I have learned so much already throughout my self-publishing journey. But something I quickly realized that whether you are working with a publishing company or not, the most difficult part of the journey remains the same – finishing the book!
The concept of my story was consistent, but I wrote dozens of drafts and worked with a handful of editors before my final manuscript was complete. I never considered myself too much of a perfectionist until this project- but knew that with such an important message for such an underrepresented population in children’s literature, my story needed to be close to perfect. My version of perfect that is.
When I felt like my manuscript was complete, I sent it out for review to 6 or 7 publishing companies. I thought my story was strong enough to get noticed quickly! But weeks went by and… crickets. I could feel my confidence dwindling- I was second-guessing myself and my last minute changes. Finally, a couple publishing companies finally got back to me and suggested that I make some big changes – the major suggestions that stuck with me included “Consider changing your characters to animals which will make the book relatable for more children” and “Have you thought about giving your main character a girl companion? Perhaps an older sister or a classmate.”
If I agreed to those changes, everything that makes my story unique and powerful would have been stripped away. I knew in that moment that if I wanted my story to be told the way I envisioned, I would need to publish it myself.
The next steps involved finding an illustrator, printing and shipping companies, purchasing ISBN #’s and researching marketing opportunities. Trust me when I say that none of this is cheap and I quickly realized that these out of pocket expenses were adding up – fast. With the encouragement of a small community I became a part of on Facebook with other first time authors, I launched a Kickstarter campaign for my children’s book. Kickstarter is a global crowdfunding platform focused on on creativity- with a mission to help bring creative projects to life. I pledged to raise $5,000 in 30 days for my book and the funds raised would aide in the overall publication of the book.. I offered a variety of rewards for people who donated- including signed hardcover copies and bookmarks. The thing with Kickstarter is that you have to reach 100% of your pledge, in order to receive any of the donations! I was terrified to put myself out there; scared I may embarrass myself, or worse… potentially fail.
To my surprise, I was able to meet my target goal in only 4 days- and by the end of the campaign received almost 100% more of what I initially asked for. I was awestruck. My Kickstarter gave me my confidence back that was a little shaken up earlier in this process. Because my story was already receiving so much attention and positive feedback, I knew that this is a story that needs to be told- and that there were people around the world who believed in my story just as much as I do.
Overall, I am still learning every day! My illustrator has finished up her side of the bargain and I should be sending in my book for printing in the coming weeks- just in time for the holidays! But by taking this route, I am so thankful that I can hold onto the autonomy of my story and I love being able to make all of the major decisions myself. I have a wonderful relationship with my illustrator and book designer and I love how collaborative this whole process has been between us. I certainly encourage anyone who has toyed around with the idea to write a children’s book, novel, or short-story- to just go for it. Although my journey is ongoing and I know it won’t be easy, I am still accomplishing something that I have wanted to for a long time. I’ve achieved something that belongs completely to me. And this feeling is pretty amazing.