If writing is not for the faint of heart, then self publishing is definitely not for the faint of heart. My debut children’s book, Where Did My Sweet Grandma Go?: A Preschooler’s Guide to Losing a Loved One, is a labor of love on many levels.
How I brought my children’s book to life
When you don’t have a publisher to edit, produce, fund, print and promote your book, you really have to trust your instincts and the potential of your work to make it happen. If you don’t believe in yourself as an author and see the value in your book, no one else will either.
Fortunately, I’ve had a lot of encouragement and support along the way, but self publishing is a significant investment of time, energy and money. It requires a lot of confidence, persistence, determination and flexibility.
Behind the scenes
I wrote the text for Where Did My Sweet Grandma Go? during the summer of 2014, one year after my mother’s battle with early onset Alzheimer’s disease ended.
My then two-and-a-half-year-old daughter started asking questions about “Grandma Dixie” and described her as a “pretty bird,” even though she could easily identify her in photos throughout our home. The sonnet that makes up my children’s book’s text began as my attempt at gently explaining my mom’s death to my own young children.
With my mother-in-law’s encouragement to publish and the subsequent losses of both my stepmother and my mother-in-law’s father, it became clear that this love letter to my daughters should become something more.
While discussing my book with Tami Dever–owner of the award-winning, Austin-based design firm, TLC Graphics–last fall, I realized that several of the rhyming couplets in my sonnet would correspond perfectly with a few of my mom’s paintings and drawings. Thus, my illustrator dilemma was solved.
A few months later, I finally got up the courage to fill in the missing illustrations with my own artwork. I first practiced sketching the images in pencil, then moved on to painting the scenes in freehand watercolor. My 4-year-old creative director approved each illustration, asking me to redo several in different colors.
The cover image of the child and grandmother was the most nerve-wracking to complete. The woman started out appearing too young and trendy to be a grandma, and the child resembled an orangutan at times, but eventually I got it right.
At Tami’s prompting, I wrote the Note to Parents and Parents’ Guide, while Monica Thomas at TLC Graphics began designing the book’s cover and interior layouts. A couple of my For the Love launch team friends edited my manuscript; another FTL sister proofed the cover and interior layouts and designed my author website. My talented photographer friend Hilary Roberts made me feel like a legitimate author when she provided a few professional head shots to use on the back cover and website.
The most difficult parts of the publishing process were probably choosing the right interior and cover layouts from Monica’s beautiful options and weighing different pricing, quality and distribution options to select the appropriate print-on-demand company. In the end, I decided on IngramSpark’s premium color printing for the softcover edition and Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing for the ebook version.
After having so much fun on various launch teams for books including Jen Hatmaker’s For the Love, assembling my own launch team to promote Where Did My Sweet Grandma Go? on social media was probably the most enjoyable part of this process. These ladies have cheered me on and spread the word about this special book every step of the way. I cannot wait to read their reviews and celebrate the book’s release with them at the launch party next month!
I was really excited to receive a sweet endorsement for the book’s back cover from Austin mother to seven and #Mentor4Moms, Susan Seay.
Next up, my TLC Graphics designers are perfecting the Where Did My Sweet Grandma Go? coloring book download for my email subscribers!