Text: Solveig Hansen, 2017
“I am just so excited, I never thought it would actually get this far,” Emma Sumner says about her first published book. That’s what any author would say, but there’s a difference: Unlike most authors, Emma was only 8 at the time she published her book. It’s called Fairies of Waterfall Island: The Search for the Missing Crystal, in which fairies and human children must join forces to recover the missing Water Crystal. Without it, Waterfall Island will lose its magic. First, they must face the Evil Fairy. (See the detailed character profiles.)
Emma had a good mentor in her father Sean Sumner, who documents the whole process in his post Self Publishing at Any Age: 9 Steps That Took an 8 year old From Idea to Published Author. He offers useful tips and outlines a systematic approach for self-publishers – no matter what age. Of all the self-publishing articles I’ve read, this is by far the most inspirational one!
When Emma told him that she wanted to write and publish a book, he gave her a challenge:
- Write 1 chapter
- Write at least 150 words
- Create 3 different characters with backgrounds
- Have a plan ready for the rest of the book
The same night Emma came back with:
- A handwritten story of 172 words
- Four distinct characters
- A plan for 10 chapters and four other characters
The next step was to build a rewards system. Once she had written detailed descriptions of her top 4 characters, they would go to Fiverr.com and get a designer to do a pencil drawing of a character. After the completion of chapter 2, he would teach her to use Microsoft Word. And so on.
A plan is vital in order to move forward. They had a strategy session every Saturday morning, where they ate breakfast together, often at a café, and planned out the week.
These sessions became about much more than just the book, as we enjoyed the father-daughter bonding time without distractions. To this day, these Saturday morning meetings have been my favorite part of the entire process.
– Sean Sumner
As the project moved on, they created a Facebook group called “Emma’s First Book,” which quickly grew from 20 to 200 followers. Here, Emma would record short videos and report on her progress. In due course, they hired professionals to do the illustrations, editing, cover design, and formatting, with a total cost of $790.
Sean Sumner emphasizes the need for a launch team to help you market your book and spread the word. When Emma’s book – 10,000 words, 120 pages – was ready for the world after a year’s hard work, she had a launch team of 95 helpers. By then, they also had a landing page for the book.
Time to hit the Publish button on Amazon. The first day, she sold 87 books and received 16 reviews. She donated the proceeds for the first 3 months to Autism Speaks.
So, success and a lot of media attention. The Sumner team did all the right things, from maintaining a structured and doable writing schedule to hiring professionals to marketing. Emma now has a solid author platform, complete with a website and a Facebook page, all set for the next book in what will hopefully become a series.