7. Mar, 2017

How "Self" Published is My Book About "Poo"?

Watching the Oscars last week, it reminded me how collaborative the creative process can be. The screenwriter needs a producer and director and a director needs actors and a crew.

Writers, on the other hand, always say their work is solitary and though putting pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard, is an intensely individual experience, everything about the actual production of a book is collaborative, even in the case of so-called ‘self’-publishing.

So, why self-publish, you might ask? Every budding writer dreams that one of the 'Big 5' publishers might award their first literary effort with a publishing contract but the reality is that the market for children’s books is flooded with great stories of every kind imaginable and an unknown author is an unknown quantity for a commercial operation.

And, so, I came to a place two years ago, where I had the manuscript for a picture book I felt compelled to write, with no publisher, no illustrator and a hard choice to make. Could I bury my funny little story about 'toilet procrastinators' away, hoping it would someday be discovered? Or, should I look at it is a business opportunity and invest in my talents  as an observational writer, with a humorous and real-life approach to stories for children?

I researched and researched self-publishing options, terrified that I would be lured into some sort of vanity publishing scam (and I will admit I came close on a few occasions, even turning down an official contract from a publisher who wanted me to pay them to publish). Finally, I summoned all my courage and signed with a US firm Lulu Publishing. I contracted Lulu to provide end-to-end production services for my book, including illustrations, while maintaining creative direction and right of approval over the completed proofs.

I could storyboard the creatives for the Daddy and the World’s Longest Poo manuscript to within an inch of my life but over the seven-month lifespan of the book’s production, I could not have brought my story concept to life without the expert collaboration of Lulu’s design, layout and distribution teams. I owe my pride and joy to determination, investment and belief, on my side, and the ability of Lulu’s creative team to interpret and deliver my author’s vision, on the publisher's side.

And by devising concept briefs for a team of illustrators, I also better understand the intensely visual nature of writing picture book manuscripts and how this marriage between written word and graphic art can make or break a story's appeal for it's desired audience. There are skills and rules for writing in this genre, you just cannot learn in a bubble of isolation, and this is why I think that 'self'-publishing can be a misnoma.

Even an independent author relies on the collectivity of the 'indie' and published author communities and I, for one, am enjoying discovering these networks of expertise and support for writers online (with special mentions for Goodreads, All Write and Just Write for Kids). Realising how much I can learn from not going it alone, has only strengthened my resolve to write stronger, more visual narratives for my readers.

I can't wait to share my next book with you and in the meantime, you might like to delve a little deeper into my 'independently' published journey, as a guest blogger recently for Being Author.