IPNE Member Blog

News - Members, feel free to contribute! Please make sure that your posts relate to independent publishing, writing, or other topics of educational interest to IPNE members. If you are unclear about what type of material to post, please contact our biog editor.
  • 27 Jun 2016 2:07 PM | Deleted user

    In this edition of Learn From Your Peers, we're excited to share our talk with IPNE Board member Maria Kamoulakou-Marangoudakis about her debut children's series and book, The Adventures of Hope & Trusty: Sky Cloud City

    When did you know you wanted to write a children's picture book? What inspired you?

    Three years ago I had no idea I would become a children’s author! That was one of many twists and turns my life took in the past 10 years. A recent cancer experience prompted me to “seize the day” and led me evaluate life on different grounds. After a period of restlessness and inner searching I felt the urge of addressing children. It was February 2013, during a bitterly cold and snowy New England night, when an idea sprang to mind as I was reading a Greek historical novel. Like a little yellow bulb, it flashed above my head. Why not write a children's book based on ancient Greece? That is how it all began!

    Tell us about your work aside from writing -- did it influence your book at all?

    Before relocating to the United States from Greece in 2008 I had a well-established career as an archaeologist at the Hellenic Ministry of Culture. Most writers draw inspiration either from their environment, or from their experiences. Myself, I drew inspiration from my love of ancient Greek culture, the values it represented and its literary accomplishments. I turned to my favorite ancient Greek comedy playwright for inspiration: Aristophanes. His plays are staged every summer in ancient theaters under a starry sky. It is truly an unforgettable experience! 

    My favorite comedy immediately came to mind: Ornithes, meaning The Birds. It constitutes the most fairy-tale-like of Aristophanes’ works and a good starting point. The play describes the adventure of two elderly Athenians who fled to the land of the birds in search of a better life and helped their feathered friends build a city in the clouds. As soon as I got hold of a modern Greek translation and a couple of adaptations for children, I plunged into reading. A year and a half later my first children’s book was born: The Adventures of Hope & Trusty: Sky Cloud City. It took an additional two years before I had the pleasure of holding it in my hands. It almost felt unreal and too good to be true! 

    So, you may say that cancer prompted me to become a children’s writer but it was my classical Greek upbringing that provided the inspiration.

    Do you have plans for another book, either as a sequel or in its own?

    As a matter of fact, I do. The Adventures of Hope & Trusty is meant to be a trilogy, at best. The second and third book will be again based on two very popular plays by Aristophanes. I would love to disclose the titles, but I haven’t made up my mind, yet. The second book is still in a very formative stage. 

    But, there is another book which I am currently working on: Arthur the Fly-Slayer, and the Forty Dragons. It is inspired by a folklore tale that my father used to tell me as a bed time story, especially if I happened to have a sick day home from school. I have very fond memories of my father returning home from work late at night and walking carefully into my room to check on me. Finding me awake, he would sit at the lower part of the bed and start narrating the tale of the forty dragons. Like a dry sponge, I absorbed every word. For me that was the best part of being ill! 

    The story of the forty dragons was a popular fairy tale in his birth town, south of Sparta. Unfortunately neither of us remembers the entire plot, so I had to improvise a bit.

    Why do you feel compelled to share folklore and myth?

    Thank you very much for that question! The reason I turned to ancient Greek theatre for inspiration wasn’t only because of my upbringing and my work. I feel that kids shouldn’t read only princess tales with prince charming who rescues the heroine from evil and they live “happily ever after”. We live in very turbulent times and millions of people are on the move because of warfare, hunger and poverty. The United States is located in a safe and sheltered part of the world, but my country, Greece, is in the midst of the worst immigration crisis in modern history. Our planet is in desperate need of peace. 

    Aristophanes experienced a terrible 30 year war (431-404 BC) between Sparta and Athens that left his city defeated, weakened, and humiliated. Through his plays he preached for peace, humanity, justice and dignity amongst people. These are timeless values that I felt compelled to communicate to modern day young readers. The Adventures of Hope & Trusty: Sky Cloud City developed as an alternative story to traditional fairy-tales. It doesn’t bear any reference to politics and lacks the spicy language of Aristophanes’ original play. It is an educational story about friendship, peaceful coexistence, cooperation and working together to achieve impossible goals. 

    The Adventures of Hope & Trusty: Sky Cloud City was created because you, as parents, and I, as a writer, are raising future responsible citizens and the next generation of world leaders.

    Was your book originally written in Greek? Can you tell us about your process of translating the story.

    The Adventures of Hope & Trusty: Sky Cloud City and its accompanying Activity Book were written directly in English, but the manuscript for Arthur the Fly-Slayer, and the Forty Dragons was initially written in Greek. It is intended to be a bilingual book. The process of translating the story was a tricky one. Greek is a very rich and flexible language. Every word has its own, unique meaning based on spelling. Can you imagine that we have 20 different words to describe the “sea”? I was faced with the great challenge of translating words that do not exist in English. I am not a professional translator, so I decided to use the Greek text as a base, and then re-wrote it very loosely adding a lot more details to the story, that are missing in the Greek version.

    Do you have any unique marketing ideas for your book that could inspire others?

    The main character in The Adventures of Hope & Trusty: Sky Cloud City is a migratory bird, of stunning beauty, that lives in Africa, Europe and Asia: the hoopoe bird. In order to promote my book I thought of searching for a hoopoe bird puppet. Luckily enough, I discovered a very skillful puppet maker in Poland, Alicja Piotrowska, on etsy.com (https://www.etsy.com/people/apiotrowska). She made a stunning puppet for me, which I carry to book shows and events. It attracts people to my booth and kids love to hold it and pet it.

    Do you have any last tips or words of encouragement for other first-time children's picture book authors?

    I would say be true to yourself by chasing your dream. Do not give in to difficulties. A first time author will have to overcome many unforeseen obstacles. Every twist and turn in his/her publishing journey is an endless learning experience. Allow yourself time to develop your story and look for experienced collaborators, especially a skillful editor, who can guide you along the way. Ask around for illustrators. You would be surprised whom you can discover, where you least expect it! Settle for someone you can work harmoniously with, who can share your vision and take it one step further. Like a modern day Ulysses, your journey towards publication will be a bumpy one, but when you reach your Ithaca, you, too, will realize that it was more fulfilling than the actual destination.

    Photo, left: Maria with the New England based illustrator, Aspasia Tsihlakis Arvanitis at the Hartford Greek Festival.

    You can find The Adventures of Hope & Trusty: Sky Cloud City here!

  • 21 Jun 2016 11:32 AM | Charlotte Pierce (Administrator)

    Join our daily drop-In Office Hours at 10 am!

    Hey, indie publishers out there, you are not alone! 

    Grab a cup of your favorite beverage and drop in via video or audio daily, starting at 10 am. Invite a friend or colleague by sharing the link! (details). IPNE members are welcome to use the conference line at any time.

    If the Office Hours room is empty when you arrive, invite a colleague or one of the IPNE board team by email and give them the URL at the top of the screen. Please let us know if you notice any inappropriate use of the room.

    • Monday Office Hours starts with a brainstorming session for questions and topics for our guests on Thursdays' Ask the Experts
    • Tuesday Office Hours, the kids are in charge - you'll find children's author Maria Kamoulakou (right) in the host's chair, talking about books for the younger set.
    • Wednesday Office Hours is Special (non-bookstore) Sales Day on Office Hours, when APSS director and IPNE board member Brian Jud hosts a discussion of the potentially lucrative non-bookstore sales market.
    • Thursday Office Hours is often hosted by other Board or IPNE members and themes are open-ended. It's right before Ask the Experts also, so you'll often find our Expert of the week in the session.
    • Friday Office Hours is staffed by Board member Mariana Llanos, publisher of a children's bilingual book series (right) and an expert on guest appearances and building an author platform. A great time to pick her brain!

  • 15 Jun 2016 1:00 PM | Charlotte Pierce (Administrator)

    Starting in 2016, IPNE exhibits at most of our book shows will be curated. Through this process, our intent is to raise the overall quality of books that readers and industry professionals can discover through the public face of IPNE.

    This process is intended to enhance the reputation of the organization as a whole and its members individually. In designing the program, we have researched best practices at similar professional organizations.

    Publishers with books that are not accepted for exhibits will be offered resources and mentoring sessions designed to bring their books up to exhibit standards.

    Books may be accepted for exhibit if they meet one or more of the following guidelines (full policy linked at IPNE.org):

    • IPNE Award winners or finalists.
    • Winners or finalists of other established awards programs.
    • Books accepted to previous shows under current curation guidelines.
    • Books on established trade organization publication lists.
    • Publisher has completed, signed, and submitted our curation checklist.
    • Completed IPNE profile, including book metadata and cover images.

    If you are unsure whether your book qualifies, please send us a copy of the book at least two months prior to the event at which you wish to exhibit and contact IPNE for guidance. Books that do not meet guidelines will be returned and exhibit fees refunded. Full guidelines are posted at IPNE.org. Final exhibit qualification approval rests with the IPNE Board of Directors.

  • 07 Jun 2016 2:44 PM | Kathy Brodsky

    I never remember to let people know about awards - so this time I'm adding something. 

    My 9th picture book, High Wire Act, just won Book of the Year from Creative Child Magazine.  In addition, it’s also featured online this month on the homepage of the Children’s Book Council. Here's what they said:

    "Congratulations, High Wire Act has been selected for the CBC’s Seasonal Showcase, “On the Move,” and is featured on our homepage! Thank you for submitting your books."

    What book awards have you submitted your books to?

  • 07 Jun 2016 10:52 AM | Deleted user
    When making a presentation to sell a large quantity of books, many publishers create PowerPoint slides with many colorful charts and graphs. But data itself does not convince people to buy. It’s the interpretation of data and its application to the needs of each buyer that make the sale. When preparing your presentation, first think about what you are presenting – ideas or data. Then consider your purpose: Do you want to inform, persuade or explore? The answers will suggest what tools and resources you need for each presentation. Here are Ten Tips for Preparing a Visual Sales Presentation.


    1. Do not automatically convert a spreadsheet into a chart. That only visualizes data. It doesn’t communicate your idea.
    2. During the preparation stage, design skills are less important than idea generation. Remember that form follows function.
    3. Seek the reasons behind patterns, trends and anomalies, then demonstrate how your recommendation will continue, support or correct them.
    4. Demonstrate the human activity behind the lines in your charts – and how your recommendation can influence them.
    5. Do not start with the graphs. First consider the nature and purpose of your visualization.
    6. Ask yourself, “Is the information conceptual or data-driven?” This identifies what you have – the basis for your presentation. It is not the presentation itself.
    7. Next ask, “Am I declaring something or exploring something?” This describes what you are doing: either communicating information (“Here is how my content can help you…”) or trying to figure something out (“What if we…”).
    8. Use metaphors and simple designs to clarify and illustrate complex ideas. A useful skill is similar to what a text editor brings to a manuscript – the ability to pare things down to their essence.
    9. Your focus should be on clearly communicating the logic behind your ideas. The resulting discussion should be about the idea in the chart, not the chart itself.
    10. “Simple” is the key. Your presentation should communicate a single message: why your content is the best means for reaching your prospect’s objectives


    Brian Jud is the Executive Director of the Association of Publishers for Special Sales (APSS – www.bookapss.org) and author of How to Make Real Money Selling Books and Beyond the Bookstore. Contact Brian at brianjud@bookmarketing.com or www.premiumbookcompany.com and twitter @bookmarketing


  • 18 May 2016 11:52 AM | Charlotte Pierce (Administrator)

    If you publish children's books, you might consider volunteering at Hubbub, the second-annual "children's festival celebrating creativity, inventiveness, and exploration for children 0-12 and their families." The event is sponsored by the Boston Book Festival.

    BBF organizers have invited IPNE members to help out at Hubbub this year. Being on the crew can provide you with a great opportunity to meet readers, booksellers, authors, and other publishers, as well as Boston Book Festival organizers. Plus, you might get to dress up as Big Bird!

    The event takes place Saturday, June 4th, right in Boston's historic Copley Square at the site of the Boston Book Festival, where IPNE members will exhibit on Oct. 15. There are many different volunteer positions and shift times available for the day (lunch is provided).

    Anyone wishing to volunteer can sign up at this link, and make sure you mention that you are a member of IPNE!

  • 10 May 2016 9:08 AM | Deleted user

    From the Wall Street Journal article, May 8 2016, page C3

    1. Choose the right name. Brian Keith changed the name of the group from Little Boy Blue and the Blue Boys to The Rolling Stones.
    2. Know what the market wants. The Beatles had staked out the “lovable, non-threatening boys next store” niche, so the Stones became their opposite.
    3. Borrow something if it works. The Stones recorded a song based on the gospel song, “This May Be the Last Time.”
    4. Cut the anchor before it drags you down. Mick and Keith fired Brian Jones when his drug/alcohol problem affected performances.
    5. Never stop reinventing. The Stones have gone through at least five stylistic iterations.

  • 04 May 2016 8:40 AM | Deleted user
    Interesting article in today's "Wall Street Journal" (May 4, page 13), by Evelyn Waugh. Here is part of it:  “Never send off any piece of writing the moment it is finished. Take on something else. Go back to it a month later and reread it. Examine each sentence and ask, ‘Does this say precisely what I meant? Is it capable of misunderstanding? Have I used a cliché where I could have invented a new and therefore asserting and memorable form? Have I repeated myself and wobbled around the point when I could have fixed the whole thing in six rightly chosen words? Am I using words in their basic meaning or in a loose plebian way?’ … The English language is incomparably rich and can convey every thought accurately and elegantly. The better the writing the less abstruse it is.”

  • 22 Apr 2016 1:50 PM | Deleted user

    May is Lyme Disease Awareness Month, bringing with it a wide variety of educational events in the New England states. IPNE member Dorothy Kupcha Leland, co-author of the recently published When Your Child Has Lyme Disease: A Parent’s Survival Guide, will be speaking and/or signing books at a number of Lyme patient education events in the coming weeks.

    ·         April 30, Wiscasset, Maine. Midcoast Lyme Disease Support & Education Conference.  http://midcoastlymediseasesupport.blogspot.com/p/conference.html

     ·        May 7, Binghamton, NY. Lyme Disease Conference at Binghamton University. http://www.southerntierlymesupport.org/

    ·         May 11, Hyde Park, NY. Dutchess County Legislative Tick Task Force workshop at the Wallace Center, on the Franklin D. Roosevelt Estate. For more information, contact the Dutchess County Legislative office at (845) 486-2100.

     ·        May 17, Cambridge, MA. Bi-monthly meeting of Lyme support group sponsored by the Dean Center for Tick-Borne Illness. 


     ·         May 19, Danbury CT. 10th Annual Lyme Connection Patient Conference and Health Fair, Western Connecticut State University.  www.LymeConnection.org.

     ·         May 21, Worcester, MA. Central Mass Lyme Disease Conference http://centralmasslymeconference.com

    When Your Child Has Lyme Disease: A Parent’s Survival Guide offers practical strategies for parents coping with what can be a complex and puzzling illness. It gives advice on finding the right medical care, coping with treatment, developing effective boundaries with others who don’t understand what your family is going through, advocating for your child’s educational needs and managing day-to-day family life.

    It is co-authored by Sandra Berenbaum, LCSW, a Connecticut psychotherapist who counsels Lyme patients and their families, and Dorothy Kupcha Leland, a mother and national activist who writes the blog Touched by Lyme.

    More about the book and its authors at www.lymeliteratepress.com.

  • 01 Apr 2016 11:02 AM | Deleted user

    The Portsmouth Public Library and Kit Lit Universe have teamed up to present a new series of programming to explore what it takes to navigate the jungle of book publishing in today’s market. Professionals in the field will talk about picture books and middle grade and young adult novels.

    The first Author-To-Author event will take place at the Portsmouth Public Library on Wednesday, April 13 at 10 AM with literary agent and author Ammi-Joan Paquette as the guest speaker. Ammi-Joan is the author of the Princess Juniper series, for which book #2, Princess Juniper of the Anju is out this year. In her non-writing life, she is a senior literary agent with Erin Murphy Literary Agency.

    It doesn’t matter where you are in your career—whether you’re published or pre-published—you’re invited to come share, learn, and network with other children’s book writers and illustrators. The free sessions for adults will begin with a presentation and question & answer period in the Levenson Room of the Portsmouth Public Library (175 Parrott Avenue, Portsmouth, NH.) A book signing, open to all ages, will be held in the lobby of the library immediately after.

    Future events featuring award-winning speakers have been scheduled: Middle grade author Paul Durham will be speaking on Wednesday, May 11 at 6:30 PM; Picture book illustrator and author Denise Ortakales will be the guest on Wednesday, June 8 at 10 AM.

    Kid Lit Universe was formed by IPNE members Amy Ray and Joyce Shor Johnson to create opportunities for authors and illustrators to come together to discuss the craft of writing for children, to learn how to promote and market their work, and to hear from experts in the industry. You can visit the Kit Lit Universe website online, follow them on Twitter, and like them on Facebook.

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