Friday, July 26, 2013

Interview with Self-Publisher Sarah Pon

Today we are interviewing Sarah Pon of Pondera Books. Sarah is a trained secondary school music and English teacher and a children's book author. Sarah, can you please tell us about your books?
Firstly, I want to thank you, Joy, for this opportunity. In 2009 I was inspired partly by my mother, who was writing at the time, and partly by my travels, to write a fictional, children’s novella. I wanted to write a story that brought different cultural legends to life, where a nine-tailed fox named, Kwozy and a new acquaintance, Millo, would adventure together and meet interesting characters who would share their own tale or two. So, about a year and a half later, I’d finished the book, ‘Fox Tales, Journey to the Pinnacles of Death.’ It took another year to edit and find out how to get it published. That was the first of my five ebooks to be published.

The other four books are short, rhyming stories;
PreciousPrincess’ is about a little girl who doesn’t want to go to bed but realises in the end that she’d love to dream the night away. Images were done by Vicky Boreham, an old school friend.

Kingof the Throne’ is all about a little boy who refuses to take the throne. This is a good story to help encourage potty training. Also illustrated by Vicky Boreham.

Harveythe Hedgie-pogg’ was a little bit different because my friend, Paul Elder, had already created the images and just needed a story for them. So I happily obliged, but I have to say, that it was more challenging writing for pictures, when previously the pictures were the last to be created.  This is a story about how Harvey became the hero of the woodland.

My latest ebook is ‘Stinky Dinky,’ which is about a boy who loves to fart. I’m sure most boys would find this one amusing. The images were also done by Paul Elder, who’s a wonderful cartoonist.

I also have a new ebook coming soon, ‘The Princess and the Pea.’ So watch this space. The images are beautifully done by my new friend, Tracey Hudson Countz aka Moon Diva Art.

Would you please describe the self-publishing process you took to get your books published?
After I had written Fox Tales, I didn’t really know what to do next. The Hamilton libraries at the time had special children’s events where NZ authors would read their books to an audience of children. So I went along, with my son, he was the cover for my secret agenda. After their piece, I would approach them and ask how they did it all. I was able to gain a lot of insight from that and have continued to keep in touch with them. One of the authors, Tamara James, and myself then decided to create a writers group. This was a wonderful networking and encouraging accountable resource.

From there I learnt about a seminar run by Josh Easby (author and publisher) on how to get published.He gave a lot of informative facts and encouraged us to go with ebooks, self-publishing and print on demand because the way into traditional publishing is so slim and takes too long. So with that, I decided to go electronic but I still didn’t have the technological skills to format my own book. But it just so happened that I ran into a local mum, Joy Findlay, who was just starting out on her own ebook adventure. Her husband, Bevan, was formatting her books and so I was blessed enough to be able to get mine formatted via Bevan.

Joy also really kick started my new venture by helping set up a kindle (kdp) account and assisting with US and NZ tax forms. Most of my help came from people I connected with. If you don’t know anyone personally, I’d suggest creating or joining a facebook writers/artist group, because that’s your foot in the door. Some people even email publishers and published authors with questions. I was also told by NZ author, Sharon Holt, that Learning Media and Scholastics (educational articles for NZ schools) is a good way to start getting published.

What was the most challenging step in the journey for you and why?
Once I’d written my book and had it formatted and up for sale on amazon, I found it hard to market it without over killing my friends, family and facebook likers with self-promotion. Plus, the fact that I really don’t have enough time to do a lot of marketing myself, takes a toll on sales. That’s the good thing about getting published the traditional way, the book stores promote and market your work. However, having ebooks for sale on amazon, can sit and stay there for however long you like without you having to do anything… but with all the ebooks out there now, it’s just a matter of whether your book gets lost in amongst the rest.

You have found a few illustrators in Hamilton, NZ. How did you find them and how has it been working with them?
My family and I illustrated for ‘Fox Tales’ but, as I mentioned earlier, Vicky Boreham illustrated ‘Precious Princess’ and ‘King of the Throne,’ but I had known her from high school. I found Paul Elder through Josh Easby and found my latest illustrator, Tracey Houdson Countz, through facebook networking. All of them have been great to work with. Vicky isn’t an illustrator by trade, so I was lucky to have her draw for me. If you would like to contact Paul, his website is and Tracey’s is Tracey is however from the USA.

You published your ebooks on Amazon's Kindle Store. How did you find the KDP publishing process?
KDP is well set out and once you’re used to it, is easy to manage. I like the free promotions you can do and the percentage of royalties you can gain. It takes up to 12 hours for KDP to publish your ebook, but I think that is reasonable. I do wish though, that they would wire royalties owed into NZ bank accounts because at the moment I have to receive a cheque, which takes weeks to arrive and weeks to clear in NZ banks.

Amazon deducts withholding tax from your royalty cheques each month. Getting a US International Tax Number (ITIN) is a major undertaking, how did you manage this?
Well, you have to earn $100USD in royalties in order to receive a cheque, which I haven’t done yet. So, as an author, unless you can market your book so that it gets enough attention, it’s not exactly a well-paid job. At the moment, I love being a published author, but it’s more like a hobby until I can get the time to market and promote. If you’re clever enough to write a one of a kind book that gets the world’s attention, then you may be the next great and wealthy author and all the best of luck to you. But don’t get down at heart if things take a while to take off.

Where else have you published your books and why?
I’ve used for a couple of travel books I created. They do print on demand and although it’s not cheap to print small amounts, it’s such a nice feeling, holding your own book. The good thing about ebooks is that you can take them down and edit them whenever you like, but if there’s a typo and it’s printed, there’s no taking it back. So you need to be thorough in your editing! My ‘Princess and the Pebble’ book is soon to be published on create space in ebook and print on demand form. I’m not sure what create space is like as of yet but I’d suggest looking around. There’s another site called that does the same thing. Kindle is great for ebooks because it sells them on amazon – a very popular site – but if you want to physically hold your book, then blurb and create-space are widely used, which suggests that it’s good.

What is the most exciting part of your self-publishing journey so far?
You are your own boss, you hold the rights of your book and can do what you want with it when you like. Promote it or leave it to luck, it’s all up to you. I personally just like telling people I’m a published author and enjoy knowing other people are reading my stories as well as reading my own books to my son and other family members.

Thank you Sarah for sharing your self-publishing journey with us here. For more information about Sarah and her fantastic Children's books please visit:
You can also find Sarah on Facebook here:

All the best for your publishing Sarah, thank you.

~ Joy Findlay

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