I can't begin to tell you how many times I started and stopped my first book, "The Mighty Adventurers: David and Goliath." Heck, I can't even begin to tell you how many times I started and stopped on this blog post. But as with everything else that requires significant time and thought, I had to tell myself to "Just write it!"
In the Beginning…
When I started my book, there were only two mighty adventurers and no plans for a third one. By the time I finished, there were three mighty adventurers, and the third was going on two years old. What took me so long? Quite simply, I tried to bite off more than I could chew. Instead of just writing the story, I tried to draw sample illustrations to go along with every single page (stick figures, I'm a horrible illustrator). Then, I started thinking about the next topics I could write about in the series. I was so excited! How far into the book did I get on Day 1? Page 1.
On Day 2 to Day 912ish, my pretty purple notebook moved from spot to spot on my nightstand. Always within reach, but only opened maybe twice. Then, something incredible happened...I told somebody about the book. Yes, the book that was not yet a book, but on its way to becoming a book. Who did I tell? Not everybody. And not just anybody. But somebody that was very special to me and whose opinion meant a lot. My husband.
One warm, summer day, my husband and I were strolling through the mall child-free since my they had gone to my Mom's for the summer. We were having a casual conversation about our short-term goals and projects that we had in mind. You know, the usual romantic conversations between a husband and his wife. And even though I hadn't worked on my book in over two years, it was still fresh enough on my mind to tell my husband I had about this series based on our boys that would lead them through nightly bible adventures. A series that would bring God’s message of hope, faith, and love to the world. And as a Mom of three, I understand the benefits of reading to children.
I thought my husband would just listen intently (as he usually does), tell me it sounds like a good idea, and then we would move on to the next topic. He did listen. He did tell me it sounded like a good idea. But he didn't stop there. His next three words would catapult me into a writing frenzy that pushed me to finish the book in one day. What were those three words? Let's. Do. It.
He filled my mind with ideas to help market the book, ways we could build the brand, and most importantly, guidance for finding the right people to help me put it together. When we got home that night, I found my pretty, purple notebook and wrote the story from beginning to end (no stick figures). Then, I sent the draft to two people: My husband and my Mom. You see, my Mom is the one who inspired me to write as a child. She still has notebooks full of my short stories at her home that I wrote when I was a little girl. My dream was never to become a writer, but looking back on it, it didn't have to be a dream. Writing has always been in me.
Great, I Have a Draft...Now What?
So, I wrote a draft. But there were two things I was sure of: 1) There had to be some grammatical errors and 2) As much as I loved it, I knew it could be better. In my research of how to write a children's book, one of the most important tips that stood out to me was: REVISE, REVISE, and REVISE again. I had a proofreader and editor for my draft, my revised draft, and finally my revised, revised draft (otherwise known as my final copy). This doesn't mean that I sent it to my family and friends that I knew were the top spellers in their class. I hired professionals. Let me introduce you to - FIVERR.
FIVERR is an online marketplace where you can find freelancers to help you accomplish just about any service. You name it and most likely, they've got it. I could have even paid someone to write this blog. But, I didn't. There’s no way I'm paying someone else $40 to write my own thoughts. If you want to, go right ahead. This is a judgment-free blog.
The first proofreader/editor I hired fixed my grammatical errors and gave me illustration ideas. This would prove to be a big help when it was time to find an illustrator. I already knew how many pages I needed illustrated and a general idea of what they should look like. When it was time to find an illustrator, I was very picky. This was going to be the first book of a series and I needed to find someone I would be comfortable working with for all the books. I searched FIVERR and found three illustrators whose work I liked and reached out for a quote. One of the illustrators had the style I wanted and her detail in drawing characters of color was amazing. I paid her price (no bargaining) and when I received the illustrations, they were even better than I had expected. Sometimes you must go with your gut and choose quality over cost.
My Book Is in Color! What’s Next?
Next came the tricky part. Who knew that putting words onto pictures would be such a daunting task? Quick note, book designing and book formatting are two different things. A designer puts the words on the pages/illustrations. A formatter saves the interior pages and book cover in a way that it is acceptable to Amazon KDP or other self-publishing print on demand (POD) platforms like IngramSpark. Often times, the designer and formatter will be the same person.
No one’s portfolio stood out to me. The book sat still for at least a week, just waiting for me to decide. I got so desperate; I even downloaded a trial version of Adobe InDesign to see if I could do it myself. That was a waste of time, although I do plan to eventually take a course to learn how to do it myself. My goal is to learn how to do book design and formatting so I can help other self-publishers.
Finally, one day I came to my senses. The book was never going to be PERFECT. It just needed to be COMPLETED. I went back to old trusty (FIVERR) and decided to work with a book designer that had worked with a friend of mine on her children’s books (I had the book proofread again before sending her the manuscript). She did a good job. I was satisfied enough to continue in the publishing process.
The Finish Line…Sort Of
Once I received the formatted interior pages and book cover from my book designer, it was time to upload everything into Amazon KDP and IngramSpark. Amazon KDP would be used to distribute the book to Kindle, while I would use IngramSpark to purchase physical copies of the book for me to sell and ship myself on the website and at book fairs. I will go into this more in-depth in the next blog.
After I had everything uploaded into the platforms, I ordered a proof. Note to self (and to you), make sure to have your entire book (not just the manuscript) proofread and edited before submitting to the POD platforms. Here are two reasons why: 1) If a change needs to be made to the document that was uploaded, Amazon won’t charge you for it, but IngramSpark will; 2) It took a VERY long time for me to get my designer/formatter to make a very simple revision. Yes, I made the mistake of not having my book proofread before uploading. This is why I wrote this blog, so you won’t make the same mistakes as me.
AT LAST! I had a finished product. The smile on my face when I received my proof in the mail stretched from Florida to California. But the best part was, my boys were just as excited to see their book come to life and my husband was so proud that I finally finished something that I had started :D
The work doesn’t end there though. Now the really grunt work begins. Launching the website, marketing campaigns, book fairs, etc. It’s tough being a self-publisher, but it is oh so rewarding.
How ironic was it that the story I started over 2 years ago was based on the story of David and Goliath, and my third adventurer's name is David? He wasn’t even a twinkle in my husband’s eye when I first started writing. Looks like he came right on time.
One last thing I want to say before I end this blog, just about every person that I talked to and told that I was writing a book, gave me the same response: “I’ve always wanted to write a book.” My advice to them and to you if you feel the same way – JUST WRITE IT! There are plenty of people that can show you how to make a children's book and how to get a children's book published. And I’m one of them!
Thanks for reading. If you haven’t already, please be sure to visit our bookstore and purchase your copy (or copies) of “The Mighty Adventurers: David and Goliath.” www.TheMightyAdventurers.com