Debbie Ridpath Ohi reads, writes and illustrates for young people. Every few weeks, she shares new art, writing and resources; subscribe below. Browse the archives here.

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Thursday
May042017

Part 2 (Raleigh, NC): Olds Elementary, Partnership Elementary, Quail Ridge Books Plus Book Tour Organization and My Thoughts On Media Escorts

BOOK TOUR NAVIGATIONPart 1 - Part 2 - Part 3  - Part 4  - Part 5 - Part 6 - Part 7 - Back to main Sea Monkey & Bob Bonus Page

At Fred A. Olds Elementary. Photo: Margaret Robe.

Heartmelt moment of my Sea Monkey & Bob Book Tour: when a little girl at Fred A. Olds Elementary (the child in the purple jacket holding I'm Bored in the photo above, standing in front of me) looked up at me in wonder after I handed her a signed book and said, "You mean I get to keep this book FOREVER??"

Thanks to Quail Ridge Books for arranging my visits with Fred A. Olds Elementary and Partnership Elementary in Raleigh, NC. Special thanks to Ann Pearce at Olds and mary Martin at Partnership. I had a fantastic time, and it was a wonderful way to start off my book tour!

Q. How was the Sea Monkey & Bob book tour organized?

I'm not sure how other publishers work with authors and illustrators for book tours, but I worked primarily with my publicist at Simon & Schuster Children's, Katy Hershberger:

User pic from Katy's Twitter acct at @katyhershKaty is awesome. I am always so aware that Katy is not only organizing my book tour but many other promo-related events at the same time, yet she ALWAYS responded quickly to my questions before and during my book tour.

But back to the initial organization phase...

After Katy confirmed that the proposed dates worked for me, she asked me what age range my presentation was geared toward, and the basic format. Then she started approaching the bookstores about school visits.

Photo: http://www.newsobserver.com

Simon & Schuster Children's organizes their author/illustrator book tours through indie bookstores that have a strong connections with local schools. For the Raleigh, NC leg of my book tour, S&S worked with Quail Ridge Books. Quail Ridge is an award-winning indie bookstore that specializes in Southern and children's lit; you can find out more about them on their website, Facebook and Twitter.

Someday I hope to go back to Raleigh, NC and actually visit Quail Ridge Books and meet some of their staff. From their website, it looks wonderful!

But now I'd like to talk about media escorts. I've had a media escort a couple of years ago during my Naked! book tour (Genene Murphy in the Chicago area; I highly recommend her services!) and so appreciated it. This year, I had a media escort for all my events and I found most of them FANTASTIC.

Like Margaret Robe in Raleigh, NC:

 

Q. What did you love most about having media escorts during your book tour?

- They helped keep me organized and on time. This is the biggie for me, since while I *love* talking to young readers, I have always found the tight scheduling of book tour travel super-stressful; I'm the type of person who would far rather arrive an hour early than arrive just in time, would opt for a 3-hour layover in an airport rather than risk missing a flight because of a tight connection. Having a media escort who is helping to keep me on time enables me to focus more on my presentation and having fun with the young readers rather than stress about what time I have to leave in order to get to the next place on time.

- They love books and reading and indie bookstores and are media escorts because they love it, not because they have to.

- They love the area, and this comes across in their descriptions of buildings we're passing, local history tidbits, the food, the locals. 

- They take photos of my event.

- They fill me in on the background/history of the schools, bookstores and people I'm visiting.

- They talk to the schools I'm visiting when we arrive to find out practical stuff like confirming timing, whether I need to sign books beforehand or with each child (and whether there is time for the latter), photo permissions, etc. This gives me more time to focus on getting set up, testing tech, visiting the restroom, having a few minutes to relax and chitchat with the teachers/librarian/bookstore contact before my presentation.

- Some, like Margaret Robe, also do livetweeting! Margaret also tagged me and the school, making it super-easy for me to just retweet while I was on the road:

Authors and publishers: if you're looking for a media escort in the Raleigh, NC area, I strongly recommend the services of Margaret Robe! You can find her on Twitter at @MaggieLouRobe.

Q. The photo at the top of this post shows your other books, not just Sea Monkey & Bob. What gives?

What I have found on book tours: that bookstores and schools are interested in an author/illustrator's other books, not just the new book. I think I signed as many of my other Simon & Schuster books as I did Sea Monkey & Bob on this book tour....especially Where Are My Books? (my first solo picture book!)

Some schools had never heard of my other books, some had. Partnership Elementary students were especially enthusiastic about NAKED!, a picture book written by Michael Ian Black that I illustrated. I ended up reading the book aloud to the delighted students at the end of my Q&A, and asked them to help me.WOW, Kindergarten and 1st graders love yelling the word "NAKED!" :-D

Thanks again to Fred A. Olds Elementary and Partnership Elementary for the warm welcome, and to Quail Ridge for organizing my school visits!

*****Continued in Part 3 (Decatur, GA) with Little Shop Of Stories, Friends School of Atlanta, The Heritage School plus amazing student art and I get to meet a future children's book editor.

 With Leigh Duke & Ann Pearce at Fred A. Olds Elementary.

Wednesday
May032017

Part 1: Sea Monkey & Bob Book Tour Prep, Packing Tips For Writers & Illustrators Going On Book Tours

BOOK TOUR NAVIGATIONPart 1 - Part 2 - Part 3  - Part 4  - Part 5 - Part 6 - Part 7 - Back to main Sea Monkey & Bob Bonus Page


One of the images I posted to my Instagram Story on the first day of my book tour. Check out the helpful reminder note from Jeff. :-)

Author book tours are a rare animal these days, so I am incredibly grateful to Simon & Schuster Children's for giving me the opportunity. I've been on two book tours for my publisher so far, one for NAKED! and one for WHERE ARE MY BOOKS?

What I have found: Book tours can be gruelling and stressful but immensely satisfying as well as inspiring.

From a practical standpoint, I've also been learning more about what to take and not to take as well as things that work for me and what doesn't, and I'll be sharing some of these tips in my book tour report. Keep in mind, however, that what works for me may not work for you. I'm hoping, though, that at least some of this info might help others who are going on their own book promo tours, whether sent by their publisher or on their own. If you have any extra tips, feel free to comment!

I'll be continuing my book tour report as well as more tips in the next instalment.

Q. Why did you travel with just carry-on?

Short answer: To minimize potential travel hassles.

Longer answer: When my publicist first strongly suggested I travel with carry-on only on my very first book tour, I was aghast. I had NEVER travelled with just carry-on! How on earth was I supposed to take everything I need? 

There are good reasons for not taking checked luggage, though. If your checked bag goes missing on one flight and you are moving around a lot on your trip (I flew to a new state every day), chances are good that your bag will never catch up to you. Travelling with just carry-on makes you more flexible at the airport in case you need to change flights, have a tight connection etc.

What I discovered: travelling with just carry-on requires more planning ahead of time but is entirely doable AND makes things a lot easier in the long run.

Q. Do you have any packing tips?

BAGGAGE: My carry-on is a Land's End wheeled bag (see above) with wheels that make it easier to maneuver. Advantage of a spinner bag: easy to turn sideways to push down narrow aisles on airplanes, plus they are super-easy to push through airports unless there is a carpet. Disadvantage: if you're on a slope, the bag will roll down the slope unless you're holding onto it; there is no way to lock the wheels. My bag holds much more than it looks like it can hold! Sadly, the bag doesn't seem to be available on the Land's End site anymore, else I'd include a link.

I also take a backpack: I use a black Peralta Balani laptop backpack from Waterfield - it's pricey but I have found it so worth it. The black version looks nice enough that I don't feel weird taking it to business meetups, it's durable, plus it has a special extra section inside where I can stash my laptop and iPad. I always leave enough room at the top where I can stick my cross-body small purse, in cases where the check-in attendant insists I can only take two personal items as carry-on (no matter how small my purse is, it would count as a personal item). Shipping to Canada is expensive so when I ordered it online, I had it delivered to a hotel in the U.S. when Jeff and I were at a board gaming convention.

SHOES: I opted NOT to take boots this time, but mainly because I knew I'd be in the Southern states so wouldn't encounter any snow. In the past, I've worn boots (the kind you can wear with a skirt but are also comfortable to walk around in) and taken a pair of flats with me in my carry-on. This time, I wore a pair of black Rockport slip-ons instead but also the flats in my carry-on.

CLOTHES: I generally aim for two outfits. My main outfit, which I wear for presentations. The other is a backup, just in case. It's good to have mix-and-match, to give the illusion of variety, and aim for clothes that don't wrinkle and are light, especially ones that can layer. I also take a travel pack of Tide, just in case I have to wash something by hand in the sink. I use the hotel room blow-dryer for fast drying. I also bring an oversized t-shirt and soft cropped leggings to use as pajamas that also double as a "hang out in the hotel room" comfort outfit.

PACK STRATEGICALLY TO MAKE FAST UNPACKING/PACKING EASIER: My typical book tour day started with packing up and checking out of a hotel, going to several school presentations and/or bookstore event/signings, packing up right after a presentation to head directly to the airport. Sometimes there would be time to rearrange my carry-on bag contents at the airport, sometimes there wasn't. I learned to pack my things so that I could access items without having to unpack EVERYTHING. I also learned to pack so that if I needed up open up my carry-on in the middle of a bookstore or just before a school presentation, my underwear and other not-meant-for-public items didn't immediately fall out for everyone to see. :-)

PACK YOUR CARRY-ON ASSUMING THAT YOU MAY HAVE TO CHECK IT ANYWAY: On several of the American Airlines flights via smaller planes, passengers had to gate-check their carry-on wheelie bags. I was also aware that if the flight is very full, some airlines might treat my carry-on as regular checked baggage, so I always had certain essentials grouped together in separate clear baggies so they would be easy to grab if I needed to.

TRY TO LEAVE SOME EXTRA ROOM for items you may be given along the way. Whenever I am presented with a gift from a school I've visited, I am grateful but also panicked. My immediate worry: Will I be able to fit this in my carry-on?? One way I've made more room in my carry-on: to wear more layers on the plane and to carry more layers (coat, fleece jacket) over my arm, freeing up a bit of space in my carry-on. But I've still had to leave stuff behind sometimes. This time I managed to squeeze almost everything in, yay! Left some candy/chocolate with one of my escorts, but that was probably better for me and my sweet tooth. :-)

Q. Any other prep tips?

In addition to keeping an electronic version of my book tour itinerary, I also printed one out just in case my phone got lost or died.

Think about what you're going to write when signing books ahead of time! To illustrators: consider adding a little illustrated component when you're signing books. Make sure it is something that you can draw QUICKLY and EASILY even if you are signing hundreds of books in a short time.

Bring your own pen(s) to sign with, just in case (this also cuts down on potential germs & getting a cold on the road). My own fave: a black Sharpie with a medium point. 

Take the time to check over your itinerary in advance. Clarify details, ask questions. This is easier to do beforehand than when you're on the road.

Bring a portable charger for your device(s). I used my Anker portable charger a LOT during my book tour. Advantages of having a portable charger: (1) I could charge up my phone or iPad (or both) inside my backpack while I was on the move, (2) I didn't have to rely on working/available power outlets at airports.

Q. Do you have any extra tips for Canadian authors and illustrators travelling to the U.S.?

- If you're a Canadian who does a lot of travelling between Canada and the U.S., I encourage you to get a Nexus card. Yes, it costs money ($50 for 5 years) and you do need to get interviewed the first time, but it is SO WORTH IT. I have skipped huuuuuge lines at U.S. customs/immigration because of my Nexus card. Because I travel with only carry-on, this usually means I can just fill out a form via a kiosk and not have to talk with any human (I find the latter stressful because no matter how honest I am, I always feel guilty and am then worried that I look guilty as well!).

- Get a roaming plan for your phone. I signed up for Bell's Roam Better plan, which costs $5/day and includes unlimited talk & text, plus 100 MB of data a day. I know another option is to get a U.S. SIM card, but then I'd have to make sure everyone knew my different phone number, make sure my other phone was forwarding text messages etc. I may still try the U.S. SIM card option someday, though.

- If I'm going to the U.S. for business, I say so. Here is a helpful Globe & Mail article: "Travelling on business? Don't say it's tourism." 

Do you have any comments? Questions? Additional tips you'd like to add? Please post below!

SOME OTHER HELPFUL RESOURCES:

Hints From The Pros: Book Tour Tips - by Greer Macallister on WriterUnboxed.com. Also see the follow-up post, Hints From The Pros: More Book Tour Tips.

5 Tips For Going On An Offline Book Tour - by Joel Friedlander.

20 Things Every Author Should Know Before Starting A Book Tour - by Stephanie Steinberg

 

***Continued in Part 2 (Raleigh, NC): Quail Ridge Books, Fred A. Olds Elementary, Partnership Elementary plus thoughts on book tour organization and media escorts.

Wednesday
Mar222017

Sea Monkey & Bob activity: Print-Ready Masks For Young Readers

I've just added some fun make-your-own-masks templates to the Sea Monkey & Bob Print-Ready section. So far I've added Sea Monkey, Bob, a crab and a design-your-own mask template. Just color and cut out the eye holes! 

Act out Sea Monkey & Bob, or make up your own story. And when coloring, remember that you DON'T have to use the same colors that are in the book. What would a purple Bob look like? Or a green Sea Monkey? Use your imagination!

Find these print-ready masks as well as other activities in the Sea Monkey & Bob Print-Ready Bonus Page.

Thursday
Feb022017

Kirkus likes SEA MONKEY & BOB!

The first review for Sea Monkey & Bob just came in! And YAYYYY, Kirkus likes the book!!!

Especially love the last line of the review:

"A barrel of giggles, exaltation of friendship, and slight science to boot."

You can read the full review of Sea Monkey & Bob online at the Kirkus website.

Monday
Oct062014

Sea Monkeys Moving The Ocean

 

Working on revised character sketches for Sea Monkey and Bob today and was reminded of some IMPORTANT SCIENTIFIC SEA MONKEY NEWS that Lawrence Schimel and Cathy Ballou Mealey recently told me about:

"Swarms of tiny animals as small as brine shrimp—known to kids the world over as Sea-Monkeys—could have an outsize effect on ocean currents when they swim together in giant herds, according to new research." (National Geographic)

Without a doubt, Micky, Peter, Nyarlathotep, Alan, Mary Margaret, Bilbo, Sojourner, Boris, Pochyk, Pippa, Sea Monkey Killing Unit #1, Tarquin, Brunhilda, Delphine, Monkey Doo, Brooke and Russell are out there somewhere, MOVING THE OCEAN.

(For those who missed my previous blog entry: my Sea Monkeys escaped!)