Hello, 2022! Hello, readers!
Some of us are full speed ahead with new goals and intentions, potentially with one foot in and one foot out, or cautiously baby-stepping into uncharted territory. I remember all of those feelings when I entered into self-publishing three years ago. When people ask about my writing journey, I often get asked the same questions. Today, I’m answering those questions.
Let's start at hello...
Hello, Aspiring Author!
I've been there, done that. Actually, I’m still doing that. It's a journey. The wheels are better oiled now, but the road is windy and bumpy. Care to join me? Buckle up and let's chat!
How did you come up with a story idea for a children's book?
If you've been around any child for an extended period of time, you're bound to giggle at something they do or say, or you may find yourself looking at life through their eyes, even for a brief moment. Pay attention because there is a story, insight or lesson in these moments. It's that simple. That's truly how it happened for me.
What's a realistic budget when producing a children's book?
That's like asking how long a piece of string is - it really depends! My advice is to be realistic with how much you are willing to put into this project, and work around that number. Make a list of all the necessary services required to launch your book. Shop around when it comes to any outside service like editing, formatting, illustrative design, printing etc. Ask other authors for recommendations that fit within your budget, and dust off your contact list to see if anyone could be a potential help.
*Tip* To be more cost-effective with design, I reached out to Design & Illustration college programs to see if any grad students were interested in a side project/job, or potentially an internship. I didn't end up pursuing this, but it's an example of thinking outside of the box and shopping around for all options.
How do you go about finding an illustrator?
I mentioned reaching out to college programs as one of the ways I explored an illustrator, but I also took advice from my editor who has worked with many different artists. Again, dusting off your contact list or simply talking about your project with others can lead to a candidate. Join relevant social media groups and you will be instantly connected to artists, designers and illustrators. I've also heard positive reviews about "Upwork" - an online platform that helps to connect businesses with all types of talent. Be clear about your creative vision and you'll find the right illustrator.
Is it necessary to hire an editor?
Simply put, YES! No matter how confident you are in your writing abilities, working with an editor is truly invaluable. Editing goes beyond dotting i's and crossing t's; it's an objective set of eyes that look at story structure and fluidity, character development and any "holes" in the plot. A successful collaboration between an author and editor results in a story that's better than you originally imagined.
Can I actually make a living out of writing?
I've had to re-frame this question in my own brain many times. I've also broken down short-term versus long-term goals. The "starving artist" trope has certainly earned its title, but that can be true for any start of an entrepreneurial endeavor.
When it comes to your first book, ask yourself what would make it a success? Is it to hit the best-seller list? Is it to leave a legacy for yourself? Is it to help someone or be part of a bigger community? Is it to release pain or provide a sense of catharsis? Is it to see a certain number in your bank account? The point is, there are so many ways to define success. Being honest with myself about my writing motivation has helped me to re-frame my financial and creative goals.
Think about short-term versus long-term goals. There's a reason I keep referring to this process as a journey. You might not be able to see the financial gains you were hoping for with your first book launch, or first few, but that's part of the longer journey. Think about your favourite books/authors, and I bet it took one "big break" along the way, or a steady pace that eventually led to their financial independence.
To sum up, (no financial pun intended), I treat my writing pursuit as a journey. I’m clear about my short-term versus long-term goals, and I remind myself that most businesses take a loss in the beginning. With patience and perseverance, there is potential to make this your career.
Should I publish independently, or go traditional with a literary agent?
There isn‘t a one-size-fits-all formula for publishing, or any business for that matter. I know plenty of authors who have gone the literary agent route, started one way with their first book and transitioned a different way later on, or embarked solo with self-publishing. You can find blog posts and articles that will define each of these methods for you, but again, having conversations with other authors will give you a first-hand perspective on what makes sense for you.
For me, I decided to self-publish because I wanted full control over the creative process and final output. Me: "Type-A perfectionist" wanting full control? Shocking! I essentially steer the ship, but rely heavily on all the experts around me. Self-promotion continues to be my biggest challenge, (ironically given my advertising background), but I recognize that vulnerability doesn't come easily for me. I‘ll say it again...it's a journey!
I've never done anything like this before. Do I really have what it takes to be a published author?
Imposter Syndrome. I know this all too well. We are our worst critics and self-judgement experts. Self-doubt is possibly my greatest sport. However, if you've ever followed a 50-page instruction guide for "easy-to-assemble" furniture, I'm here to tell you - YOU'VE GOT WHAT IT TAKES!
The hardest part is getting out of your own way. Once you step aside, or rather step into your passion, you will be amazed at how much you can accomplish. I did it with zero experience in the publishing industry, and you can do it too!
Ready? This is your stop, or should I say, start…Safe travels!
...and as always, happy reading!