On Labor Day Weekend: A Labor of Love

I was recently in Mendocino—not recently enough, now I think about it. While there I connected with the coast’s wonderful writing community, including the amazing Katy Pye.

Katy is a tremendously hard-working author and self-publisher, and an active conservationist. Her book Elizabeth’s Landing enwraps us in the story of a young girl finding her own power, and highlights the plight of sea turtles. It won the First Place for Fiction, 2013, in the Writers’ Digest Self-Published E-Book Awards.

To celebrate the Labor Day Weekend, here is my interview with Katy about her labor of love.

One note about my choice of music. Unfortunately, what you mostly hear is “I don’t know you but I want you…” which I’m sure spooked Katy out. But the lyrics that made this the song for Katy (and which were subsequently pulled under in the edit so that we could hear her speak—editing is not yet a strong suit, but watch this space) were:

Take this sinking boat and point it home
We’ve still got time
Raise your hopeful voice you have a choice
You’ve made it now

Falling slowly sing your melody
I’ll sing along

So that’s why I’m posting about Katy. I’m singing along. I’m all for books that serve a cause—I’ve even set up a new imprint, Gosling Press, which will soon be bringing out books that serve various causes. So yay for causes, and yay for labors of love, and yay for labor in the service of causes!

But I have another reason to be nice to Katy.
She makes the BEST lemon cheesecake EVER!

Shirin Yim Bridges

Decisions, decisions: Self-publishing a children’s book

I was recently asked to write a 500-word guest blog for BiblioCrunch, the self-publishing resources website, on “The Basics of Putting Together a Self-Published Children’s Book.” That’s a lot of information to get into 500 words. I thought the only possible way would be to delineate a decision tree. But even that didn’t work. (I like to think because I’m informative, and not because I’m wordy.) So I decided to post the full-blown version here where I have no restraints on length, and write BiblioCrunch a précis that will link here for full information. How clever is that?

So, if you are wondering what you’d have to do to self-publish a children’s book, here are the decisions, step-by-step:

1. Are you talking about a picture book or about a chapter book or novel? Mostly pictures go to 5 below. Mostly text, keep reading.

a) Do you want to be your own publisher, so that you can call all the shots, knowing that you probably will not get the exposure that a larger publisher can deliver, or is your secret hope that a successful self-published start will leapfrog you over the slush pile and end in a big-publisher contract?

Self-publishers, go to 2. Would love a traditional publishing contract eventually, keep reading.

Continue reading


What happened to the and in fame and fortune?

This week, I was on the cover of Publishers Weekly. (Their lack of punctuation, not mine.) The whole industry buzzes about the importance of a writer’s platform. Being on the cover of PW should add a big plank to one of those, surely? Book sales should soar. Telephones should ring. Fortune should follow fame. Did it? Well, no.

I’m in the unusual position, being also a publisher, of being able to track my book sales. Most authors go out into the world and line up their store readings, and their school visits, their advertising and promotion (if they’re rich), and their pubic relations and media coverage (if they’re lucky), and have no way of telling what’s making the blindest bit of difference. I, on the other hand, can log into my distributor’s amazing database and see, in real time, how many copies of each title were ordered and shipped, by whom, and exactly when.

So, I’m sorry to have to report that I have found no direct correlation between being on the cover of Publishers Weekly and the following week’s book sales. Similarly no correlation between being on NPR and book sales. Or in the San Francisco Chronicle and book sales. Or being well reviewed and book sales. Or winning awards and book sales.

What I have found, though, is that my brand image has changed. I’ve received an increasing number of invitations to read, and to speak, and to teach. When I take up those invitations, I find that more and more people know of Goosebottom Books, and they have a very gratifying perception of our success. Opportunities that I once had to chase now come my way—being on the cover of PW not least among them. And the phone does ring. Every week more people seek out and are willing to pay for my help as a self-publishing consultant and children’s book editor.

So maybe fortune will follow fame? Maybe it’s just a long and, like the here in “hhhhhere’s Johnny!”?

I like to think of it as skipping a stone across a pond (something I’m horrendous at, by the way). Just because your stone’s not across the pond yet doesn’t mean it isn’t in the middle of a skip that’s necessary to get it there. Just because each plank hasn’t seemed to make much difference doesn’t mean they won’t eventually hammer up into a stage.

And if not—because let’s face it, the reality could be not—if not, then well, better fame and no fortune than no fame and no fortune, right?

Enjoy the writing life. As grandpa said in my book, Ruby’s Wish: enjoy it while you can.

Shirin Yim Bridges




When what you’re looking for finds you.

One cold Melbourne morning, Kathryn Otoshi and I went location scouting for her coming book, Peter Dobb and the Wondrous Pod. Specifically, we were looking for Sir Wanderoy’s house cum book store. This is what we found…

Sometimes, life works like that. You have an idea of what you’re looking for, but you haven’t had time to really think about it. And then, the universe puts it in your path.  You realize the gift is exactly what you had in mind, down to unarticulated details.

The writing life is full of moments like these. Your character steps out of a book that you haven’t written yet and greets you in an antique shop. Your opening sentence floats to you on the wind, and you realize whatever it’s opening is already nascent within. You turn the corner, and that house in your head materializes as an old post office in Melbourne.

Here’s to the writing life—and to more gifts from the universe!

Shirin Yim Bridges