Spoiler Alert: For anyone who hasn’t read The Train Rolls On, this article gives away the ending. Read at your own risk! 😊
In my last two blog articles, I reflected on some of the most important lessons that I have learned throughout the picture book writing and self-publishing processes. In this article, I want to reflect on the overall experience of my publishing journey and how closely it resembles the Animal Express’ wild adventure in The Train Rolls On.
The Train Rolls On Recap
In the book, a determined train embarks on an adventure to deliver a lively bunch of animals to the zoo before the zoo’s grand opening. Along the way, the train encounters several obstacles (a very steep hill, a nerve-wracking bridge, restless, rowdy passengers, etc.) and must rely on grit and teamwork to persevere through them all.
Reflections On My Self-Publishing Journey
In a way, I am much like the train in my story. In January of 2020, I embarked on my own wild adventure to publish this book. Like the train, I greeted the departure with excitement and determination even though I really had no idea what to expect.
Then, like the train, I encountered several obstacles along the way:
The Steep Hill
Whereas the train faced a very steep hill at the beginning of its journey, I faced a very steep learning curve at the beginning of mine. Back then, I didn’t know one person in the publishing industry or one thing about publishing a book. I was literally starting from scratch, and the “hill” that was in front of me seemed insurmountable at times. While I believed in myself and my capabilities, I wasn’t sure if I would actually be able to make it to the top.
However, just like the train, I took it slow. I read one resource at a time, focused on completing one task at time, and made progress one day at a time. Sometimes, like the train, I was fatigued and was barely inching upward, but I continued to make incremental progress and eventually reached the peak. In my case, the “peak” was the point where I had conducted enough publishing research that I had a solid action plan in place. In other words, I knew what I needed to do and felt confident that I could actually get it done.
The Nerve-Wracking Bridge
Early in the train’s journey, it also encountered a tall, narrow bridge that instilled fear in the engine and tested its nerves. Likewise, early in my journey, I faced two overwhelming fears: a fear of the unknown and a fear of failure. At the time, I was preparing to put myself (and my creative work) out there in a capacity unlike ever before, and it was downright scary. I was making a personal and financial commitment to a relatively new passion project, and I honestly didn’t know if it would succeed or fail.
Similar to the train, these fears forced me to slow down and “steady” myself. I conducted more research, reevaluated my options, and didn’t move forward until I felt confident in the decisions I had made. However, just like the train, I ultimately refused to give up on my goal. I wasn’t about to let fear prevent me from making it to my destination, so I pressed onward and pushed through the fear. Upon reaching the other side, I found myself even more determined and confident than before. So...I kept on rolling. (For a more detailed look at the fears that I faced throughout this process and how I overcame them, read 2020 Recap: From Fearful To Fearless here.)
The Restless Passengers
Unlike the train, I did not have restless, rowdy passengers to contend with along the way. However, I, myself, became restless toward the middle of my publishing journey. I had poured my heart and soul into preparing and running the Kickstarter campaign last fall, and, when that ended, I didn’t know what to do with myself. I was antsy just like the animals aboard the train. Christina was busy converting the sketches to final artwork, so she needed time and space to complete that. While I yearned to keep making progress on the book, I felt like there wasn’t anything that I could do to move it forward. At that point, it was a waiting game, and I was less than patient.
So, unlike the train, I took a break…from everything. I didn’t work on the book much in November or December of last year. I stepped away and spent time with my family, enjoying the holidays and the short lull in the publishing project. It was a much-needed break, and, in the end, it worked. When 2021 hit, I felt rejuvenated and ready to tackle Kickstarter fulfillment and the remainder of the publishing process.
The Fallen Tree
Unfortunately, even though I was ready to move forward with the book at the start of the new year, the illustrations were not. Although they were originally scheduled to be completed in early December, Christina had encountered some unforeseen life circumstances and needed extra time…a lot of extra time (more than two months) to finish them. Not knowing exactly how long it was going to take her, I felt much like the train when it turned the corner and saw the huge, fallen tree laying across the tracks. Everything came to a screeching halt, and I started to panic. How long would the project be delayed? Would David still be available to design the book once Christina finished? Would I still be able to meet the May deadline for Kickstarter fulfillment? Would the book still be published by June 1st? Everything hinged on completing the illustrations.
While I had originally built extra time into the publishing schedule (fully expecting delays to occur), that extra time was quickly dwindling away. I felt helpless. A small part of me wondered if the illustrations would ever get done. I couldn't help but wonder if we had come this far, only to never complete or publish the book.
Luckily, like the zoo animals worked together to help the train overcome its final predicament, my creative team and personal network came through for me at every step of the publishing process.
First and foremost, my family, friends, and Kickstarter backers joined me for this wild ride and gave their time, energy, and money to help me take on and complete this endeavor. In addition, Christina worked tirelessly on the illustrations, finishing them as quickly as possible without sacrificing their quality. Albeit late, she ultimately delivered exceptional artwork that was well-worth the wait. On top of that, David seamlessly adjusted his schedule to complete the book’s design. He was extremely flexible and accommodating and, together, we produced a book that I am incredibly proud to call my own. Then, following completion and printing, my family (once again) made the supreme effort to assist with packaging and shipping the Kickstarter rewards so that backers would receive them on time. Seriously, the list goes on and on...
In the end, without the hard work and dedication of my entire team and network, I never would have been able to make it to my destination: publication day. Although words can’t express how much their generosity and support means to me, I am eternally grateful for everything they’ve done to assist me along the way.
At the end of the book, we find out that this is just the beginning for the Animal Express, as the train leaves the zoo in search of its next wild adventure. Well, fingers crossed, this is just the beginning for me as well. After completing my original goal of publishing a book, I, too, am moving on to the next publishing adventure. I have officially decided to publish a second book in The Train Rolls On series. Where do you think the train and I will go next? Read What's Next For Young At Heart Publishing? to find out!
It’s amazing how closely my self-publishing journey paralleled the Animal Express’ trip in The Train Rolls On. At times, we were both tired, scared, or restless; however, we relied on grit and teamwork to accomplish what we set out to do, and, in the end, it was definitely worth it! While I still don’t know where either of our journeys will ultimately lead, I truly hope that you’ll join us for more wild adventures. 😊