Self-publishers Unite!

I’m sure we’ve all heard of the Golden Rule, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you . . .” .  Today I bought the self-published book of a friend, Pamela Gillingham, on Amazon, “500 Ways to Get More Out of Life.”  In the first place, just one good idea would be great, but imagine 500!  In the second place, I plan to read and review the book because that is what I want others to do for me!  I’ve been emailing the Amazon Top Reviewers, particularly the ones that say, “Feel free to email me with review requests,” but so far haven’t received any replies.  This is not to say that I never will, but I have to face the fact that I might not.  Therefore, if you have self-published and are hoping to get noticed, why not find a self-published book by your same publisher by typing the publisher’s name in the search box, buy the kindle version of the book you choose which usually costs only $3.99, and make someone happy by reviewing their book?  Of course, I’ve learned that every idea I’ve ever had, someone else had before me, so if you’ve already done this, I salute you!

P.S.  Here is my review of my friend’s book.

Foolish mistake leads to desire to just forget it!

Forty years ago I took a class in salesmanship as part of my minor in business.  The one thing I remember about it was that if you are selling something, you have to differentiate your product from all the others.  This blog is my attempt to differentiate my children’s book, “Puppy, the Navy Seal Dachshund” from many other childrens books, all of which will certainly have their good qualities and messages.  Authorhouse offered to create a website for me, at a price, but not wanting to spend anymore money, I chose instead to use my blog for uploading teaching activities or ideas for teachers.  I imagine that most children’s books have websites.  Of course, I haven’t done extensive market research, but I thought maybe my teaching ideas might be fairly rare.

Actually, I’m proud of my blog because of all I’ve learned trying to put it together.  My son got me started, but I learned how to use Google docs to create PDF files that teachers could print, and also how to create the simple slide presentations I’ve included.   I want teachers who may buy my book to know that these activities are available to them.  Therefore, how do I get this information on Amazon?  Well, I now know that it’s through the Author Central feature, but before I found that out, I tried to make it known by using the customer review window.  I titled my review, “More information about the book” and just wrote a short sentence about my blog.  Then the feature insisted that I click on a number of stars.  I didn’t want to downgrade my own book, so I clicked 5 stars.  After I found Author Central, I read that author reviews of their own books are never accepted, so I thought, “OK, good, they will just delete the review and no one will know.”  Then today, I saw that they had not deleted it.  Embarrassment!

School Presentations

My neighbor, Connie, saved my dachshund from death.  She lived behind us and shared a back fence.  The next door neighbors had a chow.  They stacked firewood next to the 6 foot tall cement block wall between our houses, and the chow climbed the wood, jumped our fence and attacked Puppy, the dachshund.  Puppy ran around the yard on his stubby legs, being bitten over and over on his hind quarters.  Lucy ran and barked with him, and thank God, Connie heard the commotion.  She got in her truck, raced around the corner, went into the back yard and pulled the chow off of Puppy, being bitten in the process.  This is the kind of person Connie is.  

Now she’s using her fearlessness and enthusiasm to help me promote my book.  She bought a copy, took it to the school where she works with special needs students, and asked her principal if I might come and make a presentation for the kids.  I hope every author, who like me is trying to market a book, will have a Connie in his or her life!

My book is published, now what?

I have to admit it’s incredibly exciting to see your book on for the first time.  You’re so used to going to Amazon to buy books, and now all of a sudden, your book is for sale.  Of course, then it hits you that it’s like a grain of sand on the beach.  You look at your rank of 353,276 and wonder if that’s how many books there are at Amazon.  Then the next day you find out there are at least 405,567, and the next day, 585,317, and so on until you reach 834,281 and wonder if you will hit 1,000,000!  Then your dad orders 5 books and your back in the 300,000’s.  You realize that your book will never be noticed, especially since you did a lousy job of telling Authorhouse which key search words to use to describe your book.  You have to do something to get noticed, but what?

I had been advised to make a Facebook page for the book, which I did:

I guess my idea here was to have a place for kids to see the real Puppy and Lucy, but I’m not sure how good it is for marketing the book.  Like selling Tupperware or Shaklee, I always have a hard time asking my friends to buy anything, and I feel like that’s what I’m doing on Facebook.

So back to Amazon.  I read this article:

What I’m working on now is going through the Amazon Top Reviewers list, looking for those who will review children’s books and then sending them an email with my request.  So far I’ve sent out about 10, offering to send a copy of the book, but haven’t heard back from any.  As usual, I expect a miracle!

It costs how much?

Here is where I had some sleepless nights.  As a teacher, I naturally hoped that my book would be used in the classroom.  Stories about animals were always big favorites.  Perhaps the most popular story we read in 3rd grade was  “Dogzilla” by Dave Pilkey.  Text book companies often include entire children’s books, or excerpts of them in their basal readers.  I wanted my book to be accessible to school children, but the snag is that Authorhouse, like many self-publishers only print the book on demand and they charge according to number of pages and whether or not the book is in color.  On their website, they have a price calculator so that authors can see how much their book will be, but true to form, I never consulted this, so when my book was priced at $19.99, I, for lack of a better term, had a cow. I wrote an obnoxious e-mail about how I thought we were on the same team, and didn’t they want to sell books, and that a book like mine should cost at most $4.99.   My design consultant,  who to this day has been wonderful to me, called me up and overcame my objections.  I realized that you can’t fight city hall, or in this case, business model, so that was it.  But not many school children will order a 28 page, paper back book by a self-published author for $19.99, especially when they can have a hard cover of “Dogzilla” for only $12.23.  “My dream is over!” I cried.

Designing the Book

I didn’t know what to expect really when I self-published a children’s book.  I didn’t research, I didn’t read about other people’s experience, I just launched out as if I knew what I was doing.   Any thinking adult knows that this is not the way to start a successful project.  Maybe I spent too much of my life with idealistic children. 

After my illustrations were ready, the book designers took over.  They sent me the manuscript and instructed me to place the illustrations in the right place.  It’s important to get an illustration on the facing page of its text and I found this to be difficult.  I realized I had done a poor job of deciding which events in the book should be illustrated, and I ended up with sections of text with no illustration.   Here the Authorhouse design team really helped me out.  After I sent in the manuscript with illustrations placed, they called me in person and over the phone helped rearrange them so that they came out right.  They bordered the pages with no illustrations with paw prints which gave more interest.  The last step was proofreading which I had to do myself.  Although I read over it several times,  when I received my Author’s copy and read it, I noticed I had left out a quotation mark.  My fault!  Even so, I was delighted with the book.

The project gets underway

When they say “self-publishing”, they mean it. I guess I thought Authorhouse would read my book, edit it, illustrate it, and sell it. They will do all those things but for a price. They didn’t give me any feedback on my manuscript which I submitted via email. The only advice I received, which I think was good advice, was that I should call my book “Puppy, the Navy Seal Dachshund”, instead of just “Puppy, the Navy Seal”, my original title.

The first step was to illustrate the book. The package I bought included 10 illustrations. I was required to decide which sections of the story to illustrate, and then describe in detail what the illustration should look like. I had to describe the setting, the characters, and what the characters were doing. My project was assigned to an artist named Sonny Heston who really did quite a good job reading my mind since my descriptions were not top notch. I did however send some real life photos of my two dogs who were the two main characters, and some photos of our back yard where the story takes place. After about 2 weeks, I received a pdf file of the preliminary sketches. At this time I was to review the sketches and make any changes. The only change I asked for was to make Puppy’s tail longer. Otherwise they looked perfect.

My first steps in self-publishing

After having an idea for a children’s book, like every other retired teacher before me, I finally started writing.  Every morning I would discuss my progress with my parents who are in their 90’s.  The book is about my dachshund, Puppy, who dreams of becoming a Navy Seal dog after seeing an interview with a Seal dog in TV.  My dad thought that Puppy was not a good name for a Seal dog and that there should be a scene in which Puppy decides to change his name.  He suggested names for the dog:  Pupford, Pupton, Pupstead, Puply.  We laughed over this.  So it went until the book was finally finished.

I needed illustrations.  I first asked a high school friend of mine who is a good artist if she was interested.  At first she was and drew one illustration.  But, as often is the case, she got busy with her own life with people of her own age and our communication on Facebook stopped.  Next I asked the retired art teacher who lives across the street, but she didn’t want to commit the time she knew it would take to do a good job.

Next I went to the internet and googled children’s book publishers.  The first one that came up was Authorhouse.  After skimming their web page, I submitted a query.  The next day I received a call from a pleasant gentleman with an accent I couldn’t identify.  I thought it was perhaps Australian or New Zealand, maybe UK, because English was his first language, just not USA.  For 3 months there after, he would call me periodically at lunch time because he was in Indiana and I am in Arizona.  He was not pushy or overbearing, just persistent.  I would tell him that my husband didn’t want to invest in the project.  He would tell me to keep him in mind.  Then one day, he sent me an email with a special offer and an adorable illustration of a dachshund with an old fashioned aviator’s helmet on.  The dog had a noble face and that wrinkled neck that all dachshund’s have.  I was smitten.  I told my dad about it and he said, “Publish your book and I will pay for it.” 

I begin to have dreams of being a famous author, of having a source of income, of being a source of pride for my children, the same dreams all human beings have!  So, I went to the bank and told the teller I needed a cashier’s check for $1,689.  She asked me which account, naming several, and I told her the one.  However, days later after Daddy kept checking online (he’s 99, but isn’t afraid of technology) we discovered that the check had come out of my and my husband’s account!  Ha Ha!  Actually, now I’m glad that happened.

I sent the check and the project was on!

Why this page?

This page will do two things:  chronicle my journey through self-publishing and give teachers some activities and ideas to use with my self-published book, “Puppy, the Navy Seal Dachshund.”

Available at Authorhouse:


Barnes and Noble: