Warning! Self Publishing Artists and writers are going digital, you might regret it if you don’t
I’m no expert here – but I do self publish and I have to share what I’ve learned both as encouragement and as a warning. If you want to how to write your children’s books and or illustrate children’s books, now’s the time.
I hope to help you find the motivation to start self publishing your own stories and illustrations digitally. The warning is that if you don’t do it soon you might have regrets in a year or two or sooner.
Lowly Self publishers compete with big business
I’ve been doing a lot of reading of various blogs and web pages about self publishing digitally and most agree that we are seeing a change in publishing the likes of which we haven’t seen in our life times. Until now the gate keepers have been large traditional publishers. They held the keys because they could afford to put up the tens of thousands of dollars to print large runs of picture books. Also, they had established complicated distribution channels that an individual author, or illustrator/artist would be hard pressed to compete with. Most of this hasn’t changed. The day of the large publisher is definitely NOT over and I’m glad – I like the publishers I work with, and most of them have been very good to me.
E books cost so little to self publish
What has changed is how inexpensive it is to publish your work which means that one of the two cards that publishers held, has evaporated. Now the only real advantage a large publisher has is a distribution channel. I’m not underestimating how important this channel is either. Large traditional publishers have relationships with stores that you and I do not. They have publicists working for them to promote our books and editors to polish the final products. They have customers that they’ve established long before you or I ever worked with them, and way before we put on our author and illustrator/artist hats. They know the business better than we. They submit our books to all the major book awards and from what I’ve been told that list is well over 200. Imagine trying to research, compile, address, and pay for 200 give away books and shipping, just to put them in the hands of jurors who probably won’t pick your book anyway. And I’m sure there are a lot more things that they do that I’m overlooking.
The E-Book opportunity may not last for self publishers
The time is now, will, maybe a few years ago but I still see a huge opportunity that isn’t going to last forever. Like the Oklahoma pan handle rush of 1889 there was opportunity for a limited time and then it was OVER. For the first time in our lives a new platform is emerging that is giving the early birds a distinct advantage. I’m sure that you’ve all thought about e-books – I have been for the past year or more. However, I never realized how important it is to be first to market until I started reading and researching. It only takes an hour or so poking around on Amazon or Barnes and Noble to see self published books doing extremely well.
The new e-book digital format is growing
Awhile ago I published my first e-book – Monkey & Croc at Barns and Noble and it’s done pretty well on B&N. The only reason it did so well as it is – is because of the lack of competition. When I published it there were a little over 500 e-books for children ages 3-5 on B&N. Crazy right? Think of how many thousands of books there are in hard copy in that group. Look, I don’t even own an ereader but you can’t ignore this new format – it’s coming on strong. Amazon said that for any particular book that they sell in physical format – they sell 48 digital copies of the same book.
Intellectual property, art and words and pixels for sale.
Aside for being early to market you can afford to sell an ebook for only a few dollars because the only cost you have is your time. Right now the big publishers are selling their ebooks in most cases for about the same price as their hardbacks. This is another reason to get your book to market quickly. While they sell their books high – we can sell ours low and create an advantage for the buyer. Think about it…if you bought a new ereader or ipad and you wanted to load it with content wouldn’t you gamble on a few unproven $2 and $3 books since the alternatives are $12.99 books that you might already own?
I believe there’s still time to capitalize on the e-book movement
My belief is that if you can create a following due to timing – your book could gain the kind of momentum that could build a franchise. If this happens there’s also a good chance that a traditional publisher would want to buy your book and print hard copies. Another option is that you incorporate a print on demand publisher and offer hard copies on your own. Either way the future is bright for self published books. I think that there will always be a place for large publishers but now there is a much larger place for self publishers.
Join a critique group, writers or illustrators, find help
Some drawbacks: You won’t have the benefit of an editor and this places a great responsibility back on your shoulders. My suggestion is to acquire the help of a professional writer and/or join a critique group that can help you polish your story. Another obstacle is finding software that will easily let you turn your jpeg images into an e-book. This was a very frustrating process for me and without the help of my brother in law I don’t think I would have been able to release Monkey & Croc. There has been talk about Barnes and Noble, Amazon, and Itunes holding back publishing software and only releasing it to large publishers. Monkey & Croc suffered a bit with a few minor hiccups because we couldn’t get that software. I think that this will soon change as open source programs become available. Where there is a need someone will fill it.
I published Monkey & Croc on Barnes and Noble’s Pubit.com site. They take 35% of every sale but they give you an account for free and you can check your sales in your back office any time you like. It’s neat to go in and check every day or so.
It’s amazing what parents will let their children do if it means education
Finally for those who don’t think that parents won’t turn their kids loose with an expensive e-reader to beat up, you’re right. However think of the advantages – Carrying an unlimited amount of picturebooks on a plane, train, or automobile will keep kids pacified much longer than the few books parents can carry in hard copy form. And how nice will it be for the parents who have long commutes with children in tow to and from day cares. How long do you think it will be before they develop the kid proof ereader? I suspect it’s around the corner.
At the beginning of my illustration career I was asked to complete an illustration about e-mail – I asked the art director, “What is email”. It’s happening now.