Trials and Tribulations of being a Self published Author/Illustrator in my experience…
There are both positive and negative things about being a self published author/illustrator, I’m sure that everyone has different experiences, opportunities, successes and failures. The following trials and tribulations are based on some of my experiences that I have had over the last 5 years from when my first children’s book was released. First of all it takes a lot of time, hard work and dedication to write/illustrate a book and get it published. I have self published two children’s picture books and currently working on my third book. My first book titled “The Boy Who Skated with Dragons” was published in 2014, my second “A Journey of Dreams: The Adventures of Dex and James” published in 2016, these are great accomplishments for me and something that I never dreamed of when I was younger. I did all of the artwork and writing of the stories, once the layout was completed and the books were printed I was ready to put it out into the world. I reached out to bookstores, libraries, coffee shops, retail stores and anywhere that I could think of to sell my book, I quickly learned that not many people are willing to sell a self published book on their shelf, most places order form a distribution company and only carry well known author’s books, understandably because that is what sells and people will be looking for when they walk in to purchase a book. I was fortunate to get my book in a few local book stores and shops but I learned to accept the rejection from most places that I approached. The next thing I set out to do was try to set up some events, book readings, signings and ways to promote my book and sell it directly to people. I had a lot of great support from family and friends which I am grateful for, I also wanted a wider audience in order to share my books with as many people as possible.
I set up some local book readings/signings at a couple skateboard shops since my books involve a boy who skateboards and I have been a professional skateboarder since 2002,I think that helped me in some ways like the event I did at a skatepark in my community and a signing at Skatelab skate museum and skatepark in Simi Valley which is now closed but it was a well known place within the skateboard industry where a lot of kids and professional skaters would frequent. I was able to speak and read my books at two libraries in my community which was amazing.
I also set up some events at small coffee shops and bookstores, I promoted and talked to people about my events, most of the time I had a very small turnout and some of the time not one person would show up, this was disappointing especially when people say that they will be there and then don’t show up and stay true to their word, I understand that people are busy and have their own lives and priorities but it’s still disheartening when so much work goes into promoting and it falls on deaf ears, that’s the way it goes sometimes, I learned to accept that. On the other hand I was able to get some amazing opportunities to share my books with kids. I went to two different youth centers where I read both of my books to the kids and also did a skateboard demo after talking with the kids and answering questions, it was unbelievable to be able to do this and see how excited the kids were to have me there. I also went to several schools where I was able to share my books and skating, these events were more amazing than I could had ever imagined, the kids welcomed me and I could feel the energy and excitement that truly was genuine, the thing about a lot of kids is that they are so honest and express how they think and feel, all of the feedback and response I received was so positive. These opportunities were so meaningful because I was able to share a positive inspirational message through my books along with bringing happiness to kids through something that I created. I was also able to get a book reading/signing at the local Barnes and Noble with the help from a friend, this was awesome because it’s not easy to get into a big retailer like that and a good amount of people showed up so I was grateful for that.
I was also invited to be on two podcasts, one called “Right Road Kids” and a podcast hosted by a professional skater “The Shetler Show”
I also did an interview and was featured in an article for Vice which has a very wide reach around the world https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/mv5kxq/skateboarding-helped-jim-bates-battle-depression-815
I am truly grateful for all of these.
Although there have been many ups and downs throughout the journey, they have all been learning experiences and the fact is that I have had some great opportunities to share my books and impact people in a positive way, this is something that I never could have imagined. I haven’t had great success in making money and selling a lot of books but there are definitely some cherished memories that I will hold onto and hopefully I will continue to inspire kids and share a positive message with my upcoming book. My goal is to self publish and donate the upcoming book to 400 kids in need, the title is “Super Dragon Skater Boy” I have a fundraiser for those willing to donate and support the project, here is the link for more information and the page to donate https://www.gofundme.com/f/super-dragon-skater-boy-inspiarational-kids-book
There are many frustrating times being an author and feelings of wanting to give up and questioning whether it’s worth it, days where the whole time is spent at an event where not one book is sold, it’s not something that can be controlled, sometimes just being able to reach one person at a time can make it worthwhile, the best approach is to not have expectations and hope for the best but accept the outcome no matter what it may be, some days are better than others. Remember to focus on the positives like the fact of having a published book when some people have that goal and don’t even accomplish it. There are rewarding experiences and things to continuously learn along the way. I want aspiring authors to know that it is possible to publish a book and that if you are passionate about it, work hard and don’t give up then you will find meaning and purpose throughout the journey, it’s not easy but not many things are that are worth working towards. Have fun, be creative, talk to others and it is possible to grow from the experiences. I know that I have learned so much and grown as a person by facing fears and pushing myself to step out of my comfort zone by being in front of people while talking and sharing my books. I believe that everyone is capable of accomplishing amazing things with their own talents. All it takes is taking the first step and then keep going, put yourself out there and see what happens, you may surprise yourself with what you are capable of when you try. Believe in yourself and follow your dreams, there are other people who believe in you too!
– Jim Bates