Ever since my son, Colin, was small, he’d been drawing faces. At the age of two, he seemed to produce an unending variety of characters. Everywhere he looked, he’d point out faces-- on the pattern of the curtains, in the clouds and in the leaves of trees. Once when he was three, he glanced down at his coat and exclaimed, “Look! All these people are buttons!” With amazement I realized that he saw his buttons as people first, and only later recalled that they served a function. What a delightful world he lived in!
As Colin grew older, his illustrations became more sophisticated and varied. I saw that his characters were not only filled with life, but they seemed to have amusing stories to tell. By the time Colin was ten, piles of these drawings had accumulated all over the house. One day, while looking at an illustration he’d done of a city bus filled with eccentric passengers, I had an inspiration. Why not tell the story behind the picture? Right then, a few lines of poetry popped into my head. Out of the blue, “Freaky Bus” was born.
I kept it a secret.
I had a glimmering thought that I could do a whole series of these stories, and maybe Colin and I could publish the collection as a book. I spent the next few weeks working on the sly, hoping that something child-worthy might result. The verdict came when I presented the poems to Colin and his younger sister, Devon, and witnessed the excitement and laughter they created. I realized I had something.
So, Colin and I added and edited and enhanced our stories, and before we knew it, we had enough poems and illustrations for the book. We added a glossary of poetry terms and a teacher’s guide, and we were ready to publish. That’s when things got challenging. That’s when we hit the roadblock of trying to sell a book into the crowded market of children’s literature. If any of you have ever attempted such a feat, you can empathize with the ups and downs of this exhilarating effort. In the end, I collected dozens of rejection letters scribbled with words of encouragement. The agents and editors thought the poems were well written. They thought the book and illustrations were funny. But, they said there was “no market for children’s poetry”.
How ridiculous! I knew there was a market for children’s poetry! Undaunted, we switched to Plan B. We took matters into our own hands and self-published through Booksurge, a division of amazon.com.
And then we took on the exciting task of marketing the book. We contacted local bookstores and libraries and set up readings. We applied for, and received, cultural council grants for our presentations. We created an interactive poetry website for kids. We posted articles on parenting, teaching and homeschooling blogs. We promoted our book on social networking sites. We sent copies out for professional reviews. We networked with friends and colleagues worldwide. Somehow, the synergy of all this worked. Coolhead Luke and Other Stories was released in 2007 and is now Booksurge’s #2 bestseller in the children’s category. We also have a five star rating on amazon.com and we were nominated for a Cybils Award. We are so proud of these accomplishments, and get a real kick from the thought of our book being enjoyed by so many families.
Flash forward to the present, and Colin and I are embarking on the journey once again. Working with a pile of Colin’s more recent drawings, I wrote 25 new poems and we designed an updated layout. Our newest book, On The Edge With Coolhead Luke, is now available on www.amazon.com. We think it’s even funnier than the first!
This has been a wonderful experience for me and an exciting time for Colin, not to mention a great opportunity for mother-son bonding. As a parent, I’m proud to have created a vehicle to celebrate my child’s unique strengths and talents, and in so doing, given him a tremendous boost in confidence and self worth.
Now, I just have to come up with a similar plan for his younger sister!
If you’re interested in learning more about the Coolhead Luke books or the publishing process, feel free to email me any time at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d love to talk with you! Or check out our website at www.coolheadluke.com.