Raymund and the Fear Monster, was originally written for children in a Philippine orphanage whom I’d met whilst on a mission trip in 2013. However, once I had shown a few parents and others, they said that they wanted this story for their kids. It was then that I realised it had broader appeal. About the same time, I started writing other stories and decided that I wanted to write seriously, and I hoped to make writing my career.
In 2015 I took a Writing Picture Book course with Cathie Tasker at the Australian Writers’ Centre. I tried to make Raymund fit within the parameters of a picture book. I tried to shove it under 600 words. It was like trying to shove a huge fluffy pillow into a tiny box. It just didn’t work. I did come up with a shorter, different version, which is now published as Freya and the Fear Monster in the Creative Kids Tales Story Collection Vol 2. Things that Go Bump. Yet, I knew Raymund’s story still needed to be told. I kept reworking it. It kept popping out everywhere until I wanted to throw up on it, burn it, and never see it again.
In 2016 three things happened within a week. 1) I read Jen Storer’s blog post, Right Story, Wrong Format. Why it’s important to stay true to the story. 2) I also attended my writer’s group where we did a dialogue workshop. I played around with some dialogue from Raymund and I finally didn’t want to throw up on it anymore. I actually felt excited about it again. And then I read a picture book about a dragon who ate children (I know. Weird right. Fun story though) and realised I had started the story in the wrong place. I went and rewrote Raymund and it was so much better.
I submitted it to one publisher who I thought if anyone would take it, they would. They didn’t. Probably because it is waaaay over the current trend in word count and a rather niche topic. So, illustrator, Ester de Boer and I decided to partner up and do it ourselves. Ester had always loved the story and said that if I ever did decide to indie-publish, she wanted to illustrate it. Penny Springbrook at Bookcover Café helped me polish Raymund and I am so happy with how the story ended up. And I’m extraordinarily rapt with how incredible Ester’s illustrations have taken my story to a whole new level. It was well worth the wait.
Some points I would say for those who are thinking of self-publishing/indie-publishing. 1) Do your research and find out all you can about the various self-publishing routes and choose which suits you and your circumstances. 2) Do not skimp on the cost of editing. 3) And please, make sure that you DO NOT change your story after the final edit and the illustrator has begun on the illustrations, unless by the suggestions of the illustrator. And goodness, definitely not after they’ve completed the whole book. 4) Make sure that, if you are publishing a picture book, don’t skimp on good illustrations. A poorly illustrated book can let down a great story. 5) Make sure you get an amazing cover. Don’t skimp on this.
There are heaps more, but I’ll leave it there. I can’t wait to produce another book.
Megan Higginson: www.meganhigginson.com
This article was produced in connection with Megan Higginson and Ester de Boer’s ‘Raymund and the Fear Monster’ book campaign with Books On Tour PR & Marketing