20 Steps on how I gained the courage to self-publish my very own cute children's book through crowdfunding.
I wanted to share my process, while thanking those that made this dream possible. This is a step-by-step behind-the-scenes look with links, resources and contact info so you can publish your very own children's book or to plan for a Kickstarter launch. Everyone's process is unique, and I am not saying this is the right way for you, but it's what worked for me.
1. Quit your day job if you can. If not, get ready for all-nighters.
This is probably the last piece of advice you'll hear from both traditionally-published and indie-published authors. Quit your day job, if you can. It took me 5 years to do just that. Why so long? Well, I had serious student loans to take care of. When that figure went to zero, out came my celebratory dance, along with my courage. I packed up my bags, gave up my high-profile NYC career and charming West Village apartment and moved to Virginia, to the basement of my parent's home.
During my corporate years; after my day job, came the real work, late into the night. I worked on multiple story ideas. After half a decade of storyboarding and writing and utterly failing to make any of them come to life, I realized I needed quality time to develop them. Especially one of my favorite ideas called MiniSchool. It was going to be about a school of miniature mammals that go to MiniSchool, where they learn how to be cute. The teacher's name was going to be Miss Fuzzy and she was going to be the cutest of all. This flash of insight came after visiting a Pygmy Marmoset at the Brooklyn Zoo, discovering a Cape Dwarf Chameleon on FB and reading a physics article about Minuscule particles in electromagnetism.
2. Get Involved. Visit as many bookstores, museums, book fairs, tradeshows, libraries, networking events, conferences, etc.
For ideas, insights and creative inspiration. Fill your head with as much as you can to spark those magical unseen connections. Join SCBWI and the CMA. Go to CBC's KidLit Events and head over to NY's CMOM. Volunteer with amazing charities to get books to kids with your local literary chapters, such as First Book. These are all great organizations filled with a cast of interesting and passionate people with similar interests and aspirations in life.
I wanted my book to firstly, be appropriate for kids, be trend-right and to look interesting on retail shelves. I met with as many industry experts, authors, bookstore managers, panelists, publishers, illustrators, teachers, librarians and scientists. I feel so fortunate to have met so many wonderful people. It was during this time; I was torn between developing a printed book, e-book or children's app. All the hype I was hearing from the publishing titans at Book Expo was the clash between the forces of printed versus digital books. So I thought hey, maybe I could integrate both of those mediums in a new and interesting way. Hence, the Alphaburrows App illustrations in the printed book. To be frank, It wasn't that iconoclastic. I saw videos of babies picking up magazines and pressing the pages with their fingers as if they were interactive screens. That's all.
3. Study from the greats. Like #Kidlit genius, Peter Brown.
I picked out a pile of my favorite children's books from my childhood, old ones from libraries, new ones from book stores, and studied what gravitated me towards them. Peter Brown, Jarrett J. Krowsowski, Nick Bruel, David Ezra Stein, Mini Grey, David Weisner, Betsy Bird, Kelly Light, Susan Meddaugh, Uri Shulevitz and my all time favorite author, Jerry Smath for his But No Elephants book. I had a magical moment at The Highline Park reading Peter Brown's The Curious Garden. I saw how the landscape inspired his illustrations, and the story was, well, wondrous. I knew then, this was the world I wanted to live in.
After reading Nick Bruel's Bad Kitty and crying with tears of amusement, I decided to move forward with an ABC book concept. Every children's book I've read has had an influence in one way or another on Cutie's Alphabellies. Every author I've met, has given me the inspiration and passion to keep moving forward,
4. Blast from your past. Stay true to what you loved as a child.
My parents we're struggling 1st generation immigrants. Growing up in the states without resources, never dampened my mother's efforts to make sure my brother and I got books, and read them. I cherished those books, especially the used ones we got for free at the libraries and the new ones straight from out of the pockets of our teachers. My love for reading and writing stories and poems stayed with me throughout my years.
In addition to the books we're select toys that I was so fortunate to have. Some of my favorites characters were Strawberry Shortcake, Care Bears, Rainbow Brite and Glow Worm & Friends. I also loved My Little Pony, Sweet Secrets, Popples, Smooshes, Wuzzies, Muppet Babies and Fraggle Rock. All of these colorful and cute series of characters from the awesome 80's made a huge impact on the development of the Alphabellies.
5. Pick the concept. Stick with it and don't give up. No matter what happens. Seriously.
Decide with unwavering confidence on the idea you want to dedicate your life to for a year or two and really start getting into the research. I wanted to develop a series of cute characters based off the alphabet, but didn't know how I was going to go about it. So I started to watch every cute animal video on youtube. I never coo and caa'd so much in a week. I swear it was for research.
After one of my frequent visits to my favorite museum, the ANHM. I noticed the animals I had the most fondness too, due to their cuteness factor, seemed to live in burrows. Ah ha! It took some digging into. Haha! But I was able to find 25 burrowing mammals and a dinosaur that lived in burrows during the Cretaceous period called an Orytodromeus. The name Alphabellies didn't come up until later. I originally called them Burrowful Animals that lived in Burrowville, but the tie-in with making it sound like Beautiful Animals didn't work so well. So then I called them The Burrowers, to make it sound like The Borrowers. Didn't work. Then Alphaburrowers, then Alphaburrowfuls, then Alphamammals. The belly element of it didn't come up until I started working on Bubbly Bilby's page. It was then I decided to put the alphabet, inside of a star, because of my obsession with the vast landscape of the universe, on each character.
6. Coati, Quokka or a Dog, how I chose Cutie, the main character.
Steps 6-20 to come. This includes my character development, choosing an illustration style, Kickstarter details, book printing resources, a step-by-step marketing plan and what made me decide to go the indie route versus collaborating with a publisher. Please email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org with comments or questions.