I Need Help With A Decision - Children's Book Self-publishing
Hi Everyone! I need some help and I have no idea where else to ask this, so:
I started to draw a new series about a month ago: 12 images capturing an old stone bridge at the edge of a forest. My concept was that while the viewpoint remains the same the setting/season of the scene changes a bit/lot in every image as the characters (mainly animals) come and go and do different things. I was in the middle of preparing the first sketches when I realized that the whole project is basically an illustration series to a children's book, because behind each image I have a story/tale in my head. And I started to think about writing that book...
And now I'm stuck because I like the idea a lot but I'm not sure if I want/can carry it through. Writing would be a challenge, but I'm pretty confident I could do it well and have a lot of fun with it (not in English, but in my native language - Hungarian), so that's not the problem. I researched a bit and I'm aware that my only option to print the book would be self-publishing. It would take a lot of extra time and energy, some money to fund at least a few dozen copies (even with POD) and - of course - if I'd like to actually sell the book to readers I have to do all the marketing myself.
I thought first I complete the drawings and will decide about the book later, but while pondering all this I realized that I can't really progress with the images without the decision - the composition of some of the scenes changes when I look at them as illustrations for a tale and not as purely visual works. In some cases, the book-version feels less 'complete', I'm not sure how they would work/sell as standalone images.
I know that a lot depends on the images and the stories, so I uploaded three very rough drafts, just to show the concept.
The first one is about a knight in armor who flees from a museum because he's bored and wants a mission, he meets the rhino in the woods and after some verbal and physical conflict he decides to join the rhino in guarding and protecting the forest and its residents.(The forest is under a spell, only animals and some magical creatures can enter - through the bridge - and it's also a kind of refuge for animals escaping from captivity or a circus etc.)
The second one is after a huge storm that temporarily turns the meadow at the edge of the forest into a wetland. A group of young spoonbills are happily dabbling and feeding on fish when a flamingo turns up and confuses them with the explanation about his color, until an older spoonbill arrives and sets everything straight.
On the third one, four penguins get sight of something orange under the bridge while crossing. They start to argue about what it is, three of them agree it must be the goldfish frozen in the ice (he swam up from the lake after the storm and had his 'one wish moment' with the bear in one of the previous stories/images), and they have a lengthy discussion about what they would wish. The fourth penguin is a consistent non-believer, he says the goldfish doesn't even exist and what they see is only a fallen leaf...
Do you think kids/parents would be interested in these kinds of stories? Is it worth to put the time and energy in?
Does anyone here have any experience with self-publishing?
I would really appreciate any kind of input that helps me to decide....
people buy pretty much anything these days, but hard to know if they will seek out a self published thing.
as a story book, i would focus on the life of a bridge, rather than the people on it, since its the same exact bridge each time. i would though at least change how the trees look, branches are positioned, time of day etc, to make them a little different. like you have a summer scene but the trees are bare.
maybe the setting can start with a bridge builder creating it, and from the viewpoint of the bridge, talking about its life to something, maybe a stone, like i was just a stone once, and now i'm a bridge, let me tell you all the wonderful things that i've seen. that sort of thing.
you would have to decide what age group this is for, this would determine how long the stories are, the wordage used etc
the hard part is the story itself, is there a point to it? is there a moral?
if its for an easy reader, you would need an alphabet sized amount of pictures, and there would be a build up, like, this is a story of about things surrounding a bridge or something like that. and its like A is for apple, growing by the side of the bridge. B is for the bear taking eating the apple. C is for Cat, he is riding the bear.
in that format, you would have have to think this is a story book from the start.
thanks for your thoughts.
It's interesting to know that your focus would be on the life of the bridge itself - that's very different from what I have on my mind. In my mind, the bridge is something ancient with an unknown history. Creatures come and go literally and figuratively, but the bridge stays - it was always there, witnessing maybe hundreds of years of stories of the magical forest.
Regarding the details of the setting: as I said these images are just very rough drafts to show the concept. Exactly as you say, the environment - lighting, season, shadows, time of day, the trees/leaves/flowers etc. - will change with the stories, but for now I was focusing on the characters and the happenings - I changed only some aspects of the environment, basically just what's important for the stories (grass/wetland/ice).
When thinking about the stories I have the kind of tales about animals on my mind I used to like as a child - they were entertaining stories, fun to hear and read, with likeable characters and some light, sometimes cheeky humor. If there was a moral at all, it was always hidden and only a 'collateral' thing. Most of the authors are Hungarian, but one of my all time favorites is Tor Age Bringsvaerd.
You are right with pointing out that I would have to consider a lot of technical things (age group, wording etc.) - that's something I wasn't thinking through yet...I'm afraid that's something that lessens my enthusiasm - trying to conform to some rules instead of just writing a story I'd like to tell doesn't sound fun...
1. Ordering the vast quantity required to get the publishing price reasonable and then storing the boxes in half the garage for years hoping that a flood or mice don't ruin the lot as you try to sell the books online or at a local flea market.
2. POD - which makes the books more expensive than the market will bear.
Children's books are some of the most expensive books to publish as they have to stand up to abuse, have to feel good in the hand and look good on the store shelf. You might be able to self-publish a mystery as a POD or digital book, but a cheap-feeling children's book won't sell.
My suggestion would be to approach publishers and try to get a book deal. Often publishers match writers to artists, so it might be worthwhile to try to talk to some publishers and show your work even if you don't have the finished product.
a story book has to have a basis of a story. one has to explain why the bridge looks the same in all scenes. a book about random things crossing a bridge may not be that interesting.
if its about the bridge, it would have a start middle and end. starting at as a stone, constructing, then sitting. peaceful and nice, a boy approaches and places a seed on the side, or casts off an apple. then a small tree starts growing in the background, and in each scene it may represent 10 years, and the background starts to fill in. and towards the end its broken and abandoned. something like that.
i've thought about making books before, but decided it would waste a lot of my time. i'd rather focus on the art where i might make money. rather than make a book that might make a sale now and then.
when someone makes a book they usually have a story in mind first then create art to describe the story. having the art first makes it harder because you have to figure out a long story of a picture that has a short story. and one will wonder, why are they all on that same bridge? isn't there some other magical area they can hang out in?
My research (I googled a few hours...) showed something similar to what you say, but it also showed that approaching publishers or agents for a first time author is practically impossible. The only way to do it is submitting the complete work online to the few publishers who accept this kind of submission. And the situation is pretty much the same in Hungary, except the market is obviously a lot smaller. However, I might give it a try - I know someone from grade school who works for a publisher now, but as we haven't spoken for two decades I'm not so eager to approach her asking help...
On the other hand, my sister has an antique book shop (and a web store I set up for her), so storage and distribution wouldn't be so hard. Also, I think by using a local printer and book binder I could keep the costs low enough to make the books available at a reasonable price. But this is just a first estimate, I have to make more research on this.
Do you have some personal experience with self-publishing?
I get your concept, it's a good one I think, but it's a completely different book :-)...(Maybe one day you decide to write it ?)
For me, the process of creating stories and pictures isn't that clearly defined (regarding the sequence). Many of my pictures are illustrations to stories I've been having in my head for years, and yes, sometimes I draw a picture I have on my mind and I'm inclined to create the story behind it later. I have a series titled Sailing Seven Seas that was created exactly like that (I mean both methods) - for most of them I even wrote down the story fragments in the descriptions.
like this one:
…And as retribution for their betrayal, the giants were doomed to stand there guarding the way with only their head above the water until the end of the epoch, when - according to the prophecy - the bottom of the ocean will divide and swallow all the waters. Their faces frozen into stone are a memento that no living nor dead can defy the Lord of the Waves…
I think both kinds of storytelling - telling a comprehensive story about one thing and telling more different stories that are loosely connected through one element - can be interesting and arresting.
I think it's a great idea for a story book, Moira. Mike does raise a good point about the trees being in different stages of leaf for different times of the year, but as a concept (well developed already) it's great!
"My research (I googled a few hours...) showed something similar to what you say, but it also showed that approaching publishers or agents for a first time author is practically impossible."
You do not approach publishers, you approach agents. They are the ones looking for new talent, not publishers. Publishers are inundated with stuff from third rate agents that they don't look at as a rule. They use agents as the first level of screening.
I've been concentrating on the characters for now - the environment on these pictures is essentially the same drawing, except for some details that are important for the story.
Once I can decide about the book, I can start to work on the environment too - there's a lot of opportunity to change the ambiance of each image with the details.
Moira, I have self published a few books and I used Blurb and was very satisfied with all they offer. You have plenty of options and you don't have to buy inventory. Once your book is done you can share it,gift it,sell it and market it via their tools and platform and also make it available on amazon. Best of luck with your project.
Hi, Moira - I love your ideas as you laid them out, and maybe I understand more what your perspective is because I am Hungarian, loved those stories you refer to as a child in Hungary, and raised my daughter in Cleveland, Ohio on Hungarian children's books that she loved before we even taught her a word of English. In that vein, I think what you are thinking would be wonderful, told in your own way, with your own set of values and aesthetics and sensibilities - because that is how we can do our best work. So, I say, go for it.
If nothing else, put it together and get one book published for yourself on line to physically see it and also to have it to present your project to others. You can at the same time create a card for each with one great image and the story on the back and offer them individually and as a set. You can do that here on FAA even as you complete one, then the next, etc.
Egyszer igen olcso volt Magyaorszagon a konyv nyomtatas - most mar nem?
If you like the result of your test book, maybe visit some book stores and get some feedback, see how they react, maybe they know someone they can send you to who will help you publish. If not and you decide to self publish, you'll have to do the work of making people aware of it to get it out in any larger quantity. I have a family member who has very successfully self-published several books, they are printed as purchased on Amazon so he has no inventory, but he lectures and teaches in the San Francisco area at tech companies and has private clients who are all potential customers of his books on mindfulness - and he has now been approached by an agent who wants to represent him. So as Floyd said, here in the States, it would be the agent that helps you then get your book out to be available to a large audience and hopefully for you to profit from it all.
There are also book signings in book stores and at various clubs and groups which is a way to promote a book, and story telling at Library's is also a good way to be known by parents who would buy the books. Is that something you can do in Budapest with maybe just a handful of books to start, or whatever small quantity you may need to print as a self-publisher to get started, and then see where it takes you.
You seem to have a wonderful imagination and a gift and a need to tell stories. It sounds like you should definitely test the waters and follow your passion - who knows where it will lead you.
I say go for it! I've self-published several books, the last one being a children's book...it didn't cost me a dime to self-publish them through Create Space which is now selling through Amazon. The first version of my children's book is kind of a very basic Alphabet book....I have another version in my head for older children but I wasn't getting it done so I started off with the Alphabet version. I think your first example of a theme would be great for older children as it has more "depth" to it....with the other 2 being better for younger children.
reading your answer really made my day :-)!
Thank you very much for that, for your kind words and support, and for your practical ideas too.
Through the antique book shop of my sister I have some perspective on the shifts and trends of the last decades in book reading and selling in Hungary - it's not a merry one. Less and less people read classic literature, great books that were basic are impossible to sell, and even the newly published popular books have very limited buying audience. The costs of printing skyrocketed - I don't really know why, theoretically digital technology should have had an opposite effect.
But children's literature is still quite in demand, and many parents come in to my sister's shop seeking the tales and books of their childhood, complaining that most contemporary children's books are missing something. And it's not just nostalgia, I know what they are talking about - but maybe it's just a Central-European cultural thing?
I'm not familiar with English children's literature - except the classic ones like Winnie the Pooh or Alice, that were translated in virtually every language all over the world - but I guess the kind of tales we were growing up with aren't that typical (popular?) in the US?
thank you very much for your answer!
I will look into Create Space, may I ask you how your book has been selling so far and what kind of marketing/advertising did you do?
I think Edward is right about the special requirements for children's books, considering your book (cute graphics by the way :-)) is for the smallest, were you satisfied with the overall quality and printing of the book?
Moira, the finished quality of the books are great! I have self-published several, and my husband has done 2. He's sold a lot of his books with very little advertising. I have sold several to one person (a school principal), but that's it so far. I definitely need to do more advertising!
I self-publish Grow With Joe Children's books originally via CreateSpace print on demand. They also market/sell print on demand via Amazon and most online book stores through-out the world.
CreateSpace (is closing down) no longer supported by Amazon and is slowly being moved across to Amazon's KINDLE Direct Publishing where you can do exactly the same as on CreateSpace to produce soft cover (paper back) books and Kindle books. They have templates and all sorts of on line help. I have found them great and the book quality is great, although I wish they did hard back books.
thank you very much for the info on CreateSpace and Amazon. I agree with you on the hard back, for a children's book it's probably a must.
I suppose you'll continue Grow with Joe :-), best of luck to you too!