My journey as a writer began around 1982. I started by writing about characters which I named Boogles. This was the beginning of a trek which would bring me to the present day as an “indie” writer. My style of writing manifested, quite naturally, in the form of verse. I suppose it was its musical nature and rhythm which appealed to me. I was also a designer of plush toys, some of which I licensed to manufacturers, as well as a sculptor of figurines and ornaments. These activities comprised my interests and work during the 1980s and would ultimately coalesce to form a project which would comprise the next 30 years of my life.
The next decade ushered in the creation of the Boogle characters in the form of limited edition collectable figurines, hand-sculpted inspirational beings which embodied the desire to uplift, educate and empower others. I speak of them as if they were entities with a life force of their own. It truly felt as if there was something inside of my own being yearning to be born. I suppose many artists can relate to this. Creation of art and literature is much like a birth, an ushering forth of something which has its own ability to move and inspire others. Each figurine was marketed with a coloring/storybook which answered the question, “What’s a Boogle?” This was my initial foray into marketing my stories in the form of books.
Concurrent with my business activities was a flurry of writing projects. Each one was focused on encouraging children to live in concert with their best selves, and to derive this elevated state of being from their inner voice which forever guides each one of us. My first draft of Jocomo was written in 1992, and told the tale of a fellow who was banished from his Kingdom by his father because of his unusual appearance. The story then chronicles his journey to self-worth, discovering the value of his uniqueness, his talents, and ultimately, his place in the world. Of all of the stories I’ve written, this one seemed to desire most to be told. It’s rather lengthy for a story written in verse, but it was written very quickly, almost urgently and with great emotion.
In the years that followed, many more stories would be written, each one staying true to the notion of living life as one’s best possible self. I began to be interested in exploring other forms of expression in which to involve my characters: scripted theatrical presentations, full-length animated feature scripts, even animated concepts for television. It was a wonderful process of testing my limits and flexibility as a writer. These works were written on hotel stationary, the napkins of restaurants in which I dined and on planes traveling across the country and to foreign countries to promote my Lil’ Boogle business. No matter how life or the realities of promoting my business intervened to distract me, writing was always my companion at the end of the day.
The advent of ebooks and online marketing has created the opportunity for countless writers (me included) to publish their stories, and to share their collective voice with many. In 2012, I decided to publish Jocomo with Smashwords, one of the leading ebook distributors.?There were several to choose from, but I chose Smashwords because of its writer-friendly business policies. Unlike some e-book distributors, Smashwords charges no up-front fees and generates its revenue from a fixed percentage of the sale price of each book sold. I concluded that this distributor might be, therefore, more proactive in the marketing of my book.
I feel very fortunate to have done well with Jocomo. I credit this, in large part, to the customer base which I developed through my years of marketing the characters. When it came time to promote the book, I simply emailed my customers a notification, or “press release,” regarding its publication on Smashwords. I really didn’t know what to expect, but was pleasantly surprised with the response.
Most first-time writers don’t have the advantage of a “customer base” to contact as they seek to make their presence known in the vast and ever-growing ebook market. One of the most gratifying aspects of having done well is being given the opportunity, through profiles such as this, to share my experience and offer words of encouragement to those beginning their ebook self-publishing journey.
My advice to writers who are beginning the process is to not be fearful of it. First, it is important to familiarize yourself with the policies of the distributor you have chosen. Then, prepare your text and artwork to the best of your ability. Have your manuscript edited for grammar, usage and punctuation. I would recommend having your finished product professionally formatted to meet the needs of your distributor, unless, of course, you are well-skilled with this process. Smashwords, for example, provides a list of “formatters” who will do the work for you at a nominal fee.
Promotion of your work is the next step, and a very important one. It is easy to become lost within the sheer volume of titles available on your distributor’s website. Seek to distinguish yourself and your work. Ask your family and friends if they would kindly read and review your book, and then recommend it to their extended group of friends. If you belong to organizations, religious or otherwise, ask to present your work. If your work is a children’s book, investigate the possibility of presenting it, perhaps in the form of a reading, to a classroom of children. Make a list of all the possible ways in which you can promote your work, then act upon your ideas. In the world of self-publishing, promotion is directly proportional to success.
The stories we write, our ideas, have a power of their own. Don’t be afraid to share your words. Always remember that your work is a gift to others. The final words of Jocomo express my hope for all writers:
“BE TRUE TO THAT GIFT, BESTOWED FROM ABOVE, AND FIND YOUR LIFE BOUNDLESS IN JOY AND IN LOVE.”
Timothy Cohorst was the first children’s book author to land on Galleycat’s Self-Published Bestsellers List this year. Since its publication last year, Jocomo has performed well on the Smashwords charts.