Author Spotlight

Angela Ball on ‘ABC the ACT’

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This month, author Angela Ball spoke with Independent Publishing about ABC the ACT—which explores ‘the wonders of the Australian Capital Territory’.

Describe your book in under 50 words.

ABC the ACT takes readers on an alphabet adventure, moving from A to B, all the way to Z to discover the wonders of the Australian Capital Territory. Images have been captured from high and low, through all seasons, and matched with a lively storytelling rhyme.

Why self-publish?

I decided to self-publish to learn about the publishing process. I contacted a few publishers but interest in this type of book isn’t high and I wanted to keep the strong momentum I had with my book going. Once I started, I wanted to finish—I also wanted to have control over the process. Writing the book was an emotional journey, but once I finished, I tried to manage the publishing logistics as I would any other project or event. Having worked in the communications industry for many years, I used my experience of working with clients and treated myself as a ‘client’—although one with a rather large IOU! I have learnt so much about the process and industry from self-publishing, and am totally invested in giving my book the best chance of success that I can.

What year did you start and where are you based?

I originally had the idea for ABC the ACT about six years ago. After struggling to find an interesting way to teach my first two boys the alphabet and keep them busy with fun activities, I decided to combine my passion for photography with my writing experience. I also wanted to discover my adopted home. I was born in London, spent my childhood on the coast in Wollongong, attended university in Bathurst, and lived and worked in London, the Sunshine Coast and Sydney, before finally settling in Canberra. My older boys are in primary school, but I now have a three-year-old as my trusted advisor and critic.

How many people did you contract on your book and what did you do yourself?

I worked with a specialist book designer to help with layout and to bring the pages of my book together in a professional way. She has been amazing and also helped me source and manage the printing of my book. Both designer and printer are located in Melbourne. I will launch the book during Children’s Book Week this year and Karen Pang (a presenter from Play School) will read the book at a special storytime event in the Civic Library in Canberra.

With the help of a local videographer and editor, I have also produced a video of Karen reading the book with images brought to life through animation.

I’m lucky to have the support of my family—but everything else is all on me.

What makes your book unique?

The book really is one of a kind. As far as I know it’s the only alphabet book set in the Australian Capital Territory. The book uses real-life images, in context, and a rhyme using contemporary language. While the book is targeted at early readers, it provokes questions—‘What is an arboretum?’, ‘How do you say Tidbinbilla?’—that will engage older children. It’s also a very unique keepsake from the ACT, for visitors and locals.

What has been your biggest success?

To me, publishing a book and seeing it on the shelf in our family bookcase is a great achievement. Of course everyone hopes his or her book will be a success, but I feel like I’m partly there already.

What has been your biggest challenge?

It was a challenge finding enough time to spend on my book. I have three young boys and work full time, but the timing was right to do it now, so we worked it out together. As a self-publisher you have to continually ask questions, and spend time and money wisely.

What would be your top tip for those starting out in self-publishing?

My top tip would be to never fear asking a question. Ask as many questions as you need to. I would also say a sounding board or mentor can offer an alternative view, or help you form your own views or decisions. If you need expert help, get it. I’m not a designer and while I know how to use the software, my book deserved the best treatment it could get … from another professional. You can get very easily (and rightly so) emotionally invested in your book. If something doesn’t look right, it probably isn’t, but maybe it is … so test your theories and sleep on it.

What will you publish next?

After ABC the ACT, my next adventure is to write and photograph 123 the ACT. I also plan on creating online content for schools.

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