The Calm Before the Storm

It’s been relatively uneventful this December.  After a whirlwind October and November, doing everything I could to market my book, I was worn out.  Taking care of my three year old has made getting other things done a challenge, and some needed home repairs have been weighing me.

I’ve struggled to write a Midnight Pickle manuscript that doesn’t turn into a novel, but I’m considering a new approach.  With Skeleton and Ghost, I wrote the manuscript before I did the illustrations, and it worked well.  However, without the lightning strike of inspiration, I have trouble completing a story.  I’m going to try flipping the order and creating the story through illustration.  By doing this, I hope it will keep the resulting manuscript to a manageable length.

On a side note, I recently auditioned for a chance to narrate an audiobook for another author.  There’s a surprising amount of work that goes into audiobook narration recording, and it comes with a pretty steep learning curve, but I find the idea intriguing, and perhaps another way to make some extra money if I can get my product polished.  It need a lot of polishing…

Pickle Descending

I’ve been struggling with my next book, The Mysterious Midnight Pickle.  My noble goal was to create a story about navigating relationships with difficult people (or pickles).  I have yet to determine a successful resolution to the story.  Like my main character, Sylvia, I’m not sure how to handle the Pickle Prince Percival, and their relationship is going poorly.

I’m currently in the process of rewriting, but I thought that I’d share a selection of my rough draft.  I’m unsure if I can sufficiently balance and resolve the somewhat adult theme, or make it resonate with children.  I don’t know if kids would get or appreciate this kind of conflict.

The pickle of the title has been an inconsiderate house guest, and this is the point where Sylvia explodes.

“Early the next morning, Sylvia made her breakfast, ignoring the constant complaints coming from Percival, which were only interrupted by insistent demands.  When she had everything ready for school that day, she picked up Percival, who was telling her that she needed to turn the air down.

His voice broke off as she lifted him off his bed.

“Listen up, Pickle.  I’m taking you to my school, and you are going to be our class pet.  I’m tired of your constant complaining.  I don’t have servants to do things for me, and it is NOT okay that you are ordering me around.  I am not looking for a Prince, and if I was, you would not be the Prince I was looking for!”

Percival’s stunned silence was unbroken as she wrapped him in a towel and dropped him into her purse.”

In my initial story outline, Sylvia’s patience breaks, and she simply eats the pickle, seemingly solving her problem.  I feel like that kind of ending is low hanging fruit.  I’d like to do more than elicit a cheap laugh (although perhaps that’s more on a child’s wavelength).

I HATED the ending of the Pixar movie “Up” because they created a sympathetic villain and then took the easy road by having him fall to his assumed death.  Sure, the conflict is resolved, but when, in real life, do people get such an easy ending??  People have  ongoing conflict that is seldom (if ever) resolved by a “convenient” transition to the afterlife. In fact, one of our most pressing issues today is how to get along with real live people who posses radically different viewpoints that happen to conflict with our own.

In my original idea, the Pickle comes back on the last page, setting up a sequel where Sylvia has to deal with the consequences of taking the easy road.  As I’m writing this, that actually doesn’t sound like a bad idea.  Fitting  a complicated character arc into a single children’s book might not be the best choice.  With the consumption ending + sequel approach, I get to keep my cheap laugh, with the opportunity to resolve the relationship in a more deeply satisfying manner in a second book.

I may have to write two versions and field test them before I start the illustration process.  I just got shivers of excitement.  I love this job.  I hope I get to keep it.

Feel free to offer opinions or suggestions in the comments!

Most of What I’ve Learned About Self-Publishing (So Far)

I published my first book through Amazon’s “Kindle Direct Publishing” platform.  They really made the process easy (and free), which is wonderful,  as creating the book should be the most difficult part.  If you’re interested, you could jump into self-publishing as well!  Keep in mind that these instructions are my personal thoughts on the topic, so while I intend them to be a helpful guide for someone just starting out, I don’t guarantee their accuracy, and they certainly won’t ensure your success.  A lot these are simply things I wish I’d known before beginning.  Good luck!


Publishing Through KDP


1.  Write and illustrate your book (obviously).


2. Set up your account at KDP (password, tax information, bank account information, etc.).  I sign in with my Amazon account.


3. Choose a method of translating your book into ebook format (KDP offers a free Kid’s Book Creator, but some choose to use alternative methods for greater flexibility).

I used the Kids’s Book Creator for my first try.  I uploaded each illustration (without text), then added text boxes to each page, and adjusted the size and placement. They only offer one font (Georgia), so if you want something fancier, you’ll have to add it to the illustration. I recommend saving a master copy that you can edit later, in case you come across a typo or want to otherwise adjust your text.  When you are done, save your project, and then “save for publication”, which will create a .mobi file that can be uploaded to KDP.


4. When you’re ready, simply go to your KDP account, create and setup your new book, upload the cover, and then the .mobi file that you made.


5. Now we come to pricing, choosing either the 35% or the 70% royalty option.  If your book is completely your own, and you price it between $2.99 and $9.99, you can select the 70%.  Note that with the 70% option, there is a per megabyte delivery charge of $.15.  My book gets charged $.57 per purchase, so at $3.99, I received approximately $2.39 per book purchased.


6. The book can take up to 72 hours to go live after publishing.  My initial publication took only a few hours, but my subsequent revision (I realized I needed one more illustration) took over 60 hours to go live.  If you can upload your book a week or so in advance of your release date, you can do a presale, and select the exact time it will be available.  I wanted my book to go live on Friday, October 13th, but I wasn’t able to get it done with enough time to do a presale option.


7.  There are a lot of people who will not buy an eBook, so try to get a physical version of your book out there.    Creating a print copy of your book is far more difficult than making a Kindle version.  You have to deal with RGB to CMYK conversions, print margins, bleed, and trim size restrictions, as well as ISBN numbers.  I finally have five proof copies coming from Createspace (an Amazon company), but they are late for Halloween.

There are multiple places that you can go through.  Createspace and KDP Print are free to set up, and they provide you with a free ISBN number (otherwise, you have to pay over $100 for a single one, or $350 for a block of ten) that allows your book to be sold in stores.  However, their trim options are severely limited.  They only offer paperback, perfect bound (glued pages), portrait options (my book is a landscape format, natively).  They are free to set up, and accept RGB color files.

IngramSpark is great for distribution, and has hardback and landscape options, as well as more binding options, but they require you to convert files from RGB color to CMYK, which is a tricky process if you don’t have the right software, or didn’t plan on printing (my blue colors don’t translate well to CMYK).  They also require a $50 setup fee per book, and then a $12 yearly fee.

I chose Createspace for the free setup, acceptance of RGB color files, and the ability to order proof copies.  I am concerned for how my colors will translate into print, as my attempts to convert to CMYK (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Black), which is what IngramSpark requires,  left my illustrations with weird Magenta color shifts, or turned my deep blues to gray.  I’ll get my proof copies on November 7th.  If they turn out well, I can approve them and a physical edition of my book will finally go on sale in mid-November.

Note that, if you intend to print, try to plan for a CMYK color conversion, or work in CMYK from the start.  Also, with a given trim size, bleed INCREASES your final print size (i.e. an 11×8.5 inch trim size will gain .125″ on the three sides that aren’t bound), but margins DO NOT add to your print size (i.e. just keep your text and important elements .5″ away from the edge of the page, and add a little more for the side that is bound, so that the middle crease area (called the “gutter margin” doesn’t obscure important parts of your book.


8. MARKETING.  This has proven to be the most difficult area of self-publishing.

When I published my book, I immediately realized my book was in need of an additional illustration to break up a text-heavy portion, and so I spent the following day creating the illustration before resubmitting the .mobi file for publication.  As I waited for the corrected version to go live, my first version was still available for purchase.  I worried about all the people who would purchase the inferior edition of my book, and waited anxiously during the 60+ hours before the changes went live.  It turns out, I needn’t have worried.  My dear sister was the only person to purchase my book between Thursday and Sunday morning (thanks, Sis!), and that’s because she was prowling Amazon, on the lookout for it.

The fact is, if you don’t market your book, you will sell very, very few copies.  My marketing efforts eventually consisted of telling all my friends, printing out custom made bookmarks and flyers, photos, requesting that bookstores carry displays of my book.  I sold 31 copies between October 12 and October 29, and since it is a ghost story, I don’t anticipate a lot of off-season sales.  After taxes, I might have $50, and I spent about $40 on printing.  My goal was to sell one trillion copies of my book, so I fell somewhat short.

So, what could I have done differently?

Get started earlier.  Take advantage of the places where you can get your name out there.  Get a website.  Create your Author Pages on Goodreads, Amazon, and Facebook.  Get a team of people to read your book and write reviews (I only managed to get 7 reviews on Amazon, and your family isn’t allowed to review your book for you).  Decide on whether or not you want to pay for marketing.  If at all possible, utilize Amazon’s Createspace or KDP Print to get a physical copy of your book available.  Lots of people were interested in buying my book, but had no interest in an eBook.  Plus, you can do Author signings and even get local stores to carry your book/

Reviews (both quality AND quantity) play a huge role in the visibility of your book.  Sales and reviews drive your book up the rankings and cause them to come up higher in search results.

Miscellaneous Notes:


It will ask if you want DRM (Digital Rights Management) added to your book.  This is something that tries to ensure that your book is only used in an authorized manner.  This sounds good in theory, but I’ve heard that DRM is easily broken, and irritates others by limiting the use of your book.  Personally, I figure that a physical book has no DRM, so I don’t really want it for my Kindle book either.  At the end of the day, I doubt that there is a strong interest in pirating my book anyway.


The other consideration is the option to enroll in KDP select.  This one is trickier.  Enrolling makes your book exclusive to the Kindle platform, meaning no other ebook distributer (Apple, Google, etc.) is allowed to carry your book.  Amazon controls 60% of the ebook market, but that means that the remaining 40% isn’t available to you.

Enrolling in KDP also makes your book available on Kindle Unlimited, which means people read it for free.  In the olden days, KDP paid you a royalty for each time your book was read by a new Unlimited customer.  Apparently, that got expensive (and encouraged very short books), so they changed it to paying per page read as a percentage of total Kindle pages read per month.

Effectively, this means that short Children’s books get very very little for Unlimited reads.  I expect to make pennies per page.  However, in terms of exposure, this may end up being beneficial to you, as more people can read your book.

Ultimately, if you choose to enroll in KDP Select, it doesn’t have to be forever.  You can enroll in 90 day chunks, (unselect the “Automatically re-enroll” option).  Personally, I opted to enroll, since I didn’t have the time to investigate other platforms, but I can re-evaluate in January of 2018.  Some authors leave one of their books on KDP Select as a way to draw customers to their other books which aren’t available on Kindle Unlimited.

This information is current as of November 2017.

Did you make it this far??  Wow!  I am impressed by your ability to stick with it.  I give you “The Unstoppable Banana” award.  Feel free to add that to your job resume.

School Readings

I was honored to be invited to speak and read at two San Antonio area elementary schools.  On Friday, I visited Glen Oaks Elementary, where I read and spoke to each grade level.  Today, I visited Elrod Elementary and got to visit with the fourth and fifth grades there.

In a typical session, I would read my book, “Skeleton and Ghost,” and then have a period of time afterward to answer questions about my writing and illustration process.  I got lots of great questions, and even some fantastic ideas for sequels.  Special thanks to the two kids who grilled me over paranormal science and the believability of my story framework.

Ultimately, I hope I inspired some of the children to start writing and illustrating their own stories.  I have enjoyed watching Amethyst imitate me while I worked to complete my book, and I believe that many of the children I spoke to could publish their own unique stories someday if they could also manage to catch the writing bug.  There were certainly some wonderfully creative ideas voiced.

I also want to thank two enthusiastically supportive librarians, Linda Moore, and Jennifer Lockard, who have given me a lot of encouragement by bringing me to their schools.

Linda Moore, the librarian at Glen Oaks, has been talking up my book to anyone who will listen, and has been supportive of my efforts from even before the official launch of “Skeleton and Ghost”.

Jennifer Lockard is the librarian at Elrod Elementary.  I’m particularly grateful to her for arranging for me to speak there, even though it was very short notice.

Special thanks also go to Maria Meza, the principal at Glen Oaks, and Mr. Garcia, the principal at Elrod, for allowing me to visit.  Both expressed a keen interest in my book.

Launch Thoughts!

My first book, Skeleton and Ghost, has been published!   The Kindle version is Live on Amazon through Kindle Direct Publishing  Click here to view on Amazon!.

I have formatted a paperback through Createspace.  The proof copies are working their way through our postal system, scheduled to arrive November 7th.   I hope to iron out some color issues with Ingramspark and launch a hardback from that platform.

The world of authorship is full of steep learning curves, but I’ve gotten lots of positive feedback from friends, family, and even some strangers, so my hope is that, if I keep working hard, and publishing books, I’ll eventually turn what I love doing into something that also supports my family.


I owe a disproportionate measure of gratitude to my wife and my parents, who have all been incredibly supportive of my pursuit of this dream.