In The Beginning! - Cathie Whitmore

In 2007, as a children’s writer, with many a story to tell, I never really went down the road of sending manuscripts anywhere and everywhere, with a view to publication. In 2007, a consultation with a very honest and reputable manuscript consultant organized for me by The Byron Bay Writer’s Centre, left me feeling proud of my work, but opened my eyes to the difficulties associated with finding a mainstream publisher. This particular consultant loved my work and said it was something he would enjoy reading to his grandchildren, but then he brought me back to reality hearing his words “you are a very small fish in a huge publishing sea and I would strongly advise you to self publish in order to keep control of your work, as publishers are not passionate about books the way we are.”  Instantly, those words brought back to me a quote from another reliable source in the industry, who told me that only one in 30,000 manuscripts are accepted for publication by well known publishing houses. Consequently, at that moment, I felt my chances of being picked up by a mainstream publisher, were like winning the lottery and not worth the heartache.

With the illustrations well underway by this stage, my text being brought to life with the delightful illustrations of Cathy McCulloch, driven by passionate determination and the encouragement of family and friends, I embarked on a quest to self publish.  After spending endless hours researching children’s books in bookstores and libraries, I knew exactly what I wanted my book to look like, but no idea how to actually make it happen. ISBN BARCODE CIP were meaningless words to me and a somewhat overwhelming task to reckon with for an author with no experience in the publishing industry, winging her way through the publishing process, surrounded by doubt and indecision. Consequently, the background work required to get a book ready for print, at times left me bewildered and uncertain. Finally, after asking lots of questions of lots of people and of course Google, I eventually gathered all the information I needed and took the plunge to make my dream a reality.  Together, Cathy McCulloch and I created Twinkle the Christmas Star from start to finish, assisted only by a proofreader, as Cathy being experienced in graphic design, also did the book cover and layout ready for print.  

However, anxiously waiting for eight long weeks in anticipation of the arrival of 5,000 copies to land on my doorstep, became the hardest part of the entire self publishing process. Many restless nights, desperate to stop the “what if syndrome” from consuming me as I lay awake wondering if I had managed to create a professional and marketable product.  Whatever it turned out to be…it was all mine…and I was stuck with it regardless.

Now, four years down the track and four self published books later, I am often asked for advice on self publishing. I am always happy to help other authors, as I know how much easier it would have been having someone to show me the ropes, but in saying this, I have to admit, there is a lot of background work involved in getting a book ready for print and authors have to be prepared to put in the hard yards. Consequently, my advice is always the same. If an author wants to risk a lot of money to print off shore in bulk, i.e. a minimum of 3,000 copies, then it’s worth the effort. For me, a very exciting, yet at times exasperating journey, but nevertheless in the end, a rewarding experience I will never forget. On the other hand, if an author is wanting to print on a much smaller scale, without hesitation, I refer them to Palmer Higgs as I know they offer a hassle free service and look after their authors very well. In fact, had I know about Palmer Higgs four years back, I could have saved myself a lot of expense and worry and my husband would definitely have a lot more room in his garage.


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