Tuesday, August 09, 2016

My Publishing Backstory and Why I Settled on an eBook

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I was planning on illustrating my second book this summer, but three things have hindered my endeavor:
  1. Homeschool prep
  2. New puppy
  3. Art Ignorance
Number 1 is an expected thing. It happens every single summer and has for the past 13 years or so. No big deal. It's just part of the life we've chosen as a family, and there are aspects of homeschool planning that I actually enjoy.

Number 2 is sort of an unexpected thing. Maybe an "unwanted thing" would be a better choice of words for me. The amount of time and work on my part was perhaps a tiny bit unexpected because after 15 years without a dog or any kind of pet, I'd forgotten just how TIME CONSUMING pets can be, especially if you're a clean freak like me! The good news is that now that our puppy is 6 months old things are getting easier, and we've fallen into a pretty good routine. Truly, our big ole mutt puppy is slowly winning my favor.

Number 3 is just what it is and probably the most influential of the three. Without the issues of numbers 1 and 2, I'd still be stuck with the issue of number 3. :(

Art (in the traditional sense) was one of my LEAST favorite subjects in school. It always centered around things I felt I wasn't very good at like drawing, shading, painting, etc. Anything that required precision and a steady hand.

I hate failure, and I always felt like a failure in art because I could never get things to look the way I saw them in my head or to look the way they did in real life. I like rules when I can follow them, but I could never seem to apply the "rules of art" and have a pleasant outcome. My art fit into the Picasso category, and I don't like Picasso. (Those last 3 words need to be read in Snape's voice.) ;)

Art (in the traditional sense) has been one of my LEAST favorite subjects to teach. When I started homeschooling, I didn't mind doing certain kinds of crafts, especially the food kind, but when it came to actual art curricula that involved drawing, shading, painting, etc., well, those really frustrated me. One, the amount of supplies needed for "art" was ridiculous, and I could never afford to provide everything on the list. Two, I don't care for messes, and I figured one could get through life without ever needing to use those dreaded oil pastels. I did buy a pack once. Um, no. Just no. 

After 40 years of life on this planet, I have come to the realization that there are many forms of "art," some of which I am pretty okay at. When my kids were younger, I was able to wing it and make some pretty cute, homemade birthday cakes. Nothing like what's out there now on all those food channels and stuff, though. I like making food look pretty when I have time. I scrapbooked our lives for several years until kid number 3 came along. I enjoyed designing graphics (even with my very limited techy skills) when I wrote reviews for The Old Schoolhouse magazine. I like doing certain kinds of crafty things. Overall, though, artsy probably wouldn't be an adjective that anyone would use to describe me.

And I've been okay with that up until recently when I realized I was going to have to take illustrating my own books into my own hands.

You see, I began writing my first children's book when my daughter was just a toddler. I can remember spending lots of time cuddling with her in her tiny toddler bed and being inspired by her charming little quilt when the beginnings of a story started to take shape in my mind.

I've always liked writing - now that was a favorite subject in school! I've fantasized about writing novels, and I have notebooks filled with characters and story ideas. As a homeschooling mom, I just haven't been able to find the time to focus on a novel. I'm amazed at the number of women who can and do!! Anyway, when I was struck with an idea for a children's story, I thought it would be a bit easier since it wouldn't take as much time to write.

Well, I was right about the writing part. In fact, I've written 3 children's manuscripts so far, but I had no idea the publishing part would be so time consuming and so fruitless. With the amount of time I've spent on trying to publish my children's books, I could've written one of my novels! *sigh* (Well, probably not really, but . . .)

I guess I was a little naive when I began the publishing part of my writing journey. Armed with the 2009 Children's Writer's & Illustrator's Market: Where & How to Sell Your Children's Stories & Illustrations and the Internet, I figured there had to be at least one publishing company out there willing to publish my first story.

With excitement pulsing through my veins, I began devouring that publishing guide I mentioned above. Searching for companies who published picture books in my genre was exhausting. Finding ones who accepted unsolicited manuscripts was daunting. When I finally did find a few, I began researching how to write a query, and on March 7, 2009 (my 33rd birthday) I mailed my first children's manuscript, Lacy's Treasure, to Chronicle Books.

And I waited. 

And waited some more.

So the next couple of years were a tangle of mailing and waiting, writing and researching, and keeping my main job of homeschool mom my top priority. I also became a product reviewer for The Old Schoolhouse at the end of 2009 which took quite a bit of my time and writing energy.

However, during this time I wrote 2 more children's books, Little Moth and Mysterious Moon, and tried to keep up with my new novel ideas in notebooks - for later when I had more free time. (ha, ha) Eventually, though, I quit writing "for fun" and sending out manuscripts because NOTHING was happening for me where publishing was concerned. I focused my attention on product reviewing which turned into being able to blog my reviews through The Schoolhouse Review Crew.

That went well for about 5 years, but then it became clear that it was time to be done with that phase of life. While writing product reviews isn't as fun as writing fiction, it provided a real need for our family during that time. I learned a LOT for sure. :)

Even though I was super busy during those 5 years of homeschooling and writing reviews, I can't say that I never thought about stories and publishing. From time to time, I'd get bogged down with discouragement and that feeling of failure. I begged God to take away my desire to write books if it wasn't a worthy pursuit of my time. I begged Him to take away the new ideas and countless story scenarios that clogged my brain. That just didn't happen. It's like my brain is wired to think in story form. I may have written a few ideas down during that time, but I didn't focus on writing another story. I was determined NOT to pile up stories for the sake of nothing.

I told myself that I was NOT going to write another story until I published one that I'd already written.

When I was still sending out manuscripts, I really only sent out my first 2 books because I felt that Mysterious Moon was the least marketable of the three. Plus, it rhymes. And so many publishing companies shy away from rhyme. I didn't mean to make it rhyme. It just happened.

I kept Mysterious Moon tucked away in a folder on my computer. For what? I don't know. It was just something I'd written, so I kept it.

Well, a couple of years ago or so, I heard about this self publishing thing on Amazon. I thought, How cool is that? 

One problem: I still lacked illustrations.

And I can't draw.


So, the next goal on my list was to find someone who'd be willing to illustrate for not a lot of money.

Yeah, tough.

I found a few people who showed some interest. One person even started the illustrating process, but eventually, nothing really panned out, and I was left once again with me, myself, and I.


I wanted to GIVE UP.

I wanted to RIP up all my manuscripts and DELETE every story I'd written right off the face of the whole earth.

I wanted to complain to God, "Why did you give me ideas for stories if You didn't give me the ability to bring them to life?"

(arms crossed) NO FAIR!

So, to make this long story a little longer, last fall I decided to put my big girl boots on and illustrate the book that I thought would be the easiest for me to do - Mysterious Moon - and self publish a children's eBook with Amazon.

I figured with a moon as the main character, I could handle painting a black sky and a circle on every page. The rest I could figure out later.

Having zero clue as to where I should begin, I bought some acrylic paint and some paintbrushes and got to work.

And it all started with 2 paintings and feedback from a few of my family members who had no clue about my intentions. I had secretly painted a moon over water and a moon over water with a sailboat.

Clearly on the wrong kind of paper, though. 

But that's for another story.

* So, to sum it all up, I settled on an eBook because that was and still is my only option at this time. I definitely don't have the funds to self-publish a physical book! *

In my next publishing backstory post, I will take you behind the scenes to explain how I went about illustrating my first children's eBook.

Stay tuned!

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