self publishing

If you have missed seeing any posts from me in a month, well, I have missed you too! This past month was “crunch” time for my third book. The illustrations were nearly completed (yes, I was blessed to have the same fabulous illustrator Loralyn), the text was written/changed/polished/proofread (thank you, Betsy) then checked against the text with which each will appear and then more changes made! Finally, a book mockup was given to my printer to obtain printing quotes. Since as of late Friday afternoon the illustrations are on their way from California to my hometown printer here in Warrenton via scan, I can take a mental breath for a few days until it’s time to sit down to iron out details with the printer.

A casual friend asked me the other day how I took my books from ideas to hard copies. I’ve been asked that question before at least a dozen times. So I gave it some thought and put it in writing for the first time. Here is what I told her:

When I first researched about trying to find an agent, I was disheartened to learn that unless you are already famous (think late-night hosts Jimmy Fallon and Seth Meyers and Today Show anchor Hoda Kotb ( you are someone on a social media platform with many thousands of followers, the big publishing companies are NOT interested in you. 

So I self-published. Yep, that means in addition to doing all the writing (story, copyright page, dedication page, author’s notes, back cover) I had to do all of this:

  • find an excellent proofreader (fortunately, I’m good at that as well as are my daughter and best friend, so no charge for that except love and gratitude!)
  • pay an accountant to learn about collecting tax and paying the Virginia government
  • decide on a price for the book
  • learn how to obtain an ISBN (International Standard Book Number. This 10 or 13-digit number identifies a specific book.)
  • learn how to download a barcode
  • figure out who I could ask to give a “blurb” for the back cover
  • find and pay my own illustrator (unless you are a talented artist yourself)
  • find and pay a high-quality professional printer who also does design and layout work
  • wait months for the illustrations since I am interested in high quality. I have a gem in my illustrator Loralyn!
  • read and re-read dozens of times the text with the pictures to make sure that the storyline you had envisioned for each illustration matches perfectly so that there is no disconnect for the kids
  • study to find what works on a children’s book cover that will resonate with the child as well as the adult buying the book
  • pay to have the completed illustrations scanned and dropped to the printer
  • work with the local printer to make sure everything is just so…may take several weeks
  • go over the actual proof copy of the book and pray you have caught everything that wasn’t correct before giving the OK for the printing to begin
  • store the printed books
  • market the books
  • try to get magazines and newspapers to interview me
  • try to find other places to sell my books
  • pay for Square POS credit card reader and pay the fee for card sales (lower than card merchants charge and no charge for cash sales run through their system). Square is a good record-keeping system for events.
  • pay my terrific website designer (Michelle Coe of BlueSkyPhoenix) to set up a page on the Square-related page so I can accept online orders and also pay to add author/illustrator/about the books pages on my site
  • fulfill online orders which includes driving packages to the post office
  • work long days at craft fairs for which you pay a vendor fee (I have paid a range from $40 to $150)
  • avoid saying yes to craft fairs or events that don’t have a solid history of marketing the event well (lesson learned)
  • schedule pre-sale of books at local schools and spend the day reading to small groups of kids at each school (this is my favorite and least costly way of selling books) I don’t charge an honorarium for local schools. 
  • volunteer at other places (like the Boys and Girls Club or Head Start) to do book readings without any sales just because it’s important to give back

You don’t get rich self-publishing since there are so many upfront costs associated with getting a book in the hands of readers. But when you reach the point of sitting in front of a group of children who are absolutely enthralled to be sitting in front of the woman whose name is on the front cover, that’s a different kind of payment. When children you’re reading to gleefully shout out answers as to whether a ferret could peel a carrot or a shark could picnic in a park, that’s a different kind of satisfaction. And when you have a little guy march up to your table at a craft fair and announce that he too wants to be an “aww thore” (that’s how he pronounced it!), that’s a heartful of bliss.