Night Buddies - Adventures After Lights Out

Book Trailers 101: The Tools You Need to Make Your Trailer Work

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As authors, we write books for people to read. We don’t make movies; we want people to follow our stories through our words.  So where do we start when we have to all of a sudden turn our literary stories into visual ones?

Well, when I was making my trailer for Night Buddies Go Sky High, I began by thinking about what a book trailer ought to do.

1. Give readers information on what Night Buddies was about.

2. Give readers a feel for what they would find on the page.

3. Generate enough interest in a viewer to look more into reading a Night Buddies book.

When you’re creating a book trailer, you have to understand that most likely, the trailer won’t sell the book. Trailers are used as a jumping point, meaning that they should be intriguing enough, cute enough, or funny enough for someone to think, “I want more.” With that in mind, I knew I had to focus on how to give readers information about my book and give them a feel for its style in an intriguing, cute, or funny way. No pressure.

I think the best thing you can do as an author is work with what you have. I knew I wasn’t going to make a million-dollar, special-effect-filled, Hollywood-style trailer. My book didn’t call for one of those. What I needed was something simple, short, and to the point. I decided to use what visual tools I already had—the illustrations from my book—and combine them with my strongest asset, my writing.

What I ended up with was this:

I utilized what tools I couldn’t use in a book, mainly audio such as children’s cheering and music in the background that gave a sense for the whimsical, cute nature of the story, to make the trailer that much more interesting to watch, but overall I just let my characters tell the story, just like they do in the book. I’m of the mind that book trailers don’t have to, and really shouldn’t be, complex. If you have an interesting story, and a book trailer that really represents it, you don’t need to worry about making it feature-film status.

Do you enjoy watching book trailers? Have you used one to promote one of your books? Link it in the comments below!

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Making the Decision to Write a Book

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I guess you could argue whether you ever “decide” to write a book—sometimes the idea is just in you and you feel obligated to write it down, or sometimes you’re just born to be someone who never walks away from a blank page. For me, writing the Night Buddies books fell somewhere in between needing to write it and deciding to write it. Let me walk you through just how it went.

First off, I was born a reader. And when my son John was born, I knew that I was going to do whatever I could to introduce him to the joys of reading too. (To see a post about how to go about getting your kid to love reading, click here.) Like I’ve mentioned in this blog before, to get John to really get into story-telling I had him come up with his own character; and that’s when Crosley, the first character for the Night Buddies series, was created.

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But having a character for me and my son to talk and imagine up stories about was not something I immediately imagined would lead to me writing a book. That was something that occurred to me in slow bits, over many years. I had always been a lover of books, and I had written a few short stories here and there, but when I started thinking about Crosley being a character for the page and not just in our home, a short story just didn’t seem like enough. That’s when I started thinking about a book.

But when deciding to write a book, you can’t just think about one character. I had a good start, but a long road ahead. I had to think about another main character—and who better to star in my stories than my own son? Then I had to think more in-depth about the story and what my two characters would do together, I had to think about why Crosley was a red crocodile instead of a normal green one, I had to come up with a host of other, secondary characters. In short, I had to develop an entire world. But the more I thought about these things, the easier it started to get. And by the time I had everything thought out, the decision was already made.

I was going to write a children’s book!

Night Buddies and the Pineapple Cheesecke Scare cover

From there, of course, there were many challenges along the way. But by committing myself to this project and having the firm goal of, “I’m going to write a full-length children’s book” in my head, all those challenges were easier to overcome.

If you’re thinking you might have an idea for a book, or maybe the only idea you have is that you want to write a book, I suggest that you decide to do it. You’ll have a lot of work ahead of you, work that could take years to complete, but I can tell you this . . . turning my little idea of a crocodile named Crosley into a real, tangible book was the best decision I have ever made.

 

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I’m a Self-Published Author: Here’s Why You Should Be Too

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In today’s world, self-publishing is an option available to every author, on any budget. With the mass of books being released this way, you might wonder if putting your book out in the world without a traditional publisher is worth it. Will anyone read it? Are you wasting your time?

As someone who has successfully self-published three juvenile fiction titles, I’m here to tell you that in a lot of ways, self-publishing is actually better for authors than traditional publishing. Here’s why:

Once you are satisfied with your book, you can release it.  When you want to publish traditionally, there are a number of hurdles you have to overcome before your book is released. You’ll spend months seeking out agents, months revising the novel once (and if) you find an agent, months seeking a publisher, and if it doesn’t work out, that’s close to a year or longer of having a completed novel that nobody is able to read. And even if you do lock down a publisher after all that searching, it’ll probably be a year or two before they release your book. When you choose to self-publish, as soon as you’ve written your book and spent time editing it or having it professionally edited, you can release it—you would have a book on shelves for people to read in the same amount of time it would take for you to finish your first round of agent querying!

Your have full control over your story. Traditional publishers may decide to publish your book under certain conditions: it needs a love triangle included, the crocodile should really be a dinosaur, etc. They want the books they publish to resemble what is already selling, and if your story aims to be a bit different, they might ask you to change it. When you publish your own book, it is 100 percent your story, on your terms.

You reap the benefits. Let’s say you write a bestseller. Or even just a moderately successful novel. If you had it traditionally published, chances are the contract you signed gives a huge amount of the royalties to the publisher—most take up to 85 percent. You’ll also have to share 15-20 percent of the profits with your agent, leaving you with . . . well, you get it. When you self-publish, you earn a much higher percentage of your royalties. With Createspace, one of the most popular self-publishing services, for example, authors earn 40 percent of the royalties. I’d say that’s a pretty outstanding difference.

How you go about marketing is up to you. Even with traditional publishers in today’s world, marketing is a responsibility mostly left for authors to take care of themselves. But if you self-publish, you can decide if you want to take on a publicist, who you want as your publicist, and how exactly you want to go about promoting your book. Since all the money for marketing is coming out of your wallet (which I know can be a bummer), you get to decide what levels you will go to in order to publicize your work. You don’t have to settle for a subpar publicist and mediocre marketing if you’re not on your publisher’s list of most-anticipated novels; your book is your priority, and you can publicize accordingly.

When we put so much effort into writing and perfecting our stories, I think it is only natural that we have as much control over the publishing process as possible. I certainly know that I wouldn’t have chosen to publish Night Buddies any other way.

How do you feel about self-publishing? Would you consider going that route to publish your book? Let me know in the comments!

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Night Buddies Go Sky High Is Finally Here!

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Night Buddies Go Sky High

It’s the day I’ve been looking forward to for awhile now. Yesterday, my third children’s book, Night Buddies Go Sky, was officially released!

In all the excitement leading up to this day, I thought I would share with you all exactly how the Night Buddies series came about. And if I’m being truthful, I have to give credit to my son John. We used to read together every night, but one night when it was late and he wanted the stories to continue I advised him to start making up his own adventures, and that’s how Crosley the red crocodile was born! We came up with Crosley stories all the time until he became a member of our family.

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Once John was already grown, I realized that between Crosley and my son John, I had the makings of a book in my hands . . . and that began the long journey to where I am today. I had written short stories in college, and have been a long-time book addict, but deciding to write a children’s book was the biggest writing project I had ever taken on. It became clear to me early on, however, that there were only two, very basic things I needed to make the Crosley book a reality—always use more imagination than I first thought to use, and write the thing every day until it’s done. The combination of these two things has gotten me through three books so far!

In Night Buddies Go Sky High, our two Night Buddies John and Crosley fly over to the Pineapple Cheesecake Factory to top off Crosley’s supply.  Once there, they find Big Foot Mae staring at a mysterious new dot in the sky . . . and it turns out Brother Crenwinkle has seen it too! They decide to investigate the thing, so they modify their racing blimp for extreme altitude and take off into the stratosphere.  What they find will absolutely warp your mind!

In honor of the book’s release, I’m giving away five free books on Goodreads. All you have to do to enter the drawing is click on the link below and click “Enter to Win!” The giveaway will be open through April 16, so be sure to tell your friends to enter too!

 https://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/show/130452-night-buddies-go-sky-high

Finally, I just want to say a thank you to all my readers. Your support has been instrumental in continuing to bring Crosley to life book after book, and we both hope you’ll enjoy this new adventure!

 

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Other Children’s Book Titles I Highly Recommend!

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With the release date of Night Buddies Go Sky High fast approaching but still not upon us, today I thought I would take the liberty of recommending great children’s books that are similar in some way (content, writing style, etc.) to the Night Buddies series so that you and your child can find the perfect book to read together!

Captain No Beard: An Imaginary Tale of a Pirate’s Life

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This book aims for an audience a little bit younger than the Night Buddies books, but it’s definitely worth the read. The story is about a young kid named Alexander and his cousin Hallie who turn Alexander’s bed into a pirate ship called “The Flying Dragon,” and go on crazy adventures! It’s similar to Night Buddies in that it plays with language and dialogue that is unique to the characters, which makes the story really come to life and fun to read. The book won Kirkus Reviews’ Best of 2012 in the Children’s Indie Category, and after giving it a try you’ll be sure to understand why!

Akimbo and the Crocodile Man

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I had to put this book on the list for a number of reasons, including the fact that one of the main characters is named John, and there a number of crocodiles in the story (sound familiar?). The second in a series, this tale revolves around a boy in Africa named Akimbo who is invited on a field study with crocodile expert John. But when John gets attacked by one of the crocodiles they are working with, Akimbo has to find the bravery to go on his own in a dangerous place in search of help. The book is filled with adventure, and is very fast-paced! Like the Night Buddies series, boys between the ages of seven and ten would really enjoy this read.

Tales of the Time Dragon

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Kids being led on adventures through time by a big red dragon? That could be similar to a certain kid being led on adventures by a big red crocodile! This book is great because it combines a fun fictional story with real historical knowledge, and includes maps, a list of historical facts, and a glossary. It’s about two kids who get sucked into their computer when doing a research paper, and end up traveling through time. It’s recommended for kids in either first or second grade, and I would say it’s a definite must-read (this coming from a history buff like me)!

What are some of your favorite children’s books? Leave a comment below to let us know.

Happy reading!

 

 

 

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How Roald Dahl Inspired Me as a Children’s Book Writer

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Even before I got into writing the Night Buddies books I was a fan of Roald Dahl—author of books including Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Matilda, and James and the Giant Peach. He is known as one of the 20th century’s best children’s authors, and I can certainly say that as a reader his books never failed to captivate my imagination and pull me inside the stories; he had me hooked from his first word to his last. But when I took on the task of writing my own book series, I started looking to Roald Dahl not only as my favorite author, but also as one of my biggest writing inspirations.

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Dahl began his writing career by writing down the things that he knew. His first published story was about his experience as a fighter pilot in World War II, and his first children’s book, The Gremlins, was about “mischievous little creatures that were part of RAF folklore.” This is where I learned my first lesson in storytelling: writing what you know, even in books that take place in worlds far from reality, will always get you the best results. In Night Buddies, even though the books are entirely fictional, I had to use emotions, situations, and types of relationships that I knew in my life in order to make them come alive on the page.

Books like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory reach children because they are unique, they are told from the voices of children who differ from the norm, and they use more imagination than most people could ever dream of having. Dahl didn’t feel the need to make everything in his books “pretty,” the way some children’s authors do, and is in fact known for his dark humor and sometimes grotesque scenarios. This kind of writing inspired me to write the Night Buddies books in the most real, authentic way I knew. The creativity he used in his stories inspired me to keep thinking further outside the box in order to create books I can now say I am proud to have written and feel confident that children will love.

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“I have a passion for teaching kids to become readers, to become comfortable with a book, not daunted. Books shouldn’t be daunting, they should be funny, exciting and wonderful.”

This quote by Dahl stuck with me throughout my writing experience, and should inspire any of you attempting to write your own children’s books. In the process of writing a book, sometimes it is easy to get caught up in using impressive language or trying to come up with sweeping universal themes, but remembering that what children need is a book that they are going to have fun reading makes the entire writing process much less intimidating, and always leads to a better book being written.

If you haven’t read one of his books, I suggest you drop everything and go pick one up now. You’ll be a happy reader—and a better writer—for it.

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Writing Your First Children’s Book

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When I sat down to write the first book in the Night Buddies series, I didn’t quite know exactly what I was getting into. Writing a book is hard work, and writing for children is an especially difficult task that requires an immense amount of time, dedication, and above all, imagination. The easy part is coming up with a vague idea for what you think will be an exciting story . . . the hard part is turning that idea into a full and complete work of fiction that will keep kids up past their bedtimes just to figure out what happens next. So for any of you out there attempting to write your own children’s book for the first time, these are the best tips I can give you to help make the process as smooth as possible.

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Read what’s already out there. Browse the New York Times bestsellers lists, scroll through Goodreads to find out which children’s books have the highest ratings, walk through the aisles of your local bookstore to see which books have the biggest displays, and then READ them. The more you know about children’s literature, the more prepared you will be to write your own book.

Spend a good amount of time imagining before you start writing. I would go as far to say that children’s literature is the genre with the most amount of imagination involved, and all of the most popular stories are the most creative ones as well. The more time you spend imagining the world your book is set in, imagining the characters you’ll be writing about, and imagining all the trouble you can stir up in a couple hundred pages or so, the more fun your book will be to read.

Spend time with children. If you don’t know anything about kids, how are you going to know what they would enjoy reading? You need to spend time with kids to remember what it is like to think like them, play like them, and imagine like them. Then, you take that knowledge and incorporate it into your book, making it something kids can easily relate to!

Take it seriously. Writing a book, especially a book for children, should be fun. But the only way you are going to be able to see the book through from start to finish is by taking your writing seriously. Have a set time each day to write, have a set goal you have to achieve each day before you go to bed, and think about your story in every free moment you have. If you aren’t so obsessed with your story that it’s constantly on your brain, chances are readers won’t become obsessed with it either.

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Night Buddies Go Sky High Release Date Announcement!

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The big moment is here. We are finally announcing the Night Buddies Go Sky High official release date! Drum roll please . . .

The third installment of the Night Buddies series is going to be available for you all to read on March 16!

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We over here at the Night Buddies Headquarters could not be more excited to share this next adventure with you, and we can’t wait for you to find out all that John and Crosley have been up to! To get you excited about this next book, we’re sharing with you some of the early reviews it has received so far.

“Lively and wildly imaginative. A wacky adventure. Crosley, the likable crocodile and his buddy John go on a zany nighttime romp through the stratosphere.” Randi Mrvos, Editor of Kid’s Imagination Train

“The Stratosphere’s the limit in this third Night Buddies adventure, as John Degraffenreidt and Crosley the red crocodile must go up up up to check out a mysterious roving dot in the sky that just might have it in for them. Their racing blimp may defy the laws of physics but it obeys the prime rule of storytelling: unstoppable action equals lots of fun. Sands Hetherington again combines expressive language, whimsical inventions, abundant delicious (and disgusting) food, loyal pals and wicked foes, in Night Buddies Go Sky High.” Lynne Barrett, author of Magpies and co-editor of Birth: A Literary Companion

“Overall, Night Buddies Go Sky High is a cute book for kids with fun illustrations!” Billy B., blogger for Ramblings of a Coffee Addicted Writer

“Where Night Buddies Go Sky High excels is in the pacing of the story–lots of lingering time to laugh, but equal momentum time to make the adventure exciting for children. Hetherington is so adept at writing for children that his books become instant classics–and that means that after lights out, parents will tiptoe in and grab some of this confection for themselves! Highly recommended.”  Grady Harp, Reviewer for Literary Aficionado and Amazon Hall of Fame Reviewer

“This science fiction book will probably help young readers’ minds drift away for awhile into a fantasy of what can happen in a blimp in the sky […] My review = 5 out of 5 stars.” Jill H., blogger for Book Review Travels

So remember, on March 16, be sure to pick up a copy of Night Buddies Go Sky High! You will be able to find it as a print book at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and at all fine bookstores near you. It will also be conveniently available as an ebook on Amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com, iBookstore, and elsewhere!

 

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It’s Time to Get Creative with Your Child!

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So often in today’s education emphasis is put on science and math skills for children to work on and improve, pushing things like writing, art, and music to the side because they are labeled as “less important.” But Ol’ Sands knew when he started creating the Night Buddies stories with his son that allowing children to strengthen their right brain and explore their creative sides can actually benefit them just as much as learning science and math skills can! Here are the top four benefits children gain from being creative:

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Helps develop communication skills. When you ask a child to draw a picture or write a story about a certain topic, they have to think about how to communicate a certain theme or message creatively. They have to truly understand their subject, make conscious choices, and be able to clearly justify their creative decisions. This helps build their ability to communicate clearly and concisely with the people they engage with. Give your child a prompt, or a specific task, such as “I want you to draw our family,” and ask them why they make the dog a bow, or why they put a big smile on your face and a frown on their sister’s face. When you engage with your child as he or she creates, you help build their communication skills exponentially.

Allows your child to work through emotions or anxieties they might not even truly understand. When your child writes a story, he or she will probably choose themes and story-lines that reflect what they might be dealing with in their life. Maybe they’ll choose to write about or draw a small kid battling giants, reflecting their own feelings of being bullied at school. Maybe your child is experiencing stress over your recent divorce, so they work through the pain on paper in a safe and productive way. Gaining the skill to work through their emotions through creativity is a benefit that will last all their life—there is a marked difference between adults who know how to manage their stress and ones who drown in it.

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Improves problem-solving skills. When your child wants to draw a picture a certain color, let’s say pink, but doesn’t have that color crayon, he or she is forced to experiment to see what colors can mix together in order to create the desired color. Or maybe they write a story like Night Buddies—getting their main character into trouble leads them to the decision that, as the author, they also have to get their character out of that trouble. In this way, creativity actually helps your child with their mathematic skills, because their brain will be oriented toward problem-solving.

Gives your child a taste of independence and ownership. When your child has a finished drawing, painting, story, or poem in their hands, they are rewarded with the satisfaction of having created something entirely on their own. They made each decision that went into the piece, they put in the time to create it, and they get to own the satisfaction of seeing your smile as you praise their hard work. No matter if your child is the next great American novelist or Picasso, or not, as long as he or she put in effort and is proud of the final product, they have earned the right to feel proud of themselves.

So the next time your child is telling you all about their imaginary friend Crosley and showing you all they wrote down about their adventures, don’t laugh it off or worry too much about them (this is a technique used by John’s mother in the Night Buddies series). Instead, read their stories, hang them on the fridge, and know that your child is reaping all kinds of benefits from that overactive imagination!

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5 Ways to Help Your Child Fall in Love with Reading

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There’s nothing better than the feeling you get as a parent when you walk into your child’s bedroom and see their nose buried in a book, completely lost in a world between pages. Today most children spend more time on their iPads or watching television than they do reading books, but we at the Night Buddies Headquarters know that just one great book can turn a child into a lifetime reader. Here are some of our suggestions to help you make that happen.

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1.) Pick out a book for them that is tailored to their interests. If you know your child loves horses, pick out a book that revolves around horses. If they like television programs about witches and wizards, pick out a book that is about witches and wizards. Make sure you pick a book at their reading level so that they don’t get frustrated reading it (once they start reading more, you can steadily find books that will be more difficult for them to read). In the beginning, it is just important to find a book your child will enjoy, so that they begin to associate reading with fun.

2.) Set aside a specific time, preferably right before bedtime, for them to read. This makes reading turn into a habit, and makes it more likely for them to choose to read at that time on their own later on. Plus, studies have shown that watching television before bed might interfere with sleep quality, so reading is a good, calming alternative!

3.) Don’t take away their other forms of entertainment. This will make reading feel more like a punishment than a reward, and you only want them to have positive associations with reading if you want them to fall in love with it. If your child is used to and enjoys watching a certain amount of television or playing video games for a certain amount of time in the day, allow them to continue. The goal is to incorporate reading into their routine, not to completely change their routine.

4.) Take them to your local library and let them explore. Libraries can be an exciting place for kids, especially during the summers when most libraries offer reading contests and rewards. Plus, allowing your child to pick out his or her own books gives them a level of independence, and it lets them try new things and develop their own reading tastes. Taking them to your local library once every couple of weeks can be an exciting excursion for you two to share!

5.) Read with them. Some of my favorite memories associated with reading are the times when my mom and I would trade off reading chapters of my favorite books as a little kid. Not only does your child get to learn a better vocabulary as you help them through the difficult sections, they get to bond with you at the same time as they are falling in love with books. When you read with your child, it’s always a win-win situation!

 

 

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Children's Museum of Alamance County
217 South Main Street
Graham, NC 27253
Phone: 336-228-7997
Reading begins at 3 pm


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