Knowing your audience
by Lesa Boutin
Amanda Noble: Zookeeper Extraordinaire
Testing her manuscript with the students in the middle school library where she worked, this author didn't need a publisher throwing its weight around.
After dreaming of writing for years, I stepped into the nearest closet and wrote in the shadows for a while.
During the closeted years I studied the craft, attended conferences and workshops, and continued to dream. I had some amazing experiences and got to meet and network with some of the most fantastic people in the publishing world.
Those experiences boosted my confidence, and after winning a synopsis contest on my first novel, I wrote a second one, Amanda Noble, Zookeeper Extraordinaire, and had an absolute blast doing so.
At the time I finished Amanda Noble, I was working in a middle school library: my target audience. I started telling some of the students about the book; several read it in manuscript form.
The first girl to read it asked me when she could read the sequel!
As word got around, kids began coming in, several times a week, asking me when they could buy my book. So I had an epiphany--what was I waiting for? A publisher to validate me by taking on my manuscript, possibly altering it, or even taking the reigns of creative control?
I had my audience. I knew I wanted to do the marketing side of things myself, i.e. visiting classrooms and talking about writing and reading, setting up booths at library conferences and so on.
This left me with the notion of self publishing.
After researching my options, I decided not to go with a subsidy press but to set up my own publishing company. Of course this makes me the one responsible to Uncle Sam as well as local and state tax authorities. But this allowed me to maintain creative control which, for Amanda Noble particularly, was important to me.
I hired a graphics designer (who is fabulous) to set up my cover and interior layouts. For the cover (long story short), I conned my niece into posing with a live alligator.
Her cousin and uncle took the photos, and we did it at an alligator park close to my home.
And yes, she will be on the cover for the sequel. She'll be holding a snake, but this one will be caged.
I'm still new to this - the book just came out in April, '07 - so maybe I'm naive, but I'm loving every minute of it. Yes, I'm working my butt off, and sometimes it has been stressful, and the resulting information overload caused me to be downright disoriented, but I'd do it again in a heartbeat.
I've been to several schools to sell the book, and I am working on a writer's workshop for upper elementary and middle school students. Some of my teacher friends have let me use them to practice on, and it's going quite well.
I like what Steve (creator of this site) said (in his bio): "I discover I enjoy expressing myself... for myself. I had never enjoyed expressing myself for teachers."
I found this to be my experience too. Consequently, when talking to the kids, that's what I try to get across. Do it because it's fun, not because you have to.
Yes, I self published, and in some circles that makes me a pariah--still trying to get reviews--but I intend to self publish again. And I even hope to one day publish the works of others.
Maybe I'll be the one to discover the next big thing...even if it's not me.