IndieJourney: Monika Mira

The Complete Hawaiian Reef Fish Coloring Book [Book]

When I was a child, I loved The Anatomy Coloring Book. It offered me the opportunity to learn by coloring so there was no pressure. I never dreamed that as an adult, I would be the author and illustrator of a coloring textbook.

Many years later, as a volunteer at Hanauma Bay, I found that I learned to identify fish easily when I also drew or colored them in. The idea for The Complete Hawaiian Reef Fish Coloring Book came to me in college when I had to learn to identify a long list of fish for a research project. I remembered my love for learning by coloring and my experience at Hanauma Bay and as soon as I graduated, I began to illustrate the fish for this book.

The Complete Hawaiian Reef Fish Coloring Book was produced as a labor of love and I thoroughly enjoyed the process. Shortly before “9/11”, I submitted it to a local publishing house. There it sat for a year and a half, due to “the circumstances”, the state of our economy and nation. Eventually, I was sent a rejection letter. In my mind, this was no ordinary rejection letter. In fact, the letter was the most positive and inspiring letter I could have imagined.

The publisher’s loved my book, but didn’t feel it was right for their market. They then went on to give me some advice on how to make it even better. I made some changes and submitted to another local publishing house, only to be rejected again a year later. In the mean time, I had a chance to test out portions of the book in my classroom where I taught marine science. The kids also liked the idea of coloring, it kind of took the pressure off.

I really believed in my book and everyone that read it seemed to say positive things about it. I was aware that the market for this book would be relatively small, but I decided to go ahead and publish it myself. I wanted to share my passion with the children of Hawaii.

Now, The Complete Hawaiian Reef Fish Coloring Book is in its second printing (the “Earth Friendly Edition” is printed on recycled paper) and the book is being used as a textbook in a number of schools here in Hawaii and on the mainland. Publishing, marketing and distribution are a full time job. Would I go through conventional publishing channels given the chance? Absolutely! I’d like to spend more time on illustrations and new books than distribution and marketing! But I have learned a lot and I have no regrets! In fact, I think if given the chance to be published conventionally, I can be even more successful because of what I’ve learned in the process.

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