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Thursday
Mar252010

Kelly Benham (Writer) and Kelli Nielsen (Illustrator)Self-Publishing Mom Series: Interview with Kelli Nielsen, Author of You Will Always Be My Son

 

Kelli Nielsen and Kelly Benham have more than their first names in common. They share a passion for publishing children’s books from the heart. They have chosen to self-publish in order to maintain the integrity of their projects, though they don’t recommend it as the publication method of choice for all. With

You Will Always Be My Son on the shelves, and two more books on the way, their advice is clear: follow your passion- it will lead to great things.


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


Kelly and I decided to self publish because we felt very passionate about keeping the book inspired by our own visions vs. the visions of others. If you asked 10 people what they liked and disliked about the words, the pictures or the flow you would get 10 different answers. We quickly learned that when you are published you no longer own the book or have some say in the direction of the book. The words came from my heart onto the pages for my son at the time and Kelly's illustrations came from the love she felt reading the story. For us, it’s very personal. Self- publishing allowed us to keep the integrity of the book the way we wanted it to be.

 

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

I wrote the book 14 years ago. I loved it and sent it off to be published. There was some interest at the time but I was matched up with an illustrator that did not give me any vision of how my book would turn out. I felt the process was very impersonal. Five years ago, I asked Kelly Benham, my business partner for over 20 plus years, to please read the book and tell me what she thought. She loved it and together we talked about having her illustrate the pictures. I felt my words come to life with her simple illustrations and vibrant colors. We work very well together and have different roles, which helps balance us out. After hiring editors, going to critique's etc. we tried to listen to so many experts and we realized that the beautiful, simple book was lost and we hated it. We went back to basics and self-published, and it took about 6 months once we sent everything in.

 

What about the actual printing? How did you handle that?

The actual printing was an interesting process. We will likely not use the same self- publishing firm again. We are currently looking for a publisher that will take on our three books for this year, to include a web-site and some marketing. We will continue to self promote and purchase books in bulk to be sold a local shops. Printing can be handled in many different ways. We went with higher quality, made in the USA print-on- demand books. This cost is higher but, we felt it was worth it with non-toxic ink, etc. If you choose to self publish outside the country you can do it for a fraction of the cost.

 

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

Yes, we do have a printed book and you can see it online at any major book store such as Barnes and Noble, Amazon.com and other fine book stores. We have also gotten it onto bookshelves at many local retails.  Our next step is to complete the illustrations on the book titled: My Daughter and Me, .a dad/daughter book similar to the boy book. The last book for 2010 is entitled I Am NOT Selling My Tooth" which is a funny early reader that has adults laughing.

 

What advice would you offer moms who are trying to start their own venture or book project while juggling everything else?

The best advice I think Kelly and I would offer, is to be patient, grow a thick skin, make it your own and not to compromise if it does not feel right to you. If the book is personal we think self-publishing is a great avenue, but if you have a book that is not as personal, we might suggest you first try to get it published in a more traditional way. Self- publishing is hard, and here is why... the term SELF is the key. By self-publishing you are doing all the work. We are busy mom's involved in school, PTA, activities with our children and homework, etc. I work as a Vice President for a bank and so it is hard to balance work, play, kids and this side business. Our deepest desires would of course be that we could continue to write and illustrate books successfully and at the same time make a difference in the lives of children.


Is it worth all the work? 

This is a terrific question and we would have to say, YES... we are making a difference and we are sharing stories and lovely illustrations that are important and that come from the heart. If everything in life were easy the feeling of real success would not be as meaningful, we think. We would encourage any mom to, "live your dream, even when it feels out of reach." Make a difference in what you do and embrace your passion!

 

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