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Guest: Evan Swensen – How to get two books out of one idea


May 30, 2013 by Jen Cudmore

Guest post from Evan Swensen, author and former president of the Alaska Writers Guild. His company, Publication Consultants, has established a legacy of providing authors opportunities for expression, preserving histories and stories, and bringing joy to readers and writers; and, doing so in an atmosphere of mutual respect and integrity. If you’ve written a book, if you’re writing a book, if you’re thinking about writing a book, or if you know someone who is writing a book go to <>.

I Can Get Two Books Out of One Idea?

Of course you can get two books out of one idea. If our young author Heather Johnson can think up a variety of trans-media ways to get her stories out into the world, you yourself can learn how to make two books out of one.

It’s even been done before. For instance, Michael Pollan, who wrote the bestselling Omnivore’s Dilemma, published a young readers edition of his book in 2009.

Let’s take a look at your most recent book—perhaps it’s a memoir of your years as a baker that you have written for adults. There are some photographs. Your readers enjoy this, and it sells well.

So let’s say you strip the text down to the most elemental points of your story, somewhere between 800 and 1000 words. You storyboard and plan out 28-32 illustrated pages. Now you have a children’s picture book that tells a true story, your story, to an entirely new group of readers.

That’s how you get two books out of one idea. And that’s how you can reach out and double your number of readers.

Making two books out of one idea also doubles your possible book readings and events. Everyone enjoys having a real-live author visit schools and classrooms, and read to kids. The more often children are read to, the likelier it is that they will learn to love books, and will end up learning to read. It’s a win-win for everybody.

And don’t worry about doing the illustrations if you’re not an artist. That’s never been a requirement for a children’s book manuscript. On the other hand, one of our authors, Becky Clement, illustrates her children’s books with her great photographs. Another author, Shawn Rogers, created her illustrations by using construction paper on simple watercolor backgrounds.

If your photographic skills and crafts skills aren’t up to the needs of this second book from one of your ideas, I know some good artists and illustrators, so that detail can be worked out.

I look forward to seeing you create a second book from one of your existing books. It will be fun.


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