Friday, August 31, 2012

Review from Alaska

The lovely Janelle who writes the blog just wrote a fabulous review of "Not Just a Princess" that I had to share.

"One of the ideas that hubby and I have had from the very beginning is that we would not raise our daughter to be a "princess". When I thought about princesses they all seemed to be loved for their looks, they never had jobs or careers, and they sat around waiting for a man to rescue them....these were not ideals I wanted to teach my daughter.

I also felt that modern day princesses can often be high maintenance, shallow and again waiting for a man...ugh!

So we have had a strict no princess policy. No toys, movies or clothes. All of my mommy friends have said the same thing, "good luck with that!"

So when author Mary Lee contacted me with a copy of her book to review I jumped at the chance. The book is called, Not Just a Princess and is available on Amazon for $10.

The books is about Mia who is often called a princess but decides that is not all she is. She is creative and a dreamer who wants to be a doctor, pirate and explorer! I love that the things she dreams of are not gender limiting. The message goes perfectly with my ideas of how to raise strong, successful young women. The colors and language would appeal to young girls, while the message will appeal to parents."

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Authors, Check Your Amazon Category

If I'm looking in a book store for a Thai food cookbook, I'm not going to look for it in the toddler section. If a cook book is in that section it's out of place and no one would think to find it there. It's the job of the staff to make sure everything is categorized clearly and easy to find.

Online is a different animal. With Amazon, an author requests certain categories that their book be placed in. The problem is the categories authors can choose from don't exactly match the categories in the online store, so how can does it get organized? Well in my case, I asked for the "Imagination" category and got "Sports". There are no sports in "Not Just a Princess" so I emailed Amazon to correct this. After three requests, each taking 72 hours, and the help department getting confused about what I was asking in the first place, it was placed in a more appropriate category.  The Amazon store apparently doesn't have an imagination category despite making it an option for authors to click.

I'm noticing this isn't a unique problem either. I ran across a children's book the other day that was put under adult self-help. I don't blame some clueless, overworked person behind a computer. I'm sure this is a computer glitch of some sort but one people should watch out for. There are many reasons a book may not be selling and not being able to find it is definitely one of them.

To check your book, scroll down to nearly the bottom of your sell page where it says "Look for similar items by category". If the category doesn't fit the book, and is way off from the category you selected, email amazon.

Click the "Contact Us" button on the left of this page:

Mary Lee

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

How to Choose a Graphic Designer for a Book

I may be a Graphic Designer but I'm not advertising my services today. Personally, I'm not a big fan of freelancing because of all the complicated contracts and unsteady work flow. However, if you are a writer in need of a freelance Designer, you've got your work cut out for you. Design can be confusing and messy if you are not a designer so here's a few tips on what to look for.

• You get what you pay for:
This actually works both ways. There are the Designers that are very cheap that create cheap looking work and then there are the very overpriced designers that are not worth the dough either. So you could get ripped off mediocre design or just cheap crap. The middle price ranges are the best because the designers are not making enough to stop trying to impress and are making just enough to actually put a decent amount of time and thought into it. 

• Look at the portfolio, more than the resume:
Graphic design may be one of the few professions where a masters degree is useless. There are people just graduating that have more skills than people with a masters and 10 years in the business. Why? Because it's an ever changing field. Every few years, what a designer knows becomes dated or a new technology comes out or more skills are required, etc. I'm not saying that people who have never had a job before are more knowledgeable than Senior Designers but if they haven't kept up their skills they may be. So more weight should be given to the portfolio than the experience. 

• Beware of fancy language:
Does his/her website say things like "enhances brand equity with innovative solutions"? This roughly translates to "helping people recognize your stuff by making it look interesting." If you want a Power Point presentation that sells you with corporate buzz words, hire them. If you want to get to the point and skip the B.S., you might look further. Some designers use this corporate lingo to make themselves sound more expensive and justify their price point. Remember, it's the end design and how it helps sell your product, that matters. No one is going to be in the book store standing by your book to give the marketing spiel. The visual has to do that job in a few seconds and if you don't get it, the customer won't get it.

• Get a recommendation:
The person may have a great resume, portfolio and seem to have the whole package. However, they may also be an unreliable flake that doesn't return phone calls, talks badly about clients and keeps changing the price. Recommendations from friends or just calling his/her old clients will help you to know if there are any personality issues.

This is just a few tips that could expand to be a book long but who has time to read all that.

Mary Lee

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Sneak Peek at Mia Book 2

Though Mia Book 2 still has a ways to go, here's a peek at the work in progress.

Friday, August 24, 2012

I've Been Blogged!

In my grass roots solo effort to get my book to nudge up the massive pile of Amazon books so it's acutally possible to find, I emailed a few bloggers to request a review. Most said, no, don't look at ebooks, don't have the time etc. Then by some miracle, two wonderful women kindly took a look at Not Just a Princess and wrote a review! Yay!

You can see the reviews at the links below.
I'm a full-time mummy

Mary Lee

Thursday, August 23, 2012

How to Get Reviews For an Indie Book

When I'm buying something on Amazon, I always look at reviews. Who doesn't? I want to know more about the product, if it's crap, has any issues, will catch on fire, etc. Since I started selling something on Amazon, I understood the importance of word-of-mouth but getting someone to look at my book and review it was a lot harder than I thought.

Here's some methods I've read about and/or tried myself:

Just wait: Without word-of-mouth or a lot of sales, my book was buried. So with no one reading it, there was no one to review it.

Give it away: KDP Select allows you to have up to 5 free days for you book. I put mine up for 2 days free and got over 2000 downloads. This resulted in 1 review. It did give me a little sales bump though.

Pay for it: For hundreds of dollars you can buy a review. This is cheating in my opinion and I can't afford it anyhow. Some places can make you pay $500 to get reviewed but can still give you a bad review. At least they're honest about your product but that's like taking someone's money and then kicking them in the shins.

Ask the Professionals: Professional reviewers won't touch books not represented by a middle-man with big marketing dollars, aka Indie, self-published books. 

Ask the Bloggers: The most popular bloggers get free stuff all the time. I've had a tiny bit of success with a couple but many rejection emails. Some won't review an ebook, a children's ebook, some don't have the time, some won't review without a giveaway for their readers and sometimes the email just goes to the spam box.

Ask the Writers: This has been a more time consuming but successful source of feedback for me. Other writers feel your pain and need reviews just like you do. Also, who knows more about writing than writers? Finding other authors in the same boat willing to swap books for a review got me several free books and a few great reviews. These are still real people with no big incentive to be dishonest and they write well. Of course, if you hate their book you might feel obligated to write something nice so they don't post a retaliating negative review of your book but the most ethical thing to do is just kindly decline the swap.

If you have a new book and would be interested in a review swap, you can email me a pdf and a amazon link at

Mary Lee

Wednesday, August 22, 2012


Ever have one of those days where you get an idea in your head then you can't stop thinking about it until you dump everything out of your brain onto your computer? Well, that was yesterday for me and the idea turned into the first draft of Mia book 2. I could hear the not-so-nice voice in the back of my head saying, "Mary, you just finished book 1, take a break." Another voice says, "Hey, making books makes you happy, you've gotten some really positive feedback and it's selling better than average, so why not?" In conclusion, drumroll please....

Mia book 2, the sequel to "Not Just a Princess" is now officially, in the works!

Mary Lee

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

What Makes a Good Children's Book Cover

While Not Just a Princess is my first solo work, I've designed a lot of books over the years. So I know there are many little details that go into making a children's book cover visually appealing. There are really only three major ones though.

• Big Title
It needs to be readable while walking by, shrunk on a website, shrunk in a catalog, shrunk in advertising. Other things to consider is the type treatment. Unless the title is huge, thick fonts work great for kids covers. Getting a title hand drawn or more of a logo, can help the brand.

• Character
Show the main character or characters of the book in a way that explains at a glance what the book is about. Make it obvious. Charlotte's web shows the girl with her pig, Cat in the Hat shows literally a cat in a hat, Brown Bear, Brown Bear shows a big brown bear. Don't show every character that is in the book as it will be too much to communicate in a small amount of time. If you're book is even noticed among the thousands, you only have about 8 seconds for someone to understand the gist of your book.

• Color
There are fun colors, creepy colors, girly colors, sporty color etc. Pick the ones that are appropriate for your content. Be consistent. Using the same color palette throughout the book and with other books in a series will help people to identify your work. I can tell from across the room by the color of a book if it's a Curious George book.

This isn't a comprehensive list but if these three are solid, you've got a good start.

Mary Lee

Monday, August 20, 2012

More Reviews!

I'm loving the reviews that keep showing up on Amazon. Yes, they've all been positive, so what's not to love? Even if they weren't 5 stars, I really appreciate that people took time out of their busy schedule to comment. You rock people! Thanks!

5.0 out of 5 stars Delightful Story!, August 18, 2012
This review is from: Not Just a Princess (A Mia Book) (Kindle Edition)
This fun tale reminds girls that they have more options than just being a princess. Mia has a great imagination, and she loves to explore and pretend. Sometimes this ruff-and-tumble princess enjoys pirates and playing in the dirt, and doesn't want to dress frilly.

The illustrations are fresh and bright, and age appropriate. 

5.0 out of 5 stars Anyone with daiughters..., August 18, 2012
Amazon Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Not Just a Princess (A Mia Book) (Kindle Edition)
Being the father of two little girls (an 8 yr old and a 5 yr old) I was very pleased reading this book to them. Getting the idea across that girls can be whatever they want to be is a message that my wife and I are constantly reinforcing with our daughters. They really liked the book, my 8 yr old felt it was a little short, but they enjoyed the story and the pictures. 

5.0 out of 5 stars Encouraging a child's imagination, August 15, 2012
Amazon Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Not Just a Princess (A Mia Book) (Kindle Edition)
What a delightful story about a little girl wanting to be more than just a princess. I would recommend this book to any child!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

My Top 10 Favorite Kids Books

Between work, my kids and a worn down library card I've probably read thousands of Children's books. I'm not a literary expert but some books were just more special to me than others. Here is a list of my personal favorites.

1. The Giving Tree
-Just reminds of how selfless my mom was growing up.

2. Love, Splat (Splat the Cat)
-When one cats valentine said "You're so lucky I like you", I cracked up so hard. Soooo funny that cat.

3. The Lorax
-Just love that quote...
“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot,
Nothing is going to get better. It's not.” 
 Dr. Seuss, The Lorax
-The movie wasn't too bad either.

4. Zoomer
-Such great illustrations and really stretching what the characters are allowed to do.

5. Cloudette
-My kids are not afraid of rain and thunder because of this book. Gave me the idea to tell them that
thunder is just the clouds farting. 

6. Guess How Much I love You
-Also a great quote..
"I love you to the moon and back."

7. Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus
-Can't get more simple on illustration than this but brilliant an original. 

8. How Do Dinosaurs Say Good Night
-Best bedtime story for a boy ever in my opinion.

9. Pinkalicious
-Okay so she's a bit of a brat but it's a fun read and she learns her lesson in the end.

10. Little pea

 Mary Lee

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Tripping through the

So a great thing about doing the promotion this week was finding out all the things I did wrong with the book. The reviews have been positive but the technology was a learning curve.

Problem: The book was listed in the wrong category. It was under "Sports". Nope, no sports here.
Solution: Apparently when I asked for the "Imagination and play" category, which isn't an actual Amazon category, they translates that to mean "Sports and activities". I emailed Amazon and they helped me get into better categories. I'm now listed under...
Kindle story>Kindle ebooks>Children's ebooks>Ages 4-8
Kindle store>Kindle ebooks>Children's ebooks>Baby-3>Bedtime and dreaming

Problem: My book is only listed as 9 pages. It's actually 32. The whole thing downloads just fine, it's just being listed on the product page as much shorter than it is.
Solution: Still working on this one. I contacted Amazon and they're suppose to get back to me in 3-5 business days.

Problem: I'm not getting that nifty "Look inside this book" feature.
Solution: This gets fixed automatically in a few days.

I know whenever I try something new I'm going to stumble along so please bear with me. I'm sorry if this got confusing for anyone.

Mary Lee

Friday, August 17, 2012

Promotion results

So I put my book on sale for 100% off or FREE for two days. Since Not Just a Princess has only been out for 5 days it was at the bottom of Amazon's massive pile of books that reached to the moon and back. No surprise, like me, a lot of people like free stuff. Here's how high the book scored...

Children's free ebooks > People and Places

Children's free ebooks > Sports and activities
(Since there are no sports in this book, I contacted Amazon and in the next 72 hours it'll be reclassified as...Children's ebooks>Baby-3>Bedtime and dreaming and Kindle story>Kindle ebooks>Children's ebooks>Ages 4-8)

All Children's free ebooks

All Free ebooks

# of free books downloaded: 2366

This morning I'm back to the sad bottom but yesterday, the book was actually visible to people clicking around. That's pretty cool, I think. Also, it's nice to think that 2366 people may be reading my book to their kids this week.

Mary Lee

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Last day to get a FREE Children's book!

This is the last day to get a FREE copy of "Not Just a Princess" for kindle!
You can still get it tomorrow but it'll be $2.99. 

If you can leave an honest review I would very much love to read it. I hope you like it.

Here's the link.

Mary Lee

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Now available in print!

Such exciting news to share today! Not only can you get my ebook completely FREE today at

I also just found out it's now available in print! So you don't have to have a kindle or I-anything anymore to view Not Just a Princess! Yay!

Here's the link to the print version...

Mary Lee

Free ebook today!

Today and tomorrow get your FREE copy of "Not Just a Princess" for kindle! If you can leave an honest review I would very much love to read it. I hope you like it.

Here's the link.

Mary Lee

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Free ebook giveaway tomorrow!

Mark your calendars. Tomorrow and Thursday I will be giving away for FREE, Not Just a Princess, on Amazon. Why just give it away? Because, maybe, if people have the time, they might write a review. I'm not asking for five stars all the time. I would just love to read more honest reviews. If you have kids to take care of or fires to put out, there's no obligation. I hope you enjoy it though!

Mary Lee

Yay! I have reviews!

Woohoo! A few people read my book and kindly wrote positive reviews.
See below what they are saying...

5.0 out of 5 stars Delightful, and empowering! August 13, 2012
By Aquilla
Format:Kindle Edition
What a wonderful message to little girls everywhere! Despite all the pink and all the glitter aimed at them, they don't need to be only princesses. Little girls can grow up to be doctors, scientists, astronauts, and just about anything. It's great to see a children's book written to support that!

The illustrations are delightful, and very appropriate to the tone of the book. I particularly enjoyed how the illustrations focused on the protagonist's imaginary world, rather than the physical. That was beautifully done.

The book is very easy to read and appropriate for any age. I highly recommend!

5.0 out of 5 stars Love this book! August 11, 2012
By Daniel
Format:Kindle Edition
My little one loves this book. Charming illustration, fun story, good message for little girls and easy to read. Great bedtime story. I definitely would recommend this for anyone with a a little girl in their life.
5.0 out of 5 stars Not Just a Princess--By Mary Lee August 13, 2012
Format:Kindle Edition
Not Just a Princess is about a little girl named Mia. Mia is called princess by her mother and father, but Mia finds out that there is much more to life than being just a princess. She pretends to be a lot of things and dreams of a magical land. Her mother and father call her princess, but she wants to be more than a princess. She lets her imagination and dreams run free to be whatever she wants to be. Mia is not held back by boundaries that adults are often held back by. The message in this book is to let your children dream whatever they want to be. My son has a crazy imagination like Mia and I enjoy every minute of it, because I know one day it will not be as wild as it is now. I enjoyed this children's picture book for its story and its colorful pictures. You can also find this review at Therianbowstickboy dot blogspot dot com author of The Rainbow Stick Boy (A children's book about adventure, diversity, and the beauty within, Ages 4-8)
Comment | 

Monday, August 13, 2012

If I could banish some books from the library...

Yeah, I get that certain books, because of violent or sexual content, get banned from the public library (although maybe instead of being banned, they should just have a creepy back room that an uptight librarian has to unlock to let you in while shaking her head in disapproval). Well, I get those, but what about kids books that are just annoying or sabotage parental peace?

Right now, I'm looking at you Berenstein Bears Bad Dream! To the unsuspecting it seems like a book that would help a child get to sleep. Wrong! Read this and neither you or your child will sleep for a week. If you're child didn't have bad dreams before, now it's on their mind. It doesn't matter that the book has a happy ending. It's being informed of all the awful things you can dream about that has a kids head spinning. I would love a book that dealt with bad dreams in a way that got my kids to bed on time so if anyone knows one, please comment below.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

How to include images in an ebook

I was asked on Twitter recently how I got images into an ebook. Well after a lot of trial and error I figured out how to do it in Adobe Indesign. Here's the basic run down.

1. Set up your book with images in Indesign.

2. Export as a pdf.

3. Import each page back into a new Indesign file from that pdf.
Why? Because each page needs to be flattened or the ebook readers will take your copy and format it in the oddest way possible away from your image. If your type is already flattened with the image, you can skip step 2 and 3. This works okay for a 32 page book like mine but could be a real pain in the booty for longer books.

4. Export as an epub file.

Hope this helps.

Mary Lee

Sneak Preview!

Here are the first few pages of Not Just a Princess. I hope you like it!

To continue the story check out

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Ebook Now Available! Print Version Coming Soon!

Not Just a Princess was approved to sell on Amazon today! Woohooo!
The print version should be available in about a week. It's approved but
going through processing.

You can check out the Kindle book at the link below. If you don't have a Kindle
but do have an Iphone or Ipad, of course, there's a Kindle App for that. Yep, I made
the type big enough to even be readable on a phone.

If you like it, I would be very grateful if you hit the like button or even better,
write a review. This book can get buried under Disney princess's stuff without
reviews. So if you want to help an underdog out who doesn't have the big marketing
bucks, I would send you infinite good vibes.

Mary Lee

Friday, August 10, 2012

Coming Soon!

"Not Just a Princess" is in review and will be available shortly.
I'll post updates as soon as I know anything new.

What is this book?
A children's book for little girls.

What's it about?
Mia is a sweet little girl with a big imagination. She has lots of fun playing pirate, having tea with a mermaid and flying with rainbow-swans. In this adventure filled story, a girl has no limits on what she can be.

Why did I make it?
Because I have a little girl and I thought it would be nice to have one book that didn't push girls into either the Tom-boy or Girly-girl category. I wanted my Mia to know that she can be whatever she wants and has plenty of time to decide.

Who am I?
I'm a mom of two sweet kids. Also I'm a Graphic Designer that has worked in children's publishing for about 7 years.

Mary Lee