Ibari’s Curls—How Nicholette Thomas Created A Dialogue With Her Readers

Nicholette Thomas wrote and illustrated her first children’s book, Ibari’s Curls, that focuses on creating a dialogue with her young readers. I know this because my kids love “answering” the main character’s questions throughout the book. I’ve never seen anything like that before and we have quite the collection of children’s books in our house.

It turns out that creating that conversation was the main reason why Nicholette decided to self-publish her book. That style of writing is not commonly found in children’s books (but it should be because it is quite effective).

Read more about my conversation with Nicholette and how she plans to educate kids (and their parents) through this type of interactive reading style.

Why did you decide to self-publish your illustrated children’s book?

I always wanted to write a story, and I set a goal to publish a book. I wasn’t sure traditionally publishing was right for me because it takes a long time and I can be really shy. With self-publishing, I felt in control, I didn’t need approval from anyway, and I could accomplish it all by myself.

The illustrations are really unique in your book. What was your process?

I sketched in pencil, did the watercolor, outlined in marker, and then scanned and enhanced them to make them transparent. I wanted a painted background to make the illustrations more unique. I didn’t use any fancy tools—I dropped the scanned file into Word and clicked the tab “Set to transparent,” and that was it. I upgraded my Canva account so that I could control more of the settings, but that was really it.

You really used Word to manipulate your images? That’s crazy. Word is not designed for that at all. I’m impressed.

Yeah, I did! I made it work.

You ran a quick Kickstarter campaign to cover some of the fees of your book. Can you explain what the campaign covered?

I wanted the Kickstarter campaign to cover the costs of the ISBN 10-pack ($395), the Canva upgrade ($12/mth), and then the set-up and printing costs of the book (Ingram Spark $49 and CreateSpace $75).

Next time I self-publish a book, I want someone to take my artwork and make it digital, but for this book, I didn’t hire any editors or cover designers.

How long did it take you to create the book from start to finish?

It took me about a year. I ordered a bunch of copies from Ingram Spark to have on hand, giveaway, and sell on Multicultural Children’s Book Day. (Set your calendars for the next one Jan 25, 2019) 

Ingram Spark ($8/book) ended up being much cheaper than CreateSpace ($13/book) for me to produce since my book was full color and there was no noticeable quality difference that I could find.

What advice would you give an indie children’s book author?

My advice is to hire a cover designer and illustrator if you don’t know how to do it yourself. Also, have kids look at it and make sure that the words make sense to them. I got a lot of great feedback from the kids who read the book and pointed out things that I wouldn’t have thought about. Getting group feedback is really good even if it means you have to change things.

Do a lot of research and keep testing before you publish.

Your book used to have a different title. What made you decide to change it?

During the research phase, I noticed that a lot of children’s books had really unique names. Golden Girl and Her Curls (the original title) just didn’t seem unique enough to stand out. I asked for feedback in a book group, and Ibari’s Curls was overwhelmingly more popular.

Be careful in how you share your work publicly as you might still be working through things and changing things right up until publication.

Has self-publishing your book resulted in any new opportunities for you?

Self-publishing definitely forced me to put myself out there more than I was already doing writing for my blog. A book is a much more visible product of your work, so it’s easy to feel more vulnerable because it is being seen and judged by others.

What’s next for you? Are there any new books in the works?

I’ve started illustrating another book about unique families and want to show different makeups of families. There will be all sorts of families with two dads, two moms, one mom, one dad, etc., and I want kids to know that this is normal.

For any book I create, I want there to be a dialogue with the reader, so they learn as they read while still having fun.

Any last takeaway messages for indie authors?

Make sure publishing a book is something you feel passionate about.

Don’t do it to try to make money, do it because you love it.

Even if you don’t sell one copy, you’ll still feel great when you hold your book in your hands.

Bio

Nicholette Thomas writes at mixedfamilylife.com about her interracial marriage and family life.

Be sure to read her book, Ibari’s Curls, and follow her on Facebook.

Perspectives from Self-Publisher, Britt Reints on Marketing and Topic Burnout

I had the opportunity to chat with Britt Reints, author of An Amateur’s Guide to the Pursuit of Happiness, who was kind enough to share her insights on why she chose to self-publish and the interesting things that happen when you are marketing your book.

Why did you decide to self-publish your book?

Honestly, I didn’t even try to publish the traditional route because I was scared someone would tell me I couldn’t do it. I’m an instant gratification person, and I didn’t want to wait for a long time only to be told, “No.”

What aspects did you end up doing yourself and what did you hire out?

I hired a cover designer and a few editors. I also hired a short-term publicist who blasted out my press release to every outlet and got me on a few radio shows. I did my website all by myself and the interior formatting of my book and e-book. I used Scrivener for the writing and organization of my book.

Do you remember how much it cost to produce your book?

I can’t remember exactly, but I’d say somewhere around $1800. The cover designer charged around $500, editors $800, and the publicist was around $500.

You’ve been writing for about 12 years. How helpful was your blog in informing your book?


Well, I traveled for a year, but I didn’t write about that trip. I wrote the book that I didn’t see in the self-help genre (I cringe at the term).

I wanted to write something that discussed the topic of happiness in a way that reached more people. I wanted it to be accessible.

I saw the same themes coming up over and over again on the blog, so I knew they were universal, and I wanted people to know how to do it.

Do you consider yourself a happiness guru of sorts?

After I wrote my book and did a Ted Talk, I haven’t written. It kind of killed my writing because after writing my book, marketing my book, I got annoyed with my topic.

Being associated with my book’s topic ended up being limiting in a way. I was interested in happiness because of a personal experience I had, but I’m kind of over that and want to explore other things.

What was the biggest marketing event that went the furthest?

I definitely sold the most number of books when I was speaking at corporate events and conferences and had my book for sale in the back of the room. I could sell a lot in bulk—20-30 books at one event, so that’s where I saw the most traction.

What advice would you give others?

Hone your craft and be a good writer (and all that jazz) but know that 90% of your work is going to be in marketing your book. If you’re not good at marketing, then invest your money in someone who is.

Do you think it’s worthwhile to self-publish a book?

Writing a book is a stepping stone. When you’re done, you have a huge sense of accomplishment, and it solidifies your platform. Similar to getting your college degree, it shows that you can do a good job and finish something. You can flesh out an idea into a finished book. It’s a major portfolio builder.

What’s next for you?

I would publish again, but now that everyone is writing on the internet, I feel less inclined to put my opinion out there until I know how my opinion is different from everyone else’s. I’m still active on social media, but Twitter is so noisy. I prefer Facebook for tracking conversations.

Check out Britt’s TedX talk here: Creating your owner’s manual for a happy life

Bio

Britt Reints is a happiness expert who doesn’t believe there is any such thing as a happiness expert.

Check out her writing at www.inpursuitofhappiness.net.

A New First: Learning New Skills when Self-Publishing

People always ask me if it was a lifetime dream to publish a book and honestly, it was never a dream of mine.

Throughout my academic career, I have written so many papers, technical reports, and research articles that the thought of writing a book had never crossed my mind until relatively recently.

However, once the idea was in my head and I discovered that there were a lot of viable options to self-publish a book of high-quality, I knew I had to do it.

Academia— always on someone else’s timeline

I’m used to the “publish or perish” mindset in academia—which insanely combines high quality with a sense of dire urgency. You must put out your best work before your colleagues. 

Academic publishing can be brutal. You are at the mercy of multiple rounds of revision, fact checking, and peer-review testing that are beyond your control and yet, you are expected to publish before everyone else.

There is a lot of hurry up and wait when it comes to academic publishing. Your best work is almost always in someone else’s hands.

With that in the back of my mind, I knew that if someone else published a book with the same idea and concept, I would be upset with myself for not pursuing it.

I relished the idea of being in control of the timeline but I was a harsh (still fair) boss and I held myself to self-imposed deadlines.

As much as I hate to admit it, it was the drive to be the first to publish the idea in book format was what spurred me to work those long nights for months on end. Because let’s face it, there aren’t many firsts left for most adults.

A new challenge

As an experienced professional, I had already gone through the ringer from graduate school, learned how to behave professionally in a traditional 9-5 office job, and presented at enough conferences to shake off the nerves.

The idea of creating and publishing a book was a new challenge.

A new set of steps to figure out and an exciting hike off my usual beaten path.

I felt confident that I could leverage my experience with traditional publishing in academia and apply my project management skills in self-publishing. I wasn’t leaving anything behind—I was taking all of my skills and utilizing them in a new way. It felt refreshing. It also jazzed up my daily tasks.

“You don’t have many “firsts” these days, babe. I’m proud of you.”

My husband made a valid point. As professional adults, a lot of our “firsts” are behind us. I’m a huge believer in always learning, studying, and researching new things but the idea that publishing a book would be a new “first” stuck with me.

The first time…

Self-publishing a book would be the first time I ever held a book in my hands with my name on the spine.

  • The first time I took an entire project from start to finish on my own inertia.
  • The first time I cared more about a project than anyone else.
  • The first time they were my deadlines and not someone else’s.
  • The first time I could create the sequence of steps and follow them how I wanted.
  • The first time someone else wasn’t asking me for project updates—I was the one managing a team.

My book wasn’t anyone else’s project. It was mine.

My first.

And it felt great.

If you’re looking for a new “first” and are considering self-publishing a book, let’s have a quick chat to see if I can help.

Want to do it on your own like I did? Check out my comprehensive course on self-publishing.

Perspectives From a Fellow Self-Publisher: Kiran Prasad

In this interview, I sat down and chatted with Kiran Prasad, author of A Mindful Move: Feel at home again, to pick her brain on what she loved and would recommend to anyone thinking about self-publishing.

Why did you decide to self-publish your book?

I tried to go the traditional publishing route and got nowhere with it. I spent a lot of time researching how to do it and sent off book proposals only to receive one rejection after another. I was lucky to get any response at all. Felt a bit like applying for jobs in a tough economy!

It seems that these days it is not enough to write a good book, you need a social media following of thousands before you can get noticed by traditional publishers.

Publishing is essentially a business and they need to be sure your book will sell well.

In the end, I was glad I self-published because I got to have autonomy over the entire process.

What aspects of the publishing process did you do yourself and what did you hire out?

Being an English Literature major and teacher, I value quality writing, therefore, I paid for professional editing. I also paid for a cover design because I know how important a polished look is to selling a book.

I set up my own website and social media following on my own after attending a writing workshop, reading books, and watching video tutorials.

I found it tough to justify spending much money upfront on my book not knowing if I would get a return on my investment.

Since we’re talking about investment, how much did your book cost to produce?

Most of my cost was for professional editing. But the total cost for editing, proofreading and cover design was around $3,000 dollars.

We all know that royalties won’t pay the bills but what types of things have happened after you published your book that surprised you?

At a webinar that I attended, we were advised to think of our book as a glorified business card. Really, I haven’t done much marketing of the book since it’s publication but I’ve still had a lot of people, like you, contacting me about it.

I’ve been on a few podcasts, blog interviews, and a New York Times journalist contacted me to write a column about mindfulness and moving. I’ve also been contacted by a women of color empowerment workgroup to give a 60-minute workshop and potentially give a talk at a university too.

None of those things would’ve happened if I hadn’t published my book.

What surprised you about the self-publishing process?

I was surprised how long the cover design ended up taking me and how the cost of professional editing could be variable as I went through the different stages of editing.

A pleasant surprise was how quickly my book went live on Amazon Kindle! It was the most incredible feeling to see my book up there for the world to purchase!

What advice would you give someone thinking about self-publishing? 

Research the process before jumping in so you know what you’re getting into. It can become overwhelming to learn and do at the same time.

Build a following before you publish so that you’re not tackling the marketing aspect at the end.

I recommend reading Michael Hyatt’s book, Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World, for marketing ideas.

Research who the leaders are in your subject area and reach out to them for connections. I sent a free copy of my book to Naomi Hattaway, the community leader of I am a Triangle, and she’s been a great help.

I also recommend joining the Alliance of Independent Authors. You can join before you are self-published and put the member badge on your website that lets your readers know that you’re a professional.

I suggest following Joanna Penn at The Creative Penn. She has a ton of great advice, podcasts, tutorials, and e-books that really helped me while I was researching everything.

You need to set a deadline and hold yourself to it. Make it public if you need to. I posted to my Facebook page that I would release my book on my birthday and I hadn’t even started the process.

Without a deadline and someone holding you accountable, it’s easy to just keep on writing and writing.

What’s next for you, Kiran?

I’m going to keep moving forward and publicly announce that my next book will be released on my birthday in 2019. I have so much to say about my plant-based diet and how it has truly changed my life but more on that to come soon!

I really want the books I write to make a difference in people’s lives.

Bio

Kiran Prasad is a teacher, speaker, and author of A Mindful Move: Feel at home again.

She is a New York Times featured author and her work can be found at http://www.jaskiranprasad.com

Connect with Kiran on Facebook to follow her future work.

 

Click here to keep reading more perspectives from fellow self-publishers.