Succeed at DIY Publishing in Paris
An interview with Janina ‘nina’ Rossiter by Leila Benzo
I’m always excited to meet creative people who are realising their dreams, and Nina Rossiter has done just that by creating and self-publishing her own set of children’s books. Creative Mamas are doing it for themselves, and getting their work out into the world in whatever way they choose.
I originally discovered Nina, and her character Tovi, through Facebook. I noticed that she was self-publishing and promoting her work online. In between her hectic working mum, with nocturnal baby, schedule, she managed to find the time to share a few details about her projects in Paris with MLP. My intrigue turned into fascination as Nina told me about the ups and downs of self-publishing. “It’s difficult to get the recognition when people see that you’re self-published you don’t get the same kind of respect or interest as when you’re working with a big publishing house,” Nina told me.
Something Nina so humbly describes as a ‘hobby’ looks more like a labour of love to me. As a spectator, I could look at a kid’s book, and imagine that ‘I could do that’ but on realising the complexity of computer design and online marketing I began to understand how hard it really is.
As she described in detail each part of her journey, it occurred to me that to truly understand the activity of self-publishing one must do it rather than imagine or research the ‘how-tos’. As a hopeless procrastinator, I was impressed by Nina’s persistence. She’s finished her books, all six of them! She has marketed / sold them and continues to create new books and Tovi the Penguin products such as calendars and gift packages.
Tovi books are my daughter’s firm favourites, with her insisting “again, again!!” every evening, and I can understand why. The illustrations are magical, stories totally original, and the tone suits her age perfectly. Not only are the books fantastic but I love the feeling of buying a piece of handmade art locally, crafted from the heart.
Sitting at her little kitchen table, drinking milky coffee and chatting about Nina’s life and projects I grew a respect for all creative entrepreneurs; people who make the choice of going it alone rather than waiting for someone else to take them there.
Here is our interview:
MLP: Can you tell me how you write and self-publish books? How did it all start?
Nina: “I don’t class myself as a writer as such, I am primarily an artist so the focus of my work has always been the illustration and design. I work under the status of freelance artist and I am a professional graphic designer. To create the books, I work with Adobe Illustrator and Adobe Indesign, to self-publish I use a platform called Create Space, and I sell my books through Amazon, in digital format and paperback. I create all the illustrations by hand, in traditional pencil drawings, then scan them onto my computer and finish them on screen. My books are printed on demand which means I am not able to order huge quantities. Each book is ordered through Amazon and printed in the country it is ordered from.”
“At the beginning I was writing the book with just illustrations, and no words. I sent the illustrations off to a couple of agents and I heard nothing back or “no”, so I just let it sit and sort of forgot about it. Then, when my daughter was born I felt like it would be nice for her to see the books, but I didn’t have the time or energy for publishing houses. I just wanted the books produced for her, so I went ahead and finished them. Being German, I’m not totally confident with writing in English so my English in-laws, kindly helped me edit the text.”
MLP: How did you learn about how to sell and market your books?
Nina: “Well, at the beginning I didn’t have any clue. I just told friends and mostly friends bought it, but then I met someone through an organised mums group and she introduced me to a local writer’s community called Paris Author Group. I learnt a lot from them. They gave me advice on how to progress and develop. They helped me and supported me for every part of my project, because many of them were actively self-publishing and had more experience than I did.”
MLP: How long have you been in Paris?
Nina: “We lived in Paris for 3 years then, when I became pregnant we moved to the suburbs, so in total it’s been 6 and a half years.”
MLP: Why did you choose to move to Paris?
Nina: “I have always loved France and I love the capital. When I met my husband, in Camden Market in London, I discovered that he could speak French… and I said, “oh you’re French!?” He said “no” but he was born in France and he was bilingual. So… finally as our relationship developed we chose to move to Paris because it seemed to be the place that suited us best.”
MLP: What do you love about Paris?
Nina: “The architecture – I like the design. I do love French people… They are chic, they are pretty, they are proud of their city, and of course I love their style.”
MLP: How old are your kids and where do you like to take them in the city?
Nina: “I have a three-and-a-half-year-old, and a five-month-old, and I love to take them to Jardin des Tuileries, it has nice little ponds and lakes. We go to Le Jardin d’Acclimitation because we enjoy seeing the animals there. There’s also a small restaurant near to centre Pompidou which is very kids friendly and afterwards you can play at the Centre Pompidou.”
MLP: For everyone who doesn’t know Tovi, the main character of your books, please tell them who he is?
Nina: “Tovi is a little penguin and he has two friends, Faye and Liam, and they have adventures together. They always do something, then have a problem but overcome it in the end.”
“I wanted to teach children about life so for example, the book about the seaside… I wanted to teach about the tides without making it scary or dangerous. We went to Brittany on holiday and my daughter loved the change of the tide being so far in or so far out, and that experience inspired me to write that book.”
MLP: So your inspiration comes from wanting to teach your children about life?
Nina: “Yes, for example, the book about Christmas… The English and German Xmas celebrations are different. We give presents the night of the 24th in Germany but in England, it’s the morning of the 25th. So, my husband is English and one year on the 24th there were no presents and it was so strange for me but in the end I felt like it was nicer because we had a much more relaxed evening and just enjoyed being together, rather than having the distraction of present giving and all the dramatic emotions that go with it. My message in the book is that Xmas can be great even without presents.”
MLP: What are the pros and cons of self-publishing?
Nina: “The good thing is that I can publish my books, without asking someone if they are good enough. I have the freedom of getting them out there. The bad part is that I don’t always have the feedback that I need because I don’t have a team of a publishing house to help, but then I have total creative control and I don’t have people telling me to change the story.”
“The other nice thing about self-publishing is knowing exactly how much I sell. I can just go online and see ‘oh this month I sold so many books’. Whereas with traditional publishing, I wouldn’t know for a long time if my book was successful or even how many books have been sold. So, I have the power to see what’s happening, and the freedom to market and sell in whatever way I want. The negative is that, because it’s not printed on mass in China, bookshops generally don’t buy self-published printed-on-demand books. It’s almost impossible to get my books into bookshops.”
MLP: What do you think about digital books in comparison to traditional paperback books?
Nina: “Personally, for my daughter, it doesn’t really work well because when she sees the iPad she wants more than just a static screen. She expects the pictures on the screen to move. So I prefer reading paper books at bedtime with her. For my business, the e-books have been great because it gets the book out fast, which helps to get feedback. People are a lot quicker to buy an e-book because it’s cheaper and instantly accessible. Also, you can run promotions on e-books a lot easier than paper books.”
MLP: What is your advice for other people who want to self-publish books?
Nina: “I suggest that if you want to do it – just go ahead and do it because it has been a very positive experience for me. Exchange ideas with other people who are also self-publishing and who know more than you about the industry. Before you start, seek out as much information as possible to avoid making too many mistakes.”
On leaving Nina’s cosy house and wandering down the tranquil suburban street I hear her words, which fill me with hope…
“If you want to do it – just go ahead and do it!”
I feel a rebirth of inspiration to dig out that old kids book idea and ‘just go ahead and do it’… Not just finish it but live it, breath it and dedicate myself to it.
Thank you, Nina!
Go on playful adventures with Tovi and his friends! Order Tovi the Penguin books direct from the website www.tovithepenguin.com or on Amazon. Enter our competition below to win a free Tovi the Penguin book e-book!
Win a Tovi the Penguin e-book by answering this question: What are Tovi’s two best friend’s names? Answer in a comment section below this article, and the winner will be picked at random.
Nina officially publishes under the name “Janina Rossiter”… You can find the Tovi books under Nina’s author name Janina Rossiter on Amazon.
Keep up to date with the Tovi story, latest competitions and giveaways, through the interactive facebook page:
Nina Rossiter was interviewed by Leila Benzo
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