It’s a good time to be an indie children’s author
If children’s books are the poor relations of literature, then how much further down the pecking order are self-published children’s books?
I’m joking, of course. The reputation of books for young readers has soared immeasurably in recent years. There’s still some catching up to do, but we can take pride in the fact that, unlike other categories, the children’s book market grew 3.5% in 2015, and our segment accounts for 24% of the UK book market. Hurrah!
The stigma of self-publishing – or independent publishing, as we now call it – is on the decline. Each time I attend an event about indie publishing, I find more professionals from traditional publishing in evidence: often speaking, even looking for writers.
To the outside universe, our worlds are converging. But are authors’ own attitudes to indie publishing moving with the times?
It’s no longer the case that authors publish their own work because it isn’t good enough for a mainstream publisher. Until recently, I worked in-house as a children’s publisher, so I know a bit about this.
Some books have a finite audience. (And some much-hyped books underperform massively.) Your audience of 500 might not be enough to attract a mainstream publisher – who has budgets to meet and market share to grab – but that’s no reason for you to forsake that readership. If you publish the book yourself, and win those 500 readers you may go on to net 750 or 1,000 or even 2,000 or more. Then you’ve an enticing platform from which to offer your next book. A ready-made, eager audience is definitely attractive to publishers. Indeed, they’ll be impressed by evidence of a serious appetite for your work.
The big questions faced by publishers are also faced by indie authors: who is going to read it? How are we going to reach those readers?
An indie author can answer the first question pretty easily. Start small; start local. What about the second?
A good package is essential for any book. I knew that when I self-published by novel for adults, Ready to Love, it had to look as good as any paperback novel you’d find in a bookshop. (I hope it is as good …) That meant investing in proper editing, typesetting, production and – above all – cover design. You get what you pay for in this business. There’s no value in a cupboard full of unwanted books whose fate was sealed by the author’s lack of investment in the production.
It takes a huge effort to publish your book independently because you have to co-ordinate and control the process. There’s nothing like devoting your own time and money to a project to make you think: Is it worth it? Is it good enough to lavish these resources on? Moreover – is my career as a writer worth that investment? Don’t just think in terms of one-off books (publishers seldom do), think about the long term.
I’m so pleased I have a finished book as a physical object to offer people. People’s reactions to it have given my confidence to begin something new. I don’t yet know what that next book’s path towards its audience will be – but I feel as if I’m getting somewhere. Building something. I know I can use all I’ve learned to hopefully be even more successful next time.
I hope you feel that way too as you journey on the path to publication. I look forward to seeing your books and hearing your stories.
And good luck!
Jon Appleton worked in publishing for 20 years – for Hodder, Orion, Scholastic and Piccadilly Press, amongst others. Now he’s a freelance editor, writer and writers’ mentor. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org, follow him on Twitter @appletonsbooks and follow his blog here.