When Ohio Countian Laura Austin was in elementary school, she began writing mostly as a way of entertaining herself, and after years of writing for herself, she has published a book for other’s to read — a children’s book called “Alexander Lee and the Sunken Ship.”
“Usually it would be sing-song type poetry to be funny or descriptive poetry and it never occurred to me to let anyone else read it,” Austin said. “As an adult, I started writing more and more children’s themed type stories because I thought it was fun. Once you have kids you seem to think along those lines.”
All of her work started building up and she thought eventually she would like to publish some of it, but she wasn’t sure how to go about it. Other people encouraged her to do something with her writings and she began researching how to go about getting her works published.
“I just thought it would be neat to see it in print and to have illustrations,” she said.
Austin said she has always been reluctant to let anyone she doesn’t know very well read her work because if they read it they aren’t going to see it the way she sees it without the illustrations to help show the characters exactly how see sees them.
“It is kind of like the difference in reading a novel and going to see the movie based on the novel. It is never quite what you think it is going to be like because it is different in everyone’s mind,” she said.
When Austin began her internet research into getting her stories published, she came across a number of self-publishing companies — many that were quite expensive.
Her goal was to get a traditional publishing contract, but she found that a writer usually has to have a book agent first, and before writers can get an agent they must have an illustrator.
“I found all these steps that I was not able to take,” she said.
She discovered the Xlibris, a self-publishing printing service provider, which would publish and illustrate the book at no cost provided, as part of the agreement, that Austin pay for the marketing of the book.
Over 700 media outlets in several U.S. cities as well as those in London, England and Edinburgh, Scotland received a media release on the book. Austin has also been promoting the book locally.
“It has been a lot of fun. I don’t know necessarily if it is going to be a lot of money, but it has been a lot of fun,” she said.
Alexander Lee and the Sunken Ship, which came out in October, is part of a series of books featuring the adventures of a great white shark. She actually started writing the series last year and has written five books in the series total. She has hopes to eventually be able to publish the additional books in the series either by self-publishing or through a traditional publishing contract.
In this book, Alexander Lee uncovers exciting clues from history and uses them to reveal an intriguing mystery. Austin said her books are intended to be very fun and make kids laugh or teach a social lesson to kids without being too “preachy” or have a “political agenda.”
“My books are just supposed to be innocent and fun,” she said.
When Austin first began writing the Alexander Lee series in March, she said she came up with the name Alexander Lee and it all just came together after that.
“There are times when I sit and write a story in 10 or 15 minutes and then go back over time and polish it,” she said. “That is typically how I do it. It doesn’t take long if I am inspired it just sort of starts coming to me.”
All of her books are written in rhyme, which she finds fun to write. It also makes it easier for children to remember stories because the rhyming pattern helps them learn the next line, she said.
The Alexander Lee series could grow to more than five books, she said. She plans to take the character as far as she can take him.
“That is one of the reasons why I chose a marine animal because there are so many stories you can tell of different animals and things (Alexander Lee) can encounter.”
For now, Austin is playing the waiting game and still trying to get a traditional publishing contract — even without an agent. She is still talking with them and hoping that they can see that she can continue writing and developing a character.
She said she would consider herself successful if her book is on bookshelves in book stores across the country, on shelves in libraries, in teachers’ classrooms and Alexander Lee is a familiar well-known character.
“If someone says Alexander Lee and kids know what they are talking about,” she said. “(I) might as well dream big.”
Her main goal with the book, however, is to get them in the hands of children because that is the reason she writes her books — for children to read.
“If I never make a dime off the books, I just really want to see them in the hands of kids. I want kids to love the character Alexander Lee and have fun with him.”
— Dana Brantley, MyKyNews