• Rowan Mackey

How Do We Measure a Book's Success?

It’s always interesting to find out when a writer believes their career started. 

Was it as they tapped out their first story as a child and found a willing audience? Was it as they finally cracked the market, after being a part-time writer, to become ‘someone’ when they published a hit novel after numerous beige titles that languished on shelves or in boxes in their garage?


For me, the ‘start’ always seems like a new beginning, another book in the series, and a celebration of the work put in before.

I have been writing and working in the publishing industry for nearly 15 years, creating my own work whilst at the same time mentoring children to publication. I had written and drawn for two children’s picture books, loved the process so much and learnt so much I wrote the ‘how-to’ textbook, showing others how to create a children’s picture book, whilst I was languishing with the process myself as I tried to create more. The response of adults is one thing, but it is the response of children who really keep you on your toes.


‘Yeah, but what else have you written?’

A simple question. It keeps me awake at night, as I conjure up the next idea and the next and the next. I promised myself I would always be able to answer that question. Add to this simple principle of practising the professionalism I had encouraged others to adopt.


‘Well, now that you asked, I have written an amazing children’s picture book called Imagine.’ I reply, with a smile on my face, standing a tad taller for the response, able to finally look a small child in the face without squirming.


I ambitiously sent this glorious picture book to all the local awards, proud as punch, ambitiously anticipating a response.

Nothing!


I had overshot the runway. I missed the target. I got it wrong.  Entering book awards is like submitting manuscripts.  Different awards, different types of books sought by different teams of judges.  CBCA – was the book of literary merit? No, Imagine was a silly romp, a dalliance, a whimsical look at what happens when you tip your world upside down.   Queensland Literary Awards – again, of literary merit? No, the book hadn’t changed… why did I think entering was a good idea!


Still, I loved this book. 

I bundled it up and sent it overseas to two different international awards, the Independent Publishers Awards (IPPY’s) and the Moonbeam Awards, both celebrating beautiful books. Gold. Literally, I struck GOLD!


Now I was in a position to create more books.

This time though, I genuinely understood what was required to create truly beautiful picture books.  It wasn’t just the writing, it was again engaging a talented illustrator, it was working with a professional graphic designer, it was about a print team who adored the product as much as I did, and it was about getting over the fact it costs a small fortune!


Next project then was reimagining Lily, Fabourama Glamourama, which was originally published in 2004 with TERRIBLE drawings. 

(I can say that simply because I was the ‘artist’ involved and had yet to learn the true difference between using illustrations versus drawings for a book. I digress!) I didn’t mess with my recipe. Again, I worked with the same amazing illustrator, graphic designer and printer,  and another book was raised from my own imagination.  I sent it to the 2017 IPPY Awards – this time SILVER for Best Children’s Picture eBook.



‘eBook?’ I hear you say.

Yes, an eBook.  Whilst I have an amazing version of the book in printed form, the IPPY’s, with their thousands and thousands of entries from around the world, categorise the entries, enabling for a bit of strategy.  This appeals to me. So does the idea of an awards ceremony in New York! You can enter via regions, you can enter per category, and you can ALSO enter an eBook version. Another specialist required for the team! Enter Brink Publishing, eBook specialists.


I’ve made the process sound simple, and it really is.

What seemed to take me an inordinate amount of time was to find the right people to work with and the path that resonated with me. It was a decade of muddling around before I could articulate the strategic goals for the books I create (does this book satisfy a gap in the market or is it my own whimsy wanting to see it in print). What I have had all along, however, is the determination and the need to create a future for myself in this industry we refer to as ‘writing’ and to contribute to the community.


As for the awards, well, they are simply the beginning, the start, as I’ve now had affirmation, I do have something to contribute.

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