I’ve been the author of a children’s picture book for a little over a year now. During the journey I’ve saved up a handful of my “ah-ha” moments to share with writers getting ready to begin their journey of being published. Some are repeat tips that I found to be true. Some are things no one told me to be ready for, and I wish they had. The opinions are derived from personal experience and are my own
1) The book business really is as hard as they say it is. In doing research prior to publishing my book, I read over and over that the book business is difficult. I read that it is hard to get noticed, hard to build a personal brand, and hard to make a profit from book sales. All have been true for me. I thought surely my book was going to break through these forces more easily than the commoner because it was so special. What I have found is that no matter how good your book is, there are forces and biases in the book industry so strong that hard work, courage and grit are a necessity for survival.
2) You need a healthy marketing budget to invest in book promotion every year, period. It takes money to make money, as the cliché goes. Unless you are starting out with a major publisher that has a hefty marketing commitment written into your contract, you will need to advertise. Most publishers are great at creating a high-quality book, but leave the marketing up to you. This has been my personal experience as well. Your publisher may help you with arranging book-signing events, but there is so much more to selling books than just face-to-face events. Some of the things you will want to budget for are: a great looking point-of-sale display, annual memberships to societies and associations with professionals, entrance fees for book exhibits at conferences and expos and online marketing. I’ve done all of these and found that the biggest returns have come from exhibiting my book at conferences.
3) Networking matters. Don’t try to fight through the publishing and book-selling world alone. You need the guidance, advice, expertise and opportunities provided by others who have gone before you. I’m involved in two special organizations that have opened up a host of opportunities for me. The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) is a national organization designed to support the creation of quality children’s literature. They take members from all spectrums of talent. You don’t even have to be published to join. Chapter meetings have been so helpful for me. I’ve met writers seeking agents, and seasoned published authors. All have been willing to share their talents and expertise to support the dreams of the authors and illustrators there. One benefit of membership was access to the Texas Library Association Annual Conference. Participating in the conference put me in front of a host of librarians and gave me several leads for school visits. A second organization I joined is the Texas Association of Authors. Their purpose is to promote authors in the state of Texas. By joining the group, I received an author bio page on their website and my book is for sale in the online store. I also received a coveted author-signing slot in the upcoming Texas Book Festival in Austin. These types of memberships are rich in experience and opportunity for the nominal cost of membership. Find a few that match your book genre and support your local author network.
4) Pay attention to the distribution market, not just direct to consumer. Although face-to-face book signing events are important, they are not the only way to sell books. Pushing sales through the distribution network (like Ingram and Baker and Taylor) help trigger re-stocking. Stock is important to have at the distributor so there is something for customers to purchase when they find your book online. I’ve worked the public and school librarian network to try to get sales. One marketing investment that has worked out great for me is entering my book in The Combined Book Exhibit. The CBE has a list of regional, national and international shows where they exhibit and showcase books. The benefit of using this service is that you get your book on the showroom floor and in front of professional audiences you wouldn’t have access to independently. Your book will be included in the CBE show catalog that visitors take with them. The CBE exhibit display is top quality and the social media support for their customers is impressive.
5) Believe in your book, even when sales are down. One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is that there are highs and lows in book sales. Some events will bring great dividends and others will be flat. Some quarters will be better than others. In the times of slump, remember why you wrote your book and keep your passion for your story alive. Because my book ministers to children who have been bullied, I go back and recall testimonials where kids have been touched in a positive way. This keeps me inspired. You can’t put a profit number on a changed life for the better. Find value in your book and be the champion of your story- the sales will come if you keep pressing on.
Stephanie Cameron is author of the children’s book Ella Mae the Courageous Cheerleader. The book is available online at the following stores: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Family Christian Store and Tate Publishing Bookstore.
Ella Mae’s love for cheerleading is strong, but so are the bullies on the cheer team. Ella Mae, the Courageous Cheerleader is a children’s book written in rhyme, sharing a personal story of dealing with bullies. It teaches children how to respond to meanness with kindness, courage and confidence. Ella Mae will inspire children who are dealing with bullies at school to turn to their faith in God. By responding according to His Word, they too can receive God’s promise of blessing and the confidence that they are doing the right thing.