This might seem obvious, but it’s truly the first step. I had ideas/thoughts of writing a book for some time, but never the intention of actually doing so. And then one day, it just hit me and I made the decision to write my first book.
For me, this part came fairly quickly. Firstly, I was creating a children’s book – for young children, which meant minimal text. Secondly, I had been thinking about it a lot, but one night I got the main idea down on paper and just made adjustments from there. If you’re creating a novel or biography or such, this would be a very time consuming process.
This was extra tough for me. After some debate about whether I’d hire someone or do this myself, I took a leap and decided to handle this on my own. This was something I had never done before. I’ve done some drawing in school – well over a decade ago. And had barely done anything since. I do have a lot of experience on computers though and so I utilized that, my graphic design skills, and some amazing photos we had of Faith and got to work. Once I decided digital art was the smartest direction for me, I quickly decided an iPad was a good choice. But that was only the first step – I had to figure out a style and method that would capture Faith how I wanted as well as be “easy” enough for me to create. So I tested a bunch of styles and methods and honestly probably thought about it for about 4 months before something finally clicked. I chose a detailed tracing/coloring method that is VERY detailed and utilizes dozens of layers to create the final piece. Very time consuming, but it worked for me and I found it very therapeutic and enjoyable!
I weighed my options between traditional publishing, self-publishing and sort of a hybrid option, but ultimately landed on self-publishing. I knew it would be more work, but I was looking forward to the challenge and ultimately, after lots of research and talking with other authors decided it was the right path for me.
Now this piece was definitely optional, but after reading that sometimes having an LLC around your self-published book can be a great way to not only have a professional look and keep finances separate from personal accounts, I felt this was a good option for me. I also knew it would allow for more opportunities with my graphic design career. Creating the LLC was actually fairly simple, once I decided on a company name of course (that took some time!)
With every good business, you need a good logo. Designing your own logo is definitely tough and had it not been for my inspiration (Faith), I’m not sure I would have been able to tackle this on my own. However, having such a joyful dog as inspiration, I was able to create this logo. It was still a lot of work and I went through a lot of concepts and had several people weigh in. It came down to two versions that were very hard to choose between, but ultimately what you see on my website now was, of course, the winner.
I actually chose and bought the URL at the same time I thought of the company name (to make sure they could match) – which took place before I created the LLC. But sometime after creating the LLC, I took the time to start building my site. This is something I’ve done in my graphic design work, so it wasn’t new to me and not the most difficult task in comparison to everything else. Setting up and building the store took some more research since that was further out of my wheel house. But if you’re going to be a self-published author, a website of some sort is essential.
Nowadays social media is fairly essential. Sure you can get away without it, but you’d have to do a lot of leg work elsewhere. Social media has been helpful for me in creating an online presence, gaining awareness, gaining followers and really just a platform to shout “Hey, I made a book! Please spread the word and/or buy it!” And you can also create ads for small costs to test those waters out to see if that helps get your book out there. There are many social media platforms, but I went with Facebook, since I already knew that well, and Instagram because I knew it’s value and ease. There are others I may join at some point, but for now that’s enough for me to focus on. Without Facebook and Instagram I probably would have sold about 50 copies of my book and then be at a huge dead end.
Notice how I jumped away from the actual book for a while? Well, it only seems that way. Have you forgotten I said I chose a very lengthy art process? During all these other pieces, I’m also still working very hard (for 2+ years!) on the art. But now I’m nearing the finish line, so I decide to layout the book. Luckily, this is my strong suit. I may have not created a book before, but I’ve done tons of similar projects and have all the tools and knowledge to do this. So I start with a rough layout in InDesign and continue to tweak it over a few months and eventually get to the point where I can get some rough mock-ups printed at a local printer. So for me, this was a fairly easy step. Still time consuming, but if you didn’t have the knowledge and tools to do this, you almost certainly would need to hire someone. Or have a lot of extra patience and time to figure it out.
I had proof read the book and had others look prior to this time, but now I really took the time to proof the book. I had a couple other professionals proof-read for me, making a couple small tweaks as needed. And I had hard-proofs created to see how it actually looked and felt in print (or at least a rough idea since my book was going to be a board book).
This wasn’t too difficult, but for some reason it was a little scary. I had to decide on the price point, and basically make everything official. It feels “official” before it’s ready to be official.
“I found a printer.” Sounds simple, right? Well it wasn’t. Had I taken an easier route of a soft cover (or even hard cover) book, this would have been a lot less time consuming. But I really envisioned the book as a board book. I remember my young daughter destroying so many books and I always appreciated the board books because they just held up much better. But unfortunately these printers are very rare in the US and the one I knew of wasn’t accepting new orders. And the overseas companies were all charging so much for shipping that the books were going to cost a fortune. I actually almost gave up. But finally, I came across a company in Colorado that was actually more like a print management company. And they had the right connections and the right price, so I went for it!
After paying for a hard proof, deciding on the finish (matte with a spot gloss on the cover) and quantity, I told them to proceed with my order! This is a hard step. It is very scary to hit “order” on a project so dear and so costly. It’s high stakes and you REALLY want to make sure you didn’t make any mistakes in your text, art or layout. But once it’s done, there’s a little sigh of relief knowing what’s done is done. And then the patience to wait…I equate this to when you plan and plan a vacation of your dreams, finally hit purchase, and then suddenly it’s all over – and nothing to show…yet! You just have to try and not think about it for a while, calm down, and wait patiently!
Agh! The waiting…so hard! One downside to overseas, especially post COVID, is that unless you want to pay a fortune to have the books shipped via air, it takes quite some time. I think I was quoted 8-13 weeks, with no real guarantee since boats could get stuck at the port. Good thing there’s still a lot of work to be done to distract yourself!
Another perk of social media is that you can start things before you are ready to sell. Luckily I had a hard proof that I could photograph to get some nice images to use on social to “announce” the book and it’s upcoming arrival. Before I had the proof, I did some digital mock-ups that worked ok for a temporary option. This step was important to make sure that people knew who I was and what the book was before it arrived. This way, when Meet Faith arrived, I could expect sales since people were aware and anticipating the arrival.
There are many avenues for selling a self-published book from book stores, to Amazon, to selling on your own website and many others. I mostly researched those three options. (Print-on-demand is also an option for this and covering your printer, but not an option for board books. And not as ideal for a children’s book as print-on-demand is digital printing which doesn’t have the color vibrancy of offset printing). I had a LOT of difficulties with Amazon and without going into detail, in the end I decided to leave that – the time trying to get it sorted was excessive and the math said I’d make pennies from those sales. So I chose to do a couple of bookstores and utilize my website. The bookstores I waited until I had the books in hand, but I worked hard to get the website prepped and ready.
THE BOOKS ARE HERE!! This was very exciting and also a little comical. First of all, we have a usual UPS driver who was a bit shocked by our overly large order. Second of all, I happened to have about 4 extended family members around, so explaining that I swear it wasn’t planned was kind of funny. So I was very lucky they arrived on the day they did, because it was a lot of boxes to get in the house and then a lot to count through, but everyone was more than willing to help. And boi…opening that first box and seeing the first book was nerve racking, but oh-so-exciting!! (The first book went to my best friend Jenni as promised!)
It was so exciting to get the books into my online store and to start selling them. Fulfilling orders was something I learned on the go, but with each package I got more efficient and figured out the best ways to package, label and ship. Every time I get an order, it brings a smile to my face. Knowing that someone out there is choosing to spend their money on something I created, as well as knowing Faith’s story is being told and shared with children all over is such a joy 🙂