I wrote several YA stories, one of which will be featured in REUTS Publications' 2015 anthology. One, an 8,000+ word monster with the name TRICKED, won't leave me alone and begs to be published as a standalone or to be turned into a book-length format.
And when I had time and felt inspired, I also wrote numerous picture books over the years.
The book I published a few weeks ago is not one of them, though. That book came out of nowhere, jumping at me like a skunk from the bushes - if skunks were known to jump, that is, which they aren't. And unlike skunks, the idea that leaped at me didn't stink at all.
Wow. I'm a copywriter and not all that easily roped in, but it sounded impressive... and it was free, so what could possibly happen? I attended the webinar and was impressed with Jay's strategies, which he laid out for everyone to see. But that wasn't what made me buy the program.
What made me buy the program - which came with 48 step-by-step tutorial videos, oodles of PDFs and mind maps and software that would help me write and self-publish a bang-up kids' book - was how exquisitely simple he made it all sound. So simple, in fact, that I resolved to have a book out by the end of October.
If you're lucky and they're a nice agent, you will get a form rejection email anytime within the next three months. If they're a not-so-nice agent, you won't even get that form email. How many of my limited years did I want to waste sitting there and twiddling my thumbs? But self-publishing seemed like a horribly daunting task.
Jay's webinar and program gave me new hope... and I have to say, that alone made it worth the several hundred dollars I paid. Besides, the instructions were sound and easy to follow. All of a sudden publishing a book became a possibility, even a probability.
The book had that effect on me that all writers know: an almost electrical jolt of epiphany and the instant, envious thought, Dammit, why in the world didn't I think of this?
The following Saturday, I drove an hour to a friend's book signing event in St. Albans, VT. (Check out her mystery book series, by the way, it's great.) The whole way there, I couldn't get this book out of my head... what an ingenious concept, a little-kids' book with no pictures! Quick to write, quick to format, cheap to publish. There had to be a way for me to write a "picture book without pictures."
At some point, after numerous long and very tiring discussions, my weary brain remembered that I had studied psychotherapy for several years. So I suggested we should switch roles for a change: he would be the mom and I'd be him. He immediately jumped at the opportunity.
"Aw, Mommy," I whined, doing my best Son #1 impression, "why do I always have to go to bed? YOU never go to bed!"
"Oh, but we do," he answered in a serious grownup voice. "We go to bed after you're asleep."
"But, but, but why can't I stay up as long as you do?" I cried. "IT'S NOT FAIR!" (That was his favorite phrase at the time.)
"Well," he said somberly, "life isn't always fair. You need more sleep than we do, so you need to go to bed earlier."
And so it went on and on. I was amazed how well he knew what I would have said, and how well he as "mom" argued his case. After about five minutes of going round and round, he sighed and said, "Am I really THAT annoying?"
We both had a good laugh at that.
At home, I worked like a maniac from 4:30 PM till 3:00 AM. I wrote, edited, created a cover design, tried to format. Which was where I got stuck because I couldn't get CreateSpace, the printer affiliated with Amazon, to accept my manuscript. Not correctly formatted, the website kept saying. It was driving me nuts.
Eventually, I resorted to get help from Fiverr, a wonderful source of creative assistance, from making YouTube videos and designing websites, to formatting books and creating illustrations. The difference between Fiverr and other freelance sites is that the help is outsourced. Instead of sitting in Omaha, Nebraska, your web designer may sit in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia... which makes the deals lucrative for one party and affordable for the other.
A negligent sum bought me the assistance of "Ben" from Sri Lanka, who was more than happy to lend a hand in the formatting process. Instead of in 24 hours as promised, he delivered the end product in half the time... and topped off the job by giving me a free 3D cover. In return, I gave him a big tip and a first-class testimonial.
And just a couple days later, my paperback was up and running on Amazon, and suddenly I was a "published author." But that wasn't even the best part.
Getting the book ready in that obsessive ten-and-a-half-hour explosion was the most liberating experience I'd had in a long time. It felt like 1999, when I had sold everything I had and moved from Germany to Sedona, AZ, finally giving myself permission to spread my wings and soar.
Sure, there were mistakes. I expected those and was happy that this first book of mine was a very short, very easy-to-handle one. For example, I got the age range for the book wrong. Instead of 3-5 years, it should have been more like 4-7. But once you enter something as a title into CreateSpace, there it stays and can't be changed. The Kindle edition is easier and can be edited after the fact, but of course you need both to match.
But I view mistakes as opportunities to learn, and learn I did. A lot. Just two weeks ago, I didn't know the first thing about publishing a book. And while I'm certainly no expert, today I know much more than I did then.
I even learned how to convert a Word doc into a jpeg file that would fulfill the KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) requirements for a cover. (It's more complicated than it sounds.)
I also learned tons of new things about book marketing, though I thought as a direct-marketing copywriter by trade, I already knew a lot. I was dead wrong.
I also loved the short-lived excitement when I ran a five-day free-book promotion on Amazon and watched my sales rank climb until the book hit #1 in its first Amazon category and #2 in its second one. Can you call something a #1 bestseller if you gave it away for free? I don't know, but it didn't keep me from announcing it to everyone and their brother... and it felt great.
I doubt I'll get rich and famous with this book. But there'll be others. In the meantime, I wrote and published a German version, and the picture book I'm working on is coming along quite well. And for less than $100 and a little over ten hours of work, I fulfilled my dream of becoming a published author.
Well worth the money, I'd say.