The Winter Season of Captain CHOO begins!
With the onset of snow this week the outdoor renovation projects on "This Old House" came to a close for the season, and now I am dusting off my writing/illustrating/publishing/website & social media skillsets etc. in preparation for the next chapter of Captain CHOO Critter Capers. 😁
My last post was Mid-APRIL, meaning there is MUCH to discuss, so, fair warning, this is a longer post. If you have a short attention span, it's fine to tune out.😆
In this post, I'm going to frankly discuss FOUR major CHALLENGES to my Book business from this year.
I want to get that out of the way, to focus Future energy on productive actions for the path FORWARD:
1. As fans who follow the Blog know, my wife and I have spent a LARGE portion of the last two years travelling long distance to help sickly parents on both sides. That directly impacted the progress on my art in a BIG way. We're simply not where I planned to be this fall, but parents come first.
We lost my Mom in January. That was a really tough blow that I still haven't mentally processed, but my Dad's rapid downhill descent after that has probably been even more of a challenge. He's holding his own now, but it took Months of extreme efforts from all of us kids to get him there.
Now, he remains under our watchful eye, as do Denise's parents, which frequently necessitates last minute long-distance trips to help them all with physical needs and medical appointments.
So helping parents right now remains a significant, unpredictable commitment in terms of resources, energy and time, which continues to impact what I get done on the books. It is what it is, and we deal with as best as we can.
2. I continue to commit massive amounts of time/energy to rehabilitating my numerous serious spinal & other injuries from that 2007 car wreck.
It's a frustratingly slow, agonizing process untwisting and decompressing misaligned vertebrae, locked muscles, strained tendons and stretched connective tissues, but there are no shortcuts. This means I START each day with already limited strength/energy, and go from there, painfully aware that some days I simply hurt too bad to be very productive at much, including the books.
I don't share this seeking pity. It's just a Factual Statement of where some of my time/energy goes, because my experience is that some people dismiss such struggles until they happen to them.
Anyway...I keep making Progress, even if it's baby steps. And I'll NEVER Give Up!
3. As I mentioned prior to shutting down for summer, for three years my publisher (BLURB) was allowing me to use their Coupon Discount Codes for ordering Photo Books on my Trade Book orders, but in spring they closed that loophole.
Since then, I've unsuccessfully petitioned them to reinstate the same deals for Photo Books. (To give you an idea, their best deal of the year offers 40% off on Photo books, but that same email only offered 20% off on Trade books! That's a SUBSTANTIAL 50% DIFFERENCE factor for my bottom line, which I'm trying to shield my clients from.)
Coupled with that added expense, Blurb just informed me that some of my books over 20 pages in length will be hit with an additional fee.
What this means is it's getting increasingly harder to keep prices competitive self publishing through Blurb.
So...I need to spend significant time researching other self publishers, esp. Amazon with their massive captive audience, to see if they can offer comparable end products at a competitive price.
I will also have to more actively pursue Traditional publishers, who typically have much cheaper publishing costs, and marketing connections. However, that is a very involved process and a difficult door to open.
4. The rise of AI this year MASSIVELY impacts writers and illustrators!
I read a step-by-step post by one smart fellow who published a kids book from scratch in ONE WEEKEND, and, though it wasn't quite "pro," it actually looked really decent! He used ChatGPT to write it, Midjourney to illustrate it, and Amazon to publish it!
This is concerning on multiple fronts. You no longer require writing or artistic ability to create a decent publication. The AI does it all for you, which has obvious detrimental implications for many professions. And there is the legal issue of creating works which may infringe on copyright, by duplicating the specific style of an individual.
Also, what exactly is permissible to copyright as your own work?
Those are battles still playing out in the courts.
I refuse to dwell on negative "what-ifs!" I'd rather adapt to the new tech, and see how I can utilize it to improve my workflow.
As I've mentioned before, I can literally write a story in a day, but illustrating each book takes 2-3 months! I already have a pile of books written, but the "drawing" part is the backlog.
So...I intend to explore some of these AI options, to see if they can help speed up my illustrating. It would be absolutely AMAZING if I could complete illustrating the rest of my kids books in the next two years, (because then I could move on to the youth/adult fiction novels I really want to pursue next!)
Specifically, my intent is to "feed" the AI samples of MY own original art and concept drawings, with parameters of scenes I'm looking for, then further tweak the best Output images in my drawing programs to still create my own signature drawings, but hopefully much faster.
WHAT ALL THIS MEANS is that rather than jumping straight into the next book I will first be spending significant time doing RESEARCH,
regarding Publishing options, and AI methods to streamline/enhance my work process.
I think we're at a Critical junction, where in order to viably continue the business it's IMPERATIVE to prioritize exploring these avenues.
I don't know where it will all lead, but you have to Take a Step for the journey to unfold! I hope you are all along for the trip. I will keep you posted.
Dave Chouhan, AKA Captain CHOO💖