Greg Scott - Never Send A Dinosaur To Do A Ladders Job
As I write this opening paragraph, our state is on a shelter at home order. The COVID-19 virus has in many ways shut down the world but has, on the plus side, given me time to pursue a bucket list item: publishing a story I started writing and illustrating back in 2004. My ultimate dream of its final creation and publication has taken up space in my head and computer for quite some time. I have worked on and off toward that goal for years, much the way many hopeful authors do.
You may find it odd that you are reading about a guy you have never heard of fulfilling his lifelong dream of publishing a children’s book in a ChiTAG newsletter, and I would tend to agree with you. But if you can stay with me for a few minutes, I will try to tie everything together.
I hope in writing this paper there might be some readers who are encouraged to think about the possibility of publication, as I did for years. My advice: stay the course and do not lose focus. I will explain how I finally achieved my goal in order to help motivate anyone who needs a bit of reassurance that it can indeed be done!
First, a bit of history about myself. A large part of my early career was spent as a toy designer at Hasbro. During my time there I had the unique opportunity of working on product lines like Disney’s The Incredibles and Finding Nemo lines, as well as Disney Theme Park - Star Tours Droids or collectible Mr. Potato Head Park product. I also worked on Classic Hasbro brands such as Play-Doh. This fertile playground of innovation fueled my imagination in many directions outside the bounds of toy design and one of those directions was telling stories.
When I wrote and drew these various story ideas it was a tremendous rush! I loved to get lost what these other worlds consisted of and what they would do next. It was so much fun to have the opportunity to express myself in this unique format. I knew that I had discovered something that really ignited my interest as a pursuit, especially the possibility of alliterative text with tongue twisters to accompany vivid illustrations of the characters that I would create.
A pelican that does what?
In one of my stories, Never Send A Dinosaur to Do A Ladder’s Job, I focus on a pelican named Pylon who was a traveler. He partnered with a hermit crab named Piston and together they would set out on various adventures. The stories I imagined were bigger than adventures, though; they became what I call Colossal Kaffoles.
I’d like to mention that there is a notable and unique feature to consider when discussing Pylon. It is his bill, which I like to call his ‘incredo-bill’. In it, he stores all the objects of interest he collects during his travels. After all, a dinosaur or a flying saucer might come in handy down the road. You never know.
In this particular Colossal Kaffofle, I chose to write about Pylon and Piston’s puzzle of a problem which they helped Nice Nina Nubberscotch solve. Her cat Samson had been treed by the neighborhood dog named Tater Chip. She had no idea how to get him down and Pylon, after listening to her tearful tale, decided he could help by using a dinosaur named Tom T. Rex, whom he had stored in his incredo-bill from a previous Colossal Kaffofle to aid in the recovery of said Samson.
Perhaps that is a bit more storyline detail than required, but I am attempting to illustrate that my past career in the toy industry had a big impact on me when creating the new and interesting worlds I imagined in my mind. This is something ChiTAG celebrates - and therein lies the tie-in.
So where does CHITAG fit in?
Oddly enough, I did not meet Mary Couzin (CEO/Founder of ChiTAG) until after my career at Hasbro. I was, at that point, working for a playground company and we had developed an electronic playground product that we brought to a ChiTAG conference through Mary’s help. Recently, I remembered Mary’s love of imaginative play and reached out to her, hoping she could help me make other people aware of my Colossal Kaffofles. She suggested that I write this paper - which she has kindly published and you are now reading. Thank you for your attention and Mary for allowing me this opportunity.
When I began putting my thoughts to paper the world was still very traditional. In other words, the digital age had not really become the norm. The iPhone was still a thing of the future and the internet was not the vast storehouse of information that it is today.
Finalizing the first version of the story I began to seek out publishing companies to review the story. At the library, I checked out a book that listed children’s book publishers and wrote out the possible candidates based on the write-ups listed within these volumes.
I then made copies of pages from my book, created a cardboard front and back cover, and bound the whole thing together in what was called a ‘dummy’ book. I would write the publisher’s address on the envelope and then place a letter of explanation, a self-addressed and stamped envelope, and the dummy book into this envelope which I would then send on its merry way to the publisher through the US postal system.
Off it would go and I would pray that this would be the one. This book was going to light the world on fire and I would be the celebrated writer (ha ha) I always thought I should be...or maybe not. Form letter after form letter poured in. Rejection was my constant companion with each of these publishers. The explanations were varied: not in the current marketing plan, not the right type of story, they already have this years’ books lined up, or just not interested. It was discouraging. I continued to write but I did not pursue publishing in any meaningful way.
At this point in my essay, I would like to interject something my sister recently brought to my attention. It is important to keep going. This is especially demonstrated if you consider the story she told me about Jack Canfield, the author of the Chicken Soup for the Soul books. He was turned down by 144 publishers before he finally found one who spoke to him and was interested in publishing the first book. He says in his talks that if he had given up - even after calling 100 publishers, those Chicken Soup books never would have happened. Yet, they have been NY Times bestsellers over and over again, with millions of copies selling worldwide. He never gave up on that first book and called publishers every day to find the right one. He was hung up on, laughed at and told to never call again, etc, but in the end, he won. Keep going.
A new way has dawned thanks to Amazon
I did, but not in the traditional publication way.
At one point prior to the pandemic, I shared my book with a friend who, after reading it, encouraged me to self-publish on Amazon. He told me that his wife had been self-publishing her work for years. This was something that I had not considered. I understood the terms but didn’t take it seriously. Several months went by, life got in the way and I stopped working on trying to publish, again. He would ask me occasionally how the book was coming along and my reply was usually the same, I was just too busy.
And then suddenly, I wasn’t.
Fast forward to present day: I’m still in my house trying to avoid getting sick and find ways to occupy my time. As the days passed, I chose to resuscitate the friends from my story.
Edit, Edit, Edit
I found all the digital assets associated with my book Never Send a Dinosaur to Do A Ladder’s Job. I blew off the ‘bits’ of dust and began to comb through the digital details. It was slow going at first. I read through the last old draft of the story I had written and began to edit and edit and re-edit. Many late nights were spent with my friends Pylon and Piston trying to get their Colossal Kaffofle just right. I asked others to read and edit my writing for content and grammar. By the time I was done, I had completely rewritten the book and revised the order of events within the story to provide more continuity.
Warning: you may enjoy this process
I began to find my joy in bringing this world back to life again. I forgot how much fun it was to delve into these fictitious characters and their adventures. This was a world that we could all recognize where it was still possible for anything to happen.
During the creative process, I remembered Stan Lee saying he wrote things that he enjoyed reading and figured there must be other people like him who would enjoy his stories as well. I focused on using tongue twisters and alliteration to enhance the story, remembering my enjoyment of Dr. Suess and the imaginative ways he piqued my curiosity with his words and pictures. I really wanted to create a story that was fun and somewhat challenging for kids and parents alike to read.
Below is an excerpt from Never Send a Dinosaur to Do A Ladder’s Job:
Farley Funklel flipped his weird wild wiggy-wig.
After all, a Tom T- Rampaging -Rex running radically
rampant in the middle of the month of June was most
Not to mention that his marvelous Motorcity master
piece had been demolished into a mish-mashed mess.
I also reviewed the illustrations, like Farley Funklel pictured below, and realized that some of the elements I had captured didn’t fit the storyline anymore. I began to update the images. Slowly, over time, my images came together as well.
Tools of the Trade
For self-publishing a book on Amazon, there is certain Kindle software that you will need to help you with the process called Kindle Kids Book Creator. This was a great tool in assisting with assembling all the pieces into one place. Following the prompts was easy and soon my story was living in one spot ready to move forward.
I also downloaded The Kindle Previewer which allowed me the opportunity to check the formatting and see what the consumer would see when opening their purchase on a tablet. It gave me a good idea of the flow of the book - allowing me to make more informed decisions.
I am done editing. Now what?
When it was time to officially publish my revised story, I used the Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing site. First, I set up an account and the site then walked me through the process of preparing my material for sale on Amazon through a series of questions. I filled out the questions as I was prompted and got started toward my publishing dream.
It was really an amazing feeling to see my book online and for sale on Amazon! Things are just getting started though because I now need to figure out how to generate sales and reviews. However, I see that as a part of the learning process and fun involved in this endeavor.
Again, my hope is that if you are interested in publishing something of your own you will not wait as long as I did. The biggest challenge to overcome sometimes is yourself and your own self- doubts. Find the time to write, draw, edit, cry, bang your head, or whatever it takes to get it done. But do not give up.
A Plethora of Perpetual Parting Pontification from Piston
In this weird wild world, my wish for your words is to find wonderful worth from well-wishers everywhere as they pause to ponder your publishing pursuits. Thank you for taking the time to read my story. All the best.