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Journey to Book Publishing

Updated: May 28

I started writing a children's picture book in 2022 for an undergraduate creative research thesis. For more background, check out "Diary of a First Time Author," where I wrote about the entire process.

This blog is really just a continuation of the first blog, but focusing more on the publishing side of things.

I will be adding new updates as I go, so check back for more!



Originally, my goal was to have my book fully published by 2023...but the process has been a lot harder and more time consuming than I had hoped. I spent pretty much all of 2023 submitting my manuscript to different publishing houses and agents. One agent selected my manuscript and had me go to the second round of submissions...but then I never heard from her again. I never got any no's, but from what I've gathered, radio silence is definitely the equivalent. I was pretty sad about nothing coming out of my submissions, but by September of 2023, I had decided that I would move forward with self-publishing. This would eliminate the need for an agent or publisher to take on my book, and would allow me to take the reigns on releasing it.

I did a bunch of research on how to self-publish, which company to do it with, how to print them, etc. So now I pretty much have a blue print of what I need to do. I started off by joining a critique group because I knew I would need some feedback on my work from seasoned writers and illustrators. I was so nervous to share what I had, but to my delight, they all congratulated me on how good it was. An illustrator complimented my drawing style, colors, and composition. Some other authors mentioned how they liked the structure and overall story line. I know that we're not supposed to live for the validation of others, but as a complete rookie, their validation really helped solidify my confidence.

Of course, they had many suggestions of how to make my work better. They advised that I cut down my word count, make the wording sound more like a child, add more pictures, and "show" more than I "tell." Some of them even added some page-by-page suggestions on the book dummy I shared with them.

After meeting with them, I realized that I had a lot of work to do to make this book publishing ready.

Since then, I have started editing the manuscript. The story structure is the same, but I have changed and rearranged pretty much every single line. I have gotten through 3/5 pages, and hope to be done with the major edits by this Friday. After that, I'll do a few more run throughs to make sure it sounds good. Then I will probably meet up with the group again to see what they say.

From there, I hope to move on to editing the illustrations and adding in those extra spreads.

I think the biggest problems right now are 1. being motivated enough to work on the edits, and 2. making time to really sit with the work.



I finished the first run-through of revisions for the entire manuscript. I cut down my word count by almost 100 words! I'm thinking to print out this new version and go over it again to see where I can simplify sentences, add in more descriptors, and look for grammar mistakes. After that, I'll split the manuscript into spreads and see where I will add in some additional pictures.



I worked on the spread revisions, and mapped out where I thought some more illustrations could go. I also asked the critique group I'm part of to give me some more feedback on the manuscript revisions I made. We'll see what other advice they have.



Today, I started editing Nyla's design. At the last meeting, the critique group mentioned that Nyla looked older than 7. So I made her body smaller to make her head look bigger, took out the flair in her shirt (it made it look like she had hips lol), and made her other appendages skinnier. Those changes definitely helped, she looks way younger than she did before.



I finished little tweaks to Nyla's new look and swapped it out with the old version of her in all of the illustrations. After looking at the dad character, I realized his neck was too small, so I made that bigger. In one of the new illustrations, Nyla's parents will have their back to the reader, so I started making illustrations from that perspective. It is soooooo hard drawing a fade hairstyle. I tried so many different techniques, but I think what I ended up with today is pretty good. I will probably come back to it later and change it up a bit, but I am happy with where I ended. Next time, I will work on the back of the mom's head and then finish up the rest of the page's details.

This is honestly the first Saturday I have been able to work on my picture book in a long time. A lot of events and plans end up happening on Saturdays, but I'm gonna do my best to not let it get in the way of my creative time.



I worked on the back of Nyla's mom's head. It was much easier to do than the dad's. I also expanded the ant hill page to an entire spread. And I made the road runner page a whole spread too. All of those tasks took some time, but it wasn't too bad because I already had the foundation for all of the illustrations. I just had to adjust some things and add in some of my previously made illustrations.



Today, I started making the flowers that I am adding to one of the new page illustrations. I looked up all of the reference pictures yesterday, and started to sketch out the illustrations. So far, I finished one flower type and have started another one.



Today I finished the cactus flowers and made the third type of flower bush. Then, I started arranging them on the page, but decided I probably won't have the final arrangement until I add the words back in. Then I started looking up some inspiration pictures for the new animals I'll be adding in. Today's revisions took longer because I had to make some new elements from scratch. So far, I have illustrated six new pages, and have four more to go!



Since my last update, I have done a lot! I finished the other four new illustrations. I also added in all of the revised script to each of the pages and made sure that the illustrations and words flowed together well. Today, I did a "final" run through of the book and found a few grammar things and illustration details that needed to be fixed. Once I added all of those in, I downloaded a new version of the full book.

Sometime in the next week, I will look at that "final" document again and make sure that there are no other changes, and after that, I'll resume my actual publishing research to figure out what's the best way to release this book!

Also!! Just this last week I found out that I was offered a biologist position with the US Fish and Wildlife Service, which is something I have been dreeeeaming about.

With this new development, I immediately went to my book's "about the author" section, and changed the part that said "Kaesee Bourne, a biology major..." into "Kaesee Bourne is a fish and wildlife biologist." :) I'm super excited for this book to be released and that I will be able to say that it was written by a biologist!



In the past few weeks, I have been continuing my research on self publishing. I was trying to figure out which platform I should sell my book on, and which printer I should go with. I did not realize how many fees are associated with printing and distributing a book. When you publish a picture book, you're lucky if you get to keep 30% of the royalties for yourself.

So far, I have found that a lot of independent (indie) authors distribute and print their books with multiple companies to help expand their reach and maximize their profits. As of now, I am planning on selling my book directly through my own website with Lulu Direct. They will be the printer and distribute straight to my customers once they purchase the book from the website. I also plan on selling both through Amazon's and IngramSpark's printers. Using these companies would mean less profit for me, but would allow my book to be bought on Amazon, bookstores, and libraries. And I'm trying to think big, so the goal is to sell thousands of books, not just a few––that way the little profit I do make with them will add up.

I also started brainstorming design ideas for my author page, and bought the domain Right now, it just goes to this website, but once I build out the new design, it will go to the webpage for the book! The designing process also got me thinking about what I want my book photoshoot to look like.

I still haven't done my final read-through of the book, but that's because I wanted to give my brain a proper break from my work so I can look at it with new eyes before I say it's officially done.

If everything goes as planned, maybe the book will be released this fall?? Idk idk, we'll see.



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