Reasons Not to Self-Publish a Children’s Book

I’m addressing this question because many authors are wondering whether to bother querying at all. More and more writers are asking, “why should I query like crazy, to agents who are overwhelmed with wannabes, to publishers struggling to make money, to sign my rights away for a long time (or forever), to be told I’m STILL responsible for marketing the book, AND have a limited amount of time to make sales before I get yanked?”

I posted this question (not directly, after the discussion took a turn as they always do) to the Wattpad community and here’s what I got. Now I did not get specific permission to repost here, but as all comments were made publicly on Wattpad, and the writers in question are supportive of other authors, I am reposting for your information to give you some ideas about what to do.

 

“Question: I have a children’s book and I am unsure if I should go indie or play the trad-pubbed game. On the one hand, I feel comfortable managing my career and don’t know if a publisher will really be a benefit to my career. While I would like to have a major publisher work on my book, I don’t require Big-Five validation for my stories to think they’re good. On the other hand, most kids prefer print books and do not seek indie authors out on Amazon, and the channels to reach them (parent groups, libraries, school book catalogues, word of mouth) are too difficult for one person to do effectively. Why should I seek out a publisher?”

Author 1 (indie romance author)-

1.Simply to know that what you wrote is considered good enough to publish by someone in the industry. If the trad publisher is willing to put up their money, that gives you the validation.

2. If you want your book on the shelves at Barnes and Noble.

3. The experience of working with a professional editor. You can learn a great deal.

4. If you can’t edit and/or make a book cover yourself and don’t have the money to pay for it.

5. If you don’t have the expertise or desire to market your novel. If no one knows it’s out there, you get zero sales.

6. For your ego, as in, “Hey, everyone, I got a Big-5 publishing contract!”

Author #2 (makes somewhere between $100,000 and $999,999 from her books, mostly YA romance):

“MG is an entirely different market. You won’t sell as an indie MG author, because MG readers don’t have credit cards or Amazon accounts. They also read predominantly in print. MG authors need agents and trad deals to get their books into reader hands. YA is similar, it is print dominated. The indie authors who do well in YA are selling to adults who read YA books. It’s all part of knowing the market and knowing which path is better for what types of books.”

Author #3 (has a Big-Five published novel and is a hybrid author)

1. Writing in a genre that buys print, not ebooks, and gets those books from sources indies have limited access to. That basically includes all the genres aimed at 18 or under.

2. If you write slowly, you may indeed do better with traditional than with indie publishing. Trad publishing is usually one book per year. (BW note: I asked her about book writing speed because I can only write 2 quality books a year, whereas successful indies often write 3-6 a year, depending on industry and writing speed).

3. If you have just one standalone book. Go indie if you have an adult series OR a healthy back list.

4. Go traditional if you don’t have the money to self publish WELL. Seriously, publishing badly is worse than not publishing at all.

So there you have it. I asked indies at K Boards this question as well and got a similar response. Now that said, there HAVE been some bestselling self-published kid’s books (really for pre-schoolers, which means the parents bought the book), and if kids end up fully moving away from print books in the future, that will open the door for an indie (presumably a non-celebrity) to self-publish and sell a lot of e-copies. But for the foreseeable  future, I can confirm anecdotally that most kids do prefer print books and schools rarely accept self-published books for availability to their students. While you are unlikely to earn a lot of money writing for kids, you have a better chance if you are able to find a publisher.

 

Lessons in Selling Your Product

My Heroes of History Kickstarter campaign is about halfway over, and I’m halfway to my goal. Unlike some other projects, I am way short of them.

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1497895052/save-the-heroes-of-history-from-textbook-doom

I looked at a few other campaigns, and try to figure out “why”. Why do they get more/less money than mine does? Why do they have more/fewer backers than me?

What most people don’t tell you about Kickstarter is that the most successful campaigns have one or more of the following:

  1. multiple partners with equal investment in campaign success.
  2. An established fanbase and/or easy access to national/international media.
  3. A network of support where they can focus on Kickstarter and not have to worry about paying the bills or feeling like a “loser” for turning to Kickstarter.
  4. Previous experience running this.

I came in with only a little  bit of #3, in that in the worst-case scenario, I can move home with my parents and focus on my business, which would help a lot. But I lack the others.

A lot of Kickstarter advice is geared towards people whose projects a) depend on the success of their campaign and b) have a bigger team. In my genre for example, most gamers are happy with $10,000 or less, which doesn’t require a massive media push. But the projects in the s6- or 7- figures often have a well-known, established figure and a wider network than I have. I assume most have friends with more money than mine do, which might explain why so few of my friends have bothered to support my campaign. They are happy to like a Facebook post, but actually giving money is proving a problem. I hate cyber begging, but I really have no choice. You’d think some of my ‘facebook friends’ would be more supportive, but I think most of them could care less. They are more worried about their own lives and the idea of charity, that is giving up something for nothing, is foreign to them. Unless it’s something they REALLY care about, and I guess my idea just doesn’t excite them enough.

You are likely to experience the same thing when you run your crowdfunding campaign, or try to sell your book/product to someone who may not want it. So here are my takeaways:

For Kickstarer-

  1. Make sure you have at LEAST 30 people locked in to buy on day 1- Kickstarter is more likely to boost you if you get a big number on day 1. Even better is if they pledge a lot of money. Say $25- that means on day 1, you’d get $750, and that looks great.
  2. Better to have a partner- a spouse, friend, co-worker, or co-founder EQUALLY obsessed with your goal. As much as my parents and family and a few friends have been supportive, no one is more invested in this than me. Not only will having an equal partner help you reach your goal faster, but you can set loftier goals. So if I had 3 people on my team, I might ask for $12,000 instead of $4,000. Granted, partners can bring headaches. But I’d probably be at $6,000 by now if I had more investment.
  3. Most likely, your first product won’t have big attention. It will take subsequent campaigns, with a bigger fan base, to build interest.
  4. Plan! I did not spend a lot of time planning Kickstarter. Most of the more successful campaigns planned theirs out weeks, if not months, or even years, in advance. Without a reliable base of money, my campaign is mostly cyber-begging.

For business:

  1. Build a bigger team- I learned the hard way how hard it is to try to do everything yourself. In hindsight, I would have liked to have a Co-Founder to help share responsibility and also expand what we’re capable of. But the partner must a) have a different skill-set than me, b) be willing to work hard, and c) be willing to share or take responsibility as needed.
  2. Don’t assume your network will support you- big-shots who write for big-shot media outlets will tell you that if you aren’t getting people running to your book or product, it’s your fault and your  book/product probably sucks. That may or may not be true, but accept that if you thought your friends and family would back you to show support, don’t count on it. Some will, and many will not. Don’t assume. Makes an Ass of U and Me. But also don’t listen to ‘experts’ opinions over your product. Trust your instinct and customer feedback, not judgmental morons on TV.
  3. Network- one thing I’ve done is brought my product to game clubs and to kids who game to have them test the rules and give feedback. But, I should have done more of this before, in order to not delay my product launch, which will likely be one more month past when I had hoped to begin selling (may be a blessing in disguise- most people’s refunds will come through by then)

This is only the first post in this category, but if you have any unanswered questions, please ask them.