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

Saturday 12 November 2011

Guest Post: Self-Publishing on a Budget with Kristyn Levis

KBR welcomes the lovely Kristyn Levis, aka MummyK, with this enlightening post on making your writing dream a reality.

I’m a journalist by profession. Not a children’s book author. It never even occurred to me to write a children’s book. Then I had a daughter and suddenly, I couldn’t get rid of the thought of writing a book.

The reason why I wrote my book was not for publication but to preserve a family story Mama used to tell us as kids. We didn’t have a lot of money growing up so books were a scarcity. I remember a torn and tattered copy of Alice in Wonderland and that’s about it.

Luckily, my mother is a treasure box of stories. I was afraid to write The Dragon and the Lizard because inside I knew I might want to take it further that just a family book, and I was afraid to take it there on my own. But I couldn’t let the story die so I wrote it.

I contacted my friend, who, although is not an editor by trade, is a fantastic writer and editor. She gave me tips and ideas on how to write more 'story-like' instead of being compact like a news story (did I mention I’m a journalist?).

When the text finally took shape, I was inspired to send it to another friend of mine for illustrations. Although he is not an illustrator by trade (can you see a pattern here?), he was great at giving the story life through drawings. This, while working through his truckload of cases (my illustrator is a lawyer by the way).

After the illustrations were done, I asked around for prices for digital colouring. They’re expensive. Very expensive. For a 'mummy' budget working as a freelance journalist, it wasn’t something I could afford. Even the cheapest one was still beyond my means. So I decided to outsource.

I found a talented, fresh graduate who would do it for half the price. He was happy to add something new to his portfolio (did I mention he’s overseas?). It took around three weeks to a month to finalise all the illustrations, with changes being made every now and then. One piece of advice: be very specific about what look you want if you already have an image in your head. My mistake was not being specific enough so we had to change several things. It wastes time and energy to keep changing things so better to be clear about it up front.

When all that was finally done, I did the layout of the book myself. I used In Design for the layout and Photoshop to tweak the colours here and there. A lot of the print on demand sites, like Createspace and Blurb, allows you to do the layout using their own tools. But since I could do it myself, it was easier for me to just create a print-ready PDF.

I never approached a publisher for this book for a couple of reasons: a) I didn’t know how, b) I didn’t know anyone in the publishing world, c) it is too close to home to be rejected and d) I wanted to do things now and not be waiting for replies (that sometimes never comes).

Having said that, I did approach a couple of companies to help pay for the initial printing of copies so I can approach bloggers in my online community to review them and help with my little marketing effort.

Melissa from KleenexMums was fantastic enough to help me out with both the printing and the marketing. She is doing a giveaway on her site for the book and I can’t thank her enough for that. It really is an arrow in the dark for me since I wasn’t sure if anyone was going to help me out. But it’s worth asking anyway.

Lastly, I approached the bloggers I know or have met since I placed my own blog (MummyK) out there to see if they can help me market my little book by doing a review about it on their site. I told them honestly about my situation and my budget and clearly stated that if they couldn’t help, that is totally okay.

I was astounded with the feedback I got from these bloggers. Everyone helped, even those who couldn’t do it on their blog gave me ideas and suggestions on what I can do. The community is amazing. I sent out free copies of the book to these bloggers out of my own pocket and they were so understanding about it all. Never underestimate the power of sincerity and your community.

For those who are thinking of doing something similar to what I did, please feel free to contact me. I would be more than happy to brainstorm with you.

Kristyn Levis is a freelance journalist/photographer/editor and a first time children’s book author. She is mum to one little girl and two little dogs, and wife to her IT consultant/musician husband. She blogs at mummyk.com and tweets as @themummyk.