Considering the global pandemic, and the emotional and financial devastation it has caused, Dan and I have been let off lightly. Fortunate enough to be working from home already, with a business that could be managed over zoom, we escaped many of the worst effects. Instead, our year was about starting an entirely new project that staked its claim on our every waking hour – which given world events proved a welcome distraction.
In February, I had the innocent idea of getting my books into print, as they’d only ever been in ring binders! I’d approached publishers before, but it was obvious that my ideas and stories were so outside of the box and publisher’s expectations that it wasn’t really worth the effort. It seemed the obvious answer to print and sell them ourselves, particularly as, at last count, we had 14 books between us.
At that point, we had absolutely no idea what we were letting ourselves in for. As far as we were concerned, we’d done the writing, so all we had to do was find someone to print them. Cue hysterical laughter from all those who know better!
After we’d returned from Fantasyland, what actually happened was, we started editing the books. Then we edited them again, followed by learning how we should have edited them in the first place, followed by rewrites. Then we had to investigate the confusing and contradictory world of punctation – how you should punctuate fiction, depending which side of the Atlantic you’re on and which camp you’re in concerning the placement of commas and speech marks.
Next came formatting. Where should the page numbers sit? Where should they start? How should the text be laid out? Which font and size was right for which age group? What kind of line spacing should we use, and had we got the right dimensions for the page size? To say nothing of footnotes, which jumped about every time we made an alteration anywhere in the text.
This, I might add, was all done in Microsoft Word, which is not set up to produce books. You can do it but it’s a pain in the proverbial, which part – the proverbial, that is – was left to Dan as I am not technical. So, he spent many happy hours trying to find out why the page numbers started on the title page, or why there was a line at the bottom of every page that was impossible to delete and so on. It’s a good job he has the patience of a saint! Mastering InDesign should eliminate most of those problems, but that’s a learning curve for another year!
And did I mention books need covers? That was, of course, also Dan’s department. Being new to the world of cover design, we had to reluctantly scrap a beautiful cover he created, when we realised we needed something that would work as a thumbnail when viewing online, catch the eye, tell the story, and quite possibly make the tea too!
Luckily, he’s extremely talented, and after soaking up all that feedback produced the perfect thing (see cover for Are Rabbits Bears)! He also had to produce covers for all my OTHER books, plus his own, AND illustrate the 40,000 word Are Rabbits Bears, along with its Companion Guide which needed him to create specialised fonts for every type of bear.
Illustrating in black and white was also a new thing for Dan, so again another learning curve, which ended with some fantastic illustrations I might add. I think there were over 40 for Are Rabbits Bears and another 20 or so for the Companion Guide – plus the fonts of course.
Still, it wasn’t like he had his own stuff to do. Well… that is to say, he’d actually already completed 3 graphic novels (18 months work) although the third still has changes waiting (I might say, ‘queuing up’) to be made.
His comic ‘The Wildy Exciting Adventures of Citizen 34825’ is only the first in a series – which will be coming as soon as he finds the time! Plus, there is his new venture. Or rather, Moo’s new venture! The wonderful ‘Moo and the Search for Tuna’, – a 50 page colour graphic, suitable for all ages, nationalities and reading abilities. How very ‘Moo’! 😊 Dan’s very excited about that one, or at least, he is when he actually gets time to work on it…
Then of course there are 2 more Beastly Bear books for him to illustrate (he’s done one already, although I’m not sure where he found the time) as well as REDRAWING all the Moo cards he’d developed for our Redbubble shop – see some examples below.
It turns out, that when Dan went to draw Moo again, after he’d passed, he couldn’t draw him the same, as the energy had changed. And the new Moo was good – he was very good! Just – whoops – redraw all the cards and put them up for sale again, along with overseeing our THREE websites plus his own Honeybadger Mountain website and the Etsy page which handles all the sales.
Yes, that many websites. We started the year with one. Then realised we needed another for Mooniverse Books. Then another for the bear books, or ‘allthingsBearDimension’. We have used WordPress, which I am starting to get the hang of and which Dan already knew, although they decided to change their editing process partway through the year, which meant, yes, more learning!
Along with the other things there were to absorb, it was time to take on marketing. This led to the need to make videos for our websites and to promote individual books. At first, I used Windows video editor, but it quickly became too limiting so I had to switch to Adobe Premiere Rush. Another learning curve! We also started following some rather talented writers and self-publishers (thankyou David Gaughran) where we found out about mailing lists, how to write newsletters, create ‘reader magnets’ and on and on.
After our first delivery of printed books, we tumbled to the fact we were also going to need suitably sized, reasonably priced and ideally, environmentally friendly packaging, (so no plastic envelopes!).
We are currently knee deep in the world of e-book publishing. We are still working out, how to publish, where to publish, and why. Then there is how much to charge, what the profit margins are and how we are going to record it and divide it up into illustrator versus writer royalties (yes Dan does get paid – woo!) plus reimbursement of postal charges.
It was only last week I realised that, although I have lots of hobbies, I don’t indulge in any of them. Except one – learning languages. I have, thanks to that pestilent owl from Duolingo who nags me from my phone every day, somehow managed to keep up with Swahili, while going over some French and Norwegian during those times when the Swahili got the better of me!
So hey – that’s something isn’t it? On top of that, quite apart from the little matter of living in a new ‘Covid world’, we’ve been working very hard on ourselves, removing old ‘rubbish’, and energy blocks that were getting in our way. We’ve also managed to fit in a few clients at our healing clinic, or more recently (from about March!) zoom sessions.
Having got 7 out of a possible 14 books, into print this year, we feel, (apart from absolutely knackered and mostly brain dead) triumphant, virtuous and willing to allow ourselves to take a break over the holiday season. We hope to return refreshed and ready to get more books printed and expand our little ‘empire’ further into the world.
Exciting times ahead – and hopefully a better year for everyone!