picture books · social media · websites

Stretch your wings with Storybird

storybirdAspiring picture book writers and artists should check out Storybird, a beautifully presented and well structured site that is a cross between online publisher, social media site and playground!  Basically Storybird allows you to create your own online picture book using presupplied artwork.  The artwork is uploaded by artists who are sharing their work for free.  You type in a keyword, bring up some pictures and start pulling them into your blank pages.  Add some text and you have created your own picture book which can either remain private or be shared on the site and commented on.  If you want a hard copy you can pay for one (and the artist earns royalties), otherwise everything is free.

So what’s the catch?  Well, you’re not really in control of the material because you can only do one search (keyword or artist).  You have to use the pictures that your search brings up.  The point is to be inspired and create, not to prewrite your own story and find pictures to fit it.  Also it’s not the place to publish the picture book you’ve been working on for months as you don’t get any revenue for sharing it (and it may not be accepted by a traditional publisher as it will be seen as already published).

Instead, Storybird should be seen as a place to play.  It’s a place to try out your style, connect with other people, admire the amazing artwork and see if you can do it justice with your words.  Here’s my tips on how aspiring writers can use Storybird:

  • Read other people’s books and see how they’ve stretched the definition of a picture book – writing for teenagers and adults, for example.
  • Browse the artwork and get inspired.
  • Try out some different layouts on your storybook text.  Keep this one unpublished if it’s something you plan to send out to publishers.
  • Create a book and get feedback from other members.
  • Join a challenge or challenge some friends to come up with themed stories.
  • Sign on as a teacher and create a ‘class’ for your writing group or friends.
  • Create a story for your child, relative or grandchild.
  • Create a story with your child, relative or grandchild.

Here’s my story The LapTopper.  It’s a Catvert!

Have fun on the site and let me know if you create a book.

publishers · short stories · Submissions · unsolicited manuscripts · websites

Another market for children’s short stories – Alfie Dog Limited

New e-publishers Alfie Dog Limited are looking for short stories to make available for download on their website, www.alfiedog.com.  Submissions details are at http://alfiedog.com/submissions/ and http://alfiedog.com/submissions/submission-process/.  Authors will receive just under half of the download fee, so for a 39p short story the author will receive 16p per download.

The publisher  is aiming at an international audience and is has mentioned that she would love to see more children’s stories, although she considers any age group or genre.   If you fancy dipping your toe in the electronic waters but don’t want to go it alone, this could be a market for you.


Create your own writer’s website for free using WordPress

As a writer, having your own website seems to be compulsory these days, but the thought of setting one up can be a bit intimidating.  Where do you start?  What software do you use?  Do you pay or use a free site?  And what do you actually put on there?

There’s a really good way to set up your own website completely free of charge.  All you need to do is start a WordPress or Blogger blog but create it with pages instead of posts.  In this post I’m going to show you step by step how to create a WordPress website.

static page
Choosing a static page as the 'front page' of your site
sign up form
The sign up form
  1. Go to www.wordpress.com and click on the orange GET STARTED button.   (Don’t get confused and go to wordpress.org.  That’s where you pay to download the fancy version, and you want the freebie one!)
  2. Fill out the simple form.  The first entry is your website address, so think carefully about what you want to call it.  WordPress will tell you if someone else has got there first.  Your website address will include ‘wordpress’ unless you want to upgrade, but you can think about that later.
  3. Your site is created!  C lick on Visit Your Dashboard.  We need to do a few things to make it look like a website rather than a blog.
  4. Click on Settings on the left hand menu, then Reading.  The dashboard can be confusing but don’t worry, you’ll find your way around.
  5. In Reading, change the first option to A Static Page.  That’s the first thing your readers will see when they visit your website.  Under Front Page, select About.  It’s the only page you’ve got at the moment and you can change it later.  Scroll to the bottom and click on Save Changes.
  6. On the left menu again, click on Posts.  WordPress has created a post for you called Hello World! but we want to delete it (Goodbye World!).  Hover over the title and click on Trash.
  7. On the left menu, click on Pages.  There’s our About page.  That’s going to be the first page of our website.  In fact, you might want to rename it Home.  Let’s do it.  Hover over About and click on Edit.  Change the title to Home and replace the WordPress text with some exciting text of your own.  How about ‘Welcome to my website’?  Come on, I’m sure you can do better than that!
  8. Scroll down and, under Discussion, unclick Comments (unless you want comments on your page).  You may want to unclick Sharing as well (allows readers to share your page on Facebook, Twitter etc) but personally I like sharing.
  9. Click on Update.  You have your first page!
  10. Under Pages on the left, click on Add New.  Create a couple more.  How about My New Novel and My Competition Results?
  11. Click on View Page.  Welcome to your website!  You’ll see WordPress have allocated you a theme.  Mine’s rather terrible and I want to change it.  But first let’s get rid of some troublesome extras.  I don’t like that sneaky WordPress advert in the top left corner, or the random stuff in the side bar.
  12. Hover over the name of your site in the top left of the screen and you can get back to the dashboard.  Click on Settings, General.  There’s the name of your site, and also a tagline, like a subheading that describes your site.  Replace the sneaky WordPress ad wording with your own snazzy slogan.  Here you can also add a little image that appears around WordPress if you comment on other blogs.  It’s quite nice to put a small photo or logo in there if you have a chance.  Don’t forget to save.
  13. Now to sort out that sidebar.  Go to Appearance, Widgets.  Now you can really have fun creating some menus and fun extras for your blogs, just by dragging the ones you like over to the right.  It’s another tutorial in itself really.  We’ll just drag Follow Blog into the sidebar area for now.  That looks better.
  14. Now to have fun choosing a theme for your site.  You may spend hours on this or you may like the first one you see.  Just click on Appearance, Themes and click Preview on any you like the look of.  (Remember we’re doing this on the cheap, so don’t go selecting a pricey Premium theme!)  You’ll see your site cloaked in the new theme.  If you don’t like it, click on the little cross in the top left.  Don’t worry if you accidentally select a theme you don’t want – just change it back again in the same way.  Also, in the preview you may see your content looks a bit different, with different sidebars.  You can fiddle around with that in Appearance, Widgets so don’t worry.  Hmm, Brand New Day looks nice.  I think I’ll have it.
  15. Click on Activate in the top right hand corner when you like your preview.  Now go and explore.  You’ve got your site.
creating home page
Creating a home page
first glimpse
First glimpse of the new site before changes

I hope this helps and you love your new site.  There’s so much to learn and explore on WordPress but this will give you enough to get you started.  If you want a site like mine with a blogging page on the front and static pages behind, simply omit Step 5.

brand new site

Final site with the theme Brand New Day. Horror writers may prefer a slightly more menacing feel.