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Filling the Gap: How I Self-Published a Barrier-Breaking Children's Book

Ylleya Fields, author of Princess Cupcake Jones

My daughters have always been voracious readers. When my oldest daughter was 2, I was shocked that there were little to no books that represented African American girls like herself. This inspired me to create my own children's book series and in turn break down barriers for children of all races.

I wrote the Princess Cupcake Jones stories because I thought it would be a great way to use my daughters' experiences to develop a character that all little girls could relate to. By blending my daughters' images and personalities together, Princess Cupcake Jones was created. 

The journey to writing Princess Cupcake Jones started five years ago. I was lucky to have someone help me with the beginning process and I really trusted their judgment. As I leaned on them a little bit more, I continued to learn and grow as an author. Unfortunately, the relationship didn't end the way I would have liked and Princess Cupcake Jones was shelved for almost six months.  

I started to have doubts that Princess Cupcake Jones would ever come to fruition. During that time I received a lot of support from my family and friends. They reinforced how necessary books like Princess Cupcake Jones would be and pushed me to take the steps left in order to make this amazing children's book series.

A few months later I met my illustrator, Mike LaDuca, and the stars started to align. LaDuca was able to help me finally put this entire project together. He listened to my ideas and came up with the illustrations that brought Princess Cupcake Jones to life. 

By having a great team helping me, Princess Cupcake Jones was finally becoming a reality. However, there was still a lot that had to be done to get it print ready. I sent the edited copy, complete with illustrations, out to publishers to see if anyone was interested in publishing the series. Not one person I sent the series to had anything positive to say. It was then that I decided to self-publish and bring my vision to life. [See Related Story: How to Self-Publish and Build Your Brand]

Was I afraid? More like petrified! After my six children, this was the greatest venture I had ever undertaken. I worried about failing, but decided it was better to fail than to have never tried at all. 

When I released the first book, it was such a surreal moment. All of my hard work had finally paid off. But as hard as I may have thought that process had been, the real work had only just begun. It takes a lot to sell a book, especially when you're an independent, unknown author. It took about a year, right around the time I released the second book in the Princess Cupcake Jones series, for me to really see our fan base grow. 

The key for me was to not get discouraged. That meant coming with new ideas and most importantly to keep writing. Keeping my focus on those two things have enabled me to now be on my fourth book in the series!

My advice to any aspiring author is to make sure you surround yourself with a great team of people who want you to succeed more than you do — people who will make your idea great, not good; who are willing to give their opinions, but understand at the end of the day that it's your decision. Have your work edited not one once, not twice, but at least three times. Once you print, you can't go back and change any errors. And of course, never stop writing! Keep your creative ideas and thoughts flowing constantly. Even if it's an idea you can't use for the time being, write it down so you have it for the future. Your hard work and dedication will bring you to new heights that you never could imagine reaching.

Finally, the last and best piece of advice I can give is to always believe in yourself; because if you don't, you can't expect others to!

About the author: Born in South America, Ylleya Fields currently resides with her family in Cleveland, Ohio. She enjoys writing and is currently working on new Princess Cupcake Jones stories.

Edited for brevity and clarity by Nicole Taylor.

Image Credit: Ylleya Fields