The Road Less Travelled: Children's author Atticus Ryder's journey to self-publishing
By Atticus Ryder
Self-publishing is daunting, but it's the best, most rewarding decision I've ever made. I learnt a lot of stuff along the way and here are some pros and cons based on my experience. I hope it helps accelerate your own process.
I'm a self-published author based in London. I’ve published three children’s books with more on the way. It all started in secondary school when I won a prize for a short story, which now features in Twilight Tales. I just love creating content, I also wanted to fuel children’s imaginations, to help young reluctant readers (like I was) and create a fun reading experience for families.
So in 2019 I decided to bite the bullet and self-publish my first collection of children's short stories.
Why not traditional publishing for me? Publishers rarely accept manuscripts directly. You have to get an agent. Often they won’t accept writer/illustrator combos for short stories, and it’s all about what sells to a mass market. They have to get a commission after all and the publishers have to make money. I decided I was going to use any profit from sales to give away more copies. I wanted to reach those reluctant readers in the corner of the school library and show them the magic of their own imagination.
Having experienced the process a number of times now, I wanted to share the positives and the challenges.
The message is yours. You have complete creative control, from the book's content to illustrations and the overall format. You wear all the hats: editor, marketer, designer and you need to make it relevant to your audience. I built my own trusted partnerships with freelancers, which helped me to sharpen up the language within the books. I also got the chance to get my stories out to children unfiltered by the latest market trend and they loved it. My son and his friend’s response to I’ve Got No Stripes has been humbling and sometimes hilarious.
Parent: ‘Where are the stripes Eleanor?’
*Child looks at the front then turns to the back without reading*. ‘They’re here Mummy.’
It’s a big ol’, supportive community. One of my favourite things is all of the community spirit that comes with publishing a book. Self-publishing is literally that, you're doing it by yourself, but my experience so far is that everyone is willing to help if you're willing to ask. From the support of your friends and family, to working with likeminded freelancers and people on Twitter. It's scary to put yourself out there but it's worth it in every way.
You did it. Each milestone is a little win, whether it’s editing your sixth draft, perfecting your cover design or registering your metadata on Nielsen. When it’s done and you look back you feel so proud that you did that. There is nothing like seeing your content out there in the wild and getting feedback from readers.
Distribution is no longer a costly upfront investment. Digitalisation and print on demand (POD) has definitely changed the game! You can get your books out there as ePub files for as little as £25. And printing on demand means you can print what you can afford. Also they distribute through the same channels, so win-win.
You pay... for everything. Whether it’s time or money. The only person that can drive forward your publication is you. That can be lonely and an investment. It’s a balance between what you’re comfortable doing (time) and what you outsource to professionals (money). If you want a good book, there are some non-negotiables: an editor, a proofreader and a distributor. For my first book, I went with a dedicated company. They helped me a lot with the process, though it was more expensive than I realised! Now I can self-publish for about ~90-80% less depending on word count.
You’re suddenly a start-up business. If you’ve ever worked in a small cross-functional team you’ll know what it’s like to do a bit of everything. This is the same. You’re a project manager, marketeer, customer-feedback gatherer, web-designer, social media publisher and finance person rolled into one. You need real discipline to make sure you don’t lose sight of your goals and what motivated you to do it in the first place, your audience and writing. A means to an end, is something I tell myself when I’m doing something dull or scary. My personal struggle is marketing.
Did I achieve my goals? Yes. Here is some feedback I got for my latest book, I’ve Got No Stripes.
“I really enjoyed this one. It is also right in the sweet spot where my eighteen-month-old is entranced and my five-year-old is able to develop his reading (and really enjoys the story so he persists!).”
Good luck with your publishing adventure! It’s a trek but the view is worth it.
You can find Atticus on various platforms here!