multicultural/multilingual children’s books… Oh my…

International publisher/speaker Karl Beckstrand is the award-winning author of fifteen books and more than 40 online titles (reviews by Kirkus, The Horn Book blog, School Library Journal, ForeWord Reviews). Raised in San Jose, California, USA, he received a B.A. in journalism from BYU, an M.A. in international relations from APU, and a film certificate from Film A. Academy. Two publishers produced his early titles; since 2004 he has run Premio Publishing & Gozo Books. An engaging speaker, consultant, and workshop facilitator, Beckstrand has experience in high tech, public policy, film, radio, and TV broadcasting. He teaches media at a state college and contrasts traditional publishing with digital publishing (in English or Spanish). His e-book mysteries, nonfiction/biographies, Spanish & bilingual books (with pronunciation guide), and app feature diverse characters and usually end with a twist. He has lived abroad, been a Spanish/English interpreter, and enjoys volleyball and kayaking (usually not at the same time). Beckstrand’s multicultural work has appeared in: Baker & Taylor, Barnes & Noble/Nook, Border’s Books, Brodart, Costco, Deseret Book, EBSCO, Follett, iBooks, Ingram, Kindle/Amazon, Kobo, Mackin, Overdrive, Quality Books, The Children’s Miracle Network, The Congressional Record of the U.S. House of Representatives, Papercrafts Magazine, LDS Film Festival, and Find: “Karl Beckstrand” on FB, Amazon, Twitter, and

                                                                                    Premio Publishing & Gozo Books, LLC


Sizzle Quote: His first publisher passed away the day his first book was to print (or: How technology is turning publishing on its head)

How long have you been writing? Since 1991. I began writing by accident (I didn’t used to like to write). Stories just kept coming to me.

 Give us a bit of your background. I’m from San Jose, California, but I’ve lived in a lot of places—including South America. I have a B.A. in journalism from BYU, an M.A. in international relations from APU, and a certificate in broadcasting and film. I was published by two companies (my first publisher died the day we were going to print!). In 2004 I opened Premio Publishing. I teach media at a state college (Utah) and speak on traditional vs. digital/self-publishing.

Where do your ideas come from? I’ve never had writer’s block. I am constantly ambushed by story ideas—things I see people do, or things my family says; I scribble them on scraps of paper and file them. I try to use the cleverest ones (I have more ideas than time to write them).

What are some of the books you have on your nightstand—or name favorite authors? I love history, so anything by David McCoullugh is ideal. Other authors I love: Tolkien, Harper Lee, C.S. Lewis, Clancy, Grisham, and Joseph Smith

Who were your early writing influences? Who or what has inspired you during your career and ignited your imagination? I didn’t like to read as a kid. When I got the measles in the third grade, my grandmother bought me a chapter book: Bicycles North: A Mystery on Wheels by Rita Ritchie. I learned that books can transport and excite (textbooks still seem dull). I love Shel Silverstein. Some of his contemporaries captured the same whimsical feeling in The Golden Book of Fun and Nonsense by Louis Untermeyer, illustrated by A. and M. Provensen (Western Publishing, now Random House?). Untermeyer collected some of the silliest verse from brilliant writers of the previous hundred years. He added his own wacky lines and the Provensens crafted images to match the mirth.

What is your favorite genre to write? I’m enjoying putting together biographies of late (mostly family stories). They inspire me.

What is your favorite genre to read? I love suspense.

Please share about your book. My newest picture book is The Dancing Flamingos of Lake Chimichanga. I also have a new suspense novel set in the Nevada silver rush: To Swallow the Earth. I inherited the manuscript from someone who grew up exploring the Sierra Nevada Mountains on horseback nearly a hundred years ago. My challenge was to develop the characters while preserving the action and authentic vernacular.


 If you could sum your main character into five words, what would they be? Outcast, rebel, different (half-Mexican, raised by Indians), loyal, fearless. In addition to a tough, dark hero, there’s a gutsy female lead who’s unintimidated in the worst kinds of opposition.

Can you summarize the plot? What if you came home after a journey and your family was no longer there? What if someone else was living in your house, running what you used to manage—and trying to kill you? Could a beautiful woman be behind it? Wade Forester has to stay in the shadows. His father has disappeared, and his sister won’t speak to anyone. Patricia Laughlin is searching for her family as well. Few people gain her trust or approval. Wade must decide if risking his life to help Patricia means aiding the enemy. And Patricia must choose a killer to trust with her life.

Is there a book trailer for your book? Yes, it’s here:

Why should we read your book? A man and a woman clash amid a Nevada silver rush scheme that leaves both unsure who to trust—and scrambling to stay alive. Enter a mystery that will make your heart pound and fill your lungs with the “rarefied air” of the old Sierra Nevadas.

 How many books have you written, and how many of those have been published? I have written about 30 books; fifteen have been published (because of translations I have about 43 titles out).


Can you tell our readers how you were suddenly forced to take over the publishing and marketing of your first book rather unexpectedly? My first publisher was local–in the Salt Lake City area. The day we were to print my first book, he passed away from a sudden illness. I had to learn the ropes of publishing and marketing as a neophyte. With lessons from the first book, I self-published my second; then another publisher asked to write my third. Self-publishing wasn’t easy, but new online options I’ve managed to get a nice return.

What were the biggest challenges when you started to set up Premio Publishing and how did you overcome them? Having enough titles to get a major distributor to look at our offerings–and financing hard cover printing. I wrote a lot and found artists that were willing to accept a percentage of profits over an advance, then cranked out several books. (Today, with POD this is more affordable.)

Why do you prefer the self-publishing process? Can you outline the pros and cons of self-publishing for our readers? Technology has turned publishing on its head. Now, instead of sending a manuscript to a publisher and waiting several months for a response (often a rejection), authors can publish at very little cost and retain control of content and profits. It’s easy to find an affordable Print-on-Demand service online. This way, you can get a good idea of demand before you invest in a large print run (ebook demand is a good indicator too). All of this depends on the quality of your work and on your marketing efforts (which publishers always required of authors anyway). I’m excited about the books we have coming up.

Can small publishers make a mark on literature and the book market? How? I have found that technology has revolutionized book sales. My revenues were low until I started POD and ebooks. Fortunately, these technologies are available to even small publishers (and are more global in reach).

What are some of your books? The Dancing Flamingos of Lake Chimichanga – ISBN 978-1512161786 A Sky So Big (Romance, suspense) 978-0692426777, To Swallow the Earth (Western thriller) 978-0692407974, Polar Bear Bowler: A Story Without Words 978-0692220962, Ma MacDonald Flees the Farm – It’s not a pretty picture … book 978-0692220979, Bright Star, Night Star: An Astronomy Story 978-0615856155, No Offense: Communication Guaranteed Not to Offend (Humor) 978-0615856162, Arriba Up, Abajo Down at the Boardwalk (opposites 978-0615688237, Crumbs on the Stairs – Migas en las escaleras: A Mystery ISBN 978-0977606597, Sounds in the House! Sonidos en la casa 978-0615442303, Bad Bananas: A Story Cookbook for Kids 978-0977606511, She Doesn’t Want the Worms! Ella no quiere los gusanos 978-0977606528, Anna’s Prayer 978-1599921136, It Ain’t Flat: A Memorizable Book of Countries (free ebook).

 What projects are you working on now, or plan for the future? I’m working on another novel, a graphic novel, biographies, and more multicultural/multilingual children’s books: The Christmas House is a non-fiction picture book of my Christmas memories. Agnes’s Feet is a non-fiction story of a girl who walked a thousand miles across the plains and into the Rocky Mountains in blizzard conditions (much of the way without shoes). Muffy & Valor is a true story of doggie courage and friendship as I witnessed it as a child. I’m also working on a graphic novel.

Where can people find you/your work? Titles available via Amazon/Kindle, Baker & Taylor, Barnes & Noble/Nook, Brodart, EBSCO, Flipkart, Follett, Gardners, iBooks, Ingram, Inktera, Kobo, Library Direct, Mackin, OverDrive, Quality, SCRIBD, and txtr.

What “Made It” moments have you experienced in life? First book and book signing. Bright Star, Night Star: An Astronomy Story hit #2 on Amazon’s Hot New Children’s Books list (opened #5 Feb. 2014) and won a 2014 UP Author’s design award. She Doesn’t Want the Worms – Ella no quiere los gusanos named in top 10 “Best Books” of 2011 – ForeWord Reviews Magazine and featured in School Library Journal. Crumbs on the Stairs – Migas en las escaleras: A Mystery consistently ranks in Amazon’s top 10 bestselling books for ESL, large print, and Spanish children’s titles. Bad Bananas: A Story Cookbook for Kids praised in Horn Book’s blog. Bilingual app/book Sounds in the House was given a nod by Kirkus Reviews.

Do you have a favorite comment or question from a reader? I love it when someone says a book I wrote held them captive—or that the twists were totally unexpected.

How different is your approach? Is there one type that you most enjoy creating? I think the easiest writing involves those stories that just come (where the writer feels like a scribe, simply writing what comes to him/her). For non-fiction I have to research and get the facts right, as well as create a good beginning, middle, and end. These books are rewarding to me because they preserve true acts of courage and faith for new generations to witness. Then there are rewrites—lots of polishing. In my genre I have to grab the attention of both children and the adults (who buy and read the books).

 What kind of advice or tips to you have for someone who wants to write and get published? Write every day. Get an editor. Use the latest technology and services to get your books available POD and in ebook form—also to market them. Write from your heart—from what you know first-hand. Don’t try to write about something that you think is popular (unless that is what you know). You don’t have to have an agent or publisher. Have several people critique your work—people who won’t gloss over glitches. These people can help you be your best.

 How much of your personality and life experiences are in your writing? My books are my life laid out in color (you may note my obsession with food, since it finds its way into most of my books).

What is your writing schedule? I write or research every day—usually in the morning—though half of my work is marketing and business correspondence.

What do you do when you are not writing? Marketing, studying, volleyball, socializing, and making music

 How do you publicize your books? Press releases, TV/radio appearances, social media, web site, personal appearances/presentations; any way I can!

Do your books have a teaching objective? Yes. I write mostly to save families from “I’m bored” disease. But yes, my stories teach language, counting, courage, friendship, sharing, faith, cooking, astronomy, geography, and entomology.

How did you develop the character/s of your in each of your books (If you have more than one)? I write mostly from my own experiences and often use people I’ve known.

 Are there any problems in getting children’s’ books published? Lots of competition, that is why I add unique things, like bilingual mysteries, characters of color, and online secrets.

Do you create other materials with the books? I have a bilingual app of Sounds in the House, and I’m working on having an audio book and a graphic novel.

 What kinds of publishers should authors avoid? Be wary of any entity that wants an investment of $200 or more up front (outside of actual printing costs) and any entity that is not using the latest technology and platforms.

Does an author have to have an agent? How does a writer find an agent? I landed a dud of an agent, and haven’t looked for another (not using the first). An author should always market—and sometimes that is sufficient. Ask for referrals (look in the acknowledgements of a book like yours).

How should an author query? I recommend getting a referral—unless you have some great titles/reviews/sales already. I no longer advocate query letters for publishing houses (but perhaps for an agent). An agent looks for great titles/reviews/sales. Have a letter that hooks!

Is there always an editor signed to the author? Publishers should have in house editors (don’t rely on these alone). Have as many as 20 people review, critique, edit your work—always.

Is there a marketing budget for new authors? It is never enough (most publishers don’t do very well in this department).

 What should an author know about their publisher’s distribution sources? LOTS. Sometimes getting your book in certain venues is up to you (just be careful not to jar publisher egos in the process).

Can books usually be purchased from the publisher? Some publishers give advanced copies. All should offer wholesale rates to the author and others.

Do all publishers assist the author in exploiting their subsidiary rights? Not always.

What should be considerations should be given to the book’s cover art? Some publishers want total control. If you know what is right and will work, be assertive. The cover is key. Don’t skimp.

What should an author know about royalties? They are low (5 – 10%. This is why I recommend self-publishing)

 Should sample books be distributed to various reviewers, newspapers, bookstore owners, retailers, and radio stations? Absolutely. Be choosey about who gets a review copy—this can get expensive. Try sending an ebook.

Can you tell the writers the purpose of a publicist? How does a writer get one? A publicist helps when you’re wildly popular (or helps you get there if your work is good enough to make you wildly popular). Many people will accept pay to do this (but if you’re going to hire one, try to get one with a great reputation in your genre).

Do most publishers provide posters? Shelf talkers? Bookmarks? They do if they think the book will do very well. Bookstores are not where most book sales take place. Most sales take place in unusual venues, associated venues (like a Crate & Barrel for cookbooks) and online.

How long does it take to make a name a publishing house in the industry? I think establishing one’s reputation is an ongoing process. It’s nice to have enough titles to get distributors’ attention.

Is there a story you want to tell but avoid because it would be too controversial?Perhaps my own story. But then, whose life isn’t loaded with drama?

If you could go anywhere in the world to research an upcoming book, where would you want to go? Greece—I’ve been near, but have yet to enter that island paradise.

Do you select the illustrators? Who does the art? I illustrated Crumbs on the Stairs and It Ain’t Flat, Bad Bananas was illustrated by Jeff Faerber, Sounds in the House by Channing Jones, Anna’s Prayer by Shari Griffiths, and She Doesn’t Want the Worms by David Hollenbach, Why Juan Can’t Sleep and Bright Star, Night Star were done by Luis F. Sanz, Polar Bear Bowler and The Dancing Flamingos were done by Ashley Sanborn, Ma MacDonald was illustrated by Alycia Mark.

Anything else you would like to add? I love to share stories in person (and with groups). I do free 20-minute Skype sessions anywhere.

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