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:
Not only does he successfully crowdfund books on Kickstarter but he also creates unique ceramic pieces that he sells on calamityware.com.
After browsing through only a few of his projects, you’ll find that he is consistent, his style is distinct, and his work is high-quality. You’ll need those qualities as well if you want to replicate his success.
How I Discovered Don’s Work
Kickstarter has a great social feature that allows backers to follow one another. Every time someone backs a project, a notification email is sent out to all of their followers alerting them to the new project. This is a great benefit to Kickstarter and generates a community built on common interests and trust.
However, none of my friend’s had backed Don’s latest project—I actually saw his campaign shared on Facebook.
I watched the 1-minute video and was immediately charmed by the campaign’s goal.
Don’s content was authentic, the video was on point, and everything resonated with me as a reader. Home run.
Let’s dig deeper into Don’s successful campaign.
Campaign title: Stay Home: The Ugly Truth About Space Travel
Funding goal: $2,500
Total raised: $21,150 (846%)
Total backers: 843
Don Moyer delivers a hilarious, snappy, and succinct 1-minute pitch in his campaign video about why it’s much better to stay home than suit up and explore the stars.
Coupled with his unique illustrations featuring aliens and his robot and alien themed porcelain creations at Calamityware.com, the reader can easily find a lot to pair with this fun book.
Don kept it really simple by focusing on the book with the highest level reward being $100 for original artwork plus four signed copies of the book.
He charged $11 for international shipping, which I thought was cheap. I normally see $15 for international shipping rates on Kickstarter.
One signed copy of the book was $13—$2 less than retail price.
Two signed copies of the book—$22
Four signed copies of the book—$42
Original artwork + four copies of the book (limited to 25)—$100
Communication with Backers
Let’s take a look at the one email I received from Don during the campaign. Note how his message is in keeping with his personality and the book’s tone which keeps things light, entertaining, and informative.
I’m so happy you’re supporting Stay Home, my latest Kickstarter project. These books tell the truth about the perils and inconveniences of space travel and may make you laugh.
If you know anyone who needs encouragement to stay home, be sure to tell them about this project before it closes tonight, November 22.
Watch for my updates as the project advances. I’ll try to keep you up to date without being an email pest. The latest update is here. https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/159974695/stay-home-book-reveals-the-ugly-truth-about-space/posts/2043134
Thanks for your amazing support.
**** PS: Breaking news: Cheese factory explosion. De Brie everywhere.
**** PPS: Left-overs from my previous Kickstarter projects are available at www.calamityware.com, while supplies last. A great place to find some unusual gifts, including the world’s most delightful shower curtain.”
Don’s humorous personality is really what makes his video fun to watch but then his call to action in his email reinforced my desire to share.
In fact, I did share it on my Facebook page because I sincerely wanted to share this project with my friends. I knew they would like it too.
Don is back at it with another Kickstarter project that currently has reached $70k as of this writing and has two more weeks to go before it closes.
He’s projected to reach 4878% of his goal.
How does he do it?
Don is a Kickstarter veteran and has created 32 projects. Not only is he a super creator but he is also a super backer.
If you are going to venture into the world of crowdfunding, you need to understand that becoming a backer of other people’s projects is vitally important.
Check out Don’s stats: he has backed 152 projects, created 32, and commented 292 times on Kickstarter.
He’s an active member of the Kickstarter community in both creating and supporting other creators.
Don told me,
“I’m always deeply suspicious of people who launch a project when they have never supported even one. Ridiculous.”
You heard it directly from the pro, folks, go back a few campaigns before you launch your project.
Serial backers who support random campaigns on the platform look at creator’s profiles to assess reliability.
You don’t have to create 32 projects like Don, but you will need to support at least one project before you launch your own.
What happens when you support other people’s crowdfunding projects
You will learn a lot when you support other people’s crowdfunding projects. I have had many email communications with fellow backers and they were fonts of knowledge and tips.
After backing someone’s project, email them with a simple request to chat if they have a moment. Ask them if they can share any lessons learned with you or give you any advice. You’ll learn so much from them and who knows? Maybe, just maybe, they’ll support you when you launch your campaign.
Back to Don’s success…
How can we find success on Kickstarter?
No doubt, Don’s past projects have garnered quite the devoted following. But look at his funding targets—they are insanely reasonable.
Across his 32 projects, his funding goals range from $2500-$5000 and he exceeds them by tens of thousands of dollars.
Setting a low funding target does a few things:
Guarantees funding which, in turn, guarantees happy backers. Nobody wants to back a project that looks like it has zero chance of reaching their funding goal.
Funding XXX% over your goal means that your campaign is WILDLY popular and you’ll hit the top posts on the Kickstarter homepage. More eyes will see your campaign, see how many people are on board, and will throw in their support as well. Exceeding your target builds social capital. Everyone wants to be a part of the latest cool thing.
Here’s a screenshot of the Most Popular projects on Kickstarter under Art
As a backer, I’m going to check out the one that’s 1,034% funded first because that one is clearly the most popular and I want to find out why.
Don is consistent in delivering high-quality products that are unique, interesting, and best of all, downright fun.
His messaging is consistent throughout everything he does—his campaign page, reward descriptions, communication with backers, and his public updates.
Even better was his book, you know, the thing I wanted from the beginning, had the same style and voice as his campaign.
Anyone who can insert humor into the copyright page is someone I want to continue to support.
Don used Fulfillrite based in NJ, USA—a third-party service to fulfill his orders—and everything was seamless. I completed a quick survey and my book arrived in the mail a few weeks later (most likely due to my international address).
What can you learn from Don’s success?
Be yourself. Be quirky. Be weird.
Put out high-quality stuff, set small goals, fulfill your projects consistently, and be yourself in all of your communications with your backers.
If you have a project with a big funding goal, think about what you can do to break it down into pieces.
Don has amassed a huge collection of porcelain creations that are part of his Calamity Ware store, but he didn’t get there by asking for $100k in funding.
He raised funds for each mug, plate, platter, and book, and delivered them one at a time building success upon past success.
Engage in the community
Back other projects, communicate with fellow backers, and comment regularly so you build a presence.
You’ll get the same advice from the Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter social media wizards—you have to be a genuine part of the community to benefit from it.
Don’t reinvent the wheel
Don has successfully created a store full of related items and once he figured out the format that connected with his audience, he repeated the process time and time again.
Do loads of research before you start and evaluate what works and what doesn’t work from other creators.
Want more crowdfunding help for your book?
Feel free to send me an email for a free 20-minute chat where we can figure out what works best for you.
No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.
For permission, contact the author.
If you are self-publishing an anthology or collection of stories
If you are working collaboratively with other writers, as I did, you need to collect their permission for you to publish their words.
I recommend doing this in a very formal way so there is no confusion about the exchange and so that they understand they cannot republish the same work they submitted to you for publication. (It happens, trust me.)
Many anthologies return all copyright back to the contributors 12 months post-publication but this is not mandatory. It’s a nice thing to do, though, and it’s good marketing for the anthology.
If you want to download my template contract I created for my contributors in the Knocked Up Abroad series, then fill out the form below and I’ll send it over to you.
Please send me your contributor template
It’s on the way! Check the Promotions tab for my email.
Okay, here’s where things are less straightforward.
You can work with an illustrator in multiple ways. It totally depends on what the illustrator wants and what you can comfortably agree to.
In this scenario, you pay the illustrator a set fee for their work ($XX/image), and they sign over the copyright to you so you can use their work in your book.
You should still credit your illustrator on the front cover of your book. Some authors don’t think they need to do this since they hired someone for the illustrations, but come on, wouldn’t you want credit for the work you’ve written? Yeah…credit your illustrator. Don’t be a jerk.
In this scenario, the illustrator grants you their copyright so you can publish it. Depending on the illustrator, they may turn over all copyright exclusively to you as the author, or they may retain partial copyright so they can create and sell those same illustrations in various products like greeting cards, posters, etc., on their website.
Most often, when you hire an illustrator as a contractor, they do not receive royalties but that is not always the case.
Think strategically about what works best for you and your book. There are marketing opportunities to be had on both sides of the equation.
Illustrator receives royalties
It is possible to work collaboratively with an illustrator where they receive a percentage of the royalties generated from the book. Usually, this set-up is only done with large print runs by traditional publishers. As a self-publisher, your print runs will probably be much smaller and you’ll not find yourself in a royalty-sharing situation.
However, if your illustrator receive royalties, they will also maintain the copyright of their illustrations. You own the copyright of your text and they own the copyright of their work.
Again, not a common scenario for self-publishers, but it’s possible.
Hybrid of both
Your illustrator might propose a hybrid model that includes both payment (possibly reduced) for their illustrations and a percentage of the royalties. There might also be copyright negotiations to figure out.
If you each maintain your own copyright, you’ll file a copyright registration of the text (excluding illustration/images) and they will file a copyright of the illustrations/images (excluding the text) of the work.
Bim, bam, boom, $55 later and your work is legally protected.
What to do if you see copyright infringement?
If you see that someone is peddling your work as their own, email them or call them immediately and let them know that they are infringing on your copyright.
If you have your copyright registration certificate, you can hit them with that and threaten them with legal action. I guarantee, they’ll take down or stop whatever they are doing immediately.
Copyright isn’t a tricky legal matter requiring lawyers. You can file on your own with the Copyright Office and it’s very cheap to register your work even if you technically don’t need to file anything with anyone.
I advise that everyone file a copyright registration for your work so that you are legally recognized as the owner and creator of your work.
If working with an illustrator, determine what makes financial sense for you and your illustrator, give credit in the most public way to all members of the team, and you’ll have no issues finding an illustrator who would love to work with you.
Doers are people who get things done. We all know who they are.
They are the person who is always busy launching their next project, speaking at conferences, and is rarely sitting still…ever.
They are agents of action.
As a writer, there is a natural tendency to shy away from sharing our ideas with these productive, efficient people with the fear that they will steal and act on our novel ideas.
However, in doing so, you are cutting yourself off from their valuable resources, networks, and the potential for a positive collaboration with someone who can help you take your idea to the next level.
It’s okay to share
The truth is, other entrepreneurs aren’t looking to steal business ideas from their friends. Has it happened? Sure, but in most cases, the value of someone’s business reputation is worth more than taking a blog idea for a few clicks or a new product venture from a friend.
Doers are acutely aware of:
A) the level of work required to take an idea to market,
B) they are too busy working on their own ideas to steal anyone else’s projects and
C) they don’t have the amount of passion that you do for your idea to bring it to fruition.
Let’s be real: no amount of clicks or shares on a plagiarized article is enough to justify ruining my ethical and moral code—resulting in a blackballing from the writing community and damaging my reputation.
When I conducted outreach to fellow writers and described my idea for an anthology, I was initially cautious about someone stealing the idea for themselves.
After going through the self-publication process myself and I experienced the exhausting grunt work firsthand, I finally appreciated the monumental amount of effort required to transform an idea in my head into a physical book on a shelf.
Nobody was going to steal that idea and beat me to market. It is way too much work.
What you get from sharing your ideas
A positive result from both of my anthology projects with other writers was that I developed an extensive network of people with whom I share my ideas for articles.
We serve as sounding boards for one another and help problem solve, critique, and provide helpful ideas when someone hits a stumbling block.
5 Benefits from sharing your big ideas
Here are five benefits you’ll receive when you share your big ideas with people who get things done. Surround yourself with doers, build trust and rapport, and you’ll see the advantages of sharing your big ideas with a supportive network.
You’ll gain confidence and accountability. It is easy to hold onto an idea and not take the necessary next steps to bring your concept to completion. Those next steps are hard, but when you confide your big idea with a doer, they will give you the feedback necessary and resulting confidence to either change course or move forward.
They can help you troubleshoot obstacles—both known and unknown. There is a steep learning curve when you enter any field, and brainstorming with someone experienced in that field can help identify challenges that you may not know existed. They can also help you avoid common pitfalls.
They may know of other resources that can help you get to the finish line. Doers know other doers and tapping into their vast experience can help put you in contact with the right people to transform your project from “just a good idea” into a complete product.
An insider’s perspective is priceless. Some days you need a safe space to vent, and no person better understands what you are experiencing than someone who has walked the path before.
By having a sounding board, you can get experienced advice to see if your idea is possible before investing valuable resources. The expert opinion of someone who has been there and done that can help advise you on whether you can proceed with a green light or if you should pump the brakes.
You get out what you put in…maybe more
In summary, sharing your big ideas with people who get things done will benefit you tenfold. Don’t be afraid to give voice to your dreams and commit to taking them to the next level.
Share your ideas with a few friends, be prepared for honesty and hard work, and watch your dreams come to life.
Book blurbs are one of those things that many self-publishers don’t even realize are a thing because they are so fully integrated into the book reading process that we don’t notice them until they aren’t there.
Blurbs short testimonials of the book and they are featured on the front and back covers of books. Blurbs are what spur readers to buy your book.
A few days ago, I received this email from Createspace:
To better serve customers and improve the online buying experience, we will redirect customers who click on your CreateSpace eStore links to their corresponding detail pages on Amazon.com starting October 31, 2017.