Adventures in Self-Publishing Part 2: Writing, Drawing, Editing

Thank you, Robin Wiesneth, for your comment. You win the first giveaway! I’ll send you a copy of Now, Louie! I’ll decorate the envelope with the last of my 2001 USPS American Illustrator postage stamps and maybe a Young Elvis.

A hunka hunka burning self published book.

For this installment, I wanted to share how I made Now, Louie! I’ll start with the writing even though as an author-slash-illustrator the writing and illustrating happens more or less simultaneously.


1. Writing

The idea for Now, Louie! came from a game I’d play with my nephew. I’d tell him to not do something, he’d do it, then I’d grimace, pace, shake my fists at the sky, bury my face in my hands and so on. The routine had the makings of a story so the jump from that game to a picture book wasn’t hard. I never had a single document with the full Now, Louie! story on it but a script more or less existed on several different pieces of paper.

What was a constant was that Louie was a cat. He was never anything but a cat. Why, I’m not sure. It might have to do with one of my earliest memories. I can remember pretending I was cat meowing and crawling up my parents’ bed. I want to say I was nine or ten at the time. Joking. Based on the house in my memory, I was between three and four.

Here’s the first drawing of Louie as he would appear in the final book.

louie-taffy

I must have felt this drawing was pivotal because I signed and dated it. I don’t do that nearly enough. In fact, hardly ever.


2. Illustrating

I started with some thumbnail sketches. Then, because I never learn, I beat myself up for a day or two trying to duplicate the spontaneity in that doodle on a larger scale. Eventually, I did what I should have done from the beginning and scanned the little drawing, scaled it up to final art size and inked it over a light table.

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The inking was done with Winsor and Newton black India ink and a size 1 brush.

louie-ink

And here is some of the finished art:

louie-ink1

louie-ink2

You can see white out where I cleaned up some of my lines. In the case where I needed a bigger fix, I would cut and paste a fix over the original.

louie-ink3

I haven’t looked at these drawings in over ten years and I have to say I like them (I’ve come to realize it takes at least that long for me to become comfortable with my work). My favorite in this set were the last two drawings I inked. These were for the endpapers.

louie-ink4c

All the drawings were scanned and colored digitally.


3. Mocking up

After finishing the artwork, I printed up and assembled a dummy.

In retrospect, I should have done that at the sketch stage but I had probably made enough thumbnails to envision how the book would work. Still, working on a dummy is my favorite part of the picture book process.


3b. A Word on Page Count

I knew that books were assembled in sets of 8 pages and I think I knew that 32 pages was ‘the usual’. I didn’t realize that 32 was an industry standard and artistic form (explained very well here) and I didn’t know the difference between a self-ended and separate-ended book (difference detailed here). All this time I’ve been calling Now, Louie! a 32-page book but in fact it’s a 40-page self-ended book.


4. Editing

I never joined a critique group, informal or professional. But I did go for dinner with a friend I respected and asked her to read my story. Her only suggestion was to replace “What the?!” on the cake page with something less… potentially controversial. That was tough. I didn’t want to let What The go but I trusted her advice. My next favorite expletive was “Desi Arnaz!” followed closely by “Holy Moley!”

louie-whatthe-options

In the end I settled on this:

louie-ayayay

Ay ay ay.

And that’s how I wrote and illustrated Now, Louie! That post was more fun than I thought it would be. I hope you enjoyed it. Next up, I’ll talk about my choice to self-publish.

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Another Giveaway!

Last time I did this I got one comment which is one more than you can expect for not broadcasting the blog post. Same deal this time. Comment below and be entered to get a free book.

nowlouie-giveaway

Adventures in Self-Publishing Part 1: Now, Louie!

nowlouieintro

A little over eleven years ago I wrote, illustrated and self-published a picture book. It was Now, Louie!, a story about a mischievous cat who does exactly the opposite of what he is told. I got the idea sometime around 2000, thought on it for a few years, decided to go for it in September of 2005, knocked out the production in a few months, ordered a thousand copies, carried them up to my attic, packed them away and then promptly moved on to something else.

Well, that’s not entirely true. I did hawk them around town and online for a few months and did manage to sell a hundred or so copies. But despite the fact that I researched everything from ISBNs to competitive pricing to the recycled paper content of my paper stock, I failed to anticipate an obvious obstacle: self-promotion–I have a pathological distaste for talking about my work. Combine that with a pre-Twitter/proto-Facebook world where networking took a lot more time and effort and you’re left with eight-hundred-and-some-odd books in your attic.

Which is really a shame because I believe Now, Louie! is a good book. It’s a fun, solid 32-page picture book. It’s a quick read and young kids, those just coming out of board books, appreciate Louie’s antics. I’ve had parents tell me Now, Louie! affected positive behavior changes in everything from eating broccoli to brushing teeth by making a fun game of those same chores. I was reminded of all these things when I pulled a box out of the attic in preparation for attending my first SCBWI conference last summer.

Now, Louie! at the SCBWI LA conference.
Now, Louie! at the 2016 SCBWI LA conference.

Looking at it again eleven years later, there’s very little I’d do differently. Except maybe the part where I actually tell people I published a book.

So! To celebrate a (belated) 10th birthday for the book, to give it the attention I didn’t the first time around and just to share with anyone interested in self-publishing a picture book, I’m going to do a four-part post about how Now, Louie! came to be. And, as what seems to be the custom with this kind of thing, I’m going to do a giveaway. I’ll randomly pick one comment out of each of these “Adventures in Self-Publishing” posts and send that person a personalized Now, Louie! book. Maybe two. My attic is full of them.

nowlouie-giveaway

Alright! Thanks for reading! Comment below.