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I can’t honestly say; I’ve never had an interest in becoming an author. I’ve not once aspired in writing my own book. I mean, I’ve written short stories when I was younger, but never imagine I would publish something, ever.
My daughter entered second grade this year. I needed something to excite her about reading. She was an overall good student in school. All last year our focus was helping her learn her spelling words and ensuring we adopted a routine for practicing them. Well, now she is a spelling pro and managed to master learning her words in only three days each week.
The challenge for us now is her reading comprehension. She is reading below her grade level, and I’m determined to find a way to help her the best way I can. My husband and I read to our daughter sporadically, but never as a daily routine. We knew, we needed to commit more time to this daily. Now we read a book every day, sometimes twice a day.
Before my daughter’s first progress report came home, I wanted to do something that would not only engage my daughter as a reader but captive her interest. This is where I came up with the idea to create my own stories. I decided to use my daughter’s middle name and create a likeliness of her, to hold her interest.
See Also: Jordin’s Life Lessons
This is how Jordin’s Life Lessons was created. Jordin’s Life Lessons will be themes that pertain to growing up, learning, and maturing. I started writing this book with the goal of setting up a story that would excite my daughter to read. What I ended with was an interest in writing and designing a great product, my book. The overall process was an adventure. I would have never known what was in store for me. I’m sharing my experience as motivation and to provide a step by step process for someone looking to do the same. Here are the steps I took to become published.
- The first step I took in creating my book was developing a manuscript. The manuscript is the storyline of the book that details information about the characters, the environment, location and the theme of the book. I began drafting my manuscript back in May 2016. The average children picture book should have at least 600 words and be 32 pages long. My manuscript had 1722 words, which was later condensed to 700 words. If you need help with formatting your manuscript, you can always do a google search and look for templates. However, I used this site as a guide. It took me several days to finalize my manuscript and I realized I would need to partner with editors to help review the book.
Traditional Publishing Company or Self-Publishing
- I did quite a bit of research relating to which direction I wanted to go for publishing my first book. I had so many ideas and artistic direction for my book, that I felt, going the self-publishing route would allow more creative input throughout the process. Working with Traditional Publishing Companies, you have less say in the creation of your book to include the illustrations. I wanted my book to have the likeliness of my daughter and knowing what I knew about shopping my book to publishing companies, I didn’t want to take the chance. I had to think about the reasoning for me wanting to do this, so I did more research. This guide was helpful in me making a decision.
- Next, I created a cover letter. My cover letter is a summary of my book that includes who my target audience is and the message of my book. You can use the cover letter for either avenue; self-publishing or a publishing house. However, traditionally, the cover letter is mailed to publishing houses and editors to help get the book picked up and sponsored. I used my cover letter to help provide a synopsis of my book to potential Editors and Illustrators.
- After I had completed my book manuscript and cover letter, next I wanted to find an Illustrator. Before scouting for an Illustrator, I needed to create a profile for each character. In my descriptions, I included:
- A few pictures (through google images) that resembled that particular character in my vision
- The character’s full name and age
- Unique characteristics and personality type of the character
- Clothing style
- Physical appearance
If you need additional guidance on character profiles, you can also reference this website.
Page by Page text illustration descriptions
- After I had completed my character profiles, I developed a page-by-page text outline that included pictures and any other components of the book that would require illustrations. All this information should be included in these descriptions and labeled appropriately.
- Example: I described how I wanted my front cover design and each page to be laid out.
- Front cover design: size “6 x 9”, contents: Title, author, and an illustration of Jordin and Milo sitting on the porch centered in front of their red door. Their expressions are optimistic and hopeful.
- Page 1 Illustrations: size “6 x 9”, contents: Picture of Jordin sitting on her bed, looking upset. Milo is on a pillow next to her, oblivious to the imminent change. Jordin’s room is almost bare, except for some boxes and a few toys laying around the room that has not been packed yet. Jordin has a beautiful comforter with colorful designs and textures.
- Text that is to be alongside the illustration on the next page: I woke to the sound of Mom and Dad packing up boxes. They have been planning our move for months. I can hear them moving throughout the house. Today is the day; moving day.
- Next, I wanted to solidify an illustrator. I used; Upwork and Fiverr to begin my search. I wanted to secure an illustrator that had high quality, good detail and was inexpensive. With this being my first project, I didn’t want to spend too much money. I wanted this to be an experience exercise, where I would learn the process first. I was worried that for my first project this would be the biggest expense. I reached out to and interviewed about 40 illustrators. I asked specific questions about their experience.
Questions I asked:
- Have you had experience drawing for a children’s picture book?
- This is relevant because it speaks to their knowledge with image quality, drawing capability and specifications
- May I see your portfolio?
- This was helpful in allowing me an opportunity to see their drawing abilities and past work projects. I looked for diversity (different concept drawings), character development, drawing choice (hand sketch, digital, watercolors, etc.)
- What software program do you use?
- This helped me to understand whether I had compatible programs and whether If needed, I could make slight changes. I didn’t decide solely on this question; I was just curious.
- After reviewing responses and the illustrator’s portfolio, I provided my character reference page and asked for a sketch of the main character. The most important component of this exercise was to ensure the illustrator captured the likeness of my daughter. I provided a few photos of her in different poses and expressions. I wanted to see how they would be able to capture her true essence. This step was a deciding factor in whether I would be selecting the illustrator or not. I also took this opportunity to see how the illustrator interacted and engaged with me.
- I looked for:
- Reaction to criticism
- How they applied feedback to the images
- I looked for:
Overall, my due diligence worked out for the best, because I was satisfied with the end product.
Text Format Designer
- As a first time, self-publishing author, I was curious about how to align and format the text with the illustrations for my book. I mean, how am I supposed to upload my book as a pdf. I assumed there had to be some formatting done. So, I did what I knew best, I looked on Fiverr to see if there was someone that specialized in this as well. I could find a few Designers that offered this service. After selecting a Designer and receiving the end-product, I was disappointed. The document I received, which was in a word doc., I felt I could have created myself. The value I received from the Designer was a formatted document appropriate for the size of the book (custom margins) and images resized with a background design behind the text on the illustrations. Next, the text looked as if they were copied and pasted in standard Times New Roman font. I was looking forward to something that stood out and resembled a children’s book. The font was tiny, with no format at all. Luckily for me, because the formatting was so basic, I could easily edit as I liked. Next time, I will attempt to do this myself. I’m confident that I could accomplish what I was looking for if I had made a bit more effort. Nonetheless, I was happy I went through it, as it was a great experience to learn from.
- Finding an Editor was imperative. I knew a great editor was required for my book to be considered complete. By no means do I feel I am the best when it comes to writing, especially applying the appropriate grammar, so I rely on the experts to accomplish this for me. Looking for an editor should take place after completing the manuscript in the beginning, but I edited my book throughout each process. As I got closer to production, I found myself changing and removing text. I worked with two professional editors and had my book read multiple times by close friends and family before I sent it to print. The first Editor (found on Upwork.com) reviewed my original manuscript while the second Editor (found on Fiverr.com) reviewed the final book contents (with illustrations). I felt extremely confident after going through the editing phases and reviews to send my book to print.
- There are loads of opportunity for self-publishers these days. Special thanks to bookbaby.com, Amazon.com, and www.lightning-press.com. These sites were referred to me from an illustrator I was going to work with. The Illustrator offered great advice as it relates to what direction I needed to go after once my book was complete. After doing my research, I decided Bookbaby.com would be the best fit for my project. What I liked most about Bookbaby.com was not only the customer reviews I read that raved about the service and ease of use, but the one-stop shop convenience in getting everything I needed. After a look at their available services, I was sold. No added stress in purchasing an ISBN number, they do that too!
- Bookbaby.com offers a $19 single book purchase deal. I thought this would be perfect for sending my book to print and seeing how it would look. You know, test the quality of the book and see what changes I may need to make. Be careful, the book starts out being $19, however, after selecting a few options, then adding tax and shipping, I spent $68. I totally thought it was worth it. I was excited to get my book in my hands. The ease of use in uploading my book was OK. They have templates available (that are required) for the Cover and Back page. It took me a while to figure out, but this template can only be executed using photoshop. Heads-up, if you don’t have designs skills, you will need to reach out to a close confidant or use Fiverr or Upwork to have this done by a Graphic Designer. Lucky for me, I have adobe design software that I’ve paid for (but don’t use) laying around. After googling a training video, I was able to complete this template. I uploaded all the required documents and took a deep breath…more like a sigh of relief. I was done! Well, I thought I was.
Editing the Submission
- After I had submitted my book, I was given an estimated delivery date that was about two weeks out. After about three days, I received a reply from Bookbaby.com. Apparently, my images were below the required 300 DPI, so I had to update all 15 images. Then they stated there were issues with the resolution or grayscale of my photos. The ppi should be less than 194. By me updating the 300 DPI, that resolved that issue. Lastly, my pagination was reversed. All I needed to do here was remove the blank page I had in the beginning for all the pages to flow appropriately. I updated my page numbers, then resubmitted. Looking forward to receiving my book!
Transfer to Lighting-Press.com
- I received my hardcover from Bookbaby.com, and I loved it. It was a hardcopy, and the quality was perfect. I loved the end product. So much, that I wanted to order more. This was when I realized, the cost would increase significantly. Hardcover books are at least $8 to $12 dollars more than soft cover books. To have a hardcover printed in volume, would cost $19 each. Then you would need to add an upcharge to get your cut. Oh no! The quality would be worth it, but your buyer wouldn’t appreciate paying such a high price for a children’s book. This is where I partnered with Lighting-Press.com. They offer volume printing at an affordable cost. I purchased 75 copies of my book for around $500. Each soft cover book was priced at 3.75 to print, which would leave me with a profit of $4.25 per book. This doesn’t offset my costs, but it does get my name out there. Working with Lighting-Press was enlighten. I had to convert my book to their soft cover template and make more edits to the images. There were several back and forth conversations, reviews of templates and hardcopy samples. Again, if you don’t have any experience with working in Photoshop, get you a graphic designer to help you here. It was definitely a challenge to get the finished product the way it is today.
My goal for this project wasn’t to get rich quick, not at all. Thinking back on my original purpose, which I think I accomplished, I’m totally satisfied with how things turned out. My daughter was over the moon excited to see her name in “lights.” The look on her face when she saw the book was heartwarming. My Book is now available on Amazon, and you are more than welcome to order a copy. 🙂 That was a proud moment for me. My daughter was impressed with something I created. My only goal now is to share that with the world. I know, no one else will have a similar emotion tied to this project, as my daughter did, but I do hope to inspire little girls and boys through the life lessons I write about. My one-time project, I hope to build on and create a library of stories for children to read decades from now.