"SELF PUBLISHING OR TRADITIONAL - PART THREE"
Once again I'm back interviewing KC Frantzen and getting all of the scoop on how to self-publish a fully illustrated middle grade adventure novel. This is a photo of the Fed Ex truck that has recently delivered the galley/hard proof. YAY! May gets to proof and make sure there aren't any mistakes in her new book. And this week, KC goes into more depth about how she found her illustrator. So let's get started.
Q: KC, this week, I'm wondering again about the illustrator. With so many out there, how did you find the right one? Did you have someone in mind - did you go through a corral of listed available illustrators who might work with free lance writers?
A: I did have someone in mind - after I saw her work! It was a marvelous illustrator I met at a conference. But she told me she didn't work with authors who self-publish. That's fine. I love her work and always will! You can imagine how thrilled I was when she saw some of the art and liked it. I asked her after looking around for a couple of years. The thing is, I wasn't sure what I wanted the book to look like. I KNOW these characters personally in real life, so imagining scenes and characters as illustrations was hard for me.
I went to book stores, libraries, anywhere to find book-related art. Even found a man based in the Ukraine after reviewing his work on his website! But by January/February, time was getting critical. I'd not found THE one. So, as the Lord would have it, I found two the same weekend. Both fabulous, both very very different.
Conversed with each on the phone for about 1-1/2 hours.
What to do?
An artist friend of mine (different type of art than I needed) suggested I request samples. So, I sent several chapters to these 2 artists.
Artist 1 sent a cute Schnauzer, really cute, but it wasn't our May.
Artist 2 sent three drawings and landed the job.
I cannot say enough good things about Taillefer Long . The collaboration has been excellent from my perspective. From the start, I sensed he wanted me to LOVE it. I gave him free rein with the manuscript and he got to work. Out of all the art you will see when you acquire your own copy… (GOSH! Did I mention it will be available by the end of the month? Where? MaytheK9Spy :)
Out of all the art you will see, there was only one illustration that didn't grab me, though he tried several versions. Only one. Most of the rest took a bit of tweaking here and there but overall, I'm amazed at how he perfectly embellished the story. And as I recall, there were several that I said, "Step away from the drawing. Do not touch it. It is perfect as is." Those were happy moments for us both! I feel sure I exasperated him at points but he didn't let on. He's a real gentleman and brilliant.
He has created art for a number of authors' works, but sometimes the finished product did not live up to his expectation. It has been very important to me that he is as pleased as I am with May on the Way. I think that will be the case.
At the end, he was working directly with Sheridan to be sure he sent what was needed. There were a few hiccups here and there but we made it. It's in. And… I get to see it roll off the presses and binders. He was going to come but has a scheduling conflict so, alas, we won't get to meet in person quite yet!
Q: Were you able to discuss your vision with the artist about how you saw the book cover or did you allow him free artistic rein?
A: As a bonus to me, he designed the cover and the actual book. Mind you, from what I hear in traditional publishing, there are departments for each of these, so what a blessing that I only had to deal with one person. Amazingly, the cover you see is the first concept he presented to me. Wow. It was entirely his concept. My request was that the photo of May figure prominently. (After speaking with various people, this seemed like a must.) This presented a challenge, because May on the Way is not a story told with photographs, it's a book with hand-drawn illustrations. Furthermore, it is the first of a series, so he had to keep that in mind as well. I loved his concept from the start and it had good feedback from almost everyone. When a librarian was gracious enough to let me send it for comment, she said, "I'VE GOT TO HAVE IT!" So. I guess that's good! Y'all can make up your own mind if we succeeded or not.
Q: So far, the book cover design is ready. Then you're ready to go to print. After that, how long now for the publishing process? You've already touched on receiving the galley/hard proof. Where are you now?
A: Everything is now complete and in the works. The hardcopy proof came June 7, and the company uploaded a soft proof online the day before. I had 2 days to approve. The book will be manufactured in a couple of weeks. Sheridan has graciously arranged for me to watch production, which is in two phases: the internal pages one day, then binding and finishing the next. I'll be able to bring some home on the plane!
IMPORTANT: Here's an interesting note of which I was unaware, and my ignorance proved costly. ANY changes to the file once it is sent is charged per page. I was under the erroneous impression that one could make changes to the "galley" (they call it hard proof) but after that, there would be charges.
When you send in the file the first time, ANY changes are charged. $10.50 for the first page, $5 each subsequent page.
OR, you can resubmit the entire file for $1/page, which is what we ended up doing because it was less expensive.
We also had a few tweaks to the cover. Yep. Charges applied.
Also, they expect to be PAID. Ha! So - we opted for the 50/50 plan. We paid 50% up front and will be expected to pay for the remainder before the books are shipped.
They do have a credit plan but we do not like interest payments. We had saved and budgeted for this project so we didn't have to borrow.
We've been debt free for years and intend to stay that way.
Q: I like debt free! While you've been working with an illustrator and choosing paper thicknesses and colors and bindings and finishes, you're working on other things. I have to know. Where did you find the darling stuffed Mini-Mays?
A: It was important to us to have as many things made in the USA as possible. However, finding a domestically made plush toy is not only difficult, but the pricing is exorbitant. (I inquired of one lady who said she would create a prototype. Even then it would be manufactured in China. She wanted something like $800 for the prototype. She does beautiful work, but for now, it's not something we can afford.)
I spent a number of hours /cough/ looking on the Internet and found Aurora . They sent several Schnauzer samples and it was puppy love at first sight! These are handmade in Indonesia. They are SO soft and wonderful. Everyone who has held a Mini-May has fallen in love. We hope they will bring hours of pleasure to their new FURiends!
Q: May the K9 Spy wears a collar. Was this a special collar you had in mind for her spy character?
A: The real May doesn't normally wear a collar but her K9 Spy character does. It has some interesting things about it, some of which I'm still developing. Stay tuned for book 2! When trying to source a collar for the plush toy, I found even itty bitty collars are expensive. Taillefer suggested having some silicone wrist bands made, so kids can wear them if they want to.
So that's what we did for the plush. I sourced several companies, requested samples and decided. Alas, these are imports also.
Q: You've researched self publishing, plush toys, and pet treats. What about packaging? Was finding a supplier who was reasonable difficult?
A: Great question and something to consider if you are doing this yourself. Once you sell the items, how do you get them to your customers? Again, Lois at JPTB has been invaluable. We are using the company she does for some of our items www.nashvillewraps.com . They have been great to work with and I love that they are based here in TN! They are stamping our gift bags (also made in the USA) with May's logo in metallic teal. Can't wait to see them!
We need to ship the actual books and after speaking to a few folks, decided to use a box instead of a padded envelope. Nosed around the Internet, looked on eBay also and found www.corrugatedboxstore.com . So we purchased a box that will hold an individual book or possibly two, and then larger boxes to ship the gift packs. There was a big difference in cost between the self sealing ones and the ones we must seal ourselves, so for now, we will use clear packing tape to seal them. Now we needed shipping labels and had to determine a proper size too. We sourced, compared and settled on www.123print.com . We've not received the shipment yet, but just got word that the thank you cards and address labels have already shipped. We also ordered the shipping labels and updated business cards from them. All designs were ours. We uploaded to their templates for free, but you can use some of the hundreds they already have. I'd previously used www.vistaprint.com for business cards but their shipping labels were MUCH higher so went with this other company. We'll see.
This is my third business, so I've tried to leverage my knowledge of what is needed. No doubt I've forgotten something, but we tried to think of everything ahead of time so it's all ready to go when the books arrive.
Thanks KC! Next week we'll talk about May's dog treats - YUM!
KC and May are available for questions/comments - email me firstname.lastname@example.org
KC Frantzen owns photography copyright on all photos in this article.
Likewise, working with KC was really an absolute pleasure: a true creative collaboration. Although I've worked with many authors that were self-publishing, it has primarily been as a sometimes anonymous "service provider," outsourced at a considerable mark-up by some of the mainstream Print-On-Demand outfits. There is a lot of confusion among first-time authors about the actual scope of these companies, that function solely as facilitators in providing all the services to publish.
The entire reason I set up a blog ( childrensillustrationartist.com ) to bring illustration and design services directly to authors was in direct response to seeing projects mismanaged and creative visions misled - both authors' and my own. I really don't think creativity and streamlining can coexist unless there is a driving vision and clear communication inspiring the creation/production. KC understands that well and that is why I was able to work so well with her vision and why my impetus became the creative process, not the paycheck.
Ultimately, it is the author who must learn to operate as a business and package their product. KC has been one of the few authors I've worked with who really understands what all is involved in self-publishing (becoming a one-person publishing house!) and, through her joie de vivre and faith, she has really been dedicated to seeing this project through. As I told her while we considering the million different aspects of production and details that went into May On The Way, this one is really going to stand out as a proud moment for self-publishing. And the next two will be even better. Way to go, May and KC!