I had a budding children's author ask me for advice about how I produced my book 'Toot: The World's Tiniest Whale'. Here's the response I gave her:
When I set out on making my first children's book I knew it would be hard to get my first book published without having any track record, so I decided to set up a publishing company and to do it myself.
I have a long term 10 year plan where I want to create lots of children's entertainment products, starting with books then moving on to children's TV shows / web series.
How I went about it:
I created a business plan, a project scope document, a budget, and created a crowd funding campaign (using the Give a Little platform).
I did two terms of volunteer book readings in a school to try out different stories and see children's reaction and feedback (market research).
I approached a local independent publisher to do three mentoring sessions with me so I could learn about the NZ publishing business. Through one of his contacts I got a meeting with a book distributor and convinced them to distribute my book to NZ bookstores. (This is the hard part as first-time author and I was really fortunate that they liked the book enough to take it on board).
I hired an editor from a publishing company to edit my manuscript (30 drafts in total). I hired a great illustrator Mike Chapman and project managed the creation process. I worked for three months at a design agency to get contra hours for them to do the lay out of my book.
I wrote and recorded a song and an audio book to go with the physical book so I'd have extra content to promote the book.
I set up an online store using Shopify.
I did a book launch event, a tour of book readings at schools and bookstores, a PR campaign to get book reviews, set up a Toot Facebook and Instagram community, and sent out eNewsletters to Toot fans.
I continue to hustle to get books sales. It's hard to get a constant stream of sales because children's books are kind of seasonal. At Christmas time people are looking for children's books as presents, schools might be looking to buy new books in February, people who know you buy the book, and people who have heard about it through media and positive word of mouth also buy it, but it's hard to have steady sales.
I'm developing my 2nd Toot book in the series right now, and I hope that the momentum from the 1st book will help push the 2nd book's sales; and the refreshed Toot PR when I publish it will help push the 1st book's sales.
I tried to find an overseas publisher to do a 2nd edition of Toot, but I think they're looking for authors who have a track record and a portfolio of successful books that you've published before. So once I build that up I'll try again.
Self-publishing is great if you come from a marketing/ sales/ project management background where you can use all your skills to make it happen.
But if you just love to write and need someone else to do all the other business stuff you could:
a) Keep knocking on doors of publishers (Maybe look at Beatnik http://www.beatnikpublishing.com/ Clean Slate Press http://www.cleanslatepress.com/ Gecko Press https://geckopress.com/ to see what types of books they're commissioning)
b) Look for a partner to help you build your business together and go the self-publishing route (You can use companies like Beatnik and pay them to help you publish your book or you can use an online service like Book Baby https://www.bookbaby.com/)
Wishing you all the best with your writing and publishing!
Check my blog for more articles I will post soon about how to self-publish a children's book in New Zealand. Topics will include:
- A must-read list of books that taught me how to write and self-publish
- The pros and cons for printing children's books in New Zealand or in Asia
- How to do PR for your newly published children's book