Permission To Break Rules: A Conversation With Author Lisa Baker-King

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This month, we’re interviewing talented women authors from all over the world and asking them about their writing process. We had the privilege of speaking with Lisa Baker-King about her book The Zealous Zebecs from the Midnight Ocean’s Zenith. Here’s a glimpse into our conversation.

Have you written a book? What is it about?

Yes I have. My book, The Zealous Zebecs from the Midnight Ocean’s Zenith joins an imaginative story with intense alliteration, and engages children in a seek-and-find to celebrate the spoken sound of the written word. The book is designed to be a shared family journey where the young and young at heart can read the same book at exactly the same time, encouraging the child and their loved ones to experience language together!

What gave you the courage and motivation to start?

I give the ‘idea’ of a book life by literally breathing life into the concept by talking about it first with mentors and friends who are on my Personal Board of Directors. These are a very selective group of people who guide me in my personal and professional life. They know their role and why they were chosen to be on my Personal Board of Directors. Some are skilled at details, others are big picture people but they all provide me with constructive and positive guidance. I went to them with the idea of my children’s book. While they were all enthusiastic and helpful, the true motivation came from their follow up and sometimes little nags telling me to keep moving forward, to not give up. Even going so far as to help me set goals, time lines and priorities.

Did you encounter any problems such as writer’s block? If so, how did you overcome them?

My biggest challenge in writing the book was getting the story written, weaving in the characters, building the plot and finding a way to engage my audience in a unique way. I gave myself permission to break the rules. Writers love that movement when you are in the groove, when the words seem to write themselves. I paid attention to those moments and when things got hard, I gave myself a break. When I was in that creative space I gave myself permission to keep going. I wrote what I felt like writing, skipping around the outline. I spent a lot of time on character development and knowing their back-story inside and out. Bottom line, I made sure that the writing process was fun! If it was enjoyable for me, I figured the book would end up being fun for the readers. Turned out, I was right.

How did you go about finding a publisher/getting the book self-published?

In the beginning, I was going to self-publish so I set about interviewing every subject matter expert I could find. Agents, authors who had publishers, authors who self-published, editors, illustrators, speakers, and lots of marketers and publicists. Through his process I met some amazing people and some folks who I ran away from as quickly as possible. One great contact, who was an acquisition editor for a publisher was intrigued by my idea; a children’s book that an older and younger reader could read at the same time. He asked me to submit a book proposal. I spent days upon days with a book proposal template and finally submitted it to the publisher. He was honest and said most get rejected. Mine was ultimately accepted. I believe this was due in part to my research into the process and secondly, my passion. He later told me it was my passion that ultimately drove their decision to publish me.

Did anything surprise you about the whole process?

One day, I was speaking to a person in the publishing business: A person who has been in that world for many years, with an amazing reputation. He candidly told me all the reasons my book would not be marketable. 1) It was too long. Children’s books have a set number of pages. 2) You can only market to one age group. Mine was purposely designed for multiple age groups. 3) Children’s book illustrations are soft, think My Little Pony and fluffy clouds. Mine are bright with hard lines. I can see that he gave me a valuable gift. He was not telling me it would not work, he was telling me that I would need to think through my marketing challenges. Turns out, those rules that I was breaking were what was going to set me and my book apart from the pack.

What advice would you give to someone wanting to write a book, or starting to write one?

If for one second you think writing a book is about vanity or a selfish act, stop right there! You have a message and a gift to give to the world.

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