U tell me if uTales is cool – FREE trial!

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It is picture book month, but these days picture books come in different formats, unlike during our childhoods. Over the past few months I have been converting from a fairly negative stance towards eBooks for the very young, to a position of appreciation of their place, amongst different options, to encourage a love of story among young children. I do not believe the form of the traditional picture book is in any way dead (and this desserves its own post), but I personally want to embrace, with discernment, the benefits eBooks and Apps, and see how I can contribute to this form of children’s storytelling.

However, maybe like me, you are not tremendously tech-savy, and in my case, much to my chagrin, no artist. I confess to no small amount of envy for author/illustrators! Where does that leave those of us who might want to consider getting into the eBook world, while still pursuing traditional publishing hopes, but really don’t know how?

Enter stage left, a new startup, which is truly answering some of these questions. uTales was launched a couple of weeks ago by a Swede, called Nils von Heijne. It is a subscription based picture book service. For $9.99 per month you have permanent access to the uTales picture book library, or you can buy eBooks on an individual basis. At present there are around 150 books in English, but I am seing new books added almost daily and uTales has plans to expand this to be a multilingual resource, which I am very excited about. Some of the books have sound effects and some are interactive, but I confess I often forget to even look for this. All this is FREE for a 15 day trial period, so don’t take my word for it, check it out!

This is an exciting new concept that is a win win for readers and writers and/or illustrators. Parents with young kids have a portable library of picture books available on iPad, iPhone and computer. Authors, author/illustrators and illustrators, all now have the opportunity to present their work to the public, instead of, or as well as, waiting for that elusive contract! This is getting quality picture books out into the market, that might otherwise never be seen. There are many great storytellers out there! You should at this point be asking the question, “Well, what about the quality issue, Joanna?”. This was indeed my first question on discovering uTales. I was very happy to read that there is an editorial panel, headed up by the skilled and exprienced Emma D Dyrden, of Drydenbks, which vets every book. Every manuscript goes through some serious editorial control, and there are clear parameters of what is expected of a submission to uTales (see a recent post of Emma’s on this). Judge for yourselves during your free trial, but I think you will discover that the overall quality is of a high standard and offering well-illustrated stories that children will want to reread (the golden test of any good picture book). I know I have reread several times, my two personal favorites, ‘This is Marcy’ by Mark Weinstein and a retelling of ‘The Ugly Duckling’ by Hazel Mitchell. I should add, that the submission process is free for the story creators and then, if accepted, they receive a percentage of the subscriptions, based on number of views of their story.

If, like me, you don’t feel confident to do the artwork yourselves, you can joing the uTales collaborators page on Facebook and hook up with an artist. I am very excited about this initiative and hope publishers will be taking note! I am wondering if some of the hundreds of ideas being created through PiBoIdMo may evolve into uTales stories? I personally am trying to focus on writing some simpler, shorter stories for the 2-5 year old group, and will link up with an illustrator to have a go.

Two final important aspects in this project are: uTales has partnered with Pencils of Promise, a nonprofit founded in 2008, that has since built 30 schools in villages around the world. uTalers can choose to give a part of their earnings to Pencils of Promise. Battling global illiteracy gets a big yes vote from me! Secondly, it is a startup, and as such is open to new ideas and evolving all the time.

Whether an author or a parent, the trial period is free, so you have nothing to lose!

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26 Responses to U tell me if uTales is cool – FREE trial!

  1. I have been wondering whether or not to click on that free-trial-for-uTales email I received. You’ve persuaded me to give it a go!

    I’d known that Emma Dryden was solidly behind it, which speaks volumes in uTales favor right there. Knowing that Hazel has a book there is another good reason!

    The Pencils of Promise partnership sends it over the top.

    Thank you for this post, Joanna.

  2. Joanna says:

    Beth, you have nothing to lose giving the free two weeks a go, and I think you will be impressed and hopefully inspired by what you see.

  3. This sounds amazing, I just might give it a go! Thanks so much for sharing Joanna.

  4. Joanna says:

    You’re welcome, Catherine, I think it is worth promoting amongst our writing friends.

  5. I, too, got an invitation for the trial but hadn’t followed through on it. Now I will!

    Question: do you have to collaborate with an illustrator in order to submit a story? Seems like a lot of work and risk for the illustrator if it’s not accepted…

  6. Joanna says:

    Julie, this is an excellent question! I think that you should ask this on the uTales collaboration page on Facebook. Nils and Emma respond to questions very rapidly there.

  7. Janet Smart says:

    This sounds interesting. Things are changing so rapidly now a days in the publishing world. My children are all grown now, but my oldest (who is now 31) would have loved this when he was a child. Even back then, he was all into computers and the learning games, which were in the early stages back then.

    • Joanna says:

      Janet, eBook for really small children is quite a radical paradigm shift for many of us, but I do believe if quality is maintained and the focus is still to provide a good story, not necessarily lots of extra bells and whistles, then we need to keep these doors open. Thank you for commenting 🙂

  8. Patricia Tilton says:

    I too read Emma Dryeden’s post, but didn’t realize her involvement. I’m happy to know there is an editorial review, as well as a place for those of us to go for help in illustrations. I have received to trial offers by e-mail. Need to check it out. Thank you for sharing so much more information. I have a much better understanding. Excellent post.

  9. Joanna says:

    Pat, I sent out a handful of invites from uTales to my writer friends! Yes, the editorial input is very reassuring, without this, I would not be contemplating involvement. Glad the post was helpful.

    • Good to know where the invite came from! The space that should have indicated a name was blank. When I saw your post, I realized the invite was likely from you.

      I signed up yesterday, and read Hazel’s book and found it delightful.

      • Joanna says:

        Beth, so glad you signed up. Hazel did a great job on that book, and in fact won an iPad as it was a competition that uTales were running.

        Aha, I assumed my name would be linked to those invites, hadn’t realized they were going out anonymously!

  10. Susanna says:

    I’ve been seeing uTales mentioned around the internet, but confess I hadn’t taken the time to really look into it, so I’m grateful for your post. It sounds very interesting! With someone like Emma Dryden at the helm it’s bound to be quality, and it wounds like an exciting opportunity for both authors and illustrators!

  11. Hey Joanna, also check out MeeGenius, storybook apps for phones and computers. A friend of mine who does picture books has had a lot of success with this outfit, and I think it’s really cool, because it’s somewhat interactive (it teaches kids to read by highlighting the words as they are read aloud). You hook up with an illustrator via SCBWII message boards and then send them a proposal; I think they also run contests. Look into it.

  12. Joanna says:

    Gail, thanks for the tip about MeeGenius, I will definitely check it out.

  13. Ahhh saw the uTales and passed it by not knowing much about it. Now you have explained it so well, I now understand. What a cool idea. (like what they have done with the Campaign Challenge stories).
    One question: Can one download an ebook to their computor, if not what do they need?
    Will definiately look into this, thanks Joanna.

  14. Joanna says:

    Diane, after the free trial one can either sign up for a monthly subscription or buy and download individual books to iPad, Iphone or computer.

  15. Hello Joanna, I am so glad I found your blog, which I like very much. I am an illustrator and was an early contributor to uTales with my book Fine Life For A Mouse. I have invited many of my artist friends to check it out and maybe participate, and a few have taken my advice. Like you, I am very impressed with Mark Weinstein’s books!
    I am so glad that you’re a SCBWI member; that organization has taught me so much of what I needed to know about children’s books, and now I volunteer as Illustrator Coordinator for my regional chapter, MD/DE/WV.
    I’d like to mention the fairly young publishing company of Sylvan Dell Publishing. I found them through SCBWI, and am so lucky that they’ve hired me to illustrate a book a year for the last four years — I am working on one now. They publish only picture books, take submissions only via email, and have an educational theme to each book.

    • Joanna says:

      Susan, how lovely to meet you. I shall pop over to your website as soon as I have finished this. I have read Fine Life For A Mouse and loved both story AND illustrations. I have just finished a rhyming manuscript, the main protagonist of which is a mouse. I am in the process of trying to find an illustrator via the uTales FB page.

      SCBWI has been the best thing in my writing journey so far. I went to the summer conference in LA and was blown away by the warmth of the kidlit community! I shall surely check out Sylvan Dell Publishing. Many thanks for the recommendation. I have a couple of educational manuscripts on the backburner!


  16. Darshana says:

    Hi Joanna,
    Loved your book. Just signed up for the 15-day trial. So it seems like the author is responsible for partnering up with an illustrator and submitting a complete package. Is there any editing that goes on after they accept your story/art?
    Congrats again!

  17. Joanna says:

    Yes. Obviously you need your story to have gone through a few rounds of critique with your crit partners and be sure it is in good shape, then you find an illustrator. There is a super FB collaboration page set up for just this. Once complete you submit to the uTales editorial panel (run by Emma Drdyen) and then they give feedback and editorial suggestions if needed, and I believe you can resubmit the same book two more times before it hopefully is published. We had two suggestions when we submitted yesterday.

    a) to increase font size to it could be easily read on iPhones, and
    b) for me to delete a preposition for better rhyme flow in one sentence.

    Having made these changes, our story was accepted.

    Thank you for your encouragement, Dar. Do join the FB page, if you want to learn a little more. It is Utales Collaborations on FB.

  18. Pingback: Picture Book Published – SNOW GAMES | Miss Marple's Musings

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