Self-Publishing for Author/Illustrators

This post originally appeared on the wonderful writing blog Operation Awesome on September 3, 2015 as a guest post

Writers write. Illustrators illustrate. Publishers publish. Right? Sure. Unless you’re like me and choose “D, all of the above.” I’m all over the place, and I love it.
The first book with my name on it was written by someone else who commissioned me to illustrate. The second was a story my son and I came up with at bedtime, and I couldn’t help but illustrate it and put it all together for him. The third was inspired by niece of mine. It rhymes, teaches a moral, and comes as a package deal with the illustrations (I know, so many faux pas). And the fourth doesn’t even have any words yet, just one full-page illustration and a few ideas wafting around it.
While a writer of children’s or picture books may have at least a rough vision for their story’s illustrations, an author/illustrator may very well be composing paintings in her head while writing. Sometimes the illustrations come before the words are even penned.
Our processes may differ, but I think author/illustrators can agree on a couple constants. First, we couldn’t bear to have the stories of our hearts illustrated by some stranger who will probably get everything wrong. Even if that stranger is a better artist than we are, it would feel as if he were taking the brain out of our baby and putting it into the perfectly polished body of someone else’s baby. It would still be half ours, kind of, and it may be beautiful, but all we really want is our own baby, the way we made her. The other constant among us is that we all want our books to be successful. We want people to read them, and love them. We want to be published.
Unfortunately for author/illustrators, publication means that we need to find an agent and/or a publisher who not only loves our story, but loves our illustration style as well. And if they love both of those, they also have to love them together. Every step of the way, our chances of being traditionally published diminish.
So hold out your hopes for traditional publishing, if that’s your end goal, but I suggest considering self-publishing for the following reasons:
You get to finish your book.
Self-publishing means that you get to see your entire project through on your own terms, on your own timeline, and with your own creative touch on every single aspect. You cut out any kind of middleman and get full rights and total control. I do suggest reaching out and gathering all the feedback you can possibly get, but in the end, all the final decisions are yours alone. Cover art, illustrations, revisions–all of it will be exactly how you envisioned it because you’re in charge. Of everything. Which leads me to the next reason to self-publish.
You get to learn about marketing your book.
Cutting out the middleman does mean more work for you. Even if you are traditionally published at some point, no one will ever care about your book as much you do, and even the biggest publishers will expect you to do your part in marketing. So why not learn what you can now, and get a head start?
Establish a presence on Facebook, Twitter, and your own blog or website, and start to make friends and build up your networks. Research and experiment and find out what sells for you and what doesn’t. One of my favorite things to do to increase my readership and create publicity for my books is to attend craft fairs and art shows. I sell my art and jewelry and I hold a book signing at the booth for my books. In every event, I sell more copies of my books than anything else.

Contact libraries, bookstores, toy stores and gift shops to set up readings and book signings. You get to negotiate your own terms and percentages. With every meeting and event, marketing and selling yourself and your book will become easier and more efficient. If you ever land a book deal, you’ll have an advantage, and if you don’t, then at the very least you’re already doing something about getting your book out there yourself.

Self-publishing is totes legit.
There was a time when “self-publishing” was used interchangeably with “vanity publishing.” That time is trying to hang on and occasionally puts up a fuss, but it’s on its way out. Saying that you’re self-published is no longer followed up by that look of “Oh… so not very good, huh.”  In this DIY, crowd funded, entrepreneurial, start-up world, people respect those who go it alone, put their best work out there, and let the people judge for themselves. My first book signing was at the Stanford Children’s Hospital gift shop, and even in such an upscale area, people were impressed, and not disappointed, by my being self-published.
When people ask who I publish through and my answer is myself, their curiosity is actually piqued and they want to know more about the process. They then read through the book and almost always buy it. Who cares how it’s published if it’s good? I’ve had a few people buy my books just so they can say, “I knew you when….” Be confident and don’t make excuses for being self-published, but if it helps boost your confidence, use phrases like “cutting out the bureaucracy/red tape” and say “indie author” or “independently published” instead of “self-published.”
If you are interested in traditional publishing someday, be sure to check that your target publishers will accept self-published manuscripts, as there are some who will not. But if they do, and if you’re up for a little adventure, self-publish. You’ll learn a lot about every step of the process, and whether or not a publisher ever picks up your book, you’ll still get it out into the world.

 

Don’t Forget to Write For Fun!

I wrote another guest post for Operation Awesome, a wonderful and useful writing blog!

In an ideal world, our first book already made us bucketfuls of cash. We now write as a hobby. It’s something we do purely for self-fulfillment, content to create for the pure joy of it, unencumbered by the need for anyone else’s approval or patronage. If someone out there enjoys reading what we write, all the better. Any royalties coming our way are just a bonus. We write for fun.

But what about those of us living out here in the real world? Maybe we need money to survive, and even hope to make writing a full-time job someday. For me, sometimes saying ‘Oh, you know, I’m just writing for fun’ is an excuse for why my sales aren’t where I want them to be, or a lie to cover up my own insecurity. So what if you need to write for pay? Well then, for you, I have slightly different advice:

…Oh, wait, no I don’t. Write for fun.

Read the rest on the blog here: https://operationawesome6.blogspot.com/2016/11/dont-forget-to-write-for-fun-guest-post.html

Using TTS to Develop Characters: Operation Awesome Guest Post

I wrote another guest post for the wonderful writing blog- Operation Awesome! Take a look, and if you’re looking for interesting and useful information on writing and publishing, plus some great contests, check out the rest of the blog!

My article: http://operationawesome6.blogspot.com

Here it is as well, but seriously, go see their blog!

Using Text-To-Speech programs to Develop Characters
I tend to talk to myself. Some people like to call it “thinking out loud” but I won’t deny it; myself and I have some great conversations, and sometimes I’m a really great sounding board. But not always. Sometimes I just wish I had someone else who was just as passionate about and interested in my developing manuscript as I am, and could answer me every time I asked something like, “Okay, how does this sound,” or “Does that really sound like something this character would say?” And sometimes I just need other-me to forget they’ve written anything, and read it with fresh eyes. I’m not ready for beta readers, but I need some new insight. How can I cleanse my palate a little bit and get a new perspective on my characters, or on my work as a whole?
Try online Text-To-Speech (TTS) readers. It’s a tactic I’ve found enlightening, not to mention pretty entertaining.  My main character is male, so I worry sometimes about whether or not he sounds masculine enough.   Running his lines through TTS programs have helped me realize which lines really work and which need tweaking.  When I can hear him speak his lines, I get a better feel for his personality, and how he might actually phrase his thoughts.
Here are few helpful TTS exercises you might try:
-Run whatever chapter you’re working on in a UK accent (or an American accent if you’re from the UK). Hearing it so differently from what I hear in my head really puts a new spin on the words and helps me pick up on little things, working and non, that I normally skip over. Plus it just sounds so fancy.
-Try lines for each character in different voices until you find one that is closest to how you think they probably sound. You may be surprised, and learn something something new about their personality.
-Create audio files for each line in a dialogue in each character’s voice, and play them back in order. You will actually hear your characters converse, which is amazing, but you’ll also be able to gauge whether each character is speaking as he or she would.
-If you’re a woman, have a man read your book out loud, and vice versa. It might help broaden your perspective to hear how it sounds to someone who isn’t you.
-Instead of reading a couple paragraphs back before you pick up writing or rewriting for the day, try playing those paragraphs out loud.  You never know what ideas might flare up.
Although TTS programs have come a long way since the MagicSpell wizard used to read your ICQ messages to you, keep in mind that a computer still doesn’t sound like a fully-produced audiobook. It will still sound somewhat robotic, with incorrect cadance and strange emphases. Do your best to listen past the weirdness!
Below are a few free online TTS readers to try out:
http://ttsreader.com/  No character limit, US English is female, and UK English is Male. I like the UK English, and I like this reader because it’s quick and responsive.
http://www.fromtexttospeech.com/ This is one where you have the option to download seperate files for each line.  Also no character limit, and several different voices, including an Indian accent.
https://acapela-box.com/AcaBox/index.php This has the most choices and it’s wonderful for hearing lines from diverse characters! In US English you can hear children’s voices, a teenager (Scott), an old man, a Texan guy (Michah), a child with an Hispanic accent (Emilio), a child who sounds like she’s from France or something (Valeria), a sad guy, a super happy guy, and yes, even a Yoda voice, with which I may or may not have spent my evening playing. Warn you I must: get distracted, you will.  There are also several other choices under British, Scottish, Australian, and Indian English.  If your character is from another country, select any language (Russian, Dutch, German, Japanese, etc etc) and the voice will read your English text with a thick accent.  You can’t download for free from here, but you can listen online.

 

Do you have any readers you love, or any other methods for seeing your work with fresh eyes? I’d love to hear them!

Flash Fiction contest entry

I just entered my first ever Flash Fiction contest. (Update: I won!) I have really needed to get back into writing mode after the holidays, and this sounded like fun!  It also seemed like a useful exercise at this time when I’m trying to finish a first draft of my first novel, and need practice condensing and cutting out unnecessary words.

The prompt was “Buying a new vehicle” and we had to write a story in 250 words.  I immediately knew I wanted to get creative on the meaning of “vehicle” and didn’t want it to be a car (although there is one awesome entry so far with a car and a surprise ending!).  My mind  drifted over to Star Wars, due to my recent viewing of the latest installment (loved!). But I didn’t want to write fan fiction, and it turned out to be against the rules anyway.  My last contest entry was an illustration, and I went Steampunk (here).  So I stuck with my newfound theme and wrote exactly 250 words of riveting (pun intended) fiction.

Here it is, I’ll update when I find out who won! In the mean time, read the other entries and keep your eyes peeled (I always thought was an icky expression) for upcoming contests and amazing posts on Operation Awesome!


I’ll miss her fiercely,” Emiline lamented, her hand caressing the worn rivets along the tarnished brass hull of the once-magnificent landship.

“We have no choice,” Harrington reminded her. “She’s served her purpose, fought a good fight, and now she’s fetched a full purse.” Emiline was sentimental for a warrior, but Harrington had abandoned all but logic long ago.

“Not full for long,” Emiline countered, glancing toward a battered airship- the lone survivor of the First Defense. “This relic’s overpriced. I understand it’s not the merchants’ war, but why must they lance our pockets so.” She crumpled to the sand, grieved by much more than prices and overwhelmed by the precipice upon which their clan’s existence balanced.

Carmen rested a tiny hand on Emiline’s armored shoulder. “You can do this Emi. You’re the only one left in this hemisphere who can pilot an airship like this, and we’ve already paid dearly. Conrad would have wanted-”

“I know,” Emiline cut in, tears slipping down her resolute face. “I just need a moment to mourn. We’ve lost so much, and everything we’ve gained is because that landship held us together.”

Harrington signed the merchants’ documents, finalizing the trade. Engineered to run with perfect efficiency utilizing minimal puffs of steam, the last working airship took to the sky, and Emiline’s embodied memories shrunk below.

The landship was scrapped for parts long before the clan’s Final Offensive ran the enemy into the heavens forever, but it sailed on immortal in the hearts of grateful generations.


 

Taryn Skipper

 

Illustration contest- Discovery

This is one of my favorite illustrations, and I thought it fit very well into the theme of “Discovery” for Susanna Hill’s illustration contest.

That’s it.  I know, super long post. Truth is, I have like a bazillion commissions to get to (ok, only 2 this week, but still, it’s summer fun time) and I used up my creativity brain cells for the moment finishing up my last entry.

Illustrators, enter here until this Friday! http://susannahill.blogspot.com/

Also, if you like this or any of my work, please like me on Facebook.com/SkipperBookspage under the sea arrival