Monday, June 11, 2007

Q and A with Terri Lailvaux, author & publisher of THE GREATEST GIFT

Title: The Greatest Gift
Author: Terri Lailvaux
Illustrator: Shane Smitsdorp
Publisher: Self-published, 2007
Price: R85.00
Synopsis: This is a story about a Mother and Dad bear who want a baby but can’t have one and a Lioness who is alone and carrying a baby that she can not care for.They all end up at wise Mrs Cow’s house to seek advice. Mrs Cow suggests the Bears adopt and raise the Lioness’s baby for her.
To order:


Cape Town based children’s book author and publisher Terri Lailvaux had an important message to get out, so when traditional publishing methods failed, she decided to get a loan and “get on with it.”

Terri is also a wife, mother, tourism lecturer at a private tertiary education institution and a part-time student doing a National Diploma in Tourism. THE GREATEST GIFT is her first book.


When did you know you wanted to become a writer?

I didn’t really ever know that. I went to look for a book that would explain to small children why and how adoption takes place and I couldn’t find one. I searched websites and eventually decided to try and write a few words down and see if I could create my own story.

What did you do about it?

I started writing the story for my own son and his friends. I thought about the things they like and the things that excite them and came up with the animal theme. I wrote the true story of our adoption process but I changed all the humans into animals so make it appealing to kids.

What inspired you to write this book? What is the message that you most want to communicate through the book?

I decided to write this book after my husband and I adopted our son, Alex. It’s a story that we can read to him and that our friends with biological children can read to them. My hope is that Alex and his friends will understand how and why adoption takes place and see the process as an incredible act of love from both sides.

Adopting a child is a very special process and I wanted to make sure that as my son grows up, he sees it as something positive and also that he can explain to other kids why and how he was adopted. I also want his friends to know about it and understand it from when they are very young.

What were the credentials that most qualified you to write the book?

Purely experience. I have no other writing credentials.

What were the two most important problems you encountered during the writing process? How did you deal with them?

I worried that the story was too simple but I looked at so many children’s books and they are, for the most part, really simple. The biggest hurdle by far was illustrating the book.

I can’t even draw a stick man so I needed help and on a zero budget, no one leapt forward to do the job! Eventually after trying for over a year, my neighbour who is a designer suggested manipulating digital photos and doing it that way.

Did you initially submit the manuscript to traditional publishers? What was their response?

Yes…well, I tried. Most wouldn’t even read the manuscript. They just said that their budget for the year was used up and they couldn’t help me.

I did get one publisher to read my work. Three months later, I got a very short letter to say that the market for children’s books is very complicated and at that time, they didn’t think they would work with my story.

Why did you choose to self-publish?

Out of pure desperation. I have quite a large circle of friends with adopted kids and they all needed a book like this.

I work full time and study part time and I just didn’t have much time to keep on phoning and writing only to be told “no” every time. So I took a loan and just got on with it.

Please talk a bit about the process of lining up a big distributor, attracting media coverage for your book, and getting copies into book stores when you self-publish. Did you attempt these activities and to what success?

Once the books were printed, I emailed all my friends and family with the details and they in turn forwarded the email to their contacts. Out of that, I sold a hundred books immediately.

Some of my friends bought my book for their school library and the adoption agency that we used has also taken a few copies on consignment to see if they can sell them. That’s as far as I’ve got.

I have no idea what to do to get the books distributed and partly because I feel quite brow-beaten after struggling for two years to get it all done on my own.

I have no contacts in the media world and I haven’t yet come up with any great plan. I would LOVE to get the printing and distribution of the book taken over by someone as I feel it is so important for people out there to have access to it. Adoption affects a much bigger piece of the population than most people imagine.

Have you established contact with some of the child welfare networks and advocacy organisations that support/facilitate child adoption in this country? What was the result of your interaction? Do you speak at parenting groups?

So far, I have only sent the book to Procare in Wellington as they are the agency that we used.

My plan, in the next few weeks is to make contact with schools, other adoption agencies, parenting groups and clinics. I haven’t yet due to time constraints. Procare were very positive about selling it for me.

What are some of the marketing activities that you are doing to make people, especially parents, aware that the book/resource is available?

At the moment, I rely on word-of-mouth marketing and have two posters up at local swimming schools.

I have also sent quite a few books overseas to friends in the hope that the more widely the books are spread the more chance there is that someone will want to publish or distribute for me. There are books with friends in UK, USA, Dubai, Hong Kong and Canada.

If you had to do this book again, would you self-publish again? What were the rewards?

I wouldn’t self-publish by choice because of the expenses involved. But if it was the only way to get the book out there, then definitely, yes, I would.

The reward is seeing the vision I had, being transformed into reality. I’m also rewarded by seeing the incredibly positive reaction of my son and his friends and their parents to the book.

Now that the book is printed and ready for sale, what's the next project for you? Do you have another book in the works?

At this stage, I want to get this book more widely distributed and will spend some time looking at how to sell online and how to get into book stores.

I do have another idea for a book but I’m not sure whether to run with it or not. It’s not a children’s book and trying to appeal to an adult market scares me a bit!


Anonymous said...

Absolutely stunning, this took great courage, you are a success even before selling one book....all for the love of our children.

Asghar Javed said...

This is one of the biggest dilemmas of writers; to fine publisher who would take chance. I have self published two. Writing is one thing and self publishing, marketing, and selling another; and very different.

This is a nice book. I wish her success.

Anonymous said...

Dear Terri

You go Girl, Im very proud of you!
I know how hard it is to have a book published. Well done to you and Steve on bringing up such a special little Boy


Anonymous said...

Dear Terri,

Well done, i have a very good feeling about this book!
It will get far, there are so many people out there that need to be reached and this book is exactly what alot of people are looking for!
I believe that your vision for this book will take flight, just give it time and you will see this book move across the world.


Anonymous said...

Alex is a very special child but Terri & Steve are amazing parents and this book is a tribute to all three of them.


Anonymous said...

Congratulations Terri for a wonderful book. I know how hard you worked on it!

Anonymous said...

A wonderful story about four very special people. A book for children to understand and appreciate. Well done my friend.

Unknown said...

Dear Damaria

Thanks so much for blogging about Terri Lailvaux's book. I have been looking for this kind of text written from a South African point of view!

Anonymous said...

Dear Terri

As I have read this book and met you and your son in person, I truely feel that great things are sure to happen for you and your son in this life. I hope you follow up on more writing in the future, for children or adult readers.

All the best. 2041

Anonymous said...

Dear Terri

As I have read this book and met you and your son in person, I truely feel that great things are sure to happen for you and your son in this life. I hope you follow up on more writing in the future, for children or adult readers.

All the best. 2041

Unknown said...

Hi Terri, I am so excited to have found out about you, your family and your book. I have been looking for this type of a book. So need to get your book. Regards: Rudene

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