Indie publishing is becoming more and more commonplace, in large part due to Amazon’s accessible and easy-to-use self-publishing platforms (Kindle Direct Publishing for ebooks and CreateSpace for print titles), which have opened the door to many people who are turning their love of writing into a full-fledged, full-time business. Ally Nathaniel, the mother of three young children, is one of these authors who has found success through indie publishing.
Ally has a special interest in helping kids build their self-esteem. Through her colorful, upbeat picture books–with titles like “Fabulous Me Sparkly Me”–Ally seeks to empower and build the self-esteem of girls everywhere. Essentially, Ally’s books are all about helping girls see that they are special and to feel fabulous about who they are, believing that it is important to boost kids confidence from early ages.
As a children’s book author who found success through indie publishing, Ally Nathaniel decided to share her expertise to help other aspiring authors achieve their own self-publishing dreams. With “The 6 Steps Plan to e-Publishing: How To Publish in Kindle Format and Market Your Kindle Books with Amazon (The Ultimate e-Publishing Guide Book 1),” Ally has literally written the book on self-publishing, and built a business for herself, while guiding other authors through the process and helping them self-publish their books too. Ally has turned her business into a cottage industry.
In addition to the books she has released on the topic, she also works as a self-publishing coach and speaker. Through Ally Nathaniel eBook Publishing Services, Ally assists business owners and authors to self-publish their books by guiding them through the entire self-publishing process for Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing and CreateSpace. She offers assistance with writing, finding illustrators, editors and (when necessary) ghostwriters, and works with clients on ways to promote their books after publishing and listing them on Amazon.
At the first-ever KDP Kids roundtable, some of Amazon’s leading indie kids’ book authors shared their unique and inspiring success stories, discussed their latest works and chatted about the indie children’s book landscape. Recently, Ally spoke to the Examiner about her experiences working as a writer:
Meagan Meehan (M.M.): What influenced you to become an author?
Ally Nathaniel (A.N.): I‘m the eldest of six siblings and we grew up in Israel on a Kibbutz (a small community where people live and work together). Our mom, an early childhood educator, used to play with us a lot – and she used rhymes as we played. I think that’s probably where I got my passion and love for words and rhymes. There were always children’s books around us. I remember that I had a collection that I cherished and used to quote whenever I could, even when I became “too old” for children’s books. I suppose it was only natural for me to become a children’s author, as I wanted to give children the same sort of wonderful experiences I had as a child.
M.M.: Growing up, what authors and illustrators inspired you?
A.N.: Where to begin?! Since I grew up in Israel you might not have heard of some of them:
1. ‘A Tale of Five Balloons’ by Miriam Roth, illustrated by Ora ayal
2. ‘Once Upon a Potty’ by Alona Frankel, who also illustrated the book.
3. ‘Yertel the Turtle and other stories’ by Dr, Sues
4. ‘An Apartment for Rent’ by Leah Goldberg. The illustrator, Shmuel Katz, lived on our same Kibbutz and I remember visiting his studio many times. I was always amazed by his talent.
There were many more but these are my top four. I still have them on my shelf and read them to my children.
M.M.: How did you go about getting your first book published?
A.N.: About five years ago, I came up with the idea for a children’s cookbook. In addition to being a children’s author, I’m also a pastry chef and I teach children how to bake and cook through my business Playful Kitchen. Back then I knew nothing about publishing and I believed the only way to get my book published would be to find an agent or a publisher. I sent nearly 100 query letters to different publishers, just to get rejection letters or no responses at all. I felt both discouraged and disappointed. It was then that I learned about Amazon KDP and decided to give it a try. I wrote a children’s book, inspired by my daughter, and found an illustrator – and in about a month my book was ready and available to millions of readers. At first I published my book as an e-book only, but later I learned out how to publish in paperback, hard cover and even audio books. Now my books are available both in print and in electronic forms.
M.M.: How did you think up the idea for your books?
A.N: I’m both a mother and a child in heart, so inspiration is all around me. The inspiration for “Sparkly Me” was my daughter; my little princess. As a young girl I was a tomboy, so when my daughter started to ask for sparkly things and act girly, I kind of needed to investigate that through writing, as it was a somewhat unfamiliar concept to me. Writing about it helped me discover this mysterious and unknown area. I also wanted to inspire young girls to be totally happy with who they were. I believe that there are too many conflicting messages that make girls feel bad about both their body and mind. My goal as a writer and a mother is to contradict those messages. The inspiration behind “Who’s Under the Bed?” was my son, who was terrified of monsters at some point. I wrote the book to help him cope with that fear through humor. All my books are inspired by my children and their friends (My Snow Day, Sarah’s Wishful Day, Fabulous Me and more). I also write books that I wish I had when I was younger. I care about empowering children and bringing ethnic diversity to the children’s book market.
M.M.: What are your books about? Do you have a favorite?
A.N.: My books are always about having fun; I want children to allow their imaginations to run wild and to get positive and empowering messages through the stories. I write about topics that interest children: from fearing monsters to enjoying a snow or rainy day with their family and friends. I write about fulfilling dreams and accepting yourself for who you are. It is hard to pick a favorite, but a few of my favorites are “Who’s Under the Bed,” “Sarah’s Wishful Day” and my new book, “My Playful Kitchen,” which started this wild journey and will be published soon! “My Playful Kitchen” is a children’s cookbook which combines child-friendly recipes with parenting tips and fun food-related facts. This book will help build a child’s confidence and develop a closer bond with your child in the kitchen.
M.M.: How do you find your illustrators?
A.N.: Online. I usually post an add describing the project, and chose the best illustrators out of the hundreds of portfolios I get. My illustrators are from Romania, Bulgaria, Russia, and Armenia. I have to connect to their style right away and then interview them to make sure we are a good fit for each other. Once I find a good illustrator, I stick with them!
M.M.: You are also a speaker. What has that experience been like thus far?
A.N.: I love speaking. I love connecting with people and I love sharing my knowledge and experience. When I wrote my first book, I was sure the illustrator would format the book for Kindle – but when I realized she wasn’t going to do that for me, I panicked because I had no idea how to get my book published. Figuring out how to do everything was challenging and time-consuming. Publishing a book for the first time can be overwhelming and frustrating. This experience is the reason I decided to become an e-publishing coach. It doesn’t have to be hard – publishing a book can, and should be, a fun and exciting experience. I always share my story when I speak to get people inspired, and to show them that they can overcome any obstacle. I also offer a complimentary 20-minute phone call to help people get unstuck and move forward toward fulfilling their publishing dream with Amazon.
M.M.: To date, what has been the most rewarding part of being a professional author?
A.N.: The most rewarding part by far is connecting with my fans. Last year, I got an email from a lady who lives in Mississippi and reads stories to her 8 year old neighbor. She told me that this child’s parents have no time for her and they rarely read her any books, so she spent many hours with the girl. She also told me this child loves my books, so I ended up sending her some of my books as a Christmas gift. I also receive phone calls from children who read my books and loved them. There’s nothing better than connecting with your fans on such a personal level. That’s why I always let my fans know how to get in touch with me via my website, Facebook and Twitter.
M.M.: What advice would you give someone who is aspiring to be an author and/or illustrator?
A.N.: Don’t waste any time and do it yourself! The worst part for me about looking for a literary agent was that they seemed to make their decisions based on how many followers you have or how big your mailing list is. They also (obviously) judge your work, and for some authors this could be devastating if they don’t hear what they wanted to hear. Books can be a subjective matter, rather like artwork, and what ‘does it’ for one, might not ‘do it’ for the next person.
When you decide to self-publish your book, you put your work out there and let the readers be the judge. Believe in yourself, because there is a good chance that they will appreciate your work when the publisher didn’t. Keep in mind that a traditional publisher will not do the marketing for you either, so why should you give them control over your art? The bottom line is to try and put yourself out there as soon as possible. The good news is that today it’s easier and cheaper than ever. Remember – your work can make a difference to the world!
M.M.: Are there any upcoming projects or events that you would like to mention?
A.N.: On February 9th I will be speaking about self-publishing at the Small Business Administration in NYC (SCORE) at 10am. On April 20 I will be at the Emerson Community School in NJ at 7pm. I also offer a 20 minutes complimentary phone call to help people get unstuck and move forward toward fulfilling their publishing dream with Amazon. Soon, Amazon will release a few short videos where I discuss my journey and give advice to children’s authors. Those videos will run on Amazon’s social media channels.
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To learn more about Ally Nathaniel visit her official website, Facebook and Twitter. To see her company, Playful Kitchen, see here.