Up until very, very recently, you had one of two ways of getting your books published. You either worked with the gatekeepers of the publishing industry and worked your butt off to get them to pick you from a sea of other children’s book authors, or you worked with a “vanity press” to print your own books, but without any real marketing or sales support. You were on your own, and solely responsible for selling the inventory you had.
The harsh truth: for most authors, neither of these options is very appealing. Lucky for us, the landscape has changed these days, and if you have the desire and motivation to put your own kids’ book together, you can self-publish it through Amazon and other publishing companies and reach a huge audience, without having to fight with gatekeepers or carry a ton of inventory that you may or may not be able to sell.
For the first time ever, self-publishing is a totally legitimate (and often far more profitable) option for children’s book authors. Here’s why (want the short version?):
Even if you’re able to run the gauntlet of traditional publishing and get a deal with a publishing house, it can be months or possibly even years before your book ever sees the light of day. There’s not an incentive to keep cranking out great books, because it takes forever to get them to market.
With self-publishing, you can get your books up for sale as quickly as you can produce them. My first self-published children’s book took just about a month from idea to publication, and I could have gotten it out there even faster if I knew what the heck I was doing at the time! My second book was even faster, and I’m dialing in the process more and more (that process is one of the things I’ll be sharing on this blog, so please subscribe if you want to stay updated).
Since having multiple titles for readers to buy if they love your books is so important to being profitable as an author, being able to get your books out quickly is a huge advantage! If you create a popular kids’ series and can deliver new books to your readers on a regular basis, you stand to be far more successful than if they can only buy your books once a year.
When you’re self-publishing your books, you’re not responsible to anybody besides your audience. You don’t have to write what your publisher or editor wants you to write, and you can say whatever you want. You can also write at your own pace, on whatever topics you like.
Obviously, freedom can be a double-edged sword, because you don’t have anybody pushing you on deadlines, and you’ll want to get your book edited for spelling, grammar, flow, etc, but it feels really good to know that you can publish what you want, when you want.
Unlike traditional book deals, where you get paid an advance and make very little (if anything) on the actual book sales themselves, when going through an online bookstore like Amazon, Nook, or iBooks, you get to keep a significant portion of each sale, depending on the price you set. This means that if you can build up a following and successfully market your book, you can make some serious income from self-publishing. I know multiple people that are making thousands of dollars a month from $3 fiction books.
The other great thing about self-publishing these days is that after any up-front costs for things like illustration, cover design, or editing, there’s zero cost to actually put your book up for sale (even a paperback version), and you don’t have to carry inventory if you choose to do a print version of your book. This means you can focus on growing your audience and actually selling your book, and creating more books, instead of worrying about paying for production costs or inventory.
Maybe you’re not interested in writing children’s books because you want to be able to call yourself an author, but I’m not too proud to admit that I feel pretty darn cool when I tell people, “I’m a children’s book author.” Most people seem pretty impressed and interested and want to know more.
I can tell you that I would feel a lot more guilty about calling myself an author if I was still shopping books around to traditional publishers and trying to get picked by them, and not actually having my name up on Amazon as an author, instead of just taking matters into my own hands and choosing myself.
I mean seriously- how proud would you feel to read your own book to your kids at night, or give out copies to friends and family members? For me, it’s a huge side perk, and makes the whole thing more fun.
It’s Not as Hard as it Seems
In the early days of self-publishing, the whole process was very technical and a huge pain in the butt, so many authors found it overwhelming and never tried it. And while it does still take a small measure of technical knowledge (which you can learn if you don’t have it), Amazon and others have created a ton of tools, templates, and support materials that make the whole process SO much easier. Nowadays, if you have a copy of Microsoft Word, you can self-publish your book. I plan to create some of these things myself to make it easier for you.
Don’t get me wrong- there is a learning curve, and you’ll make plenty of mistakes along the way that you’ll learn from. I’ve been making a ton of mistakes in the short time I’ve been self-publishing, and I plan to address as many of them as possible here on the site. But they’re obstacles that are easily overcome, compared to the often insurmountable obstacle of waiting to be picked by a traditional publisher.
Self-publishing, once frowned upon and ignored, is quickly becoming the default for aspiring authors and creators. It’s quicker, more profitable, and more freeing than going the traditional publishing route, and lets you actually get your ideas and dreams out of your head and into the world. If you’ve struggled to get traditional publishers to pick you, or dread the idea of shopping your book around to agents and publishers, then it’s time to give self-publishing a try.
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Image courtesy of lowjumpingfrog.