Local author and illustrator Becky Gehrisch is celebrating the publishing of her first children’s book, “Escape to Play,” which was released nationally on Oct. 18.
“Escape to Play” centers on the day in the life of three “rowdy” farm dogs who escape and “wreak havoc on the farm while the farmer is away,” Gehrisch told The Gazette. The book, which is heavy on illustrations, also features 12 historical art pieces recreated in the farmhouse for kids to find, and adults can use the included interactive questions to get kids thinking about the arts while enjoying the “rambunctious canine antics,” she added.
A Westerville native and current Delaware resident since 2005, Gehrisch said her art inspiration began with a middle school program in which she participated, and she ultimately pursued her passion at The Ohio State University where she graduated with a degree in painting and drawing.
Gehrisch admitted she was, in some ways, burnt out from the arts following college, but after eventually picking up a paintbrush again, she began to draw the book’s inspiration from the world around her home outside of town. That included the three dogs living with her at the time, as well as the surrounding farmland.
“It just kind of came out of having fun with it again, and that’s what I enjoy bringing to kids again, having fun with art,” Gehrisch said. “It began as just a fun illustration for myself, and then it kind of evolved into a whole bunch of illustrations. It wasn’t the traditional start of a book where you have it all planned out.”
Gehrisch said she got into the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and learned a lot about how the process of creating a children’s book works. Once she gained knowledge of the process, she began to form the book into what she believed it needed to be in order to look more professional and display the necessary quality.
Now, she is a published author and illustrator with a book for sale in just about every place books are sold, whether that be at Barnes and Noble, independent bookstores, Walmart.com or Amazon.
“It’s a surreal experience thinking this is my book on the shelf, my creation out there,” she said of seeing her book published. “And in multiples, as well. Seeing it duplicated in all the books is pretty cool.”
“Escape to Play” is a success on two fronts for Gehrisch as it also represents the premier title of her own publishing company, Bookling Media, which she established in 2020 after becoming “disillusioned by the terrible treatment that creators often experience at the hands of the industry.”
“I began that at the beginning of getting the book set to publish and did offset printing, which means I didn’t go through printing on-demand,” she said of the company. “I did a Kickstarter to do a preorder campaign to get interest in the book and have presale orders come in. And then I had it all printed and shipped. It was a big process, and I’m definitely learning a lot.”
At the core of the idea to start her own picture book publishing company was the goal of giving authors and illustrators more freedom to do what they wish with their work. Gehrisch referenced the control publishing houses have over the rights to a book, which limits what an author can do while under contract. The possibility of editing teams leaving before the book gets published also exists, leaving authors in limbo, waiting to see if the book is ultimately published, she added.
“You can’t really do anything, you’re kind of stuck,” she said.
Of course, there is also the need for an agent when dealing with publishing houses and, every step of the way, the authors are losing more of a return on their own creations.
Gehrisch said her plan moving forward is to publish someone else’s book next, and submissions are now open to identify which will be selected. She hopes to pick the next title in February.
“The whole model of Bookling is different in that authors and illustrators will keep their intellectual property rights so that they’re not having to let that go,” she said. “That means they can do another print run if they want, they can make merchandise if they want. They have all that freedom to do what they want but yet not have to do all of the setting up of a business and all of that. It’s kind of the best of both worlds with self-publishing and traditional publishing.”
Gehrisch went on to say she believes having published her book first makes the company better suited for whichever book comes next.
“It was the trial run for everything,” she said. “I want to make sure that with the next book, they’re not stuck with me learning everything that comes with the first book. Everything that I did with ‘Escape to Play’ has been experimental. … And I have distribution now, so these books can be purchased everywhere now. I want to make sure all of those blocks are in place as I build it so that we know everything for the next one.”
Reach Dillon Davis at 740-413-0904. Follow him on Twitter @DillonDavis56.