Wednesday, March 27, 2019

The Publishing Process for "Saving Forest Farm"

March 27, 2019

The one year mark is approaching for when I reached out to publishers about taking on my project titled Let There Be Rain.  As mentioned in the previous blog, I changed the name later to Saving Forest Farm to highlight the home of the animals rather than the circumstance or desired outcome.
To get back on topic, I began reaching out to publishers in mid to late May.  My final two publishers to make a decision on were Archway Publishing, which is a sub-unit under Simon and Schuster and is based out of Bloomington, Indiana, and Dorrance Publishing, which has almost a 100 year  publishing track record and is based out of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

I was intrigued by both publishers especially in the age of self-publishing and this was their strong selling point.  The deciding factor for me was that Archway Publishing was up front with their packaging prices and additionally provided discounts if the author had a membership with the Author Learning Center (ALC) powered by Author Solutions.  The ALC is a great way to connect with other authors that have been successful in the publishing industry through writing, marketing, and networking.  There are several opportunities to attend live webinars with successful authors and a large library of past webinars for members to watch later when they have the time.  Aside from the ALC network, the discounts were helpful as I got up to 35% off of the package prices that fit what I needed.  However, the ALC membership fee is $50 a year, but this is still worth the price because of the access to authors, discounts, and learning materials.  For example, the illustrator's package for a children's story is $4,199 and included but not limited to the following items:

  • ISBN Assignment
  • U.S. Copyright Registration
  • Worldwide Distribution
  • Hard & Soft Cover Publishing
  • e-Book Publishing
  • 10 Free Softcover Copies
  • 5 Free Hardcover Copies
  • 6 Fine Detail Color Illustrations
  • 100 Bookselling Promotional Materials
After applying the discount from the ALC membership, the final package cost was $3,434.20.  That is a savings of $764.80, which helps a lot when you need to add more illustrations or promotional items or save for later concerning any marketing that you may want to try.  I will dedicate another blog entry for marketing later.  If you decided to back out of the package and wanted a refund, Archway Publishing would refund everything except $400, which is a reading and processing fee because there are several projects coming and going and if their staff has begun work on or have your project in their que then it costs time and money to have them involved in some capacity. Well, I explained why I chose Archway Publishing, so let me tell you why I did not choose Dorrance Publishing.

Dorrance Publishing did not advertise any packages nor would provide me with any rates.  They wanted to see my project first and decide if they wanted to take on the project and then offer options.  That was tempting because there were no charges for them to read my manuscript.  The only part that I got a little hung up on was I could not see up front what kind of quality their children's books and illustrations were.  If I was writing a basic short story or novel with no pictures, I would have not had a problem going further with Dorrance Publishing.  There are some stories that I am planning to write or finish and will still consider Dorrance Publishing in the future.  My selling point was to see past results and know the details of my book journey before the publishing process started.  

June 1, 2018 - I signed the contract with Archway Publishing and began the illustration process.  If you have read or seen Saving Forest Farm, you probably noticed that there are more than six illustrations from the package that I purchased.  I added five more illustrations, a total of 11 illustrations, to help tell my story without getting too expensive.  We live in a digital communication age, so my primary communication was through email with the Illustration Coordinator, who assigned an artist and team to draw, color, and shade the illustrations.  My order of business for the illustrations was to complete a form that listed all the characters that I wanted in the story, and I had to provide every detail on the character such as eye color, hair, clothing, expressions.  After I finished describing and detailing the characters, I had to write out each illustration scene how the grass looked, character placement and actions, background, water levels, and continuity between scenes.  This is a short children's story; however, I wrote ab
Scene Placement Discrepancy: Glenda Goose, Cat, & Water Spout
out four times as much as on the character and scene descriptions.  That is one of many disadvantages of not being the illustrator yourself.  Unfortunately, I do not possess illustrating talents.  So, I submitted the appropriate forms along with the manuscript to help the illustrators know how the story should flow.  

Please note that illustrations can take up to four to six weeks before a proof is sent back to you.  If even after the proof is sent to you, there are some things still not perfect or may have been missed or neglected by the illustrators due to their large work load.  I had to send two proofs back due to scene discrepancies with some characters appearing earlier than introduced in the story or in a different place other than what the story said.  I had to pay very close attention to the smallest detail because after two proof reviews the illustrators would begin to charge for each correction.  After identifying the scene placement discrepancies, I had to get the illustrators to make the grass less green and the water in the pound and trough less full.  The illustrations looked great but it did not tell the story the correct way.  Twelve weeks later, I was finally satisfied with the illustrations and all that was left was to add the illustration placements to the manuscript and send to the Publishing Coordinator for final review.  I was very fortunate that this did not take as long because everything was in the correct order and thoroughly reviewed by me and the illustration team.  The words and sentence structure did not need any additional edits; however, I would have loved to had less words on each page, but I did not have enough money to add three to four more illustrations and decided to proceed with the current layout.  After the final review, which was mid-October, the book was published on November 7, 2018 and the rest is now history.  This has been a very fun experience for me and hopefully I can have enough success to keep doing this with many other fun Forest Farm stories.

Friday, February 15, 2019

The Origins of the Saving Forest Farm Story

February 15, 2019

I was a few months into my first semester at the Mississippi University for Women (MUW) in the Fall of 2004, and I was assigned a radio project for my Technology in Mass Communication class taught by the great Van Roberts.  We were introduced to the art of a radio serial program and listened to several recordings from the 1940's and 1950's.  These programs reminded me of television shows such as The Young and the Restless and The Twilight Zone.  I would have to say that these programs were well done and really provided enough content to give the listener a vivid picture as if they were actually there witnessing the events.  The unique quality for these programs was that the speaker had to be identified before he/she started talking and when he/she stopped talking to allow the listener to know who was speaking because a lot of the times the same voice actors played several characters.  Well, our first assignment in this class was to complete a radio program of no longer than 10 minutes and use old school sound effects.  This particular class was very liberal when it came to content and really nothing was off limits.  After talking to several of my classmates and hearing what they planned on doing, I focused on a much more cleaner subject matter and taking inspiration from the Jerry Seinfeld philosophy of keeping it clean and simple.

 This was challenging for me at first because I thought about how could I create something that is clean and somewhat entertaining for a class of young college students.  I had to ignore that because I knew that my audience would not be interested in the content, and I just focused on executing the project requirements.  Well, I began to think about what was going on in my life at the time.  This was the first time that I lived three hours away from family and friends.  I was finally on my journey of pursuing one of my big life goals, which was to earn a college degree and work a job that actually had interest to me.  As I focused on this aspect of my life, I began to think about other personal things going on in my life.  Even though I was experiencing some homesickness, I was also experiencing some changes within my family.  My cousin who had been experiencing some serious heart complications passed away, five days later grandmother died from cancer, parents divorced a month later, and my father passed away two months after that.  With all of these things happening, I was in an emotional and mental drought and needed some inspiration for me to keep on pursuing this college opportunity.  This was so much for me to describe and process, and I did not want to put all of that out there.  The best thing for me was to make it simple and use fictional characters to reflect courage, confidence, struggle, and resilience.  Every time I closed my eyes, I keep seeing farm or forest animals like foxes, goats, and pigs mostly.  I begin to write down simple scenes and some dialogue because a radio format works similar to a play or movie script.

As I wrote out the scenes, I had to keep in mind what sound effects to use when describing the scenes.  I pulled back a stapler to make the sound of a swinging gate, crumpled paper for foot steps, a water bottle for swishing sounds, and hummed for the sound of the fighter flies.  Every time a character would begin or stop speaking, they had to make their animal sound, for example, a Pig would say "Oink" three times before and after speaking.  Some of the character names were different in this version than the book version.  For example, Farrell Fox was originally Nigel Fox and Glenda Goose was Mother Theresa Goose. I later changed the names for the book to match the sound and spelling of the actual animal name. Saving Forest Farm was not originally the name of the radio project. I used Let There Be Rain as the title until I changed my mind before publishing the story last year.  The script was written and now I had to recruit classmates to be the voice actors for my characters.  This was not as hard as I had originally thought because they needed voice actors for their projects so we traded recording time and roles.

I can still hear the voices of each character performed by my classmates and friends.  Christopher Tindall was Nigel Fox, Dales Jones Gramatica Goat, Robert Fowler as Roger Rat, and Chris Holley as Marley Mockingbird to name a few.  We recorded in a sound proof studio.  The voice actors were in a conference style room with microphones, and I sat in a recording studio sound booth that had a thick glass window over looking the voice actors.  If I needed to talk to them, I had to use an intercom.  Please keep in mind that this was 2004 and smart phones really were not around until 2006.  Even though CDs and MP3s were common, the project was recorded on cassette tapes, which Wal-Mart still sold at the time.  I had do a lot of rewinding and re-recording over audio which can take a lot longer than today's methods.  We had to record two copies of the cassette and turn in one to the professor and keep one for ourselves.

Cassette Tape used for the Let There Be Rain radio project.

The day came and I sat and listened to several profane projects from my classmates and only a few people responded kindly to my project because we had to listen to every project as a class.  Mostly, the females were the ones that responded positively to my project.  I got an A on the project and loaned an extra copy of the tape to a Kindergarten teacher to play for her class.  She said that her class loved it and wanted me and the voice actors to come to the class and do the story in person.  We were unable to do that.  LOL

When I first started dating my now wife in 2006, she was curious about the stack of cassette tapes in my room with other radio commercials and projects.  She listened to Let There Be Rain and was impressed, and I was so bashful that I just thought that she was saying that because it was early in our relationship.  The years passed and in the Fall of 2017 I was going through some storage containers and found the cassette tape and thought about maybe turning the story into a Children's story that my own children might like.  I could not find a cassette player anywhere other than Amazon and had to listen to the tape to re-write the story because I had lost the actual script.  I ordered a $10 cassette tape player on Amazon and transcribed the entire story and was re-introduced to rewinding and fast forwarding.  It was quite breathtaking.  LOL

Cassette Tape Player used to transcribe the Let There Be Rain project.

After several attempts re-formatting, name changing, and additional characters such as Suri Squirrel and Bastion Bear, I had a great feeling that this could actually happen.  I reached out to some friends to draw the characters and scenes because I am not blessed with drawing.  Unfortunately, I was not able to get them to draw for me.  After some research, I partnered with Archway Publishing, and we hired an illustrator.  I had to write very detailed descriptions of the characters and scenes.  Everything that you see in the illustrations was written out to the letter by me.  The illustrator did an awesome job understanding what I wanted and I only had to have three sketch changes.  I still do not know the name of the illustrator, but I really want that person or team to work on future Forest Farm stories.

The final published story of Saving Forest Farm.

In conclusion, this was simply a fun project with personal meaning.  I might have had a rough start to my journey with some drought, suffering, but I had to be brave, persistent, and look in the right direction to see the rain coming.  This story may have seemed simple at the time but it has helped me develop into the person that I am today.  If I had given up, I would not have made some wonderful friends, meet my beautiful wife, had my wonderful children, earned my college degrees, work in my current profession.  There will always be struggles and times of drought but the work to get to the rain is so worth it.

May you be as blessed as I have and thank you for your support!


Jack Purser