This week on the Writer’s Way podcast, we talk to Christine Reynebeau about how her career working with teenagers inspired her to write a children’s book.
Then we hear about the pitfalls she experienced in traditional publishing and finally success she felt through indie publishing.
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Laurie: Hello everybody. Welcome to another episode of the Writer’s Way podcast. I’m here with the fantastic Christine Reynebeau. Thank you so much for joining me, Christine.
Christine: Absolutely. It’s my pleasure.
Laurie: Happy to have you. I’m so excited to talk to you. It’s like, where do we start? Lots to talk about.
We’re going to hear a door. Okay. Why don’t we start with a bit about your background. So how you got started with children’s books and then where you are now.
A Little Bit About Christine
Christine: Yeah. It’s actually, probably the least logical route to being a published children’s author that most people would think of. But I went to school for a degree in animal science.
So I always liked to tell people, and I get questions in interviews about why I have the degree I have, and I always like to tell people, it’s the best degree you can get to be a butcher.
Christine: Yeah, yeah. Because they didn’t have what I wanted at the time. But I wanted to train service dogs. And in that whole process I ended up with a internship and a part time job. And the internship was working with wildlife and rescuing them and the intern or, and the part time job was working with teenagers.
Christine: And the teenagers won. And so midway through college, I didn’t want to stay in college forever, so I started just focusing on my job and really building up my career.
Have been in youth development for over 10 years now. And in working with teams for all of those years, I started seeing patterns of lessons that weren’t making it to kids. So that’s where the inspiration behind each book comes from, is gaps in what we’re teaching kids. And then actually starting the publishing process, I was 23 years old and angry at where I was at in life.
Because what 23 year old isn’t right? And I had this like long list. I got this letter from a teacher from my senior year of high school and it was a letter to yourself five years from now. And I was that silly 17 year old who was like, “You’re going to have gone to Australia, published a children’s book, and you’re going to be, you know, starting a career all by the ripe age of 20.”
Laurie: Of course.
Christine: I was like…
Laurie: You gave yourself three years to get to Australia and back.
Christine: I gave myself, yeah, like the whole whopping, like short amount of time. Two years to get there.
And, jokes jokes on all of us young people who are like, I know what it’s like to be 20. And then you get there and you’re like, okay. So I, I hadn’t done anything else. I’d done one thing off the list. I made it to Australia. Oh yeah. But that only made me more disappointed at where I was at in life.
Taking the Plunge Into Traditional Publishing
Christine: And I saw published author in there and I was like, you know what? Let’s just do it. I started submitting my first book to a bunch of publishers. I had two publishers who reached out to me and said “We want to publish you.” I went with the one that was cheaper. And lo and behold, I got looped in with a vanity press.
For any people in the writing world, vanity press is not an author’s friend. So that is how I got started. And then the rest, do you want me to go into the rest of it?
Christine: Okay. So from there, I stuck with my vanity press for three years. I published two books. The first one came out in 2014.
That was PB and J. The second one was Guts in 2016. From there, I then took the next step and I took time off because with Guts, I ran into so many challenges, I almost quit. I was like, this is dumb. I was not cut out for this.
Laurie: Was it because of the publisher, or was it selling the book or what were the…?
Christine: It was the industry, book festivals, the publisher. If you can think of a challenge that a new author who, this is not necessarily their expertise to be in the publishing industry, we can think of an obstacle you can put in front of them. I hit ’em all. And I very distinctly remember that at my sister’s house sitting there and being like, I lost hundreds of dollars trying to grow books. Hundreds and I didn’t have hundreds to lose. I worked with kids. Remember, they don’t pay people who work with kids. So I was devastated and I was hurt.
A Third and Final Traditional Publishing Attempt
Christine: I was down and I was lucky enough to have her and have her say, here’s the deal. One more time. So let’s go. We’re going to look and what’s what, who can we reach out to, where we can we get you connected?
What’s the next thing we can try? And she sat down at the computer and started pulling up all these ideas. She goes, you’ve got to give it one more try. And that next try, it did not work.
Christine: Everybody’s waiting for the like…
Laurie: Yeah the rainbows and unicorns!
Christine: No, I actually didn’t do anything for the next year. But I sat on it long enough and I kept talking to people about how, like how at a certain point, if I’m doing all of this work, why not just do it for myself? Then I get the message I want everyday of the week. Then I get the control and I get the transparency that I want, and then who knows?
Maybe I can grow it into something bigger..
Laurie: Yeah. Yeah.
Dream Built Books Is Born
Christine: Crazy ideas, right? So then it was March of 2017 that I waited until like 11 o’clock at night and a glass of wine, and I was like, I’m filing for an EIN. Boom. And, and luckily the IRS doesn’t let you do that probably because everybody who was doing that had a glass of wine.
So then I woke up in the morning and on my way into work, I stopped at my computer and I sat down, refilled out the form. And to me, that was that moment of like, yeah, I wanted it when I was drinking wine, but I still wanted it the next morning.
Christine: Filed the EIN and then I have been functioning as Dream Built Books ever since.
In the first year as Dream Built Books, I published two more books. Sold more books in the one year than I did in the three years prior. And then, this last year I published one more book. I’m up to five now. And then the exciting thing that hasn’t really been officially announced yet, but is coming is I will be publishing another author for the first time this year.
Laurie: Yay! Okay. And that’s all planned in the works?
Christine: It’s in the works, yes.
Christine: Thank you.
Laurie: Was it like I put all this time and effort in, I have this knowledge, now I’m going to reach out to other authors? Or did somebody come to you?
Christine Becomes a Publisher!
Christine: Somebody came to me, she met me at Untitled Town Book Festival in Greenbay.
She started talking to me, asked if I would consider publishing someone else. It was like why not? Only have a couple things that I do on a day to day basis. Yeah we just started talking about it and I was very honest with her. Probably more honest than I should be.
I tend to be a more honest than I should be. I told her I’ve never done this before. I’m gonna make a mistake at least a couple of times. You’re going to have to count on that. I’m small. I don’t have a million dollars to give you an advance. I’m not some proven track record of 10,000 sales a year, but I will promote your book.
I will invest in you. I will help you out along the way. This will be a partnership. If you can invest in the idea of a partnership, we can do this together.
Laurie: Nice. That really hits home for me because I’ve pretty much done the same thing. It was sort of on my mind.
Once you learn the business side of this, you have that knowledge and you want to do it more. I think some of us want to keep doing it.
Christine: Well for me, I want one more person to not stumble as many times as I did.
Laurie: Yes, exactly. Use the knowledge that you have gained the hard way, but you’ve got it now and…
Christine: I’m still gonna keep learning. There’s still so many things for me to learn, but if I can help one person to not stumble and fall and almost give up the way I did. I did it! I’ve won!
Christine’s Advice For Dealing with the Ups and Downs
Laurie: Oh, I love it. Yeah. There’s a lot of ups and downs. Absolutely. Yeah. Okay. So if you have advice for somebody who wants to skip that first two years that you went through, self-publish themselves, self-publish themselves, that’s redundant anyway. What would you say?
Christine: So many things. Okay. I think the first thing I would say is, know your intent. You know? So if you, if you’re committed to the work, do it. But if you’re going into this thinking you’re going to become a best selling author tomorrow because it got listed on Amazon. If you think that it’s going to be a whole smooth ride all the way along, go find a publisher, a real publisher, or just keep writing your hobby.
It’s very doable for anybody to be in the spot that I’m in today. I mean, if I can do it, anyone can do it, but it’s hard and it takes passion to keep going because when you hit those roadblocks, you gotta be able to say like, I still want it bad enough.
I still have a story to tell, and I still have a story that needs to make it to a bookshelf. So make sure your intent and what you’re willing to endure matches.
Laurie: You make it sound so grueling.You had a tough time.
Christine: Well, I think the hard part is it’s not always.
Christine: But like that’s a real part of it.
You CAN do Indie Publishing and Be Successful!
Christine: The industry is not author friendly anymore.
Laurie: You think so?
Christine: I don’t think so. And it’s super not, indie author friendly. They – there are plenty of people who will tell you, you must go the traditional route and, or don’t. There’s too much information out there for that to be the real answer.
Indie publishing is totally an option. And vanity presses are going to take your money and you’re still gonna do all the same work as a self published author. There’s very little help you’re going to get, and, and that’s one of those real. I mean, I can, I can sugarcoat it and say like, do it.
The resources are there. You’ll be happy, you’ll have fun with it. It’ll be great, but that part isn’t the part that people need to know. That is fun and you get to do your author event in the best moment you’ll ever have is that first time a kid walks up to you and is like, Oh my gosh. I love this book, and you’re like, Oh my God, me too.
Laurie: And you’re the celebrity.
Be Willing to Ask for Help!
Christine: Yeah when people want your signature on their book and you’re like, Oh, bye. Those are the wins. Those are the wins. But you’re going to get that no matter where you go in terms of publishing, if you’re going to self publish, you have to be ready for some struggles and you have to be willing to ask for help when you hit them.
Laurie: Oh, I love that. Yes. You have to have that determination for sure.
Laurie: There’s lots of resources if you’re willing to ask for help.
Laurie: Yeah. Ask for help. Cause it was, I feel like it’s a friend, that community, if you find the right spots. Like I have, I found a couple of really good Facebook groups that are all about helping and lifting each other up and not about keeping it quiet or putting people down or all self promo in that. So I find that that really helps just to have a
Christine: Yes. Yeah. I’m involved in probably like seven or eight.
Christine: I’ve identified the one right now where there’s a lot of self promotion and a lot of like, this is the route you go. And I find myself being that person who’s commenting on the same posts being like, actually, there are other ways.
It’s not going to be necessarily that way and it’s not necessarily going to be the smoothest way, but this is the way you could go and this is free.
Balancing the Author/Publisher Life and Personal Life
Christine: Or this is time saving. ‘Cause that’s the other piece. Usually, there are the people who are going to do this and this is their hobby, their full time job, whatever.
You’re like me. You’re also still working your full time job. You still have a relationship to take care of. I volunteer for four different organizations.
Laurie: Oh my goodness!
Christine: There’s still life outside of being an author. How do you fit that in?
Laurie: Is there? It’s hard, eh? It’s something that you’re super passionate about and it takes a lot of effort.
It does have the tendency to consume your thoughts and your world. I like how you say that you need to pay attention to the outside world and your relationship in particular, or more than one, should you have more than one. You need to turn it off. Go live a real life because that’s the lesson I think I’ve learned the hard way.
Christine: Those people in your real life, they are going to be a lifesaver when you need people to give you reviews and. It’s the people who are going to give you honest reviews.I know plenty of people who don’t believe in that, but I want somebody on my team who’s going to tell me when something sounds stupid.
Laurie: Oh no, I agree with that completely.
Christine: Yeah. I’ve had people tell me not to.
Laurie: Not to ask for honest reviews?
Laurie: If you have a couple that don’t sound like they’re blowing smoke, it’s legitimate. It makes it all much more legitimate.
Christine: And you learn from the feedback.
Laurie: Yeah. If you can handle reading some of them, some of them are always a little bit harsh, but…
Christine: Yeah. Absolutely.
What’s Next for Christine?
Laurie: I agree with you. So what’s next for you? That new book in 2020 that’s a secret.
Christine: That one’s actually still this year yet.
Christine: So it’s about to be like, not a secret, like.
Laurie: Oh, like this year. Oh, okay. So I thought I had read on your website, there was one in 2020 so is that one yours?
Christine: Oh, yes. Yeah. I will have more books coming out personally as well. Yes. The theme is not announced yet.
Christine: But, sorry. Yes, I will have my own next book coming out.
Laurie: Okay. And it’s, is it another one that, like you’re sticking with that pattern of filling in gaps, you feel like.
Laurie: And can you share about the author you’re publishing, or is that, you said that’s coming soon. Do you want to give us a hint?
Christine: Like, I wish I could, but I can’t.
Where You Can Find Christine
Christine: So I guess this is one of those social media plugs of like follow me, follow me. That’s where you’ll find it out on Facebook or on Instagram.
Laurie: Ok go for it. Share where people can follow you.
Christine: Yeah. If you follow me at Dream Built Books. Either location. That’s all you got to type in. I made it real simple for everyone.
Laurie: Perfect. Love it. Thank you. Any parting words for people?
Christine: No. I mean, yes. I guess if this is something, you’re listening and you’re thinking, “I want to make this happen in some way.”
Comparison of Indie to Traditional to Self-Publishing
Christine: There is a way. If it’s self publishing, whether it’s traditional publishing, whether you choose vanity press. I’m going to throw in indie publishing because I think indie publishing is a different thing than all three of those.
Laurie: How so?
Christine: The intent of self publishing versus indie publishing is very different. The intent of indie publishing versus vanity publishing is different as well. That’s where I’m sliding in with my new book that I’m working with. Not my book. It’s my new author that I’m going to work with.
Because there is a way to give an advance and it doesn’t have to be crazy and there is a way to get support and to teach and give some of those aspects of traditional publishing without going overboard. There is a way to be a partner in the process, not just take money. There is a way to put some onus back on the author to do their own work while also doing work alongside them.
What I’m trying to do is look at indie publishing and say, can’t it be all three? Creating traditional, you have to go get an agent. Vanity, you don’t. Where do you land in between those different pieces to make it accessible, affordable, helpful?
Laurie: Right. Successful. Hopefully.
Christine: Hopefully successful. I do believe that there are the four different categories. Within one of the four there’s someone to help every person. It’s doable.
Laurie: It’s doable. There isn’t only one way and you have to find what works for you.
Christine: Know what works for you, be honest about what you want.
Laurie: Be honest about what you want and how much time you are willing to spend and how much effort learning new things.
Thank you, Christine!
Laurie: Thank you so much, Christine. I really appreciate you coming on. I wish you and your author the best of luck.
Christine: Thank you. I look forward to continuing to work with you as well and see everything progress for you.
Laurie: Yes. I’m super excited. So many things. Thank you. Okay. We’ll say goodbye.