Self-Publishing Journeys: Bish Denham

A Journey to Self-Publishing

For 23 years I worked at a home for abused and neglected children. For eighteen of those years I was the assistant editor of the newsletter that went out to about ten thousand people across the United States and various countries in the world. Over the course of that time I wrote hundreds of articles and stories.

When I retired from my job I decided it was time to wake up my own writing dreams, dreams of writing for children. They were dreams I’d had for a long time but had been unable to pursue. To that end I took all three correspondence courses at The Institute of Children’s Literature which included two on learning how to write short stories and articles and submit them to children’s magazine and one on novel writing.

I had some success getting stories and articles published in children’s magazines like Spider, Fun With Kidz, My Friend, and Wee Ones to name a few. I also had a couple of lower middle grade novels under my belt that I was submitting to agents and publishers. But I had no luck getting anyone’s attention with them. While I was doing that, I started a blog and began making friends.

At some point I translated and retold an old Jamaican Anansi story about why dogs beg and submitted it to Children’s Writer when they had a folktale and fantasy writing contest. To my delight and surprise it won first place. That win inspired me to translate and retell more stories until I had a nice collection of ten stories which I peddled around to various agents and publishers. Again, I had no luck getting anyone’s interest.

I was beginning to become discouraged. By this time, I started seeing many of my friends in the blogging community going the self-publishing route. And, they were encouraging me to do the same.

As more rejection letters trickled in I realized I didn’t have any more time to play the waiting game. When you go the traditional route, you wait for an agent to respond – or not. You wait for a publisher to respond – or not. If an agent picks you up, you wait while the agent peddles your book and there’s no guarantee your agent will be able to sell your book. If the book actually get sold, you wait until it is published, a process that can take several years.

I realized I’d started too late in life and that self-publishing was the only logical route to go if I want to get my stories and novels out into the world. It was not as easy, nor is it as hard, as I thought it would be. I had lots of help, thanks to all the wonderful friends I’ve made through nearly seven years of blogging.

If you go the self-publishing route you are in control of your own product, which means you want to put out the very best product you can. If your work is sloppy, if it’s full of spelling and grammar mistakes, if the formatting is bad, it reflects back on you, the author. Who would buy a second book from you if the first one is terribly written?

There are things you can do to help you on your journey.

1. Learn your craft. Read books on writing, take courses, find critique partners and beta readers. Never be afraid to ask questions and ask for help.

2. Find a good editor. Even if you think your manuscript is perfect, I can just about guarantee there will be mistakes you can’t see. As writers we get so close to our work we can’t see mistakes, like a missing word or a misplaced comma.

3. Find a good cover illustrator. The cover is the first thing people are going to see. Make it good, make it pop.

4. If you are unsure – as I was – about formatting for the various platforms, find someone who knows how.

5. Be aware that an editor, an illustrator and someone to format, will probably cost you money. You will have to decide how much you are willing to spend.

6. Have fun!

Bish Denham, whose family has been in the Caribbean for over hundred years, was raised and educated in the U. S. Virgin Islands. In the 1980s she moved to Texas to work at a home for abused and neglected children. After 23 years she retired and began pursuing a dream of writing for children. She has had stories and articles published in several magazines including, Spider, Fun With Kidz, My Friend, Wee Ones, and Children’s Writer. She is also the author of Anansi and Company: Retold Jamaican Tales, a collection of ten Anansi stories. She still lives in Texas with her husband and regularly visits her sister and cousins in the Virgin Islands.

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About Anansesem

Anansesem is an online magazine of Caribbean children's and young adult literature by adults and children. We strive to bring you the best in news, reviews and creative content from the world of Caribbean children's publishing.
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  1. Well done, Bish. You've put out a great product.

  2. Wonderful! Of course I'm a bit prejudiced regarding the book since we, in actuality, lived the riddles. Wonderful reflection on times past... which were really not that long ago in the Caribbean! Great advice here for aspiring writers!

    Your loving sister.

  3. Great advice, but I'm prejudiced. To those who have read your book, I hope that they get a glimpse through the riddles into some everyday history that ,for us, was not all that long ago!

    Your loving sister!

  4. Thanks Joy! I appreciate all your help and support.



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