Blog Archive

Tuesday, September 12, 2023

Going from Traditional Publishing to Indie Publishing: Author Interview with Tricia Gardella

You have a degree in Ancient History and Classical Archaeology which is far from writing contemporary stories for kidsWhat made you decide to start writing kids books? 
I didn’t start out to write picture books but one day one of my critique group pointed out that everything I wrote seemed to be targeted at seven-year-olds. And she was right. I often wonder if it’s because I have never quite grown up or because I’m fascinated by how and what young people choose  to absorb  when learning.

How long does it take you to complete a book? 
Depends. Some only take minutes. Some have taken years. One I have been working on in my head for more than thirty years and wonder if I will ever write it. And it’s probably the one I’ve always wanted to write the most. One of these days I’m just going to have to admit it doesn’t fit my genre. Then, maybe, it will get written.

I always do a rough draft. My favorite part of writing is revising, which I seem to do until the minute the book is published. But I’ve had a couple books that worked just right from the beginning and maybe took a half hour to write. There are not very many words in a good picture book but they need to be the right words.
You publish as an indie author. Did you personally design the full book, or did you have assistance from others? 

I'm not the usual indie picture book author. I’ve been writing for more than 35 years. I began with traditional publishers in the 90s then, beginning in 2000, I took a 20-year sabbatical. By the time I had enough of my ice cream parlor/gift shop, I thought I was too old for publishing as it had taken five years between books in the 90s and I wondered how many five years I had left? Then I discovered and fell in love with indie. I love the control. I don’t love that all the marketing falls on my shoulders. But I do love a challenge and feel determined to figure it out. Imagine how good that will feel. Anyway, that’s what I keep telling myself.

How have you found your illustrators?
I might be in ‘control.’ but I knew from the get-go that I would need help. I love choosing my illustrators. It’s hard to explain, but I get a feeling from the start if I’m going to be able to work with them. So far, so good -- except for two cases early on. So far, I’ve worked with ten illustrators, several more than once, and have been thrilled that our visions for the book match—only better. Micro-managing is the worst thing you can do. But if there is something that you question, or doesn’t work for you, say something!! You are the publisher.

My illustrators usually do my cover designs and I like to have them done early on so they can be up on KDP while we are working on the book. Not all covers have stayed exactly the same but so far I like how this is working.

I also have a book designer. They edit, ‘map’ some of my books, and publish them. I have no idea if I am doing things right but publishing my paperback and hardback with IngramSpark and my ebook with KDP exclusive works the best. It took me a while to figure out why anyone would do a picture book as an ebook but it sure comes in handy for reviews etc.

How did you find those people to help you? 
I found ‘my people’ on the internet. When COVID first put us in lockdown, I couldn’t travel so I wrote a memoir. The Quest came out August of 22. My first indie book. And I made a very smart move. I hired an editor from Reedsy who impressed me with her background.What I loved most was that she lived in Bend, Oregon. Sort of rural, I thought. And I live on a ranch so I felt I had found a soulmate. And along the way, she mentioned that she was married to a book designer. Once again I had fallen into something just right.
What was the hardest part of putting together your books?

Putting together my books is the easy part. The difficult part is learning how to market. Unknown indie publishers may as well be throwing a cup of water into the ocean. Who is going to notice unless there is something special about (or in) that cup of water? There are so many books on Amazon. Unless you have the correct spelling of the author's name or book title you are seeking, it may be difficult to find it with all the other competing books. Eventually you might get there. But how many people are going to spend the time searching when they come across so many others on the same subject?
What do you know now about publishing you wished you had known sooner?
I wish I knew better early on where to look for help. There are a zillion authors out there who may have had a bit of success giving gullible first-timers the impression they are experts and you should buy their books or services. But be choosy about what you follow and be careful who you hire. There are organizations like ALLI that are very helpful though they have been slow to get into children’s writing. But they vet everything and are worth their tuition.
That’s another thing to keep in mind. Historically, writers for children have been at the bottom of the pile and I don’t get it. If children don’t appreciate good books when they are young, how much are they going to read when they get older? This is something that has bugged me for years.
What is the best writing advice you’ve received or could give?

Try to find a 
writers critique group in your genre or put one together. I live on a ranch in a rural area and have few of the benefits urban writers have. But one of the best things that every happened to me was discovering SCBWI. Each year I attended their annual conference in Los Angeles. I knew no one when I walked in the door, yet I knew this is where I belonged. It was through SCBWI that I met my "Write Sisters," all beginners. I remember sitting in the audience with them and listening to impressive speakers. 

We giggled like school kids thinking that one day we would be one of the speakers.  For more than ten years we gathered at Ann Paul’s home for pre-conference critiquing. My "Write Sisters" include Ann Paul, Kirby Larson, Mary Nethery, Dian Curtis Regan, Vivian Sathre and Helen Ketteman. Many are award-winners and sought after speakers to this day. They are all traditionally published. But they have always accepted me as the odd-(wo)man-out. Bless their hearts.
Are there any other points about writing you would like to add?
I thank you for the chance to talk about something that has bugged even before I began indie-publishing. So many people think it’s enough to have an idea. Picture books are a product. A work of art.  Every single thing you publish needs to be the best it can be and I read book after book that might be cute, or whatever, if only it had been done right. 

I know all writers have heard “show, don’t tell.” Showing whenever possible is especially important in picture books. It's about action, conflict, resolution. And I can’t believe all the author explanations I’m seeing before the book is even read. Nothing turns a child, or a parent, or a teacher off faster than being  told what the book is about before they even read it. Your words, your illustrations, if done well, should be able to do that job. Author notes at the end of a book often work fine. People do like to know why and how.

Don't forget to edit. When lots of errors show up, it makes the book seem unprofessional. But even if you edit, you can still miss something. 
I know how easy it is to miss somethingtthat from my own experience. One day my daughter came in and said, “I was reading Frogs Go Diving for the hundredth time to the grandkids. Did you know there’s an extra "t" in the frogs go diving eight by eight.”  

I’d missed it. My editor missed it. My daughter missed it in her many readings. Here’s the wonderful thing about POD. I contacted my illustrator who also published that book and by the next morning the problem was resolved. I had no idea that could be done. Couldn’t happen with traditional. If anyone complains, I can replace their book.
What is the next book coming out? Can you give me some details? 

My newest release is Where’s Gramma?  This book was originally written when I only had four grandsons. Now I have six grandsons and one granddaughter who are currently in their late twenties. How could that have happened?

Where’s Gramma? Is part of my Gran Collection. I’m publishing a book specific to each of my grand children and great grandchildren.  And I have four more books due out before Christmas. We’ll see if I succeed.  

I've just started an online store.  advise everyone to get their website up early in their journey. It’s your gathering place. It’s your ‘bragging place.’  I wish I had put mine up earlier.

That's all for today's interview. If you'd like to learn more about Tricia's books, here are some links to get you started.

And here's a special tip for my readers... Subscribe to her newsletter on her website and you'll get free activity sheets for kids and you'll get updates on when she's posting a "free" day for one of her books, if you're not part of kindle unlimited.

1 comment:

  1. Such wonderful advice for authors and illustrators as well.