It’s alive! How the Monsters of Tasmania were created

Rachel Tribout is an accomplished illustrator who successfully crowd-funded her first children’s picture book, The Monsters of Tasmania. In this interview, she talks about the process of bringing her story to life.

Illustrator Rachel Tribout

Rachel Tribout – illustrator and creator of Tassie monsters

Rachel, can you tell me why you decided to crowd-fund and self-publish Monsters of Tasmania rather than approach book publishers?
There are a couple of reasons I decided not to seek a publisher.

Firstly, I wanted to do my own thing. I wanted this book to be exactly as I choose, for example by having a few more pages than the usual 32-page standard. I also wanted to create the story and the illustrations.

Designing it myself was part of the fun and I was interested in learning the full process, from concept to production. I wanted to produce the book completely in Tasmania and in the end I worked with a great local printer to put together the limited Explorer’s Edition that includes some extra pages and a 3-colour process cover. It was a lot of fun to create.

I was also conscious that being Tasmania-focused, it might have been hard for a publisher to market it outside of Tasmania. At the same time that meant I could do the promotion and potentially even distribution myself down here because of the smaller scale. But in the end, I have Blackgum Distribution handling the distribution.

My next book project probably won’t be focused on Tasmania and I might try to contact publishers then, with The Monsters of Tasmania as my portfolio!

How have you developed your illustrating and writing craft? Did you complete formal study or take a different approach?
Illustration has been part of my life for as long as I can remember. At school I majored in literature and fine art, and I went on to study visual communication and illustration. Mostly I am self-taught, but I owe a lot of my progress to a friend of mine back in France. He’s a concept artist and gives me heaps of feedback on my work.

I have also read a lot of graphic novels since I am very young. They are a big deal in France, there’s the huge market there and everyone reads them.

Tell me about using Tasmanian landscapes as inspiration for your picture book. Is there a particular region of Tasmania that inspired you?
Seeing the landscape as living creatures comes quite naturally to me. I can’t help but see past their camouflage. As a child I was fascinated by old legends associated with the landscape and I’d never forget the stories of giants and dragons that have fallen asleep but may wake up at any time. I love those old maps of the world with the lands not quite right the right shape, or those flat representations of the earth with just a waterfall to nothingness at the end and weird creatures infesting the waters.

In Tasmania I find the coastline particularly evocative: Freycinet, the Tasman Peninsular and its Lion-turtles, and iconic places like Stanley. My favorite is Maria Island – it’s truly a magical place.

Did you spend much time out in the field before heading back to work in your studio?
I try to get out on study trips as often as I can! Occasionally I’ll do sketches when I’m sitting on a warm rock somewhere, but usually I’m too busy jumping around looking at things. I do take photos to remind me where things are and what shape they’re currently taking, but for me the important thing is seeing them and exploring.

I do the illustrations back in my studio.

Monsters of Tasmania by Rachel Tribout

The cover for Rachel’s book, The Monsters of Tasmania

How have you handled working with words as well as images?
There’s a delicate balance to be found between words and images, and telling a story where they work with each other seamlessly. As the book came together this swapped around – sometimes I replaced text with an illustration, or vice versa.

I initially started to create the book so it wouldn’t need text and could be understood without it, but then decided to add some to the book.

My husband Daniel is the one who wrote the words.

How long did it take to complete the artwork for The Monsters of Tasmania?
The first illustrations for The Monsters of Tasmania were done in December 2012, around Christmas when I had a bit of time. At that time I created the first four pictures and did a rough mapping of the book.

From then, I didn’t have much of a routine and I would try to fit time when I could between work and study. Weekends, evenings — I worked some long hours!

The story changed a bit along the way and I added some pages halfway through. I finished illustrating by November 2013, and finalised the design in February 2014.

Did you have any assistance with the publishing and printing process?
I had lots of help along the way from other authors, illustrators and designers – and of course from all the people who helped make my Pozible crowdfunding campaign successful. My web design teacher Ian Wallace knows a lot about self publishing and printing, and helped me a lot with the prepress side of things. When I was designing the book my day job was as a design intern at Futago, which was very helpful. I learnt a lot there and they gave me some great feedback.

Promotion-wise, and also regarding Pozible, Josh Santospirito gave me some gold advice.

When I was creating this book my ears were constantly open and I took on a lot of advice, I listened to people’s stories a lot and that’s priceless help.

Did you plan the promotional websites and blog or have they evolved?
Both. My Captain Blueberry blog began back when I first made a business out of illustration. Since then Captain Blueberry has evolved into a single project and my other work comes under my site at racheltribout.com.

Have you given any talks or presentations at bookstores or schools? Do you plan these or do you ‘wing it’?
I’ve given a couple of presentations now – Emerging Writers Festival event at MONA in October last year and also at Her Majesty’s Favourite Really Great Graphical Festival a few months ago. I will do some more in the future, so far I have been too busy with my freelance work to spare the time. Soon!

The way I deal with it? It’s nerve-wracking. I don’t get used to it. I am not much of a performer. What I have learnt is that it’s better to be prepared and practiced beforehand.

It’s notoriously difficult for self-publishers to get their books into bookstores. How did you go about it?
Luck definitely plays a part! I heard of Black Gum from another self published author, Andy Wilson, who has published a book called Old Sea Dogs. He told me a bit about the world of self publishing over a coffee, and he suggested I approach Black Gum Distribution. When I met them, they were pretty excited about the book and thought it was very professional looking. It’s been selling well so far!

Why did you decide to sell your books on etsy as well as in bookstores?
Etsy is great. It’s good value, easy to set up and it’s another way to connect with other creators and people who want to buy monster things! I’ve been on Etsy for a few years and I sometimes have things for sell in my shop, so it was natural to add The Captain’s book to my store.

What’s next for you? Any plans for an app or ebook?
I do have this project to make The Monsters of Tasmania into an animated interactive book, but I will need a big chunk of time for that as it will be a huge job. Sooner or later it will happen.

Also, Captain Blueberry happens to be heading south at the moment to investigate what lies beyond the Antarctic Circle. A new character, Admiral Bolognaise is going to join her too – so stay tuned!

At this point I’m planning to self-publish again, maybe even with a crowdfunding campaign. But we’ll see how we go. Maybe it could be good to have a publisher descend from their other world and help with printing costs and everything else if I could spark some interest in them.

Thank you, Rachel Tribout!

Bio
Rachel Tribout is a freelance illustrator and graphic designer. She was born in France and studied visual communication and illustration in Lyon. One fine day she set off across the oceans to discover the world, and she now lives in Hobart.

Links

Captain Blueberry’s Journal

Captain Blueberry website (to promote the book)

Rachel’s FaceBook page

Rachel’s design and illustration website

Rachel shares tips on her successful Pozible campaign

Where you can buy the book

Rachel’s book is available for sale from her etsy shop.

You can also find it in bookshops across Tasmania.

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To Amazon or not? A guest post by Annette Cauchi

Children's author, Annette Cauchi

Self-published author, Annette Cauchi

Today, children’s author Annette Cauchi shares her experiences of self-publishing with Amazon KDP Select. Annette is an Australian author.

To Amazon or not? That is the question for any aspiring self-publisher

I can’t answer that question, but I can tell you about my experience as a first timer on the megalith that is amazon.com.

I published my first children’s novel as a Kindle ebook on Amazon at the start of December 2012, so my journey is still beginning. In this short time I have learned a lot, particularly as I knew less than nothing about ebooks or self-publishing when I decided to take the leap.

The first thing I did was buy a Kindle, so at least I knew how they worked. I got the basic model which is only black and white (or at least 50 shades of grey), but I believe the latest ones are colour. I would say that anyone who plans to read Kindle books to children, or wants to encourage children to read them, would be better off with colour. I am told that iPads display Kindle books beautifully, better than Kindles in fact, and overall are a lot more useful.

My book is aimed at children nine years old and older. It doesn’t have any pictures, so black and white is fine for now. I would actually like to include illustrations, perhaps of the simple line drawing variety, but I can’t draw and have no money to pay an illustrator. That’s okay though; words are my tools and I’m happy to stick with them.

One big appeal of Kindle Direct Publishing is that it’s very user friendly for the newbie and the technologically challenged. If you don’t want to include graphics you can simply upload your Word file and it will automatically be converted to Kindle format and published without you having to do anything. The downside of this simplicity of is that, in the absence of any professional oversight, the Kindle store does contain many examples of poorly-edited, uninspiring and amateurish books uploaded by wannabes unable or unwilling to reflect critically on their own pet projects.

There are a few essential requirements when preparing your MS Word file. They are clearly explained in the Kindle ‘Help’ section, and I learned a few things about MS Word in the process.

I asked my daughter, who has drawing and graphic design skills, to create my cover. A brilliant eye-catching cover is essential according to all the ‘how to be successful on Kindle’ guides that I’ve read (and that’s quite a few). I don’t know how mine rates, but I’ve had no negative feedback and I’m happy with it for now.

The next big decision was whether to enrol in Kindle Direct Publishing Select or not. There are advantages and disadvantages. Detailed information on this is available elsewhere, but put simply the benefit of enrolling in Select is that your book can be borrowed by Amazon Prime members, for which you receive a royalty that may be more than you would make on a sale. Also, as a Select member you can promote your book free for five days out of every 90. The downside is that you can’t publish electronically anywhere else during that 90 days, but you can publish hard copies and at the end of 90 days you can either opt out of Select or sign up for another 90 days.

Because it seemed simple, had potential benefits and I had no immediate plans to publish elsewhere I decided to enrol my book in KDP Select.

One big appeal of Kindle Direct Publishing is it’s very user friendly for the newbie.

So after setting my prices, distribution rights, categories and tags I hit ‘Publish’. A few hours later, there it was: my book available for purchase on the Amazon Kindle Store.

Okay, so now what? Who’s going to notice my little ebook among the millions on the Kindle store?

Obviously the first thing is to encourage family and friends to buy a copy. That was an interesting exercise. People showered their praise on me but not many actually went straight to their computer and bought the book. Fair enough, you can’t force people, but your friends and family are not going to make you successful on Amazon.

So what next? Back to the ‘how to’ manuals.  Rule number one: reviews and lots of them. One friend told me she only buys Kindle books with at least 50 reviews. In effect this means she only buys books from established authors, although I don’t think she sees it that way. Her view is that she wants value for money, and again that’s fair enough. We all want value for money.

Cover for How I Saved the WorldSo how do I get 50 reviews? This is where being in KDP Select comes in handy. I have five days where I can give away the book as a free promotion, and lots of giveaways should result in at least some reviews. So for five days over Christmas my book was available for free and resulted in over 1500 copies downloaded, of which more than half were on amazon.uk. This resulted in a total of three unsolicited reviews and increased sales in the following couple of weeks.

Now I have to resist checking my sales figures every hour and get on with what really matters: writing my next book. I have decided to write a sequel, purely from a marketing point of view.

It has been a genuinely interesting journey so far, and this has been a greatly abridged version of my experience. I do believe we are still at the beginning of the digital book era and I am optimistic that there is a future for me on Amazon Kindle.

Annette Cauchi is a writer and teacher from the Huon Valley in Southern Tasmania. Her first novel for children, How I Saved the World: Amazing Adventures of an Almost Superhero, has just been published as a Kindle ebook.

Click here to visit Annette’s blog.

How do you promote your book? Part 2 of an interview with non-fiction author, Julie Wise

Today, motivational coach Julie Wise explains how she’s been promoting her new book, Dream BIGGER: Reclaiming a Life of Joy and Ease.

Motivational coach and mentor, Julie Wise

The effervescent Julie Wise

Julie, can you tell me why you created a blog as well as a website?
My website is designed to promote my coaching business. It does include a link to my book blog and a button for purchasing my book, but it also provides information on workshops I offer and other products I’ve created. I set up the blog to focus on the book. It’s much more than a blog; it has information on book reviews, events like my book signings, television and radio interviews, links to all the sites I ‘visited’ during my virtual book tour and so on. I post a new blog for that site every Monday and Thursday. I wanted a site that I could update regularly so I could keep people posted on the latest happenings with the book.

On television, your visual image is very important … Your message is almost secondary.

You’ve been travelling and appearing on talk shows on television and radio to promote your book. Did a publicist help you with this media coverage? Has it been a worthwhile experience?
My publicist set up the majority of the media appearances. She is based in the United States and has connections across the country so working with her was a very worthwhile experience. She was able to book a number of television interviews, advise me on what to wear, help me organise media releases and talking points for interviews. Some of the radio interviews I set up myself. The more exposure you have, the more you are seen as an expert in your field and the more likely people are to want your book.

Could you give readers any advice on media appearances?
Be well prepared! For television appearances, you generally have about 3 minutes for an interview (and that includes questions from the interviewer). So you need to know your material, focus on getting your main points across, and be animated at the same time. Being on television is quite a different experience from radio.

On television, your visual image is very important – what you wear (not busy or distracting colours or patterns), your hair and makeup, your mannerisms (how you sit, your gestures or facial expressions). Your message is almost secondary.

On the radio, all people hear is your voice and your message, so it’s important to speak calmly and not rush, focus on getting your points across, and sound friendly and happy.

Always think of the interviewer as your best friend, smile as you speak, and focus your attention directly at him or her (ignoring anything else that’s going on in the studio).

You recently completed a virtual book tour. Can you explain what this is and how you set up the interviews?
The virtual book tour was set up through my social media consultant. It’s a series of blog sites that feature either written interviews or guest blogs and book reviews.

On set dates, I went to specific blog sites, checked for comments under the blog interview or review of my book, and responded to the comments. It’s a way of doing a book “tour” without leaving home! And it provides an author with good internet exposure through the various blog sites.

Tell me about the Dream BIGGER Reinvention Challenge. Why did you decide on a contest?
When I first began working with my Dream BIGGER team (publicist, social media consultant and website designer), we discussed ways to promote the book on a large scale. One of the ideas was to create a 60-day online contest. The Dream BIGGER Reinvention Challenge was the result.

Over a period of 2 months, people could enter their dream and others could go to the pages and vote on the dreams that inspired them most. We wanted this to inspire the general public to dream bigger with their lives and consider new possibilities, especially during the challenges of recession.

It was a great success with nearly 900 visits and over 2700 page views from 20 different countries in just 60 days. The grand prize winner is currently receiving coaching, publicity and social media support on making her dream a reality.

I never could have envisioned all that’s occurred in the past year as a result of this book … So take a deep breath, and let the ride begin!

Which online communities could you recommend for writers to promote themselves and their books?
I’ve found that many of the social media sites are excellent sources for marketing and networking. LinkedIn has a Books and Writers Group, for example. I also use Twitter and Facebook for general marketing. Authorsden, Goodreads, Stumbleupon are a few that come to mind. BookCrossing is a wonderful way to send your book out into the world and watch as it travels. Amazon has a new page for authors to promote themselves, plus you can create a list that includes your book through Listmania. It’s also very beneficial to ask reviewers to post their reviews on Amazon.

Did you develop special workshops to introduce people to you and your book?
Yes, and that’s part of the focus for the coming year – giving workshops, talks, developing a teleseminar and podcasts … There are always more ways to generate interest and create a greater following.

Is there anything you would do differently with your next book in terms of promotions?
I think I’d recognise that it’s a more involved and intense process than I’d originally hoped! I’d try to be more relaxed and accepting of the time involved and take more time to truly appreciate and celebrate each milestone rather than be focused on what remains to be done.

I would definitely hire a support team again. It’s more effective and efficient (and sane!) than trying to do it alone. The great advantage to a second book is that you can build on the connections you’ve already made the first time around.

Would you say you’ve made a conscious effort to develop your brand? Or is this something that’s evolved?
I tried to develop it consciously, but I think it’s been evolving as well. It’s important to be open to the way you, your book, and your life are shifting and changing and work with the flow rather than against it.

What next? Do you have plans for other writing projects?
I did start back into writing the book on Ireland that I was working on when Dream BIGGER came along. But a few weeks ago, I became bored with that story, so it’s on hold for now. I think my focus for the next six months is on developing some other products. I believe there is another book gestating at the moment, but it hasn’t revealed itself to me yet.

If you could travel back in time to the moment before you started your publishing project, what advice would you give yourself?
Dream bigger, Julie! You see, I had a different ‘plan’ for my life and my writing, and what happened with this book is a perfect example of what the book is all about. I never could have envisioned all that’s occurred in the past year as a result of this book. There’s often a bigger plan for our lives than we can possibly imagine. So take a deep breath, and let the ride begin!

Where can people buy the book?
Dream BIGGER is available online through Amazon. In the United States, it’s also available online through Borders and Barnes and Noble. In Canada, online through Chapters.

Julie, thank you for sharing your story!

About the book

When life’s challenges get you down, and you feel like giving up on your heartfelt desires, it’s not time to quit. It’s time to dream even bigger! Dream BIGGER: Reclaiming a Life of Joy and Ease is filled with inspiring true stories, simple tools and exercises, and plenty of motivation. Learn how to re-chart your course and bring more joy and ease into your life as you pursue your dreams.

About Julie

Julie Wise is a motivational coach and mentor who helps people navigate change in their lives and achieve their dreams. She encourages people around the world to look beyond their current circumstances and envision a brighter future. Julie currently lives in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada. When she’s not coaching clients, she can be found dancing flamenco or exploring a windswept beach somewhere …

Weblinks
Julie’s website:
http://www.juliewiseconsulting.com/

Julie’s blog:
http://www.wise1coaching.wordpress.com/

The ‘Dream BIGGER’ contest:
http://www.dreambiggercontest.com/

Self-publishing non-fiction: Part 2 of an interview with author, Natasha Brooks

Today non-fiction author Natasha Brooks talks about the problems she faced with publishing her book. She also explains how she’s promoting Offered and Accepted: A Recruiter’s Guide to Sales.

Offered and Accepted: A Recruiter's Guide to Sales

The cover for Offered and Accepted

Natasha, did you have assistance from any publishing professionals, eg an editor?
I’m lucky to have a friend who used to work as an editor. He reviewed two chapters for me and gave me some very valuable advice. I also paid around $2000 to a Sydney based proofreading company who market themselves as a group of editors, working for corporate clients. Unfortunately, their work – and subsequent customer service – was appalling. They admitted that they provided me with a ‘below standard’ service because I wasn’t a major client. It took me two days to go through the text again and pick up the things they had missed … very annoying!

How will you tackle promoting the book?
My initial promotion has been through industry contacts, LinkedIn and word of mouth. I wanted to gauge reaction and ensure my website worked before embarking on the second stage which is a direct marketing campaign targeting team leaders, managers and business owners in the recruitment industry. I decided to go for direct marketing because my target market receives hundreds of emails a day – quality direct mail stands out.

I absolutely understand what information my target market wants and how they want it … because I have been that target market for 15 years

By default, I also promote the book when I’m working, and I am in the process of increasing my online profile. (I’m attending a course at the Sydney Writer’s Centre to help me do this.) I expect it to be a slow burn process … as people read the book and post reviews, more people are encouraged to buy it and so on.

What promotional tactics have been effective to date? What hasn’t worked?
It’s very early days but I sold just over 50 copies in the first three weeks, through sending emails to contacts and posting details on LinkedIn, and that includes orders from South Africa and the UK. I probably could have sold that amount by holding a launch party but the costs involved didn’t justify the return, and would have left me no budget for any other promotion. The direct mail campaign started this week so I’ll have to come back to you on that one!

At the moment, how can people buy the book?
Directly from my website, with payment through PayPal.

What next? What are your future plans for writing projects?
The first draft of my novel is still marinating in a draw and I’d like to go back to it at some point, albeit alongside my commercial work. I also think there is scope for a follow up to Offered and Accepted that targets recruitment managers, rather than consultants.

What is it that differentiates you from other writers?
I absolutely understand what information my target market wants and how they want it, because I have been that target market for 15 years. So many of the books aimed at recruiters are written by academics or people who spent a couple of years at most working as a recruiter sometime last century. I know that sounds harsh, but it’s true! I’m not suggesting those books don’t hold some value, but what differentiates my writing is its absolute relevance.

If you could travel back in time to the moment before you started your publishing project, what advice would you give yourself?
• Expect it to take longer than you think.
• Plan the book before you start writing (but don’t use that as an excuse not to start writing!)
• Choose a different proof-reading company!

About the book
Practical and easy-to-read, Offered and Accepted introduces a simple sales process designed for recruiters. From generating candidates and clients, to negotiating rates and closing offers, it covers every aspect of the recruitment process and provides you with the know-how needed to achieve outstanding results in a competitive market.

Weblinks

Click here for Natasha’s website.

And here for Natasha’s blog.

How did you get published? Interview with non-fiction author, Natasha Brooks

Today, I’m talking to non-fiction author Natasha Brooks. Natasha recently self-published her book, Offered and Accepted: A Recruiter’s Guide to Sales. She has 15 years experience as a recruitment consultant. Currently she works as an independent business consultant and trainer, helping businesses to improve their recruitment results.

Natasha Brooks

Natasha Brooks

Natasha, why did you decide to write this book?
Two years ago, I took a break from the corporate world to pursue a long-held dream of writing a novel. Before I embarked on writing fiction, I thought it would be a good idea to get into a writing routine by writing about something I knew – recruitment. I also thought that it would be a useful way to record everything I’d learnt, so I could refer to it when I was back in the job market!

I’d always thought someone should write a sales book for recruiters, and the more research I did, the more convinced I became of the potential demand. After I’d finished the first draft of my novel, I decided that the only way I’d know if the sales book really could be a success, was to publish it.

How long did it take, from planning to holding a freshly-printed copy in your hands?
Almost a year.  I had the first draft completed in eight weeks and didn’t look at it again until I’d finished the first draft of my novel. When I went returned to it, the rewriting, rewriting and more rewriting took the best part of six months!

My typical reader is a multi-tasker, with a busy job and a short attention span. The book needed to be organized to reflect the logical stages of the /recruitment process, and the text had to be tight. My first draft was 80,000 words and the final version is 50,000.  The book says much more to the reader without those extra 30,000 words!

The final four months were spent designing, proof-reading, finding a printer and the actual production.

Tell me about your writing process.
I ‘mapped out’ the book in sections: chapters; order; essential subjects; sub-topics; additional info and so on. I then – literally – wrote down everything I knew about each topic and tried not to obsess about whether it should be in the book or not. Only then did I start to knock it into shape.

I found it incredibly difficult to decide on the format of the book, and what its ‘voice’ should be. I was overwhelmed at the sheer scale of the task in front of me, so I tried different styles with different chapters and I asked industry contacts what they thought worked. When I found the right style, I had to go back over all the other chapters and bring them into line.

At that point I totally understood why a book like this hadn’t previously been written … those of us that have the subject expertise and experience, rarely have the patience!

Why did you decide to self-publish?

Traditional publishers knocked me back! In fairness to them, I can understand why. It was the height of the GFC and there were no similar books to compare it to. It would have been a risk for them.

My research also suggested that most companies who publish books on universal business topics such as sales, marketing, HR, management etc. launch books in Australia that have already been tested overseas. My perception (and I may be wrong) is that most non-fiction titles that are written and first published in Australia tend to be Australia-specific such as tax, property or celebrity chefs and sports stars.

I also concluded that I was better placed to promote my book within Australia than a traditional publisher. I know my market and parts of my market know me. Let’s be frank … I shouldn’t be writing a book on sales, if I can’t sell my own book!

How did you present your manuscript to the traditional publishers – the whole manuscript or as a proposal?
I followed their submission guidelines to the letter, and that meant submitting proposals rather than the whole manuscript. I only received one standard response – all the others gave considered comments and additional information about other contacts I could try. That encouraged me a great deal.

Which publishing service did you chose and why?
After speaking with other self-published authors and considering my options, I decided to go with a traditional printer, rather than a publishing service because I didn’t feel confident with the latter. The printers that I chose, BrightPrint Group, invited me to meet with them and that laid the foundations for a productive working relationship.

I work as an independent consultant and the book is aimed at my professional peer group – it is basically an advert for me and self-publishing a quality product is a considerable investment. I found using an established, customer-service oriented printing company provided me with the level of support and confidence I needed.

Now I have been through the process once, I may be more inclined to use publishing services, and indeed will have to if demand increases from overseas.

On Wednesday I’ll post the second part of Natasha’s interview. In it, she explains how she’s promoting her book.

Click here for Natasha’s website.

And here for Natasha’s blog.