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Saturday, May 26, 2012

Nancy O'Neill Shares Trek Toward the Professionally Self-Published Children's Book

As many of you know, Book Expo America season is here. So much to do!  I love guest posts--it's a sharing-with-other-authors kind of thing. But at times like this it's also a make-it-easy-on-the-blogger kind of thing. Nancy O'Neill, a new Facebook friend, kindly agreed to support me with this post in my time of need. The things is, I think sometimes we can learn so much from authors who haven't been in the publishing business for a long time. Their enthusiasm is infectious. So, thank you, Nancy!

Guess What?
by Nancy O’Neill
Sometimes the perfect title, tagline, or artwork lends itself to the ideal marketing campaign, branding, or cross promotion opportunities.
Well, guess what? That’s exactly what happened with my children’s picture book series, Guess What? But I’ll confess, I didn’t have a big master plan to make everything line up just right. It just unfolded gradually.
In 2002, I wrote a children’s story which I titled, Sounds on Grandpa’s Farm. Even though I received a nice collection of rejection letters from publishers, I continued to write more stories. But in 2005 when our son was nine, he started his own business, Pencil Bugs. Because I was helping him with all aspects of the business including helping him write a business book for entrepreneurs, I put my own projects on hold.
In 2011 at the age of sixteen, he decided he wanted to “retire” so that gave me the opportunity to dust off my children’s stories and try the self-publishing route.
The first manuscript I decided to bring back to life was Grandpa’s Farm. After many rewrites and playing around with the title, it finally became Guess What is on Grandpa’s Farm? That’s when I realized the possibilities were endless. Everything started to fall into place.
Before long, the editing was done. I had the concept for the book cover but since I wasn’t a graphic designer, I called upon an expert, Chaz DeSimone. I showed him my idea and he almost died when he saw the question mark I had used in my first mock-up cover. He immediately said, “That has to go,” and on a napkin over lunch, he sketched out the perfect question mark that quickly became my logo. He took the rest of my original ideas and started working on the cover.
While I was having the manuscript edited and the cover designed, I was still stuck on who should do the illustrations. I knew the perfect solution was out there somewhere. Then one day the light bulb went off. I would feature illustrations done by kids so I created a worldwide art contest for the first book.
I announced the contest on my website, sent it out to my mailing list, to mommy bloggers, to friends, family, former co-workers, and shared it with my social network. But I’ll be honest, my network wasn’t huge so I had no idea how successful my contest would be. I was pleasantly surprised when I started receiving artwork from far and wide. In fact, the day a teen in New Delhi, India sent me a Facebook message asking if I would accept artwork from India, I almost peed my pants from excitement. Of course I said, “Absolutely!”
By my deadline, I had more than enough illustrations to select the thirteen needed for the book. From India to Hawaii, Pennsylvania to California, and many states in between, the artwork was amazing. Except for those who emailed me submissions, I deliberately did not look at who sent them or where they lived so I could be objective. After a few weeks of evaluating, I finally chose the winners and was delighted that three of them lived in my area. When I emailed each of the winners, I’m not sure who was more excited, the kids or me?
Once I knew that my book was finally becoming a reality, I got busy and started promoting it using many of the tips from The Frugal Book Promoter. I also contacted the three local illustrators and invited them to do book signings with me. Plus I arranged school visits to their respective schools so that I could honor them properly in front of their peers, teachers, and families.
It’s been such an amazing journey. Even though I had been through the self-publishing and marketing process before coaching other authors, my book was extra special. It did more than just make me a published author. It’s been an inspiration for other young aspiring artists. It’s been a breathe of fresh air for some who have been dealing with difficult personal situations. It has opened up possibilities in so many areas for kids of all ages. And on its own, the book is a fun guessing game and learning experience with wonderful illustrations.
The benefits have already started. Two of the young artists are now working on writing and illustrating their own books and another one is using the book as part of her portfolio to apply to art school. Several of them already have websites or are on social media sites talking about the book.
Because of how well the first book in the series turned out and what it’s doing for so many kids around the world, I am even more excited to move forward. The second book, Guess What is at the North Pole? is scheduled for release in October, 2012 which means the next Kids Art Contest has already started. Submission guidelines can be found at www.guesswhatbooks.com.
I very rarely plan things out in detail because I’ve found that if you keep your eyes open, the opportunities seem to present themselves when the time is right. What you do with them is up to you. My perfectly designed question mark has become an easily recognizable brand. The title works great in marketing copy. And guess what else? By giving kids the opportunity to have their artwork featured in a published book, the cross promotion possibilities are endless.
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Carolyn Howard-Johnson, author of This Is the Place; Harkening: A Collection of Stories Remembered; Tracings, a chapbook of poetry; and how to books for writers including the award-winning second ediction of, The Frugal Book Promoter: How to get nearly free publicity on your own or by partnering with your publisher; The Frugal Editor: Put Your Best Book Forward to Avoid Humiliation and Ensure Success; and Great Little Last Minute Editing Tips for Writers . The Great First Impression Book Proposal is her newest booklet for writers. She has three FRUGAL books for retailers including A Retailer’s Guide to Frugal In-Store Promotions: How To Increase Profits and Spit in the Eyes of Economic Downturns with Thrifty Events and Sales Techniques. Some of her other blogs are TheNewBookReview.blogspot.com, a blog where authors can recycle their favorite reviews. She also blogs at all things editing, grammar, formatting and more at The Frugal, Smart and Tuned-In Editor . If your followers at Twitter would benefit from this blog post, please use the little Green widget to let them know about this blog:

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