I chatted with Heather Davidson, self-publisher of Choo Choo Park. I was so impressed with Heather with what she has managed to accomplish with her children’s book, that I thought it would be great to interview her to pass on knowledge to other self-publishers out there.
Celeste: Hi Heather! Thanks so much for chatting with me today. First of all, congratulations for being an author! Can you tell us a little bit about when you had this idea about writing children’s stories and what inspired you that this was it?
Heather: Hi Celeste, thank you so much for this opportunity to talk about my book. I have always loved reading and writing. I started writing stories for my son, James, when he was about 3 (he’s now 21), he loved them and used to take them to school for his teacher to read. I didn’t have the confidence to try and do anything further with them at that stage of my life. About two years ago now I decided that I wanted to make writing a priority in my life and I happened to come across The Choo Choo Park which I’d written when James attended the Choo Choo Park Playschool. I still loved the story and decided to try and get it published.
Celeste: You decided to self-publish your first book. What kind of research did you do into this before you started? Did you do any courses, or chat to other self-publishers? Did you try publishing your book through regular publishers?
Heather: I did submit The Choo Choo Park to two south African publishers but it wasn’t what they were looking for so I decided to go the self-publishing route. I had heard a lot about self-publishing in writing circles and enrolled for a correspondence course on Self Publishing. I then met Katherine Graham at the Society for Children’s Bookwriters and Illustrators (SCBWI) meetings and she had successfully self-published a number of books. I had many discussions with her and she gave me very valuable advice. I also attended a half-day Self Publishing workshop that she presents.
Celeste: Once you had your story, your illustrations and your files, you decided to go the crowdfunding route. Tell us a little about your decisions for this and how you pulled this together?
Heather: I had heard of crowdfunding through friends of mine that had raised money for their son’s eye operation. I chatted to them to get more information and researched a couple of crowdfunding platforms to find out the pros and cons of raising money this way. It seemed like a really good way to go rather than trying to collect money from friends and family myself. I made a video of myself explaining a little of the background to my writing the book and put in a clip of me reading the book to my nephews. Then I wrote a small blurb about the book and that made up my crowdfunding campaign.
Celeste: You decided to use ThundaFund – was there any particular reason why you chose them?
Heather: I had initially planned to use Indiegogo (the US based company my friends had used) but then my brother suggested that south Africans might be more comfortable using an SA based company where the pledges were in Rands with no hidden conversion costs etc. I felt that this was a valid point and as Thundafund charged the same commission as the US platforms I’d investigated I decided to go with them.
Celeste: I understand you managed to raise enough to print over two hundred of your books! You also have a few reviews and interviews with magazines – did you market your book to them or contact them about your story?
Heather: I have raised enough money to print 300 copies!! Child magazine have agreed to review my book. I approached them, on the advice of Katherine Graham. I am planning to approach the Tatler, the community newspaper for Claremont, as the Choo Choo Park is situated in Claremont.
Celeste: Book Lounge has even decided to stock your book for you – was this also you approaching them?
Heather: Yes, I contacted the Book Lounge as I know they stock some self-published books. They had a look at it and decided, much to my excitement, that they would be prepared to stock it.
Celeste: If you could go back, would you have done anything differently knowing what you know now?
Heather: I would have researched the booksize more carefully. I chose a size that was printed as standard by Mega Publishers but they have since closed down and it seems that size is not standard elsewhere which makes the printing more expensive. So I have had to adjust the size in order to make the printing affordable.
Celeste: Personally I think your book is lovely! Where can others get copies if they are interested? And where can they find you online?
Heather: The books should be printed by 25 November at the latest, after this they can be purchased directly from me on firstname.lastname@example.org. They will also be available at Books for All in Southfield Rd, Plumstead after this date. I’m not 100% sure what date they’ll be made available at the Book Lounge so it would be best to call them closer to the end of the month if that’s where you would like to buy a copy. You can find me online at: storiesbyheather.co.za.