ILLUSTRATION + INSPIRATION
ILLUSTRATION + INSPIRATION
Must-Read Children's Books
I am a self-proclaimed book snob. There. I said it. When I go to the library with my kids, I get so frustrated trying to weed through all of the children's books that are astonishingly bad. Part of me feels guilty typing those words because I realize, as a children's book author myself, that someone's heart and soul went into writing some of these books that make me cringe. On that note, I never intend to write book reviews about the titles I dislike. Instead, I want to celebrate the books that my kids and I love to read!
*This post contains affiliate links.
If you're curious about the books I have written and illustrated, head on over to www.littlefischbooks.com
Have you read the books I have suggested above? Which are your favorites? Do you have any suggestions for my next "Must-Read" list? Please let me know in the comments below!
God's Beautiful Creations
God Created Oceans
Watch for my latest children's book release, God's Beautiful Creations coming Summer 2022!
I'm going on a new adventure!
Well it's sort of new. It's actually more like I am on an awesome journey and I decided to bring with a new friend.
Here's a little homework for you to do. Go to your child's bookshelf. Look on the back of a dozen books. How many of them state "Made in China"? I'm going to guess...12 out of 12. That drives me bananas. So I made it my mission to have all of my books printed in the United States of America. I am proud to say that I now utilize 2 different printers located right here in my home state of Minnesota! I pulled my titles from the big box stores and formed my own e-commerce site and publishing company. I also started my own consulting business for first time authors and am determined to help others follow their dreams.
Earlier this winter I was praying for God to give me guidance on my career journey. Praying a lot! In 2019 I had an incredible encounter with the Holy Spirit that led me to write and publish my first children's book. It was an uphill battle but I was certain that I was doing exactly what God wanted me to do. Your Angel Army: A Book of Hope came out of the gates as the #1 New Release on Amazon. It was then picked up by Barnes and Noble, Target and Christian Books, among others. I was visiting schools, libraries and bookstores. I was in a whirlwind of opportunities, even speaking to groups of 1000 people at a time. It was incredible and nerve racking. It was everything I dreamed of and more.
Then came 2020.
I couldn't visit schools. I couldn't do readings at libraries. I couldn't do book signings. I dang sure wasn't speaking at large venues. I did the virtual thing for a while; teaching art classes along side my then 4 year old via Facebook Live. But eventually I just tired of only speaking to people through a screen. Your Angel Army is an emotional book and I am a hugger. I need to hug people and hear their stories and cry with them. I need to see people in real life.
It was during that time I pivoted from promoting to creating. From that my next book baby was born. Sunshine: A Book of Hope launched in January 2021.
Sunshine was created with the help of a focus group compiled of 20 inspiring women who had all been impacted by infertility. Together we gave voice to a delicate subject and brought hope to families around the country. I was given the honor of Key Note Speaker to promote Sunshine at the BoniBall (a fundraiser for a Catholic elementary school here in Minnesota) but just like everything else during that time, the event was converted to a virtual experience. It became blatantly obvious that spreading the word about my latest book during a global shutdown was going to be incredibly challenging.
I should also mention that right around this time, I became the primary caregiver for my elderly grandparents. We also sold our home in the suburbs and began the process of building our dream home out in the middle of the woods...while I homeschooled our kids. We were living at my dad's "man cave" with 2 big dogs and 3 small children. My husband was commuting an hour each way to his teaching job while coaching multiple seasons and physically building our new home in his "free time". He was gone. A lot. I was acting as mama, author, artist, caregiver, homeschool teacher, general contractor and just basically trying not to cry everyday. The political climate was a total disaster. Everything was weird.
As the insanity of COVID-19 continued to spread, I continued to pray. The more I prayed, the more I was drawn to Ephesians 6. The more I read Ephesians 6, the more I realized that we were watching a tremendous spiritual battle unfold before our very eyes. So I did what any creative mind does: I started to write and I started to paint. In the fall of 2021, my 3rd book was released. Bulletproof is a patriotic children's book explaining how to put on the full armor of God. It is fierce and powerful. It is everything I wanted to say to my children...to the world in 2021. I am honored to say that since its release, Bulletproof has become built into both Sunday school and homeschooling curriculums. How amazing is that?!?
So, let's recap. At this stage in the game, I have 3 books circulating out in the world. They are a compilation of my words and my illustrations. As a graphic designer by trade, I have been blessed to do my own branding and page layout as well. I've got all the tools to make this work, however, the world is a total dumpster fire and I am just not sure what my next steps should be. My family has survived the grueling task of building a new home. We've moved in and I've officially retired as a homeschool mama. My kids are enrolled in the cute little school in our cute new little town. I am finally able to come up for air. So I look to God and ask, "Now what?"
Enter: Eleena Koep.
I became an author because the Holy Spirit lead me to do so. I still seek God's guidance on my journey and have learned so much about the publishing industry in past 2 years. It has been an eye opening experience to say the least. Here are some insider secrets and tips on how to make the most of your time and budget as a self published children's book author.
Find a mentor. It's not as difficult as you may think. Head over to your child's bookshelf and pull some of your favorites. Do a little recon work about the authors. Do they offer mentorship services? My mentor is Marianne Richmond who has written over 50 books and has sold over 6 million copies. Over the years we have become dear friends and even teamed up to do a live event entitled The Art of Bravery in the winter of 2020. She is a wonderful human. Here is information on her rates and availability.
Find a local printer. When I published my first book, Your Angel Army I utilized a giant self-publishing service called IngramSpark. They seemed like a good fit for a first-time author and they were able to get the ball rolling for my career. However, there are major downsides to utilizing services like IngramSpark. First of all, they print your books "on demand". At first I loved this feature because I there was little financial risk (meaning you don't need to obtain a huge inventory of books). It costs the same amount to print 1 book or 50,000 books. And to be totally transparent, when I printed Your Angel Army I was paying nearly $10 a copy! I'm here to tell you that you cannot make a living on selling books if your cost is $10/book. The other major flaw is that IngramSpark does not offer an account manager. You do not have a point of contact to ask questions or to check on the status of your books. When you need help, you are basically directed to a FAQ page. That was very, very frustrating.
When I was preparing to launch my second book, Sunshine, I received a solid piece of advice from Kevin Lovegreen. Kevin is a very successful self-published author who takes inspiration from his personal hunting journals to write juvenile fiction. After meeting Kevin at my son's school, he agreed to meet me for a cup of coffee. During our visit, he taught me the importance of keeping control over your own products. He even shared his vendor list with me and connected me with Corporate Graphics, a Minnesota-based printing company. Through CG, I am able to print my books at a fraction of the price of IngramSpark and the quality is even better. I have worked directly with Mike Schmitt (Sales Executive) and Annette Boeck (Account Manager) to find the best solutions for printing my children's books.
Find a book distributor. After my books are printed by Corporate Graphics they are shipped to Itasca Books. This is where my inventory is kept. When an order comes through my online store, I pay a small fee for Itasca to pull the books and ship them directly to my customers. It is worth every penny. When I launched Your Angel Army, I set up an account with stamps.com and basically turned my living room into a post office. Let me just tell you that shipping out thousands of books from your living room is not ideal. It was time consuming, messy, and not exactly sustainable. Using a distributor/fulfillment center has been a game changer for the sale of Sunshine. If you are looking for more on how this process works, contact Mark Jung at Itasca Books. He is kind, patient, and a wealth of information.
Talk about your book. Unfortunately, even the best books will not sell themselves. You are going to need to put yourself out there and tell the world about the book you've created. Utilize social media, contact schools about visiting classrooms, connect with the local library to set-up readings, reach out to your favorite nonprofits to see if you are able to team-up in someway, the possibilities are endless. Networking has led me to unforgettable classroom visits, incredible speaking engagements and fundraising for Metavivor, teaching art lessons to grieving parents at Faith's Lodge, collaborations with Brave Soul's Photography, and so much more.
Ditch the big box stores. I was so incredibly proud to see Your Angel Army on the shelves of Barnes & Noble. That was an unforgettable moment of validation for me. But here's the deal, big box stores take between 40-55% of your profit margin! It is insane. You need to sell A LOT of books to make an income if your vendors are taking half of your profits. Retailers like Target or Barnes & Noble can order as many books as they please with the option of returning them at any time. So let's say Target decides they'd like to carry your book on their shelves and they order 10,000 copies to disperse around their stores. But unfortunately, after a few months sales are not doing what they had hoped so they ship all of them back. You are then stuck with the cost of thousands of books!
Don't even get me started on Amazon. They can take your books and decide to sell them for whatever price they'd like. They can drop the price so low that no one would ever be inclined to purchase directly from the author or from a little local book shop. Free 2-day shipping on Amazon will eventually be the end of nearly all small business owners. I know it is convenient for customers to open the app, click "order now", and the product magically shows up 2 days later. I get it. I've done it for years but I'm over it.
Here's the harsh truth: You are never fully financially stable with the current book industry. It is designed to protect corporate America not the creatives.
Here's the hopeful truth: I currently sell all my books directly from my website and and have total control of their pricing, distribution, and content.
Your Angel Army will continue to circulate via IngramSpark to major book retailers simply because I am gaining exposure on their shelves and I am all tied up in contracts with them. I hope you are able to learn from my journey and are feeling empowered to publish your work!
If you loved the recommendations found in 13 Children's Books With Good Vibes Part I, this list is right up your alley!
1. Beautiful Oops by Barney Saltzberg
2. After the Fall (How Humpty Dumpty Got Back Up Again) by Dan Santat
3. I Love My Glam-Ma by Samantha Berger
4. Alphabreaths: The ABCs of Mindful Breathing by Christopher Willard
5. The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn
6. The Wonderful Things You Will Be by Emily Winfield Martin
7. I Love You All Ways by Marianne Richmond
8. A Is For Awesome! By Eva Chen
9. Dog Heaven by Cynthia Rylant
10. The 12 Sleighs of Christmas by Sherri Duskey Rinker
11. Forever Young by Bob Dylan
SuperHero ABC by Bob McLeod
More Must-Read Books ...
Through Each Battle
Did you know that Your Angel Army was written on my extremely messy kitchen counter?
Watch as I share my creation process for the children's book that is changing my life.
010 How Do You Do It All?
There is nothing glamorous about chasing a huge dream. It is a combination of hard work, letting go, asking for help, and praying. A lot. My inner circle knows that when they come into my home, there will be dishes in the sink, at least 2 blanket forts in the living room, dog hair on the floor and Lauren Daigle blasting in the background. I probably haven’t brushed my hair (or teeth for that matter), I am most certainly wearing a graphic and there’s always coffee.
If you were to pick up my phone, you’d be alarmed by the 94 unopened emails and you’d smile at the butt naked picture of my baby girl on the home screen.
You see, my friends, I absolutely do not do it all. I mess up picture day at school- even though they send home
45 reminders. I love him fiercely, but I don’t remember what team my husband was coaching against last night. And I only remember if they won or lost by recalling his patience level with our kids at bedtime.
My secret weapon to not lose my mind on a daily basis is thanking God in all circumstances. I talk to Him all day long. I try to stay on the path He’s made for me and ask for forgiveness when I lose my way. This keeps me centered among the chaos. I also believe in the power of a great planner and do my best to make a list of todos each day. I’m on year 2 of utilizing Emily Ley’s Simplified Planner. It’s baller.
Yesterday, I wanted to make a short video explaining my book creation process. My kids refused to be silent while I did the voiceover. (I was literally hiding in my closet trying to find quiet...they found me.) So I made the executive decision that I needed to let go of my “perfect” vision for this marketing piece and embrace the hot mess. I asked my kids to collaborate with me on this video and they stepped up! I had to edit out the crying in the background but their little voices just warm my heart. Check it out below. ❤️
009 Story Time
The month of September has been insane. Like many of you, there is the hustle and bustle of getting kids back into the school routine and the shock of having such a schedule takes its toll on everyone. My husband is a high school football coach and this is by far his busiest time of year. Oh... and I published a children's book. No Bigs.
In the past 2 weeks, I've learned that major online retailers like Amazon and Target have picked up my book - crazy, right?!? It has also been ordered by several hospital gift shops - in fact, you can find it at any CentraCare gift shop in Minnesota. It is also being cataloged into libraries across the U.S. (If it is currently not available at your local library, just put in a request and they can find one for you). I have ventured to small businesses in my community and gave them the opportunity to sell my book as well. No one has said no yet! I literally stumble into these shops with my daughters - who are 4 and almost 2 - and hand the owner a copy of Your Angel Army. I tell them I wrote and illustrated a children's book, ask them to read it and tell them to come find us in the store when they are done. Meanwhile, the girls have nearly broken at least 7 items off the shelves and are tugging on my sleeve asking me for juice. Not even joking.
This process may seem unprofessional to some of you, and as a businesswoman I can see where you're coming from. But here's the truth. I wrote this manuscript on the kitchen counter with my kids. I illustrated the paintings with one on my hip, one dumping Legos all over the floor, and one peeing in her pants. That is my life. It is busy and crazy and messy. But it is also the life God has planned for me. So when He put it on my heart to get this out into the world, I listened. He has shown me how every job, every hardship, every relationship, every loss and every victory has lead me to the creation of this book. It is my heart. And I am incredibly honored to share it with you.
You can learn more about Your Angel Army: A Book of Hope at www.yourangelarmy.com. If you are a small business owner and are interested in selling my book in-store, you can easily obtain wholesale pricing and ordering by clicking here.
Thank you and God Bless!
PRE-ORDER YOUR COPY TODAY!
Your Angel Army is out in the world!
You can currently purchase the Ebook and PRE-ORDER your hardcover version (available October 1st, 2019) on www.yourangelarmy.com!
Stay tuned for upcoming events - including details on my book launch party at Milk & Honey Ciders on Sunday, October 13th!
Thank you for all of the love and support! xoxo - Kate
007: 5 Ways To Pray All Day
A lifetime of mistakes, insecurities and anxieties lead me to an uneasy feeling about organized religion. In December of 2016, I decided that I really wanted to get right to the source and started studying the bible on my own. It transformed my life in so many ways and has ultimately healed my heart. Understanding scripture within its historical context is one of the best decisions I have ever made. Here are 5 ways that I continue to grow in my faith and stay connected to God all day long.
The First 5 App
Take a Hike
I'm just a small town girl, living in the suburbs of Minneapolis. I'm married to farm boy-turned gym teacher, raising 3 little kids, a dog, a cat and whatever other random animals my children fall in love with. In January of 2016 we purchased a Spanish-style home on 4 acres just outside of town. It has required A LOT of TLC but it is exactly where God wanted us to be. One of the most calming things I can do is take a walk through our woods. I bring my coffee, my pup and my phone for music. This is my happy place and my favorite way to reconnect with God. I've created a playlist via Spotify just for these morning adventures so that I don't get distracted by what I want to listen to and waste this precious time scrolling on my phone. Some mornings I just want to tune into my favorite radio station and listen to whatever God throws my way. You can listen to 98.5 KTIS anywhere in the world when you download the app. Isn't technology magical?!?
I understand that most people don't live out in the woods, but I can almost guarantee that you can find somewhere awesome to walk wherever you are planted. So put on your kicks and get out there! If you really want to make things easy, you can even poach my Spotify playlist: Cool Your Jets.
BONUS POINTS if you bring your fur baby with.
Brush Your Teeth
Yep, you read that right. If you're looking for a way to strengthen your faith, practice good dental hygiene. Okay...that's really only part of the deal. My life is mostly complete chaos and I need all the help I can get. So one habit I have formed is reading a daily devotional from Sarah Young's Jesus Calling while I brush my teeth each day. I leave it right on my bathroom counter and read it whenever I get a free moment to actually brush my teeth each day. (If you have small children, you can probably relate that some days this doesn't happen until like 11am.) Technically you are supposed to brush those pearly whites for 2 minutes, twice a day. However, I have committed to brushing them for as long as it takes for me to read and process the daily devotional found in this book each morning and then for 2 minutes at night. I hope the American Dental Association approves of this system...
Meal Time Prayers
My family and I are pretty darn good at remembering to pray before each meal, even when we are dining out. It can feel a bit awkward to bow your heads and pray at Subway, but I've grown to be totally fine with the strange looks we get sometimes. My dear friend, Pastor Lee, taught me that if everything you're doing in life feels comfortable and easy, you aren't doing it right. Being a Christian should feel a bit like like paddling your boat upstream and going against the social norms of this world. If you're going with the flow and are afraid of standing a part from the crowd, check-in with yourself. Try to lead by example, let your light shine and show the world you aren't ashamed of your faith.
Some of our favorite meal time prayers:
A Good Night
Bedtime routines can be a hot mess. I'm tired, my hubby is tired, the kids are tired (and they don't want to admit it). But we try our best to read 2 books and say prayers as a family before tucking them in at the end of the day. It usually includes a long list of thanking God for all of our loved ones by name and asking Him to watch closely over those who are struggling with health concerns. We recently started implementing a prayer written in my children's book, Your Angel Army (coming Fall 2019). I am so excited to share this little piece of my heart with you. I pray you'll hang it up in your home as a gentle reminder to trust in God's plan for you - you've got a whole army of angels on your side!
CUSTOM PAINTING GIVEAWAY!
God is blessing my journey and it is the best feeling in the world. The amount of support I have received is overwhelming, beautiful and inspiring on so many levels. I am celebrating by giving away a custom original painting of your family! The winner will be announced on August 18th, 2019.
How to enter?
1. Subscribe to the Fisch Tales blog.
2. Comment on my latest blog post 5 Ways to Pray All Day!
Delivering creative work with integrity since 2009.
Little Fisch specializes in collaborating with fellow small businesses. Through logo design, packaging, websites and marketing material, the goal is to create brand identities that capture the attention of audiences on all platforms.
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