Lots of great things have emerged from my Manuscript Appraisal Comp – not just the manuscripts pouring in, but also finding out about people who are doing it their way and self-publishing some pretty wonderful books all by themselves.
Jaquelyn Muller is one of those people. She’s totally bypassed the big publishers and decided to take the reigns and satisfy her dream of becoming a children’s book author on her own. Granted, it’s not for everyone, but it is another option for anyone wanting to be noticed in a notoriously difficult industry to crack.
Jaquelyn’s first picture book, I Love You 5 Lollipops, has already sold in excess of 500 copies since it’s publication last year and the orders just keep coming in.
Her second book, Elizabeth Rose On parade, follows the adventures of the main protagonist from the first book: Elizabeth Rose – an adorable little girl living life as part of a traveling circus.
Elizabeth Rose is beautifully captured by illustrator Kathryn Zammit, whose retro-style illustrations have that timeless vintage quality that just takes you back to your childhood favourites.
(Gotta love a book with fabulous endpapers such as these above!)
Elizabeth Rose on Parade is told in rhyming verse, which makes it a great read-aloud book for very young children. And children just love vivacious Elizabeth Rose and her infectious enthusiasm.
While still on a high from having released this new book in October, Jaquelyn has been very generous in offering her time to talk to me about how she plucked up the courage to self-publish and to hopefully inspire others out there to do the same. She’s one funny, clever and talented lady.
Why did you choose to self-publish your picture books?
My early career was in both book and magazine publishing so I have certainly spent my fair share of time standing at the end of big old offset printers at two in the morning, as well as hunched over light boxes checking images. I had a very clear vision for the types of books I wanted to create so it seemed like a logical thing for me to do.
What were some of the difficulties you encountered self-publishing?
There are so many moving parts to the process so staying on top of what needs to be done, and when, was difficult the first time around. Everything from registering for ISBN numbers to registering with Copyright Australia and creating video trailers are things you pick up as you go, but being a true Virgo I documented it all as I went creating a project plan that I now use across other publications.
How did you find an illustrator for your books?
Finding Kathryn Zammit was similar to how I felt when I got my first pair of white boot skates, exciting yet unsure having never worked with one before! Kathryn’s work came to my attention through a business associate and as soon as I saw her images I knew we would find Elizabeth Rose cartwheeling around in there somewhere. She strapped on a pair of skates and we off we went, red stoppers and all!
How do you market your books?
I integrate marketing my books as a component of marketing my author brand. After all your friends and relatives have bought their obligatory copies, you can’t rely on daily ‘buy my book’ posts on Facebook. I use a strategy that includes a mix of my own online shop, a national distributor, school visits, library readings, festivals, community group alliances and social media. Book sales will come from creating an experience that your market becomes invested in. A strategy of buy my book, buy my book, buy my book and, by the way have you seen my book doesn’t give your brand a great deal of depth, not to mention being a touch repetitive. Show your personality, people love to see how creators go about their business and it may inspire someone else to have a go!
What are the benefits of self-publishing?
Having complete control over what you are producing for me is a huge benefit, especially when you know what you want to create. The responsibility of that, however, may not suit everyone. I love being part of the process from end to end. I think it makes you appreciate the work in a richer way, which in the end helps you refine your work and strive for more. When I deliver a workshop to kids I am able to answer their questions about book production and help them visualise themselves writing, editing and producing their own work.
What top tips would you offer anyone considering self-publishing?
Understand the production process: a lot of self-publishing websites will say how ‘easy’ it is to create books and sell online, but the reality is it is hard work and time consuming. Plan out the steps and set realistic time frames from final proofing to book launch.
Know your numbers: you need to factor in as many costs as possible, (e.g. registering ISBN numbers, print, design, import taxes and distributor costs, launch activities) if you are to get a true sense of what your cover price needs to be. Trust me, the list goes on and it doesn’t take long before the cover price is soaked up, so as boring as it sounds – get out the calculator, then get someone to check your math, (lucky for me my husband speaks algebra).
Understand who you are selling to? Who is going to buy your book? What other books are in the market and what do they look like? How does yours compare? The upside is you get to spend a lot of time in bookshops researching covers, colours, book sizes and shelf design. I usually end up doing Christmas shopping too!
Why do you want to do it? Is this a one-time gig to show the grandkids one day or do you want to make a career out of it? Understand the level of commitment you have to the process to help you to assess how far you are willing to go.
What prompted you to become a writer?
As a girl, the images of Laura Ingalls and Anne Shirley writing in journals by candlelight seeded a desire for stationary, a nice soy green tea candle and gingham! I also love to crack myself up. These are not the traits of someone who should be allowed to work in groups!
Who inspires you?
At mum school you learn to say that your kids are, which is true, but now that I have a wonderful group of creative people in my orbit, inspiration comes from many places. You hear the stories from other authors complete with their ups and downs and it helps give you a great sense of perspective and how not to take yourself too seriously!
What is your favourite part of the writing/publishing process?
Even though most authors would probably argue that their final draft never really feels final, there is a huge relief that comes with sending off the final proof to the printer, then ripping open the boxes containing your beautifully published book – it never gets old. Seeing the result of months of work is so gratifying for you and often your family who literally get dragged along for the ride. It really is an investment from us all and it gives my girls an insight into how far passion can take you!
What’s next for Elizabeth Rose?
I have had wonderful feedback about the new performers introduced in Elizabeth Rose on Parade, so there will definitely be some colourful fresh faces and costumes to come. Elizabeth Rose is very curious, so no doubt searching and discovering will be on the cards, which in a circus could be quite exciting! I will leave you to ponder that!
Elizabeth Rose on Parade is available through online bookstores (as well as the author’s own) and retails for $24.95
If you would like to order copies of the Elizabeth Rose books (perhaps a special Christmas wrapped edition personally signed by Jaquelyn) or if you would like to find out more about this fabulous author and her workshops, go to: