There are some non-negotiable aspects in self-publishing that are needed for your book to compete in this oversaturated market—flawless text and a professional cover.
While many authors understand their writing can always be improved by a good editor, some children’s book authors think that editors aren’t necessary because they are writing for children.
I asked editor Tamara Rittershaus to share her thoughts on the importance of editing every book, but especially children’s books.
Here’s what Tamara has to say:
People will buy a great product.
“Self-published books have a bad reputation because they are often bad products. They’re often not edited, have cheap-looking illustrations, and grammatical errors in the blurb.
But with a good product and focused marketing, it can be successful.
The Traditional Publishing Process
In traditional publishing, an author should have their manuscript critiqued, beta read, and professionally edited before sending it to their agent.
The agent offers editing. The agent sells the manuscript to a publisher, which would also have an editor.
So a book that is traditionally published has a stamp of approval from at least three editors (sometimes more than that).
Readers can trust these to be quality products.
The indie-author community needs to focus on putting out better products.
In order to compete against traditionally published books, indie authors must hire professionals to work with them on creating the best book possible.
Here is what I recommend to an indie author:
After you write and revise a manuscript, find a critique partner!
Starting out, I swapped my picture book manuscripts with dozens of other writers through a Facebook group called “KidLit411 Manuscript Swap.”
Over time, I have found the four or five critique partners who I trust the most.
Once you’ve had it critiqued and made revisions, hire an editor!
Ask for developmental editing. A good editor will have an eye for how to really enhance the story.
They will explain how you can improve your story arc, the tone of the story, how to create better scenes, and more.
If you make significant changes, send it back to your critique partner or hire your editor for a second round of developmental editing.
When your story is solid, have another round with your trusted critique partner(s) or look for “fresh eyes” in a beta reader.
Now is the time to have the story line edited. This is the final check through for grammar, punctuation, syntax and minor inconsistencies.
If you’re hiring an illustrator, I suggest you wait to start illustrations until the manuscript is ready for line editing.
A change to the manuscript text is easy, but changes to illustrations will cost you.
Create a relationship with your editor.
Editors want our clients to succeed, especially the loyal clients that we know well. I offer my picture book clients a free once-over before publishing, because I don’t want to see any avoidable mistakes getting published.
If you write in poetry, I suggest having your manuscript checked over by a poetry specialist.
I offer “poetry coaching” for clients who feel compelled to write in rhyme, but haven’t been trained in writing in meter.
I use the client’s own manuscript to teach them how the meter could sound. This is a very effective teaching method and my clients have great success learning to write in meter.”
Tamara Rittershaus offers editing services for children’s literature authors as a picture book editor. She will give you a thorough and honest critique of your work.
Connect with Tamara on Facebook or Twitter for more information:
Tevah Platt is a first-time children’s book author and decided to use Kickstarter to fund the production of her book, Snail, I Love You.
Find out what Tevah and her illustrator did to catapult their book over $10k on Kickstarter (433% of its goal).
What did you do before or on launch day that helped you rocket to success?
A little backstory first: I was working on it every day and 24 hours before the campaign was set to launch, we realized that the bank account information we had added to the campaign was incorrect. Worse yet, that information was locked and we could not change it.
I had to rebuild an entirely new campaign page, change all of our links to direct people to the new page, and everything in six to seven hours.
It was 4 pm on launch day and we were wondering if we shouldn’t just wait one more day and go live in the morning. We decided to hit the Go Live button right then and we hit 100% in two hours.
My illustrator and I created a list of 25 people we knew who would champion our campaign. Having other people share your work is critical to your success. We also reached out to friends and family and included, “If you’re going to back us, will you back us on launch day to help us have maximum impact?”
We found personal emails to be the most effective method for promoting our campaign.
Here’s how we did it:
I made a huge spreadsheet of 150 people who would pass my, “Would this person come to my funeral?” test or if they had a kid and was in my target audience. I wrote two sentences that were personalized to them and then mail merged those sentences into my general marketing copy in my email using the Gmail add-on, Mail Merge. (See this article for the Top 5 Mail Merge Add-ons)
I wrote everything before we launched and then sent out the emails to my list of contacts. My contributor sent out her emails on Day 2.
Were you able to relax after Day 2 when you were at 292% funded?
Yes, we very much relaxed. We tested out some Facebook ads but we weren’t seeing much traction. I ended up writing a press release but I didn’t send it anywhere. We didn’t really gain traction with the outside world.
Take me through the $2,500 goal vs. your $7,500 goal amounts. Why did you set your Kickstarter at the first goal instead of the second?
We did the math on a really small print run and $2,500 was the bare minimum we’d need to do that.
In retrospect, $2,500 was too small of a goal and we were being really modest. We knew that $7,500 would cover our costs but we were being risk-averse gamblers.
What types of marketing efforts had the best reach?
As I mentioned earlier, personal emails were the best. We incorporated the feedback from our cheerleaders and that made them feel more invested in the project. It also improved the project a lot.
What didn’t work out so well?
Facebook ads but we didn’t experiment beforehand.
We added new rewards and add-ons but we should’ve added more rewards while the momentum was happening. We weren’t able to generate much momentum past those first two days.
Are there going to be future books?
I would love to create more books. Because of Kickstarter and other routes to indie publishing, I knew this was a possibility. I wrote this book with my daughter and now she’s writing books, which I absolutely love to see. I’d definitely do another Kickstarter but it is so much work.
How did you meet your illustrator?
She’s my neighbor and she went around to our community offering to embroider vector images so she could practice using a new tool she bought.
I really loved the fact that her illustrations are with a sewing machine—a traditional symbol of domesticity for women—and yet her illustrations break every traditional convention. It’s a real statement on feminism.
I want readers to see the beauty of these illustrations and know that a woman created them. That’s the message I want to send to my daughter.
What is your affiliation with your local library?
We are publishing through the Ann Arbor District Library, which provides an amazing service for local authors. It is in their budget to support local authors and illustrators. You have to submit your manuscript and if selected, they will edit, and layout your book. They give you the digital files for your printer and the rest is up to you. They are hosting our launch party in November. I recommend them to all indie authors in the Ann Arbor area.
What piece of advice would you give an indie author considering crowdfunding?
Do the work in advance to line up your people and your champions. Get feedback and consult all of the resources you can find available. Take into account every comment on your video, campaign page, and rewards. Be open to feedback and be personable and warm.
The Kickstarter made me feel like this was a personal project involving everyone I love. The notes I got from people were so nice and supportive. It was a great experience.
Read more crowdfunding case stories by indie authors
Julia and I have a lot in common—we are both raising our families outside of our home countries (the USA), we are both authors, and both indie publishers dedicated to producing high-quality books.
Julia recently pushed back her launch date of her first book, Nonni’s Moon, because she was unhappy with the print quality of the first round of books she received. I admire her willingness to sacrifice a bit of ego and time for a better reading experience.
In this interview, I asked her about the nitty gritty of children’s illustrated books and I think you’ll enjoy her responses.
Why did you decide to self-publish your book?
I know how long it takes to traditionally publish a book and honestly, I knew the odds were slim. Self-publishing nowadays is even more possible than it was in the past—which is both good and bad. It means that it’s easier than ever to self-publish but also that bad books can flood the market.
I really wanted creative control, and the direct financial rewards. I know friends who have traditionally published and they will all do a ton of work the month before and the month after their book is released. If I’m going to do all of that work anyway, I might as well have the creative control.
What aspects did you do yourself vs. hire out to someone else?
I hired an illustrator, Lucy Smith, via a Facebook group of indie authors for children’s books. Her interpretation of my story really opened my eyes to a whole new level that I had not intended. The bereavement aspect really spoke to her and it reminded me why beta readers are so important for providing feedback.
How much did it cost to produce your book?
It depends on how you look at it because a lot of my costs were start-up costs for the first book. The illustrations cost the most (I’m paying her a flat rate with no royalties). I paid someone to do my website, and I purchased ISBNs, etc., For a 32-page illustrated book, it’ll cost between $6k-$7k if done properly.
I saw a deal on Bowker for 100-pack of ISBNs for the cost of a 10-pack, so I actually saved some money there.
What surprised you the most about the self-publishing process?
The length of time. Initially, I wanted the book out by Christmas but I didn’t find Lucy until July (I had been searching since February 2017). The level of detail and skill needed to create the illustrations takes a long time and I’d rather not rush anything.
What advice would you give someone who is interested in self-publishing?
You have to decide what your strengths are, what are your skills, and where you want to spend your money. I always feel like I should at least try to figure things out on my own.
First and foremost, join a Facebook group because any question you have has already been asked by someone else. Read 5-6 marketing books—I recommend Martin Crosbie’s book.
Definitely team up with another author to do a dual book launch or book signing event so you have a larger crowd.
You’ll want a timeline to keep things moving forward and most importantly, it’s crucial to build a marketing balloon before you publish.
What do you think worked well?
My launch team is working out really well. I put out a call for people interested in reviewing the PDF version of the book in exchange for being a member of my launch team and the group now has 186 members.
Had I not joined a lot of Facebook groups and done research, I totally would’ve launched without a marketing plan and would’ve missed out on a ton of momentum.
I submitted the book cover to a contest by KidsShelf Books and we actually won! It’s a nice shiny badge to put on the cover that adds a bit of credibility and it was something for me to do while I was waiting for the rest of the illustrations.
I can also recommend the Curiouser Author Network, which is a brilliant group of indie authors. They gave me great ideas for the book launch teams.
It also took me a week to figure out Canva but it was worth it.
Julia Inserro is a mom of three littles, living abroad with her husband and a handful of cats. She is a writer, reader, photographer, and explorer. She is the author of Nonni’s Moon, her first children’s book, set to release in July 2018. Julia finds that life is a series of wanderings and wonderings and enjoys sharing her musings with the world. You can find her at juliainserro.com
Erin and I first connected when we were both live with our Kickstarter campaigns. (You can see hers here.) Activities during a crowdfunding campaign involve reaching out to strangers and supporting one another on the platform, and I absolutely loved what Erin was doing with Behowl the Moon.
UPDATE: Erin has launched another Kickstarter campaign for her second book, The Wild Waves Whist that is live now until May 19, 2018 so be sure to back it!
I mean, how many Shakespeare board books for babies are out there?
What I loved about what she was doing was that it wasn’t really for the babies. I mean, it was a book for babies, but the book was just as much designed for the parent reader. Believe me, no baby is going to appreciate that artwork like an adult.
As Erin is a Kickstarter creator of a children’s illustrated board book and a self-published author; this interview covered a lot of topics.
You have experience with traditional publishers so why did you go the self-publishing route?
I thought I had a fairly strong idea, but there was no reason I could think of that a traditional publisher would want me to do that idea.
This was something I wanted for myself, and I knew other people like me would want for themselves, but I didn’t know if it was a big enough market segment for a traditional publisher to take a risk on it.
Board books are expensive [to produce] and almost nobody debuts with a board book.
For me, I would pay $25 for a board book instead of $3 for something I really wanted, and I knew that if other people were willing to do the same, then we could do it ourselves.
| Going through the crowdfunding process really made me feel like the entire project was vetted. |
I have an extensive background in traditional publishing and I’ve done a lot on the editorial side. I knew how it was done distribution-wise and the technical details regarding the printing, so I wasn’t intimidated by the prospect of doing it myself.
Self-publishing meant that I got to pick everything—the illustrator, the title, the content. I wanted to have creative control for my project.
Self-publishing was a really empowering option.
Why did you decide to crowdfund your book?
Going through the crowdfunding process really made me feel like the entire project was vetted. If I hadn’t done the crowdfunding, I’m not sure I would’ve had the confidence to push it so far.
We had 384 backers for the project so we weren’t trying to please the entirety of the world. I’m a bit of a perfectionist, and I know my audience is extremely sophisticated and has high standards for quality and production.
My illustrator was fabulous. And I also worked with a very talented professional book designer. I understand the need for getting the technical details right, but I don’t know how to make the book spine a certain width or how to reverse a template—she does.
Someone who is creative but not experienced in this industry wouldn’t know how to make my vision come to life like she did.
No one really wants to compromise on their project except in areas where you don’t know any better.
I really liked Kickstarter’s all-or-nothing approach because I wouldn’t be able to produce the book with only $5K. We truly needed to reach 100% funding to put this book together.
How much work did you do before the campaign?
Before the campaign, I did a ton of research on where to find potential backers.
I tried to think of every possible audience who might be interested in this book and how I was going to talk with them (Marketing 101, right?).
Then, I started finding where Shakespeare people were, parents, board book people, theatre people, kids who are into theatre, and then all of the blogs, websites, friends, etc. and made massive lists of every possible angle.
During the Kickstarter campaign itself, I tried reaching out to multiple groups each day so I wasn’t exhausting one interest demographic, but I was connecting with new people every day.
Did you do it yourself or did you have a team of people helping you?
I had a few wonderful friends and relatives who were interested in the project who helped me out sharing and looking for places to share.
Shakespeare Geek, who has been blogging since the dawn of blogs, picked up my campaign from Reddit, and he was my first stranger cheerleader.
It’s so incredibly compelling when someone else in the void of the internet likes your idea and has the authority of a background in your topic.
Neil Gaiman tweeted about the book and then did it again as the campaign was closing. I really admire him as an artist, and it was extremely exciting to see that momentum build.
At the same time, I was like, “Yeah, I need 100 more backers or all of this is for naught.”
You reached 100% with a few days to go in your campaign. Were you sweating it out?
Toward the end of the Kickstarter campaign, I’m thinking, “I have already said everything I can think of to say to everyone I can think of who might be interested. I have run out of ideas. What’s going to happen here?”
You get hung up at 92% for a few days, and it’s stressful.
How did you set your different reward tiers?
Crowdfunding campaigns are incredibly short, and there are only so many people who are going to back you at the higher reward levels in the short amount of time you have. It’s simply the nature of crowdfunding. You’re only going to reach so many people at those upper levels in the time you have.
People who really love you or your project may support you at the higher levels, but it has to be viable with a reasonable number of supporters at not too high a contribution point.
What’s your advice for authors with illustrations?
If you’re selling a print to go along with your book, you’re selling either a souvenir of the campaign, in which case they have to really like the campaign; or a physical piece of artwork, in which case they have to really love that piece of art; or a way for them to support your campaign, in which the actual piece of artwork doesn’t matter at all.
It’s hard to know what motivates people to choose a print, so you have to cover all those possibilities when you’re making your decisions about production and shipping.
Some people will want to buy the print, and some people will want to support the campaign at a higher level.
| Too many options weaken your entire campaign. |
Kickstarter always gives you the option to donate to the campaign without any rewards. But too many reward options weaken your entire campaign. For me personally, I like the stuff, so I designed my rewards based on stuff that I like.
The artwork is beautiful and calls to mind a fairly beloved play, and the artwork was one of the main items I was trying to fund, so postcards and prints turned out to be the most practical and transportable with the highest added value.
The success of the campaign filled me with all of this gratitude, and I wanted to send everyone everything related to the campaign. But you also have to keep an eye on costs, and postage is one that will add up fast.
I had one quarter of the artwork paid on spec (by me) for the campaign, and we did the rest of the artwork as soon as it funded. I was seven months pregnant, so I needed to get that book off to press!
We finished in November 2016 and went to press December 12, 2016. My daughter was born two days later. I was approving final carton markings in the hospital! But then I had a couple of months where the book didn’t really need anything from me.
What’s next? Can readers expect another Behowl the Moon anytime soon?
Yes! I just sent out a survey to my backers to see if they would be interested in a second one, and the response was so positive and gratifying.
I have a new project percolating along now. I’m hoping to announce some details soon, and if anyone is interested they can find out about it from my mailing list: http://drivelanddrool.com/contact.
What would you say to someone who wants to farm out their publishing or crowdfunding campaign to someone else?
The misery of rewriting is the author’s alone, and I think that applies to crowdfunding too. If you try to outsource it, it’ll end up “okay” and okay isn’t good enough.
You have to own the entire process, and if you want the victory, you have to go through the slog.
Not that the slog guarantees victory…
But I love seeing the content that is out here that wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for crowdfunding. It really does democratize so much.
Erin Nelsen Parekh is an editor, writer, and copywriter with experience in book and magazine publishing, both business to business and consumer-facing. She has always loved kids and kids’ books, and now that she is a parent herself, she finds it particularly fun to explore children’s literature with a tiny critic in her lap.
There are tons of self-publishing tools out there and with the proliferation of Word and InDesign templates, writers have a myriad of options to choose from when it comes to interior typesetting their paperback.
Templates are great for saving time and energy on the big things like headings, margins, and gutter widths, but you still need to do the fine tuning before you hit publish.
As a self-publisher, it is your responsibility to make sure that your book looks and feels like a traditionally published book. Yes, I’m putting that on you, not on the template.
The template can’t tell you when there is a widow/orphan even if you check that box in Word (don’t check that box, uncheck it right now).
I’ve seen both small and large mistakes happen with authors who didn’t manually adjust anything after plunking their text into the template. Don’t be that person.
I get it. You’re fatigued and you think the template will take care of everything, but it doesn’t. It can’t.
Remember to always think like a reader and don’t settle for anything less than your best. Strangers and friends will be reading your book. You want to impress them. Your template doesn’t care as much as you do about how your book looks on the inside. Don’t give into your fatigue and do the necessary fine tuning.
If you are too tired to care, hire an extra set of eyes to help you out.
Justified text formatting results in really weird spacing between words to make up for the justified text.
Ok, that is an exaggeration above that I created manually but I have seen this in so many self-published books. Whenever I see this, I know that someone wasn’t experienced enough (or too tired/lazy) to go back and fix it.
Not a good look. Tsk, tsk.
You can correct this funky text justification manually by heading to the line(s) below wherever you see this bizarre spacing taking place and add in a hyphen to one or more of the words in those lines.
Try it out and watch your spacing adjust like magic. Voila!
It’s a bit of an art form to find the right word to hyphenate that adjusts your spacing.
Whatever you do, only hyphenate where it makes sense for the reader (e.g., “be-tween” not “betw-een”).
When you’re first starting out, this will take some experimentation to find out where it makes sense to add a hyphen so as not to confuse your reader.
Go through your entire document starting at the beginning and work progressively through your document from start to finish. Eliminate all of these overly stretched spaces between justified text.
As a reader, I want a seamless reading experience and too much white space between the words in a sentence is annoying, not helpful.
Not controlling for orphans/widows.
I will admit, there was a point in Knocked Up Abroad Again (aff link) where I gave up adjusting for every single orphan and widow.
I did my best to take care of the really obvious/annoying ones but I let a few slide because it seemed that no matter how I adjusted my spacing, they remained.
You may find that you need to delete entire sentences to accommodate widow/orphan control and this can start to mess with your story. Again, typesetting is an art form.
Being able to keep all of the content and have it properly spaced—the lines and the spaces between the letters—to provide a seamless reading experience is why typesetters can charge what they do for their services.
I recently read a traditionally published novel that did zero widow/orphan control and it really bothered me. At least make an effort.
Templates cannot control for widows and orphans even if you check the “Widow/orphan control” setting on Word (don’t do that, by the way).
You need to go back and take care of widows and orphans by adding/removing words from a sentence or changing the letter spacing/kerning.
Again, work progressively through your manuscript from start to finish or all of your hard work will be erased as soon as you make any change whatsoever. Fun, right?
Headers on pages with no content or headers on title pages.
ACK! This one is easy to miss for many beginning authors because they simply don’t know how to remove headers. This is one of the main dangers of using a template.
If you don’t understand how the template was created, you can’t edit the template accordingly and you’re left with headers standing proudly at the top of blank pages.
Blank pages should be blank.
Typesetting in Word is tricky because it’s not a software that is designed for typesetting. You have to beat it into submission to make it do what you want, but you can do it.
When creating headers in Word for your author’s name and book title/chapter title on each page, you need to use your Word Sections wisely.
Create a new section and check off the boxes as such:
So, that’s really it.
Templates can result in a few obstacles that you can easily sidestep if you know what you’re looking for.
Templates are great tools for saving time and providing the consistency that readers expect in their formatting, but it’s still up to you to be sure your book looks and feels the way you want.
If you want to get extra nerdy, which I always recommend, here are some additional articles to get you typesetting like a pro.
If you haven’t grabbed it yet, be sure to grab my FREE video training on designing a beautiful book, inside and out where I go over interior formatting in more detail. –>
If you’re looking to hire a fresh pair of eyes (mine) to review your manuscript before you hit PUBLISH, and aren’t afraid of keep-it-real feedback, then send me an email. I’m happy to help you avoid making unnecessary mistakes.
Why did you select Kickstarter over IndieGoGo or another crowdfunding platform?
The main reason I chose Kickstarter was because it was the platform most other authors in my Facebook groups used and were using. It was the one I could get the most advice about from others!
What types of “behind-the-scenes” work did you do that you think contributed most to your success?
As stated above, research, research research! I spoke with other authors, reading about Kickstarter and crowdfunding. Then in December, came the marketing.
Being a teacher, I literally knew nothing about marketing, so once again, I enlisted the help of other authors for ideas. I had magnets made and a press release and took them around town, dropping them off at local coffee shops and stores.
I called and visited numerous dentist offices. I called and emailed local TV and newspaper outlets and told them about my project and scored two newspaper stories and two TV interviews.
I researched and emailed parenting bloggers asking for support. I joined teacher and parenting groups on Facebook. I contacted local libraries, schools and just started passing out my magnets to anyone and everyone!
I had to think about the rewards, shipping costs and make a video (which my colleague Jim made for me). I also started my author Facebook, Instagram and websites and started building support for those as soon as I could.
It sounds like you reached out to tons of people. How many people do you think you’ve emailed during the campaign?
Oh gosh! Hundreds! Family, friends, my book club, my church, my school I teach at, newspapers, TV stations, bloggers, other authors, libraries, schools, dentist offices, the MN Dental Foundation (who I hope to donate books to)…I’m sure I’m forgetting some!
How did you get your local TV coverage? Did you have that connection before you launched?
Nope! I just prepared and sent an email about my journey from teacher to author and they contacted me about doing a segment!
What has been the most surprising thing about your Kickstarter campaign? What did you not expect to happen that has happened?
So many people have helped me. I shouldn’t be surprised, but I am just so grateful!
From my friend, Malina, who gave me the idea to choose a kangaroo for my main character, to my friend Jen who put me in contact with someone to help create the bookmarks I plan to give all backers. The ladies in my Bible study who have prayed for me and supported me through this entire thing to my friend and colleague Jim who created the video for my campaign.
From people like you and other authors (especially Diane Alber) who have given me so much great advice and support to my friends (old and new) who have championed for me this whole time.
My family (parents, sisters and my extended family in WI, TX and CA) has been especially supportive—every time I make a new post on my author page, they are right there sharing it and supporting me.
My #1 fan and cheerleader has been my husband Will. He has supported me every step of the way—I definitely couldn’t have done any of this without his unconditional support and love.
Have you had to change your strategy mid-campaign? If so, why?
Yes! I was surprised and excited AND grateful when I found out that we made our goal about 9 days into the campaign! So, I then had to start thinking about stretch goals.
Once again, I had to research, talk to my author friends and do a lot of thinking about how to go about that. I really wanted to be able to donate books to schools and also to the MN Dental Foundation and since I have over two weeks left of my campaign, I’m hoping to keep the momentum going to be able to do that.
What advice would you give a fellow author who is looking to crowdfund their book?
Reach out and talk to people! Ask questions. Start researching and building up support for your book a couple of months before you launch.
I know you’re still in the midst of your campaign but would you pursue crowdfunding again or recommend it for other authors like yourself? If so (or not) why?
Yes! It’s been so fun! I’ve loved every minute. The amount of support I’ve had has been overwhelming and exciting.
I am so grateful to have had this experience. I have learned so much, made so many new friends and have had so many new experiences.
In this interview, I sat down and chatted with Kiran Prasad, author ofA Mindful Move: Feel at home again, to pick her brain on what she loved and would recommend to anyone thinking about self-publishing.
Why did you decide to self-publish your book?
I tried to go the traditional publishing route and got nowhere with it. I spent a lot of time researching how to do it and sent off book proposals only to receive one rejection after another. I was lucky to get any response at all. Felt a bit like applying for jobs in a tough economy!
It seems that these days it is not enough to write a good book, you need a social media following of thousands before you can get noticed by traditional publishers.
Publishing is essentially a business and they need to be sure your book will sell well.
In the end, I was glad I self-published because I got to have autonomy over the entire process.
What aspects of the publishing process did you do yourself and what did you hire out?
Being an English Literature major and teacher, I value quality writing, therefore, I paid for professional editing. I also paid for a cover design because I know how important a polished look is to selling a book.
I set up my own website and social media following on my own after attending a writing workshop, reading books, and watching video tutorials.
I found it tough to justify spending much money upfront on my book not knowing if I would get a return on my investment.
Since we’re talking about investment, how much did your book cost to produce?
Most of my cost was for professional editing. But the total cost for editing, proofreading and cover design was around $3,000 dollars.
We all know that royalties won’t pay the bills but what types of things have happened after you published your book that surprised you?
At a webinar that I attended, we were advised to think of our book as a glorified business card. Really, I haven’t done much marketing of the book since it’s publication but I’ve still had a lot of people, like you, contacting me about it.
I’ve been on a few podcasts, blog interviews, and a New York Times journalist contacted me to write a column about mindfulness and moving. I’ve also been contacted by a women of color empowerment workgroup to give a 60-minute workshop and potentially give a talk at a university too.
None of those things would’ve happened if I hadn’t published my book.
What surprised you about the self-publishing process?
I was surprised how long the cover design ended up taking me and how the cost of professional editing could be variable as I went through the different stages of editing.
A pleasant surprise was how quickly my book went live on Amazon Kindle! It was the most incredible feeling to see my book up there for the world to purchase!
What advice would you give someone thinking about self-publishing?
Research the process before jumping in so you know what you’re getting into. It can become overwhelming to learn and do at the same time.
Build a following before you publish so that you’re not tackling the marketing aspect at the end.
Research who the leaders are in your subject area and reach out to them for connections. I sent a free copy of my book to Naomi Hattaway, the community leader of I am a Triangle, and she’s been a great help.
I also recommend joining the Alliance of Independent Authors. You can join before you are self-published and put the member badge on your website that lets your readers know that you’re a professional.
I suggest following Joanna Penn at The Creative Penn. She has a ton of great advice, podcasts, tutorials, and e-books that really helped me while I was researching everything.
You need to set a deadline and hold yourself to it. Make it public if you need to. I posted to my Facebook page that I would release my book on my birthday and I hadn’t even started the process.
Without a deadline and someone holding you accountable, it’s easy to just keep on writing and writing.
What’s next for you, Kiran?
I’m going to keep moving forward and publicly announce that my next book will be released on my birthday in 2019. I have so much to say about my plant-based diet and how it has truly changed my life but more on that to come soon!
I really want the books I write to make a difference in people’s lives.
I recently scrolled through the online bookstore of a independent small publisher (who shall remain nameless) and I was shocked. SHOCKED by the ugliness of the books they publish.
People do judge the quality of a book by its cover.
Indie authors, please hear me out, if you get a publishing “deal” with a small publisher and their existing collection of books looks hideous to you then do not publish with them.
Some might argue that cover design is a personal preference but there is also a collective agreement that ugly is…well…ugly. We all know it when we see it.
Entire marketing careers are based on knowing what is appealing to the eye and what isn’t.
As a self-publisher, you will have a much easier time marketing your book if it has an attractive cover.
You will have a much harder time marketing and selling your book if your cover is universally perceived as ugly. That’s a fact.
Seriously, this is your book and the culmination of all of your hard work. You do not want your book associated with other books featuring amateur book covers with clip art cut-and-paste graphics, do you?
Please, tell me you don’t want that for your book.
In an overwhelming market where readers have to make a split-second decision based on a thumbnail sized version of your cover, you need to be able to immediately grab their attention.
If your book cover is ugly, well, then they won’t give your book a second glance even if your story is heartfelt, important, and compelling.
I’m all for helping writers and children’s books make it onto bookshelves but there is a better way. The way forward is do design a beautiful book by understanding and avoiding all that makes a book ugly.
What makes a book ugly?
Bad cover design. I’m talking baaaaad, like it looks like it was designed in Word 2001 using clip art bad.
Questionable titles. Dogs Pray was one title that had me shaking my head.
Poor interior formatting. If I open up your book and your chapter titles are squished at the top, there’s zero usage of white space, and your margins are wacky, I’m probably not going to buy it.
You do not need to settle for poor quality cover art or text that appears in chunks on the page. Self-publishing on a budget does not mean we don’t care about the quality of our work.
If you don’t have funds to hire an interior formatter, then you need to learn the ropes yourself. In this free video tutorial, I go over interior typesetting and some basics about how to make a book look beautiful on the inside.
If you are not a graphic designer, please do not attempt to design your own book cover. I know that Canva has ebook templates and it is tempting to save some cash and do it yourself, but that’s a bad decision in the long-term.
Graphic designers can work with you to figure out the best look for the cover of your book.
This is your book, your baby, and you want to be proud to show it off and have people spend their hard-earned money on it, right?