As a dedicated reader, I often and consistently tell myself that I could probably publish a book. Then I actually sit down to write and don't get past the first 300 words and stop. Even when I do finish my novel, there is still a lengthy list of challenges involved to actually see my work printed and bound. Especially since my least favorite thing in the world is to re-read what I have written.
I was lucky enough to be put in contact with author Leslie Redden, who has published two kids books, The Wooded King and Kingdom Forgotten, and has experienced the challenges and rewards of self publishing.
TBC (The Book Carousel): When did you realize you were destined to be a story teller?
LR (Leslie Redden): As I have been writing now for a few years I realize I grew up listening to my Dad make up stories, and I think somewhere along the line his gift seeped into my brain. I remember getting in trouble in school for telling stories and having to learn just because I dreamed something doesn’t mean everyone wants to know about it or that it is real. Sometimes my Mom would ask me, “Now is this a real story or an imagined story.”
So I guess I started telling stories at a young age, and it kind of faded until 2008 when I had a dream that I couldn’t forget. Somewhere along my life path I had forgotten that I could tell a story because I had such a hard time with spelling, until I wrote the first few pages of the The Wooded King and had my husband read them. He said he was hooked and wanted to know what was going to happen. The dream stirred the creativity in me that had been sleeping until I couldn’t contain it any longer and had to share the dream/story with everyone else. Now that I have written a couple books my mind is always thinking of new stories. I love to scribble down ideas from everyday life that would work great in a new book. I can’t stop writing. It is fun to see what is in my head come to life on paper.
TBC: What was your inspiration for The Wooded King and Kingdom Forgotten?
LR: The Wooded King came to me in a dream and I have always felt that it was God that prompted me to follow through with not just thinking about my dream but actually putting it on paper. My dream started off with a boy and a girl falling through some bushes at a bank of a creek. When they looked up they saw a creek with a mysterious kingly looking man standing in it who had a scar across his eye (you find that in the first book). That really was my entire dream. Six months later I finally just sat down and started writing what I thought was just a silly little dream that I could not forget. Then I kept writing and writing and writing until I finished my book. It took me six months to sit down and write it out because I knew I had a hard time with spelling and correct uses of tenses, so why bother writing? Super glad I bothered. ☺ I learned that editors are some of my favorite people through this process. ☺
My second book was more difficult as I didn’t have a dream for inspiration. I would say the inspiration for Kingdom Forgotten came from those around me, so many of the people who read The Wooded King wanted to know the rest of the story. It didn’t even cross my mind to make a sequel but I too wanted to know what happened to these characters I had written into existence so once again I began writing.
I would also like to add that J.R.R Tolkien and C.S Lewis are my favorite authors, and their writing style and stories inspired me to craft my books similar to theirs.
TBC: Who were your biggest supporters during your writing process?
LR: My biggest supporter would have to be my husband. He was the first one to read what I wrote and encouraged me to submit to a publishing company he had found through a blog. Without his gentle words of encouragement that I am capable of telling great stories I would not be writing the answers to your questions today. I also had support from my parents, my sister Abby, and many friends from all over, not only through encouraging words but many people gave money to me to make my publishing dream possible. Without the gifts of money, raising money on my own would have taken much longer. To all who supported me with kind words, helpful advice and money even when money was tight for them I am forever grateful. Because of you and the dream God gave me these books were made possible for others to enjoy.
TBC: What were some of the challenges you experienced in writing your first book?
LR: I would say my first challenge would have been overcoming the price. It cost $1,149 for my first book through a small publishing company that is no longer open. It is a humbling experience to ask for help raising money for something you want to do knowing that is not something you need to do.
Another challenge often became finding the time to write after signing the contract with the publisher. I felt an added pressure between work and everyday life to get the book done quickly, which then produced a very non-creative brain.
Sometimes too with my first book I would write and think what happens after I finish this? Will the publisher continue to work with me and give me my royalties when they are due, or will this be a company that takes my book and steals it? So I wrestled with doubt a little bit at times and then I would think God wouldn’t give me a dream and connect me with a publisher so quickly if he didn’t want me to share this story.
My other struggle was and still is sometimes is what I think many others go through, is my book good enough? What is another book on the shelf with hundreds of others? I still have those thoughts sometimes and my answer now is nobody can tell my story the way I tell it, so my one book is going to be different than the next because I am uniquely me.
TBC: In publishing through smaller companies, what are some warning signs to look out for to retain your rights as an author?
LR: I didn’t really understand giving my rights to a publisher until I wanted to share my book on social media. The publisher wouldn’t allow it and I had to abide by that because I had signed a contract. I would recommend that no matter what publishers you use, have another set of eyes read through the contract with you. If you don’t like something, risk losing a publishing deal to correct what you don’t like. There are always other publishing companies or other publishing avenues.
When the communication started to get spotty and my phone interview seemed very unprofessional, I should have known that something was up. After I signed the contract things went smoothly until it came time for me to get my books in November of 2011 for my first book signing. I ordered 100 copies and they told me it was very rare for a first time author to sell that many. (I did and have continued to sell out of them when I sell them here in town through me). They sent me my first proof the week I needed to place my order for my 100 books to make my book signing happen, then they had delayed for up to a month blaming one thing or another on why the proof was taking so long to get to me. I had revised one proof on-line but I had to revise the final proof physically that is the way they did it. I had one day to proof it when my book finally arrived, my heart sank. I didn’t know if I should cry or who to tell, but I read the first page and my characters name Ida had been changed to Idea not only on that page but through-out the entire book. I called them immediately told them in a stern manner what I had found and they said they would correct it right then but they needed to place the order immediately to get me the 100 books. Needless to say because of their lack of doing things on time errors were missed. I did have a successful book signing after that and people loved my book regardless of the errors.
The company closed their doors seven months later telling me through an e-mail while I was on vacation. I had to write them a certified letter to even get my royalties during those seven months and it took several months to get the rights to my book. They had put my book on Amazon.com for sale so I contacted Amazon without knowing what else to do and told them my story. Amazon responded quickly and told me of a company they had called www.createspace.com for publishing books. They not only assisted me in republishing my first book, but I had such a great experience with them that I ended up publishing my second book through them as well.
TBC: What format would you recommend for self publishing?
LR: If you are going to self publish I would have to say www.createspace.com is the place to go. They have different levels of publishing based on your needs and type of book you want to write. Everything is laid out up front, the price, and what is included in the price. It is a great way to publish and I am surprised more people don’t know about it. I love having control over my book, seeing the monthly royalty report, what area of the world is buying it and being able to track how many books I have ordered and sold. I will say that even though www.createspace.com has a good marketing package, going through a well known publishing company would give you greater recognition. That is the biggest benefit I can see in going through a publishing company.
TBC: What has been the most rewarding part of having your work published?
LR: Recently one of my husband’s co-workers shared that when he and his family were camping his grade school daughter shared a story around the campfire. He said they were all intrigued and the story she was sharing was The Wooded King. She loved it so much she shared it around a campfire with her family. That warms my heart, and this book was written for that age group, so it is just added confirmation that I wrote it right.
Also being able to go into one of the local elementary schools and not only read part of my book and sign it for them, but to talk to them about overcoming obstacles in learning to achieve something they may want to do like writing was super rewarding. Being asked questions like, “So if you are going to make a movie will it be R or PG?” or “How did you think up all of those names?” made me realize children are some of the best and honest audience members. I have had people even bring their children into my workplace for me to sign their book and even take a picture with them. Something I never thought would happen and I love it!
I love how writing has opened the doors of opportunity to speak into not only children’s lives but adults to encourage them in their writing ability. That feeling I get when somebody asks me when the third book is coming or somebody who has written something wants me to read it makes me smile and confident I did the right thing in publishing my books.
TBC: What would you say to fellow aspiring authors who have a story to tell but have difficulties in actually getting the right words on paper?
LR: First of all you need to believe in yourself that your story is worth telling. For me that had to be the biggest obstacle. After that start writing without editing what you are doing. If you stop to edit you are going to lose your train of thought and progress will be much slower. Write as much as you can and when you are done with that session read over what you wrote and change anything that needs corrected. I like to write an entire chapter before doing that. I would also say if you want to write a book, look at your week and figure out what days and time work best for you, then set aside that time. Don’t be afraid to tell people you can’t go to something because you are writing. You may get funny looks, but trust me it is worth it if means in the end you are going to publish a book. If finding time seems too big of a task, start off with a day for only half an hour and work your way to more days and time from there.
I also start writing my books in a fun notebook with a pretty pen there is something about that combo that gets my creativity really moving. Then after a few pages I will move to my computer and type the rest. I bounce back between the two. Remember not to check anything on the internet (like Facebook or Pinterest☺) if you are going to write. Your purpose is to only type out your book.
Once last little tidbit I would like to add is if you start writing and get stuck with what part to write next, look around you for inspiration. For example: the inspiration for my evil characters in my book came from unhappy costumers of mine at an old job. Or my character Ethel; her looks and hair were inspired by a friend of mine who I think has the most gorgeous hair. Also my dog Cash inspired the character Seafra as he would circle the perfect spot to lay down. I thought a dog would fit perfectly in this book. Look around, your life is full of plenty of circumstances and individuals that would fit perfectly into a book you just need to pay attention
TBC: What other projects are you working on?
LR: At the moment I am working on two different books and possibly a third now that fall is here I feel like writing again. One is a time travel type of book with a character who is similar to Sheldon on The Big Bang Theory.
The other I started in May of this year while on vacation on the coast of WA near where The Twilight Saga was filmed. There is something about that area of the world with the grey sky and misty sea that just lulls you into a writing state. That story is more of a mystery/love story taking place on the WA coast, where else?☺
The third project I am undecided on if I will pursue, it would be the 3rd book in my Destiny series. Many people have asked for a third and I am seriously considering it because I know what is like to read a story and want more. But at the moment I am having fun exploring new characters and places in my other two projects. There is something in me that doesn’t want to write a third because that is what everyone does. I want to write a third book and call it book 3 ½ guess I am funny like that. I will say that I have plenty of ideas coming in from children and adults alike on what should happen next in my series, so that right there encourages me to write another. I can’t really say for sure that I will, but I am still thinking about it.
TBC: What is the best way to purchase your books?
LR: The best way to purchase my book is through www.amazon.com they are both in paperback and kindle versions. Also I try to keep a small surplus with me personally so I love it when people in town contact me and I can sell my books personally to people and sign them.
TBC: Are you on Social Media?
LR: I am on Facebook at Leslie Redden-Author Page or www.facebook.com/bigbookidea. I am also on Pinterest under Leslie Redden Author Page. I love posting helpful tips I find about anything book related. I also have a blog at www.bigbookidea.com that I try to write more in depth posts than my Facebook page.
LR: I would like to add that when you have a thought you think would be perfect for your book write it down right then don’t wait those thoughts slip away so easily. Also I love hearing from my readers on Facebook not just through the like button but the comments, it is encouraging to know people are reading the things I am posting.
Life will be busy most of the time but if you desire to write you will find the time to make it happen. I decided when I started this process that I would write to have fun when my time allowed and not worry about making money from my books. Do I hope one day to make lots of money doing this…of course I think every writer does but I didn’t purpose to do that I purposed to share my story with others first and if someday I make lots of dollars off of my books, well I will be super happy that so many people are enjoying my stories.
If you know any authors that are interested in being featured on The Book Carousel, send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Side note: November is National Novel Writing Month and to celebrate, I want to hear your short stories! If you've always wanted to write a story or if you have a file full of them, send me your writing and I'll post it here at the end of November. Email your story to email@example.com.