The ‘HOW TO’ Guide – Publishing your own book

How do you go about publishing a book? I get this question a lot. Here is a ‘how to’ guide on how I went about publishing ‘A Little Goes a Long Way.’ I have made mistakes along the way but I suppose that is what this blog post is good for. I’ll talk about what I’ve heard to do, what I did and what I’ve learned in the process. I’ll also talk about what I’d do differently because this is a learning process for me too! The following is a guide for those who have a solid foundation for a book but don’t know what to do next in the self publishing world. You’ve been picked up, dropped and rejected time and time again. It’s YOUR time now to just make it happen! Here’s how:

  1. Set yourself up as a DBA (doing business as – sole proprietor) and start your own publishing company. By setting your own company up you won’t have ‘createspace’ or any other obvious self publishing program attached to your title. The whole point is to make it look like it’s been published by a legit house. Bricks and Mortar stores won’t even take a second look if they see ‘createspace’ or any other self publishing printing company attached to your title. Set yourself as a legit small business and you get total control.
  2. Use createspace and Lightning Source/Ingram Spark as your printing house and distributor OR get a kickstarter  campaign going and get your book printed overseas
    I’ve had a mixed relationship with createspace – mainly because the customer service is superb but the quality isn’t always consistently great. I’ve had numerous copies sent back because pages were out of order or the color was not up to standard. BUT they are number 1 for service accessibility and they do give you the best quality for the money. They are totally set up with Amazon and super hooked up with other distribution channels. The community board is an EXCELLENT resource as well for any questions about your publishing process. They make it super easy to self publish but take note: if you do publish with createspace, be sure to buy your own ISBN because you DO NOT want createspace to show up as your ‘publisher’ – which shoos buyers and other retailers away. I got the 10$ ISBN option. A year after I primarily used createspace for my On Demand Printing (ODP) needs, I added Lightning Source to the mix because I wanted a hardback edition copy available to my customers. I had to stop the Expanded Distribution program through createspace and buy a separate ISBN number for Lightning Source (because it is a different format, in hardback). I now have two distributors working for me and two separate outlets. Keep in mind though that using Ingram Spark/Lightning Source is more expensive with their fees attached to everything. The quality is only okay and if I could do it again, I’d probably use a kickstarter campaign to fund the printing overseas and use a portion of that money for marketing purposes. I would print all hardback overseas using MCRL or some other printing company that would print the stock at bulk for a cheaper per unit price. The advantage of a POD outlet is that it allows you to print only what you need  and therefore you don’t have a whole room full of books waiting to sell…BUT if you know you can sell – sell what you can independently; it’s how you make the most profit. Amazon and other distribution takes a hefty amount.
  3. Apply for Book Festivals and Awards! Okay, I’ll admit, after my second win from JM Morgan Media, I got a little greedy and wanted to just keep the momentum with another win, so I submitted another 50$ to the Southern Cal Fest and won another honorable mention.  The Readers Favorite Award was a bigger deal because it’s a truly legitimate award won by some big timers like Jim Carrey and Henry Winkler. The truth of it is though, you have to be picky about what you’re submitting to because it gets expensive BUT it does give you leverage. Being an ‘award winning author’ is tremendously powerful in this competitive world. Everyone is self publishing – why not make your book stand out with an award winning seal? Everyone needs validation – especially books that aren’t published by Harper Collins.
  4. SOCIAL MEDIA IS A MUST  –  USE Twitter, Facebook and Instagram! I thought the hashtag was just a ridiculous tactic to the social media game and I wasn’t ready to play it  but here’s the reality – if you’re going to live and publish in today’s world you need to stay relevant. The hashtag is actually your friend. It’s a free way to advertise your book on what may seem like a wasted space but someone is looking on it, right? Even if those are only looking at their own work on the hashtag site, maybe just maybe they’ll see your work too? It’s worth a shot so think about all the outlets you could possibly advertise such as festivals or events you may be looked at and take full advantage of that stupid hashtag bullshit!
  5. BOOK YOURSELF – no one else will do it for you. Getting published is half the battle – even when you get published with the big leagues. Most first time authors think that just because they get ‘picked up’ by a big one they have it made but the reality is a publishing house will only spend a certain amount on marketing – sometimes very little on marketing and advertising unless you are a big name. Big houses and stores taking your book only care about one thing; MONEY and if you can’t make them money they will take you off the shelf straight away. Some highlights with my bookings have been schools, museums, fairs, library story times, OC children’s book festival. Go where your niche audience is and explore ALL outlets.

    I also think at this point – a year after my first book’s release – it is time to pursue another project so that I can stay fresh with my audience and give my ‘fans’ something more to look forward to. I wish I would have had another ‘A Little Goes a Long Way’ book out by now, but I have decided to pursue a separate series altogether so I’m not wasting any time waiting. One day it’ll be a series, but for now I’m excited to pursue something different. It’ll be nice to have something more to offer.

    This has been a HUGE learning process so far and I’m excited to share what I’ve learned with you all! I am so flattered to receive so many phone calls and emails asking about my process. I hope I have answered some of your questions! Good luck and please continue the emails with questions – I am happy to help! ashleymillsmonaghan@gmail.com. Follow me on facebook too for more information. I love sharing your stories, kickstarter campaigns and sharing (/independently) published work! Like me and I’ll like you back 😉  Good luck to all of you!

READERS’ FAVORITE WINNER!

Star Star Star Star Star 5 STAR REVIEW FROM READERS’ FAVORITE!!

Readers\' Favorite Book Contest Award Winner“I have read quite a few children’s books recently, and I have to say that this book is the cutest so far. There was something about it that just had me smiling from ear to ear throughout the whole story. It could be the fact that it is written in a perfectly simplistic way that children will understand and relate to. It could most certainly be the fact that the illustrations were absolutely adorable, unique, and incomparable. It could also be the fact that even though presented in a simple way, this story teaches a valuable lesson of conservation and love. Then again, it could be all of the above. I just absolutely loved this book, and I don’t have one single negative thing to say about it.”
– Reviewed by Cheryl Schopen for Readers’ Favorite

Books as Tools and Tools for choosing Books + Recommendation List

As we all know, books can be great learning tools. But when it comes to picking one out from millions of other books on the book shelf at the library or book store, how do you choose? Do you go by a colorful cover? A “best-seller?” Are you looking for content that has to do with your child’s daily routine or perhaps a helpful book that is applicable to your toddler’s growing needs such as potty training or learning to share? Picture books can be such powerful tools for young children and we as parents, teachers (and authors) rely on them for various reasons. Whether it’s a book from your home library that becomes your child’s favorite bed time story or a book that your toddler keeps pulling out from the shelf that gives him satisfaction because he can successfully point out and name colors, books are an essential part of childhood. But what makes a good picture book great? What should we be looking for in children’s picture books if we want our children to get the most out of such powerful tools?

First, let’s start with breaking down why picture books are so powerful and why you need to continue reading to your young child on a daily basis. Picture books expand our children’s language, brain development, attention span, and allow physical participation. Picture books are multi-sensory. The more multi-sensory learning a child gets, the more rapid their development occurs. Maria Montessori was a huge advocate on sensory learning for young children – that is why there is a whole section of sensorial materials dedicated to her curriculum in a Montessori classroom. Picture books allow children to feel the pages, hear the language, see the pictures, maybe even sympathize with a character’s emotions. Picture books are the only book genre that offers this kind of multi sensory based experience. The more we read to our young children using physical, tangible  picture books – the stronger their intelligences become.

As a former Montessori preschool teacher, I know just how powerful books can be for young children. I used to read picture books to my class several times a day during circle time. I learned what worked and what didn’t really work just by watching and observing the children during story time.  Some of my favorite books that I personally love and that the children took to most (which is the whole point, right?) are the ‘Fancy Nancy’ books and Jamie Lee Curtis books – both of which are great for expanding your child’s vocabulary. ‘Where the Wild Things Are’ is a great one – particularly for boys because it has a boy protagonist and a lot of research shows that boys relate better to books with a boy protagonist. Girls seem to understand everything, but boys better relate to a character that they can identify with. This is why boys tend to love the David Shannon books as well. Julia Donaldson has some wonderful books. I am subscribed to the Growing Child newsletter and they send on 1 book a month to your child from the Dolly Parden Imagination Library. Those books are all on contract with Penguin Publishers – but they tend to publish some great learning books.  I love David Roberts’ ‘Dirty Bertie,’ because not only is it simply written with a little message, it’s funny and it’s important for children to laugh and associate fun with reading.  ‘My No No No Day’ by Rebecca Patterson is a good one for dealing with a child who is having a bad tantrum day. My son loves ‘Pete the Cat.’ Of course we can’t leave out the classics of some of Dr Seuss. Some of his books I find are too long and poorly written in my opinion, but for the older kids they are especially useful when it comes to learning about language. Because of Dr. Seuss’ clever play on words, children can start to recognize sight words and practice with their rhyming.  Personally, I like to look for text that is simple and to the point. Too many words on one page and I know my little one won’t take to it for two reasons: 1) a young child’s brain can’t handle too much information at one time and 2) their attention span is short.  This was the one of the biggest challenges for me when writing ‘A Little Goes a Long Way’ and that is – how to tell a lot using as few words as possible so my target audience would better understand the story.

If you are on the look out for great books for young children (ages 0-6), look out for short simple text, a repetitive phrase (so that the child can participate and eventually start to recognize the words), a relatable subject or topic for discussion and let’s not forget colorful and engaging illustrations. Details in the illustrations are so important because you are able to ask your child what they see in the pictures, talk about colors, talk about the story; it allows them to participate that much more in the experience to get their language going. Part of being a children’s picture book author is making sure that I am writing a simply written story with correct grammar and language, that offers new vocabulary words but allows the illustrations to tell part of the story as well. This was another challenge for me while writing ‘A LIttle Goes a Long Way.’ My editor had to remind me after each draft I sent on to allow the pictures to carry the story as well. ‘A LIttle Goes a Long Way’ is a simple story – but it’s HOW a story is told and put together with the marriage of illustrations and the flow of how the pages turn that makes all the difference.

Sometimes I wonder how certain books make it to a ‘best seller’ list or even wind up on the shelves of Barnes and Noble. But if you can weed through all the ‘fluff’ out there and make an effort to find those little gems that can be super useful for your child by using some of these tools I’ve provided, you will end up with a fantastic collection of books for your child. Take them to book fairs, author readings and library story times. Get them engaged in your storytelling. Take advantage of some great books out there – and remember how valuable it is to read to your child. Some of these things I have pointed out may seem obvious, but if you look at your collection of books at home, you may realize you have a lot of fluff there too. I think as parents we just assume that anything we pick up at Barnes and Noble will be good, but the truth is some of the books out there are either really poorly written, inapplicable to a child or just plain boring because it has too much story to follow. And publishing is a business at the end of the day – if it’s marketed well and it’s selling it will stay on the shelf. This doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a useful tool or that it is a good book. Examples of this (in my opinion): ‘Splat the Cat’ or ‘The Little Engine That Could.’ For some reason ‘Splat the Cat’ is a hit but I don’t get it and I REALLY don’t get how ‘The Little Engine That Could’ is considered a classic. It could be a really great story because I like the message – but it is so poorly written and put together, I find myself paraphrasing each page for my 2.5 year old son just to get through it without tearing my teeth out.

See below some of my recommendations for some great picture books and keep in mind why our children need them in their lives! It’s not only the message and how a good book is put together that makes them great, it’s the whole experience that a book gives a child that is most powerful of all.

RECOMMENDATION LIST (0-6 years)

Ezra Jack Keats – ‘Peter’s Chair,’ ‘The Snowy Day’
Eric Carle books
Bill Martin Jr/Eric Carle – ‘Brown Bear Brown Bear’
Julia Donaldson – ‘Monkey Puzzle’
David Roberts – ‘Dirty Bertie’
Herve Tullet – ‘Press Here’
Anna Dewdney books
Crocket Johnson – ‘Harold and the Purple Crayon’
Margaret Wise Brown – ‘Goodnight Moon,’ ‘The Diggers’
Bill Martin Jr/John Archabault – ‘Chicka Chicka Boom Boom’
Judith Viorst – ‘Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good Very Bad Day’
Audrey Wood – ‘The Napping House’
Rebecca Patterson – ‘The No No No Day’
David Shannon books
Jamie Lee Curtis books
Fancy Nancy Collection
Dr Seuss – ‘Green Eggs and Ham’
Litwin and Dean – ‘Pete the Cat’
Maurice Sendak – ‘Where the Wild Things Are’
Robert Neubecker – ‘Wow Ocean!’
Eric Hill – ‘Where is Spot?’
Maloney/Zekauskas – ‘One Foot, Two Feet’
Kate and Jules Pfeiffer – ‘No Go Sleep!’
Nicholas Oldland – ‘Big Bear Hug’
Caroline Jayne Church – ‘I Love you Through and Through’

What I’m learning along the way…

This is a new world for me and I’m learning as I’m going. Of course I will make mistakes along the way and this is how I will learn for my next publication. If I could do this one all over again though, there are 3 big ‘coulda, woulda, shoulda’ moments I would want to redo, had I known about them when the time mattered.

1) Timing is EVERYTHING. When it comes to festivals and award submissions, the timing of your publication date is everything. I made the mistake of releasing this book in mid-December which means I missed out on some (but not all) book award submission requirements; one being that ‘your title must be submitted by the 31st of December of your book’s publication year.’ I missed out on entering for the Caldecott, Newberry and Geisel Awards because of this. Not like I had a massive chance or anything but had I known about this requirement, I would have submitted it straight away to catch that deadline. Even though the book was released at the very end of 2013, it was published in 2013 nevertheless and so if I could do it again, I would have released it in January of 2014 to take full advantage of these types of awards. Plus had I released it earlier in the year, I’d have a whole year to work up a reputation for the book, including my other festival award wins and big appearances.

2) Timing is EVERYTHING. Again, I stress it…Did you know that all it means to be a best seller on Amazon all you have to do is rally up all your sales in a 24 hour period? That means that had I only opened the gates to sell the book for a 24 hour period and got all those sales we had over the first two week period of its release, our little book could have made it to a big top ten best seller list. The tricks and trades of this business, eh?!

3) Timing is what?? Oh, EVERYTHING. When it comes to booking readings and signings, I have learned to be a little more picky about the timing. In the beginning, I was happy to book anything and everything that came my way. But now I know if I want a larger audience, I have to think about the timing of it all. I have to make sure there is enough time to market and advertise for a certain gig and I have to take in consideration of when schools are on vacation or if the booking is around the holidays. My timing of every performance matters too because my audience is full of little ones with little attention spans.

I am sure this list will continue to grow as I go. But I thought it was important to share in case any of you were thinking of releasing a book anytime soon. Learn from my mistakes and understand that timing is….EVERYTHING!

Hollywood Book Festival, 2014

HBF.Runner-up.DigitalBadge.2014-1

I still can’t believe I won Runner Up in the children’s book category at the Hollywood Book Festival. When I checked out the list of winners, my eyes went directly to the Honorable Mention list because I was thinking if I won anything, it’d be in that list. I wasn’t surprised to not see my name but before any bit of disappointment could set in I scrolled up and there was my name — Runner Up!! I didn’t actually think I was going to win anything at all with this festival because after I had entered it, it occurred to me that what the judges were looking for was not only the quality of storytelling but the potential of the book in becoming an entertainment and media source for TV. It got me thinking, maybe this little book of mine could be turned into a TV series after all. This festival win has inspired me to think about where I could see this little book going if it had a big opportunity to get into a TV series. My brother is a screen writer and actor and we have decided to collaborate on drafting a series pitch and write up an episode or two. Over the next few weeks I will try to develop the concept into a more solid and concrete vision with how a book like this could translate as a TV series for children. The possibilities in the world of writing are endless!

I decided not to attend the awards this time around as it was very costly. But, I did still receive my certificate and I ordered a digital badge to go on the cover. Now we have 2 seals. Vivian and I will be playing around with a cover design using these seals and will hopefully have a new cover in the coming weeks. Having two wins behind me creates opportunity to keep the momentum going. It also gives me the confidence to brush off any rejection that comes my way. I know it’s not the Caldecott Award or anything, but it’s an award nonetheless. Of the thousands who entered the contest that were judged by a panel of experts, our little book got a big win and I could not be more proud.

http://www.hollywoodbookfestival.com/winners2014.htm

Quarterly Newsletters 2014

Our quarterly newsletter offers our subscribers an update on the latest news regarding the book and author. It also offers seasonal special offers and discounts and provides our readers with up to date information on tour dates, festivals and more. Join our mailing list and you will not only get our newsletter by email, but you will also be entered into free giveaway contests and invited to all the upcoming author signing events. You can join by clicking here.

October 2014 Newsletter A Little Goes a Long Way Quarterly NewsletterOCT2014

June 2014 Newsletter A Little Goes a Long Way Quarterly Newsletter2

March 2014 Newsletter A Little Goes a Long Way Newsletter