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Why I Self-Published My Children’s Books

Yes, money was a factor, but I also made myself a promise

John Mashni
7 min readDec 13, 2022


I walked into a windowless room lined with shelves, floor to ceiling. Every shelf was filled with binders. I grabbed one and opened it — hundreds of headshots filled plastic liners. One of my film instructors was giving me a tour of the film school I was attending. I looked around, and the instructor said something ominous.

“This is the first room. Let me show you the second.”

I followed him across the hall into the so-called second room. It was exactly the same as the first room — no windows, plastic binders floor to ceiling, filled with headshots — except the second room was at least three times bigger.

My film instructor said, “So these are all actors in the city who are willing to be in your film. Just look at the headshots, pull the contact information, cast your film, and get moving.”

He started to walk away, so I asked the only question that popped into my head: “What’s the difference between the first room and the second room?”

“Easy,” he said. “The first room you have to pay the actors. The second room will work for free.”

The sheer number of actors and actresses who were waiting on a shelf to be picked by someone like me — a film student who had an idea for a film and was ready to produce it — was astronomical. There had to be 10,000 headshots in those binders in the first room. And at least triple that in the second room. I was a broke student who couldn’t afford to pay anyone. Yet I had the power to pick one out of thousands. I eventually found an actor, but I’ll never forget those two rooms.

Not long after, I made a decision. I would never be a head in a binder, waiting for someone to pick me. There had to be better ways of moving forward in a career.

I’ve carried that desire and drive with me ever since.

I hate waiting for people to pick me. That’s part of why I self-published my first children’s book. And my second one. But it’s not the only reason. I’ve had dozens of people ask me why I self-published CinderToot, SantaToot, and Children of CinderToot (and why I’ll continue to self-publish, at least for now). In this…



John Mashni

I only write about what I have done: no theory. Writer, Attorney, Entrepreneur, Movie Producer, and more… the ONLY 3 ways to reinvent: