From time to time, Archway Publishing turns over its blog to its authors, giving them the opportunity to share stories and perspectives about their individual self-publishing journeys. The following are the words of Jan Gimlin, author of “The Adventures of Franz and Jethro: Ants in the Pants”. Download the Archway Publishing free publishing guide for more information on our supported self-publishing services.
My storytelling days began with my own two children. I read a lot of stories too, but their favorites seemed to be the stories I just made up for them. They used to beg me to make up stories, the wilder and crazier the better. They were the perfect captive audience!
Anyway, I love animals, and especially love how different their personalities can be, much like humans. So, with our two dogs, I always make up sayings/words based on what I THINK they would say if they could talk. My husband and I would tell our black lab (Jethro) that he had ants in his pants, because from the time we got him (adopted at about 5 months) he’d have a crazy burst of energy (OFTEN) and be ready to play fetch or catch; then just fizzle out.
So one day the story just came to me and I wrote it down on the computer. That was last summer. On a whim, I emailed the story to my daughter and asked for her impressions. She loved the story and told me I should try to get it published.
Next, I went to the library and checked out about a dozen children’s books, read them, and wrote down the publishers names. Then I researched the publishers of the books I liked best, looking for the self-publishing branch of each. I thought Archway sounded reasonable, contacted them and someone called me back.
Now, discussions began with my publishing consultant about the direction of my book. I had to make a decision: how to illustrate it. I am an artist, mostly a painter, but NOT a cartoonist. As a creative person, I kept thinking there must be something that I could do myself. So the consultant asked me if I’d thought about collage, or something else. Over the course of a weekend I decided to do a drawing, a collage, and a model magic figurine; then attached pictures of all three in an email to the consultant. This consultant was intrigued by the model magic figurine because he could think of no other children’s book on the market with this type of illustration for its characters. I liked the sound of having a unique book, bought more colors of model magic and began to create the characters in various poses.
As an art teacher my favorite modeling compound for elementary students was Model Magic, a crayola product, and I LOVED creating dogs or other animals with them. But with this product or even clay, one problem I had was creating a large dog with stick-thin legs. The weight of the main body collapsed the legs! So I had to create a “skeleton” for the walking poses with the black lab. For the dachshund, I just made squattier legs and left it at that. But I had to show the difference in proportion between the two dogs (100 lbs. vs. 12 lbs.), and realized it would just look weird for the lab to have thick squatty legs! So, my husband helped me make the skeleton out of wire and hot glue, which I then covered with pieces of model magic.
Next, the publishing consultant gave me the idea of a diorama for the background. After googling “diorama”, I came up with a few ideas. I used foam core as a base, and for the indoor scene I covered it with two types of shelf paper. For the outdoor scene, I used three different types of textured mediums that I use in painting: coarse pumice gel for the ant bed, coarse modeling paste to simulate sandy red dirt, and fiber paste to simulate grass. Then I painted over all of these. The outdoor background was painted on a 11×14 canvas board. The bushes were clumps of reindeer moss. The furniture and plant for the indoor scene were dollhouse furniture.
Next, my publishing consultant told me that the picture resolution had to be at least 300 DPI, so I tried taking pictures with my cellphone but when he checked the resolution, he said the pictures were blurry and just wouldn’t work. I already had a tripod, so used it along with our digital camera to take all my pictures.
Then when the story and pictures were finalized, I was transferred to a check-in coordinator, where my patience with technology was tested time after time! Next came the design team, where the cover and interior were planned. After several revisions with the layout, my project was done!
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