On Writing

Robin Martin-Duttmann – Children’s Book Writer

image: http://themediaplex.com/author-debuts-new-book-in-amherstburg/

I had the pleasure of meeting writer and mother Robin Martin-Duttmann through close friends. We immediately connected and started to talk ‘books’ and ‘writing’. Duttmann has been an Educational Assistant at the elementary school level for the past twelve years. Her first book, Zoo on the Moon, is a children’s book garnering awards and sale success. Since her writing story was so interesting to me, I asked her if she’d be interested in doing a guest post. She said yes! Please enjoy her post, and stick around till the end for a special book giveaway! You can win a signed copy of Robin’s children’s book, Zoo on the Moon!


When did you start identifying yourself as a writer?

I’m not sure that I’ve ever actually identified myself as a writer. I guess I think of myself more of a thinker with a wild child-like imagination who needs to put down on paper the crazy stuff that runs amuck in my head.

How did the idea for your book come about?

Most of the story ideas that I’ve had come in the form of a dream which I then expanded upon in wakeful hours. Sometimes as I’m reading aloud another children’s book I daydream and I wonder how would I have written this  story the same way?

Can you tell us a bit about your writing process?

I am old school in my writing process. I loved to journal as a child, and think there is something about allowing the imagination to flow from brain through the fingertips onto a page. I love the easy glide of pen on paper, and the ability to scratch and rethink an idea while leaving the original thought to linger on the page for me to go back and reuse or rework into the story at a later time.

What children’s authors/books inspired you?

I loved Dr. Seuss’ “One fish, two fish, red fish blue fish,” and “Green Eggs and Ham”.  The simple rhyme scheme and repeating words made it easy to remember. This is important in that it allows a child to very quickly read along and take part in the reading process rather than just be a bystander looking at pretty pictures.

What made you decide to write a children’s book?

I don’t think there was any actual intent to write a children’s book at first. Truly, I was just writing for myself, but as I shared some of my poems and stories with others I was told “You know, that would make a great children’s book.”  Zoo on the Moon was special though, in that, when I read it to my mother she told me that as she was growing up this was her reoccurring dream. I took that as a sign that it was to be my first published work, the one to open doors for others to occur.

Do you want to write in any other genres?

I do have a few adult poems, one in particular about a ship wreck that happened while in harbour at Pier Nine in Toronto a few years back, that I think is worthy of print. Children’s books written in poetry form flow most easily through my head though. I think it’s because I spend my life with children. I work with them during the school year, and on a daily basis take part in silly antics that I think “Oh that would make a great story”.

At what point did you decide you wanted to try and get your book published? 

I wrote Zoo on the Moon about 17 years ago. I first thought about publishing about 6 years ago, but as a single parent, I was struggling to keep afloat. I sent out my manuscripts which were typed on an old electric typewriter. Every time you made a mistake you either started again or use white out! Also addressing envelope after envelope by hand and sending queries to different publishers only to be told “We aren’t taking any unsolicited mail at this time” became discouraging and frustrating. You can understand how I quickly gave up. It was only last summer that I thought about getting an agent to do the  grunt work for me.

What made you decide to self-publish?

I don’t actually see myself as self published. I’m under contract with a Publish on Demand agency (SBPRA – Strategic Book Publishing and Rights Agency).  The way it works is that anything I personally sell through wholesale purchases, by doing readings and signings, I keep the difference between the wholesale and retail price. Anything they sell on my behalf through distributers and the internet, I receive 33% royalties, until the 1000th book sold, then I receive a $1000.00 bonus and royalties go up to 50%.

What did (do) you do in terms of social media to promote yourself as a writer?

I had Facebook already, so I created a Fan Page, which I invite everyone to Like and Share, and then I linked this page to my Twitter account. I post updates as to where I’m going to be doing readings and signings. I offer to do charity events where I can sell my book at a discounted price to a charity, and sell it at the event full price. The charity keeps the difference. I don’t take a profit, it’s simply to give back.  My Facebook Page Zoo on the Moon has  50,000 hits in over 20 different countries, in just under 3 months!

What did it feel like to hold your book in your hands for the first time?

It was surreal to hold in my hands that which had danced in my head for so long. I knew when I chose Kalpart Illustrations that they were award-winning illustrators. They did not let me down. It is their wonderful artwork that I credit in making Zoo on the Moon,  now an  award-winning book itself. It won honorary mention in the category of Best New Children’s Picture Book Age 5 and Under in the Purple Dragonfly Children’s Book Awards out of Arizona last week.

Did you celebrate?

I have not celebrated as of yet. I was supposed to launch my book with a serious bang. I had several major charities in the area lined up to host this event. Unfortunately, the president of these charities took ill. I am awaiting her recovery.  I may this summer host an event strickly for family and friends, just for fun!

What has been the toughest part and the most elating part of your writing journey thus far?

Marketing has certainly been the toughest part of the journey so far. A foreign rights agency just sent a letter yesterday stating Zoo on the Moon would be featured in their weekly newsletter. This goes out to more than 40,000 websites and publishers in China. So I am hoping that there is interest shown in the foreign market. I have contacted local media, and aside from my town paper which did a wonderful article, I have not heard back. I have tried several avenues at larger Windsor papers, and have been unsuccessful at scoring the attention. Both Amazon.com and Amazon.ca post rave reviews with 5/5 stars. I have a large fan base. Zoo on the Moon has won an award, but I cannot seem to score an interview with the one paper I read and support on a daily basis.  As for the most elating part of my journey, it wasn’t the finished product or the award, it was learning that the public library was going to carry my book. You see, I work in a west-end school. Some of our kids don’t own books. Their only opportunity to read books is through borrowing from the library. It actually made me a little teary-eyed to know that any child can now go and ask for my book and take it home to share.

For those who are on the fence about self-publishing, what insights can you offer to get them off the fence?

Publishing is just the tip of the iceburg. What people need to realize is that the true work comes after, in the marketing of yourself. Best tip…Be friendly to everyone because that pokey person ahead of you in Tim Horton’s may just be the reporter you’ve been waiting on.  Also, use your contacts. Don’t be afraid to say I got your name from a mutual friend. Try – what have you got to lose?

What is happening now in terms of sales and book tours/readings?

I am going to be at different venues over the summer, like the library on August 8th. I will be doing signings over on Boblo and at Art by the River, just to mention a few. By the time this article goes into print I will have just done a signing for Chapters at Devonshire.

Overall, can you give us a sense of money spent and money made during this process?

It cost me $200.00USD to secure an agent. It cost me another $1500.00 for an illustrator, though they do come less expensive. I thought, if I only have this opportunity but once, then I want to do it right. At three months in, my agent is paid for as are at least 2/3 of the illustration costs.

About the Book
Zoo on the Moon is a whimsical poem that explores the possibilities that come with weightlessness. Children will be delighted as zoo animals dance, fly, and play in space when there is a Zoo on the Moon. This delightful poem is told from the perspective of a cheeky Meerkat. It is through his eyes that young readers will envision themselves living out the unexpected and imaginative experiences of this wondrous lunar zoo.
Illustrations by Kalpart. Illustrators for many award winning books.



The first five people to comment on what animal they’d like to see at the Zoo on the Moon will be in the contest to win a signed copy of Robin’s book!

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