When I was about seven I wrote to the Queen complaining about my status in our family as a middle child. The Queen’s lady-in-waiting wrote back to me saying Her Majesty had been 'most interested' to hear from me. Satisfied with this response I took the letter to show-and-tell, then returned to the domestic status quo knowing the Queen had my back.
I wonder if the Queen would be interested to hear that I’m now a self-publisher? (I should write. It’s been a while and she’s probably wondering.)
I guess you have to be a little bit audacious to self-publish, but to anyone considering it, I say go for it! If you have a computer and access to the internet, then you have the tools to publish your story — whether it’s a novel or a children’s picture book. Dive in headfirst. There’s a lot to learn but it’s all totally learnable.
When my partner suggested I make a book called The Very Hungry Bum I thought it was a great idea. I wrote the story (though, as a parody of The Very Hungry Caterpillar, it sort of wrote itself) and sent it off to established publishers. In the meantime, a woman in my parents’ group had gone ahead and self-published her children’s book — Pip & Percy Sow The Secret To Nan’s Tomato Soup by Kylie Allardice, illustrations by Caitlin Ziegler. So by the time I received my rejection letters from the publishers, I was well and truly inspired by Kylie to publish The Very Hungry Bum myself.
Along the way I bought a copy of APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur by Shawn Welch and Guy Kawasaki. It’s loaded with practical advice on self-publishing or, as Kawasaki calls it, artisanal publishing. I took the term literally, publishing four books about bums.
Kawasaki and Welch point to a changing publishing landscape thanks to computer programmers (creating applications anyone can use to make an eBook) and massive resellers such as Amazon and Apple. It’s amazing to think that last week you made an eBook and tomorrow it will be for sale in 119 countries.
That’s not to say that self-publishing thrives only in the electronic domain (though by eliminating printing costs, publishing becomes feasible to all writers). When it comes to children’s books in particular, you can’t beat that feeling of holding a beautiful, bound, paper edition. It might have been passed along from reader to reader, through generations perhaps, it might be a special gift. It’s something tangible that can be fully shared.
Printing can be expensive but if you start with a small print run in paperback format, you can test the market without significant financial risk. The first edition of The Very Hungry Bum was printed in Melbourne as a staple-bound paperback. I had 500 copies made which cost $2500. This was my personal savings but I was also very lucky that my partner was working so we were still able to pay the rent. For subsequent editions of the bum books, I went through a printing broker to achieve a better quality printed book. The broker was fantastic.
To sell your book, set up a website, use social media, have market stalls and approach bookstores. Independent booksellers, in particular, are friendly and receptive to self-publishers.
So if you have a story simmering away and you’d like to share it with a wider audience, consider the self-publishing option. Aim high, be a little bit audacious and have fun.
Visit Claudia's website for more information on her and her work.