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.
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.
In the summers during middle school, I would to ride the cross-town bus to get from my dad’s place on the outskirts of Napa to the downtown terminal then walk a few blocks to the main library. I used to love doing this–no surprise as I was drawn to anything that afforded me independence and books.
I don’t know if there was a summer reading program going on at the Napa Public Library at the time. There probably was but I doubt I would have made any headway on it. I read John D. Fitzgerald’s The Great Brain series and then found Daniel Pinkwater’s The Snarkout Boys and the Baconburg Horror and then read that and only that over and again for the remainder of the summer.
Anyway, I do love summer reading challenges. Our local library rewards the kids with a choice from the prize bin and then an ice cream cone. The ice cream parlor, in turn, rewards the kids with adding a photo of them eating their cone to their wall. I mean, come on! How can you not feel great about being a reader? I did it for nothing. These kids are getting prizes, ice cream and fame.
Well, I wanted to add something to the summer reading experience so I made this chart. You’ll get nothing at the end of it except a high five from Bigfoot.
Actually, if you’re a library and you want to use this for your summer reading program, please feel free (download here). You could white out where it says “Bigfoot” and stamp your branch’s logo. Let me know if you do.
As a side note, as I type this, I’m remembering vividly a smell associated with that library. In fact, it’s the smell of all the libraries of my childhood. Was there something in the composition of paper or colored inks back then?
A couple months ago I hit delete on my old blog. Gone! It’s all gone but I held on to one piece, my old header.
I’m attaching it to this post less for sentimental reasons than for a symbolic one. You see, if you look closely at the image, you’ll see it’s unfinished. This drawing has sat in this state on or somewhere near my drawing table for the last 13 years.
I had the good luck to work on some fun projects last year and I am motivated to take all my frog drawings–the various sketches, half-finished dummies, snippets of stories–sitting on or somewhere near my drawing table and see them through. Starting this spring I’m going to devote myself full-time to doing that.
So here I am, posting the frog drawing to formally close down the sketch blog. See you on the other side.