My picture book Midnight Forest will be published by HCS Publishing next month. I specifically designed it with the visually impaired in mind.
When you browse picture books either online or at book stores, it’s easy to get lost in the whimsical world of the imagination. For the majority of buyers, font size and illustration clarity are not part of the decision making process. Books with small lettering twirling in silly ways throughout the pictures are fun. Small illustrations are nothing to a child. Dark fonts against dark backgrounds are fine. The market as a whole produces picture books by the hundreds without much thought for the minority of readers they lose. Readers who would love to enjoy a picture book like the rest, but simply cannot see it.
I am one of five children. My two older sisters along with my twin sister were diagnosed in their youths with Stargardt Disease. Basically, their central vision is deteriorated to the point they have to rely on their peripheral vision to see. Take a moment to try reading with just your peripheral vision. Yep, it’s hard. Stargardt Disease is not the only form of visual impairment for youths and adults alike.
As my sisters started their own families and began building their children’s libraries, it became apparent that picture books for the visually impaired are not easily-accessible. Yes, you do have the websites that will print enlarged books for you, but in the cases of picture books, if it is not designed with that in mind the images can be distorted. Not to mention the cost. One can also argue e-readers make all that easier, but it is still surprisingly difficult. I had my own frustration trying to enlarge the page of a picture book I bought on an e-reader, it simply would not go as large as I wanted. Not to mention, you lose parts of the picture when you enlarge sections. It all comes back to how it is designed. Additionally, my sisters admit reading an e-reader to their children is not the same experience as watching them learn to turn the pages of a book.
In my own journey to publish, I’ve learned a few things about the market.
- Since I don’t draw, I have to rely on an illustrator
- If I go through a publishing house/agent my book will be sent away, and I will have absolutely no say in the design
- Agents/publishing houses do not want works submitted with an author using a different illustrator, since it’s two different people providing two different works
- I’ve been told by an agent that most publishing houses don’t think about things like visual impairment
- If I’m going to have picture books for the visually impaired, I have to do it myself
I am not mad at the market. It is easy to overlook something like a visual impairment if you do not have it yourself, or it is not in your life in some way. I do wish to do something about it, though.
Enter David Lee, founder of Hatton Cross Steampunk Publishing! I met David Lee at MarsCon 2017 and told him about my desire and struggle to create picture books designed for the visually impaired and made easily-accessible. I am very grateful he and his team have welcomed me into HCS Publishing, and are willing to help me with my goals. Stay tuned!