Today as promised Tania McCartney, author of the Riley series is visiting my blog. She will be sharing her self-publishing journey with us so sit back and enjoy…
There is a review of the book at the end of Tania’s story and a competition giving you the chance to win a copy of the book.
Riley and the Grumpy Wombat Blog Tour
My Self-Publishing Journey
Thursday 8 September
Pass It On
I’ve always written. One of my greatest treasures is my Grade 3 English book with the puppy dog sticker on the front – and a jumble of fantastical stories and glittery stickers inside. The bigger and more glittery your sticker, the better your work – and I still feel the thump of my eight-year-old heart when I run my hand over a particular sticker of some kids riding a 1960s ferris wheel, bespangled with glitz and covering a full half-page.
Hang literary awards – that sticker is one of my greatest literary achievements, ever.
Since my grade-three tales, I’ve spent many years writing in many genre. In 1995 I had my first book published with Hodder Headline (You Name It, a non-fiction adult book) and over the decades have had countless magazine and online articles published, but it was only since having kids that my attention turned to the children’s book genre.
I have a wee bit of an obsession with kids’ books, truth be told. I love the pictures. I love the stories that colour in our kids’ brains like an activity book and a box full of crayons. I love fun children’s books, traditional ones, magical ones, educational and just plain nonsense ones. I even love the smell of them.
But what a dream to actually publish your own children’s picture book. What a dream to see the contents of your head down on paper; flickable. What a dream to entrance and inspire children in any way, shape or form. But how to make this dream a reality?
I’ve received enough publisher rejection slips to pâpier maché the Outback. There’s been a lot of despair, frustration and tears shed in this writer’s lifetime, trust me, but forging ahead despite setbacks is relatively ‘easy’ because I love to write. I need to write.
In 2005, whilst on post in China with my family, I finally found myself in a position to write full time – and in 2008, I finished penning a picture book called Riley and the Sleeping Dragon: A journey around Beijing. I was tempted to send it to Australian publishers but after spending many years watching time slide away – with naught but “we’re considering, we’ll get back to you in 8-12 weeks” slips in the mail, I decided to do something out of the ordinary – I decided to publish myself.
The self-publishing process, at first glance, is most certainly overwhelming. Now that I have four successful self-published books in the bag, the single most frequent question I hear is “but how did you do it?”.
I must admit, when I first passed thought to self-publishing Riley and the Sleeping Dragon, my head was swamped with an enormous ocean and there was that original, ambitious thought, bobbing in the centre of that ocean – a teensy speck amongst the galloping waves.
Where to start? Who what when where how?
So, I took small steps. I’ve written and edited countless articles and manuscripts and I have to say there is not much more valuable than the opinion of someone you respect. I asked some brutally honest people to read my manuscript and the feedback was good.
Shortly afterwards, I took it to the most important critics of all – the kids. The test audience reaction was also excellent. So far, so good.
Next was researching the target market. I needed to understand who the book was for (the English-speaking expat community in China was my initial focus, with Australian children a target for when I returned home), and what ages and what genre the book fell into. Because the project was so large and I was doing it on my own, my main focus was penetrating the expat community in China, and as a well-known family matters columnist and features editor for several English language magazines, I was fortunate to have a high level of exposure and marketing aid, not only in Beijing but other major Chinese cities.
I also needed to seek a niche. As a multi-media book combining scenic photos, graphics, photos of objects and cartoon illustrations, I knew the layout of the book was unusual. I also knew the travelogue style was unique and therefore felt confident it would attract attention in an oversaturated market. I honestly feel that seeking a solid niche is vital for new books to stand out.
Gathering the basics to actually publish the book was very straight forward. I easily sourced ISBNs, barcodes and the info required for my Cataloguing in Publication Entry data. All done by email.
Whilst waiting for these things to arrive, I sourced an illustrator online. I used a Canadian whose work was good but whose time management skills and demands sent me into a flying panic close to book launch time. Finding the right illustrator is absolutely crucial – not only for their talent and style, but for the author/illustrator relationship. I later found a new artist for subsequent books in the Riley series – and Canberra-based Kieron Pratt is an author’s dream (plus, he just happens to make me laugh hysterically on a regular basis).
Once I began working the manuscript into picture form, I found I needed to buy new software (Adobe Illustrator) in order to create print-ready files. Learning how to implement and use this software was vital, and I’m still learning how to use it effectively, four books later.
Whilst working on the book files, I began researching how to list my books with Nielsen Book Data and Global Books in Print, and began contacting both the media and literature organisations such as the Children’s Book Council of Australia, various state writing centres, the Australian School Library Association and others.
During this time, I located a reliable printer (in Beijing). Shopping around for the right one is crucial – and for my second and third Riley books, I sourced a fantastic Australian printer whose prices were highly competitive, without compromising quality.
I was very nervous about bringing Riley and the Sleeping Dragon home to Australia. I spent countless hours researching and implementing how to get my book into the mainstream market here, and was enormously grateful to be taken on by a major book distributor – Dennis Jones & Associates – who now carry all four of my self-published books.
Since releasing Riley and the Dancing Lion: A journey around Hong Kong (2009) and Riley and the Curious Koala: A journey around Sydney (2010), I’ve tirelessly promoted all three of my Riley books at countless schools, libraries, clubs and events – not to mention online. This is vital for self-publishers and it really is full time work.
I began constructing teachers’ notes for my books, and wrote teaching modules on book writing and publishing, to be presented with book readings at schools. I even implemented a successful Writer in Residence programme at a Canberra school that mimicked the production of the book.
I was and still am ceaseless in my efforts to promote my beloved travelogue series. It’s been incredibly hard work, but I’ve always been driven by an insatiable desire to create educational, enchanting and beautiful books for children. When Paul Collins expressed the desire to take on Book Four in the series (Riley and the Grumpy Wombat: A journey around Melbourne), I wondered if perhaps my self-publishing journey was coming to an end.
Letting go of creating, producing and publishing my own books is a bittersweet thought. I’ve loved every moment and have taken great pride in this intense and incredibly overwhelming journey, but I also know if I want to write more books, I need the time (and energy!) to write them. Having Ford Street take on Grumpy Wombat not only takes my work to a whole other level, it affords me greater time to write – and I’m already working on Book Five which will be set in Canberra and involves a very jumpy kangaroo.
Whether you are a published author or a hopeful newbie, the prime consideration in any publishing journey is to be prepared to work tirelessly and passionately to implement the birth of your work. Whether it’s via the traditional publishing route or the self-publishing slog, the dream is possible. Just don’t wake me up.
To see all of Tania’s self-published and published books, see www.taniamccartney.com.
Riley and the Grumpy Wombat: A Journey around Melbourne
Tania McCartney, illustrations by Kieron Pratt, A$22.95, hardcover
Riley and the Grumpy Wombat – A journey around Melbourne was such fun to read being a Melbourne girl. And Riley is such a cute character. Beginning his adventure making mud pies (I loved making mud pies) in his Nanny’s garden, the helpful soul is determined to find out why the resident, fleeing wombat is so grumpy.
Aboard his red plane Riley and co. fly around Melbourne searching for the grumpy wombat.
The book then continues with Riley’s red plane superimposed onto gorgeous black and white photographs of Melbourne and Victoria.
I was particularly fond of this one as I made the sea change about 12 years ago and adore having this view in my back yard.
Children will thoroughly enjoy gliding around in Riley’s red plane discovering the Victorian treasures not realising that they are absorbing a geography lesson as they do so.
And of course the book ends happily with Riley finding the wombat back in Nanny’s backyard, not grumpy in her burrow but lazing in the lap of luxury, in a brand new mud villa!
Too funny 🙂
Short Author Bio
Tania McCartney is an author, editor, publisher and founder of well-respected children’s literature site, Kids Book Review. She is an experienced speaker, magazine and web writer, photographer and marshmallow gobbler. She is the author of the popular Riley the Little Aviator series of travelogue picture books, and is both published and self-published in children’s fiction and adult non-fiction. Tania lives in Canberra with a husband, two kidlets and a mountain of books.
Win a copy of…
Riley has discovered a wombat in his nanny’s garden. But why is this furry creature so grumpy? Join Riley and his friends from books one, two and three, as they zoom around the stunning sights of Melbourne in search of a wombat that simply needs a place to call home.
Featuring gorgeous black and white photos of Melbourne and surrounds, Riley and the Grumpy Wombat combines photos, illustrations, adorable characters, humour and an adventuresome storyline in a travelogue-style book that showcases Melbourne at its very best.
What do you need to do?
In the comments section…
Write a short poem or limerick about your favourite Melbourne spot.
My favourite will win a copy of Tania’s book, the 4th in the Riley the little Aviator series.
And thank you Tania for sharing your incredibly inspiring journey.