Trading UP: Starred Reviews and Washington D.C.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Ding! Dong!

The lady who opened the door had a puzzled look. “Yes?”

“Good afternoon, Ma’am,” said the teenager. He held up a #2 yellow pencil and said in an overly cheerful voice, “My church youth group is doing a Bigger and Better challenge this afternoon. We were divided into groups and each group was given a pencil. We are supposed to go around and Trade Up for Bigger and Better.” He waggled the pencil. “Do you have anything you could trade us for this pencil?”

“Like what?”

“Anything, as long as it is bigger and better?”

She shrugged. “I have a Coke.”


At the next house, the teen repeated his spiel. “Do you have anything you could trade us for this pencil?”

The man led us to the garage. “I was just going to put this out on the street for the trash man.” He pointed to a pink child’s bicycle.

“Does it work?”

“The rear tire is flat. But fix that and it’s fine. My daughter just outgrew it.”

“We’ll take it.” The teen handed the man the hot Coke can.

Three hours later, the team pulled back into the church’s parking lot with a truck loaded down with a gently-used leather couch.
From a #2 yellow pencil to a leather couch—in three hours.

That’s the power of Trading Up.

That’s what I’ve been doing in the last eighteen months since I self-published a children’s picture book, WISDOM, THE MIDWAY ALBATROSS: Surviving the Japanese Tsunami and other Disasters for over 60 Years. In the process, I have knocked on many, many doors and asked if I could Trade Up. Like the teen, I got a lot of NOs, but I also got some incredible Yes answers.

Using Amazon Prime for Kindle, 2200 free copies of WISDOM were downloaded last spring and we had nice feedback about the story and its usefulness to teachers. With that enthusiasm and the illustrator’s encouragement, we entered the 2013 Writer’s Digest Self-Published Book awards—and won the children’s book category, a $1000 cash prize. We took part of that money and traded up—using Publisher’s Weekly Select program (it’s a $100 fee for them to “consider” a review, no guarantees). We received a PW Starred Review! Later, the book was named a Finalist in the NextGen Indie Book Awards, juvenile nonfiction category.

Do those awards matter? They did to me—emotionally. I knew I had published a great book, but the validation of a Starred PW Review—it gave me confidence to Trade Up again.

This time, I sent the book to a contact at Scholastic to be considered for their book club and book fair programs. No answer. That means No. But you just knock on doors. Next, I sent WISDOM to Washington to the book buyer for the Smithsonian Museum Stores. Yes! We are now a vendor for them and they’ve placed WISDOM on their shelves. Nice Trade UP!

What now? How can I Trade Up again? Several education wholesalers have listed the book in their catalogs. With Smithsonian and PW on my side, I am pursuing many other options of catalogs and specialty stores. I just got another NO today, but that's OK. I'll look for another place and way to Trade Up. Stay focused on the positive!

The real Trading Up will be for the next book, another collaboration between illustrator Kitty Harvill and myself, which will be out next year, HAPPY, THE BRAZILIAN PUMA, the story of an orphaned puma cub and how he survives.

Trading Up can happy on any level. Did your friend LOVE your first draft? Then Trade Up--submit the book to an editor at a conference. You may get a No, but you may get an enthusiastic YES, and an invitation to submit.

Name one good thing that has happened to your and your writing this year. Now think of ten ways you might Trade Up for something even better.


Darcy Pattison blogs about how-to-write at Fiction Notes and blogs about education at Follow Darcy on Pinterest.


Margo Dill said...

Darcy, I love this post. You have given me some great ideas and some starting point for marketing my book. Thank you!

BTW, I didn't realize you self-published WISDOM. It is REALLY well done and beautiful illustrations, text placement, etc. etc. You should be giving out picture book self-publishing advice, too. :)

Tara Huck said...

typo on happy, but great story

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