'The best books, reviewed with insight and charm, but without compromise.'
- author Jackie French

Friday 19 February 2010

Self Belief and Self-Publication by Neridah McMullin

Delighted to welcome Neridah McMullin as a guest poster on Kids Book Review. Neridah is the author of Ponkidoodle, a children's picture book designed to ease the nighttime worries of little ones (Little Steps, 2009). Here, Neridah shares her self-publishing journey in this fascinating article.

My decision to self publish wasn’t a difficult one because I truly believed in my character. His name is Ponkidoodle.

As far back as I can remember, Ponkidoodle has always been a part of my life. We lived in a rambling old house that creaked by day and groaned at night. But it was at night time when all was still and quiet that I would hear strange noises and hide underneath my blankets, eyes wide, jumping at shadows in the dark.

My father created Ponkidoodle to comfort and ease my night time fears.

Ponkidoodle is a tiny, magical friend who kept watch over our family home at night time. He could be anywhere at any time, in the roof, under the house, in between the walls - this friendly little monster was ever present.

Nocturnal by nature, Ponkidoodle has never been seen but his protective presence and love was felt in every corner of our home. Ponkidoodle took full responsibility for any strange and unexpected noises heard at night time. And living in the country, there were plenty - I was such a scaredy cat!

That strange knocking sound that you can hear? Oh that’s just Ponkidoodle (it was actually the hot water system ticking over). That banging on the roof? Oh that’s Ponkidoodle too (it was possums playing on the roof). And those late night clinking noises coming from the kitchen? That’s just Ponkidoodle emptying the dishwasher (good on you Mum!). And those noises coming from the loo? (I still don’t know what they were?!)

Nothing to worry about at all... just roll over and snuggle down tight. And I did. As the benefactor of Ponkidoodle, I was at peace with the knowledge that everything and everyone in my world was fine. Yes, Ponkidoodle is noisy and clumsy but he never hurts himself because he has perfect balance, always landing on his hairy feet. And so it was that my childhood passed in a safe cocoon of bliss.

For a few years there, I’d forgotten all about Ponkidoodle until our youngest son was born. And then Ponkidoodle returned, just when I needed him most.

I’d been writing short stories for a few years. I called them ‘farm stories’. They were stories that described my life on the farm as a child and the funny and crazy and tragic things that happened to us. I’d also written children’s stories and poetry and I’d submitted many submissions to multiple publishers. I’d had some interest and requests for re-writes but no bites.

Ponkidoodle had been through manuscript assessments and I’d done several writing e-courses and workshops through the Victorian Writers Centre and SCWBI to try to improve my writing. Ponkidoodle just didn’t have that ‘something’ that they wanted. They had so many other solo characters on their books, they felt he lacked appeal.

So I moved on and just kept on writing, learning more and continually trying to improve and hone my skills. Then I won a short story prize in the ‘2007 Banjo Paterson Writing Awards’ and that’s when I developed some self belief. I just knew then - Ponkidoodle had to be immortalised. He deserved to be with other children, to reassure and comfort them through their night time fears like he did for me and my brother, and now my little boy.

I spent hours researching self-publishing and thinking about the pros and cons each scenario presented. Two problems clearly stood out: the difficulties faced by self publishers in marketing and selling their books and the difficulty of distribution.

I decided that Little Steps at New Frontier were by far and above the best self-publishers available. Little Steps offered a great deal of support in the marketing and distribution of their books and a couple of phone calls later, I had negotiated a print run of 1000 books. I made a point to also speak to people who self-published with Little Steps and the reports were glowing.

Little Steps also provided professional editing, proofreading and design and they cleverly paired me up with an illustrator, Aaron Pocock who was amazingly suited to Ponkidoodle. He has captured him beautifully.

Little Steps have assisted in sending out 10 review copies, they organised the ISBN number and National Library registration and the best thing was that Ponkidoodle would be distributed via their own distribution channels and through Dennis Jones & Associates. They’ve also written up Press Releases for me and testimonials.

During this process, I wrote my own marketing plan for Ponkidoodle. I understood my target market but still felt I needed strategies to reach them.

Little Steps organised a children’s competition for Ponkidoodle in the print media involving a children’s competition with a free give-away and based on this model, I have replicated this with print media in my local area. Speaking of which, my local areas have been amazingly supportive. My old home town in Hamilton in South West Victoria has been incredible. ‘The Hamilton Spectator’ has run an editorial story on me and has advertised my school author visits in Hamilton, Port Fairy and Warrnambool.

Port Fairy is just down the road from Hamilton. I have spent every holiday there since I was born (and my parents live there permanently now). They have likewise been incredibly generous and supportive of me.

I had a book launch at Berkelouw Books in Armadale (where I currently live) and spent two weeks visiting six local primary schools. I had a second book launch at the Iron Bird Book shop in Port Fairy, followed by more school visits.

Ponkidoodle does have an internet presence. He is featured on my website and Little Steps at New Frontier. He had his own blogging launch prior to the ‘real’ book shop launches and my website has an e-commerce facility meaning that Ponkidoodle can be bought directly from my website.

Social networking sites such as Facebook have also been extremely useful in announcing Ponkidoodle to the world.

Australia’s leading on-line bookshop, Booktopia has been fantastic, also taking Ponkidoodle on, and the publication of Ponkidoodle has led me to other incredible opportunities. The Editor from One Day Hill Publishing read my cover letter with interest, as she grew up with a similar character to Ponkidoodle.

I have five more children’s books coming out in 2010. ‘Kick it to me!’ is my next children’s book for 5 – 8 year olds. It’s being published by One Day Hill and it’s the story of a young Tom Wills when he lived near the Grampians with the Djarb Wurung tribe. The Australian Football League is endorsing this book and it’s being launched in May next year to co-incide with the Indigenous Round of football.

Be sure to check out Neridah's website for other forthcoming books neridahmcmullin.com/Picturebooks.html