About the Once-Upon-A-Slime books and my self-publishing journey.
My books are the 'Once-Upon-A-Slime' children's picture book series. Many moons ago (approx nine years while I was on maternity leave) I had this clear vision: to write and publish a children's picture book I could take into schools and inspire kids to love reading. I also planned to make a bob or two by selling my books wherever I could... if possible.
I wrote the story and illustrated the pictures, asked my word nerd of a sister Becs to edit the story, and got my first 10 books printed as tester copies. I bought the essential ISBN code I needed for my book to officially exist and be sold in bookshops.
I (bravely!?) decided that I didn't want to commit to a publisher because I didn't want to sacrifice the majority of my earnings to the commission fees. Back then I didn't realise that self-publishing would be such a good decision! I've gone on to sell 10,000+ copies of my books mainly via author visits. I now have four books in my Once-Upon-A-Slime series and I still sell thousands every year - all without having a publisher!
Read about my journey as a self-published children's author:
The Beginning | Editing | Illustration | Publishing | Printing | Profile | Author Visits | Bookshops
My 'real life' job is a designer - I run a design business called: Fi & Becs Design and Wording. So, fortunately I had the ability to illustrate my own picture books.
Whilst on maternity leave I wrote my first story about three slimy slugs, created the illustrations on my laptop (I couldn't work with words alone!) and arranged to print a few copies with the printer I use for my design business.
I gave them away to friends and family and arranged an author visit at a local small school, just to see if anyone even liked the story. It turned out that people did! It made kids laugh out loud and for me that was it. I wanted to print more of my books and arrange more school visits to get kids into reading and illustration. So I then had to figure out what to do next...
Even though I can write creatively, I do seem to have a problem where I sometimes write in past tense and then in present, I mix it up. I don't know why I do it, and I do it ALL the time. Even when I go back and check for it, I am blind to it!
Luckily for me, I had a few people who could help me with my manuscript.
I gave my first story to my sister Becs who helped me to fix my grammar, added the correct punctuation and sorted out my past / present tense issues. Making sure your manuscript is correct - is SO IMPORTANT and this editing all needs done before your illustrations.
Book illustration is so exciting. It's the moment when your ideas come alive and jump out of the page. I love it! I was lucky because I am a graphic designer and I could make my story come alive on my own laptop, but what can often put off an author from starting their book is the question about illustration. How do you find an illustrator that you can trust... which website do you choose from... how many illustrations will they do... who even owns the work... urgh, it can be a minefield.
That's why we have created our portfolio of illustrators. The prices are clear and from the outset you know WHAT you are going to get and YOU own the work you have paid for. The only extra costs might come from tweaks / changes to the illustrations - that's why it's super important to be clear exactly what you want them to design.
Finding our collection of illustrators was: So. Much. Fun. They are all amazing and talented in their own way - these people make us go 'ooooh' and 'ahhhhh' and they exist to make our eyes dance.
From the excitment of illustration to... the boring bit of publishing. Ha - perhaps it's a bit boring, but it's a crucial part! Without an ISBN (International Standard Book Number) booksellers, libraries, internet retailers and other supply chains cannot order, list or track your book for stock control - it's an important thing!
The reason that I set up my own publishing company back in 2010 was because I had managed to write, illustrate and print some tester copies of my book ALL ON MY OWN - why would I need another company to publish it? I dislike being defeated!
So I went online, researched, searched and figured out the paperwork. Because of this I can now publish your book too under our small publishing company. We can generate your ISBN number, take care of the small-print and upload your book onto the Neilson Database to make it all REAL! Plus we won't act like a publisher or take any royalties from your book sales so it all stays totally in your control.
Although I know what I'm doing when it comes to printing (working as a graphic designer!) I actually had a bit to learn about printing a book. I fancied an all-singing, all-dancing cover, with texture and shiny gloss sections, ooo and maybe some scratch-and-sniff pages too!
Hmmm - the answer was no. Unless I wanted to pay a fortune, or I was happy to order one million books (!) and get them printed in China. So, I adjusted my expectations and adopted a more realistic approach whilst also making sure I had a professionally beautiful book.
Having found an amazing printer just down the road from my house (who we also use for our design business Fi & Becs Design & Wording) I trusted that they would print me high quality, perfectly bound books that look gorgeous and feel good to hold. I've used them now for over eight years!
I didn't get the scratch-and-sniff pages, but the smell of my new books when they arrived from my printer was totally to die for. The smell of my REAL book in print for the first time ever! Divine.
Once I had my books ready to go, I quickly realised that people who liked my books were also (surprisingly!) interested in me as an author. If you're planning to actually sell your books then your 'author profile' is MASSIVELY important, you really need to have a credible online presence and for companies, bookshops and schools to take you seriously.
I started with Twitter and Facebook and I also built myself a website to show people my books, tell them a bit about me, include my up-coming event info and so that people could buy my book online. Getting a professional headshot (aka a photo) is also really important as bookshops, newspapers and events will ask for one if they are promoting you!
It's worth thinking about these things BEFORE you actually print your book so you can include your website address and social media icons on the back of the book. The best thing in the WORLD is when people love your book and decide to like you on Facebook and engage with you online!
Well, what can I say about school visits - they are quite simply the BEST days you can have as an author! I adore spending a morning at one school, the afternoon with another and leaving happy little faces after each visit. It really feels like you become famous for the day, you see such excitment for reading and you get to sell lots of books!
A lot of new authors can get worried about schools visits and have so many questions. Do you charge the school... do you give free books away for free... how long do you stay... what do you need to take? It can feel so confusing if you've never done it before!
Having your book stocked in a REAL bookshop is the ultimate dream. Imagine walking into an independent bookshop and seeing your book there on a shelf beside other authors! It is amazing.
When you start contacting bookshops as a self-published author it can feel scary and nerve wracking - especially if you're not used to 'selling' things. The truth is, some independent bookshops are really supportive - they buy your books, they like to host events with you and they even create point-of-sale (aka shelf marketing) for you. Some bookshops can be a little more tricky. If you have a visit where you aren't made to feel welcome (it can happen!) then my honest advice is to walk away and not worry about it. Book in a school visit instead and put that smile back on your face!
The truth is, you need to be friendly, professional and make it extremely easy for the bookshop to stock your book. Always get your trade price, RRP price and invoices set up professionally before you go! Having a well laid out invoice makes you much more credible.
Some bookshops ask for 'sale or return', which means you only invoice them once they have sold your books. This is fine... but I've lost count of how many times I have forgotten to invoice for these books as can take MONTHS, so beware!
Extra tips... let each bookshop know how much you hate Amazon and
support your local bookshops with events and World Book Day plans.
Big shout out to Bookends in Keswick who have always been amazing to me!