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  • Writer's pictureSamantha Whitton

Navigating the Rollercoaster of Self-Publishing: Insights from an Indie Children's Book Author Publishing for the First Time using KDP

Starting this journey as an indie author in the children's book genre has been exciting, but also challenging. Contrary to popular belief (you know all the TikToks claiming how easy and *free* it is to publish on KDP), the process has not been a walk in the park, but the lessons learned have made it all worthwhile. Even though I still am not technically published yet (hopefully in a couple of days 🤞) and have no claim to it all paying off, I wanted to share my personal experiences, shed light on the hurdles I faced, and offer valuable advice to fellow aspiring indie authors.


Along the way, I'll also highlight the impactful insights I gained from content creators who played a pivotal role in shaping my self-publishing adventure.


The Illusion of Ease:

At the onset of my self-publishing journey, I was under the impression that the process would be straightforward. However, reality hit me hard as I encountered numerous roadblocks and questions right away. Despite the challenges, I am grateful for taking the plunge anyway. The excitement of seeing my creations come to life and the prospect of sharing them with young readers outweighed the initial hurdles. From what I've learned, the self-publishing process (and its cost to you) will vary greatly depending on the type of book you'd like to produce and there is no one-size-fits-all roadmap for this process.


Personally, I wanted to write picture books for children. As a perfectionist, I was scared to produce my first book. So, I decided to do something a little different to start. Looking back, it was a win-win in my eyes. I created a low-cost book from illustrations that I drew myself so I could try the publishing process and have minimal loss in case I messed up royally. This was meant to be a quick way for me to go through the process and find all the hiccups upfront and quickly. While I did accomplish that (but not quickly), I also found out that I really enjoyed the illustration and creation process and would like to create more books in this fashion, not because they were at a low cost to me, but because I found pride in it.


I have continued with my initial storybook idea, but it has proven to take a bit more time than I anticipated. Finding, hiring, and working with an illustrator has been a process all on its own. While both of these books are technically children's books they have quite different costs, processes, and timelines to publish.


Transparency...

One platform I can give credit to the start of my journey is TikTok. There I found content creators who post bite-sized, inspirational videos about how easy it is to self-publish. While I'll admit this is a bit misleading, it did light the fire under my butt to get started. The fact that I thought it would be a quick and easy process gave me the bright idea, "I can do that!".


There were a couple of creators that significantly influenced the start of my journey. One I'd like to shout out is Wonder Cloud Kids, an independent author sharing her experiences on TikTok. What sets her apart is her transparency and active engagement with her audience. Her willingness to respond to comments creates a sense of community, fostering an environment where indie authors can learn from one another and be motivated to just do it.


 ...and Community:

Another platform I should give credit to is Facebook. When I couldn't seem to find an answer to a problem or faced a roadblock I took to one of the many Facebook groups I joined that are full of Indie authors looking to share advice and insights. There you can ask a single question shared with a large number of members that have more than likely faced the same problem as you at one point or another.


Another, more personal, shout-out is to my close friends and family. Having people in my life to confide in on what I've been calling "my personal project" has been truly invaluable. I've been lucky to have friends and family members to go to for advice and extra eyes for edits. From words of affirmation and motivation to my self-illustrated book to the storybook that is underway, and even to this website, I've utilized the people in my life for help and have been lucky to do so. (Thanks y'all!)


Diving Deeper with YouTube Gurus:

Navigating the intricacies of self-publishing became a little less daunting thanks to insights shared by prominent YouTubers. Bethany Atazadeh, Sean Dollwet, Life as I Write, Eevi Jones, Jenna Moreci, and even Dale L. Roberts have been my go-to guides. Their videos not only saved me from potential pitfalls but also served as a source of motivation during challenging moments. I often found myself stuck in various parts of the self-publishing process and often a YouTube video had the answer, plus useful information that I didn't even know I needed to know (but I did!).


I have to say, the visual medium of YouTube proved to be the most effective learning tool for me. The step-by-step guides, personal anecdotes, and dos and don'ts provided by these content creators gave me a better understanding of the self-publishing landscape. Learning from their experiences allowed me to anticipate challenges and make informed decisions. However, nothing is a better teacher than just doing it yourself.


Advice for Aspiring Indie Authors:

  1. Embrace the Learning Curve: Understand that self-publishing is a learning process. Don't be disheartened by setbacks; instead, view them as opportunities to grow and improve.

  2. Engage with the Indie Community (and your Personal Community): Connect with fellow indie authors through social media platforms, forums, and local writing groups. Tell those close to you about your aspirations and ask for their support and motivation. You may be surprised by how much support you get from friends and family. The support and insights gained from these communities can be invaluable.

  3. Prioritize Quality: From writing and editing to cover design and formatting, prioritize the quality of your work whether you're doing it yourself or hiring someone else. From all of my research, I've learned that a polished product will stand out in a crowded market. This will be worth the work in the end.

  4. Patience is Key: The self-publishing journey takes time. Be patient with yourself and the process. Celebrate small victories along the way. Ask for help when you get hung up or need assistance. Not all answers will come right away. That's okay. With time and effort, it will all come together and you will have something you're proud to call your own!


As I eagerly await the physical copies of my first children's books, I reflect on the challenging yet rewarding path of self-publishing. Embracing the wisdom shared by the content creators on TikTok and YouTube gurus has made this journey more manageable. To fellow indie authors, I encourage you to persevere, learn from the experiences of others, and relish the fulfillment that comes with sharing your stories with young readers. The rollercoaster ride of self-publishing is undeniably worth the adventure.


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