Finding My Illustrator

Where did it all begin? Or should I say how?

I had the story, Step One, Step Two, Step Three and Four, so all I needed was the illustrations. Where did I look? I solicited local artists. I was knocked over when I found out price per page. And if you’re going to pay that type of money you better love it. Well I didn’t love them. So I waited. I researched. One of my writer friends had her book totally done by Createspace. It’s when they had an illustrator team. They did away with it.

I found dragonpencil. You could do everything there in one spot. The illustrators were priced low to high. You could tell why they were priced that way. But nonetheless, there was some good ones in there. Still I wasn’t satisfied with the price. I kept looking. I heard a lot about Some people having great luck and some did not. I thought I’d give it a try. I plugged my book in and in seconds had a good handful of offers. Most or shall I say all were from other countries. I checked their turnaround time, their star rating and reviews. Some were relentless and wanted a chance at illustrating your book. I requested an illustration. Some will agree for no fee. I took those seriously. I felt they wanted to work. One gal caught my eye after she illustrated a sketch the way I had envisioned. She was from Romania and wrote clear emails. She knew english quite well. I created an illustrator contract on my own and we both signed and were off and running. The book took four months to complete. Way longer than the contract anticipated. We had a difficult time getting the measurements right for Createspace. I’m not sure if measurements are different there. We were both frustrated. The time change was a killer. One message went between us each day which dragged this out.

Would I have used again, yes. Was it economical? I got to say it was a price I could live with. I definitely would be thinking more around the same time zones. Nbearot soon after, I was seeking another illustrator for My Big Tree since it had it rounds with the agent. We exhausted the industry and I didn’t want to shelve it for five years. I thought it had a multi-premise and saw big things for it. But, this time I didn’t use I chose a different route.

I heard a lot about I was curious. How could people do stuff for five dollars? Well not everything is five dollars. That’s just to get you to check them out. I thought it couldn’t hurt to take a look. I researched children’s illustrators and went through screens and screens of candidates. I found a gal from THE STATES who could draw a pretty fine looking dog. I fell in love with him. I wanted him but I didn’t have a dog in my book. I messaged her and asked if she could draw me a bird. Boom! Amazing and adorable. We signed the contract. The relationship was flawless. I assumed from her handwriting she was a senior citizen with a slew of grandchildren who lived on a farm and raised chickens. Boy was I wrong. Fresh out of high school and into her first year of college. In three months the the illustrations were completed (even with adding a dog last minute) No problems with the cover or set up. If I did she was very accommodating. Would I do again? Yes, best experience. Did I pay five dollars per illustration, no. It goes by how many characters per page, etc. Was the price fair? YES! Be careful because some want you to pay a fancy rights fee which I didn’t think they should charge. If you have a contract to buy all rights you shouldn’t need it. Only drawback is you cannot contact them off the site. The website won’t let you trade information.

I had it set up My Big Tree with Createspace. I was waiting to get the cover uploaded. In the meantime, I went to the Texas Library Association in Houston. I met a publisher who said he’d mention my name to another publisher and three days later I received a call. We chatted about my work and My Big Tree found its home.

Hey, look at me, I’m an Indie author!



Where The Heck Have I Been…Part I

I can’t believe its been a year, almost to the day, since I’ve added a post. Things have been crazy to say the least.

In 2013, I worked hard in acquiring an agent and I did with Betsy Amster. It was amazing. Someone wanted me! We shopped two of my works, Tommy James, The Littlest Cowboy In Reckon’ and My Big Tree (remember these for next post). We exhausted the industry. Our relationship ended two and a half years later. I went out on my own. I tried hard getting my other forty-eight manuscripts into houses (only a few at a time of course). I got some good feedback but for the most part, rejected. Since my writing career in 2009 until 1015, I kept track and received one hundred and seventy-five rejections. (honest). I was spending a lot of time and money with nothing to show for it but binders of form letters.

Then one day things changed. It all started driving down I10 with Crockett. I had been growing frustrated in my writing career and finally decided right there that it was time to take charge of my destiny. The waiting game was too long for me. I’m not a person that can sit around and wait. I didn’t want an agent anymore and if a house didn’t see my potential then I was going to make it on my own. I’m not a slacker and knew I could do this, with of course a lot of work. But I am a salesman by nature. A quality I’ve earned from my father. I could sell a book.

I chose my blended family manuscript to start with. Why you might ask? I wrote it in 2008 when I married a man with five kids. Transition for my daughter was difficult. She loved the man I was to marry but not the children coming into the marriage. I tried to find something that would help in the transition. There was plenty books on living in two houses. Nothing about bringing new children into the mix. I’m sure she thought what would happen to her? Would she get lost in the mix? Would I love her as much as I did right then? Would I have time for her? So I wrote a blended family manuscript that I thought could help. Everybody loved it but the publishing world didn’t see it as marketable. I even had one slap me on the wrist and said, “how dare I take a serious situation and make light of it”. My thought, how could I not? Did I really want to write a dull book? Something that wouldn’t capture a kids attention? Would a child want to read it? No, of course not. Are blended families really like the Brady Bunch? I’m living it and will tell you not so. It’s rough. There are a lot of dynamics that come with the blended one.

So I thought this was the book that needed to come out first. I sought out an illustrator. I tried to find an bargain price. No way. My husband didn’t understand why it was so expensive. I had no real idea what an illustrator cost. Let me tell you, A LOT. After working with my illustrator I understood why they ask for so much.

I heard good things about and thought I’d just throw it out there and see what came back. I knew I wanted the illustrations to have a suessical flair.I saw the “step” boys as a nuisance like a Thing One and Thing Two. It was a hit and miss until I found the illustrator that nailed it perfectly. She was from Romania and spoke great English. I created a contract and we were off. Our biggest deficit was the time change.

I was in charge of every page, color, setting and layout. I loved every part of it. It took three months from start to finish. I was happy with the final product. I created my own book trailer (563 views today). Step One, Step Two, Step Three and Four was born January 2016. It got rave reviews. I had adults tell me they wished they had it when they were growing up. Some saw it as a great resource for today’s norm. The best is when people tell me it brought a lump to their throat.

At the end of January I drove three hours to my first book festival in Louisiana. I was so excited. I was going to sell millions. It felt like I was one of those kiosk people you see at the mall that you try to hide from. Competing with other book authors just didn’t feel right. By the end of the day, I was depressed when I sold only three books. I didn’t want to do this. I got home and sulked. Then picked myself back up. I didn’t come this far to give up. And I’m not a person who does. But I needed a good cry to get myself geared back into the game.

I solicited every avenue. Early February, I met a pastor and counselor at a church in Richmond, Texas. He thought it would be a great resource for the families that he counsels and the Divorce Care Program for the church. They bought 700 books at cost. It blew my mind. I didn’t make a bunch but it got the book out there. who knew what would come from it.

I knew I could do more. I sought out a children’s theater in my home town in February. Gregory of Katy Visual Performing Arts said, “he hadn’t seen anything like this since the 60’s.” He loved the premise. Step One, Step Two, Step Three and Four will be performed by children in the spring of 2017 in Katy, Texas.

I enjoy social media, especially Twitter. I’m on often. I found a handle called Only A Parent who did podcasts. I knew they’d be perfect for my forum. I contacted them, pitched and now I have a podcast. This month I contacted a local radio station and now have a radio interview with Family Matters/NPR in Houston.

Now, September (more to tell in Part II) is National Step Family Day. I couldn’t let this day pass by without the book and myself getting noticed. I knew what I wanted to do but couldn’t do it alone. I was perusing Facebook (not looking for anything) and noticed a video streaming for a local event group in Katy, Texas. Two women from Macaroni Kids were sharing who they were and what they do. I contacted Thao and pitched to her. I told her who I was and that I’d like to create an event for National Step Family Day. I informed her about a new trampoline park that I thought would be interested. She loved the idea. After our conversation I contacted Caroline from the trampoline park. She was hooked. The three of us met at Starbucks and we got along famously like old girlfriends. It was meant to be.

I solicited the surrounding businesses with great success. I have some local papers and magazines willing to do articles. So we are celebrating our event on September 17, 2016 (see facebook). We will have free pizza, cake, water bottles and photos (all donations). I am also creating a contest for “Step Parent of the Year” where the child nominates their step parent.

So many great things happening since the book came out. But it’s definitely not without hours and hours of countless unpaid work. I am in the biggest money deficit right now. Thousand of dollars in the negative. But I AM now a published author. I AM proud of my accomplishments even if I’m broke. I AM glad I did it.

There is so much more to this story this is only the beginning….(stay tuned for Part II next Tuesday).

I plan on doing my Tiny Talk Tuesday so check in. I’d love it if you left a comment and don’t forget to share.