On Episode 32, I chat with a mother, and newly self-published author, Alison Klakowicz!
Joining me for the first time? Start at the beginning HERE!
Would you rather listen on the go? Go HERE!
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RESOURCES We Talk About!
Find the Clewer Puppets HERE.
Fall in love with Alison’s children’s book HERE.
Learn more about Alison Klakowicz HERE
Read her blog HERE.
Find her on Facebook HERE.
Follow her on Instagram HERE.
Follow her on Twitter HERE.
Listen to her own podcast, called Hodge Podge HERE.
A Little Bit About Alison
Laurie: Hi everybody, welcome to the next episode of The Writer’s Way podcast. I’m here with Alison Klakowicz, did I say it right?
Alison: Yeah you did, very good.
Laurie: Yeah. Mommy’s Big, Red Monster Truck, I love it.
Laurie: Do you have a big red monster truck?
Alison: Do I have one?
Alison: Of course, that’s always the number one question everyone wants to know. No, I do not actually.
Laurie: I’m picturing you in your you know truck.
Alison: Maybe one day, maybe one day. But no I just drive a regular old mom.
Laurie: Minivan okay well Alison why don’t you share with us a bit about your background. You know how you started out and how you ended up with the book.
My Son is OBSESSED With Monster Trucks!
Alison: Okay well my background, I worked in Human Services for many years in a counseling profession. But prior to that, I was an English major many many many many years ago with a focus on Creative Writing. Started writing seriously probably in high school. Later part of high school and through my college years. I write for newspaper and have done freelance. But I have always had a great love of children’s literature and always wanted to publish a children’s book. And so the desire was always there. But my son who is seven now, when he was a toddler was absolutely addicted, obsessed with monster trucks. Everything was monster truck. We had monster trucks everywhere.
Alison: Wear monster truck clothes, it was a big deal. So I’d drive him to pre-school in the mornings and big trucks would pass us by and he’d exclaim, “Mom, there’s a bunch of trucks, you need “to drive a big, red monster truck.” And hence what you know the idea for my story came from that. So that’s a bit of my background and my inspiration for where the book came.
Laurie: And so when did you start working on it? So you had that inspiration when he was in pre-school but he’s seven now so that’s.
Life as a Military Family
Alison Klakowicz: Right right, I started years ago I wrote down a basic storyline and just kind of held onto it until you know the right time. And so like I said I had worked in Human Services full-time for many years and a few years ago, about three and a half years ago, I decided to make a big change. I left my career, we are a military family here in the U.S. in the Southeast U.S. in North Carolina. And so my husband travels a lot with the military, he’s very busy and we decided so that I could have a little more time at home. And be able to finally truly focus on my creative pursuits so that’s when I came home.
I had to kind of get myself used to being home after working professionally for 17 years. You know I didn’t know even when my child was born, I pretty much went right back to work. So it was a whole new lifestyle but I told myself you know I am going to do this. And I have other writing interests as well outside of just children’s books but I knew that I was going to utilize my time well. And I was going to make a plan and I’d start researching what was out there. And so that’s what I did. I spent a lot of time writing and researching and trying to figure out how to do it. So last winter, I was like okay it’s time. And I again was researching online specifically children’s book publishers and I was not interested in doing Amazon or the self-publishing.
Because I didn’t have the illustrations. I do love to paint and doodle and I have a very very tiny little art business but I wasn’t confident enough in my skills yet. So I was really pleased when I found out about a hybrid publisher in Canada, in Victoria FriesenPress. And talked with their representatives and I loved everything that they offered. And with publishing, they would provide a distributor which interested me as well as illustrations and a design team. So last March I believe it was, I signed with Friesen and the rest is history, we got busy yeah.
Laurie: March 2018?
Laurie: And when was the book published?
Alison: The book was published in November.
Laurie: Wow, fast.
Alison: Yeah so we’re you know I’m just getting really my feet wet.
Alison: Getting started and it’s exciting.
What is a Hybrid Publisher?
Laurie: So can you share, like explain to me like I was five, what a hybrid publisher is. Because a lot of people hear these terms and they don’t know what to make of it.
Alison: Okay well a traditional publisher basically does all you know, you seek out a traditional publisher. They accept you, they publish and do most of your marketing but I’ve heard otherwise in that subtext too. But with a hybrid publisher, it is both self publishing and a combination of certain things that a traditional publisher would offer. Like having a distribution company. I didn’t want to have to handle massive amounts of books shipped to me even though I do purchase outright and sell at events and do different things. But I wanted to have a distributor there to print the books and do all that for me. So I basically earn royalties from where the book is distributed under Ingram is who my distributor is.
Laurie: Oh Ingram.
Alison: Uh-huh, and they have promotional specialists, an entire production team. So it was very team oriented. They’re very professional. And as a first time author, I knew I wanted to produce a really beautiful quality book and I needed help. I wasn’t there in the place where I thought I was ready to do that all by myself. And I’m really glad I didn’t. You know it worked out for me.
Alison Klakowicz: So you know other people are doing great you know they’re total self publishing. But for me, this has been a really beautiful relationship.
Laurie: Well it sounds like you’re really multi-passionate. You have a lot on the go and to still publish well is a lot of skills. So if you don’t have them already, there’s so many different aspects to it that go into it. So that’s fantastic that FriesenPress. You know that you found them and that it worked out for you.
Alison: Mmm-hmm and they don’t just kind of the minute the book comes out, they don’t just leave you hanging. They’re still there to encourage you, to provide you information on marketing and how to get the word out. They also helped with designing a professional website.
Laurie: Oh wow.
Alison: Yeah. They assisted with my copyright, my ISBN numbers. You know they did a lot for me. I paid them to do that also, I need to say that.
Alison: I paid them a good amount. So it’s quite a commitment but my husband and I felt like it was investing in the business. And we just looked at from that mindset that we would have to invest. So it’s been well worth it.
Laurie: Okay and do you have to do the bulk of your marketing then just with their guidance or?
Alison: Mmm-hmm yeah because from a self publishing point of view, it is my book, it’s 100 percent my copyright. You know it’s
Alison: My responsibility.
Laurie: You’re on the hook.
What have you learned throughout this process?
Laurie: Did you learn anything throughout the process that surprised you or that was unexpected?
Alison: Oh God yeah a lot of different things. I’m trying to think of one in particular. You know just the learning process of how a book is published number one. All of the detail and steps that go into creating a book. Especially children’s book when taking consideration like for the illustrations, every detail matters. You know, it’s a big deal. The illustrations help make the book what it is. They bring the storyline to life. So in working with the team you know how specific I had to be and detail what I wanted for background colors, colors of you know.
Laurie: So you had a lot of input.
Alison: Yeah yeah oh definitely. You know I had to tell them what I wanted to see on every page basically.
Laurie: Oh wow okay.
Alison: It was you know some creative input on their behalf. But they wanted me to feel like you know this was 100 percent what I wanted and what I was asking for.
Laurie:And I imagine as you’re writing it, you have that vision in your head so if you see something. Like with a traditional publisher you don’t have any say.
Laurie: So then something that maybe doesn’t align with the vision you have in your head would be difficult.
Laurie: I mean it’s hard sometimes to say what you want.
Alison: Right and were are times where they would come with an image would have people or certain things and I would be like no I don’t think that’s what I want. But very rarely, they did an excellent job. So that was one thing, just you know how much time, how much effort goes into it. Marketing, wow.
Laurie: It’s a whole…
A Supportive Writing Community
Alison: Marketing is the hard part. This is the real part yeah. And so I’m getting a real education on what works, what doesn’t work and you know it’s definitely a trial and error and again researching to where your eyes are.
Laurie: Yeah it’s interesting.
Alison: You’re so overwhelmed.
Laurie: You’re kind of like me that you have your idea but you didn’t do anything on it for years and so the actual publishing becomes that huge mountain to climb. And then once you’re over it, the marketing is the hard part. Oh it’s actually not that hard but yeah actually selling the book.
Alison Klakowicz: Yes and you know it’s often there’s been so much support though. The writing community in itself is just so supportive. I’ve been really impressed, especially those of us who are along the lines of self publishing. Not that traditional published authors and writers aren’t supportive, they are. But there’s definitely a community and the Internet is such a wonderful thing. Social media, you know bringing everyone together.
Alison: And being able to share different ideas and it’s so neat to connect with people from all over the world.
Laurie: I often say that as well. I sound like a five year old, the Internet, the Internet. Like it’s new but it’s not it’s just that.
Alison: For those of us too that didn’t grow up with Internet you know.
Alison: I mean I’m 43 and so the Internet wasn’t a thing throughout my schooling.
Laurie: Yeah and there’s so much potential like you said yeah. I talk to people all over the world and it’s just where are you, you’re in Guam? And here we are, we’re friends.
Alison Klakowicz: And I have to share this while we’re on the topic of people all over the world. I just some mail this week and I’m so excited. But it was from a social media contact that I made and a lady by the name of Deborah Williams who is a children’s book author and puppeteer and puppet maker in New South Wales, Australia. She hand makes puppets and an author in California who I’ve been introduced to Donna Cowan, who wrote With the Courage of a Mouse, the Superhero School series. She had worked with Deborah and Deborah made a puppet for her for her character in her children’s book. I just thought that was fabulous. I was like I need this in my life. I love this personality, I need this. And so this week, Mommy’s Big Red Monster Truck came in the mail. My very own handmade personal puppet that I cannot wait to implement as part of my author events. So and these are little finger puppets that come out of the cab.
Laurie: That’s so cool. Wow so much work to create.
Alison: The detail in it’s beautiful, she did an awesome job.
Laurie: That’s fantastic, you’ll have to give me her info because some people might want to look her up.
Alison: Yes I will definitely, it’s Clewer Puppets and I’ll spell it out for you.
Alison: And you can link it but she’s fabulous.
Laurie: So you do author events, what do you do?
Alison: Normally I’ve been visiting libraries, independent bookstores and this spring started going into elementary schools so that’s been really fun, I’ve had a blast. So normally what I do is a reading. I’ll open it up with a small introduction. You know normally my audience is like very young so they’re attention spans can only handle so much.
Laurie: Sure it is yeah.
Alison: So they’re like get on with it lady. But I tell them a little bit about my inspiration for the book and then I read the book to them. And then we do a little question and answer where they can ask me different questions about either what they learned from the book. Or what they liked about the book. And because it is a traveling adventure story time about a mom and a son and their book, they always are very eager to tell me about where they have traveled with their families and what experiences they have had. Or if they’ve been to a monster truck jam show or something like that you know, it’s fun.
The Story Behind the Book
Laurie: Is it more about the traveling and adventure than it is about monster trucks? Like are you a monster truck expert?
Alison: Not at all, no. The monster truck is just the awesome vehicle that allows this really cool mom and son to be able to travel and make memories together. And I think whether they’re traveling in their community doing their daily routine or if they are traveling across the U.S. Basically that’s what they do. They wind up doing a travel across the United States and then even talk about visiting Canada. And going to England to visit the Queen.
Laurie: In a monster truck.
Alison: And China and all these exotic places so it’s kind of an introduction to Social Studies and opening the world up for them to be like oh. And also since we do live in a military community, we have a very diverse community. We have people that have lived all over the world. So it’s really cool when they get to see a place in the book where they have lived because they’re like oh I have lived there, I love that. Or I’ve been and visited there.
Laurie: Oh that’s fun.
Alison: Yeah, it’s a really fun conversation. We also at the end of my events, normally we do a monster truck craft. So they get to make their very own little construction paper monster truck and it has these paper plates as the wheels.
Laurie: Oh so it’s huge.
Alison: And they have such a good time. And that’s been really the funnest part of this whole journey is being able to get out, read to the kids, talk with them, watch their reactions of the book and getting the feedback. And just spending time with them. It’s been really wonderful.
Laurie: You’re enjoying that.
Words of Wisdom for Authors
Laurie: Okay would you have any wise words of wisdom for people maybe who are like you, three or four years ago their kids have given them this idea. What advice would you give to somebody?
Alison: Go for it.
Laurie: Go for it, just go for it.
Alison: Do it, do it. You don’t have to up and quit your job like I did. We had a lot of personal decisions to make to make that work for everyone. We had to really think about this.
Laurie: Did you quit your job just for the sake of the book though or was there other personal.
Alison Klakowicz: No there are personal reasons but no. But definitely continue to strive towards that. If you have a story, an idea that you really believe in, most likely it’s a good one. And just continue to research. That is a big part of it and educate yourself about the process. Reach out to writers groups and other authors and just start talking about it, believe in yourself.
Laurie: Yeah, that’s a big one. It took me 10 years to start talking about my book. Like I can’t tell anybody, it felt so scary.
Alison: And it’s weird because you feel so insecure about it and oh it’s such a hokey idea and I don’t deserve. Why should I do this? And it’s like why shouldn’t you do this?
Laurie: Why shouldn’t you?
Alison: And now I’m on that other side of the bridge and I’m like do it.
Laurie: And you just seem like a normal typical person.
Alison: I am.
Laurie: No celebrity friends or anything.
Laurie: But you just did it.
Alison: I did.
Laurie: Just did it and feel so confident and proud of yourself I hope?
Alison: I do, I do and I just again love meeting so many people like you and all of the other writers and authors. And just creative people out there striving to you know go after their dreams.
Where to Find Alison Online
Laurie: Exactly just that bucket list I know. Well thank you, can you share your website with us and I’ll share all the other links that you gave me.
Alison: Sure, my website is kind of long. It’s my name, here I’ll hold my book up.
Laurie: Okay I’ll share it.
Alison: Www.alisonpaulklakowicz.com Also on Facebook under Mommy’s Big Red Monster Truck so if you put in Mommy’s Big Red Monster Truck on Facebook, you can follow me there. And on Twitter under klakowiczalison. And on Instagram at alisonklak.
Laurie: Okay and your books on Amazon.
Alison: Oh I’m sorry yes.
Alison: I need to send you to yes. And so FriesenPress’s bookstore online, on Amazon, you can also order it on Barnes and Noble. And then iTunes and Google Play have the e-reader.
Laurie: Awesome, thank you so much, it’s been a pleasure chatting with you Alison.
Alison: So much fun, thank you Laurie.
Laurie: You’re welcome, bye for now.