Sally C. Knox talks to Trafford about her book, Pickles and Jane. The story, written for children, has been very well-received by audiences, and was a focus at the recent ALA Midwinter Show. Below, Sally tells us about herself, her book, and her publishing experience:
My book is titled Pickles and Jane. It is based on real life events when my mother wanted a dog, which could not be incorporated into the life of the family which already had two cats. The real life events are not exactly as I have written, but it is a children’s story and a good outcome was necessary.
I am a grandmother of five, and certainly some of my creative ideas have come from them. Early on when my oldest grandson was a newborn (he is now 20 years old) I made up a little song, “hello, how are you, I am fine, thank you very much”. When my oldest granddaughter was 2 weeks old I came up with another song, which has become quite popular in my family: “The little birds are peeping, while my baby’s sleeping” These are both examples of how my mind just comes up with something almost instantaneously. I am unable to write a story or poem “on demand”.
My other interests are traveling, my grandchildren, knitting and crocheting (sporadic with both of these), cooking and baking, participating in activities at my church, especially volunteering at the free lunch we serve to economically challenged folk the first Saturday of each month. We have been doing this for about 2 years.
I can’t say I had any specific literary influences. At best I am a sporadic reader (this has improved as I am now a member of a book club and reading needs to happen. The one person whose style inspired me was Rod McKuen and the way he wrote much of his poems. I have written a large number of poems (over 50 – might someday get them published), and some are in the Rod McKuen style.
For writing the book itself, I did not have any specific inspiration. For some reason, the first few lines formed in my head and I started writing them down. Before long I had an entire story, all of it rhyming. I don’t believe I spent more than 2-3 hours as the thoughts and words just came pouring out.
I did not write the book with any particular thought about it having teaching moments or words of wisdom. One of my best friends did point out that the book shows that sometimes things don’t work out as we expect, and we don’t get what we want. Since the dog ends up having a good life with a different family, more children and in the wide open spaces, it does not really end on a sad note. Mostly I feel that since this is mostly a picture book it is perfect for the early or prereader. Those I have given the book to who have children around 2-3 years old report to me that it is the book that is requested every night. At least until the parent gets sick of reading the same book over and over.
While there is no sequel to this book. I have written two others, one a rhyming story about losing a shoe at the zoo, and the other about Grandpa coming and building a sandbox. At present my illustrator is working on those.
I think I would have to say one of the favorite parts of this experience was actually seeing the book in print with my name as the author. The quality of the book is excellent, and I am proud of the content: illustrations and story line.
Marketing, Reviews, and Sales
There have been some marketing events through Trafford, some in China, Europe and Miami. I did attend a book signing in Los Angeles in April 2015. I did participate in a radio interview through Indie, though no longer know how to access that to listen to, nor how to refer people to that site. There are a lot of opportunities for getting publicity and marketing through this publisher.
The book has been reviewed through 3 independent book sites. I cannot relate the names, but would be able to find them in my e-mails. One was very positive, one was mostly positive and the third was rather negative about the book, with some criticisms that the book failed on a number of levels.
It is now my responsibility to become an active participant in the book. There are some independent book sellers in my area (Buffalo, Niagara Falls) that I plan on approaching, and I am in the process of setting up a web site. Whoever said that is easy doesn’t know me! I have also gotten an account set up with PayPal.
Advice to Other Writers
There are several things I would have one differently, because I tend to be a little bit of a procrastinator, and often have difficulty “selling myself”. I started working with Trafford in 2009. At the time I did not have an illustrator, thinking I could do it myself or would family or friends who would be capable of this. However, this was not a very realistic plan. My one daughter-in-law is an excellent artist, and does very detailed sketches, but was unable to turn her work into the simplified characters suitable for a children’s story.
In 2009 I lived in San Francisco, and did not actively pursue illustrations. In 2012 I married and moved to Buffalo, NY area. For some reason this motivated me to start the process of getting someone to do the illustrations. After contacting a few people I did call a local artist group by e-mail; my request was forwarded to a local University, and I had one response. However, that was all I needed. My illustrator is young, very talented; and affordable. The one problem we both seem to have is getting involved in life and not maintaining contact.
- Have a goal in mind of what you want the book to look like; what illustrations you need, if any. There will be questions about size, paper quality, length of book, how you happened to come to write it, etc.
- Think about what services you will need to bring your book to the attention of readers.
- Consider a website so people can follow you and set up a way for your book to be ordered and paid for through you.
- As stated earlier, there are a great number of services available through Trafford. And each one costs some money. So having a budget beforehand might be a good idea.
- Think about how you can do some marketing on your own. Develop a relationship with a book store owner/manager at an independent book store.
- I think most of us look at our creation as being very unique, special and one that everyone should be interested in. While that is true, no one will be as committed to your finished product as you are. And be confident when you are meeting with someone who might be willing to help you sell your book.
- Find out if there are other self-published authors in your area and seek their guidance.
- Ask your contact person(s) at Trafford for feedback on what you have written, any ideas for improving what you have, and how you want to pursue publishing.
- As I read through the above, I am surprised that I did not take my own advice. Good luck with your publishing process.
- Most importantly, have fun. There will be times when it feels like nothing is happening or that you are being rejected. But it is your book; your story to tell, whatever that might be.
Many thanks to Sally for her excellent blog!