Join us for a look into the process of giving vibrant, colorful life to children’s stories. In this week’s Self-Publishing Insiders, we talk with Gregg McBride and Anaïs Chartschenko about creating and publishing Illustrated Children’s Books.
Author Gregg McBride and Illustrator Anaïs Chartschenko chat with Draft2Digital about their new illustrated children’s book, what it took to write, illustrate, and publish it.
“Biron The Bee Who Couldn’t” (new children’s picture book, debuts on June 10) Written by Gregg McBride, Illustrated by Anaïs Chartschenko, and available at Amazon.
Gregg McBride has been told he couldn’t do things many times, yet went on to do them anyway. He works to inspire and help others through his books (Weightless and Just Stop Eating So Much), columns (for Psychology Today), and even a top-rated TV movie (A Heavenly Christmas). He also teaches meditation for Insight Timer and is committed to animal rescue. This is Gregg’s first children’s book, and he hopes it will remind kids of all ages that their dreams matter.
Anaïs Chartschenko bee-lieves that persistence and enthusiasm can transform into talent and luck. After being told by an English teacher that she couldn’t write, she went on to publish multiple books (The Weightless One and Sailing Toward Us). She was advised she shouldn’t dream of pursuing something as complex as opera, and so she learned to sing arias in several languages. She was informed quite firmly that being an illustrator was out of the question—yet this is her first illustrated children’s book. People also said she would never grow to be 5 feet tall…well, can’t win ’em all!
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Gregg McBride, Kevin Tumlinson, Anaïs Chartschenko
Kevin Tumlinson 00:02
Well, hello, everybody out there in author land, we’re so happy to see you popping in. Thanks for being a part of this Self-Publishing Insiders from Draft2Digital. And as always, we’re thrilled to have our guests. And I’m gonna butcher at least one of their names in advance, I apologize. But there’s Anaïs. Welcome. And there’s, is it Greg G?
Gregg McBride 00:25
Kevin Tumlinson 00:28
Gregg McBride, and anybody who is a longtime listener of the of this show, or of my Wordslinger podcast, when that was still alive and kicking, recognizes Gregg as a return guest. One of my favorite people. I’m sure Anaïs is also going to become one of my favorite people, at least by the end of this broadcast. So welcome to both of you. Thanks for popping in with us.
Anaïs Chartschenko 00:50
Thank you for having us.
Gregg McBride 00:51
Yeah, glad to be back and glad to bring a new person to this in our beautiful, talented Anaïs. Also a writer.
Kevin Tumlinson 01:01
Also a writer. Oh, good. I love multitalented people, multi-hyphenates are my favorite kind of people. So all right. First, Gregg, let’s jump in. Because I want to get this out of the way. This is a very different book than what you’ve produced in the past. So what made you decide you wanted to do a children’s book?
Gregg McBride 01:26
Well, I have had this story in my head for, gosh, I want to say since I was little. I mean, I just always had this story about a little bumblebee that wanted to do anything but make honey, and everyone telling him no, no, no, gotta make honey. And, you know, you can draw the parallels for anybody who might have read Weightless, you know, I used to be very overweight. And so when I was younger, and would tell people that, you know, I wanted to move to Hollywood, I was often told that that was not allowed. And so, you know, again, the story has just always been in me, and I’ve always had an urge to do a children’s book. But I’m sure as you and many of the people watching know, children’s books is probably more complicated than any other book that you’re doing, because it is such an art unto itself. I think it’s even more difficult to break into, you know, you’ll find some literary agent or publisher reception for lots of different genres, or even if you self-publish, but children’s books is a real special thing. And it’s one of those things where, sort of like Hallmark Christmas movies, and that is no plug for A Heavenly Christmas starring Shirley MacLaine, I wouldn’t do that. But you know, people think they know them, right? Like, oh, I’m gonna write a Christmas movie, but they haven’t necessarily watched one, right? Or they’ve seen an SNL spoof of Hallmark Christmas movies. And they think that that’s enough information. Yes, it’s good information, but not quite enough. And so children’s books is the same thing, right? You think, oh, that’s going to be easier. Oh, I’m going to do this. And these days, the children’s book market is so intense that if you’re not a celebrity, like somebody like Kathie Lee Gifford, who sort of has that mom following, you’re just not going to get any attention at all. But again, this was a story that I really wanted to be out in the world, something that I knew I wanted to write. But I did not have an artist, I did not have an illustrator. And in most cases, with children’s books, you’ve got to hire an illustrator. Even before you approach an agent or a publisher, you know, you’ve got to own the artwork, and so Anaïs and I did things a little bit differently. We actually began our, I’m going to call it a love affair, on Twitter. We started interacting together, and I had my book called Weightless. And she actually has a book called Weightless too, sort of told from a different perspective, where I was at 450 pounds. Anaïs tells the story of being underweight. And so, you know, there was a real understanding between us, and we really just, you know, we were trading books, and she was kind enough to send me some of her books, which are, oh, gosh, so eloquent. So dark. So like, you’ve got to read them twice. Like, it’s just powerful stuff. And I’m not just saying that. I would just say that, but I’m not in this case. And she’s also an amazing illustrator. I mean, I call her a renaissance person, and she really is. And so about a year ago, maybe a little bit before, I approached her with the idea of collaborating together on the story, and I let her know what it was, and I really didn’t know what I was in for working with her. And this would not have happened, It would not have turned out as well as it did without her. I don’t want to get too ahead of the story. But you know, she challenged me. She wasn’t just waiting for the words. She was such a part of the birth of this bee, you know, she’s my baby mama, my bee baby mama. And so it’s really funny, but it’s also a testament, right? We think of the internet, we think of like fellow artists who are, you know, battling each other because I gotta get into the limelight before you do, or I want to get more likes, or I want to … And it’s just such a great illustration of how two artists can come together and just really create something for the sake of wanting something special and great in the world. And so I feel so lucky to be working with her. She’s amazing.
Kevin Tumlinson 05:46
So, and I’m positive I’m gonna come to agree with that Anaïs. I’ve only known you for like five minutes now and I already like ya. I am curious, like, have you done children’s book illustration before?
Anaïs Chartschenko 05:59
No, I definitely had not. Yeah, the whole story, I definitely was a huge fan of what Gregg had done and very inspired by his work. So when he told me about it, I was like, well, yes, of course, and then I’ll figure it out later.
Kevin Tumlinson 06:26
That’s how all great success stories go.
Anaïs Chartschenko 06:30
I have always done art, starting from when I was really really really little, I always was drawing or painting. So I was inspired a lot by Yoshitaka Amano, who did the Final Fantasy art, inspired by Sandman artists like David McCain or David Mack, a lot of dark dark art. And that’s a lot of the art that I did do is very dark art. And so I kind of took all of that dark art, and I inverted it and tried to create his bee that he saw in his head. And every time I go, is this cute enough? How can I make it cuter?
Gregg McBride 07:25
And also original, right? Like, bees are very popular now. And we’ve seen so many bees in illustrative form. And we really wanted to have an original-looking bee for Biron and his family and his, you know, fellow classmates who aren’t so nice to him. And so there was a real challenge there, in terms of making it original. And you know, one other thing about children’s books is when you think of children’s books, as genius as the writing may be, it’s all about the illustrations, right? It’s all about the pictures because they’re, in some ways they’re like a coffee table book right? Like I’ve bought children’s books before. And you know, if you love the illustrations, those can be inspiring and then if they also flow with the words … And since Anaïs is also an author, and listen, I have an advertising background and I can sketch, I’m no artist like Anaïs is. But, you know, it was really, there were no boundaries. There was no okay, I’m doing this, you’re doing this. All of a sudden, I’ll give you an example. Anaïs is doing research on bees. And you know me, I’m like cutting to the premiere of the book. I’m like, research, what’s that? And she found out that hummingbirds and bees interact together really well. And so all of a sudden, I was getting sketches with a hummingbird schoolteacher. And I’m like, oh, I guess I better put that into the story. And then all of a sudden, Biron the bee wore a little red cape because he was like, you know, he was super in his own way. And so I’m like, oh, I guess I better put that into the story. [inaudible] I think is the takeaway. The Draft2Digital takeaway today: do not trust artists.
Anaïs Chartschenko 09:16
I can’t help myself. I am very inspired by all the graphic novels and by anime. I love it. So any chance I get, I try to pull those things in. And also of course if I find out anything from National Geographic, I found out that bees sleep in flowers. They get drunk on pollen, which I thought was the funniest cutest thing, and then they fall asleep in the flower covered in pollen with their little bee butt sticking out.
Gregg McBride 09:51
Like face down. Hold on, I’m going to show you one of my favorite illustrations. I just happen to have a book here. But you find nature’s stories …
Kevin Tumlinson 10:00
Hold on, I’m gonna blow you up full screen so people can see that. There we go.
Gregg McBride 10:04
So of the little bee kind of face down in the flower, you will see images of this on National Geographic and other nature-oriented sites. And so this is all authentic, but we love, you know, I mean, talk about a creative and fun art. So, her research paid off in every way. I mean, it was just great.
Kevin Tumlinson 10:26
I’ve seen those photos of like bees falling asleep in a flower.
Anaïs Chartschenko 10:33
Of course, I was like, how am I going to make a bee cute? Because I’m kind of afraid of them. And then I started looking at those.
Kevin Tumlinson 10:43
Biron was born. So you spelled Biron with an I. Is there a story there?
Gregg McBride 10:52
Well, there is. Yes, there is. The original title of the book was Barry, the Bee Who Couldn’t. And Anaïs once again, doing her research, we realized that the DreamWorks Bee movie, the lead character voiced by Jerry Seinfeld, was named Barry. And so we’re like, oh, we can’t … you know, we don’t want to, even though it was not born of that at all, we realized that …
Kevin Tumlinson 11:21
What a delightful way to be sued.
Gregg McBride 11:24
Or just even to have people question that right? And this is usually something I would discover on publication date, like oops. So then, we traded about what, 85 emails with different … because we wanted it to be, the story is told in rhyme. And so we wanted something that kind of goes along whimsically. You know, it can’t be Claude, the Bee Who Couldn’t. It just would not work. So we were trading back and forth bee names. We finally finally decided on Biron, but we wanted a spelling that was semi-unique. And we, Anaïs actually, there was a famous Byron, right? The poet. I forget facts. Why would I know that? So again, though, the creative … it’s funny, because I don’t think either of us thought the time involved, just even at the beginning was going to be as lengthy as it was. But we had such a good time working together. And we were both so … she was open to my ideas about the art, I was open to her ideas about the copy. And we were literally trading, you know, stuff back and forth the entire time, even before we went to actual creating the art, actual getting the finished writing done. Or locked, I guess I would say, and so it’s been a journey, but again, it’s one of those great collaborations that you don’t often hear about, you know, because sometimes as artists we’re pitted against each other, or people would like to believe.
Kevin Tumlinson 13:03
You feel precious about your ideas, and you don’t want anyone changing your vision.
Anaïs Chartschenko 13:08
Or getting mean, you know? And there wasn’t any meanness, you know, so that helps.
Kevin Tumlinson 13:17
So Anaïs, have you worked with anyone else in this way before? I mean, I know you didn’t do a children’s book. But have you done collaborative work?
Anaïs Chartschenko 13:27
Not really, not so much. I’ve been in bands, I do music, and I sing opera. So I’ve worked with musicians.
Kevin Tumlinson 13:38
You really are a renaissance girl. You’ve got it all. Wow.
Anaïs Chartschenko 13:43
So if you work with music, like for opera, you have to work with other people and you have to really listen to the person who is going to be playing the piano for you, for example. If you don’t, you’re toast. So things like that, but not a book. I usually wrote all of my books. But now I’m actually making, writing a book with somebody else. So I never probably would have been as open to it if I hadn’t worked with Gregg.
Kevin Tumlinson 14:19
Now you have an experience and process to draw from. You got to be careful about these things, you know? It’s addictive. Suddenly you’re working with everybody. So we’ve got some questions have popped in. Are you guys okay with answering some questions? I got several from one person in particular. We’ll try to spread these out a little. Let’s go to JD from YouTube. So he asks, “How was the process in collaboration between both of you?” I guess, what was that process like for you two?
Gregg McBride 14:55
Lots of emails, lots of text messages, lots of phone calls, but always, at least from my end, it was always with excitement. And we, I don’t know, I guess it wasn’t an accident. But you know, I get up very early to work out, I’m up at 4:30am. And as it happens, she is up at those hours too. So we would have very lengthy conversations, you know, during the 4 am hour. And we would, you know, not only got to know each other better, although we were already friends by the time I had approached her to do something like this. But, you know, just trading ideas, trading research, you know, we would text each other, write each other. So, again, it never felt like work for me. And I don’t think for Anaïs either, which, you know, again, we just, we really wanted to create something perennial, something that inspired people, no matter how old they are, you know, even adults, we would read to test audiences, you know, adult friends, and they would get tears in their eyes. And that’s the last time I serve onions while I’m reading a book, but you know. Buh-dum-bum-bum. In answer to JD’s question, you know, I would say it was very Anaïs-y.
Kevin Tumlinson 16:19
Anaïs Chartschenko 16:19
it was very chatty, very very chatty. And sometimes it was, like, not about the book at all. Sometimes it was just, I found this puppy picture, you have to see it now.
Gregg McBride 16:38
Or even, we both are always working on multiple projects. And so, you know, if I was working on a deck for a new script, I would share it with her, or if she was working on something new, she would share it with me. So again, it was just very encouraging and collaborative, which is what we would hope art would be, no matter what form it takes. And, you know, I’m just grateful for that. And I would like to think that it shows on the page too, because, you know, if the words and the imagery don’t work in sync, then I think something’s going to be missing, especially from a children’s book.
Anaïs Chartschenko 17:13
Yeah, yeah, I think so. And then there were things that were going on in Gregg’s life that I tried to include in the book, like he had foster kittens. And there was one kitten in particular, Pitch, that we put into the book. And I illustrated Pitch into the book in several places so that he’d always have that kitten. You know, even though …
Kevin Tumlinson 17:40
Oh, nice. That’s nice. I follow all of the kitten adventures on Gregg’s Twitter feed. You can hardly help it. If you’re connected to Gregg, you’re gonna see lots of kittens.
Gregg McBride 17:55
It’s how I’m getting into heaven. You know, I’m a really bad person. But I’ll be like, but I’ve saved a million kittens.
Anaïs Chartschenko 18:02
Kevin Tumlinson 18:04
Yeah, I think I remember reading in like, I don’t know, second John or something. There’s a verse about that. So here’s a good one. So Katherine on YouTube asks, “I self-published using Kids’ Book Creator and it turned out great, but the downloadable format isn’t usable elsewhere. What bookmaking software do you guys use?” I want to preface this by the way, in saying that, unfortunately, D2D’s print option isn’t currently a great option for something like a children’s book, as it only does black and white images. But you guys are, what are you guys using to get your book out there?
Gregg McBride 18:42
I actually used a professional design program, QuarkXPress, to lay it out. Because we wanted to have all of the creative control ourselves. And listen, there are some great formatting friendly apps and programs out there. And I think that they are great to use, because sometimes you can really get clogged up in the process. And that’s going to harm the creativity. But for us, we really wanted to control the design and the fonts and the placement of the copy. And we even, there’s places in the books where we have little design elements that really don’t have a lot to do with the story. But again, we wanted the book to be sort of magical in that you could discover new things, like the little kitten that appears here and there in the story, without any words, that you could find that kitten. And so for us, we use QuarkXPress, and that I think helped us to be able to transfer the files. But then when it came to the to the ebook, you know, of course, there were certain things we had to do. And Anaïs was creating thank goodness, just giant files, you know, we had to get that Dropbox going so we could share the images. They’re beautiful. I’ve even blown up a few on canvas. And so yeah, QuarkXPress is the short answer, Katherine.
Anaïs Chartschenko 20:13
Yeah. For making the illustrations, I think that if you’re going to be doing a children’s book, and you want those really vibrant colors, you want it to show up really, really well. You need to have really large images, you can’t skimp on that, because the printing isn’t going to come out. Like, if it’s a regular book cover it doesn’t need to have that high of a PPI. But like for a children’s book where it’s all illustrations, it’s just an art book. Just think of it like an art book, or an art print.
Kevin Tumlinson 20:54
So where are you guys getting the prints? Who are you going through? Or what do you use?
Gregg McBride 21:00
We used Book Baby for this project. And we did a hardcover, paperback, and ebook version. We decided that we wanted sort of a one-stop shop, although we did have to really think of each project separately, you know, because like the hardcover, which is our favorite, because it’s self-published is also the most expensive. But you know, you just can’t beat having the slipcover and just all that. But one thing we really had to think about, and I want to share this to other writers out there, is when you’re doing a kid’s book, you have to, and this is where my advertising background came into play. But you’ve got to really think about the weight of the paper, you’ve got to think about the gloss of the paper. When we’re self-publishing books that are, except for the cover, all words, you don’t have to think about this. But you really do have to think about the weight of the paper. And that’s going to up the expense, not only for your own copies, but when you sell them too. But again, you want the colors to pop, you want the pages to feel weighty, you don’t want it to be like newspaper print. So again, and I love that you had us on, Kevin, which is so nice of you. But there’s, I’m telling you, this kid’s book world, you just think you know it and you don’t. It’s a universe unto itself.
Kevin Tumlinson 22:23
You have already pointed out several things that I think are kind of fascinating from a certain perspective, things that you don’t think about, like just how involved everything has to be. Like, you talked about having to get like an upgraded Dropbox or whatever, you know, like all these pieces are required in order for the two of you to be able to work together to do this.
Anaïs Chartschenko 22:46
There is one good thing. A lot of people think they need to have the most expensive program to draw with, and the most expensive art pad out there. And actually, not necessarily. I have an okay art pad, it’s a digital art pad that my husband got me for Christmas. And I just wanted to try digital art. And I’d never done it before. So I told him not to not to do anything too crazy, just get something middle of the road. And so he did, he didn’t get me anything that fancy. It’s just a basic one. And it did fine. And then I got Krita, which they do have a free version. So if you’re really strapped for cash, you can download it for free. But they also have a version on Steam that is not that expensive. I forget exactly how much it is. But it’s not very much. And I used Krita to make all of these. And it’s a very easy to use program. It can get as complicated as you want. They have plenty of tutorials that you can watch by very talented artists making incredible art. So if you want to learn how to do art for children’s books …
Kevin Tumlinson 24:05
These days, that stuff is so accessible to people. I do a lot of illustration on my iPad on a program called Procreate. And that’s relatively inexpensive, given that iPads are expensive in and of themselves. But, you know, for a relatively low investment, you’ve got this tool that lets you just create, you can write, you can illustrate, you can do the whole package.
Anaïs Chartschenko 24:28
Exactly. Yes. You don’t need to make a huge sacrifice to find out if you’re good at it.
Kevin Tumlinson 24:35
Gregg, I have a comment from Elyssa. She’s our designer at Draft2Digital, calling you out on QuarkXPress. And I admit it, when you said that I’m like, wow, I have not heard that in a very long time.
Gregg McBride 24:49
Well, it’s also a plug for Jurassic Park. They’re one of the big sponsors. Just kidding. Yeah, you know, QuarkXPress sort of died a few years ago, and then, you know, in zombie fashion sort of came back to life. And it’s funny, I just never embraced InDesign. When I was in advertising, clearly in a kindergarten exchange program, QuarkXPress is what was used. And so I’ve always used QuarkXPress and Photoshop, you know, we used Photoshop for this project as well, if I needed to darken something slightly so copy would pop or whatever it was. And so I just always liked QuarkXPress. And luckily, they have come back from the dead, they are out there. And so for us, that worked. As it happened, BookBaby had templates that were in QuarkXPress as well. But, you know, I will also say that the amount of research that we had to do in addition to the templates, again, it’s just such a different beast, and it can get frustrating sometimes, because of all the technical stuff that has to happen and, you know, Anaïs would get a phone call or a text and I’d be like, look, I need you to take the illustration this much higher, or I need you to, you know, it’s going to be in this shape a box, not in that shape, or box. And as usual, as an artist, you can do all the research in the world, and then you’re still going to have surprises. So for me QuarkXPress was not going to be a surprise. So yes, I got out my cane and my little walker. And I use QuarkXPress.
Kevin Tumlinson 26:31
I used to use QuarkXPress back in the day. I think you and I are probably approximately the same age. So yeah, so 28, 29 years old. More questions popping up. I’m not even going to attempt to pronounce this name. I’m sorry. But from Twitter, “From your experience, do ebooks or print books for children’s sell better? Is it even worth it to produce ebooks for kids?”
Gregg McBride 26:57
I love that that question came up. And I actually was thinking of this earlier today. There’s a part of me, I’m so happy to have the print books, and especially the hardcover, like to be able to hold it. And even the paperback. But, you know, it’s 32 pages, which is standard for print books. So the paperback isn’t quite as lofty as the hardcover. But if I did it again, to keep expenses reined in, I might just do an ebook. And we really, when we plug the book, and we want it to be popular, and we want people to get it and be delighted by it and turn to it all the time. But ebooks, you know, you can buy them without thinking twice, right? You can price them at a price point where people are like, oh, yeah, let me add this to my cart. Or let me add this to my Kindle or my reader or whatever it is. And so I think that’s such a good question. And you might want to go the ebook route first. And then if it’s popular enough, or if you win the lottery and you’re approached by a publisher, then you could go down the book path. But again, when you talk about the paper weight, when you talk about the gloss on the paper, when you talk about the slipcover, when you talk about all these things that are wonderful. But as a self-published author, it’s very expensive, and again at the end of the day, but things that move quickly, our ebook, yeah.
Anaïs Chartschenko 28:23
And then also think about modern children, Modern children, a lot of them have tablets. And they actually make these for children. They’re sturdy. And so parents like to fill these up with books and apps, and all sorts of things. And so, we might be surprised with how many modern little children are reading books.
Gregg McBride 28:48
Anaïs, you better write a dark book called Modern Children, or Kevin and I are going to. That will be our first collaboration, that title. Do Modern children use QuarkXPress?
Kevin Tumlinson 29:02
That sounds almost like a philosophical cone. Do modern children use QuarkXPress? That’s a question for the ages, I think.
Gregg McBride 29:10
I don’t think you can answer it here.
Kevin Tumlinson 29:13
I do think, I agree with you all around. And I do think kids in particular are experiencing these things digitally more and more, but I do think it’s important for you to have the print by hand and it is a tactile experience, you know? And that’s why, that paper weight and the glossy paper and all that, that’s why that’s important. But you know, there’s still a lot of people, a lot of kids who just, that’s what they want. They want to interact with that. Good point. So here’s a more comment than question, but, “eBooks for kids do sell, although paperback has been my bestseller.” And I do think there’s a very large chunk of people who prefer having that. They want that in their hand. Okay, so, and there was a question that got lost here, and I’m gonna see if I can find it real quick. But I know what it was, he was asking, is or any of the characters based on real people? And you’d sort of discussed some influences, but you didn’t say whether or not these are one for one people.
Anaïs Chartschenko 30:24
Yeah, I guess so, Here, I can show you.
Kevin Tumlinson 30:31
If you show me a photo of a giant bee wearing clothes, I’m leaving.
Anaïs Chartschenko 30:35
He’s wearing a tie. This bee right here is based on my primary care doctor.
Kevin Tumlinson 30:44
Let me bring him up.
Anaïs Chartschenko 30:46
This is his tie. He’s a very, very tall man with very long arms and very long legs. And he told me that I was allowed to talk about him or use him as a bee. And so I did, you know, there he is. He’s very happy to go to work. He’s a little tired, but he’s happy to be there.
Kevin Tumlinson 31:13
What inspired that? What made you decide to include your primary care doctor as [inaudible]?
Anaïs Chartschenko 31:18
He’s great, he’s great. But I needed a guy with, I needed a tie. I needed a worker going to work. And I realized, I don’t know anybody who wears a tie besides him.
Gregg McBride 31:36
This is the beauty of Anaïs, right? Like, okay, we need a little bee worker walking into the hive. Okay, I’m going to do eight days of research. And then I’ll get back to you. And of course, the picture, as you just saw, has all these beautiful little details in it, you know, of the hive itself, the flowers, all this stuff. But you know, that the bee is based on her primary care physician is just amazing. And, you know, I think going beyond that, too. I think there’s a little bit of Biron in everybody. You know, he has parents, he has friends. So there’s certainly biographical stuff baked in, for sure.
Anaïs Chartschenko 32:14
Yeah, I think so. I think that everybody wants to, they might even want to be something that they’re not even, you know?
Kevin Tumlinson 32:24
Bee something that they’re not.
Anaïs Chartschenko 32:26
Bee, exactly. Or they might strive to be better, or, you know, they have that secret hope that they will be better. And they can continue to become better, because it’s a journey. And so, you know, he’s a good one to use for me because he had that journey. He was an engineer, and he didn’t, you know, he changed and then he became a physician. And he’s a very optimistic person. And so he’s perfect. He’s a perfect optimistic bee.
Kevin Tumlinson 33:02
He’s Bee positive. See, you’re not the only one who can do the dad jokes.
Gregg McBride 33:08
No, you should be a writer.
Anaïs Chartschenko 33:12
So there’s other people too, you know, I have on the dressmaker, my sister is making dresses. She’s a really good seamstress. And so she is in the fashion beesigner, her dress that she was working on. I needed a fashion beesigner.
Kevin Tumlinson 33:34
I already know I’m gonna take a ribbing in in Slack at Draft2Digital for all the dad jokes and puns. So keep them coming. Oh, there it is. Is that the beesigner?
Anaïs Chartschenko 33:56
Yeah. So I mean, there’s probably so many things that I don’t even know about, because that’s how brains work.
Kevin Tumlinson 34:04
Lots of little easter eggs and things in there.
Gregg McBride 34:07
There definitely are. You know, Kevin, it’s interesting that you bring up the puns and stuff too, because at one point we had more in there just because they were fun. And we never forgot that we were writing for a target audience of three to five, aka myself. 32 pages, perfect length. But again, we wanted the story to be classic. So we really made an effort to not be too cute. Obviously, it’s fun that the you know, and this subject matter lends itself to some puns and that sort of thing. And you know, we do have some fun with it. But we wanted something that wouldn’t be old the second time you read it or that wouldn’t stop the story, right? That’s the worst thing you could do is it stops the reader. And so if something was too cute or too pun-oriented, it might not be as lasting as we hoped the story will be Now, are we having fun with all the bee puns in, you know, our Twitter feed and things like that? Yeah, absolutely.
Kevin Tumlinson 35:07
I see what you did there. That may be actually be the better place for that stuff to happen really, because, you know, it can get a little cloying when it’s the entire book, but, you know, you’re celebrating it. I like that.
Anaïs Chartschenko 35:24
Yeah, you know, I think that it’s, it’s fun to have little hidden things, too, you know, or kids can look at it and get a little bit of enjoyment from things. And then you have a bee going to real estate. That’s ridiculous. And that’s something that adults can appreciate. Because adults know about real estate, and then they can explain that to kids, because kids love learning things. And then you have this random bee flying around. And he’s wearing that outfit the prince wore.
Kevin Tumlinson 35:54
Yeah. Oh, the outfit the prince wore, all right.
Anaïs Chartschenko 35:59
And so it’s just a little something extra for people who are older. Yeah.
Gregg McBride 36:07
Or who have to read the book to their kids 80 times.
Anaïs Chartschenko 36:11
So they might have a different soundtrack going in their head, maybe.
Kevin Tumlinson 36:17
Yeah, yeah. You’ve built in an excuse for them to personally interact with both the story and their kid.
Anaïs Chartschenko 36:25
I wanted it to be a mult- layered story. We both, that’s what we want, we want to have lots of layers.
Kevin Tumlinson 36:32
What is the sort of moral of the whole book?
Gregg McBride 36:39
Well, if we told you that, we would be revealing a twist which we’re not going to reveal.
Kevin Tumlinson 36:43
Well, I won’t ask.
Gregg McBride 36:46
Listen, the moral of the story is, you can be anything you want to be. I mean, it’s a perennial message. It’s something that, a lot of times, we sort of get in our own way, right? Like, I’m sure there’s people watching this thinking, I want to write a children’s book, but I don’t think I could do it, or I don’t think I could find an illustrator, I don’t, you know, we’re so quick to tell ourselves that we can’t do something, so then we never do it. And listen, we tripped forward all the way through this, when we started this project. I think we both thought maybe 60, 90 days at the most, and it’s a yearlong effort. And luckily, we loved working together. And you know, Anaïs would text me at 3am and say, forget the drawing on page five, I’m redoing it. And I would get the drawing and it was sort of like, which one is different than the other? And she’d decided that the roses needed to be a little bit of a different color.
Kevin Tumlinson 37:46
Well now you have a whole bunch of extra illustrations you could bundle together as a bonus book.
Gregg McBride 37:54
As a bee-quel? I will be doing the puns. Yeah, so again, the moral of the story is the moral for all of us, like, don’t tell yourself no. You can do anything you want. And that’s what I love about things like this, right? Like, you know, we initially did approach a few literary agents. And both of us have a very solid background in publishing, I have my film stuff, and we didn’t get one response. And so we’re like, okay, well, we’re gonna do it ourselves. And we’re gonna make it the book we want. And we pulled in editor friends, and we pulled in schoolteachers, and we did all the necessary stuff, but we never took no for an answer. And here we are on Draft2Digital, happy endings.
Kevin Tumlinson 38:45
I love that as, that’s the moral of your tale. And I think that that is, it’s kind of one of the things that I talked to authors about all the time. I love how it all came together. Like you said, someone decides, I want to write a children’s book. And then it’s, well, how do I find an illustrator? Well, you found an illustrator just by being friends with someone on Twitter. And, you know, once I’ve got that, what do I do? Do I need to go buy fancy software? Who do I go to, can I get a publishing deal? You saw the problems, but instead of them becoming barriers, the solutions were what moved you forward. I love that.
Gregg McBride 39:26
Yeah. And you know what, Kevin, that’s actually what happens in Hollywood as well. When a movie comes together there’s a real sense of, when I was younger, I used to do community theater. And even in A-list situations, there’s just a real sense of community theater at the heart of it. It’s like, okay, you guys, let’s put on a show. Because you’re basically going into battle together, right? Whether you’re creating something on the page, whether you’re creating something for the screen, whatever you’re doing, it’s going to be nearly impossible to get it done. And so if we take no for an answer, us artists, everyone watching this as an artist, if we take no for an answer, then the world isn’t going to be different from our art. And so yeah, you’ve got to trip forward, you’ve got to make the mistakes. Would we do things differently for the next book? Yeah, we would. But will there be a next book? Yeah, we’ve already talked about two sequels, actually. And that’s how much fun this was to work on. And so if we get hung up by the mistakes, if we get hung up by the rules, if we get hung up by the programs we need, and you just find a workaround. Let me tell you, BookBaby, they are sick of my emails, I promise you, but we were going to do it right. And I wanted to know about the exact margins. And I wanted to know about this, and beyond the template, and so you just keep trying and doing and you create, that’s what we’re all doing. And, you know, thank God for self-publishing, because it really allows us, combined with social media, to get something out into the marketplace that otherwise maybe wouldn’t have been there.
Anaïs Chartschenko 41:00
And I always think about the long, wonderful history of self-publishing as well. Some of my very favorite works of art were self-published throughout history. Henry Miller, self-published, I mean, come on. All of these classic people that everybody now reveres, a lot of them couldn’t find anybody to publish their work, and they were hand cranking it themselves. So that’s what it takes.
Kevin Tumlinson 41:29
Yeah. I always point out to people that most of those books you had to study as classic literature in English class were actually self-published books. Well, this has been amazing and very inspirational. Both you guys have done something incredible, in my opinion. I have no particular interest in doing a children’s book. But maybe I should think about it, because it seems like … the collaboration is something I’m really admiring about what you guys pulled off. So when it when can we expect the sequel?
Gregg McBride 42:08
Well, that’ll be a while off. I mean, the book publishes on June 10. You can preorder now, if you’d like to.
Kevin Tumlinson 42:15
I already want the next one.
Gregg McBride 42:18
Yeah, we joke about the different titles. It depends how bitter we are in the day, you know, what Biron’s next adventure will be. “Biron finds a real publisher,” you know? Oh, the places we’ll go. But, ya know, it’s been it’s been such a fun journey. And we’re really excited that this book is going to be out there.
Kevin Tumlinson 42:39
So speaking of coming out in June, people can find it at BirontheBee.com. Or just go search for it on all the various platforms, right?
Gregg McBride 42:49
Yep. Biron the Bee Who Couldn’t. Biron with an I.
Kevin Tumlinson 42:53
Biron with an I. BirontheBee.com. So that’s great. Well, okay, we’re at time, so we’re gonna have to wrap up, sadly. I’m glad both of you made the time to appear on the show and chat with us. I wish you all the success in the world for the book and everything you do after this.
Gregg McBride 43:14
Well, thank you, Kevin. It’s great to see you. And great to introduce you to Anaïs. I’m such a fan of hers.
Kevin Tumlinson 43:18
Thank you. You’ve only made my life better by making the introduction. So everyone else out there, make sure that you are liking and subscribing to this video if you haven’t already, if you’re watching live especially, but if you’re not, make sure that you go ahead and subscribe to us on YouTube, Facebook and elsewhere. In fact, the joke is always the same. If you put /draft2digital after just about any URL, you’re sure to find us. So make sure you do that. And be sure to bookmark D2Dlive.com, where you’ll get little updates on what’s coming up next, countdown timer, all that stuff, so that you can tune in on these live events. If you’re catching us in the podcast later, you are also welcome to check out D2Dlive.com. So, all right, that’s gonna wrap us up. Gregg, Anaïs, thank you both so much. Thank you, Biron, for making an appearance right at the end. We’ll talk to you guys next time. Take care.