As with any project, half the battle is assembling a great team. In hindsight, that process began before my Soren book idea was even formed.
A few years ago, I happened to see an illustration of a friend’s agility dog posted on Facebook. It was precious and really captured the dog’s look and personality in a very “Disney-esque” way. I loved it and wanted one of my own dogs, so I contacted the artist on Facebook and had her do a portrait of two of my four dogs: Soren and Remus. It was wonderful! That very talented artist was Morgan Spicer of Bark Point Studio.
A while later, shortly after I wrote the first draft of Soren’s manuscript, I decided I wanted to have Morgan illustrate my other two dogs, Audra and Ferris, and do an illustration of a friend’s dog who had passed away recently as a special remembrance to give to my friend. Morgan did those illustrations for me and I loved them as well.
While on the her Facebook page, I noticed some posts about a children’s book Morgan was working on, and the illustrations were wonderful. I sent her Soren’s manuscript and asked her if she might be interested in illustrating his book, and she said she would be interested. I was thrilled.
We talked about the publisher she was working with on her current book. I contacted them and was thrilled again when they were interested in publishing the book. I learned that, while they provided all the guidance and services needed to publish the book under their imprint, It was up to the author to finance the project, including paying for editing, design and layout services, and printing of the book itself. They were very professional and supportive, I liked the work they did, their services seemed topnotch and I could retain full ownership of the book and the royalties. But the price tag was definitely out of my league. As excited as I was by the prospect of doing the book with them, I just could not figure out how to make it financially feasible. So back in the drawer it went. I needed to think some more.
After Soren passed away in January of 2016, my resolve to find a path forward with the book took on a life of its own. I started reading all I could about children’s books on the Internet, and one thing became very clear: When it comes to children’s books, if you don’t have great illustrations, don’t bother. I wished I had the talent to bring the words I wrote to life in illustrations, but I recognized that I could not do it justice. So I got back in touch with Morgan, and was delighted that she was still interested in working with me on the book. In my mind, Soren was very much the perfect Disney-style hero, and Morgan’s artistic style seemed ideally suited to portray him that way.
We decided to take a baby step, while still researching options to publish that might be more financially feasible for me, and did some concept art of Soren’s character. At Morgan’s suggestion, I also had a friend of hers submit some concept art. Both designs were fabulous, but when I looked at Morgan’s drawings, they were just so “Soren” that I was moved to tears. The moment I saw Morgan’s concept art of Soren, there was no doubt in my mind—I knew that she had to be the one to bring Soren’s book character to life.
We still had a long way to go to assemble the team we needed to move the book ahead, but I was very excited about my "first pick" and felt confident that with a compelling story and a very talented artist to portray it in a powerful and endearing way, Soren's book was on the road to becoming something special.