One Simple Truth About Self Publishing

D. E. Knobbe

Unknown   You’ve heard this before “Publishing is currently undergoing rapid and monumental changes.” That makes it an exciting time to be a writer because there are so many more publishing avenues. From ebooks to POD’s (print on demand) the world is your publishing oyster.
     You can create an ebook and have it up for sale on Amazon within a few hours. You can contract with a POD company and pay minimal set up fees, which means you no longer have to print several thousand copies to keep your price per book within reason. Yes, even children’s full color books can be printed on demand now. Sounds wonderful, rosy, extraordinarily easy. Where do you sign up?
     Whoa! Best to put the breaks on that runaway best seller, you’ll need to acknowledge one simple truth first: Each POD book is “printed AFTER it sells.” Yes sells. That is the one simple truth that hasn’t changed in publishing. For your book to be read in any form, it still needs to be sold. No matter how brilliant your pages read, or how glossily the cover calls, it is not going to sell itself. And neither Amazon, Lulu or any other publishing platform is going to sell it for you. They’ll put it out there, but, alas, it could end up just gathering dust on a cyber bookstore shelf.
If you decide to self publish you must switch your point of view and see it as a product. Then you must educate yourself in online book marketing. Be prepared to devote countless hours to this process. Blogs, tweets and instagrams, won’t increase sales if there are no interested parties on the receiving end.
     I am not trying to discourage self-publishing. I am saying educate yourself first.           Before your publishing date arrives, have a marketing plan ready to launch along with your book. Know who your readers are and who buys for them. Target you audience directly.
     In the past there were many “Vanity Presses” who preyed on naive authors looking for self-publishing help, now, there are “Book Marketers” who sell hundreds of general packages that probably won’t increase your sales. If you want to hit your target market aim your efforts directly at it and keep shooting. You’re a lot more likely to get hits, than shooting (read dollars) aimlessly into cyberspace. You may not have piles of books unopened in your garage, but it will still take an average of 300 sales to break even, so spend your marketing dollars wisely.

I have to admit, that it took more than one failure for me to learn this lesson, and I am still learning from my successes and mistakes. I would love to hear what has worked for you and what hasn’t.

Do take the publishing leap. Do go forward. You can do it.

In the words of Norman Vincent Peale:

Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.

turtleMania_cover-2     P.S. My name is Dawne Knobbe. I run a small press called The Nature Kid along with my two awesome partners Molly Peckels and Svett Bycovec. We specialize in fun Color and Learn books about ocean creatures. We found a marketing niche for our products within the National Parks and we work it. To date we have sold over 45,000 books which can be found in 12 states, and thankfully, they are still swimming out the door:)

                       lol—Be sure to check us out online at thenaturekid.com

The Ups and Downs of the Current Children’s Book Market

I’ve just returned from the Millennium Biltmore Hotel in downtown Los Angeles, where the annual summer conference of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators had to be relocated after our ‘old’ and usual hotel site in Century City broke its contract with the group. The Biltmore is an old and elegant building and the staff was friendly and helpful. However, it’s not really big enough for the conference turnout. Around 250 would-be attendees had to be turned away, so the search for a new site will likely continue.
As usual, the state of the industry was discussed with interest, first by Justin Chandra, VP and Publisher of 4 children’s imprints at Simon and Schuster, and later at the Market Report given by Deborah Halverson, author and former editor, and creator of advice site: DearEditor.com.
News is mixed. Children’s book sales are up by only 2%. Sales of teen books are falling, and there is a sharp decline in ebook sales. Chandra said the YA market has been saturated. He says right now fantasy and action/adventure are selling, but since by the time you write and sell a book and get it to market, no one knows what will be hot, he advises you to forget about trends and write what is closest to your heart.
He said that last year there were more sales of fewer titles, big sales of movie tie ins, and it is hard to get attention to midlist. (My note, when was it not?)
The good news, we’re seeing the return of independent children’s book stores, new stores opening, where children books can be hand sold by dedicated staff.
Middle grade sales are pretty solid, and picture book sales are picking up again. Diversity is not a trend, simply real life.
Halverson also talked about the drop in sales, hardcover fiction and YA. Nonfiction sales numbers rose sharply, but that was partly because adult coloring books were counted among juvenile nonfiction. She noted that paperbacks were up, picture books doing well, and ebooks flat for the third year in a row. Someone’s survey noted that 49% of consumers bought both print and ebook formats. She also noted new children’s bookstores opening, and also school book clubs bouncing back.  Middle Grade is a good place to be, open to literary and genres, buying contemporary and historical fiction but with a contemporary voice. Nonfiction is wanted, but with a fresh approach.

Some new imprints: Quinera, (not sure of the spelling–we did not get a handout), wants contemporary and historical, American history and social justice themes; Peeko, picture books for the very young; Her Universal Press, sci-fi and fantasy with strong female roles by female writers, and a few more. SCBWI members can find these in “The Book”‘ on the SCBWI website.

So, you can still sell, but not easily. But authors have heard this for years, right? So don’t give up, keep writing, learning and revising, keep on keeping on! And good luck to everyone.

Cheryl Zach

Tea at the Biltmore

Tea at the Biltmore