Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Publishing and Lessons Learned

As you know by now, my whole life I have dreamt about publishing a children's book. From a young age, I've written dozens of stories. I've even illustrated many of them. I always wanted to do something with my writings, but I didn't know the first thing about publishing or how to even begin the process, so I just kept piling the stories in boxes, and kept on dreaming.

Around 2010, I wrote a silly little story about a boy named Mitchie who hated wearing socks and shoes because it made his feet so awfully itchy!! 4 years later, I was determined to do something with it. I began illustrating. Now, I would not call myself a "talented artist". I've always loved to draw and produce "art", but I've never taken professional classes or made it my primary study. But my mind was made up and I was pretty determined.

I drew all the illustrations in photopshop using a bamboo sketch pad. It took FOREVER, and I was proud of the result, but quite frankly, it was very amateur, and definitely not the best illustrations I could do with my set of abilities. And that's one of those "ah ha" lessons I learned and want to share with you:  The key to creating the best project possible is discovering your own strengths and using them to your advantage, or rather, working with what you've got.

What's the flip side of that? What's a bad idea? This: Trying to create "your best" product by doing things you're not good at. If there's something you want to be good at and aren't, maybe take a class and do some research first. OR, do what you want simply for the fun of it, knowing that it won't be your best, because that's ALWAYS Ok! 

So anyway... I found that I could produce much better illustrations using a stronger skill set that I have: Cutting Paper. Sounds pretty weird, but it is one thing I can do, so I worked with it.

Long story short, about a year later, I finished my new illustrations. Yes, it took an entire year and a LOT of patience. But another lesson learned: Be patient. Wait until you can really create your "masterpiece", don't let yourself get lazy or sloppy in whatever you are doing, just to finish the project already.  I'm SO glad I didn't get impatient and settle for something less than I knew I could do, just to get my "dream" checked off the to-do list.

In the past 2 years, I've had many people read my manuscript, and give me their feedback. I edited the story A LOT. I cut it down from 2,000 words to about 1,000 (the general recommended length for picture books - I say 'general' because children's book length is debatable depending on who you talk to.) That also took a lot of patience, and here's the lessons I learned: Have people you trust read your book. Be humble, open-minded, and take all suggestions into account. HOWEVER, don't rush to make all the changes they suggest. If you have enough people reading your stuff, you'll find that some of the things one person loves about it, another person hates. If you love what you wrote and around half of the people who read it love it, I say keep it! (and if you're the ONLY one who likes it, well, maybe you should change it).

So my little book was finally done. I I hired a graphic designer for 400 bucks to enhance the image color, provide small edits, and format the book for submission. I then submitted my book to createspace using their FREE service. I ordered a proof copy to look it over and make sure I was 100% satisfied, and then I was ready to officially publish!

Now, I did submit my book to about 10 publishing agents before self-publishing. There were a lot of helpful websites online for this about writing query letters and how to format them. (I felt so proud when I saw my first rejection letter, I almost shed a tear, "look at that! I'm a real aspiring author!") .. I plan to  continue querying agents and am anxiously waiting to hear back from Harper-Collins that they LOVE my book and just can't wait to sign a contract with me... But in the meantime :) ... my book is published on Amazon. Yay for self publishing!

It's been a long journey, but my first experience with publishing  has taught me so much. I learned a lot about editing my manuscript, the technical parts of uploading and scanning images, formatting, and working with a graphic designer. Perhaps the most important thing I learned was that patience and perseverance are KEY. Don't give up if you have to start over, or edit again, or change your story yet another time so it makes more sense. Keep going, keep working on it day by day, little at a time. Tell yourself you are going to devote 1 hour a day to your project. Or even 3 hours a week. Whatever you can do. I promise if you do that, you'll be surprised how fast you can finish it! Stop procrastinating. Whatever it is you want to do, give yourself a time limit of when you will complete it. Remember, you CAN do it!!

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