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Self-Publishing Mom Series: Interview with the Joyous Hagaddah's Liora Codor

For years Richard Codor would doodle his way through the Passover seder, creating cartoon images of the proceedings.  In time Xeroxed copies of his black and white drawings became the Haggadah (guidebook) of choice for family and friends.  Together with wife Liora, they decided it was time to take the Joyous Hagaddah to a new level and self-publish a full-color, cartoon guide to the Seder. Liora’s advice to busy moms: make copious lists, but also find some time to replenish.

What inspired you to self-publish, and why now?

The Haggadah, the manual for the Passover seder, with its jumbled structure and mix of ancient texts, just didn’t make sense to me or to my kids.   My husband Richard, a cartoonist, was always visually inspired by the story and dinner proceedings and made countless drawings about them. We put together a black and white cartoon illustrated version of our own Haggadah and made a bunch of Xerox copies. For many years this was the Haggadah we used. Friends and relatives asked if they could use it, too. Everybody said we should publish it.  But when we tried to get publishers interested they all said that cartoons and humor don’t sell in the Jewish market. So it lay unpublished for many years.  Now, luckily, the digital age makes it possible to professionally print, publish and market your own book in full color.

How long was it in the works? How long did it take from start to publication?

 Four years ago, we decided that Richard should take a break from his freelance work as a storyboard artist for movies and TV animation, so we could work on the Haggadah together.   I work as a photographer for Macy’s, a job that requires intense attention to detail and is artistically and visually exacting.  It took us a full year to research, to write and illustrate the book.   I read about self-publishing on line and in books and followed the instructions step by step. Every morning, we sat at the kitchen table and made a “to do” list. During my lunch breaks, I made phone calls, and wrote letters. In the evening, after supper and before bedtime we edited the text and the artwork. We went through 11 rewrites and endless fine-tuning of the artwork and design until we felt the  Joyous Hagaddah was ready for publication.

What about the actual printing? How did you handle that?
 With “print on demand”, you can submit your book to an online service that prints it one copy at a time. It’s very inexpensive and has become very popular. But we wanted to create a high quality, full color book, of 5000 copies or more, and decided it was best to use a traditional printing house.   We found that printers who are eager to make a sale will send you lots of samples. We got piles of beautiful books and brochures in the mail to review. We chose the most practical and reasonably priced printer, one who had good quality samples.

So you have a printed book, but what happens next?

We quickly learned that making and self-publishing the book was the fun part of the job. Promotion and marketing   are the real work. We sold it on the streets and handed out cards to passersby, just before the holiday. We went on lecture tours and fairs, and sent email blasts, letters and cards throughout the country. It’s hard to know which method works but good word of mouth is the best and most affordable advertising. We’ve been the top seller on Amazon for the last two years. We’re now planning to produce the Haggadah as an animated DVD and publish a second book on Hanukkah.

What advice would you offer moms who are trying to start their own venture or book project while juggling everything else?
 I’ve found that the most important thing for me is to be organized and write “to do” lists. Take it a day at a time and also find an hour here and there to go to the theater, movie or a museum, or meet a friend and talk about other things. My father, a ship captain, writer and adventurer, always said, “The busier you are the more time you have. “

Is it worth all the work?
For the last three years, from January until Passover,  our schedules are packed. It is exciting to get emails from students in Korea, families in Germany and Australia and from all over the United States who tell us how much they enjoyed our book as a new, meaningful, and fun way to celebrate the Passover Seder and how even their teenagers snuggle on the floor and read it cover to cover.
This is our reward.


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