Why I’m self-publishing my children’s book.

Fourteen years ago I sold a short story. It was called Getaway Car and was the first piece of fiction I’d ever completed. I was thirty two years old.

I say ‘sold’. I didn’t receive anything other than a contributor copy of the magazine and the extraordinary feeling of achievement that accompanied it.

Since then, getting my work published has been difficult – as I assume it is for everyone in this too-often soul-crushing business. But, like anyone who has no other goal than to get their stories to greater and greater numbers of readers, I kept at it.

The siren song of self-publishing has always been there in the background. I’ve been tempted. Like a man dying of thirst in a desert, I’ve walked on with the oasis of self-publishing ever-taunting me from just over the next rise. I didn’t give in.

The eBook ‘revolution’ made self-publishing even easier. Suddenly, successful self-published authors with loud voices and unassailable poise did their best to persuade those dinosaurs among us, still traditionally published, to buck the yoke of those nasty old corporates and go it alone.

Fairytale stories of authors who had made their work available online for free became common, their huge download numbers leading on to massive deals with the same entities they’d originally waved two fingers at.

There was even a phase in all this – more linked to the perceived selling-power of the internet than to actual self-publishing but nevertheless closely related – during which traditional publishers themselves, believing they’d discovered some marketing grail, began to turn away new authors who didn’t gaudily parade themselves on blogs and social media. Thankfully, I think we’re past that now and a reasonable level of author-discoverability appears to be sufficient.

Somehow, often convinced I was the biggest idiot on the planet, I blundered on. I concentrated as best I could on writing the kind of stories and novels I would love to read; not the kinds of stories that I believed would sell but those whose subject matter would feed and sustain the fire in my writer’s hearth.

A couple of years ago, I started writing children’s stories with and for my daughter. I read them to the children in her school to rapturous appreciation. It was suggested by a teacher that I could share my knowledge of story-writing and so I put together my first workshop. Combined with the reading the stories aloud to school children, the workshops have been a great success and more are planned.

As usual, even with my agent sending the stories out, we couldn’t interest publishers. There’s no way to convince a commissioning editor that children and teachers love your work so much that they laugh their heads off and beg for more. Editors, like all decision-makers, like to make decisions for themselves.

The thing about this particular story is that it is intrinsically connected to my workshops and reading from a manuscript just isn’t good enough.

Which brings me to a piece of news:

After fifteen years of resisting it, today I signed a self-publishing contract – for The Hairy Faerie.Hairy Faerie Front Cover only-page-001

I’m doing it ‘old-school’ with a print run and stock in a warehouse. There will be no eBook. The only way to procure a copy will be at one of my workshops, directly from the publisher or by ordering it in a bookshop.

Copies will be ready in September, when my story-writing workshops for schools recommence. I can hardly wait!

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6 thoughts on “Why I’m self-publishing my children’s book.

  1. An interesting post, thank you. If you have found a way to reach your audience more directly then I think self-publishing has a lot to be said for it. But I’m curious: why no e-book?

    • Thanks, Christopher.

      It’s possible that I’ll release The Hairy Faerie in an electronic format later but, to begin with, I’m curious to see what the response is like to a title that is only available as a physical book. It’s an opportunity to experiment!

      • Welcome to the dark side!:)
        Actually, I like the idea of experimenting with the hard copy. I’ve often wondered how something like this would pan out. Given that it is a children’s book, I suspect you may do well on paper sales.
        Best of luck, Joseph.

  2. Thanks very much, David.

    Whichever way you slice it, selling books is challenging.

    Honestly, I’m more excited about writing them than selling them – and I don’t have time to do both!

    There’s no telling how this will go. However, I’m hopeful that my contact with the very people who might want to read The Hairy Faerie will be enough to ensure a steady, if modest, stream of purchases.

    I appreciate your interest and I’ll be sure to report back on how things go after publication…

    • Well done! Self-publishing still has this kind of stigma. I’m a journalist and so I consider myself a professional writer, albeit in a different capacity. Self-publishing has always seemed, to me, almost desperate and I’ve promised myself I’ll never do it, but reading that a traditionally published author who I admire is doing so, has changed my perception, a little.
      Would you ever consider doing this for one of your adult titles?
      What I really struggle to get to grips with is how the onus of marketing works here, like you, it’s the writing I’m interested in really…

      Richard

      • It was an easy decision to make, Richard, but only because I knew if I didn’t self-publish this one, my co-author might have grown up by the time we got a ‘real’ publisher involved! Everything takes so long in publishing, it’s easy to go grey before any real excitement happens.

        *Applies generous quantities of Just For Men*

        I’ve always felt there’s a desperation about self-publishing, too. I looked into it many times when I wasn’t getting where I wanted to be through the usual channels. However, I couldn’t bring myself to do it. When it became a relatively easy thing to do with eBooks, that almost made it less attractive.

        The issue for me is quality. If you don’t have an editor, a copy editor and a proof reader, the chances are your self-published book will suck. It may look like a Maserati owing to the awesome cover you had made but the interior will still be a Fiat from the breaker’s yard.

        Marketing, for this particular book, is a no-brainer. Interested parents, teachers and children will buy it because of my writing workshops and school visits. All my buyers are likely to be people I meet and read the story to.

        For an adult title, it would be a different issue. I’d have the problem of discoverability that most of us have even with a traditional publisher. I enjoy marketing stunts, as you may know, but actually doing serious marketing for a book is not my thing. I need to concentrate on what I know, which is writing stories. So, to answer your question in a very long-winded way, I doubt I’d ever release an adult title myself, despite more than half of them remaining unpublished.

        That said, for most novelists, desperation lives around every next corner, so you never know…

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