Bringing Gemma to Life – My Self Publishing Experience

I set out many years ago to become a published author.  At that time, I was experimenting with writing romantic fiction.  I wrote a book, and shopped it out to agents and signed up with one and the book went nowhere.  For $250 and a six month contract, the book did nothing.  So at the end of the six months I asked for my manuscript back and put it away for a future date.  The stuff of every day life got in the way of that dream and I let myself get distracted from that goal.  In 2011, rather than let it sit and gather dust, I put it on here on my blog, chapter by chapter, one month at a time, as an experiment.  I wanted to see if anyone would read it and comment on the chapters as they were eagerly awaiting the next.  But alas, not one comment.  I don’t even think anyone clicked the like button on those chapters. And once again they are sitting gathering dust.

In 2012, while in counseling my counselor suggested I start drawing as a form of 2015-10-03 22.30.21therapy.  The more I drew the more confident I became.  I started drawing things to give to friends and family.  I expanded from straight black and white to adding colors and then from there to covering the entire page.  In 2014, a number of friends kept telling me that I could illustrate a book.  I kept putting them off, I wasn’t good enough, I wasn’t an artist, I didn’t know the first thing about illustrating a book.  However, that year for Christmas my son and daughter-in-love gave me a really nice drawing pad and some ink pens.  I thought “no excuses now” and that it would be perfect for starting an illustration project.  So on New Years Day 2015, I started creating my story of “Gemma the Sweater Loving Giraffe”.  Gemma came to life on my pages.  I completed 17 pictures by June 2015.  To be honest, I didn’t think I would be able to complete them that quickly. I thought it would take me a year to do them, however, when I started my last picture and saw that it was only a few days before being exactly 6 months since I started this journey, I pushed myself to finish on that day.   I made it what the last pen scratch just shy of midnight!

I actually did the story a little backwards.  I completed the illustrations before the first line of a story was created.  I hand wrote it, and then I typed it, and then edited, and edited, and edited.  I gave it to a friend to edit.  I gave it to my husband to edit. And in August, I felt it was complete enough to send to the Library of Congress (LOC) Copyright Office for a copyright.  Gemma arrived there on August 20th.  In October, I submitted my story to a publisher and never heard one word from them, not even an email acknowledging receipt after I sent a second email inquiring whether they had received it or not.  During this time so many people asked me what the publishing status was so often, I so disliked having to tell them that I was in limbo, a permanent waiting status.

In February of this year after not hearing a word from this publisher, I took the bull by the horns and started the self-publishing process through CreateSpace on  During this process I learned a variety of things that you need to do:

  1.  When you are finished writing your book, send a copy to the Library of Congress to get a copyright.   You can still publish it. Your copyright starts from the date that it was received in the Copyright office.  So send it in such as way as to be able to track the package and keep a record. Once received, it will take about 13 months to get your certificate of copyright from them. So don’t panic if you have not heard from them in a couple months.  They suggest that you keep track of it on your calendar.  If you have not heard back from them when the 13 months is up, then contact with as much information as you have, including date of receipt in their office.
  2. Have someone you can rely on to edit your book.  Even after getting a proof of the book, there are errors that can be found. While in this stage you can still modify your text or illustrations as needed.
  3. Get an ISBN – I used the free one that comes with CreateSpace, but you can purchase one as well through Bowker or another online source.
  4. When you are completely finished, and you have reviewed your proof with a fine tooth comb, and you are ready to hit the submit button for the book to go live, STOP and do one more step.  Get an LCCN (Library of Congress Control Number) it is inexpensive, $25 dollars, but this number puts your book into the LOC catalog so that libraries and other organizations can find it easier.  CreateSpace will do this for you, and it will delay the publishing of your book by about 10 business days, but this step will make it ready for a larger audience.  It will be worth the wait.  I did not do this with this first book. This process is not included in the step by step set up of your book.  It was only after I explored the site a little more that I found it under the sales and marketing tab that I learned of this step.
  5. When you hit the activate button, get ready to dance.  You are now a published author!

Because I wanted it quicker and did not want to pay a large sum of money to self-publish with a smaller organization, I chose to use CreateSpace to create my book. There is no middle man.  I don’t get just a small portion of the royalties, I get all of them.  I retain complete ownership of my book, and I can set the price that I want to sell it at.  This was a learning experience; one that I wouldn’t change for the world.  I learned what to do and what not to do.  I uploaded and deleted my book several times.  I learned that when they ask you for a book cover, they want the entire book cover, front and back, not just front.  I learned that when there are errors in the formatting,  that CreateSpace will stop you and ask if you really want to do it that way.  I learned that, when converting from CreateSpace to Kindle,  pictures don’t transfer and all you will get for pictures are giant red Xs.  I learned how to create a children’s book on Kindle using their downloadable program.

It took me 13 1/2 months from first picture to final push of the button to complete this project.  You can now find “Gemma the Sweater Loving Giraffe” on Amazon, Kindle, and on Etsy. She is available world wide.  She is more than just a book – She has an activity page, she has coloring pages, and she loves going on adventures.   Gemma has started her next adventure and her third one is already gelling in my mind, but more on those adventures in another post.

You too can learn these things.  Even with all the upload and deletes and errors and fixes, this was such a fun experience.

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