From Tender to Thick-Skinned

During the A-to-Z Challenge, I wrote about Backlash, and I think that’s what I’m experiencing now. I mustered the confidence to write and draw my first Storybooks You Can Color, I asked some people for help, I told all of you about it, and then … I took it to the printer.

Looking at the proof and then picking up a box of books a few days later felt  … well … unsettling.

Photo of the proof taken at the print shop.

A customer at the shop asked to see one of the books, so I handed it over, pretending to be confident. He said he has a 3-year old grandchild. What he did NOT say is: the grandchild would love such a book, that the book looks fun to color, or “What a unique and grand idea!”

Instead, he asked, “How much are you selling them for?” I wasn’t sure, so I said the first number that came to mind. “Hm,” he said, and tossed the book back into the box. Then, he suggested a lower price, “to sell more volume.”

Volume?

Well, days later, I think I have a few things figured out:

I have to embrace the “business-y” side of creativity, even if only a little. I mean, I do have to decide a price, but the price can’t come from my floundering faith in my book. If I based the price on how I felt, some days the book would cost nothing; other days, it would go to only the highest, most audacious bidder.

Also, while I don’t expect every person to love these books, the casual dismissal of the other customer made my stomach ache for a few hours. I realize now that I can’t hide myself and the books away from anyone but those of you who are supportive. I guess I’d wanted to store these books on a secret shelf only those who would love them could find.

IMG_0398

One of my favorite pages in the book. My photo makes the paper look two-toned, but it’s all bright white paper.

And lastly, I’m learning, learning, learning. (Insert eye roll here.) At first, the proof looked great to me. But when I picked up the box of 60 books, while they looked the same as the proof, they didn’t look as good to me any longer. I’d had a few days to contemplate, and I’d noticed some things I’d do differently next time.

I have to convince myself that just because I see a way to do a little better on the next book, this current book isn’t a failure. Not at all. In fact, it’s remarkably better than the very first version I tried to do all on my own without critique and help from others.

For being the VERY FIRST ONE, this is a good book. It really is. I like the color cover, I love the inside paper (smooth and thick and can handle pens but folds nicely), and I still love the quirky story and drawings. However, for the next book (or any re-prints of this one), I have a few ideas for improvement.

I guess it’s as simple as that.

Thank you LoriAlexSolveig, and Rose for your comments on last week’s post. I was so consumed by my confused feelings about this first book that I never replied. I read your comments numerous times, and they helped me cheer up and look more confidently at what I’m doing. THANK YOU for being out there, reading my blog, and taking the time to comment. And thank you for your great blogs as well; you’ve all inspired me this week .

PS: I drafted this post on Wednesday, and by Thursday morning, I was ready to share the book with two friends and get feedback. Writing to you all gave me perspective and got me grounded again. It wasn’t easy to hear critiques, but I got some good ideas (and some compliments!). Creative work really does grow when shared with others, but it’s so much easier to leave it tucked in a journal, hard-drive, or closet!

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About TRISTA

I write and illustrate stationery, cards, customized snail mail (yes, you can receive handwritten and illustrated letters in your mail!!), coloring books, and more. My business name is "Carrot Condo." After teaching English for 15 years (gasp!), I am now a full-time parent and part-time artist slowly, but steadily, building a creative business and life. You can read more at carrotcondo.com or see my products at etsy.com/shop/CarrotCondo. Thanks for your interest and support!!
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9 Responses to From Tender to Thick-Skinned

  1. Rose L. says:

    I love your drawing shown here. I knew you wrote but until your blogs, had not known you were also an artist! It is hard to sell things when you put so much into them. I used to do a lot of crafting and needlepoint and soon realized that all the work I put into them does not really come back when selling. I sold handmade, personally designed needlepoint Christmas stockings for only $25 as no one wanted to pay for all the time invested (originally I wanted $35 each). One lady tried to get me to mark one down to $15 for her to buy it as she said she felt it was only worth that. I felt insulted and told her NO! Other artists understand better, but the average person wants a deal. I am selling my photo canvases for $25 as no one wants to pay more. I am curious as to how you are pricing your book. I cannot give you advice on selling, but with holiday fairs, farmers markets and various venues approaching they are good to consider. I have a couple kiddos who would love one (have to get each of them one as sharing is not a strong point with a 4 and 7 year old).

    • TRISTA says:

      Rose, your needlepoint example is particularly perfect because there is only one product; you can’t reproduce it like I can the books. One-of-a-kind art needs to be priced in a way that enables the artist to do more. I’m still figuring out how to price my books. It’s hard because I have no idea how many I can sell. My goal is to pay myself back for the printing costs, and my ideal is to make enough to fund another book. I’ll know more once I go through the printing process again … And thank you for considering buying one! I imagine 4-7 as being the perfect ages for this book, even though I actually have ALL ages in mind.

  2. Kim Sorensen says:

    Trista,

    Congratulations on making the leap and following this project through to completion. The pictures in your post are beautiful, fun, quirky and totally you! I would gladly trade you some cold hard cash for a copy! The idea of coloring has come up several times in my life lately and I would like to start my daily practice with your book!
    Love Kim

    • TRISTA says:

      Thank you, Kim! I think of the books as “all ages,” and I would LOVE to see how adults color them. Thank you for saying you’d trade “cold, hard cash” for them–it’s hard for me to connect creativity with commerce, but I’m acclimating slowly, and your comment helps! Thank you for all of your encouragement and support!!

  3. First of all, congratulations on your Storybook, I think it looks wonderful. That ignorant customer was just trying to pull a fast one to get it cheaper but making you doubt its value. You are always going to get prats like him, just as you will get the customers that are thrilled with the book and think it was well worth the money. Well done to you for believing in yourself and actually achieving something. It must give you immense pleasure to see your finished storybook in print. 🙂

    • TRISTA says:

      Edwina–thanks to your comment, I’m getting back to feeling immensely happy about finishing the first storybook. It WAS an exercise in learning to believe in myself and craft. I keep thinking how it would be so much easier to leave them private and hidden away, but so, so, so much less rewarding. All of you have been so encouraging — your comments are like a boost of B vitamins, energizing me to conquer doubts that return as I wrap up book #2. Thanks!!!!!

  4. Solveig says:

    Trista, congratulations! You don’t deserve customers like him.
    Maybe you should do a few calculations. How much did each book cost you to print, then add a little to that so that you can pay yourself for the work you put into it, because you should not do it for free either! And maybe ask a few people what they think the book should cost before you give them a price. And check out similar books (hey have to be a bit more expensive than colouring books and story books which you cannot colour…).
    I know that artists always have a hard time pricing their work.
    With my teaching I have learnt that I have to have my price, a lower limit under which I won’t decent in negotiations (very important) and price myself right (which I did not do at all when I started out, but then I was told which price I should at least ask for). The people that have haggled my price down, generally turned out to be the clients that were unreliable and who stopped quickly, those who never said anything and accept my price are the best. Because in the end it’s your price, just find the right one 🙂

    • TRISTA says:

      I love this, Solveig, especially your experiences with “hagglers” and your last point. My goals have always been to keep the price as low as I can, since I think kids might want to buy them, and to have a genuine connection with my readers (aka: customers). Your experience with the haggler helps; I’ll just try to avoid that completely. Printing costs and other fees are starting to stack up. Like you said — I’ll look at total costs and work from there. Right now, I’ve got to get back to the creative mind. I was almost finished inking the final drawings of book #2 when I had to admit that I just don’t like one page, so I’m literally going back to the drawing board (just for one page, but still, I’ve already drawn it about 5 times!).

      • Solveig says:

        And think that your work is not free either, in our current world everyone wants everything for free, but then there should be no money…
        I am glad that I can help you.

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