Friday, 9 October 2015

Taking the leap of faith - Will it ever be the right time?

Warning, I am being a moaning minny so apologies for the doom and gloom, but I feel this is an important topic to cover. I am sure that I am not the only one out there who is going, or have gone through these struggles.

So good news first (yes there is some lol), I have officially been given another book to work on… yay! So that is two I am working on for the rest of the year. Now the bad news… it might well kill me ha ha. Well ok, maybe that’s a tad on the dramatic side,  but it is safe to say that I am going to be a teeny bit busy up until Christmas. For the first time ever I have had to tell people that I cannot physically do any more work until 2016. 

I am so grateful that I am fortunate enough to have job offers coming in but I  am also a little wary. I haven’t had a break since February now so I won’t lie…. as much as I am really looking forward to working on the new books I am also a little concerned that I will have yet another burn out spell. Generally I try not to do more than 2 books a year as they are quite time consuming. Juggling commissions around the day job, children and general day to day stuff is really quite tricky. I vowed when I was working on Animania and Animal Stories For The Young 4 earlier this year that I wouldn’t put myself in that situation again….. famous last words!

This year I have worked on 4 books plus my Animania colouring book. This is on top of a very complicated house move and a family health scare… just in case I get bored. It has been a year that has been quite ridiculous, at one point I really thought someone up there was having  a laugh.  As a result I have been run down with insomnia spells, woman flu, and what I can only describe as a panic attack, that was a horrible feeling! I have been more snappy and not listening to what others are saying, literally floating about in my own little bubble. It is not all doom and gloom some great things happened this year which I am so grateful for, I moved into a lovely home and will have my own little studio next year. I published my first book and finally seeing results with my work so there is a lot of good going on too.

However, here comes the moan….It has got to the point now that I am struggling to do this and my day job. My typical day comprises of getting up, doing the school run, go to work, school run, cook dinner, general housey and mumsy stuff then by about 8ish I can start painting/sketching. I occasionally have a day off but more often than not it doesn’t happen. In fact it has got to the point now that when I do actually watch something on telly I feel really guilty, it just feels so naughty sitting there and relaxing.... this isn't a healthy way to live your life.

Before I go off on a rant and play the “poor me” card I do want to stress that I love what I do and I am so so grateful that I have commissions coming in, but it’s getting to the point where I am having to seriously think about the future. There have been a few comments now that have hit home, the children have commented on the fact that I am art obsessed and working too much, my husband has said he wants his old wife back… can you imagine how heart breaking this is to hear. I hate that I am changing and I try so so hard to not get stressed or snappy but it just get’s too much at times. My biggest fear is that the children will grow up thinking that their Mum is some work obsessed mentalist who didn’t have time for them.

So last week I had to sit down and have “the chat” about the possibility of leaving the day job and doing this full time. Well it went down like a lead balloon and the whole thing was rather depressing. It really kicked me in the stomach, all I have been working towards is to do this full time and now I am beginning to think it will never happen and I am destined to either a) give it all up or b) just do it as a hobby or c) carry on working like a nutter and turn into some kind of crazy scary woman in the process, that everyone will come to resent. I stumbled across this quote and it sums up exactly how I feel right now  “It’s hard to wait around for something that may never happen; but it’s even harder to give up when you think it’s everything you want”  

You see my job works perfectly around the school hours and is quite well paid so at the end of the day, could I earn as much through what I am doing? The answer is, I really don’t know, it is such a risky choice to make. I was convinced I could make a go of this, but now I am feeling incredibly insecure about it all, what if it does all go pear shaped? At what point do I take the leap? Right now is not the right time but at what point is it the right time? Do I really have  to run myself to the ground to find out? So many questions have filled my head the last week.

I have seen many people make the transition but the majority is because they have been forced into the situation, the timing was right for them. They have no regrets though and even though there is that worry of an unsteady income the overall vibe I have received is that it was the best thing they ever did, they are living their dreams. But then there are some that are really struggling to find the jobs to pay for their rent. It is such a tough choice to make and something you cannot take lightly when you have little mouths to feed.

I am in limbo with the whole thing now. I have started contacting agents again, if I had an agent on my side then that would give me a security blanket but so far we are 7 rejections in and as much as I am trying to stay positive I am not so sure anymore. So where does this leave me? Well I will carry on as I am, get these two books finished and then assess the situation again. If any more jobs come in next year then something needs to change,  because I refuse to go through another year like that again. It is so so hard balancing family life, work life and pursuing a different career path but my family will always come first. The last week has been a real wake up call and it is time I start to prioritize things differently. I am going to have to be much quieter on social media for a start so apologies now for being distant.

I am normally a very positive person and always try to make others happy so I hate writing posts like this, but it is important to show that life isn’t always a bunch of roses. We all struggle and the black spells happen to everyone. I think that is why I always try to make people laugh or put on this positive happy, happy front, it’s because I know what  it’s like to feel worthless, insecure and inadequate…. Strong words I know, but this is genuinely how I feel at times, more so this year. It is a horrible feeling, but luckily these spells do pass and the majority of the time I am all about the lols. My heart goes out to people who suffer from depression because it must be awful when you can’t talk yourself out of it. When I have a bad spell I try really hard to focus on all the good, that helps me a lot. I also remind myself of the bigger things going on in the world and how my silly little meltdowns are really irrelevant in the grand scheme of things, there are people out there who are really suffering and do not have the things that I do. I have my health, my children, a loving husband, amazing family and friends and a roof over my head... there is a lot to smile about.

Anyway the remainder of my posts will all be happy, happy now for the rest of the year, even if I do age 20 years ha ha. I have taken my frown and turned it upside down.

Have you taken the leap of faith and left all that was comfortable to live your dreams? I could really do with some input on this one so please do leave a comment below.

Friday, 2 October 2015

To self publish or not self publish - A J Cosmo's success story

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As you might be aware I recently self published my first children’s book Animania.
It was not a decision I took lightly, I off course wanted to try to get a traditional publisher on board. However after  a year of rejections from both agents and publishers I decided enough was enough, it was time to do this on my own.

In this day and age it is so simple to self-publish a book. I never thought I would say this but the actual production of the book is the easy part. How to market yourself and your work is a whole new ball game and one that I am still struggling to get my head around.

I have learned a lot the past year with the self publishing versus traditional publishing routes and I am continuing to learn each day. I think it will be a good couple of years until I have established myself as a children’s author. I have had a great start with it, but it is going to take more time and alot more writing/illustrating before I start seeing the results I am working towards.

One of the main ways I have taught myself about the wonderful world of publishing is by connecting with fellow creatives and swapping stories/ideas. I am always fascinated with everyone’s stories about how they have got to where they are today, it inspires me and keeps me motivated to keep going. I thought I would interview a few people that I look up to in the hope that their success stories will inspire me and other hopefuls out there. I will try and do this once a month as a new feature.

A J Cosmo is the first person I have chosen to quiz. This super lovely chap is a creative machine when it comes to writing and illustrating books. Over 40 self published books to date, and his first book was published only 4 years ago… see what I mean about a creative machine! When I first came across A J Cosmo earlier this year I remember going through his website and thinking wow, this is exactly how I would like to see myself a few years down the line. You can’t help but admire the level of success he has achieved all by himself. It just goes to show that self publishing can work providing that you have the passion and commitment to see it through. So here we have a few questions that I wanted to ask the man himself…


You are an illustrator and an author; did you have any training in either field? 
I have always taken art and writing classes, my best subjects, and have an undergrad in fine art and a master in film with a minor in painting. I have also worked as an airbrush artist for many years, which gave me my speed, and written screenplays in my spare time to try to break into film.  

When did you realize this was your path in life? 
Children's books were one of many spokes I had in the fire when I found myself unemployed. People responded after the third piece and I have been creating children's book sever since. 

When did you publish your first title and how did it feel? 
My first children's book for Kindle came out in December of 2011. It was called Gordon's Gravy and has since been discontinued. It felt like a naked relief. I never expected fame or fortune, still don’t, but I was happy to simply have something out there. So much of my artistic life has revolved around asking permission; so simply publishing something, anything, was a breakthrough. 

The self-publishing industry has a huge learning curve. Did you find it easy to publish your first book? 
Publishing is easy. You can find hundreds of tutorials and services to get a book on Amazon. Publishing professionally, creating something of value people want, that's hard. Self-publishing has a bad reputation because so many people forget that our audience has been fed filet mignon for years. They have high expectations and want indie writers to match or exceed the professionalism of traditional publishers.  

Did you invest much financially in your first book? 
No. Doing almost everything myself, I invest very little in each of my books. Doing things this cheaply means that I spend a huge amount of time on each project. Luckily I am quick. It also means that I have had to acquire every skill that a book needs to be created. The past four years have been one long education. I do not recommend people break the bank with each book. Rather, spend thriftily and where it matters (cover and content) and expect that your investment will never show returns.  

You have self published all of your titles, did you ever try to go down the traditional publishing route and how did you find it? 
I have tried half-heartedly and still think of trying to this day. Traditional publishers frustrate me because everything is on their terms and they are painfully slow. It's also bizarre to talk to traditionally published authors who brag about their one book and be looked down upon myself for having sold twenty times their numbers. 

What made you decide to go down the self-publishing route? 
Fear of rejection from traditional publishers and ease of entry combined with the newness of the technology. It became a job as soon as I started treating it like one and it definitely gives back in proportion to what I put in. 

What are your top 3 dos and don'ts for self-publishing? 


1) Be professional. 
2) Pay attention to your market. 
3) Be humble, expect nothing. 


1) Carelessly throw anything out there. 
2) Assume that you cannot be better. 
3) Rely on magical thinking, easy solutions, or other people.  

At what point in your career did you feel like you were on the right track and started to see significant results? 
There's an assumption that once you do well you will always do well. Make no mistake, I struggle same as everyone else. I have had mind-blowing months and heartbreaking months. You cannot have success without failure and often they are mixed together. I'm just now coming out of a personal recession, so to speak, and I'm still not entirely sure whose fault the whole ordeal was. Regardless, if this is something you want, expect to keep working even after you do well. That's why it's so important to value the craft over the rewards. 

I have found marketing to be the hardest part about self-publishing. Did you have any help with this or was it a case of picking things up as you go along? 
I have asked many questions of people who call themselves marketers. I have read many books on marketing, taken many online courses, read articles, and watched countless videos, but the most useful advice I ever found was that you need to be of use to other people. No one cares that you wrote a book; they care if you can help them make their life easier. If your book can stop a child from crying at night, you will sell a billion copies. Realizing that the customer, the reader, is the most important person in the world is the first step in effective marketing and is what I stress when teaching marketing to others.  

Have you ever paid for help with marketing and if so was it beneficial? 
Yes I have and I encourage everyone to try whatever he or she can at least once. What works for one person may not work for another. As for me, the most useful paid advertisement has been with the email blaster services such as BookBub and FreeBooksy. Those both require either substantial discounts or for you to offer books free, so to take full advantage of them you need to have an email subscription shell around their promotion. 

I was researching awards recently but was quite shocked with the fees for entering. What is your view on awards and paying for reviews, in your opinion is it worth the investment?
Awards can be a cash cow to the creators of the awards (same with contests) so you would do well to research the notoriety of the award before entering. You want an award that is hard to get and that people care about. Unfortunately, so many authors have slapped award seals on their books that I'm afraid it has lost a lot of meaning (same as palm fronds with films) so the value of the award might be in the recognition that the award gives to its audience, not on what you can stick on your book. 

I have found the journey so far to be a rollercoaster of emotions, a mix of extreme highs and lows. Did you go through similar feelings when you were starting out? 
Always have and always will. Fear is a sibling of creativity. Depression is the shadow of joy. Even the simplest walk has a vast variety of surfaces on the path. It's best to make peace with your emotions and use all that as a fuel to power you. I believe in feeling emotions fully, cherishing them, and then releasing them. It can be very good to be afraid. 

What plans do you have for your future writing and illustrating?
I plan on continuing to create, market, and help in whatever ways I can. I just want to be able to continue to do what I'm doing because it feels right. Sure, other things may come up, but I plan on producing at least one book a month until something stops me. There are a huge variety of projects on the slate from new middle-grade novels, to sequels, to multimedia iBooks, as well. I want to create something for everyone. 

What would be the biggest bit of advice that you would give people like me that have only just dipped their toes in the huge self-publishing ocean? 

Three steps: 

1) Decide if this is really what you want. Some people may only wish to publish one book and be done, that's perfectly fine. 

2) Be honest with yourself. Look at your work like others would. See the faults and the strengths. Look at your work like a stranger would look at you, not someone who is invested in you. 

3) Never stop learning. This industry changes quickly. Learn everything you can about business, marketing, art, graphic design, publishing, everything, and teach whenever you can (the best way to learn.) Knowledge will give you confidence and confidence will give you endurance. 

Thank you Corrina for this opportunity to speak. It was a pleasure. 
If any readers have a question for me I'm always available through email at 

You can contact AJ at:

Thank you so much for the fantastic interview AJ, you are a true inspiration… keep up the fantastic work!. AJ has always been so helpful when I have had any questions, so do get in touch with him if there is anything I haven’t covered here.

I still have a lot to learn but the biggest thing that came as a shock to me was the harsh realization that selling books is HARD work!. Please don’t be disheartened if you don’t sell many copies. I had a huge amount of support when I published Animania but the actual sales of the book was incredibly disappointing, to the point where I had a bit of a grey spell over it. I soon found out though that this is quite normal and even AJ himself said that the average sales of your first book is 20 copies! Well that made me feel a load better and I have been plugging away ever since. Sales are beginning to trickle in now and I am sure there will be more once I start getting myself out there in person. There is only so much you can do online, it is time to now see how sales go through things like author visits, Christmas fairs etc.

As they say “Rome wasn’t built in a day” so even if initial sales are disappointing you mustn’t give up, keep plugging, get yourself out there and start writing and producing more books. It will take time but with strength and determination you can get there. I won’t lie deciding to go solo is scary, there is a lot to get your head around but the actual process of getting the product together is really very simple and very affordable. I encourage anyone to give it a go, you really can’t lose with it. The hard bit is the work after, but if you like a challenge and have the passion then anything is possible, AJ is a prime example of this.

Have you self published a book? Do you have any tips on what helped you with your journey? If so please do leave a comment. If you have any questions at all then do feel free to ask me, I may not know an awful lot right now but I know a lot of people who do ;)

Happy writing xx