1. What motivated you to write your book, to force you from taking an idea or experience and turning it into this book? Growing up, I loved Unicorns and Care Bears. I combined both of my favorite things to make this story of magic and belief. I wished that only those who were good and caring could see Unicorns (to protect them from evil). This inspired the idea of the First Unibear, and a goal that anyone could earn their own Unicorn horn. All they needed to do was help others, do good deeds, have a pure heart and to pay it forward. I presented my hand drawn sketches and rhyming story to my father as a gift who was touched. Over the next 30 years, he would occasionally reminded me that she should do something with ‘Unibear’. Over the course of that time the story has been edited and revised but the premise has always stayed the same. In fact, the last three stanzas haven’t changed at all! The book was released on the three year anniversary of my father’s passing. My goal was to turn a sad day into a glad day, and it truly was! Debuting on Amazon with a best sellers ranking of #131 in Children’s Christian Animal Fiction and #195 in Christian Poetry and #208 in Children’s Inspirational Books.
2. What is it about and who is it for? The First Unibear is about a happy-go-lucky little Bear cub who loves to explore! One day he follows a butterfly into the dark woods where he sees a curious sight and a shimmering light. A beautiful white horse needs help and this tiny young bear hurries to save him. This starts a magical chain reaction that has the potential to trickle down to everyone in the world!
This book is directed to young children ages 6-12, but is inspirational enough to touch the heart of the adult reader as well. My goal is to really get people thinking and trying to earn their horn, with a goal that good will prevail and the world can become a magical place, especially for the younger generations to grow up in.
3. What takeaways might the reader be left with after reading it? This story aspires to be “food for thought” for the young reader. There are numerous opportunities throughout the book that present life lessons, Christian symbolism and ways to encourage compassion and helpfulness in others. As a ten year old girl, the original message was magic truly exists but you have to have a pure heart and a good person to see it. As an adult, my goal is to inspire others to be the best they can be, whether they receive a horn or not, to just do good, be good and spread good throughout the world.
4. How did you decide on your book’s title and cover design? The title was decided 35 years ago with the last three words of the last stanza of the poem. “It all started with you, the First Unibear.” The title is where it begins as the first Unibear is the reason there could be a first Unibunny, Unidog, Unicat, Unideer and so on. Is it the best title for the book? I don’t know. I have received responses that the customer doesn’t know what a Unibear is, until they read the story, but isn’t that the point? Ignite a curiosity to learn more?
In regards to the cover design, it, too, is very similar to what I drew as a child. I always figured the little bear would be face forward on the cover with his unicorn horn. It wasn’t until the illustrator drew the last page of the book that the cover declared itself. I felt my illustrator did a fabulous job, not only with all of the illustrations, portraying the characters emotions, but especially the cover. It felt bold and exciting, presented all of the key players of the story and, to me, felt like a movie poster, exploding from the wall to capture your attention and draw you in to learn more.
5. What advice or words of wisdom do you have for fellow writers? It was said a long time ago that you should just write. Write for ten minutes a day. Write five pages a day. Write even if you don’t have a topic in mind… but for me, I say, “write when inspiration hits and ONLY when the inspiration is there.” You and your readers can sense when your heart wasn’t into the story. When the idea comes to you, write it down right away because no matter how much you want to remember it, you lose important aspects the longer you wait.
On top of that, embellish. Keep asking yourself, what happens next and then imagine it. If you aren’t spending ample amounts of time day-dreaming, you aren’t doing your story justice. Imagine the scene, the emotions, the action, the conversation, and then write it.
Additionally, skip over the hard stuff. If you get to a point in your story where you are stuck but you know what is going to happen next, insert a blank page and then keep writing. Put a note or reminder on that page with what you need to eventually write (to tie the previous and next page together) but don’t dwell on it. Write the next scene and keep going so you don’t lose momentum or the idea that you want to portray. Way too many times you hear a writer say they are stuck… the point is; they don’t have to be.
One last thought; if the story stops telling itself to you but another story shows up unannounced, don’t be afraid to put the first story away and work on the next. Sometimes you aren’t ready to write the rest of the first story. Sometimes, something needs to happen in your life to give you the clarity to add to that story. Unless a publishing house has set a deadline for you, you aren’t tied to a timeline or that specific story. There is nothing that says you can’t have multiple stories going at once. Also, don’t be surprised if the characters change your story. I can’t even begin to tell you how many times my characters took a life of their own and refused to do what I wanted them to, and you know what? It not only worked out, but usually made the story ten times better. If you aren’t having fun writing, you aren’t doing it right – at least in fiction.
6. What trends in the book world do you see -- and where do you think the book publishing industry is heading? Fifteen years ago, I was told that the children’s book industry was going to focus on e-books only, that e-books were the wave of the future. Do you know what happened? The print book survived and even thrived. No one really knows where the publishing industry is going to be in the future, but my opinion is; traditional publishers won’t be as important as they deem they are now. Small press publishers are going to take over because they know what it is to think out of the box and bend over backwards to give a book its best chances. Yes, some self-published authors are going to do very well, but the ones who do, are the ones who are not afraid to learn the industry. Readers have a stigma that self-published means not edited, not professionally formatted, not good enough, but they are soon going to find out, that not all self-published books are made the same.
The adage of “don’t judge a book by its cover”, is going to become even more true as readers recognize template based covers and simple do-it-yourself designs and they actually will judge the book by the cover, because if an author goes with cookie cutter cover, what is there to say they didn’t do the cheap easy way for the story?
Also with adages, the phrase “if you build it, they will come”, does not at all refer to books online. Authors are going to soon realize that if they are not in front of the public, actually out there in the real world, they are going to have a difficult, if not near impossible time, being found. Readers are going to see more authors face-to-face and autographs are going to be easier to get, at least until the book takes off. That is going to be one of the biggest selling points for a reader, the chance to get in on the story from the ground floor. Plus, we all hope and pray that, the ground floor’s elevator will take our story to movie or television, and with so many new independent film studios, that dream may become a reality as well.
7. What challenges did you overcome to write this book? This story was written when I was ten years old. From there, I had to grow up, edit and revise it, put more of a message into it, really work on the plot and find the perfect illustrator. Life got in the way ten thousand times, but the fact that it took so long made it even more worthwhile. If I would have published at ten years old with my own hand-drawn illustrations and undeveloped story, it would have sold to family and then stopped there forever.
I worry the ability to self-publish will cause irrevocable damage to young children. First, by making it too easy to “get published” this will take away the excitement of seeing the final product. Second, by showing them how few sales they will get if they don’t market, which will cause disappointment. And third, by publishing a story that they will have lost all interest in and won’t work to better later in their life.
By waiting, the message for my story became clear, the knowledge and expertise I had gained over the decades was able to be implemented into the book, making the poem, design and publishing capabilities top notch. I was able to implement all I had learned into the marketing, team up with fellow publishers in the industry to advance the book, and utilize my personality in delivering a well-oiled sales pitch, knowing what the reader wants and is looking for, and how to sell to the various age groups. Sometimes you consider time a challenge, but with age, you can overcome quite a bit.
8. How would you describe your writing style? Quick and efficient. Since I write for children I take into account that short attention spans need swift stories to keep their attention. With my children’s chapter books I keep the story flowing quickly, utilizing conversation, action and cliffhangers at the end of each chapter. Anything you can do to keep the pages turning, you should do, especially for children. In regards to my rhyming stories and picture books, I have learned over time, that you always have room to cut. Sometimes it is difficult going from an embellished chapter story to a to-the-point rhyming story for a younger readers knowing that their attention spans are even shorter and their vocabulary limited. But the more you put yourself in the mind of the reader, the easier it will be to write for them.
9. If people can buy or read one book this week or month, why should it be yours? “The First Unibear” is clean, safe, written for a child’s enjoyment, has no agenda other than to encourage good, helpful behavior and will hopefully instill enough Christian symbolism to spark a child’s curiosity. In a world where bad guys are admired and politics have divided, I want to present a child with the magic of being a child. That is it.
About Kathleen J. Shields: She is a prolific story teller with over thirty published books. She’s produced rhyming children’s picture books, educational children’s chapter books, inspirational Christian Fiction and rhythmic poetry. She started writing when she was ten years old to keep herself entertained and as an adult, she writes to escape. With a highly active imagination she delves into subjects that she loves and enjoys, in hopes of entertaining others and encouraging future generations to use their imaginations. Instilling strong moral values and a little inspiration is what is most important to her. For more information, please see: www.kathleenjshields.com
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Brian Feinblum, the founder of this award-winning blog, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org He is available to help authors promote their story, sell their book, and grow their brand. He has 30 years of experience in successfully helping thousands of authors in all genres.
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About Brian Feinblum
Brian Feinblum should be followed on Twitter @theprexpert. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog ©2022. Born and raised in Brooklyn, he now resides in Westchester with his wife, two kids, and Ferris, a black lab rescue dog. His writings are often featured in The Writer and IBPA’s The Independent. This blog, with over 4,000 posts over the past decade, was named one of the best book marketing blogs by BookBaby http://blog.bookbaby.com/2013/09/the-best-book-marketing-blogs and recognized by Feedspot in 2021 and 2018 as one of the top book marketing blogs. It was also named by WinningWriters.com as a "best resource.” For the past three decades, including 21 as the head of marketing for the nation’s largest book publicity firm, and two jobs at two independent presses, Brian has worked with many first-time, self-published, authors of all genres, right along with best-selling authors and celebrities such as: Dr. Ruth, Mark Victor Hansen, Joseph Finder, Katherine Spurway, Neil Rackham, Harvey Mackay, Ken Blanchard, Stephen Covey, Warren Adler, Cindy Adams, Susan RoAne, Jeff Foxworthy, Seth Godin, and Henry Winkler. He recently hosted a panel on book publicity for Book Expo America, and has spoken at ASJA, IBPA, Sarah Lawrence College, Nonfiction Writers Association, Cape Cod Writers Association, Willamette (Portland) Writers Association, and Connecticut Authors and Publishers Association. His letters-to-the-editor have been published in The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, New York Post, NY Daily News, Newsday, The Journal News (Westchester) and The Washington Post. He has been featured in The Sun Sentinel and Miami Herald. For more information, please consult: linkedin.com/in/brianfeinblum.