My Backyard of Bugs: A Guest Post by Kaity Joy
Using Your Resources
The reason I decided to create the blog was not only to share my first ever publication, Princess Gabriella and the Never-Ending Kiss, but to share how easy it can be for one to self-publish.
Guest posts are also one of the many reasons I love having the blog, as reading about other author's experiences with self-publishing can inspire others to begin their own journey of writing.
Today's guest post, by Kaity Joy, really goes to show how using the available resources can lead to some amazing projects.
Let's see what she has to say!
My Backyard of Bugs
By Kaity Joy
For as long as I can remember, I have always loved art. When I was 6, I would take tiny stickers and place them on a sheet of paper, then draw a larger image copying the sticker. I was able to copy them really well, and it was then I realized I may have a natural talent. I was fortunate to have an art program in my elementary school, and I took every art class possible through high school, from sculpture to pottery and mixed media. I have saved almost all of the art pieces I have created over the years, including old sketchbooks, and they are some of my favorite things.
In addition to art, I have always loved reading and writing. As a child, there wasn't a Nancy Drew or Goosebumps book that I hadn't read. My favorite book was The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle, by Avi. I've read the book at least 5 times, even once as an adult. Now, psychological thrillers are my go-to, with some of my favorite authors being Alice Feeney and Tana French. When I was in 4th grade, I had written and illustrated a book I colored and stapled together called, “The Adventures of Malaya.” I did it just for fun, but my teacher saw me working on it one day and encouraged me to never give up on my artistic passions. I think it was then I realized I wanted to write a real book one day. I think a knack for creativity and a love of reading and writing go hand in hand.
I briefly attended a community college with the intention to become an elementary art teacher, but I was scared away from the career as many people told me it would be difficult to find a job. I was afraid to study art with the intention to freelance, and I didn’t think I would enjoy digital design because I was so used to fine arts and creating with my hands. I felt lost and couldn't settle on what I wanted to study. I only completed a few semesters of college and never graduated. I went straight into the working world, and I've now been working full time since I was about 19 years old. I don’t think it’s the way I thought my entry into adulthood would go, but life is rarely a straight or easy path from point A to B. Little did I know I would find my own way to learning how to digitally design, but it would take many years, and my own winding path to get there.
Now over a decade later, I am married and have a beautiful son who was born in June of 2019. I started reading books to him when he was only 3 months old, and we now read at least one book every single day. It has been a great joy of mine to see my son’s love of books grow as he grows.
Sadly, I stopped making art almost completely aside from the occasional craft or homemade gift for family. Life just gets busy when you work full time, have a house to maintain and a child to care for. But I could feel a creative void was growing that needed to be filled.
And then something happened that none of us could have been prepared for. In March of 2020, Covid hit, and the world was thrown into chaos.
I was searching for something to calm my mind; a creative outlet that could give me something productive to do and help me escape the fear of what felt like an impending apocalypse. I literally googled free design applications. I happened upon a website called Canva and instantly fell in love.
Canva is a design application that can be compared to Adobe Publisher with aspects of Photoshop. It’s very user friendly, and I am completely self-taught. There are endless design elements that are submitted by other artists. With a paid subscription to Canva, you can use the design elements for commercial use. Any image or item you can think of can be searched on Canva and you will likely find an illustration of some sort, even down to shadows. I know many might think it’s “cheating” by using premade artwork, but it does take some creative talent to piece together different art elements, often that are completely abstract, to create a cohesive piece.
I practiced in Canva designing pieces of art, logos, and even daily planner pages just for fun, and I was starting to fill that creative void that had been there for so long.
Almost two years later, a video came up in my YouTube feed on how to design a journal in Canva and sell it through something called KDP on Amazon. KDP stands for Kindle Direct Publishing. Amazon offers the option to self-publish anything from low content books, like journals with blank pages, to novels. You create and upload the files, Amazon handles the printing and distribution, and then you receive a royalty for purchases. I had no idea that this existed, but it fell into my lap completely unexpectedly, and I am so beyond grateful that it did.
At that time, my son was really into bugs. He had little plastic bug toys that he would play with and pretend to catch. I was at work one day, and someone I was emailing with had a butterfly in their email signature. Out of nowhere, a line popped in my head: “Sometimes I see butterflies flying through the air, or little bees buzzing by with all their stripy flair.” I quickly jotted it down on a post-it note and stuck it in my purse. It occurred to me I could use what I had learned about KDP and Canva to create a children’s book for my son! Over the course of the next few days, lines like this would come to me, and I became more and more excited at the prospect of not only writing but illustrating and publishing a real book.
When I finally sat down to write the story, it came to me very quickly. The writing was truly the easiest part for me. I played around with a few different rhymes, but I wrote the book in one sitting. It’s not very long, but fits well for an easy-to-read children’s book, and My Backyard of Bugs was born.
There has been an incredible learning curve in writing, designing, formatting, illustrating and self-publishing my own books. Most authors go through multiple avenues to pay editors, publishers, illustrators, etc. to do all the above for them on the most professional level.
I used YouTube as my main resource to learn how to use Canva specifically to format books for KDP. In this day of technology, you can truly teach yourself just about anything using YouTube, Google, and a little practice and perseverance. I didn’t have any extra funds to invest in seeking out professional help, so I just had to figure it out on my own along the way. The only money I’ve spent making my books is on my Canva subscription.
Before sitting down to illustrate, I did a lot of research. I googled proper book formats. Most books have a copyright page, a title page, and sometimes a half-title page. I studied how back covers are designed to catch a potential reader's attention. I had to learn the proper terminology to use for copyright. There are a minimum number of pages required to publish a paperback book through KDP, so this must be taken into consideration as well to be sure the story you have will be able to fill enough pages for it to even be published. I also sat down and flipped through many of my son’s books to get inspiration for illustration and typography styles that I liked. Some books use the text almost as part of the illustrations, and I decided I wanted the text to be large and colorful for mine.
I was able to format the document for my book in Canva and started illustrating. Because I wasn’t personally drawing the illustrations, making the book look professionally illustrated was incredibly important to me. I realized it’s all about layers to create dimension. Finding a sky background, grass, plants, and placing them all individually on the page to look like one illustration is a lot trickier than it sounds; it could very easily look quickly made or cheaply thrown together with illustrations that don’t match. I spent so much time searching various backgrounds and illustrations until I landed on a watercolor theme that I really loved. In total, it took me almost 4 months to illustrate the book. I have learned so much since publishing My Backyard of Bugs. I have now published 5 books, and each one is a bit more advanced with the illustrations. My most recent book took over a year to finish as I really took my time and tinkered with image placement to get it just right. At the time, I was SO excited just to get my first book published that I definitely rushed the process a little bit. But it was my first book and I had to learn somehow. I have no regrets and I adore the book just the way it is, even if it would probably look completely different if I illustrated it today with the practice that I’ve had.
I submitted the interior manuscript and cover files to KDP, and it was approved! The entire process for submitting to KDP is also very user friendly. You create an Amazon KDP account, and they have a system that walks you through various steps to create your book, even providing free ISBNs. I ordered an author copy and couldn’t wait to receive it in the mail. But I had made a rookie mistake by not having someone proofread. When you know your own story and you’ve read it hundreds of times, it’s so easy to overlook errors. I had one single grammar error, so I had to edit and resubmit the book to be re-published. I will never create another book without having it proofread! That was a big lesson learned.
My Backyard of Bugs is a simple rhyming story that covers some of the cool bugs you might find in your very own backyard. It also covers learning topics like colors and shapes. I purposely made the text large and colorful to be not only easy to read but eye catching even for the littlest ones. I love the way it turned out and I am still in awe that my childhood dream of writing a book one day came true. It was such a cool experience to sit down and read it with my son and see him so excited to point out all of the bugs.
I feel I still have so much to learn when it comes to creating my own books from start to finish, but I am loving the journey, and I intend to publish many more books over the coming years.
I have very little free time to dedicate to marketing my books, but I try when I can. I run a Facebook page and set up a website. One of the main downsides to self-publishing through KDP is the sheer number of books available for purchase. Hundreds of thousands of books! And the odds of getting your book to appear in even the first 10 pages of a search on Amazon are slim. But to be honest, I didn’t write the book expecting to become a famous author overnight, or an instant best seller. I am proud to say that I’ve accomplished something I never really thought I’d be capable of. For now, I share on social media when I can, and have left some of my books in local little free libraries in hopes someone will love them and want to share. Getting the word out there is the slowest and hardest part, but I’m not giving up.
If you’d like to check out My Backyard of Bugs, as well as the other books I have published, you can view my Author page on Amazon.
You can also check out my website or give a follow on Facebook, if you’d like, @joyfulbooksbykaity.
If you happen to read any of my books, I hope you love them as much as I do.
Guest Post Wrap Up
If you loved Kaity's post as much as I did, go show her some love! Self-publishing completely free isn't for everyone but if you have the time and dedication, you can become a self-published author in a matter of months.
Kaity hit on some crucial points about Canva, KPD, and Youtube as resources that if you would like to learn more about can be found on the blog.
You can also check out some of the latest guest posts including self-publishing authors Christine Skippins or Teresa Davis. If you would like to be featured on the blog, please feel free to reach out at email@example.com.