Our guest blogger is Dr June Perkins, who has recently published a beautiful children’s poetry book called “Magic Fish Dreaming”. To produce this book, June combined her artistic and creative talent, her academic qualifications in writing for empowerment, her poetic skills, her love of writing and reading, and her desire to make a financial success of her writing. To do this, June turned to the idea of crowd funding and support from professionals in the field, and the results have been amazing. June’s exquisite poems are enhanced even further by delightful illustrations.
June has shared her experiences, as she wants to encourage others to follow their dreams and achieve success in their chosen creative fields.
Here is June’s inspiring story.
I don’t know how many times I have heard people say, ‘Being a poet won’t pay the bills,’ and ‘Writers have a tough life. Why are you doing this to yourself?’ Still, I never gave up on writing, even whilst I took on various jobs: tutoring, dramaturgy for youth theatre, writer in community, volunteer blogger, teacher aiding, small photography assignments, and working as a nursing aide.
To support me throughout this journey, I have been extremely blessed to have an understanding partner who, for the most part, had the more regular work. Importantly, I have taken whatever work I could find, to help us out, and still have time to keep pursuing my creative practice, as well as helping raise our children.
Fast forward to today, and I have been able to use crowd funding to “kickstart” my writing into a more sustainable model, resulting in the publication of my first full-length book of poetry for children, Magic Fish Dreaming. It is leading to more and more opportunities to build a sustainable career.
How did I manage to finally make some serious progress in my sustainability quest? By a strange combination of believing it was possible, enjoying what I was doing so much I was sure others would, too, working when there was not necessarily a financial reward, and taking online courses to help me market my work. One of these courses was on how to launch a kickstarter campaign, which I did in 2015 to help me publish my book.
An important part of preparing for the “kickstarter” was understanding my product and its value to others. I stood apart, with the help of Jed and Mira from the Children’s Book Academy, from my creative practice and looked at what it could contribute to society.
Working through this logically gave me the confidence that I could attract others to support my campaign. One of the biggest breakthroughs was finding an illustrator, Helene Magisson, who believed in the book as much as I did.
I then sought out written endorsements from people I respect. The aim was to attract people beyond those who already knew me and my work.
The experience of having these professionals back Magic Fish Dreaming has given me the confidence to approach shops and distributors to stock the book. I now have up to fourteen shops, three suppliers and one distributor. More things are on the way, but I can’t say anything about that yet.
The first shop to take the risk, Riverbend, was, I think swayed by the wonderful blurb that Felicity Plunkett, a respected poetry editor, wrote for the back of the book. I also knew from discussions with people working in the shop that they were looking for children’s poetry and thought we might be a good match. Riverbend hosts many poetry events.
Research is essential to success. I have found that Independent book stores across Queensland are supportive of the development of a regional Queensland voice. They have been invaluable in helping me reach a larger audience because we share the same values. You can see the full list of shops on my website. As I grew up in Tasmania, I sent the book to two shops there. I also connected with Local Authors Network of Far North Queensland because I lived there for many years and am now so pleased that the book is available in Cairns.
Although I am shy, my desire to share this work with children and families who care about the world and its future is so strong, I can’t help but spill enthusiasm about my book. I just love reading poems to the public and watching their response.
I wrote to festivals, and heard back from some of them, like Sandcliffe Writers Festival. They invited me to present on a panel. I kept pushing myself out of my comfort zone and learning from each experience, with sustainability as my motive.
Marketing is often the thing many creatives dread. Why? We enjoy the creating process so much we don’t want to think about finer details like “Will this work sell?” But to do the thing we love most in the world, we need to have a well-paying day job, have dedicated and caring patrons or partners and not have to worry about marketing at all, or consider questions of marketability and how to build a sustainable career.
My major priorities with my work, aside from attaining excellence, are the values I project and how I create pieces ‒ written, online, or photographic. I have never compromised on those values.
I remember being at a most inspiring workshop with a Canadian actor and writer who was visiting my university when I was doing my doctorate. She spoke to us about a daily routine of centring oneself before moving to the creative. This centring process could be remembrance of ancestors and the past, dancing, praying, or all of these things combined. One can apply this same idea to marketing creative arts.
My top tips for marketing your book:
- Know who you are and what you want to achieve.
- Have confidence and technical skill in your work as these will invite others to have faith in you.
- Seek endorsements from people you respect, always respecting their answers and never being pushy. If they think you need to do more work, do it!
- Be audacious because you love what you do. Take a chance, and don’t worry about the outcome. Often, you will surprise yourself.
- Reflect on what you have done and think about how to improve.
- Decide what your measures of success will be and relate these to your well-being as a human being, not just to financial returns.
- Understand where your market lies and keep deepening your understanding of this as people respond to your work.
- Be prepared to adapt, change and move out of your comfort zone to some degree. Be persistent.
- Put a value on what you do with an understanding of the markets, and don’t under- or over-value what you do.
- Give your customer value and sincerity. Never make them feel like they are a marketing exercise!
All the very best in your own journey. Be fearless, reflective and wise, in pursuing the opportunity to do what you love every day!
June Perkins is a multi-arts-creative of Papua New Guinean and Australian background now living in Brisbane. She published photography, documentary, and stories with ABC Open (2011-2015) and has a PhD in writing empowerment (University of Sydney.) She is currently a university writing tutor and blogger, and crowd-funded “Magic Fish Dreaming”, publishing it with her own press, Gumbootspearlz Press. In 2016 June won an Australian Society of Authors writing mentorship for picture books. She has more projects in development.
You can purchase June Perkins’ delightful book by clicking on this link.