I started writing when I was 9 years old. I loved the Waltons and Little House on the Prarie. John boy and Laura set me off writing. But when my 7 year old sister died of cancer, I could not pick up a pen. I was 23 then. But after my third child was born, my husband told me of a writing competition he found on the local newspaper. I entered but I did not win. But the editor called me up and told me how much she enjoyed my essay about the murder of a toddler in England. She asked if would I like to start writing articles for the paper? I said yes and my writing career started.I have been writing and learning about writing ever since.
I was educated at Blessed Sacrament School and St. Jean Baptiste High School in New York and studied children's writing with the Institute of Children's and Teen's Literature in Connecticut. I also read for a diploma in child psychology at the European Institute of Education. I reside on the Mediterranean island of Malta, where I regularly perform storytelling and creative writing workshops in schools across the country. I am also a freelance writer for local magazines and newspapers, a mother of three, and have published four picture books aimed at early readers, as well as an anthology of short stories for older children. My books have received multiple printings as well as peer-acclaim and recognition at the Malta National Annual Literary Awards. My last book, Don't Cross the Road, Holly!, was chosen as the best 2009 Children's Book in English. I am a member of the Society of Children's Writers & Illustrators of the USA, as well as its chapter in the British Isles.
Now then, onto the interview and all those helpful tidbits you guys are eagerly awaiting :)
SLH: Did you try the traditional publishing route? What was your experience?
RB: I have been studying the craft of writing for the past 12 years. Lately, I got in contact with an editor. She helped me out with several picture book manuscripts. I chose the best one and sent it off to 20 publishers and some agents in England. Most of the publishers I contacted wrote back saying how charming the book was, or it is a great story, or it would be great illustrated. Yet, no one wanted to take a chance of publishing it. Is it because I live so far away in Malta? So I decided to do it myself.
SLH:What made you decide to pursue self-publishing?
RB: I already have two published books but they are in the Maltese language. The publishers here in Malta obviously want to promote their language. However I grew up in New York City, my first language is English. So, I self-published three bilingual Maltese English picture books. But they could only be distributed in Malta which has a population of only half a million people. So I started thinking about self publishing outside the country with a company like CreateSpace.
SLH: How did you go about self-publishing? (specific details about how you researched and located the company you went with would be great)
RB: I didn’t do that much research to be honest. I heard about CreateSpace; many authors were using it, so I decided for my first book it would be good to go with the experts.
SLH: Did you hire an editor?
RB: Hiring an editor is a must. I had one during the writing of the story and hired another one through the company and was part of the publishing package.
SLH: How did you choose your illustrator? How did you work out paying the illustrator and did you have a contract? Did you have a lot of back and forth discussions with your illustrator about the art?
RB: The illustrations are again part of the package if you so wish. CreateSpace sent me four names of illustrators and I chose the one that I saw best fitted the theme of my book. I chose two that I really liked. My first choice was available to work and in six weeks she drew all the illustrations. There was one or two which I changed some aspects of the pictures. But I was lucky, I had little to change and I loved the simple, colourful illustrations at the start.
SLH: Did you hire a cover designer or did your illustrator design the cover?
RB: I hired both. The cover designer was again part of the package which I purchased. The cover designer sent me 3 different types of covers. I especially liked one and then the illustrator drew it. I just added more hay in the nest under the egg for comfort’s sake :)
SLH: What formats is your book available in? Hardcover? Paperback? E-book? Print-on-demand?
RB: So far, my book is only as a Print-On-Demand paperback picture book. I first want to see how well the book sells before I turn it into an e-book. Self-publishing can be quite expensive if you are not careful with your money.
SLH: How have you gone about marketing your book? What has been most successful?
RB: Along with advertising on Facebook, being interviewed here is my first attempt at marketing. I still have lots of work to do! I need to contact reviewers, give giveaways, and do more interviews. It’s going to be fun. Also, if I had been traditionally published, I still would need to market myself. So I am learning a great deal from all of this.
SLH: Do you do school/library visits or library/bookstore readings/signings? How did you go about getting them? How have sales been in relation to those visits?
RB: I visit libraries and schools all the time in Malta. I am a storyteller by trade. This is the best way to sell books. It is the personal touch rather then a book on the shelf. I plan to do a lot of visits to bookshops, libraries and schools for my book Meg the Egg, too.
SLH: What advice would you give other authors who are thinking about self-publishing?
RB: JUST DO IT! Don’t let the people at the gateways of publishing ruin your dreams.
SLH: Any particular pitfalls to avoid?
RB: Check and check everything you do. Don’t be flippant; be diligent. No one cares about your book more than you do.
SLH: Anything else you'd like to say? :)
RB: This was an adventure, a scary, intrepid adventure but if my book sells and the children love reading it, it is very worth it when you have given up on traditional publishing.
Thank you so much, Rita!
If you'd like to find Rita online, you can visit her Website and like her on Face Book.
All you have to do is leave a comment saying why you'd like the book. And if you want to be nice and "like" Rita on Face Book while you're here, that would be lovely but we are not twisting any arms :)
And that, my friends, concludes our mini-series on self-publishing. I know some of the posts were long - our authors were so very generous with their knowledge and expertise! I hope you all learned a lot, and that those of you who were previously hesitant about self-publishing now feel more confident and prepared to take it on!