Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Comps and Marketing Strategies

By Cindy Williams Schrauben

Reading blog posts is a crazy thing… what speaks to you at one juncture of your writing journey might not be relevant later and vise-versa. That’s why it often helps to go back and read them again once your perspective has changed. 

I thought I had written all I could about comparison titles (COMPS), but with a new book coming out (THIS COULD BE YOU, April ‘22), I am looking at them with fresh eyes - marketing eyes.


I feel extremely inept when it comes to marketing, but I will share what I’ve learned. Please comment below with any additional tips.


As I’ve said many times, comps help to place a book in the marketplace… where does it belong in the bookstore, who will be interested, etc. I read an example recently that hit me like a fish in the face: the movie Cujo was pitched as ‘Jaws on paws.’ Short, simple, and not so sweet, but so powerful.


A couple of the titles I have chosen as comps for my upcoming book are Y IS FOR YET by Shannon Anderson & Jake Souva and THE MAGICAL YET by Angela DiTerlizzi & Lorena Alvarez.


Following comp titles and their authors closely can help to learn more about the category, audience, and marketing opportunities for your own book.

Here are a few tips:


Study the book blurbs to choose categories as well as create your pitch/description, and keywords for your book. This can lead to being listed in the “You Might Also Like’ section following their books = more exposure.


Read your comps’ reviews to find out what people like and don’t like about your category and to find potential influencers to ask for reviews.


Comps can help you find like-minded authors to team up with for promotions or marketing.


Write reviews for your comps - put them on SM, and add them to your website to create more interest in your category.

Cindy Williams Schrauben is a ReFoReMo blog contributor. Check out her new bio on our Coordinators page.

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Mentor Text Talk with Darshana Khiani

Dear ReFoReMo Community, you are in for a wonderful perspective today! 

Darshana Khiani has been an online friend since 2013, when I joined my first online kidlit community. I am so excited to celebrate her debut picture book, How to Wear a Sari, and her mentor text process.  If you stay committed to mentor text analysis like Darshana has, you will most certainly grow your craft by leaps and bounds.

Thanks so much for joining us, Darshana! 

How has reading picture books helped you discover who you are as a writer?

That’s an interesting question since I still feel as if I’m discovering what type of writer I am. I write across a broad range of topics. My debut (HOW TO WEAR a SARI) is a funny, light-hearted, commercial story while my next book (I’M AN AMERICAN) is about our shared beliefs and American immigration history. I read lots and lots of picture books. I read one picture book every morning at breakfast. Reading lots of books allows me to figure out what I’m interested in

and learning new ways to tell a story. I love books that surprise me in some way whether it be in the concept or execution. I’m still in awe of Mac Barnett’s THE WOLF, THE MOUSE, & THE DUCK. Wow! The incredulousness of it. I hope that by reading so many wonderful picture books the brilliance of them will seep into my psyche and infuse my writing.

How do you utilize picture books as mentor texts to learn more about craft?

Whenever I come across a book that does a specific aspect well, I mark it in my spreadsheet.

Here is a snippet:

Perhaps the book has fantastic page turns, the perfect ending, or great read-aloud quality. I also

maintain lists on Goodreads as well.

I use mentor texts both in the beginning during story creation and later during the revision

process. At the start of a project, I may read mentor texts to find out what’s already in the

market. One of the things I strive for in my writing is to be fresh and original as much as

possible. When I’m revising, if there is some aspect that isn’t working, I will refer to my mentor

list to find books to study. For example, say the language isn’t singing, then I might read the

books on my list that have a lyrical quality. In studying them, I may type them out, do a story

analysis, or record myself reading the book aloud. Whatever is needed to figure out the magic. I

love analyzing picture books for a specific craft aspect, it brings out my analytical side.

Yes to all of that! You are a model mentor text analyzer! 

Were there any particular mentor texts that inspired you in the creation of How to Wear a


In the Summer of 2016, I studied picture books with 2nd POV for a different story that had to do

with bears and the paparazzi. I read all the books I could find and analyzed how the 2nd POV was

used. Here were some highlights of my analysis:

I tried to determine what the 2nd POV was contributing to the story -- style, tension, positive

reinforcement, or something else. While I didn’t make much progress on the bear story, all the

stuff I had learned was in my psyche and would come out in a different story.

By Fall 2016, Navratri (Indian holiday season) and Diwali were around the corner. I wondered

what it would be like for a young Indian girl to try and wear a sari. It was kind of an Indian

version of the Birdie books by Sujean Rim (BIRDIE’S BIG-GIRL SHOES and BIRDIE’S BIG-GIRL DRESS) in spirit and feeling. However, the voice that came to me was the sales character from the 2nd POV book

HAVE I GOT A BOOK FOR YOU by Melanie Watt and . The narrator in my first few drafts was so sales-y and

mischievous that I had to tone the voice down during revisions and eventually found the

perfect balance in the text to convey humor and sincerity.

Wow! Amazing perspective, Darshana! Thank you for your insight. Best wishes on your future writing and promotions!

Darshana Khiani is a second-generation Indian American who grew up in rural Pennsylvania and

now resides in the San Francisco Bay Area with her family and a furry pooch. She is an author, engineer, and a South Asian Kidlit Blogger. Her debut picture book HOW TO WEAR A SARI releases June 2021. When she isn’t working or writing she can be found hiking, solving jigsaw puzzles, or traveling. Visit her online at

https://www.darshanakhiani.com or on Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok at @darshanakhiani.

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

ReFoReMo Mini-Monthly Writing Challenge: Food For Thought


                                                       Sophie's Squash by Pat Zietlow Miller

By Janie Reinart

Doughnut take this challenge lightly. Pretty peas? Choose a character from a smorgasbord of 

food for your next picture book story.  One of my favorite stories is Sophie's Squash by Pat 

Zietlow Miller.  Pat tells us how the story got started here. Tammi Sauer interviews Momoko Abe 

about her new book, Avocado Asks, to find what inspired her story.

Speaking of peas, Arlo Rolled by Susan Pearson reminds me of the gingerbread man story. Arlo 

is looking for independence and sets out on his own.

"At the end of the garden,

next to the berries,

lived Mary, and Gary, and Terry, and Sherry

and Arlo--

five peas in a pod--

a plump, fat, green group,

perfect for salads

and stir-fries and soup.

"NO WAY!" said Arlo."

                                                                 The Good Egg by Jory John

Sarah Hwang writes a twist on a "wanting a pet" story, with her dog-gone cute tale of Toasty.

"This is Toasty. 

Toasty loved watching the dogs outside his window play. He loved how they barked and ran with each 

other in the park. 

He loved them so much he wanted to be a dog.

Toasty knew there were some differences. Most dogs have four legs.

But Toasty had two legs and two arms."

                                                     The Cool Bean by Jory John

Have fun with this challenge. Don't snack on your protagonist before you know the whole story.

Give us something to taco ’bout!

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Think Quick with Janie Reinart

Hi Janie!

Congratulations on the release of your debut picture book! We're so excited to interview someone from the ReFoReMo team! Your book is lovely and lyrical and a powerful story for all to read.

All of the THINK QUICK themes below appear in your book.  Let’s see which way you lean.  Remember, THINK QUICK!

On refugee children:
Resilient or fragile?

Both. Resilient because the children have no toys but continue to play.

Fragile because the children had to flee from danger.

On bibliotherapeutic books:

Necessary or superfluous?

Necessary. Social and emotional learning through stories helps us feel empathy, make caring decisions, and find out we are more alike than different.

On sibling relationships:

Difficult or cherished? 

Cherished. Siblings are our first friends.

On making something from nothing:

Creative or re-cycling?

Definitely creative. More like up-cycling because the children use critical thinking, problem solving, design, and engineering skills to create something of greater value.

On animals:

Fun or nuisance?


Fun! Follow that grasshopper.

On colorful diverse illustrations:

Collaborative or synergistic?

Both. The creative team comprised of a photographer, (picture that started the story for me) author, illustrator and editor worked together to bring a new energy to the project.

On Lyrical language:

Easy or challenging?

Both. Easy because I like to write poetry. Challenging because each word must earn its place.

On Similes:

Literary devices or literary vices?

Literary devices. Poetry does the heavy lifting of capturing emotions.

On Author's notes:

Enriching or boring?

Enriching.  Based on a true story, the author’s note shares the writer’s intention.

On books:


When Water Makes Mud: A Story of Refugee Children

Publisher’s profits are being donated to UNICEF.

With her words, Janie Reinart makes something from nothing.
From paper and pencil to page turns, she crafts stories celebrating the creativity and playfulness of children. Janie encourages readers to use their imagination, find their voice, share their stories, and believe in their dreams. She lives in Ohio with her darling husband and delights in playing with her 16 grandchildren. www.janiereinart.com 




Book Trailer

Tuesday, June 1, 2021

Perfectly Paired Picture Books for June & July

By Keila V. Dawson

Today’s picture book pairs look at sports, Pride, and 4th of July.

With the French Open in June and Wimbledon in July, Game Changers: The Story of Venus And Serena Williams by Lesa Cline-Ransome and James E. Ransome and Martina And Chrissie: The Greatest Rivalry In The History Of Sports by Phil Bildner and Brett Helquist are a good pair to compare and contrast. Each book explores the experiences of inspirational female athletes within professional tennis. Themes include competition, camaraderie, and commitment. 

After reading This Day in June by Gayle E. Pitman and Kristyna Litten about Pride Month, pair Sparkle Boy by Leslea Newman and Maria Mola with When Aidan Became a Brother by Kyle Lukoff and Kaylani Juanita.


Apple Pie 4th Of July by Janet S. Wong, Margaret Chodos-Irvine and My Fourth Of July by Jerry Spinelli, Larry Day are stories about the same holiday but from different perspectives.


Use the guide below from the introduction to Perfectly Paired Picture Books as you study the books in today’s post.

1. Is a book you read diverse? If yes, what story elements make it so? 

·        Setting

·        Main character

·        gender identity

·        sexual orientation

·        skin color

·        racial identity

·        ethnic/cultural identity

·        religious affiliation

·        neurodiversity

·        socioeconomic inequity or inequality

·        Story problem

·        Topic

·        Language

2.   How is this book a mirror for readers represented in it?

3.   How is this book a window or sliding glass door for readers who are and are not represented?

4.  How does the point of view add to the storytelling?

5.   What makes the structure of this book a good fit for this story?

6.   How do the illustrations and visual storytelling add to the text?

7.   Consider the author’s perspective—what are examples of ways the author and or illustrator show how they see the setting, character, problem, or topic? 

8.  Do you know the relationship of the author to the characters, topic, and or theme of the book? How does that affect the storytelling?


    Happy reading!