Tuesday, January 30, 2024

Have You Claimed Your Google Knowledge Panel?

At 22:14 of this video interview on The Indie Author Podcast, The Many Levers of Your Author Platform with Andrea De Werd, Andrea speaks with Matty Dalrymple about claiming your profiles:

"Once you have an ISBN, claim your profiles. Go claim your BookBub profile, go claim your GoodReads profile, claim your Amazon Author Central..."

I'd heard of all of those before. But even with my 4th book releasing in March, this next one was new to me:

"And then, related to your website, you can claim your Google Knowledge Panel... When you search for anyone on Google, there's a little side panel that pops up on the right hand column, and it will say 'Is this you? Claim this panel.' at the bottom... so you can click that."

I searched Google for "Claim Google Knowledge Panel"
and this is a screenshot of the beginning of the instructions. 

Andrea explains the once you've claimed it, you can control your Google Knowledge Panel contents--you can include a short bio, decide what social media channels it links through to, and you can even point people to your newest book. 

It's a great lever for your platform as a children's book creator, and we should all consider pulling that lever!

Illustrate, Translate, and Write On,

Thursday, January 25, 2024

FEMALE IS FUNNY TOO: Analyzing humor and gender in children's content

 By M.R. Woodward

Are funny male kid lit writers more successful than female? 

Sometimes I wonder what would happen if I had changed my name to a male pen name or used my initials (like above). Would I have better luck selling my funny picture books? Would I get higher advances? 

I'll never know the answers to these questions. And perhaps it's all in my head. But here's something I DO know from working at a children's book store: The general consumer knows a LOT more funny male children's book authors than they do female. People know to ask for Mo Willems, Ryan Higgins, Mac Barnett, Jon Klassen, Oliver Jeffers, Dav Pilkey... etc.

And even if they don't know their names, their books are the ones they know: DRAGONS LOVE TACOS, THE BOOK WITH NO PICTURES, THE DAY THE CRAYONS QUIT, I WANT MY HAT BACK, DOGMAN, DON'T LET THE PIGEON DRIVE THE BUS, DON'T EAT YOUR CLASSMATES...    The funny picture book best sellers are mostly written by men. 

Now, I know many of you are thinking: "Hey, I know TONS of funny female picture book writers!" Well, guess what, I DO TOO! But, like me, most of you reading this are kid lit writers. Thus, we have a vast knowledge of picture books and other kid lit, that regular parents and their kids don't have. 

Yes, you and I, can sing the praises of funny (and prolific) female picture book writers like Tara Lazar, Deborah Underwood, Doreen Cronin, Tammi Sauer, Keiko Kasha, Dev Petty, Kelly Dipucchio, Shannon Hale, Laurie Keller, Ame Dyckman, and many many more... but can your brother-in-law? Can your mom? Can your best friend from high school? Ask them to name some funny children's authors without looking at their bookshelves-- see what names they produce-- they might come out with Beverly Cleary, Judy Blume. Maybe Sandra Boynton if they have a toddler. But my guess is that they'll name way more men-- especially for picture books. 

I don't know the exact numbers on who makes the most money selling FUNNY kid lit (and I don't have time to do that research). But I have an inkling it would skew male. I'd love to see accurate numbers on this if anyone has them. 

However, just for funsies-- I checked eleven "Funniest picture book lists"-- some were from publishers, others from bloggers, some from libraries, or booksellers like Bookshop-- in other words, NOT the general public-- but people with expert knowledge of the kid-lit industry. They were just the first lists that popped up when I googled "funniest picture books." But I made sure they were lists compiled within the last two years. To be fair, some of these lists were about even, and a few of them even had slightly more female writers, but most did not. When I averaged it all out, 64% were male.

*I also looked at a few funny MG lists, and these seem to be much more evenly gendered. Which is so great to see! 

Sure, 64% isn't terrible. It's probably much better than it would have been 15-20 years ago. But considering that the majority of people compiling these lists (kid lit editors, authors, bloggers, and booksellers) are ALSO female, you'd think these numbers would lean the other way.

All that being said, I DO think we're headed in the right direction. And if bloggers and other people in the kid-lit industry as starting to realize that women are funny, hopefully the general public will catch on too! 

Maybe some day soon, someone will walk in and ask if we carry any books by Marianna Coppo. And I will be thrilled, because she is hilarious.

Are funny characters in kid's content mostly male? 

Recently, I've been reading a lot of middle grade fantasy. Three books I've read recently, HUNT FOR THE HOLLOWER, THE SPIRIT GLASS, and THE WIZARDS OF ONCE, that are all written by women and have female protagonists, also have hilarious sidekick characters-- who are all male. (I highly recommend all of these books by the way!)

It got me thinking about funny sidekick characters in kids' movies as well. Pretty much every animated Disney/ Pixar movie has a funny sidekick. But how many can you name that are female? I thought of two: Dory from FINDING NEMO, and Sisu in RAYA AND THE LAST DRAGON. There might be a few more, but I think it's safe to say that the "funny sidekick" role is VERY male dominated. 


Then started thinking about picture book characters, especially animal ones. I realized that most funny animal characters are written as male. (Again, I don't have any exact numbers on this. I just started looking at the characters on all these funny picture book lists, and most were male.)  And even if the gender is never mentioned in the book-- like the pigeon in Mo Willems' books, I had thought of them as male-- and reviewers or book blurbs had also described these characters using he/him. 

Why do we do this? How can we change? 

I'm pretty sure the answer lies somewhat in representation. The more funny female characters we see in movies, books, TV, etc, the easier it will become to believe that female characters are funny. So as writers, let's put them in! Next time you sit down to write a funny picture book-- think about your lead character. What is their gender? Why? If you wrote a funny male character, is there ANY reason at all they can't be female instead? Other than your own bias of... I just think he's funnier as a male. And if that's your answer, then maybe you need to examine why it is you think that way. 

Because the world definitely needs more Olivias!

Also, when you read to your kids, you can do what Lisa Tolin, author of HOW TO BE A ROCK STAR, did and change all the funny male characters to female. That way your kids grow up thinking girls are funny too! Check out her article here.

Of course men can be funny, but so can women

By no means am I disregarding the talent and humor of funny male kid lit authors! The male authors and their books I mentioned above ARE hilarious (with the exception of a few of them that I personally think are way overrated.) Is Jon Klassen brilliant in his own unique brand of humor? Of course he is! The problem is that I've picked up so many hilarious books by women and thought, "This is so funny. Why isn't she a household name?" 

I hate the phrase "dad jokes." It implies that only men can make the kind of corny cheesy jokes that rely on stupid wordplay and make everyone laugh and roll their eyes. It's just another contributing factor in why our society doesn't believe in funny women-- "Dads are the funny ones!" I propose we change it to "parent jokes" or maybe just "eye rollers." LOL. 

And if any of your friends need funny picture book recs... give them suggestions written by women! Let's try to even things out a little.

If you have other suggestions for changing the narrative around WHO we think is funny, comment below! 

**There are MANY more funny female (and male) kid lit authors who were not mentioned in this blog. If you're looking for more, just google "funny picture books" and lists will come up! 

Here are some other articles/blogs detailing how the children's book industry is still mostly male (and white) despite the fact that more women work in kid lit, and there are more women pursuing kid lit careers. 





Megan has an MFA in screenwriting from UCLA, and has been working as a comedy screenwriter for over 10 years. After becoming a mom, she rediscovered her long-lost love of children’s books and has since been pursuing a career in kid-lit. She also works part-time in a children's book store called Green Bean Books, in Portland, OR.

Megan is a member of the SCBWI community, 12x12 PB challenge, multiple picture book critique groups, and PB Soar 24 (a promotional marketing group of authors debuting in 2024).

Additionally, Megan offers manuscript and screenplay critiques and editing. To work with Megan or learn about her available services, click here.

Megan's debut picture book, THIS BOOK IS DEFINITELY NOT CURSED, illustrated by Risa Rodil, will be released on June 25, 2024 by Simon and Schuster. 

You can PREORDER here.

OR: If you're local or near Portland, you can. preorder a signed copy from Green Bean Books!!!

Follow Megan on InstagramTwitterBluesky, and Facebook.

Tuesday, January 23, 2024

Book Marketing Tips From Beyoncé - Alesha Brown Serves It Up for Us in This BookLife by Publishers Weekly Article

With so much book marketing advice out there, it's always fun to see a fresh take on something we all have to do as part of our journeys as children's and teen book creators.

Beyoncé on the red carpet, Dreamgirls premiere, 2007, 
Beyonce_Dreamgirls.jpg: S Pakhrin from DC, USAderivative work: Truu, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

In this great BookLife/Publishers Weekly article, Market Like a Superstar, Alesha isn't saying we need a red-carpet-surrounded-by-photographers moment, but she is taking the business genius of Beyoncé and translating it to the world of book marketing. 

There are seven steps to this Beyoncé marketing dance, each accompanied by a book-world case study:

1) build a community of fans

2) share your journey

3) incorporate the people in your life into your work

4) encourage audience participation

5) thank your supporters

6) create magic

7) have your next offering ready

To give you a taste, here's the "create magic" step:

Step six: create magic. We all enjoy a great experience, so don’t forget to sprinkle yours with a little magic. Ensure that your service or product is worth the investment. If you create a magical experience that makes people feel good, they will come back time and time again, often alongside new followers. Focus on creating immersive book covers, compelling blurbs, and engaging first chapters to captivate readers from the start. Organize virtual or in-person book launch events on Zoom and Crowdcast. Incorporate interactive elements, unique themes, activities, and guest appearances to make your book launches unforgettable.

Case study: Marissa Meyer. Meyer’s book launch events for the Lunar Chronicles series included cosplay contests, themed decorations, and interactive activities, immersing readers in her fictional universe. Readers attended events not just for the books but for the experience, creating a memorable connection with the author and her stories.

Go check out the full article – it's well-worth reading.

Illustrate, Translate, and Write On!

Thursday, January 18, 2024

Interview with Jennifer Green, the owner of Green Bean Books

 By: Megan Woodward

I've always thought that working in a children's book store would be the ultimate dream job. Being around kid lit and kids who love books-- it's all I want in life! (Expect for like millions of dollars). Well, in June 2023, my dream was realized when Jennifer Green hired me to work part time at Green Bean Books, a charming little children's book store on Alberta St in Portland, OR, that's reminiscent of The Shop Around the Corner in the movie YOU'VE GOT MAIL. If you are a child or a lover of children's books-- this place is Heaven on earth. It's magical, it's whimsical, it's cozy, it employs Earl (the most knowledgable children's bookseller you'll ever meet), it's chock full of books from board books through middle grade, it sells the cutest stuffies ever, and it even has a vending machine for finger puppets handmade by Jennifer herself! Not to mention-- all of the awesome author events and weekly story times! If you visit Portland, don't miss it!

You can visit our website here, our Facebook page here, and our Instagram page here

As a children's book author, it's been super interesting and beneficial to see things from a bookseller's perspective and observe all kinds of authors events. So, to share some of that knowledge and wisdom with you all, Jennifer Green, the owner of Green Bean Books has graciously allowed me to interview her! 

The Interview: 

MW: Tell us a little bit about your journey in opening a bookstore. What led you to become a bookseller?

JG: It all started when I was seven and made a library in my bedroom that neighbors could checkout books from. I tried to be easy on them with the fines! (: Then I moved up to working the desk at the library as well as a couple independent bookstores throughout college. I ended up teaching elementary school for ten years and became known as the teacher to borrow books from in my school. My favorite part of teaching was read-aloud time with the kids. When I decided I needed a change from teaching it felt like owning a bookstore was my natural next step and perhaps what I was meant to do all along. I started my store as a used/new store with most of the used books coming from my own classroom collection which nearly filled the store! I guess I’ve always been sort of a book hoarder and I figured it was time to share more books with the world.

MW: How do you curate your book selection for the store? Do you have certain criteria? Do you read reviews? How much influence do book sales reps have on your choices?

JG: Yes, I read reviews, follow favorite kidlit blogs and social media accounts, comb through catalogs and get advice from my very valued reps. All of it combined together! I also talk to staff and customers to find out what people are asking for and wishing they could find most. 

I have my own preferred aesthetic and personal preferences for the artwork and stories in books, but I also try to think what a wide array of people wandering into my store might be looking for as well. It’s important to me to curate a collection of books that reflects the diversity of our world. I’d like every kid who walks into GBB to feel like they can see themselves reflected in the books we carry.

MW: Would you prefer an author to email, call, or mail you to let you know they have a book coming out?

JG: I would prefer an email or USPS mailing listing as much info as possible about the book including images. It’s especially nice when authors know something about our store and why they think the book would make a good fit in our store. Attachments of excerpts and bio info are ideal. I am more likely to respond to a personal email or letter rather than a cut and pasted impersonal sounding one. It's also great if an author asks if they can drop by or mail a copy of their book if they have one to share.

When authors just drop by the store to present their book with no warning, it can be inconvenient if we are helping a customer or immersed in a project, so this is not advised.

MW: What types of books would you personally like to see more of? Fewer of? 

JG: I would love to see more books with universal stories showing casual diversity. In terms of picture books, customers seem to be seeking longer stories and stories with humor. 

I would also like to see more kidlit choices in the 2nd-3rd grade chapter book level.

MW: What types of books tend to sell better than others? Are there any recent trends you’ve noticed becoming popular?

JG: I feel like heavily illustrated chapter books are having a moment. Also, graphic novels for 1st and 2nd graders are hot right now.

MW: What is the best way for authors to contact and collaborate with you for events? Any “do’s” or “don’ts” for approaching a bookseller? 

JG: Email is the best way to set up an event. We love it when authors contact us at least two months (or more) before they'd like to schedule a book reading. That gives us plenty of time to plan, order books, make signs, do posts, press releases and other publicity tasks. All of that takes more time than you might think. Events are usually more successful when authors share invitations and promote their event too on their social media and with friends and family. It's wonderful if authors can give us a semi-accurate estimate of how many people they think might attend. This helps us with book ordering. Sometimes authors will bring extra books that they have themselves too just in case we run out at the event. We then consign these for them and we are very grateful when this happens.

It's fantastic if authors have bookmarks, posters and prints to give away, especially as an incentive for customers to buy their book. Sometimes we'll raffle a print that the author donates. The key is that customers have to buy a book to get their name in the raffle hat. 

It's especially wonderful if an author can plan and provide an activity or craft to go with their reading. Kids events with crafts or activities attached always draw more of an audience. If you do plan a craft or activity, it's great to take and send pictures along with a description of the activity so that we can promote the activity that goes with the event on social media and in our newsletter. It's also such a gift when the author brings their own supplies. We always appreciate when the activity is not too messy as well. Paint doesn't usually work well in our little space.

Sometimes the author wants to offer snacks, which is great, but it's good to run what you will be bringing by us first so we can make sure it's not too messy as well. We usually do snacks out on our outdoor deck for this reason. 

It’s also ideal if the event at our store is not scheduled right after or before a similar event at a nearby store. This tends to reduce our audience potential.

MW: Do you collaborate with authors for school visits? Can you explain how that works? 

JG: School visits take a bit longer to set up so we like to have at least 3 months lead time to make these really successful. It takes time to make arrangements, create and distribute the order forms, get them back from students, and then order the books. It's wonderful if the author gives us a full description of their presentation format, and offers video clips or references from past school visits to share with a school. This can help in selling the visit to librarians and school administrators.

It’s also great when the author can let us know what exact technical accommodations they will need such as microphone, Mac dongle etc. ahead of time so we can make sure the school is set-up and ready for them. If there are materials in advance that we can provide the teachers with such as bookmarks or book trailers, that also helps generate more student interest in the book.

MW: What are your recent personal favorites in each category/ age range? 


Ferris by Kate DiCamillo- early middle reader

Coyote Sunrise Lost and Found by Dan Gemeinhart- middle reader

102 Days of Lying About Lauren by Maura Jortner

Frank and Bert by Chris Naylor-Ballesteros- Picture Book

The Hidden World of Gnomes by Lauren Soloy-picture Book

Mexikid by Pedro Martin- middle grade graphic novel


MW: What is your favorite thing about being a children’s bookseller? 

JG: There’s nothing better than finding the perfect book for a child! When a child or parent comes back and tells me that they connected with a book I recommended, it makes me glow!

MW: Any other words of wisdom or advice for kid lit writers you’d like to add? 

JG: Please shop at indie bookstores that you’d like support from. It’s a two way street. You need our support and we need yours too!

MW: Yes! So much this. Don't order your books from Amazon! It's just as easy to order them online from your local indie! Or better yet, go in and connect with the booksellers in person-- it's a joy to talk to people who are passionate about books. They LOVE what they do and are guaranteed to recommend wonderful books you might not have otherwise discovered. I speak from personal experience-- it is SUCH a pleasure to help connect kids with books they love. Truly truly a dream job.

The best way you can thank Jennifer Green for all this wonderful insight is to buy books from your local indie!


Megan has an MFA in screenwriting from UCLA, and has been working as a comedy screenwriter for over 10 years. After becoming a mom, she rediscovered her long-lost love of children’s books and has since been pursuing a career in kid-lit. She also works part-time in a children's book store called Green Bean Books, in Portland, OR.

Megan is a member of the SCBWI community, 12x12 PB challenge, multiple picture book critique groups, and PB Soar 24 (a promotional marketing group of authors debuting in 2024).

Additionally, Megan offers manuscript and screenplay critiques and editing. To work with Megan or learn about her available services, click here.

Megan's debut picture book, THIS BOOK IS DEFINITELY NOT CURSED, illustrated by Risa Rodil, will be released on June 25, 2024 by Simon and Schuster. 

You can PREORDER here.

OR: If you're local or near Portland, you can. preorder a signed copy from Green Bean Books!!!

Follow Megan on InstagramTwitterBluesky, and Facebook.