Up Close And Personal With Susanne Alexander Heaton.
My book is called The ABC Field Guide to Faeries which has inspiring reminders of respect for ourselves, each other and the environment. It is geared at children ages 6-12 yrs. Many parents have told me that the book has encouraged great discussions with their children. I never in a million years thought that the word author would follow my name.
This was unfortunately inspired by some heart-wrenching events. My friend’s 12 yr old daughter, Sarah, fought a very courageous battle against a brain tumour, but unfortunately did not win. The night after Sarah passed away she came to me in a dream, totally free from pain and back to her giggly old self. In the dream, she was twirling around in a meadow of wildflowers and said to me: “Susanne, I have faery wings instead of angel wings because faery wings are so much easier to run and play around in!” That dream is as vivid for me today as when I had it over eight years ago.
Tell us a little bit about your writing process? What methods do you use to write and how did you make it through the grueling process of writing your book?
I did love being creative, I realized when I woke up from the dream I spoke about, that I didn’t know the first thing about faeries so I started to research everything I could about them. One of the things I discovered was that they are considered “nature’s angels”. And it was while out on a sea-kayaking trip in Belizethat the inspiration for writing The ABC Field Guide to Faeries came to me. I could not write the ideas down fast enough!
I had the initial draft of ½ the book completed in the first 10 days of that sea-kayaking trip. I returned home and decided to make another goal. In two months time, I wanted to complete the full initial draft, and I accomplished this. At that time, I was also working full time in the corporate world. In March 2009, I decided to take a leap of faith and left my corporate job to pursue publishing this book. After passing the book by six different editors, doing plenty of revamping, and working with an amazing illustrator by the name of Chantal Gabriell with SeaShine Design, the book rolled off the presses a year and a half after inception.
The grueling process was not the initial writing of the book; it came in the editing of the book. It was painful to have to cut out various aspects of the text after having your heart and soul poured into it. There is a saying in the industry that whatever you write first is “total crap”, and that is true. The key is to get your ideas down and then be willing to rework them into a pleasing format. I tape recorded myself reading the book especially to see the flow of the rhymes. This process helped immensely.
Explain to us the process you took to get your book published, from formatting your manuscript to preparing it for print all the way to getting an ISBN and the book cover design.
Wow, this is a loaded question! Once all the poems were written and the initial “combing” was done on the editing, I enlisted the help of an amazing illustrator who made each of the faeries come to life on the page. I used stock photography images from sites like dreamstime, shutterstock, and i-stock that I felt best depicted each faery’s characteristics. My illustrator then magically transformed these stock images into the various faeries. What she created was pure magic. For the cover, we had two potential ones, and I had a focus group of 60 people that voted on which cover they preferred. It was a very interesting process to go through and see all the different opinions and perceptions out there. The end result was great. The cover design of the book won a Bronze medal in the Summit Awards which included 1,000 entries from 24 different countries. My illustrator also was my desk top publisher, so she was able to make the book print format ready. I applied for my own ISBN as well as CIP number. I also copyrighted the work myself. I developed a template with screen shots for how to go about applying for an ISBN as they do not make the site that intuitive!
Did you use the services of a book coach or a self publishing company to help you though the process or did you do it yourself? Tell us about your experiences.
I did not use a book coach nor self-publishing company, but I did attend a one day workshop by Claire Scott that was truly invaluable in all the tips and tricks that she shared. Her workshop was called Dare to Dream, A Survival Guide for Self-Publishers and she has a workbook as well by the same name: http://clairescott.com/book2.html
It is a very steep learning curve and I would advise anyone going into this to ask as many questions as possible.
What would you do differently with the publishing of your next book?
That is an EXCELLENT question. If I had to do it all over again, I would not have printed so many copies to try to get the price break. I totally underestimated the whole warehousing, distribution and administration for the books. As a self-publisher, you cannot approach the head Chapters buyer, you have to approach each store individually. That is a huge waste of time. I have recently signed up with Lightning Source which is a division of Ingram Publishing. They do Print on Demand (POD) and have access to Amazon (.com, .ca, .jp. .de, .co.uk, .fr..and soon to beAustralia), Barnes and Noble, etc. They handle all the printing, logistics and administration, and you keep the rights to your book.
Tell us a little bit about Motivated by Nature. What is it’s mission and how does it tie in with your book as an overall marketing strategy?
Motivated by Nature is the company that I created. I am an author, publisher, speaker and FUNdraiser. The mission is to inspire respect for ourselves, others, and the environment, to motivate people to live their wildest dreams and to support worthy causes in the process. Whether it is through my talks to adults or in the classroom, I want to motivate people to realize what incredibly powerful beings they are. This marketing strategy is totally in alignment with the messages in the book and I have had many adults tell me that the messages have touched them deeply as well.
On your website, you mention 3 core values that you learned on the family farm. How does that tie into The ABC of Fairies and what you’re trying to achieve?
The core values were:
- Respect for community and the environment. The book is heavily focused on how we should be treating the environment and others, but it does it in a very light-hearted way.
- Helping others, especially those less fortunate then myself. The book has helped to raise over $15,000 to date for worthy causes like the United Way, Children’s Wish and many others
- Having a good sense of humour to help through even the darkest of times. It all comes down to attitude. The power of the mind is an incredible thing. If you instead focus on taking something negative and making it into a positive, you will have more happiness in your life and you will have a positive effect on others as well. The faery Buzzalina focuses on the fact, that no matter what the weather, you can still have fun.
How did you market your book? Can you share some of your creative/non-conventional ways/secrets on how you sold your book?
I use the book predominately as FUNdraisers for worthy causes. Since bookstores take from 30%-45%, I decided instead to approach schools and non-profits to market my book as FUNdraisers and offer them the 40%. This way the funds were going to a great cause and at the same time being marketed by others. To date over $15,000 has been raised for worthy causes.
Another thing that I did was I am the letter “S” from the book, Susanne, The Sunshine Faery. I go into schools and trade shows dressed in full costume and it helps to create awareness and a buzz about the book.
I am also currently working on some sponsorship deals for people to purchase the books for donations to school children, etc.
Share with us the different platforms you use to sell your book (bookstores, signing, affiliate programs, website etc.).
I used many different platforms to sell my book. They included bookstores, wine and book pairing/signing, my website, tradeshows, schools, brownie groups, and various non-profit organizations. I live in a community inCalgarythat is putting in a community garden. I had the local businesses help to promote the book with posters as well as samples of my book and I had a Yoga studio, an Eye Doctor, and a clothing store have physical copies of the book to sell with all proceeds going towards the garden. I am currently in the process of researching online affiliate programs as they are definitely a great way to go.
Do you use social media in book promotion, and if so, which platforms work best for you? Can you share some tricks you got making it work for you?
I use facebook, twitter, linked-in, and blogging, but I have not yet mastered any of these mediums. I have found that Facebook has worked the best for helping to promote various events.
How helpful is a newsletter and a blog for the overall promotion of your drive. Has it had a great effect on the sales of your book?
Great question and one that is difficult for me to answer. Everyone is very bombarded these days by e-mails and even I have unsubscribed from many newsletters just because it was getting overwhelming to have such a full in-box. It takes a while to build up newsletter subscribers and you need to ensure that you are providing useful, upbeat information. I did question the effectiveness of them, but recently I had a sale from someone who had signed up and said how much she enjoyed getting my newsletters on a monthly basis. I haven’t been faithfully blogging, but have started to do more of it. I find that it is a slow process as well, but it is also a great way to express your views and get comments from people that may never have heard of you.
Care to share some numbers? How many books have you sold to date?
I have sold 2000~ books to date.
How was your book initially received? Has it been reviewed? What was your response to the reviews?
The response to the book has been wonderful. It was just named as an award-wining finalist in three categories with the International Book Awards. It was a nominee for the Alberta 2010 Best Book of the Year Award for Children. It has been reviewed by radio, newspapers and general reviewers. Here is a sample review by Dr. Anne Marie Evers, Author, Doctor of Divinity, Radio Talk Show Host, “This book is like ‘a breath of fresh air’ with wonderful bubbles of knowledge, humour, information, and imagination. The poems contain a great deal of wisdom for the reader. This book inspires children to learn, create and take responsibility for their own lives. What a positive and great teaching tool for ALL children!”
How do you handle negative feedback from critics?
Right before I was going to print, I had a Best Selling Canadian Author give me feedback that literally crushed me. It was the first negative feedback I had received. It was said that my book was “not saying anything new, not creative, and not that person’s cup of tea and that if I wanted real poetry to go and read Alligator Pie by Dennis Lee.” This news shook me to the core and almost stopped me from going to print. It had been so long since I had read Alligator Pie, I decided to go to the library and look at it. I literally burst into laughter in the library isles, because in reading that book, I realized that this author had not understood what I was trying to say in my book. That negative actually became the most positive thing that could have happened to me. I realized then that not everyone is going to like or even understand my work. A book is no different than a movie, music or a play. Some people are going to love things that other people hate, and you can’t take it personally.
Where are some of the places where you sell your book besides through book distributors, your website, book stores etc?
I sell the soft cover of the book on Amazon:
Amazon.com: http://tinyurl.com/42u76fa Amazon.ca: http://tinyurl.com/3cvayxh Amazon.co.uk: http://tinyurl.com/3hgy5ma Amazon.fr: http://tinyurl.com/3bt2f95 Amazon.de: http://tinyurl.com/3e8svuo Amazon.jp:http://tinyurl.com/3u8zdhh
I sell the e-book on Kindle:
The book will soon be available for the i-Pad as well.
Also, the hard cover of the book is used as FUNdraisers, so it has been sold at schools, Brownie groups, The Canadian Wildlife Federation, The Pembina Valley Conservation District, and The Beacon Literacy Foundation.
Do have any future projects you’d like to tell us about?
I have four books currently percolating right now. One book will be for adults and deals with synchronicity and what happens when you start following your heart and not just your head. I left my corporate job to pursue writing this book, and the synchronicities that occurred are almost incomprehensible. I have also spoke to people about what inspired some of the different faeries in the book and people have indicated that they want to hear more. The other two books are my little secret right now.
Thank you for being on Authopublisher, Tom, and I hope to hear from you again!
Note; Susanne’s book has also won the 2011 USA Best Book Award for Inspirational Poetry.
Follow me on Twitter.
You gotta hustle if you’re to make your dream happen!