Latest Blog Post: Writing and Publishing Lucy the Lake Dog
May 24, 2023
What a joy, a whirlwind and a learning curve it has been to publish my first children's book, Lucy the Lake Dog!!!
I thought I would share with you the ups and downs of actually getting my book published, and exactly what went into it from the beginning. I have had several people come up to me at book signings asking about how I did it and what the procedure is, so here ya go! This is by no means the "right" way to do it, as there are many ways to publish a book, but this is the journey I took and the lessons I learned along the way.
It all began when I was watching Hoda Kotb on the TODAY Show read her new children's book to the early morning viewers. She actually inspired me that if she could do it, I could put down on paper some ideas that had been rolling around in my head about our lovable chocolate lab. Sometimes, it just takes someone's example!
Later, I learned that children's books should have a lesson for the child and that parents want to buy books that teach their child something valuable. This is what sells children's books according to a publishing contact I have.
I literally sat down and wrote the rhyming manuscript in about 30 minutes. Truly the easiest part of the entire process! Of course, I went back later and revised copy, but the majority of it was pretty close to that original manuscript. Although I didn't originally set out to teach children a lesson with my book, I believe it does teach children to listen to their families and that everything is more beautiful and fun when you experience it with someone you love.
Next was securing an illustrator. A classmate of my son's whom I had known since they were in pre-school together, Jacqueline Kerr was in her mid twenties and had become a talented budding artist. Her water color illustrations had just the right feel for my story with a sweet look that I felt would help communicate the love of family. See more of her wonderful work on her Instagram account @jacquelinekerrillustration.
Jacqueline started with the cover which really set the tone for the whole book! I began looking for agents, emailing the cover and manuscript to several names on an agent link that was given to me by a contact at a publishing company. This publisher didn't do children's books, but my contact had her team review my project and gave me a huge green light to keep going since it had all the right things going for it to be a successful children's book.
To be honest, I got discouraged and tabled it after I didn't receive any response from agents on this link. My life was busy with teenage kids, and I put it aside until I felt like I could give it my complete attention.
A few years laters, Jacqueline and I dove into creating story boards for the book. This entailed weeks of me visualizing each page, explaining it to her, providing any pictures from our lake property and Lucy that would help, and Jacqueline drawing rough sketches of the illustrations for each page. This was probably the most fun part of the process!
After I approved the rough sketches, Jacqueline did more detailed pencil sketches and lastly, water colors for each page of the book. It was finally ready to show to a publisher.
Since I believed publishing on Amazon would be too limiting, I researched small publishing companies, and found one on the East Coast, Fulton Books. The advantages were that they would get my book represented on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Apple Books and Google and that I would keep the rights to my book.
The advantage of not using an agent was that I was able to choose my own illustrator which was very important to me. When I looked at some of the illustrations from other artists available to me through the publisher, I would rather have given up the project than use their computer-generated drawings. Although these types of drawings could be perfect for certain books, this is not what I had envisioned for Lucy who lives in a lodge style rustic lake house!
So Fulton Books with no agent was the choice, and Lucy the Lake Dog was born. I chose the fonts and reviewed each page many times before giving the final okay for publishing. This took almost a year, longer than normal, due to an incapable publishing assistant who no longer works for the company.
Lesson to be learned? I have since heard from people in the industry that publishing a book is not a money making venture until maybe the third book, but especially not when you self publish which is basically what Fulton Books does for the authors.
Nevertheless, nothing could compare to that initial excitement when the first shipment of books arrived! It was a shiny colorful book cover, just the way I had approved it. I had such high hopes that children would love reading it and feel the same warmth in their hearts I did when I created the story.
Well, I truly believe that has come to be. I announced the book in the Summer of 2022 on my Seasons of the Lake Instagram and Facebook accounts that directs followers to my Amazon purchase link. Lucy also has her own Instagram, Facebook and Tik Tok accounts so that followers can keep up with the whereabouts of Lucy, who is five years old this year. Social media is definitely a must for authors who are marketing their own books.
My first 100 books were sold from my website as signed copies with my signature and Lucy's authentic pawprint as well. Many retail stores and book stores now carry Lucy the Lake Dog around the Kansas City area as well as lake communities in Missouri, Colorado and Wisconsin.
It's now all about the marketing! Did you know that roughly 4,000 books are published a day? That's what makes it difficult to get the attention of book store owners who receive many recently published books a day. I have learned my book needs to stand out to these book stores with some fun inclusion in the box that fits in with the theme of the book.
The thing that keeps me going with all of this work (that may never end) is when I hear from a customer or follower who has purchased the book. They sometimes send me unsolicited pictures and videos of their children and grandchildren who are reading the book with glee written all over their faces. This makes my day every time it happens!! Even if it's not a booming business venture, it's successful in my heart to know that Lucy the Lake Dog is bringing joy to so many.
The most surprising correspondence was the one that was received from the other side of the globe. Two darling children were pictured reading Lucy the Lake Dog all the way from Australia! I don't know how they got the book, but I'm so glad they did. Their mom and I are pen pals through Instagram now, and I love keeping up with these cute kids who share a love for Lucy.
As I continue to send books to book stores around the country, I am also enjoying doing story hours at schools and retail stores. The looks on the children's faces when they hear about Lucy and then see the real Lucy, who attends many of the readings, is worth the money I spent on publishing!
I hope you get your own copy and share it with a child in your life who deserves to feel loved like Lucy the Lake Dog.
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Hi! I'm Merrie. I'm a lover of lake life and all the styles to go with it. Enjoy shopping through my store and being lakeside with me!