My self-publishing board book journey…

As a child I absolutely loved English literature and language classes. I enjoyed nothing more than being able to read the books on the syllabus and dive into someone else’s imagination – just fantastic! However, I enjoyed even more writing and using my imagination to create characters and then deciding what adventures they will have.

On leaving school I have had an enjoyable career both in the finance sector and within travel and tourism. However, my dream of becoming an author and continuing to write stories always lingered.

When my daughter Bethany was born, I started to buy a varied selection of books and took great pleasure in reading them to her and jumping into the imagination of children books again.

This triggered me to read a short story I wrote whilst at school about a caterpillar. Bethany really enjoyed it and asked for me to read it again and again.

This fuelled my ambition of becoming a published author and I started to explore the costs of an illustrator.

Once I was in contact with an illustrator and learnt more about the process and the cost my interest was fuelled even more and I agreed to some initial drawings of the characters without obligation to continue.

However, when I saw the mock ups and my story coming to life I was so tempted to continue, and I did! This started the journey of illustrating Caterpillar’s Big Change.

Finding an illustrator that suits the style I had in mind and the budget was reasonably straight forward.

I then naturally started to look at how I would get the book published. So, there were two options. Approach a publishing house or self-publish.

Right from the start I had an ambition to seek a publishing house which was right for me. Self-publishing was completely unknown territory and having someone experienced on board seemed the most seasonable approach – back then anyway.

So, I wrote off to various publishing houses which isn’t a quick task. Researching which ones are right for you and who were still taking submissions takes time, along with tailoring the submission letter and awaiting responses, which if you get one can take months. By now I had two board books ready to publish.

I did receive 4 offers which I was thrilled about. Two wanted to charge me an amount and I became aware to watch out for vanity publishers, these are publishing houses which authors pay to have their books published and from what I have read on social media sites for authors you should be wary of these. I therefore turned these down, this seemed the right decision on the info I could find. The other two offers wanted to either sell my book for a lot more money, which I felt would make my books uncompetitively priced against the market or print the books as picture books rather than board books, as picture books are cheaper to print. I turned these offers down too and stuck to my vision of printing these as board books and for the price I felt was right and fair.

Whilst I was waiting eagerly for the responses from publishing houses, which can take many months as explained, I did start exploring how much it would cost to self-publish the board books.

I initially looked at Amazon and after reading more info I was hoping to go down the print on demand route. I then uncovered my first big hurdle as I found out that you cannot upload board books for print on demand due to the printing cost. This was a big stumbling block.

I then start to look for a printer to see how much it would cost to stock hard copies and then how much it would cost for Amazon warehouse to stock my book.

After lots of internet searching and contacting various companies in the UK, I ended my search with no companies who print board books in the UK, that I could find anyway. I then started to look at the back of all my daughter’s board books, and they were all printed in China apart from one!

I then turned my attention to China printers and found an app called Alibaba.com where you could state your requirements and companies would approach you. In the space of half a day I went from not having any choice to having lots of choice! It then took me awhile to research each company for experience etc… and to compare costs along with minimum order amounts. I eventually narrowed my list down to one. I was nervous about placing a large order abroad in case the package didn’t arrive, got damaged or the books were not printed quite right, so I took my time with this decision.

I then requested a physical copy of my book from the printer chosen to be sent to me so I could check the quality before I placed an order. This did cost around £60 but it was worth it before you spent a larger sum of money. I didn’t need to worry as the sample was brilliant.

I then uncovered my second stumbling block. On looking at the price for Amazon to stock my books and deducting the cost of printing and shipping I discovered I would be in negative profit per sale, so using Amazon for this purpose was no longer an option.

The only other option was for me to stock and distribute the board books.

Now at this stage it would have been easy to stop however, it seemed I had got quite far through the process and having a sample of the book in my hand gave me the added determination and drive to continue. I was nearly a published author and close to my dream becoming a reality!

I then had to organise for a website to be created so I had a way of selling my books directly, I used Naturally Minded who also designed my Fiancé’s website, so deciding who would do this was an easy decision.

As I had received no further offers from a publishing house in addition to the 4 I declined, I made a decision to go for it and self-publish.

However, it wasn’t as easy as placing the order, I then needed to investigate bar codes as I read if you wanted to reach out to book shops a bar code would be required.

To do this, you purchased the ISBN first and then an additional cost to purchase the bar code. I used Nielson’s ISBN store.

I then had to explore whether I needed to display the UKCA mark which seemed to be on most of my daughter’s board books, this took a long time to research. Various companies said I did need to display it and others not. Some companies I approached made me aware I would also need to get the book lab tested if I displayed the UKCA mark due to the age range the book was for. I decided to get the books lab tested so I could display the UKCA mark. This was more cost and time.

The next hurdle was discovering the rules changing for what you needed to display with the UKCA mark. You needed to state a UK address for a distributer or the printers. Well, as I was using China to print my books, I could not use this address and I did not want to display my own address. Again, after lots of research and options I decided to pay a company to use their address who will forward any post received to me.

I also decided to name my company Rhyming Moments Books. I had a logo designed, I used a caterpillar as this was the first board book I was aiming to get published and the rhyme I sang to my daughter which triggered me on my journey, so it seemed fitting.

So finally, I placed the order for the books from China. Now by this time the pandemic had begun, and the books were delayed a little, not as much as I thought they would be. I received stock just before Christmas 2021.

When I saw the delivery lorry arrive with the boxes of my books, I was so excited. I felt like a child. I couldn’t wait to open the boxes and see them all and obviously hold the first one in my hand. That is a very special moment. It made the long journey worth it. The delivery driver also was excited for me and wanted to see the books!

It took just over two and a half years with a lot of research and persistence, but I was finally a published author with two board books!!