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Permission to Launch: Choosing to “Go Indie” to Publish My First Children’s Book
In life, if we are watching and listening, there are signs abound. My first children’s book, TEAPOTS, BUTTONS, MEMI and ME is a small book, with a big heart. TEAPOTS is a story filled with signs both internal and external; past and present. If we really listen signs give us messages. Sometimes subtle. Other times like in the cartoons — in a “frying pan over the head” moment! Okay, I am listening!! The signs presented to me to consider independently publishing TEAPOTS were everywhere in the months that preceded my decision. The Universe was begging me to give myself permission to launch, to take this book out into the hands and hearts of young and old readers alike.
As a writer I held a vision to publish a children’s book within my root for as long as I can remember. I actually always knew I would somehow publish TEAPOTS with a blessing from somewhere, someone. But what I didn’t realize was that the route to publishing my first book would be very different than I originally “planned.” For years I had in mind a plan that it would go something like this: have an idea, write a draft manuscript, edit, revise, edit, rewrite, have trusted fellow writers review, attend children’s book retreats, rewrite, revise and then send to editors at children’s book publishers.
Simultaneous to sending the TEAPOTS manuscript to editors in NYC and Boston, I began to hear a little bit about independent book publishing or “indie” publishing. Several of the editors from the big and little publishing houses I had submitted to had very nice and encouraging things to say about TEAPOTS. I have always appreciated that the editors who “rejected” TEAPOTS did so with such grace and inspiring words. Many very much liked the story, but their lists and marketing needs meant they could not take the chance on the little book. However, their words and personal notes truly made me feel I could launch…but how? When?
In the fall of 2013 I received a flier for a library program in Fairfield County, Connecticut where four writers would be presenting on their personal roads to publishing. One of the authors had just published her first YA novel, BROKEN ROAD. Her name is Elizabeth Yu-Gesualdi. The flier sat on my desk and I looked at it wondering how I’d be able to manage getting to southern Connecticut for the event. Well, I never did. But I kept the flier and it watched me and I watched it. Not sure at the time of why I just didn’t toss it! A sign.
In November of 2013, I was invited to attend an author’s book talk with my friend in Boston. My wonderful friend Susan (see ALL THAT IS UNSEEN blog post from Jan 1, 2015) invited me to hear Mitch Albom, author of TUESDAYS WITH MORRIE, et. al. He was speaking at a bookstore near her home in Boston to introduce his new book THE FIRST PHONE CALL FROM HEAVEN and invited attendees to a book signing table at the end. At the table, now finally my turn, I introduced myself and with my iPad in hand pointed to it and shared that I had a story “in here” and that I was thinking of publishing independently. Mr. Albom asked kindly and curiously, “What hinders you?” and I replied with one word – “Pride.” He paused and kept his reply short as a line of people were still waiting for their moment with him. “If I let pride get in my way, there’d be no TUESDAYS WITH MORRIE. Think of all the other independent outlets such as YouTube and artists who have been found!” And there it was. Someone else’s truth, and my final permission. That was the last sign I needed. There was no turning back. I walked out into the chilly November Boston night and knew without any doubt that I was going to publish my book.
Immediately, I read and explored and asked a million questions. I looked at independent publishing sites and companies and opportunities. There were many to choose from, but only two in the end had the reputation I was looking for. Part of the exploration took me back to that flier on my desk and author Elizabeth Yu-Gesualdi. I went to her website and learned that she published her book with CreateSpace. I emailed the author and she was most gracious in agreeing to talk with me and share her indie publishing story in December 2013. Liz was lively, inspiring and really by the time I hung up with her I knew again that there simply was no turning back. I also knew that we’d stay in touch and share our writing experiences and even become friends. To this date, we have not met! But she’s been a part of my journey….
A year ago in January 2014 with my own permission to launch firmly rooted, I started the process of publishing TEAPOTS! My dear friend Julia read and edited and helped me get the manuscript in ready shape. She was and has been a treasured friend sharing the kinship of children’s literature! The entire process covering about 3+ months, from the very first call to CreateSpace to the day I received my published book in the mail, was an amazing experience! The professional staff at the other end of an email or phone call – project managers, coordinators, editors, designers — all there with the single goal to help me bring my book vision to reality. I was the general contractor in building the book. I was a part of the process and of the approvals for the editing and design and development. My background in children’s book publishing surely came into full play during this time.
On March 21, 2014 I pressed the PUBLISH button on my CreateSpace dashboard. I was with mother who had just finished cancer treatments from her battle the year prior. The decision and timing to publish TEAPOTS came with a very powerful realization. What if I waited? Waited for my original plan to play out? Waited for permission from someone else? My poet friend Kim (another blessing) once told me that it was no longer necessary to wait for my book to be “chosen.” What if my mother never saw the published work? What if Tommy, my beloved friend since we were 5 years old, didn’t see TEAPOTS and his shout out as Thomas, since his battle with ALS is a daily and tenuous one? What if Aunt Nellie, now 94, a significant influence for the character of Memi never got to hear the story? Visiting her last weekend and seeing my signed copy of TEAPOTS on the table near her sitting chair in her lovely quiet room….what more is there? Well, there is one more thing, actually. What if I never saw TEAPOTS on my own book shelf? What if I never listened to the signs and followed the path each one set forth?
I have no doubt my courage has been rewarded. Not in blockbuster sales, but by readers I know and many I do not know, telling me how the story helped them, changed them, moved them. This is why we write! The story must be told one way or another. The Universe gives a gift to each of us. I’ve long known mine. And I believe I honored it the day I published TEAPOTS, BUTTONS, MEMI and ME. With no looking back……
January 27, 2015