Interested in self-publishing a children’s book? Want to know if it’s worth it and if you can remain sane in the process?
Well, what do they say about working with animals and children? Toss that into a blender with endless days at the computer and even more endless days promoting and marketing one teensy book, on your lonesome in a sea of mass-produced mass-marketed publishing-house-produced tomes and you can imagine remaining sane won’t be easy.
It all started out innocently enough – back in the days when I was sane. I wrote a kids’ book for my children while living in China, where printing is cheaper than chewing gum and thousands of expats, flush with cash and a low-cost-of-living similarly want an adorable book for their kids as a memento to take home at the end of their posting.
Riley and the Sleeping Dragon: A journey around Beijing went home with a lot of expat kids. Thousands, in fact, and more are still buying it up big in several Chinese cities.
It was a win-win situation back there in China. But bringing this book home to Australia in January 2009 – well, that was a whole other kettle of dumplings. I honestly thought the book would disappear faster than spare cash at a Beijing tourist market. It’s testament to the Australian love of travel that the book did really well here – and my second book in the Riley series has done similarly well – set in Hong Kong with a Dancing Lion.
And now, Australia – it’s your turn. Riley and the Curious Koala sees my intrepid little aviator visit Sydney in the about-to-be-released third book in the Riley series (out November 21)… and although the series is still doing really well, and each book is easier and easier to write and produce, I still wonder what on earth I am doing. Short of the actual binding and delivering of books around the country myself – every element of my books is either self-created or self-managed. And there is no team to help. Just a pile of washing and dinner to cook at the end of a 12-hour day.
You see, self-publishing a children’s book isn’t a hobby. Not if you want to affect children, that is. Not if you want to pull them up by their trekking socks and send them careening to other lands. Not if you want to delight them and enthral them and encourage them to adventure and travel beyond the realms of their imagination. No no… it’s a full time job, this self-publishing thing. And then some. It’s all-encompassing, all-involving, all-pervading… it’s night and day, month after month and it never ends.
Another thing about self-publishing is that it really isn’t about money (so if that’s your goal – get out now) – it’s about total creative license. It’s about loving what you do so much, you’re willing to forgoe money, prestige, even ‘credibility’ of sorts (in terms of forgoing a ‘real’ publisher) in order to do something you so totally believe in, you’ll work your fingers to the bone and your thighs to a fat farm.
Yes, you will give up leg-shaving and window-washing for it. Yes, you will.
Self-publishing is also for you if you can manage working with children and animals. I love the critters in my Riley books but I must say they’re a challenge to keep under control. Panda is adorable but he’s always hungry. Dragon – he’s a darling, but he sleeps all day long. Lion is just the sweetest, but he just can’t sit still. And koala – well… don’t believe everything you hear about koalas – he’s a trickster if I ever did meet one.
So how do you self-publish a children’s book and remain sane? Well, the answer is quite simply – you don’t. You let go. You run with it and cruise with the flow and let the madness envelope you. You immerse yourself in the passion and succumb to the intense drive to make it work. You lock into auto-pilot and fly blind… following senselessly a need that defies logic and an easy road and all things linear.
Self-publishing is a full time job. It’s relentless and it demands respect and excellence. It’s not easy, but like many things in life that take consummate effort and the frenzied gathering of scraps of self-belief, when it comes together – oh my, it is something special.
When a child laughs, points, gasps, questions or just sits in wide-eyed wonder as you flip each page of your book in seeming slow motion, and the hairs on your arms stand up and you pause in your reading to gather yourself together because tears are pricking your eyes and you realise, in that one short nanosecond that this is what you were born to do…
Well, that is when you know self-publishing is for you. That, and the ability to work with children and animals. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.