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Hi everyone welcome back to my channel. My name is angel, and today we are talking about my self-publishing journey for my very first children’s book. We are inspiring the stories of 32 inspirational asian american women.
In this video. I will be showing you how one i was inspired to create this book and the way that i was able to write it illustrate it and print it. Second, how i decided on a self-publisher and the cost of printing third, how i was able to distribute and sell my books and, lastly, the impacts this book has had on my life since i self-published it back in 2018.
A question that i typically get asked is: why did i make this book and who inspired me to come up with this idea? I had just finished an internship a summer internship where i was able to, for the first time be a kind of teacher of asian american studies.
This was through the asian pacific american leadership institute or apolly at dianza. I had like two weeks between then and going to ucla like packing up all my bags from the bay area moving down to socal, because i was constantly browsing around this chain of bookstores in the bay called recycled books.
I kept seeing these amazing feminist poc books. One in particular, is this one which is called little leaders, bold women in black history by vashti harrison. I was so floored seeing this book. I had to buy it and i went up to the bookstore clerk and i asked him like hey: do you have any books like this one except about asian americans, and he was like no nothing and i was like seriously nothing.
I was shocked. I was honestly so confused. Where is my children’s book about asian americans? Sometimes you would see those like feminist anthologies. You might see one asian woman, typically one who was deceased.
You’d, also find one or two asian americans. Maybe you’d, find myelin, who is an architect – and i was like great, but there are so many other asian american women. How is there not a book celebrating these amazing femmes accomplishments? It just shocked me that, despite the amount of asian american history that i’d, been learning and the contemporary folks, i knew were making an impact in the world right now.
I was like why hasn’t. Anyone made a children’s book about it, so i decided that i would um be the ones to do it, and i started off with a very short list. I thought maybe a good number to hit would be 20.
20 asian american women, and this was literally just the piece of paper that i was using to jot down notes. I wanted there to be a good combination of folks with different ethnicities, different occupational backgrounds.
I wanted to have some people early on in history, like the very first person is anime wong, going into some of the youngest people who are so inspiring to me, like ruby, obara yeah. I wanted there to be interracial folks inter-ethnic folks.
I wanted to include folks who, were you know, undocumented folks, who are activists comedians queer folks. I just really wanted this book to be everything that i would have you know hoped to see as a child growing up, so this was kind of like the children’s book that i’ve always wanted just a little note.
I recognize that my desire for an inclusive representation gets complicated by the book’s, title asian american women. I apologize for including folks who don’t identify as women as well as folks who are pacific islander and don’t identify as asian american.
But thank you so much for folks who have supported my work and thank you for learning. Alongside me, um and growing with me, thank you i wanted to talk about is how i created the book. So, as you saw, i was just jotting down on a piece of paper.
I think i was also using, like google docs to type out these bios. The initial bios and then i started doing my layouts on adobe illustrator, so in 20 i’ve, been using illustrator since college um. I do have a video about my freelance and digital art journey, which gives you a more in-depth story about how i was able to garner these skills.
So i do have skills in like graphic design, layouts like setting up page layouts and then kind of picking out the different colors and the different um kind of typography. And the illustrations were things i was.
I was able to learn and pick up from college, but i think if you are really creative and artistically minded, this easy to learn on places like youtube is where i was able to hone in a lot of my skills and looking at other design websites and Other creatives on, like behance, is a really great site for inspiration, um materials that i used.
So my laptop is this macbook that i’ve. Had since the end, like my senior year of college and before me, it belonged to my friend leo who’s korean, which is why it has korean keys and before that it belonged to his dad.
So this macbook is from 2010, but actually, when i was using it in 2017, it held up pretty well. So i was using adobe illustrator and this lancome tablet, which you basically attach to your computer via a usb and then when you draw it’s kind of disconnected um, but it is basically a touch cursor that you can use to help with illustrations.
I think it was like 150 – and i got this like this year of college or something on sale and it’s. Super beat up now, but this lasted for a long time and i think it’s. A good um starter tablet, though now i do prefer my ipad pro back then um.
This was like you know as good as it got one of my biggest art inspirations. Her name is katie quan of this asian american life. She actually prints through fedex, and so this is what her comic book looks like, and she did mention that it was pretty pricey to print through fedex, but i wanted to give it a shot just because i loved how her colors would turn out on this.
Really nice thick paper when i was printing through fedex, at least for these first rounds. I would kind of use a flimsy paper. I would just print in black and white just so i could figure out any typos and kind of figure out layout and whatnot also give copies out to some of my friends um.
You can even see some of her corrections here. If you are working on any project, just make sure you have a second pair of eyes make sure you have, since i was self-publishing friends who will be able to catch those small typos, and i definitely lent this copy to several friends who are able to edit Along the way and the layouts did change over time as well, so that is just what it looks like when it was being edited.
When i launched the kickstarter, i already had the book in this stage of production. So, as you can see before, i started printing with book baby, this was the most finished iteration that i sent and printed through fedex and obviously it’s, a lot smaller and a lot flimsier than the final product.
So this is printing. You know through fedex, just kind of stapling it on my own versus going through a self publisher that has a professional printing press. If you do print out a lot of books, it makes sense to go through a publisher that is able to do this kind of logistical, putting a book together, work for you, because that is something that i struggle to do on my own.
I know these first iterations are so funny, and so this is when i started my kickstarter, i was already at ucla. It was like the first year of my master’s program in asian american studies, and i was just putting i kept this book in my backpack with me all the time and i would just kind of show it to the grass students and be Like hey like what do you think of my book, would you be interested in supporting my kickstarter? I started the kickstarter thinking.
I was only going to make like 550 dollars which to me like sounded like so much money. I was like. Oh my god like. Can. I just get a few people to support my book, so here’s, how i set up my kickstarter so on kickstarter you have these different tiers, and so the first tier was pledge one dollar or more.
You get a social media, shout out a pledge of five dollars or more. You got an inspirational bookmark, and so i printed out these bookmarks on fedex that i thought would match the little book of eight dollars and more was an inspiring sticker set.
So i also turned some of the characters in the book into these stickers. These are what the sticker sets look like. I printed these off of stickery.com, and so i would kind of lay them out like this, and then i would just cut down.
So there would be three strips – and this was one of the sticker sets with yuri kochiyama gracely, boggs and helen zia, and the second sticker set has musicians so hayley kiyoko, rubio, barra and mitsky.
With every increase in pledge. You also get prizes that are in the lower tiers, so if you get the stickers, you also get the bookmark and the shout out stuff like that and then pledge of 12 or more is the.
We are inspiring book for students, so that was my student rate. So they’d, be able to donate at a cheaper rate. We are inspiring starter kit for students, so you get a book and a bookmark for only 15 and then the next layer was just for folks who are working folks.
Who can spend a bit more is the getting the book for 20. Then getting the book for 25 would be this package, but for you know, full fully employed adults and then after that was the we are inspiring fan kids.
So you get a book and the bookmark and the sticker and then the fan kit for the regular raid and then afterwards um you get the big fan kit. So you get this plus a sticker. Double fan kit. You get a set of these plus the stickers um times two and then the odang fan kit.
If it would be this set plus the stickers um times three. So it was kind of like as you if you wanted to buy in bulk for multiple friends to share these gifts, then that is the best. I also did a teacher’s kit.
Those didn’t really work out. I think it was just two too many books kind of weird, if, like you haven’t seen the book before and you order like too many, i think, since they’re, not really standardized for reading ages, um it didn’t really appeal, but the other packages were definitely a good hit, and in this spreadsheet i show you the prices of all of those um all of the sticker sets, and i show the prices of shipping the prices of envelopes.
Kickstarter also has a feast, and i think the best part about doing a kickstarter was seeing interest from folks. Beyond my you know, intimate friend circles. So when i picked this idea just kind of like to random strangers just like at church – or you know talking to other people in grad school, some people would be like.
Do you actually need this kind of book? Like? Is anyone going to read a book about asian american women yeah? They will. Let me prove you wrong, and so i was just like so to see. People who, i you know, didn’t, know backing this project or to see how this project was resonating, with friends of friends and being even shared beyond you know, like third degree connections was so interesting.
This is how i set up the kickstarter page, but i feel like if i were to do this now now that i have a bit more scale in terms of design and also video editing. I definitely would have done some kind of promotional video.
You know where people could get to know me and also get to hear my story when kickstarters have a video, even if it’s for a book um. It also has you know, really high quality art like if i had better drafts.
I think it would have brought a lot more people to the pages and um, but i think i did have a really nice amount of you know pages to show like um, but definitely adding a video, i think, would have helped yeah looking at this.
Two years later is pretty cool um, and so i ended up reaching a total of 2 393 from 67 backers. I think, like one of those was my mom and um like i had a lot of cousins chip in so thank you so much other costs that you have to keep in mind when you are self-publishing, you need an ibsn so that’s.
Basically, the barcode, so that your book is easily searchable throughout any kind of database, so any bookstore will be able to search your book using this isbn number and if it’s registered through the isbn, they can also search you up using the title Of your book and the um and your author name so isbn for your book and also you have to purchase copyright, so the copyright is only 55 and i ended up self-publishing because one.
I was too impatient to wait for a publisher, find a publishing agent, and i also didn’t, want to deal with the logistics and bureaucratic nature of publishing such that to find a publisher who wanted to promote diverse books.
But also i didn’t want to use phrases or euphemisms, such as internment camp. I wanted to call it an incarceration camp or talk about it as a concentration camp and obviously not every publisher would be open to the critical phrases, especially in a children’s book there’s, all kinds of restrictions and limits in Terms of how many words can be on a page level of vocabulary, and so in essence, this children’s.
Book really defies a lot of the the normative publishing rules. So i wasn’t thinking about a grade level. When i was writing this, i wanted the format to be a children’s book, but the text itself is for more later elementary middle school range.
So, even though it kind of looks like a baby book, it reads more maturely and it also will appeal to adults. So i thought that for younger children they would be able to read these biographies alongside their parents or alongside older siblings, and in that way both of them would feel engaged and feel like they were learning a lot about asian americans studies asian american history.
Through these stories and in turn be inspired to, you know delve more into asian american history and ethnic studies in general, which is you know, studies beyond the very like white male history that we get taught in schools even in diverse places such as california, the curriculum Is still very what we call eurocentric or white male heterosexual focused, so that’s, why this book definitely defies a lot of those norms.
I ended up going with 32 women and that will take me into kind of like the restrictions of still the self-publishing process, so i use publisher called bookbaby.com, and so i was working within the the specs of these.
What were called book pods, which are easy to print and easy to distribute if you want to distribute your book other retail platforms, for example, book baby, if you self-publish through them, they do give you your own store on bookbaby.
com, which is what i’M showing right now, as well as the ability, if you purchase one of their publishing packages for your book, to be distributed in the same way that published books or represented books are distributed.
So it gets your book out into these large databases that a lot of bookstores you know book buyers, do use, which was super helpful. I think in getting my book just out and about into the world, as well as the ability to put your book on marketplaces such as barnes and noble amazon target and the genre which is children’s.
The order type print books trim size is a square eight and a half by eight and a half the cover option. Soft cover, binding style, is perfect binding. So this is what perfect binding looks like. If you open the book, you can’t see any stitching, which is really nice.
The cover finish, this is the gloss cover finish: the text print color, interior printing, so i went for the pod, which is easily printable and that allows for 26 to 50 pages text. Paper stock type is 80 pound gloss stock paper, so the first round i actually did a non-glossy paper and it does cost more for gloss paper, but when i did the second round of printing.
So when i printed that previous 300 books, i decided to go with the glossy and the glossy is the one – is the type that i also set up. My distribution with. So any book that you purchase will have this nice glossy paper and the sales from amazon are the ones that i’m able to track.
So all of my numbers that i will show you in terms of book sales are only the ones that i’ve, been able to track which are book baby, which is my um bookshop, where you make seven dollars and fifty cents for every book.
That i for every book that i sell on there, and that is, if that depends, it changes depending on what you price your book at. So i priced my book at 15, and so i would get half of that when i sell a book on book baby in terms of amazon, if someone purchases a book on amazon, i will receive one dollar and 92 cents.
The exciting thing about uh. This kind of self-publishing platform is that they take care of the printing and inventory for you, so for this flat fee i was able to basically have this agreement. Whenever someone buys a book on amazon or someone buys a book through book baby, the self-publishing company is the one to print the book and mail it out.
So i do not have to cover any shipping fees or any additional printing fees beyond what is um kind of taken out of my pay, you know only getting two dollars back for every book, but i felt like it was a good deal just because when you Do put your book on sites that have a wider number of users.
You will get that return in terms of sales. So after i put my book on amazon, i definitely saw a skyrocket sales, but obviously because amazon is kind of the worst in terms of workers. Rights, i also tend to ask people if they’d, be willing to purchase through bookbaby as well.
So i’ve, really appreciated having those kinds of alternatives you you know. If you want to put your book in the face of more people, you unfortunately have to go through these large corporate giants.
I also did really really aggressive promoting when i launched on amazon, so i took way too many photos with this book. I actually did this launch when i was visiting my best friend wuhi in london, and so she and i were just promoting the crap out of my book, because when you start off so this is an interesting part about launching on amazon and when you launch the More views you get on your landing page, the more bookstores will, you know, receive that data that people are interested in your book and feel enticed to put it on their own platforms, and so because lucky – and i were just in the uk clicking on my amazon Link and sharing it so much we are inspiring, was sold on uk based websites, and i was just like laughing so hard.
I was like. Oh my god, like the uk, is selling my book because we are just you know: mass promoting it on the internet um. So that’s, a huge one, if you are going to sell your book on amazon or another platform that uses those kind of analytics such that.
If you have a lot of views on your page, it helps promote your book to other retailers and other sites, and just so because of all of that viewership i was you know i was able to attract the attention of barnes and noble of target.
It even got on walmart, and so a lot of it is really just based on a bot scene that a lot of people are interested in that you know translating on the book being asked for um to be part of the inventory of walmart and stuff, like That and all of that is handled through book baby, my self-publisher and gets distributed from their warehouse printed at their warehouse and then it gets distributed.
So all of that behind the scenes printing distributing mailing is done. For me, the only catch is that you know if it’s sold on amazon, i only make a dollar 92 cents, but hey um. The majority of my sales are from amazon from bookbaby.
All in all, it works out. You just have to do a bit of spreadsheeting cost benefit analysis. I am really bad at math, but i like making spreadsheets so just stay organized. So, in addition to setting up online printing, i also decided to have some of my own inventory so that when i were when i would go to conferences or any kind of like zine, fests or local art events, i would have my own inventory to be able To sell my own and be able to connect with people in that way by, you know going to a conference with a children’s book and feeling high as anyone interested in this book about asian american women.
And it was actually a really great experience getting to meet the people who were interested in my work about to give book talks and, unfortunately, i haven’t been able to do any in-person book talks and any of the book talks that i do With like young students, i’ve done virtually on zoom yeah.
I think it’s, just so great when you meet professors or you meet other students who have children who have young, nieces and nephews, and you’re able to you know be like hey like. Would you be interested in my book? Um, and just promoting myself in that way is how i was able to make a good amount of um my own sales and obviously this book.
This book making process is not lucrative in any way any money that i make just kind of turned back to purchasing more books. So i’d. Be able to you know just be able to share this knowledge of, and this love for asian american studies with folks and in total i have sold 400 copies on amazon.
I’ve sold about 22 copies off my book baby shop and the remaining about about 250 copies were sold in person at a zenfest or conference, and that has just been like one-on-one networking um, probably about 50 or 60 of those books, have also Been through consignment, deals and so consignment deals, involve basically selling a bulk number of books at a discounted price so that a museum or you know local organization – can afford to resell the books at their shop.
So they will pay you a flat fee and i’ve, been able to sell books with the portland chinatown museum, and that was through my friend nate. So, thank you so much nate and i’ve, been able to sell through the chinese community center in houston, and that was someone who found me through email, as well as the wang luke museum in washington, and i think they also found me.
Definitely if you are a author or an artist, i definitely recommend having some kind of social media page that is um accessible to folks who may be wanting to work with you in the future. So this is what my art instagram looks like.
I started this art instagram back in 2017, and this was right after i graduated from college. I was thinking of growing my kind of art following and um. This has definitely been a way to connect with other artists connect with other um academics, who are interested in this kind of creative work as well, and so i definitely recommend having some kind of social media presence.
Other ways that i believe i was able to sell. As many books as i have and reach folks that are not in my immediate network, is through news outlets. So if you are a minority publisher, um for me being a philharm femme, so filipino american uh fem, identifying cis woman, i have been featured in jealous um in the heart stories, which is her um online platform to share the voices of folks from the philippine x.
Diaspora she uses a platform to share other folk stories, so i love in the heart stories. Thank you so much. I was also able to connect with overachiever magazine, which is a youth kind of run, e or instagram magazine where they also feature asian amp thumbs and their work.
So i love that they were able to feature me on their website and instagram page as well. So, thank you so so much and lastly, i was able to garner support from obviously the asian america from the asian american studies department at ucla and the daily bruins.
So one of the students, i think, heard about my work, and so she was involved with the daily bruin and ended up pitching them to feature me in the newspapers. Thank you so much of the daily bruin staff, the photographers and the writers for bringing this interview to life um.
I am so so so happy and based on my data, you can definitely see a correlation in sales when these kinds of features came out. Yeah. That is how i self-published my first children’s book yeah. I hope this video was helpful.
I hope this helps you on your self-publishing journey, just to see where this journey takes me next, and i wish you luck on your artistic, creative and scholarly endeavors, oh, and feel free to leave any additional questions that you have in the comments below i’d be happy to answer them um and yeah.
Thank you so much for watching, and i will see you next time: [, Music, ],