By Kari Yunt
About 15 years, a story came to me. It was a bed time story about a little kid who wondered what would happen if a monkey or an elephant or a seal lion came into their bedroom at bedtime. I knew the story; I saw the images and felt the feelings of curiosity and joy that it could bring to both children and their adult readers.
What I could not figure out, was how to get it out of my head and into people’s hands. A couple years ago, I finally figured it out. Bananas In Your Ears was published in August of 2021. It was a huge accomplishment, with years of trial and error. Here are a few things I wish someone would have told me that would have sped up the publishing process:
Start with a manuscript. A manuscript is words of your story typed out, with a title. That’s all you need to get the ball rolling. This will allow you to a) get your creation copyrighted and 2) provide a working document to submit to folks that will help you along in your publishing journey.
Start Saving. You are going to need to fund your own project. Find a company that will walk you through the process and provide experts along the way like editors, illustrators, designers, and distributors. I went through a company called Tellwell Publishing and had a great experience.
While traditional publishers cover the cost of the expert services and take royalties from the sale of the final product, self-publishing companies get their payment up front and take no royalties from the sale of your book.
Your book, Your money, Your vision. You will be supported by a team of experts and they will be looking to you for the vision, the direction and the final say on all aspects of the book. So as you are writing your manuscript also sketch out images of what you imagine the pictures to be.
Research different types of font and play around with them as you write and re-write your manuscript. Get feedback from children and champions in your life and see what they say. You will have the final say on every aspect of the book throughout production–which is so special and also a little intimidating if you are not prepared for it.
Question your default thinking and biases. Remember that the book you are putting out to the world will be seen, heard and felt by so many people of different races and genders.
One of the most felt ways that we can touch lives through our stories is to put inclusion at the core and recognize that representation does matter and when it comes time to direct your illustrator on defining the color or gender of a character.
Remember it’s your book, your money, your vision; so be the change you want to see in the world.
There you have it! If you want to see and feel how all this advice measures up, check out my book Bananas in your Ears. Find your favorite two, three or four year old and read it to them. And when they start to take the story telling into their own hands, and you feel their curiosity and joy night after night, I hope it will inspire you to start the first draft of your very own manuscript.
Kari Yunt is a Phoenix local. She has been teaching, reading and caring for children across the world as a college student in NYC, an English teacher in China, a volunteer in the United States Peace Corps and now as a mom. Bananas In Your Ears was born out of Kari’s love for children and her appreciation for the joy that a silly book can bring to the nighttime routine. This is Kari’s first book and she is excited for opportunities to share it with her community.