Updated: Feb 8
Welcome to our latest Author Success Story!
We are loving hearing about each author's unique journey to success, and hope you are too!
Meet Jessica Collaço:
Jessica has been self-publishing since 2014. She has published 5 titles (Firenze and Friends series, And So Much More, Apple’s Big Dream) and most recently finished work on a musical animated pilot version of her book “Firenze’s Light.”
AHA: Hi Jessica! So what inspired you to become an author?
Jessica: I needed a way to stay creative while I raised my kids. Pre-parenthood, I was a musical theatre actor, so writing gave me an outlet to be creative while I was immersed in parenting.
AHA: Creativity is so important! Was there a particular reason you chose to self-publish instead of pursue traditional publishing?
Jessica: After researching the traditional process, I gathered that traditional publishing was essentially selling an idea to a publisher that they would then take and create a book around. I had a complete vision for my first book, so I wanted more creative control of what the illustrations would look like, and where the page turns came.
AHA: What is your background/experience in writing, if any?
Jessica: I never really officially wrote much before books, besides the random poem or short scene for a show. My training in theatre prepared me to be a good storyteller and taught me how to analyze text, so I think those skills helped, but this was a leap of faith for me.
AHA: Well, it seems like that leap landed you in a pretty good place! But I'm sure it didn't happen overnight. How long did it take you to publish your first book?
Jessica: From concept to book-in-hands…around 4 years. I had the idea for the story when my first daughter was a toddler, around 2008. I wrote ideas down and stuck them in a drawer. I wrote the manuscript and submitted it to a couple of traditional publishers about 2 years later. I started researching self-publishing and talking to illustrators/printers shortly after. Once I did my Kickstarter in 2013, it took 9 months for the artwork and layout to be completed and another month or so to get the books from the printer.
AHA: A long process, but well worth it! Is there anything you wish you would have known before you started?
Jessica: Technically, how the printing process goes…I have published 3 hardcovers and still find the process of printing and color-correcting scary, even with the guidance of professionals.
Internally, reassurance that I am capable of more than I knew. Having more confidence in my abilities might have helped me have less self-doubt and a little less stress through the process of the unknown.
AHA: Speaking of the unknown...Has the publishing process been easier than you anticipated? Harder? In what ways?
Jessica: Both. I find it surprising how accessible it is to be just one person with access to the same printing facilities as mainstream publishers. It was easier than I thought to get my hardcovers manufactured at a reasonable cost. Parts of it like crowdfunding and creating an engaged audience feel increasingly difficult as the self-publishing market grows and more people use social media to raise money and awareness for other causes.
AHA: When you first started, how did you measure success? Has that benchmark changed?
Jessica: I was so impatient when I first started. I wanted to be good at everything immediately and expected to just come out of the gate blazing. It was 2014..I had three little kids, a garage full of books, and Google. I had no marketing skills. I didn’t have the online groups like I have now to get ideas and educate myself on how to troubleshoot (or even run) ads. I spent two years selling a few copies every month. And I thought I was failing massively. I finally started to honor my success a couple of years later when I found a Facebook group for Children’s Book Authors and learned about Amazon Ads. Then I started selling a couple of copies a day, and I finally felt like my books were getting out there.
Now, I have adopted a growth mindset. I have had a lot of ups and downs over the years I’ve been doing this. But I learned from my experience and try to honor where I am every day and know that just the effort of trying my best is enough.
AHA: If you could give one piece of advice to someone hoping to self-publish, what would it be?
Jessica: Technically—invest in great illustrations. Make a beautiful book. Think about your own experience as a young reader…what books transported you to another world, made you laugh, made you wonder? Don’t skimp on the details just to get something out there. Take the time and make the best version of the book you have envisioned.
I know you just said one…but I have to also suggest not using debt to fund your business. The publishing journey has been much more fun because I don’t lose sleep at night wondering if I’m going to sell enough books to pay off a credit card.
AHA: Wise words! Speaking of finances, how did you fund your first project?
Jessica: I raised $12,000 on Kickstarter to fund the illustrations and layout. I raised $7,000 outside of the Kickstarter to fund the first print run.
AHA: $7,000 of books is a lot to sell! What marketing strategies have been the most effective for you?
Jessica: Making a beautiful, professional-quality product is my #1 tool. It gets people to open emails, buy my next book, look at my social posts and keep my book on their shelves. Amazon Ads got my momentum rolling. Learning to verbally pitch my book and what problems it helps solve has made selling in person successful.
AHA: Anything else you'd like to share with authors who are just starting their self-publishing journey?
I want to take a moment to talk about bulk printing locally and running our businesses with consideration for the environment. It is usually assumed I print in the US because I want to keep jobs here, or something about the US economy. The piece most often overlooked is the impact on the environment. It’s important that the generation we serve and the Earth they will inherit is cared for. When I print close to home with an employee-owned company using mindful materials, it makes a difference to their future and the greater good. It is easy to get hung up on profit margins and how we can grow our business the fastest. Yes, our margins are very thin, but looking at the bigger picture, the cost of producing our products will only increase if we don’t mind our resources. In my opinion, It’s a win-win for all of us to invest in more mindfully produced products.
POD or offset print run?
Total Investment: (All amounts are rough estimates provided by the author and should not be considered 100% accurate or used as estimates for your own project. Do your own research!)
Illustrations and Layout (including cover/jacket): $9800
Printing: $53,467 (18,000 books over 5 print runs—I usually order 4000/run @ $11k)
Physical Proofs/Test Pages-$500
Total Number of Books Sold To Date:
approximately 14,000 hardbacks
Inspired by Jessica's story?
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