Reese Traves had a clear vision for her debut picture book, Wander New York, which a recent BookLife review called “whimsically illustrated, engaging, and information-packed.” It’s the first title in the Wander Often Wonder Always series of travel books starring Fitz, a friendly, camera-toting fox in a striped shirt. Traves’s desire to maintain creative control over bringing the book into the world—and her enthusiasm for learning new things—influenced her decision to self-publish. The process was a learning experience to be sure, and even more challenging than Traves anticipated. She cautions indie authors to be aware that “many of the behind-the-scenes tasks take a lot of time, and, as a writer, it’s important to also keep thinking about possible future ideas and continue writing” throughout that time-consuming process.
When it comes to picture books, the art is just as important as the text, but it can be difficult to find an illustrator as an indie author. Traves, however, didn’t have to look far for her illustrator: she’s married to him. “Jon [Traves]’s characters and style inspired me when I was writing the story, and it was something we wanted to design and publish together,” Traves says. So while she didn’t research illustrators herself, she does recommend taking a look at illustrators who are members of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. Each member has their own gallery on the SCBWI website, and their contact information is also listed, making it easy for writers and artists to connect.
While Wander New York has benefited from a robust marketing plan (Traves and her husband have been active on social media, created online ads, and run book blog tours), their live event plans were put on hold due to the pandemic. Once it becomes safe to do in-person events again, the pair plan to hold several live promotions. Until then, Traves says, “the safest way to travel to New York City is in a book!”
Below are Traves’s key pointers for aspiring indie authors:
"Make sure you know what you want to achieve from your book.”
Research, research, research
"Read books in your genre. I immediately started researching picture books online and borrowing lots of them, both old and new, from my local library. I also did a lot of research on self-publishing online to see the different options available—like where to publish, print, and distribute; how and where indie authors were promoting; etc.”
Join an organization
“Join a society for your genre, and a local writing community. I found and joined the SCBWI as well as a regional writing group. It’s helpful to be able to hear stories from other authors about how their writing journeys have evolved.”