Unfortunately the uTales site is having some problems today, which is why that page won't open, Pat.

    I think rhyme is easier for pagination, but it can be just as poorly written as prose and therefore need as much editing.

  9. Vivian Kirkfield says:

    What an amazingly informative (in simple laymen's terms) post about a format that many of us “older” writers may be hesitant to approach! Thanks to both of you, Susanna and Joanna, for making this available. The book is charming, Joanna…I think my next stop is to sign up at U-tales. 🙂 And I am excited about the mini-series on self-publishing…thanks so much for including me, Susanna!

  10. Angela Brown says:

    E-books are growing in popularity in all the different age groups and genres. About the only books I can imagine that can't be made into an e-version would be pop up books (which could eventually get taken care of with the advancement of technology) and texture books where little ones learn the different textures and feel of materials.

  11. Renee says:

    Perfect, Joanna – just what I was looking for! I will definitely be checking out the uTales platform. Love the idea of getting to collaborate with the illustrator.

    And Susanna, I'm really looking forward to the self-published series. Thanks! :0

  12. Susanna Leonard Hill says:

    I like the idea of reading being available on lots of different platforms and in lots of different formats. As with everything else, different people like different things, and I think it's great to be able to cater to as many tastes as possible.

  13. Susanna Leonard Hill says:

    Vivian, that's exactly why I wanted Joanna to explain – I find some of these things intimidating! 🙂 I'm glad you're looking forward to the self-pub series, and thank YOU so much for pitching in and participating! You have much to share that will be valuable!

  14. Susanna Leonard Hill says:

    I'm glad you're looking forward to it, Rena. I think it's going to be very interesting and informative. The authors come from all different backgrounds and have chosen different ways of going about publishing and they have a lot to share. Plus giveaways 🙂

  15. Joanna Marple says:

    I agree, Angela, and I believe we will retain print books for quite a bit longer too, even for older readers!

  16. Julie Hedlund says:

    What a thorough description of the uTales process. Thanks Susanna and Joanna for sharing this information with us all. I especially appreciated Joanna's comment that you need to appreciate the value ebooks offer before writing one. I also think it was wise to write a story specifically for this format, as I think the considerations are quite different. Great post!

  17. Clarike Bowman-Jahn says:

    Thanks Joanna and Susanna for the wonderful description of the process Joanna went through for submitting to uTales. I, too, have a children's ebook but the formatting for kindle and nook are proving to be difficult. Is uTales on Kindle or Nook? Or can one only see them on the computer?

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