Interview: Picture Books, Polar Bears, and Self-Publishing

Chloe Harvey - Picture for Blogpost 2.jpg-large.jpegChloe Harvey

Ben and Joe Farmer are brothers, hailing from Kingston-Upon-Thames. They are English and History graduates, respectively. Last Summer, over countless hours, they created a book about a clumsy polar bear named Mard, for their friend’s 21st birthday. From self-teaching the InDesign process, to deciding which tales to include, the pair transformed an inside joke into a physical picture book, and then into a self-published product, available for purchase. Today, I ask them about this process:

What made you choose to present Mard as a children’s book?

The joke began with the idea of Mard as a children’s character, he was always a forlorn polar bear. A book emerged as the most fitting form. Plus, children’s books work through repetitions, through the characters becoming familiar in your imagination. That’s what Mard was to us over the years, to put him into a picture book made sense.

What inspired you to then sell Mard on Amazon?

We found that the cheapest way to get a copy of the book was through Createspace, which put the book on Amazon by default. At this point having put so much effort into it, it seemed like a waste not to promote it. Everything pretty much grew from there.

Amazon makes it quite accessible to self-publish a book. How has self-publishing been? Do you think you’d ever take yours along to publishers like Puffin or Walker?

We’ve found that with self-publishing a lot of the more successful authors have multiple titles to their names.  Maybe expanding the Mard universe would help us to gain the attention of publishers. It’s certainly something we’ve considered for the future, but not at this stage.

Just realised that Walker Books’ logo is a bear – fitting!

 I was tempted to parody the Walker logo (replacing it with our bear) for the cover of Mard, for that very reason.

I see that Mard is on Twitter. What was the reason behind the account?

I’m still getting to grips with marketing the book online, so social media was part of seeing what works best to reach the people who we’d like to read it. Twitter’s still weird for me. Mard’s account is getting more followers, and after having released tweets that got high engagement, I can see it’s potentially useful.

Have there been obstacles?

Keeping Mard’s voice in line with an audience of parents and children, and reigning in the temptation to tweet obscure jokes. As much as I think it’s funny to have a fictional polar bear make jokes about Shakespeare through rehashed Dylan lyrics, it doesn’t do much to promote the book.  

After all the hard work, do you feel like professional authors?

We think that to consider yourself a professional author you need to be able to support yourself through your writing. We’re not at that stage yet. I suppose we’d have to consider it a hobby rather than a profession, currently.

Thanks so much for your time, guys! I hope to see Mard get up to more in the future.

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