Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Skies Proclaim...Snowflakes

Despite the pressing onset of spring, winter is still in the air. With the coldest winter in California I can remember, I have had the privilege of skiing six days so far this season. Every Friday my brother and various friends have a standing appointment to get up the mountain and swish down those glorious slopes until near exhaustion we quit before somebody gets hurt.

On March 6th the temperature was in the 20s and we were bundled up for the day.  After an epic day of skiing in perfect powder (a very rare treat in California), we headed up the chair for our last run down. And it started to snow.

The snow drifted softly down. When suddenly there on my lap a snowflake landed...perfectly formed!

"Look at the snowflake!" I screamed like a little kid.

It was so amazing to see such a beautiful sight. I don't remember when I last saw a formed snowflake in California.  Snow usually comes down in clumps--never revealing the beautiful snowflakes that comprise the clump.

It was a reminder of how awesome and mighty our God is.  Indeed the skies do proclaim the work of his hands (Psalm 19:1).

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Interview with Children's Author Nicole O'Meara

Meet Nicole O'Meara self-published author of the children's book Talking with God: A Child's Prayer Journal. Her debut book for children ages 5 to 10-years-old takes the child and parent on a journey together as they learn the spiritual discipline of prayer.

Nicole enjoys getting outdoors with her husband and son in the beautiful Sierra foothills near their Northern California home. She is actively involved in Bible Study Fellowship and gets excited when people become aware of God's active role in their lives.

I've known Nicole, Chris and their son Josh for many years through our church. After a few years relocated to the East Coast, Nicole and family returned to California when I learned of her journey into writing for children and choosing the road of self-publishing.

Tell us about your book and why you decided to write it.
When my son was six years old, I had a strong desire to teach him to pray on his own. At the same time, I was using a prayer journal written by a friend that brought clarity to my own prayer life. I thought this is what I want Joshua to learn. As I prayed about it, I clearly heard God tell me to write a prayer journal for Joshua. I fought God on it for a few weeks and finally, through scripture and through friends, I gave in to his direction. I wrote the journal for Joshua and he did learn to pray on his own. It was the most fun thing to watch! At the request of friends, I decided to publish the journal so others could use it to teach their children how to pray, just as I did.
Why did you decide to self-publish and how long did the process take?
I knew very little about the publishing world, but God gave me friends to help along the way. One friend, I mentioned earlier, had written a prayer journal for women. She explained to me the process of meeting publishers and getting published. I prayed about it and even had some opportunities to go that route but felt that this was not the route for me at the time. I called a few printers and was very overwhelmed with the details involved in just the printing process. I almost gave up. But I had another friend who works for, a self-publishing website. (Funny coincidence, don't you think?) I checked out Lulu and was impressed by their support for authors. My husband and I prayed about it and decided this was the route for me to take.

The process could have taken as long as I wanted to give it. I gave myself a budget and a deadline for each step. I found and hired an amazing illustrator and found myself in the position of giving her deadlines too. So, in a sense, I was author, publisher, and project manager of my book. From the day I made the first prototype for Joshua to the day I held my book in my hand, about six months elapsed.

The process isn't over. I have plans for revisions to my book and plans for another book. I just keep the process going. New budget. New deadlines.
What do you do to promote your book?
Not as much as I should.  I talk about it with friends.  I made a list of every person I know who I thought would want to know about the book and I emailed them.  Some of them had friends who had know how it goes.  I gave away several copies to people of influence.  I talked with a few bookstore managers.  I spoke at clubs and taught moms how to teach their children to use the book.  I talked with children's ministry leaders.  I also made a website.  The website needs the touch of a professional, but that's part of phase two in the process (see above).
Tell us about the experience of self-publishing (e.g., costs, pitfalls, benefits) and would you self-publish again?
Self-publishing was a big learning experience.  But it was a good experience.

The thing I liked most about self-publishing was that the finished product was completely my own.  I was the one who picked the illustrator and decided which artwork would be put in the book.  (I've been told that if I was picked up by a publisher, they would decide on the layout artists and the illustrators.)  I was able to choose what colors were used, which fonts, how many pages were in the book, etc.  I was able to change little things, or not!

The thing I liked least about self-publishing was that the finished product was completely my own.  If I didn't know how to make the layout look a certain way, I had to learn how or it didn't happen.  I had to find my own editors and then decide if I would listen to them.  I didn't make some changes that perhaps I should have.

The cost of self-publishing was significant.  I had to buy some new software tools before I sold even one book.  I had to pay the illustrator up front, before I sold even one book.  I had to pay for the books to be printed before I sold even one book.  I know that if I had been picked up by a publisher I would not have had to pay any of these costs.  

The cost of self-publishing is completely relative to the number of pages, color vs. black and white, the type of binding, and the number of books I bought. Plus, I paid an illustrator. All of my upfront expenses totaled about $2500.

Would I self-publish again? Maybe.  The limits (mostly, I'm thinking of my limited skills here) are annoying.  There are a few changes I'd like to make to the book that I don't think I can do if I continue to use  Frankly, I'm not sure how to make those changes.  I realize that a publisher would know how and could handle it for me.  That, in itself, might be the reason I choose not to self-publish next time.
Has any editor/publisher contacted you to sign your book to a contract?
What will you do differently in your next book?
I wish I had asked my illustrator to proof the book before I placed the bulk order.  Lulu recommends that you buy just one copy and look over it carefully before you place your bulk order.  I did that and found a few mistakes.  I was grateful for their advice.  I made corrections then placed my bulk order.  When I sent a few copies to my illustrator she noticed that the artwork didn't print the way she had pictured it in her mind's eye.  Had I given her a copy to preview, like I did for myself, I could have made corrections to the artwork before I placed the bulk order.  I won't make that mistake again.
What do you see writing in the future?
I have plans (dreams) for the next prayer journal.  The next one will be for older children, teens, or anyone else who has learned the basics of prayer and wants to move on to a less structured prayer journal.
Any words of wisdom you can pass on about writing for children?
Have children read your book when you think you are done (but before you send it to the publisher.) Children read differently than adults.  They take words and phrases more literally. They stop reading when they are unsure of a word.  Adults don't do that so it's hard for us to spot our trouble areas.  I gave my prototype to ten different kids of different ages.  It was amazing what they stumbled on and questioned.  It was useful information for me as I made corrections and revisions.  
Thanks for sharing about your experience and your thoughts, Nicole. We wish you success in your book and future books.  If you are interested in Nicole's book, you can visit her book website at


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