You come across all sorts of interesting things at school fetes: food, handicrafts, books, even writers! Toula Papadam used the opportunity to promote her picture book … and I used the opportunity to hustle an interview. I’m grateful to her for agreeing to share the highs and lows of her self-publishing journey.

Toula Papadam

Toula Papadam

1. Can you tell us a bit about your picture book ‘Oh My’ Said the Fly!
The story is about a bee who just wants to do his work among the flowers, but keeps being disturbed by predators, which the fly (and others) warn him about.

2. How long were you trying to find a publisher?
Many years. I’ve written many picture book texts, all of which were rejected by several publishers. I become disheartened and gave up. A good friend of mine, teacher librarian Jenny Harpley, convinced me to persevere. She loves my writing and convinced me these stories should not be wasted. Finally, I decided if no one wanted my work, I would publish my stories myself! The whole process from conception to publication of my book took 15 years.

3. How did you go about self-publishing your book?
First I had to find an illustrator. I was horrified to discover that professional illustrators charge between $10 000 and $20 000 plus royalties! I approached an artistic colleague of mine, Merran O’Neill, and asked if she would be interested. She jumped at the idea.

The next step was to find a book designer to put the book together and prepare it for the printers. Very expensive! So I approached my son, Arthur Papadam, who dabbles in graphic design. Luckily, he was up for the challenge! We took the artwork to be professionally scanned, then Arthur got to work and put the text to the illustrations, designing every page as well as the front and back covers.

I went to a local printer, who were very helpful in guiding me through what had to be done before printing commenced. I had to get an ISBN plus a barcode. Then I had to look up oh my said the flyThe National Library of Australia to obtain a CIP (Cataloguing in Publication). The book’s existence is now acknowledged. At this site, I also obtained the copyright for the story and the illustrations. All this information had to be included on the page containing the publishing information. (NB: A professional book designer can do all this for you and prepare your book ready to submit to the printer, if you are willing to pay for this service.)

The next step was to register my own publishing business. I had to choose a name for my publishing company, then look up the Dept of Fair Trading to check it wasn’t taken. Once the registration was done, I had to apply for an ABN. Then I had to apply for lending rights (ELR: Educational Lending Rights and PLR: Public Lending Rights).

After this complicated and costly process, the book was ready for the printer! We chose to have the book fully produced and printed in Australia, even though most authors send it overseas where it can be done more cheaply. Ligare Book Printers in Riverwood were very professional, we were very pleased with the final product.

But there’s still more! We had to consider the ‘Legal Deposit System’, which required us to send a copy of the book to each of two libraries: The National Library of Australia and our State Library. The complicated process of self-publishing my book was finally complete.

4. What advice would you give to someone who’s considering self-publishing?
I would say to consider this very carefully, it is not an easy thing to do. It’s very time consuming and costly. You need to consider how you plan to sell your book. I was horrified to learn that large book stores are not interested in putting self-published books on their shelves and public libraries don’t support self-published authors either, not even your own local library! Be prepared to take time off work to sell the book yourself, you will have to work hard for every copy you sell. If all you want is to get your book out there, then okay. But if you want to do this for profit, then I would advise not to do it at all.

5. Where can people buy a copy of your book?
You can contact me by email:

6. Is there anything else you’d like readers to know about you?
Yes! I am a casual school teacher who takes time out from teaching to promote the book. I am available for guest appearances and signings at schools, bookshops, charity functions and special events. You can find out more about me at:



2 thoughts on “Self-publishing picture books: Toula Papadam’s step-by-step guide

  1. Thank you, Stella, for this unique interview. I was, of course, interested because I took the same route for my novel Trapped in Paris. The process is easier in the US. Less costly as well. At least for novels. It is true that for a picture book, the cost of the illustrations and the printing adds up. Toula is right when she says that the whole adventure is not for everyone. On the other side, it remains a fascinating journey where I felt in charge and responsible for the result. Nobody to thank nor to blame. Your picture book, Toula, looks fantastic. I love the title. Good luck, Toula, and thanks again, Stella, for the interview.

    1. Stella says:

      Everything is more expensive in Australia! Due to our geographic isolation, I guess … but this has its compensations …
      I’ve never considered self-publishing, as I prefer the support (financial and moral) of a traditional publisher. But many of my workshop students ask about it, so I’m grateful to have people willing to share their tips with my readers. Thanks, Toula, and of course you too, Evelyne, for sharing your insights!

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: