I don’t think I ever woke up and thought “I’ll be a writer today”. For me it is something that developed with time. I love to read books, specifically thrillers, but I also love to read children’s stories to my daughter. It’s something I’ve always cherished doing with her. Over the years, I often read countless picture and chapter books, with her and to her. I’d often read them and find myself asking myself the question of whether I could write something that children would want to read.
My career as a teacher has always had children as my key focus and when I knew I wanted to write; I knew it had to be a children’s book. I also felt very strongly about it having a mental health focus. Did I think it would be in bookshops; published; or create the interest it has done, not a chance. I remember my partner saying, “if it’s something you enjoy and only our kids read it then you’ve achieved something. Anything after that is a bonus.” And he was right – but don’t tell him I said so. If my daughter read it and enjoyed, it then I’d be happy.
But there was no harm in trying for the “bonus” stuff. So, I got my head down and did lots of research on how anyone, not just me, could get their books published. I started with researching major publishers and then filtered off more specifically to children’s publishers. I organised myself with a long list of children’s publishers, took details of contacts and visited every single one of their websites.
It’s not just as simple as writing a book and thinking I’ll pop that in an email and send it. You’ll find most publishers have submissions guidelines. Although this was useful, there was a long tedious job of noting down which each publisher wanted; how they wanted it sent, on what format, which chapters and so on. Now this isn’t how anyone has to do it; this was just how I chose to organise it.
The constant worry of catching the eye of the publisher when your script lands in their inbox is forever at the forefront of your mind. They receive thousands of scripts and I’m expecting them to read mine and be impressed. The first battle was which publisher was accepting scripts. If they aren’t, then there is absolutely no point in sending anything. Some stated they would be accepting soon, so that was worth noting too.
I think one of the biggest surprises I found was how long it can take for a publisher to get back to you if they are interested in your script. This could be anything from 6 weeks to 12 weeks. I was so excited. I didn’t want to wait 12 weeks for a decision. Could I wait 12 weeks to find out if anyone would be interested in my script?
I remember my sister saying, “look at all options, do them all and then go with whatever comes first”. I sat myself up and decided that I wanted a backup. Something to keep my mind going whilst waiting up to 12 weeks. So, self-publishing was a different route to my journey. I was at the start of my writing road and I now had two possible paths. Again, I did all my research! I investigated every aspect of how to self-publish; editing; illustrations; printing; productions; formatting – everything! I was all ready to start the self-publishing route, whilst still waiting for a response from a publisher. I was trying both avenues. Then, I got a phone call from a publisher who was interested in my script and felt it had a good ground for publishing. This was the news I wanted to hear. My belly had excited butterflies swarming around and this could potentially be the very start of my publishing journey.
The publisher informed me that children’s books are a very tricky market. The production costs are high, and the profit margins are low. I could invest some money into the book myself, which would help with some costs, but I was still only looking at less than 20% royalties.
In the meantime, when I had done my research on self-publishing, I had come across an amazing company called ‘Bear With Us Productions’ who seemed to be offering a very similar system of investing some of my own money into the book, but then I’d own the full rights to the book, its illustrations and everything that comes with writing your own book.
Surely this made more sense. My decision was now invested with a publisher who had the backing of lots of followers, invest my own money and receive 20%, or go with a production company where I’d have to invest my own money but own the full rights. This seemed like a ‘no brainer’. Yes, the backing of a publishing company would be amazing, and their promotions skills would be so useful, but as this is my first book, I wasn’t fully ready to hand my hard work over for less than 20% and not own the full rights of my book and any future books.
For me, it was more to do with owning the rights than the royalty percentage. I wanted to be able to make the decisions on my book and be fully involved in the full process. So, I took a leap of faith and contacted Andy Wheeler at Bear With Us. I still didn’t know if I was doing the right thing, but I just had to trust my instincts. With bated breath I emailed Andy and waited for a response to whether he would be interested in producing my writing into a book for children. Within minutes, I had a response of “Absolutely!” And the rest they say is history.
This was it, by the time I finished my journey with Bear With Us, I was going to have a book that was ready for sale. I was amazed by how professional, prompt, and enthusiastic Andy was. The journey began with having my script edited by Lor Bingham. She was so helpful and offered the most useful advice and tips. I was always fearful of having my work edited, assuming that it would be a negative experience, but it was anything but that. Lor was amazing; helpful, had great suggestions and nothing seemed too much to ask of her. From Lor editing my script, came the illustrations by Yogesh. I think this was one of the things I was most excited about. I couldn’t wait to see the characters come to life. I had an idea and had drawn out how I wanted them to look and what ideas I had. Yogesh worked his magic and made the characters come alive on paper. They were everything I imagined them to be bright, colourful, and fun.
I will admit, I think there were times that I drove Andy crazy because I am so excited to see the product that I was constantly after updates. Bear with Us have a ‘basecamp’ where everyone involved in the project can share ideas, their work on the project and where all the ‘approving’ of work goes on. It is a fun place to be and to watch the progression of your project. I am nearing the end of the project and having a fully edited, illustrated, formatted book and I literally can not wait to see it. My next task is to have it printed and uploaded to Amazon for purchasing. I won’t lie, I am really excited to see it available to buy on amazon and on my very own website.
Would I recommend Bear With Us – absolutely! Do I regret the road I have taken – no! I can’t wait for Bear With Us to start my second book and for the journey to continue with them. Onwards and upwards.