Updated: Sep 22, 2021
While the primary reason for this blog is to document my own self-publishing journey, I also intend to use it to bring attention to other self-publishing authors and their books. It is notoriously difficult for self-publishing authors to gain visibility in the commercial picture book market, and I would like to do my part to support and share other writers' journeys. The goal is to learn from each other's experiences and to connect authors with potential readers.
So, without further ado, my first interviewee is Brittany Youngblood, author of the recently-published picture book, Sea Flap-Flap. When I was researching Kickstarter campaigns this spring, I ran across Brittany’s campaign. I felt an instant connection to her because she was also a mother who was inspired by her daughter to write and publish her first book. While she was farther along in her journey than I was, she was also navigating the self-publishing process for the first time and was using Kickstarter to fund the publication of her book. Not only did I support Brittany’s campaign (which went on to be successfully funded), but I reached out to her and told her how much I identified with her story and her mission. We've been friends ever since, and I'd like to take this opportunity to share her inspiring story with you.
Brittany, can you please tell us a little bit about yourself?
Of course. I am a first-time author and first-time mother. I live in North Carolina with my husband and daughter, Hayden. I graduated from Appalachian State University in 2011 with a BSBA in Accounting and then worked in the commercial printing industry for over 8 years. I love the outdoors, animals (especially birds), and I have a slight obsession with collecting and reading children's books to my daughter. I am a Christian and give all thanks and glory to God for making my dreams of becoming an author a reality.
Why did you decide to publish a children’s book?
I have always loved school, books, and art. Ever since I was 10 years old, I thought it would be so cool to have my own published book. God placed this story on my heart in 2018. I woke up one day and, like most good ideas, the idea for this story came to me while I was taking a shower! I wrote the first draft of the book in the notepad app on my phone. The first few lines came to me without much effort, and I knew it was something I had to pursue. Unfortunately, I had to put the book publishing process on hold due to a number of life circumstances.
After my daughter was born, I decided to pick up where I had left off. I was reading wonderful children's books to her every day, and I really wanted to read her a book that I had written. I figured there was no better time than the present! So, in 2020, I returned to the notepad app on my phone and revised the manuscript, found an amazing artist who saw my vision for the illustrations, and worked to bring my dream to life.
Why did you choose to self-publish your book?
I researched both traditional publishing and self-publishing, and I read a lot of stories about how lengthy and challenging the traditional publishing process is. It can take six months just to hear back from traditional publishers and you often don’t hear anything. I wanted to read my book to my daughter before she was too old for it, so I decided to take on publishing it myself! I am a huge go-getter. If I want something, I try to have faith and just go for it. Even though it was very costly and time-consuming to self-publish, it was something that I had my heart set on.
What is Sea Flap-Flap about?
It is about a lovable stingray named Sea Flap-Flap who explores the ocean all day with her five colorful pups before settling down for bed. They search for food, play with friends, and nap on the soft ocean floor. What kinds of food will they find? What activities will they do? What new friends will they meet? Watch Sea Flap-Flap and her pups vibrantly come to life in this adorably illustrated rhyming book.
"See Sea Flap-Flap swim and splash. See Sea Flap-Flap whirl and crash."
What was the inspiration behind Sea Flap-Flap?
I love animals, so I want to incorporate animals into my books. After doing some research, there were not many fiction books with stingray characters (most were educational books with real photos of stingrays).
I named my character "Sea Flap-Flap" because it was a cute and imaginative name, and it sounded like something I would have named a stuffed stingray as a child. (When we were young, my sister and I named my stuffed bunny “Bun-Bun” and her stuffed bear “Bear-Bear,” so "Sea Flap-Flap" seemed to fit right in.) The name definitely gets children thinking creatively about things and using their imaginations.
What do you hope children (or families) get out of reading Sea Flap-Flap?
I hope that my book brings families closer together through nightly reading, and I hope the unique stingray name and colorful ocean setting sparks creativity in children’s imaginations. I want my book to be fun and engaging so that it inspires children to develop a lifelong love of reading.
I also love education, so I hope that my book helps children and adults learn about stingrays and underwater life. I researched stingrays quite a bit before writing this book and made sure it was representative of the ways they move, play, and eat. In addition, I incorporated the technical name for their babies (“pups”) and their average litter size into the book. The homophones “sea” and “see” are also used throughout the story to teach children that some words can sound the same but have different meanings.
Finally, my book indirectly conveys a message of positivity because Sea Flap-Flap genuinely enjoys life underwater with her friends and her pups. I think one of life's most important strengths is having a positive mindset because positivity is contagious! This book exudes Sea Flap-Flap’s energetic spirit and her thankfulness for the world around her. I hope this book is uplifting to readers and brings a smile to whoever reads it.
What was the most difficult part of self-publishing a book?
For me, marketing is the hardest part of self-publishing. I naively thought that I would write the story, have it illustrated, hit “publish” on Amazon, and the book would sell. That is far from the truth! It takes a lot of work to sell books, and there is a huge learning curve for self-publishers. Between publishing the book, building a website, working on social media, learning how Amazon algorithms work, and conquering search engine optimization (SEO) and online ads, I am still learning new things every day. Plus, I am far from “salesy,” so it’s sometimes challenging (and a bit out of my comfort zone) to talk about myself and my book to others.
What was the most rewarding part of self-publishing a book?
For me, the most rewarding part of self-publishing a book is when I watched my daughter’s face light up when we read my book. When she studied the ocean scenery and smiled at every page, my heart melted! She is almost one, and her attention span is short (especially for books that are not interactive in nature). So, when she let my husband and I read the whole book to her, I knew it was well worth the effort, time, and money. She even smiled when she saw my picture on the back of the book. There are no words to describe how I felt in that moment!
What is one thing that you were surprised to learn during the self-publishing process?
I originally saw videos and read blogs that made self-publishing seem super simple. However, as I made my way through the process and began networking with other self-publishing authors, I figured out the truth: Writing and publishing a children’s book is hard work, and it requires a team effort! It takes a village, as they say! I take comfort in knowing that a lot of self-publishers seem to be in the same boat as I am: they have children, some work other jobs, they are motivated to get their story out into the world, they are trying to figure it all out, and they receive support from others, including family, friends, and other authors and illustrators.
What role did Kickstarter play in your self-publishing journey?
Kickstarter was a huge help in getting my book funded. It was a place where people could go and support me in my journey! It is such a neat platform, and it helped bring my book to life with much less concern about where I would get the money to take on such a big venture.
Kickstarter funds helped me to purchase the following: illustrations, book packaging and shipping, website and domain fees, marketing ads, and legal items such as copyright, ISBNs, barcodes, and publishing company taxes and fees.
So much work goes into a Kickstarter campaign. I mistakenly thought that after I launched my campaign, people would just find it and back my book. However, once again, I was wrong. It took a lot of effort every single day of the campaign to market it and build momentum. In the long run though, being able to offset those costs was well worth it. The campaign also urged me to start interacting with more people and to get them excited about my book launch!
Will you self-publish another book?
Absolutely! I have so many more book ideas in the works. Being up in the early morning hours feeding a baby puts lots of great book ideas in my head!
I created my company, Youngblood Publishing, because I want to publish a collection of books that parents and teachers can feel good about sharing and putting on their bookshelves. I want readers to associate the Youngblood Publishing logo with high-quality stories that provide great messages and are full of love, fun, and happiness.
Youngblood is my last name, and it has a variety of meanings: youthful, vigorous, fresh in ideas, young blossom, etc. The plant sprout incorporated into my company logo represents those meanings and symbolizes a child starting out on their reading journey and growing in the process. I believe that reading is essential to gaining knowledge and that it helps children in many areas of their lives. I want children to know that they are one-of-a-kind and that they have amazing talents and imaginations that can be used to help others, dream, and reach their goals…whatever those goals may be!
What’s next? What are you working on now?
Right now, I am working on my second book, The Chameleon and the Crayon Box. I am thinking of making this book into a series, and I am so excited. The idea for this book came to me back in 2018 as well, but available time and funds are making it a slow process…but still a fun one! I am hoping to run another Kickstarter campaign for this upcoming book.
Sign up for my newsletter on my website (www.brittany-youngblood.com), and be the first one to know about book updates! Here is a sneak peek into the book illustrations and main character:
Where can people learn more about you? Where can they buy Sea Flap-Flap?
My books are for sale on my website: https://www.brittany-youngblood.com/
They are also available, along with an e-book version, on Amazon:
Follow me on Instagram and Facebook: @youngbloodpublishing
Is there anything else that you’d like to share?
I started a children’s book review blog on my website called Weekly on Wednesdays, also known as “Hayden’s Recommended Reads.” Visit my blog every week on Wednesday for a review of a new children's book that my daughter, Hayden, is enjoying. She is not yet one, so her comments and insight will be limited to babbles, coos, and smiles!
Thank you, Brittany, for taking part in my very first author spotlight! It has been a privilege to get to know you, and I can't wait to see where your author journey takes you. To everyone else, I hope that you found this interview enlightening and entertaining. If you haven't done so already, go check out Sea Flap-Flap! It's a really cute and memorable picture book!
Additional Author Spotlight articles can be found here: