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Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Publishing as a Family Project: Author Interview with Monique Martin

You’ve recently published your first children’s picture book entitled The Moon is Broken which was inspired by your daughter when she was six years old. You didn’t publish it until recently and she’s into her mid-teens. Who or what inspired you to finally put the book in print?
One day while my mother was ill, I was looking through some documents on my computer to send to my mother’s physician, and I ran across the story which I hadn’t looked at since I wrote it. I opened it, read it and it made me smile. However, there was a part of the story that didn’t sit well with me that I had trouble with. So, I fixed it immediately and thought, “Wow, that was fun! What a good distraction.”

I put the story away and didn’t think of it again until later that day when my daughter Taylor, who was sixteen at the time, came into my room and said, “Hey Mom! What ever happened to that story you wrote?” I replied, “That’s really funny, Taylor. I just looked at that story today.” I read her the changes, she liked it, and we had a good laugh about it. After she went to bed, I put the story away again.

That wasn't the end of the story, though, was it?
The next day, my nephew, Brian Flotte Jr, who was in undergraduate school for graphic design, called me and said, “Guess what? I finally finished those illustrations. I just laughed and told him about what happened the day before. I had wanted to contact him to see if he would like to do the illustrations for the book. I wanted to work on it together with him especially because it was a spiritual book and he was my Godson.

What happened next?
The day after Brian called me, I was enjoying a cup of coffee at the coffee shop when I met a gentleman who actually owns his own publishing company. I just really felt like the Lord was speaking to me and telling me that it was finally time for me to do something with this product. Previously, it just wasn’t working out because I’ve had some challenges to produce a product that I thought was worthy of publishing. Also, the demands of family and my time hindered my ability to focus on bringing this product to fruition. Honestly, the timing was just right now. That’s what really motivated me to make that final push towards completion and work towards getting the book published.

Who helped you polish your story? 
I actually worked with three different people to find someone who understood the vision I had for the book and the messages that I was trying to convey. In the end, I chose my niece, Ericka Boston, who is a magazine editor, because she had a clear vision and understanding of what I was trying to accomplish. She and I worked very well together. She was tough though but I really appreciated it. She taught me many things about the industry that I didn’t know and we bantered back and forth on various parts of the book. She had great insight and was ultimately that one who helped polish the story.

Are you active in any writing critique groups?
I am not currently active in any critique groups. However, in the past, I have taken some writing courses at a studio in the city of Chicago. I enjoyed them because they kept me on my feet. Honestly, they unnerve me sometimes since it’s difficult to have people read your work and be so openly opinionated. You learn rather quickly not to get too attached and decide what to fight for and what not to fight for.

Before writing this book, what was your publishing and writing background?
Prior to writing this book, I had no writing background. Writing was always something I wanted to do as a child and I feel everyone has at least one good book in them. Hopefully I have more, but this is my first attempt at something I’ve always wanted to try.

Did you try the traditional route of seeking a publisher and/or agent to market your book? When did you decide to self-publish?
Initially when I wrote this story, I did a small amount of research about how to get a traditional publisher to pick me up. At the beginning of the process, it seemed very daunting and seemed unlikely that I would find a traditional publisher. In addition to that, self-publishing wasn’t what it is now. Fast forward some years to when I got serious about making the story into an actual book; self-publishing had made great strides in the industry and it was easier to publish without a conventional publisher. The change in the industry really gave me that push to do self-publishing instead of the more traditional route.

So many indie authors go the quick route of digital publishing only to get the book out quickly; yet you started your own imprint, Freret Media Group LLC, where you do both eBooks and print. What made you decide to do something a little more formal?
When I started the process, I had a clear vision of what I wanted the book to look like and how I wanted the book to compete with books from larger publishing houses. Because there are so many authors out there, I wanted to set myself apart. I wanted to be more flexible and have the right infrastructures to set a good path in the future. I truly believed that creating my own imprint was the way to achieve my goals.

Tell me about the process. Were you overwhelmed in trying to learn everything about publishing from print format to cover design and marketing?
Absolutely. I didn’t realize the amount of work that went into it. I did a lot of reading and writing about the publishing process. I even attended a few conferences in New York. It was amazing to be there with Scholastic and other publishing houses. I was able to ask them many questions and they were very forthcoming with information. I realized that all of these publishing companies have dedicated staff, but I was wearing the hat for all of the departments! The book production was a collaborative effort between my husband and me. Initially, we were overwhelmed. However, we divided the work according to our different expertise and we were able to create a quality product. It was rewarding but definitely challenging.

This book is a collaborative effort with other family members with your nephew doing the artwork and your niece providing the music for the book trailer. Was that an easy process working together or did you occasionally butt heads as to how it should be done?
I have never been more proud of my nieces and nephew: Ericka Boston, Brian Flotte, and Tyra Flotte. They all brought their unique talents together and performed splendidly. My mother was an artist and I think that she also would have been truly proud to see her grandchildren work on an art project and produce such a beautiful book. It was hard work, but we had a good time doing it as a unit.

You also have a good media presence with multiple links to your book. Who put that together for you? I know it’s relatively easy to get your book on online sites, but your book is also in brick and mortar locations. How did you manage to do that being a new author?
As a self-publisher, I found a marketing firm to organize a small campaign for The Moon is Broken. I followed their advice and I was invited to do a number of interviews including blogs, newspaper, radio shows, etc. I had a few friends of the family and acquaintances who were kind enough to interview me for their respective media. Yet, my family and friends were a big part of my success.

In addition, I really beat the pavement. I cannot tell you how many bookstores I went to and asked if they would like to carry my book. I donated books to libraries and talked at school events, etc. I also passed out cards everywhere I went for people to ‘Like’ my Facebook page or follow me on Pinterest. I can’t think of a place I went where I wasn’t passing out cards for my book. I think I may have driven my husband and daughter a little insane. They would laugh at me, but they were also very supportive about the whole thing. I would like to give a special thanks to a book store in northern Chicago called Women and Children who was the first store to give me a chance and carry my book in their store.

What are some of the promotions that you’ve done for the book that have been the most successful?
I most enjoyed reading to children at schools and libraries. The children were so excited and their parents were able to purchase the book if they agreed on the message. When times were tough with trying to sell the book, the interaction with children really put some pep in my step.

What would you tell other authors to avoid?
In regards to what to avoid: Be wary of companies that only want to make money. Avoid the companies that only want to promote you for X amount of dollars, but aren’t interested in your message.

What has frustrated you the most in putting these books together?
Two things come to mind in terms of frustration. First, the amount of detail and the negotiation that needed to be done to print a high quality children’s book is immense. Second, the wholesale distribution process and fees definitely cut into the profits of an independent author who has invested so much into the project.

What has pleasantly surprised you in the process?
I was pleasantly surprised by how excited people were when they found out that I was publishing a book. While I was trying to get social media attention, people would get so excited and supportive. They would tell me of their dreams to write a book as well. It was wonderful to see just how thrilled people were for me to embark on such an adventure.

What advice would you give someone who wants to publish their own book?
My advice is to figure out why you want to publish your own book. If you understand why you want to publish your own book, then that will determine how much effort, time, and money that you will invest in this product. If you’re writing a book that you really just want to share with family and friends, then that will help to determine your effort. However, if you want your book to reach a broader audience, you will need to have a marketing campaign and a reserve of energy to focus on all the work that will lie ahead for your project. Most importantly, you need to know what you want your book to do and who you want it to reach. That will make your decision process so much easier.

What is the writing best advice you’ve been given?
Write everyday. You should write at least an hour, but make sure it’s everyday. Everyday. Everyday. I can’t stress that enough.

What message would you like parents and children to take away from your books?
The thing I love about this book is that it contains so many worthwhile messages. But if I have to choose only a few, I want people to know that God doesn’t make mistakes and You’re perfect just the way you are.

What future plans do you have for the publishing company?
For my next project, I’m currently working on a biography about my father-in-law. It’s not exactly for young kids, but mostly for Young Adult readers. I am very excited for that project right now. In the future, I would really love to publish other people’s works as well.
That's it for today's interview, I hope you found it interesting. Here's a few ways to find out more about Monique's books.

Book website:

Book trailer:

Book Goodreads: 

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for posting this interview containing so much personal experience about the business of publishing and promotion. Quite helpful.