SHINE ON SELF-PUBLISHED AUTHORS SERIES – AUTHOR STACEY ALFONSO-MILLS

Stacey Alfonso-Mills Profile Picture 2014The question of whether to self-publish or not is a constant one – even for me.  My decision to write and self-publish my first children’s illustrated storybook in 2009, was driven by the lack of traditional publishing options in Trinidad & Tobago (and the wider Caribbean) at the time, and also because I was keenly curious of the entire process.  For me, it appeared to be a unique opportunity to understand, first-hand, all the elements required to realize my dream of producing a book that someone else would enjoy.

Between 2009 and 2014, I wrote and self-published three children’s illustrated storybooks: The Boys of Sinclair Hill (Fun in the Backyard) 2009, The Boys of Sinclair Hill (The Princess, The Treasure and The Blue Dragon) 2011 and Manatee has a Question 2014.  I also published my first colouring book – Manatee has a Question Colouring Book.  Throughout this journey, I can safely say that each self-publishing process has taught me something new and valuable, both professionally and personally.

As a working mother of three, just finding time to be creative and actually write is a challenge and the decision to self-publish added new levels that I simply had to learn every step of the way.  In addition to being the writer, as a self-publisher the author immediately becomes responsible for:

  • Sourcing and working with an illustrator or graphic artist,
  • Sourcing and working with a graphic designer (to prepare your book in print ready format),
  • Preparing and administering working agreements,
  • Registering your International Standard Book Number (ISBN) and obtaining the Bar Code for your book,
  • Proofing and editing your work or sourcing a professional proof-reader and/or editor,
  • Production (sourcing and working with a printer whether locally or internationally).
  • Financing (sourcing the initial capital to cover registration, illustration, graphic layout, printing and/or shipping costs),
  • Marketing and Public Relations
  • Sales and Distribution

Because of my business and communications background, some of these roles were easier for me than others.  For instance, I was fortunate to find and work with two very talented illustrators and graphic designers over the course of my three books.  Equally, the Public Relations element and the preparation and administration of agreements were comfortable areas for me during the self-publishing process.  However, my greatest challenge is that I continue to bear the financial burden of producing and publishing my books.

Like many other self-publishers, I have encountered difficult situations during the self-publishing process.  For instance, in 2009, my experience with the first local printer I worked with ended badly with many poorly printed books (which I refused to accept) and very high costs.  From this experience, I learned that I was determined to maintain as a high a standard as possible in what I produced.  Then during the publishing of my third book, between 2013/2014, I encountered my very first Internet-fraud incident while working with a printing agent in China (despite having done business with this agent successfully on several other occasions).   This particular incident was a hard lesson to learn, but I realized that I had taken for granted, the accessibility and ease of forming international business relationships and conducting international business transactions via the Internet.  So while I was forging ahead with my printing agent across the globe in China to print my newest book, hackers had perfected their craft to the point where both my agent and I were caught off-guard.  While I was unsure how to proceed at that point, I relied on my support system to guide me through to the next step, which led me to a Print on Demand company in the United States and we were able to bring Manatee has a Question to life.

Self-publishing will always have its ‘amazing’ moments as well as its ‘help me I’ve fallen and I can’t get up’ moments.  Of course certain challenges depend on which part of the world you are writing from.  A major challenge for self-publishers in Trinidad and Tobago is the absence of financial or any other meaningful type of support for local authors.  The cost to self-publish is directly related to the quality of product you produce and publish.  The better the product, the more expensive it becomes.  The opportunities now available for local authors to self-publish, market and sell their products via social media, have certainly encouraged more local authors to contribute to the literary landscape of Trinidad and Tobago, the Caribbean region and the rest of the world.  This seems like a perfect opportunity for the public and private sectors in Trinidad and Tobago to partner with local authors with a goal to preserving history and culture while fostering cultural identity.  Other challenges include the lack of support from mainstream bookstores to promote and supply local literature in all stores across the country.

The good news for authors, who may be considering the self-publishing route, is that the awareness of local literature is continually growing.  For instance, the Librarian for the children’s section of our National Library (NALIS) is a keen supporter of local literature and encourages book launches and visits from local authors to create a cultural awareness among the children visiting the library.  Equally there continues to be a great deal of interest and support for local literature from non-main stream book stores, cultural shops, school teachers, parents, NGOs (or anyone working with children and literacy) and general citizens who simply desire and appreciate local literature (particularly children’s literature).  There is also a high demand for local literature from nationals residing outside of Trinidad and Tobago as well as expatriates residing in Trinidad and Tobago.

For me, the decision to self-publish created an opportunity to expand my knowledge of marketing through social media, which is crucial for building a networking base and developing a writer’s platform.  I also discovered that having author control from self-publishing allows me to collaborate with schools and/or NGOs on literature programmes and perform book readings at schools.  Book readings allow me to interact freely with my direct customers – the children.  If a children’s author wants a truly honest book review, then perform a book reading – it is a humbling, yet exhilarating experience.

After self-publishing three books, I realize that I still love to write.  But now, I also enjoy creating books that both entertain and educate children.  I especially enjoy producing books that Caribbean children, particularly children from Trinidad and Tobago, can comfortably relate to.  I have a great appreciation for the process and art of creating literature.  There is no real way to measure the passion and amount of time that an author spends writing as well as self-publishing a book.  The satisfaction truly comes from the joy on the readers’ faces.

The decision to self-publish can be a difficult one for an author to make, but it’s one I would certainly recommend trying.  My advice to any new author considering the self-publishing option is to 1) be realistic about how much work is required, while being aware of your talents and your limitations, 2) find a support network, as each self-publishing process can offer different experiences and 3) just keep writing!

About the Author

Stacey Alfonso-Mills is the self-published author of The Boys of Sinclair Hill-Fun in the Backyard (2009), The Boys of Sinclair Hill-The Princess, The Treasure and The Blue Dragon (2011), Manatee has a Question (2014) as well as a children’s colouring book.

Stacey’s books are written in Standard English format.   Her books feature Caribbean elements through its stories and illustrations and also include subtle learning tips. Young readers enjoy the Caribbean diversity of Stacey’s books.  Stacey writes for the early Primary or Elementary school age group and her books are perfect for reading aloud.

As an author Stacey collaborates with Bridge Foundation, an organization that supports the development of young children through the promotion of literacy programmes that encourage early reading.  Stacey’s books are included in the BGTT sponsored Bridge Foundation’s ‘Read to Rise’ programme, which uses a book rotation strategy to inspire and encourage student reading while innovatively building classroom libraries.  This programme was launched in March 2013 at Mayaro Government Primary School and Guayaguayare R.C. School, both located on the east coast of Trinidad.  Stacey also participated in the launch of the 2013 Bridge Foundation’s Read for the Record Day, which is a global celebration of reading created to bring attention to the importance of early literacy among children.

When Stacey is not writing books or reading her books to students at primary schools across Trinidad, she is a Communications Consultant and the Managing Director of MAALAN Resources Limited, which is a service company in the Trinidad and Tobago energy sector.

Stacey is keen to expand her literary contributions and is currently working on making her books available in electronic format.  Her goal is to find that comfortable balance, for her young audience, where her books can exist for the modern young reader in a variety of electronic formats while preserving the traditional printed format.

Stacey is Trinidad and Tobago born.  She is married with three sons and currently resides with her family in Trinidad and Tobago.

Author’s Contact:

Email: staceyalfonsomillsbooks@gmail.com

Website: www.staceyalfonsomillsbooks.com 

Stacey’s Books are available in Trinidad  & Tobago at:

  • Paper Based, The Normandie Hotel, St. Anns
  • Rainy Days, Ellerslie Plaza, Maraval
  • Horizon’s Framing & Décor Ltd., Mucurapo Road, St. James

 

 

5 Comments

  1. Luanne says:

    I am so proud of you Stacy, thank you for sharing your talent with our youth. I can relate to your challenges, being in the publishing business myself. Have you considered getting the books on the reading syllabus at public schools via the Ministry of Education?

    Like

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