Welcome to Tuesday Debut, Everyone!
I’m really excited to share today’s post with you. For anyone who is interested in self-publishing, who has maybe played around with the idea but not really known where to start, or who thinks they might be interested in giving it a try at some point, I think you’ll today’s post extremely informative. I certainly learned a lot!
Please join me in welcoming Karen Wyle, who has generously shared her knowledge and experience with the process of self-publishing her first picture book, YOU CAN’T KISS A BUBBLE!
You Can’t Kiss A Bubble
Written by Karen A. Wyle
Illustrated by Siski Kalla
Published by Oblique Angles Press (Karen Wyle’s Imprint)
Publication date July 23, 2021
Fiction/Nonfiction/neither?/both? See description
What can and can’t you do with a bubble? Using simple words, and a mixture of silly imagined scenes and more realistic ones, this book looks at both the charm and the transitory nature of bubbles, and helps its young audience appreciate how we can take joy even in the impermanent.
SUSANNA: Welcome, Karen, and thank you so much for joining us today! We’re excited to hear about how you brought this story to life. Where did the idea for this book come from?
KAREN: I wish I could remember where the idea for this book came from. I don’t, in fact, remember the origins of most of my (not yet published) picture books — but I do remember the first. I was sitting on my front deck, pregnant with my older daughter, enjoying the oak trees in the front yard and scouting around my chair for acorns. The eventual title sums up where that moment led: Mommy Calls Me Acorn.
I would guess that another of my books, Catching Mommy’s Shadow, came from walks I took with one of my daughters.
SUSANNA: How long did it take you to write this book?
KAREN: It’s been some years since I first wrote the text, but I believe it came quickly. This may also be the text for which the original draft is closest — very close — to the final version. I suspect those two facts may be related.
More often, I reread a picture book manuscript at intervals of anything from weeks to years, tweaking a word here and line order there. I try to remember to save multiple versions, so it’s easier to compare the latest changes with what had contented me the time before. I sometimes revert to an earlier version.
SUSANNA: When did you know your manuscript was ready for publication?
KAREN: I haven’t used professional critiques or editorial services. I did have an agent for my picture books many years ago, and discussed which books had most promise and what edits might be needed. For my novels, I typically recruit beta readers, and send them a list of questions as well as soliciting miscellaneous comments. I may do this for future picture books. For this book, I more or less held my breath and jumped into talking to illustrators. I felt somewhat more confident when all three illustrators from whom I requested (paid) samples had nice things to say about the text.
SUSANNA: At what point did you decide to self-publish rather than submit to traditional publishers? Did you try traditional first? Or did you have specific reasons for wanting to self-publish?
KAREN: As I mentioned above, I did try the agent route for my picture books, with no result. By the time I started writing novels in 2010, I spent most of the year between rough draft and publication researching agents, publishers, and the traditional publishing process. By the end of that time, I had decided self-publishing offered me more: control over every aspect of the process, shorter pre-publication times, and more flexibility. (The fact that I’ve published novels in three different genres, short stories in two, and now am publishing picture books demonstrates that flexibility.)
I waited to publish a picture book until I thought the technology available to indie authors at reasonable cost had become suitable for that purpose.
SUSANNA: How did you find an illustrator?
KAREN: I joined several Facebook groups for children’s book authors and/or illustrators, and looked through the many portfolios and Instagram accounts listed in response to other authors’ posts there. I also looked through portfolios on Behance (and possibly another site whose name I’ve forgotten). I had so much fun immersing myself in all that creativity!
Then I contacted a few illustrators to ask whether they would provide paid samples, and if so, what they’d charge. I paid three illustrators for samples: I sent them the text and asked them to pick a line to illustrate, one that would give me a feel for how the bubble(s) and the child would look. Of those three, I decided Siski Kalla’s style was just right for this book. (I hired one of the others, Barbara Dessi, to illustrate the picture book I plan to publish next, When It’s Winter.)
FOLLOW-UP FROM SUSANNA: I asked Karen if she would be kind enough to share the FB groups that had been helpful to her and she replied:
KAREN: I spend the most time in “Children’s Book Authors and Illustrators: Publishing, Marketing and Selling.” The other I visit frequently is “Children’s Book Illustrators.” I am also a member of “Children’s Book Author Community” and “Children’s Book Author Social Media Marketing.”
SUSANNA: Did you and the illustrator have a contract of any kind? What types of items did it address (if you can share a little – doesn’t have to be too specific, but in terms of what people might want to think about if they were to do it.)
KAREN: Siski and I do have a contract. She sent me her standard contract, and I asked questions and suggested a few tweaks. The contract covers which rights Siski transferred to me and which rights she retained; the number of illustrations; the price per illustration and total price; the illustration schedule; the payment schedule; a consultation and approval process; and cancelation provisions.
SUSANNA: Are you able to give a ballpark figure of any kind (or a specific one if you’re so inclined ☺) about the cost of the illustrator?
KAREN: For twelve double-page spreads and one cover illustration, I paid 2,050 euros.
SUSANNA: What was the illustration process like since you were directing it? Any particular challenges? Anything you particularly enjoyed?
KAREN: It would oversimplify matters to say I “directed” the illustration process. My only previous collaborations had been with cover designers, where that description would apply — but a picture book’s illustrations are, I believe, at least as important as its text, and the process must allow for both contributors’ creative vision. (There were times I needed a gentle reminder of this principle.)
Siski was very patient with my many questions and requests. I’m embarrassed, looking back with the completed book in hand, at just how many.
Some of my lines were abstract enough that settling on the right illustration involved some back-and-forth. It was an absolute joy to see my words so richly and imaginatively realized and extended.
SUSANNA: How did you format your book for publication?
KAREN: I had already chosen a book format (8.5”x8.5”) before hiring Siski. I did some online research about cover designers, including asking other members of the Facebook groups for suggestions, and hired Jacob Dunaway to do the interior text and turn Siski’s cover illustration into a complete cover. Jacob and I discussed title placement, title font, and interior font. He did mockups of the interior with two different fonts he recommended, and I picked one. Jacob then worked with the various printers’ cover templates.
FOLLOW-UP FROM SUSANNA: I asked Karen if she could define and detail what Jacob did for her a little further and she replied:
KAREN: I would call Jacob Dunaway a book designer. He did the text and page formatting, as well as the cover, for all three editions (hardcover, paperback, Kindle) of the book. I believe the cost of hiring him depends on the details of a particular job — and in fact, as this job evolved, I volunteered to pay more than his very reasonable initial fee. I don’t know whether he has a website.
SUSANNA: How did you select a printing service?
KAREN: I was already familiar with Amazon/KDP and IngramSpark. I used KDP for a Kindle and a paperback edition, and IngramSpark for paperback and hardcover editions. I wanted to find a printer that offered quantity discounts for paperbacks and/or hardcovers, and I didn’t want to have dealings with companies in China, so I did some research about US printers, sent emails to some and submitted quote requests to others, and ended up going with Formax Printing for additional hardcover copies. They were very helpful throughout the process of getting the book properly formatted for their purposes
FOLLOW-UP FROM SUSANNA: I asked Karen if she could kindly share a little more information about her printer research and IngramSpark and she replied:
KAREN: US printers have requirements as far as minimum page count, minimum order size, etc. – too much to go into here, but just so readers know to check that. With that caveat, I investigated (in no particular order): Emprint/Moran Printing, based in Louisiana; Smith Printing Co., based in Minnesota; Bookmobile, also based in Minnesota; Bang Printing, also based in Minnesota; AlphaGraphics Carmel, based in Indiana; Bridgeport National Bindery, based in Massachusetts; Braintree Printing, also based in Massachusetts; Signature Book Printing, based in Maryland; Snowfall Press (base of operations not recorded); Dekker Bookbinding, based in Michigan; Versa Press, based in Illinois; and BookBaby, based in New Jersey (consulted only about printing, not their other services). (More than the “couple” of names I now see you asked for . . . .)
I first learned about IngramSpark a number of years ago. They’re the “other” POD (Print On Demand) printer, competing with Amazon’s KDP — although they apparently do some of KDP’s printing as well. They provide hardcover as well as paperback books, which KDP doesn’t (so far). They distribute to quite a few retailers, including Barnes & Noble. Their distribution arm, Ingram Group, is well known and respected enough to give additional credibility to indie authors trying to get books into bricks-and-mortar bookstores. They allow authors to select a wholesale discount of (something like) 30% to their recommended 55%, and to allow returns. Without such a discount and return policy, it’s not likely a bookstore will purchase books. For You Can’t Kiss A Bubble, I chose the 30% discount rather than 55%, as the higher discount would have required me to price the hardcover edition too high.
SUSANNA: Did you do a print run so you’d have inventory, or is your book print-on-demand? (And where is your book available – online bookstores? brick and mortar bookstores?)
KAREN: IngramSpark’s prices for the paperback were low enough that I could order inventory for direct sales, while I relied on Formax for hardcover inventory. The book is available on Amazon and on Barnes & Noble. IngramSpark also makes the book available to many retailers and to libraries. If anyone wants to pick up a copy at a brick-and-mortar bookstore, they should be able to ask the bookstore to order it.
SUSANNA: How long was the process from writing through publication of your book?
KAREN: After all the years where the book sat in an electronic “shelf,” the journey from first deciding to publish it until its actual release took seven months.
SUSANNA: Were you able to get your book reviewed by Kirkus, SLJ, Hornbook, Booklist etc?
KAREN: I haven’t tried for reviews from any of those you listed. I have approached a long list of children’s book bloggers, requesting reviews or other mentions — with some success. 🙂
SUSANNA: Describe any marketing/promotion you did for this book.
KAREN: Rupamanjari Majumder, author of Magic in Wonderland, is the woman behind the Comfy Corner podcast. She is a member of one of the Facebook groups I joined, and she told me she was starting to make videos in which she reads picture books. She offered to make one for this book, and I jumped at the chance. In the end, she decided that her four-year-old daughter should be the one reading. I love the charming result. (She also got an animator to add drifting bubbles.)
I’ve printed up flyers to pass around the neighborhood, mentioning a “neighbor discount.” I’ve also designed a bookmark and some stickers, and purchased some small bottles of bubble solution. When I find events to do, I’ll pass out some or all of these extras.
I’ve also posted advance peeks at a few illustrations on my blog (“Looking Around”), and then posted the links to the blog entries on Facebook and Twitter. On release day, I posted about the book in a few different Goodreads groups.
SUSANNA: Anything else you’d like to share about your book’s journey from inspiration to publication?
KAREN: It’s been an immensely educational process — and I’m eager to do it again!
SUSANNA: I always ask contributors to Tuesday Debut to share photos of their work space and writing buddies if they’d like to, and Karen said:
[KAREN: Alas, my work space is a pile of clutter with a desk and PC inserted in it. I share it with my husband, which I guess makes him my work buddy, but I’ll let him remain anonymous.]
SUSANNA: Hahaha! I guess we’ll just have to use our imaginations to picture it 😊
Goodreads profile: https://www.goodreads.com/kawyle
Blog, “Looking Around”: http://looking-around.blogspot.com/
SUSANNA: Thank you so much for taking the time to participate in this series and paying it forward to other writers, Karen! It is wonderfully inspiring to hear about how you took charge of your own writing and created this beautiful book! I know I speak for everyone when I wish you all the best with this and future titles!
Readers, if you have questions for Karen, please post them in the comments below and if she has time I’m sure she’ll respond!
You may purchase Karen’s book at:
(all links below are book-specific)
We can help our debut authors successfully launch their careers by:
– purchasing their books
– recommending their books to friends and family
– recommending their books to our children’s teachers and librarians
– recommending their books to our local libraries and bookstores
– suggesting them as visiting authors at our children’s schools and our local libraries
– sharing their books on social media
Thank you all for stopping by to read today! Have a lovely, inspiration-filled Tuesday! Maybe today is the day you’ll write your debut picture book 😊
Missed any previous Tuesday Debuts? Check them out!
Karen Kiefer – Drawing God (religious market)
Theresa Kiser – A Little Catholic’s Book Of Liturgical Colors (religious market)
Lindsey Hobson – Blossom’s Wish (self pub)
Julie Rowan-Zoch – Louis (picture book illustration debut!)
Gnome Road Publishing (publishing house debut)
Julie Rowan-Zoch – I’m A Hare So There (author/illustrator debut)
Nancy Derey Riley – Curiosity’s Discovery (author/illustrator self-published debut)
Kate Allen Fox – Pando: A Living Wonder Of Trees (nonfiction)