My experience publishing a Children’s Book

My experience publishing a Children’s Book

In 2020 my husband and I welcomed a 2-year-old greyhound into our family. We were overjoyed by this gentle, playful giant who made herself at home. As I fell more and more in love with her, I felt a responsibility to learn more about her past and the experiences of greyhounds in the racing industry. Shocked by the unbelievable cruelties thousands of greyhounds face all across Australia, I wanted to find a creative way to support ending greyhound racing.

This led me to write a children’s book for animal rescues to sell, generating income for their work. Children are very impressionable and empathetic; they have the ability to change the views and opinions of people around them due to how direct and literal they can be. That’s why I wanted to write a book which tells an honest recount of what life is like for a greyhound in the racing industry. It doesn’t shy away from the truth or skip over the sad parts - it’s real. Children are resilient and smart; they are our future. They have the right to understand the truth and make up their own mind about how they feel about that, so they can make informed choices about the future.

I had been playing around with the idea of writing a children’s book for many years. It was a bucket list item. Getting to know Lily and the realities of the greyhound racing industry is what pushed me to take the leap. Lily and I also had a beautiful 7-yr old neighbour, Hannah, who was passionate about ending greyhound racing and was the most adoring sister to rescued greyhound, Georgia. As a 26-yr old adult who didn't know anything about greyhound racing before adopting Lily, I wanted to make sure more children grew up like Hannah - understanding what's actually going on and having the ability to speak confidently about it.

Although I’ve read plenty of children’s book, nothing qualified me to be a writer. I wasn’t an exceptional English student, just average. So, I knew I’d have to conduct some research before beginning and rely on the opinions of the professionals towards the end of the project.

In the early months of 2023, I spent my evenings after work researching the fundamental elements of children’s books and what makes the successful ones stand out. I wrote five different drafts of the same concept. I had already chosen my illustrator, as she was known in the greyhound community for having some gorgeous illustrations. Katayha Gould, of Goldie Design Studios, jumped at the opportunity to be part of the project! 

Having always worked for not-for-profit organisations, I was determined that this book would contribute to a better world. This led me to landing on two key goals for the project; educating children about greyhound racing and creating a profitable product for animal rescues and advocacy groups.

I investigated Australian publishers, who’s recommended for children’s stories or first-time authors and I booked a consult with one of them. The publishers identified a few key factors in my plan which they predicted would lead to success:

  • The book was linked to a social cause (ending greyhound racing).
  • It would raise funds for charities.
  • Lily already had a community and a platform to promote the book on, and we planned to partner with key contacts in the community (two advocacy groups and one politician).

I was filled with so much inspiration and drive after my consult with the publishers. They provided me with the confidence boost I needed to move ahead with the project. The publishers had three key pieces of advice:

  1. Run a pre-sale fundraising campaign before beginning with the publishers. This would ensures that the book has enough interest, and would provide me with the seed money to move forward. As my book was a fundraising tool for charities (and not making me any money), it was important that I had the interest from the community before moving forward, otherwise I could potentially lose a lot of my own money on the project.
  2. To raise public interest in the fundraising campaign, they suggested I run an online launch event. This could double as an an opportunity to educate people about the issues with greyhound racing.
  3. As a first-time author, the publishers emphasised the importance of relying on professionals – the editors and the book designers. They are the experts and as much as possible, their feedback should be taken into account.

So at this point I had my illustrator, a few drafts of the story and now a publisher. To get the ball rolling with Katayha, I adapted a contract template I found online – this was important for laying out the way we would work together, the expected outcomes and deadlines. We agreed on a price for the project and built in some wiggle room to ensure she would be paid if I requested lots of changes. I sent her my draft manuscript with a story board concept. The storyboard displayed what I imagined for the illustrations and how they work compliment the words. We went back and forth a few times, as my illustrator had lots of her own wonderful ideas, until we had illustrations I was happy with.

Meanwhile, I reached out to some key players in the greyhound advocacy space. I fortunately already had a positive working relationship with WA advocacy group Free the Hounds. They kindly facilitated introductions with The Coalition for the Protection of Greyhounds (Andrea Pollard), and the legendary Georgie Purcell from the Animal Justice Party in Victoria. All three agreed to be part of the online campaign launch event. Here's where my experience in events management came in handy - with a clearly defined goal, I was able to easily throw together an itinerary for the event, making clear who held which talking points.

One thing we really wanted before announcing the news about the book, and advertising the launch event, was a front cover mock up! The illustrator and I drafted a potential front cover and worked together to prepare to launch our crowdfunding campaign. Katayha's dedication to the project really shone through during this process, as she helped me to come up with 5 different “rewards” people could pre-order to support the campaign, ranging from $5 to $250.

Two weeks out from the online launch event, we made the announcement to the community. The response was incredible. We directed people to the Facebook Event where we would “go live”. I prepared a run-sheet for our event and consulted all the guest speakers to ensure they were happy with their speaking points and confident on the purpose of the event. We continued to promote the event in the lead up and were pleased with 60 attendees. Since then the video has been viewed more than 500 times. Our partners spoke about the issues associated with greyhound racing and the illustrator and I talked about the rewards available to purchase through the pre-sale campaign. The first four days of the campaign raised $5,000 and by the end of the month we had raised $8,746! A wild success!

Once I’d signed my contract with the publishers, it all moved so quickly! I uploaded my manuscript and Katayha's illustrations onto their platform and the next business day I had the first meeting with the team. Within a week I received suggested edits from the editors and then we moved into book design. This involved font selection, front cover design and typesetting. We trialled lots of different fonts and colour themes before landing on the final design. I sent them the front cover I'd mocked up for the online launch - I thought it was cute. I liked yellow because I feel it represented hope and I felt it was a pretty neutral & inoffensive colour.

From there we received a test print of the book. At this point I felt overwhelmed - I'm a perfectionist and had over 400 copies preordered. The responsibility of doing Lily's story justice weighed heavily. Overall, the test print was okay.

I took the book to Sunday morning breakfast with my family - there was an important person to consult with. I read the book for the first time, to my 4 yr-old niece, Nora. After reading it together, we went back through a few pages I wasn't sure about. She asked questions about a few things, such as facial expressions and some of the words. Her insight was so valuable at this point. It was also clear that what I had predicted was correct - with this new information about greyhound racing & Lily's early years, Nora showed empathy and an interest to help. She ran off to her mum and asked if she could put together a box of her old toys to give to Lily, because she'd "lost her mum". 

After much consideration, I had my list of changes to make from the test print. But the bigger issue was the front cover. It just didn't pop. I went back to the book design team and told them to completely remove any suggestions I'd had from the front cover and start again. What they came back with was a million times better - note to self: leave it to the professionals!

The rest of the project was all smooth sailing. A second test print made its way into my hands and was phenomenal - I moved into the big print run, 450 copies please! Now was the waiting game, about 5 weeks for the printing & posting. This allowed me time to touch base with Katayha, the illustrator, to ensure all the rewards we'd promised from the fundraising campaign were good to go. During this time I also set up a Redbubble store using the illustrations from the book. This possibility was built into my contract with Katayha, given that all profits from the Redbubble store made its way to greyhound rescues.

The rest of the story is pretty boring! I spent hours at the post office, attempting to determine the most cost effective way to get the books out to our eager customers. & sending big heavy boxes of 50+ copies to the greyhound rescue groups. I wrote a thank you letter to go with every book, and painstakingly signed 100s of books.

It was only at my first book reading, that I realised the magnitude of the project and was able to appreciate my hard work and celebrate my success. It was a reading for a small primary school of around 100 students. Lily and I were welcomed into a large hall where I read the book and we then answered many questions from the students. Their questions proved that they had really absorbed the point of the whole story - that greyhound racing is inherently cruel, and these beautiful creatures belong in safe loving homes, just like any other breed of dog.

There are still days that go by when I can't believe I actually did that. Usually bucket list items are these things that you never really get around to. Reflecting on it all, I'm so glad I did it. Six months on, and Lily and I have five book readings, educating more than 400 children. We have many more amazing opportunities booked in the calendar and we are proud to play our part in educating the next generation of decision makers.

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