Agent Turned Author
by Jeremy Foster-Fell
The Caterpillar and the Express Train
When I retired a couple of years ago to the peaceful mountains of Vermont, from a busy life of being an agent for actors in the TV and Film business in New York, Miami and Los Angeles, I decided (without any prior experience) it was time to write children's books.
I had a few stories in rough outline that I had made up for my children and initially decided to illustrate them myself. "Why not?" I thought. I had drawn and illustrated as a hobby all my life.
After a couple of months struggling with all kinds of illustration issues, I realized I was simply not good enough for the task and fired myself from that part of the project.
I went up on to illustration websites to find an illustrator. I had to learn another lesson quickly. The illustrators that I approached were less than interested in working with a neophyte, and if they had any hesitation before rejecting the idea, the fact that I did not have a publisher ended the conversation. A couple of them were kind enough to wish me, "Good luck."
I decided to put up an advert on Craigslist locally in Vermont. The first day I had 50 replies so I took the ad down and started to go through the replies.
By sheer dumb luck, I found one reply from a local illustrator whose work I loved, and who was interested in illustrating the story I sent him. I had crossed a major hurdle, the first of many (mostly unknown) that lay ahead.
I did plenty of reading on the subject (and I would recommend the popular Aaron Shepard's book on self publishing
)and as a result I decided to set up my own micro publishing company and buy several ISBN numbers from Bowker.
After 7 months of detailed work with Matthew, my illustrator, we sent our digital files to Lightning Source for printing.
After placing a small order for 30 books, I was horrified to find out that one of the earlier pages had a misprint. I had failed to notice the word 'your' was printed 'you'.
When we eventually became listed on Amazon and Barnes and Noble, I congratulated myself for finishing the obstacle course.
That was 14 months ago. I now know that the work was really starting back then. Marketing. We have so much to learn.
This is a work in progress and we struggle to learn month by month. We have read the book at libraries and schools, and are now starting to get invitations from schools to read it with offers of "a modest honorarium", which is gratefully accepted. As we give out wooden train whistles to all the kids when we read the story, I think that has helped the event become more lively. There are several times in the story the whistle gets blown...never underestimate the ability of kids to enjoy making noise.
It also kept them awake.
In spite of this humbling experience we continued with a second illustrated book, which is due out this Spring.
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