Self-Printing Guest Post: Olive O’Brien, author of Perry the Polar Bear Goes Green

When looking for a way to get her children’s book, Perry the Polar Bear, into print, author – and fellow Corkonian! – Olive O’Brien made the courageous decision to set up her own publishing company and go it alone. The gamble paid off; Olive is about to publish her third picture book and has used her expertise to establish Creative Writing Ink, a company that provides online writing classes and local workshops. Visit Olive’s blog, follow her on Twitter or read on to find out about her self-publishing adventures.

“Last year I decided to go ahead and self-publish my very first book. At first, I was a little reluctant for several reasons.

Would it be better to wait for a publisher to pick it up? How do I even go about self-publishing a book? And more importantly, how on earth would I sell it?!

Before I decided to take the leap and investigate the whole publishing process, I learned many lessons. The crucial one was that Irish publishers do not publish picture-books, due to the high cost of printing.

As I am a picture-book author, that was obviously a bit of a problem.

I had put some time and heart into my first story, about a polar bear cub called Perry and I really wanted to see it in print, even if it was just a few copies. So, I started looking into the whole area of “self-publishing.”

I had looked at areas, such as print­-on-demand, a very cost-effective way to publish books and also “vanity” publishers. Vanity publishers are companies who will charge you a significant amount of money to design, edit and print a certain number of books. However they keep some of the royalties and I thought if I’m going to invest money in it, I would prefer to have full creative control and keep the royalties for myself.

So I decided to go the whole hog and set up my own independent publishing company, Silver Angel Publishing. There isn’t a whole lot to setting up a company, apart from registering it in the Companies Office.

The hard apart is actually going about publishing and selling your book.

As mine was a picture-book and needed full colour illustrations, I started searching for an illustrator. I had a very specific type of illustrator in mind and having looked through dozens of portfolios, settled for an amazing illustrator, Nina Finn-Kelcey, based in Co. Kerry, Ireland.

I divided my story into pages and sent it, along with some ideas to Nina, who quickly drew up some layouts for me. Thankfully, the layouts exceeded my expectations and Nina completed the illustrations in a record time of one month. Next, I had to employ a graphic designer to design the layout and prepare the book for the printers.

With the number of illustrations, I felt that it would be best to employ a graphic designer, to design the cover, lay out the interior and prepare it for print.

I should also mention at this point, it’s best to employ an editor or proofreader to look at your book before you decide to print it.

Once the file was print-ready, I sourced a printer. Some of the printers, particularly in this country are very expensive, but I landed a pretty decent deal with a local company and printed 1,000 copies of my book.

I also had to apply for an ISBN number (international standard book number). They are issued by Nielsen in the UK and allow you to put a barcode on the back of your book. The advantage is that when retailers scan your book at the point of purchase, the sales details are recorded by Nielsen.

So, my first book Perry the Playful Polar Bear was printed and ready to go. Now all I had to do was sell it! A local bookseller kindly agreed to hold my first launch at her shop in November 2009. I managed to blag some local press attention and an article on the book and launch appeared the following week.

Since then, it received positive reviews in the Irish Examiner, Primary Times and was recommended as a Christmas gift for children in Womans Way and The Star.

At first, I sold the book myself, through my website, Amazon and through direct sales. However, since the launch of my first book six months ago, I found myself becoming busier and busier.

So, I went about sourcing a distributor and luckily, Gill and Macmillan agreed to take on my books. I also employed a book sales agent, who contacts and visits bookstores on my behalf.

Since my first launch, I’ve also released a second book, Perry the Polar Bear Goes Green. It’s an eco-friendly book printed on 100% recycled paper which teaches children about global warming.

My third book, Eco Zico is being illustrated at the moment and will be released in the Autumn.

I now work full-time in the publishing company. It has been a series of highs and lows and a major learning experience. But it has been an enjoyable rollercoaster of a ride.”

Purchase Olive’s books on or visit Silver Angel Publishing.

Thanks for guest-posting, Olive!

8 thoughts on “Self-Printing Guest Post: Olive O’Brien, author of Perry the Polar Bear Goes Green

  1. Joanne says:

    Wow, what an amazing way to learn about the whole business of publishing. You must be an expert in all the nuts and bolts, and marketing too! Kudos to you for taking your book into your own hands and following through to getting it into your readers’ hands. It sounds like a very enlightening experience!

    • Olive says:

      @Catherine; Thanks so much for the chance to guest post!

      @Joanne; Thanks Joanne for all your kind words. I definitely know a lot more than now than I did a year ago about the publishing business & I’m still learning as I go!

      @Róisín; Yep, “vanity publishers” can work out a little expensive alright, particularly if you can do it all yourself.

      @ewatasin; Good luck with your own self-publishing ventures! I’ll be interested to know how you get on.

  2. Roisin says:

    You’ve achieved so much in one year! Writing, publishing and marketing – You’re a Jane of All Trades!

    I hadn’t heard of “vanity publishing” before. An interesting and expensive concept!

    Best of luck for 2010 🙂

  3. ewatasin says:

    Thanks for sharing your experiences, it’s good to see that so much can be done in under a year to make a book happen. It’s a lot of hard work but by your example I can continue to tell myself that it can be done! I’m in the process now of self-publishing. I like the decisions you have made and committed to. I wonder: how does one find a book sales agent? I’m in the U.S., and have not yet come across a resource yet that provided such a person or service.

  4. Theresa Milstein says:

    I love hearing about how the self-publishing route works. How wonderful you’ve been successful. It’s also wonderful you wrote a “green” book and used green printing methods. Thanks for sharing!

  5. catherineryanhoward says:

    Thanks Olive for such a great post and glad everyone found it helpful/interesting/inspiring! 🙂

    We have another self-publishing story coming up tomorrow, from someone who also used CreateSpace to produce a travel memoir. The comparison/contrast should be interesting…!

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