Category Archives: Emma Mactaggart

Posts written by Emma Mactaggart.

A Day in the life of… a publisher

Today I was feeling a tad overwhelmed. Despite being a publisher for ten years, my first love is writing, and this means I am easily distracted. It is the process of creation I enjoy, rather than the necessity of maintenance!

The antidote to this antipathy: I wrote a list. (If you were curious, even if only for a second, as to what happens in a publisher’s day – well, here it is, on a platter.)

Emma Mactaggart / General Business

  • Email – yes, okay to use quote of mine for a book.
  • Rework PDF file to a word document to use in an autocue for an online workshop.
  • Newsletter for Child Writes – writing story / curating images.
  • Let web guy know newsletter ready for final construction and release.
  • Banking cheques! Doesn’t happen often!
  • Ring computer guy – can’t find files nor dropbox nor get printer working!


  • Process overnight orders for books.
  • Queensland Writers Centre initative – Books from Our Backyard – need to register all QLD writers published in 2015 by Boogie Books.
  • Liaise with the Freight Forwarder / Customs – two titles (Four Hot Chips / Mitten the Kitten) have landed in the country and are being unpacked at wharf in Brisbane!
  • Print orders for those two titles in anticipation of postage / handling on the weekend.
  • Book television interview with Ch7 re: Four Hot Chips
  • Contact: local radio / newspaper re: Four Hot Chips
  • Rebuilding titles for Stuck on You to generate Colouring In Books (cute!) – involves contacting author from 2006, rescanning images!
  • Amazon Sales report to bookkeeper
  • Putting stickers (Gold Moonbeam / Gold IPPY) on box of Imagine
  • Need to share Gold Moonbeam win with Queensland Writes Centre and Northern Rivers Writers Centre for Member’s News.
  • Dash to Post Office – illustrations for reimagined version of Lily Fabourama, Glamourama ready to be picked up!
  • Remember to pick up box of envelopes from Post Office (but only after I had driven home – had to go back again!)
  • Promotional Poster for 2014 CW Competition Winners for their own book sales signing days at independent bookstores.

Child Writes Program

  • Long list winners for the 2015 Child Writes Competition – generate certificates / send with prize.
  • All entrants – participation certificate for 2015 Child Writes Competition
  • Thank You emails for participants in 2015 St Anthony’s book launch.
  • Certificate to Peter Rookas for 10 years support of Child Writes
  • Legal Deposit – 2015 CW authors books to National Library of Australia and Queensland State Library.
  • Invoices generated for extra book orders from Child Writes 2015 authors


  • First round edit for author from Eisdvold (Child Writes 2011) with her second story!

Suffice it to say, I was a blithering mess by the end of it all, though deeply satisfied, as each of those notes above had a lovely TICK beside them. Not every day is as productive, yet everyday involves a huge range of tasks and challenges.

Now, where is my notebook, I just thought of an idea for a story…




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Five totally awesome things to include when writing your story

  1. Theme – children’s picture books have one strong theme. This is one insight or concept or viewpoint. Keep it positive, especially if a social problem as you want your reader to know how to deal with it.
  2. Plot – conflict involving the main character. This conflict can be internal or external and it needs to be resolved. The character learns through the process. (The lesson learnt is the theme!) Make sure there are events and action, not internal musings.
  3. Story structure – jump right in! Start later than you meant to and finish promptly. Keep it simple and avoid flashbacks. Are there a number of scenes? Is it told in the first person or the third person? Does it have a single point of view? Time – is it past or present?
  4. Character – someone the reader identifies with. Top age of the intended readership. Have one telling detail as an identifier.
  5. Style and tone – simple, direct, avoiding chunks of narration. If younger audience, embrace poetic devices (rhythm, repetition, alliteration) Don’t be cute, sweet, sentimental or condescending.

Kate receiving 'The Lost Calf' (1) copy

The magic from children’s picture books is fully realised when you read them aloud. You will certainly instinctively find that anything is missing from your story if you do so!

Now go and write – and read…




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Where DO ideas come from? Tips for kids…

Emma Mactaggart Ideas

And tips for adults searching for their inner child!

‘I just can’t think of a good idea…’

I want to tell you right now, you have thousands of ideas already in your head and it just a matter of letting them land on the piece of paper in front of you!

You are looking at me, pleading for help! It is so tricky to come up with an idea on demand, on the spot, when there are so many other fun things to think of.

Well, actually – write down those fun things. Answer the question – what do you want to do this weekend if you are allowed to do ANYTHING!

  1. You are sitting there, chewing the tip of your pencil! All you can think about was the very funny thing your friend said at lunchtime.

Right! Write down that funny thing! Fill in what happened before and what happened afterwards.

  1. You are so distracted. The boys beside you in the classroom said some really mean words and you feel like crying.

OK – so write it down. Now describe those boys (make them smelly animals!) and describe what happened afterwards when you told them to be nice!

  1. Your teachers says, ‘Hello? Are you here?’ because you are so distracted you have missed the school bell ringing and the classroom is empty!

Grab your pen – write down that daydream – quickly, now, before you forget what distracted you in the first place.

  1. Finally, you were getting ready for sport on Saturday and you felt that funny feeling in your tummy, nervousness! You had a flash, a great idea of how you were going to deal with it…

Yes, you are onto this now – WRITE IT DOWN.

Every experience you have, good or bad, can be the base ingredient for a story. And the only difference between a story and a flash of an idea – it is written down.

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10 tips for getting the books out of the garage!

You have already achieved the most extraordinary thing – you have written AND illustrated your own picture book. You finally have that perfect gem!

Did you know over 80% of Americans want to write a book? Did you now over 150,000 titles were added last month to Amazon? It is a challenge now to let other people know your book is ready to fall into their eager hands.

If you want to generate an income from your book, you can do these simple things to help sales:

  1. Pick which format (eBook or print) and confirm the file extension by searching your own website or the Amazon sites for your book.
  2. Copy this url LINK
  3. Determine a ‘call to action’ – for example ‘Down load your copy today’ or ‘Buy a print copy and I would love to sign it for you’ or ‘The 100th share and I will give you a copy…
  4. Share this LINK with your world, along with the image of the book cover
    • by posting it on FACEBOOK
    • emailing the LINK
    • instagram the LINK
  5. Or use your book cover as an image on a postcard and send an invitation to purchase your book to EVERYONE – the old fashioned snail mail!
  6. Make and copy a book mark, with your book cover and a ‘call to action’
  7. You geo local bookstore will often have a  ‘local author’ section! They happily stock the books on commission.
  8. Design and make your own flyer and include a headshot photo of yourself and write about you as the author – which is an awesome way to promote your books, especially if you have a number of titles! Take this everywhere you offer to read your book!
  9. For example – to the local library and offer to read the book to children in the school holidays.
  10. Or, finally, offer to read the book to the kindergarten at your children’s school – after all, this was where the whole journey possibly started!


Have fun!

Kate receiving 'The Lost Calf' (1) copy



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You have the right to see your words in print! Step Ten…

10. Print and Perform

The words and the pictures are done. You know the output – eBook and or print – and you have already put a great deal of thought into your book launch and hopefully, beyond.

Printing a book is a stage requiring your focus for a moment. The single determinant is your budget. How much are you prepared to outlay right now? It could take years to recover the costs unless you are working on sales full time, so make sure it is either unallocated funds in your budget or you can afford the outgoing with the incoming return effectively on the ‘drip’.

It is useful to have already sought quotes from various printers, both locally and overseas. (I am assuming you are reading this entire document at first sitting, then going back to set one!) For local printers, I strongly recommend sourcing from your own immediate backyard. The shipping costs for books can be astronomical simply because of weight. For overseas printers, buyer beware! Once the books have left the factory and are loaded on a ship, there is no way to return the product if it is faulty. An agent is useful to say the least.

Aside from a printer, a graphic designer is your true friend at the moment! If they are worth their weight in gold, they will be able to take over the conversation with the printers to ensure the internal pages are set up correctly to accommodate ‘bleed’ and the cover is a separate document. You will have to specify paper stock, binding method and soft or hard cover. Don’t panic about any of this – simply ask questions if you don’t understand a question or a request for information. All the printers and graphic designers I have ever worked with have been amazingly patient with a ‘newbie’.

The graphic designer will also set up all the pages and text as you wish. This includes the imprint page, cover and blurb at the back. Be prepared! I suggest setting up a DropBox file (or other file sharing tool) and add a folder with illustrations – scanned or photographed to the highest possible quality. A second folder with a sample of the imprint page, including business logos, photos, ISBN and copyright qualification statement AND your storyboard! Finally, add a third folder with a copy of the manuscript. This file sharing will be invaluable as your designer will be able to upload a PDF draft of your book in construction for you to approve!

And then the file goes to the printer – and you wait…

And wait…

And wait…

Not time to rest on your laurels though – this is the PERFECT time to do a tonne of administration stuff to get organised. Think of yourself now as marketing and PR manager! Remember you had to finalise plans for the book launch? The book release venue has been contacted again to confirm your intentions and you are shopping any moment now for the catering. How about now writing press releases to send to media outlets? You can have teacher resources considered and a social media platform you have been priming for the launch. Remember your SWOT analysis though? You have already decided your skills and weaknesses and these will heavily influence your plans at this point.

Step 10.

Let’s jump right to the point when the books arrive…

You have planned for this moment! I can nearly picture you crying as you hold your book in your hands. It is incredible, overwhelming, exciting, intimidating and humbling. A cacophony of emotion and you’ve earnt every one of them.

Well, You did it! 


You are a published author. I told you that you could do this.

Who knows what glorious things await you after this point…


Have fun!

YHTR Step Ten

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You have the right to see your words in print! Step Nine

Illustration Process YHTR Blog Emma Mactaggart

9. Illustrate

I know I could illustrate a book if I chose to! Confidence for this comes from understanding that everyone can draw. Everyone. It is a universal skill and it is learnt. Those who are amazing illustrators do one thing I don’t – practice, practice, practice. For this reason alone, I now outsource and choose to commission an illustrator to prepare illustrations, which I then purchase. With a contractual agreement in place, I own the rights to use the images though the copyright remains that of the illustrator. I offset the cost of the illustrations through book sales, exhibitions and sale of the original illustrations once the book has been printed and speaking about this entire process in workshops and presentations! For me – it is worth it because I am not prepared to put in the time!

I am often asked where do you ‘find’ an illustrator? There is a magical source (which I have banned myself from because it is so distractingly beautiful!) called ‘The Style File’ where illustrators show their digital folios. I also suggest people go to their local university / tafe (if they offer graphic design or visual arts courses) and make sure you attend the end-of-year exhibition. Sing up for fabulous subscription eZines like Pass It On (profiles an illustrator each week). Of course, and a perfectly wonderful thing to do, is to go the National Gallery of Victoria and check out the Bunyips and Dragons exhibition…

You can approach any living illustrator and commission them to do illustrations for your book! Be brave, ask, and see how you go.

One fabulous hot tip if you are accepting the help from your lovely next door neighbour… Ask them for one sample and scan it. Make sure the image is a quality that can be reproduced. Often, a water colour, or a pencil image looks brilliant to the eye, but once scanned, seems to disappear!


Have fun!


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You have the right to see your words in print! Step Eight

YHTR Emma Mactaggart

8. Design

You are on your road to being a published author, and the best way of processing your ‘to do’ list from this point on is to think like a publisher. Determine in advance how you wish your book to present in the market place. Is it just an eBook on Amazon? Is it printed locally or overseas? Is it hard cover or paperback? It is going to be everything – including being an app and available on iTunes. The technology is there, right there in front of you. The determinant is your budget. How much money is allocated to the production of the book? Like everything in life, if you do the work and research and product development yourself, you spend your time and not so much money. If you outsource the whole process, you pay someone else to use their time on your project. Economics 101!

Spend time looking at other books. I can guarantee the book you are holding in your hand right now has had numerous printing quotes prepared for it; it has been weighed and the distribution costs associated with a carton weight / container weight has been factored in; the cost for the purchaser to send the book as a gift has been recognized (does the book fit a large envelope therefore attract the lowest postage fee?)

Did you want this same book to be an eBook? Was it a simple conversion? Do you have to outsource this process or are you prepared to spend the time understanding programs like Kindle Book Creator and the Amazon way? Did you want the book to become a truly enhanced experience, therefore a different product borne of your printed book?

And once you have determined all of this, can you translate it for the graphic designer – or are you setting up the book using Adobe InDesign or equivalent program?

Yes, this all takes time – but you want the best product to go to market don’t you? If you want it in the bookshelves in a bricks and mortar bookstore – it has to look as though it belongs there!


Have fun!

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You have the right to see your words in print! Step Seven

6. Edit

There is no way around this. By now, you have completely fallen in love with what you have created. (I was so tempted to write, ‘as you would a child’ and you can’t see the blemishes – but I don’t really want the possible feedback about psychology 101!)

Every time a family member or dearest friend reads it, they will look through rose-coloured glasses and tell you how fabulous you are and how clever you are proving to be! They are right.

You have, of course, followed some conventions of writing, haven’t you? You have already checked the punctuation, spelling and grammar is appropriate. The page layout is pertinent and you are lulling your reader into a state of comfort by allowing recognition of something familiar. ‘Ah, this indeed is a children’s picture book!’

Take a breath. Now, think… Without this emotional attachment, possibly (actually, it is highly likely) you may have been given some feedback of use? A word singled out that may strike a discordant note in your otherwise mellifluous manuscript? A query raised about a slight lack of credibility via the actions or intent of your main character? Questions raised rather than answered in response to your choice of location and time frame for an event? Has every single word earned its place? Does the language sound fluid and melodic? Does it make you feel like crying when you read it?

Outsource the editing and don’t spare any expense. It really is a black and white moment with no shades of grey! Editing is possibly the single identifier of work of quality. Lack of editing is symbolic of irreverence for your reader – they deserve the very best having invested their time and money into your work!


Have fun!


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You have the right to see your words in print! Step Six

6. Write

You may be described as a ‘pantser’ – someone who can make decisions, flying by the seat of their pants, embracing creativity as it strikes. You may be a ‘planner’ – someone who needs to methodically map out their story, using page numbers and a prescribed plot line. Neither is right or wrong, nor mutually exclusive. Really, the advice is to do what it is you need to do and however you need to do it!

Of course, it does involve striking a keyboard or pen to paper – words, more words, and even more words again. Approach the process with abandon. No-one ever needs to see the first (or thirtieth!) draft… It is yours and yours alone, so write. Words beget words and even if you get stuck, one word will naturally want to follow the one you already have on the page.

Each time you revisit the page, you will scrub and polish those words. For a children’s picture book, EVERY single word needs to have earned its place. Not one word is there by whimsy!

Personally, I write when I walk. It is such a pain! Ideas stew and develop and ferment, and occasionally, the glorious ‘one line’ which ties the entire story together ‘pops’ into my head – as I duck-waddle at a pace on my predetermined path! I can’t even start with pen to paper until I can ‘see’ page 32 (or, ‘the end’) It is as though the movie is completely distorted and I am turning the aperture to gain clarity. The haze starts lifting and when I write, it may only take an hour or so. It may have been months (or years!) in the haze!

Walking, computers, new notebooks, café’s… It fascinates me to hear people beg of authors to share their working routine in a bid to gain some insight into the ‘how’ of success – when really, it is already there right with you. Your way of working is the right way!

The only ‘mechanical’ approach that is of value is the idea of blocking out time to be creative. Like booking a long wished for adventure, allow yourself to go off grid, to leave your world as it is, and create. Culturally, we are so comfortable with the idiom ‘I am going to work’ or ‘I am at work’ and we know not to interfere or to persist with annoying that person with phone calls or personal issues… So apply that to your writing.

You are ‘at work’. So, now work!


Have fun!

Writing for YHTR Emma Mactaggart

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You have the right to see your words in print! Step Five

YHTR - Ideas - Emma Mactaggart

5. You need an idea!

Whaaaat! I hear you say! So late in the process!

You have already decided to create something from nothing haven’t you? Well, the actual idea of the topic or the subject matter doesn’t need to be determined until right now. Insane to shift the paradigm like this, but I am still struck with the bravado of Rachel Birmingham (4 Ingredients) when she said her goal was to be the Number One female author in Australia – she just hadn’t lifted a pen yet. She looked at the categories in the market selling, who was buying and what their number one ‘issue’ was. Cookbooks, busy women with no time… She needed a partner, enter cook Kim McCosker, and the rest, they say, is history!

I am going to be very lazy and simply link you now to Chapter One in my textbook ‘Child Writes: Creating a Children’s Picture Book is Child’s Play’. Don’t be distracted by the title! Having worked with hundreds and hundreds of children, the step by step methodology for creating a picture book is IDENTICAL to that used by adults!. I have simply used more appropriate examples for the different age groups.


Have fun!

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