This week I finally managed to finish the photos and the edit for The Pacas Are Coming! ZuZu and the Crias. It’s actually the January chapter of A Berkshire Tale. I initially wrote the stories separately but on advice from an editor at Penguin Books, I revised and compiled the ten stories into one book centered around the first year of a kitten’s (ZuZu’s) life on a farm in Tanglewood, Massachusetts – one of my very favorite places.
Since I’d always had envisioned them as ten separate books in a series with lots of illustrations, I decided to begin with the Alpaca story. This book will have a larger format and more pictures of the animals on each page, making it easier to read to children when I visit classrooms.
I don’t know how many of the stories I’ll publish separately. I’ll tackle the shorter ones first. And I’m still looking for an illustrator to do the later ZuZu Books in the series that are not yet published. I have the new stories written, but no illustrations.
And then there’s always Roxie prodding me to write a book about her. So, that’s what I’ve been up to for the past month or so.
Also, I’ve been reading other bloggers’ posts, which is something I love to do. It’s been drab and dreary and damp here in Rhode Island. I’ve been spending time with Andy Smart in South East Asia, Mary Smith in Afghanistan, and with Russ Towne’s whimsical characters adding much brightness to this spring drizzle. I did reviews of their books on Amazon and encourage other bloggers to do the same for books they’ve enjoyed. I’ve come to realize that this is an important part of supporting other writers and spreading the news about their works. There are many more bloggers who’ve published books which I eagerly anticipate reading in between my own writing. And of course, I’ve been visiting blogs because I’ve come to really like hearing what’s going on in your lives and I find lots of inspiration in those posts.
After reading blogs of novice writers who’ve expressed a desire to get a book into print, I thought I’d spend some time discussing some of my experiences with publishing a first book to encourage them to try it. My attitude is: If I can do it, I know you can do it.
Reasons why I feel publishing is not so daunting:
#1. I started out on this “journey” when I was 64.
Most of you out there are much younger than that.
#2. I did not have a blog before I published and therefore no idea how supportive a community like this would be. (Of course there was my husband Charley, my biggest cheerleader, right there urging me on and helping in any way he could.)
Many of you have both the personal support in your lives and the added support and advice of other bloggers which is evident in all the caring comments which follow your posts. This is truly a valuable resource and right there at your fingertips.
#3. Not having blogged, I really didn’t know very much about what my writing style and my strengths would be. After over a year of posts and comments, I have a new-found confidence in what works for me. And I feel more comfortable with my own writing style. It’s a lot easier to get the words on paper, to say nothing of the self-discipline developed by posting regularly.
You’ve been honing your craft with your posts and getting an idea of what people like to read all along. This practice and discipline will be invaluable when you choose to write your book.
#4. Have I mentioned that I was 64 when I finally got my butt in gear? (Enough said!)
Some things I learned along the way about publishing:
#1. Most publishing companies require you to submit your work through an agent and getting one is a learning experience in itself. A good agent will help guide you through the publishing process and will take a cut of your profits once a book is in print.
#2. If your book is to have illustrations, the company will assign you an artist they feel will fit well with how they envision your book to look.
#3. It can take two or more years to get your book in print and on the shelves, depending on the number of titles a company publishes each year. The smaller presses have a much longer time frame.
#4. You will sign off the rights to your work for a certain number of years. (A good lawyer should be handling this for you because contracts differ and a first-time author could be unaware of the terms they’ve actually agreed to.)
#5. Although a company will place your book into bookstores for you, you will still be expected to help promote your book and the powers that be may decide where you need to go in order to do this.
#1. This is a viable alternative to traditional publishing. But you really should have some basic skills to take this on.
#2.You need to be able to write well, to edit your own work and then find a reputable place to get it formatted and printed.
#3. You can hire an editor if this isn’t your strength. (Some people, like egotistical movie stars and entitled athletes, actually hire other people to write their books for them – but we won’t go there.)
#4. You should be aware there are companies advertising for your business which are not reputable. (The Writer Beware website is a major resource in this area.)
#5. You’ll be responsible to market your own book. That means visiting independent book stores to ask if they’ll take it on consignment; reading or speaking to groups; sitting at country fairs or other venues and promoting it. This will make a difference in how many books you manage to sell. Depending on your personality and your expectations, this can be fun or it can be hell.
Self-publishing works well for me.
I’ve found a reputable local press I trust to format and print my work.
I like touting my book and meeting people and I’m not looking to make a huge profit.
I’m a control freak and don’t relish the idea of giving away control of my book rights to a large company.
I enjoy writing and love seeing my books in print and getting them out to the public, but prefer choosing how and when I’m going to do this.
In order to self-publish, you’ll need money to back your initial costs. Books printed with colored illustrations are more expensive than a book composed of just black and white text. There will be initial set up costs for formatting your book properly and then the printing cost which is usually figured by the page.
There are other ways to self-publish and these involve online resources. I haven’t tried these as yet, because I like the people I’m entrusting with my work. I may use them in the future when I have a book with only text and no illustrations.
These are some of the things I learned as a novice who knew nothing about getting a book into print. When I finally realized that traditional publishing was a difficult process, particularly without an agent, the thought of doing it myself wasn’t so intimidating. Now, there are bloggers with much more insight into the publishing world and they have valuable experience behind their advice. Seek them out.
I didn’t think I’d post this weekend because my head is a bit fuzzy with all the reading and editing and taking more photos and then there’s always the laundry and the food shopping and the cooking and the dishes and the sweeping up. Not to mention spending time with friends and family. But I’m preaching to the choir – that would be the choir of bloggers who post in between the comings and goings of their every day lives. To them I say, “Keep the music playing. It makes a lovely sound here in the woods of South Kingstown while I wait for the sun to come out.” Maybe tomorrow?
(Please note:I have no intention of inserting a You Tube video from the musical Annie in this space – which could result in many of you having this tune bouncing around in your heads all weekend.)
You’re quite welcome!