Making a difference: How I became a children's author

In the summer of 2017, Independent Author Kathy J Perry approached me to design a charming children's series for her. In this guest post, find out about her experience with self-publishing...

After my dad passed, I began evaluating what I was doing with my life. Have you ever had that moment? Suddenly, it seemed all too short. I just didn’t feel like what I was doing really made a difference.

I felt like impacting youth was really what I wanted to do. A former teacher, I feel that delivering education was probably the most rewarding and important job I’ve ever had, excluding being a wife and mother. To see a child’s face light up when they finally understand a new concept or work hard on a project and grow up right before your eyes - there’s nothing like it.

So, in my late 60’s, I became an author/illustrator of the Bandana Acres series: early chapter books to bridge the gap between picture and chapter books. I self-published under the name of Chickadee Words, LLC. I’d like to give you some of the highlights of my journey through considerable research. If you haven’t already discovered these, feel free to check them out for yourselves.

MeisterTask: This is a FREE time-management tool I have found very useful and still use today. I set up columns for education, writing, editing, illustrating, printing, audiobooks, marketing, school visits, conferences and book fairs, contests, etc. Tasks are continually added, assigned to myself (or possibly another on my team), and the due date established. The phone app gives me reminders. And, it’s synched with my iCalendar as well. MindMap is a sister product. It has been useful for brainstorming, outlining, just making sure the series was balanced with all the elements I wanted to establish.

 Scrivener: I enjoy typing. I can type faster than I can write. So, when I found Scrivener and all the writer tools incorporated in it, I was in heaven. Not wanting to waste a lot of time, I also invested in a class called Learn Scrivener Fast by Joseph Michael. (Now, Learn Scrivener 3.) In under a week, I was confident with the tools.

Author Associations: I’ve learned so much from various author associations. Currently, I am a member with:

  • ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers)

  • ALLI (Alliance for Independent Authors)

  • SCBWI (Society for Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators)

  • The regional activities and conferences have contributed greatly to my experience.

Editing: Self-editing first, I read my work aloud (or have the computer read it). It’s so easy to miss things with just your eyes. Next, I used Expresso-App to fine-tune. It gives lots of metrics including grade level, weak verbs, number of times certain words are used, etc. Finally, I hired a professional editor through Editing|Writing. I’ve been very happy with her wise assistance. We’re a good match. 

 Illustrations: Unfortunately, I’m not the best at drawing cute characters, but I wanted to paint my own illustrations. So, I enlisted the help of a talented college student studying studio art and commissioned him to help with the character line-design only. Wonderful decision! And then I learned to use watercolors with the help of online artists/teachers I admire.

Design: I elected to hire a professional book designer, Rachel Lawston of Lawston Design. I didn’t want another big learning curve with InDesign! I found Rachel while searching through recommendations at ALLI. She’s amazing! Not only is she genuinely kind and great at communication, she’s extremely knowledgeable and skilled at her craft. Her experience brought great creativity and the polished, professional outcome I couldn’t have imagined, let alone achieved myself.

 Printing: I settled on working POD (print on demand) with Ingram Spark. I wanted both softcover and hardcover books because my audience is elementary schools and libraries. I knew they would want the option of hardcover. I’m very happy with their performance, products, customer service, and distribution. Eventually, if I need a larger print run, I may look to another printer, but for now, POD works for me.

 Marketing: A whole other animal for a future post.

Kathy J Perry

Chickadee Words, LLC ChickadeeWords.com

kathy@chickadeewords.com

www.chickadeewords.com

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Former school teacher, Kathy J Perry now enjoys writing and illustrating early chapter books. She also enjoys visiting local elementary schools as an author. She’s very excited about the interactive blog for kids featured on her website.

Mother of two wonderful young ladies, she resides with her husband in Kansas City, Missouri.

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