I've spent a lot of my adult life working in the children's book field, but as has become pretty obvious, the traditional publishing industry has gotten harder and harder to break into. Publishers have gotten much more particular about what they publish, and more often than not, that doesn’t include taking risks on new and unknown authors or books and projects that fall outside the norm. Apart from independents and imprints who are able to publish more literary works, traditional publishing has become increasingly commercially driven. In response, more and more authors have gotten creative in sidestepping this issue to publish projects that they believe in. Laura Numeroff, author of the Give a Mouse a Cookie books has a Kickstarter project going on right now at https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/cleverkick/laura-numeroffs-work-for-biscuits-series?ref=thanks to fund a series of books about service dogs, which I hope that some of you will help support..
While self-publishing is not for everyone, with new technologies and resources it is a wonderful option for those who are tired of closed doors or whose books have gone out of print. Self publishing offers greater creative control over your book.You find and choose the illustrator. You create and work with the design, format, and look of the book. You also determine how and where you want it printed based on quality, cost, and distribution plan (print on demand or keeping them in stock).
Related to creative control is maintenance of copyright. Self-publishing authors and illustrators maintain the copyright of their works. This allows for greater flexibility when publishing, selling, and reprinting books. Authors and illustrators can also regain the rights to out of print works and then self publish them keeping all or a majority of the profits. This is particularly true for sales of books through book fairs, school visits, and book signings. Online retailers will take a portion of the sale, but this would be true for a traditionally published book as well and does not represent an additional cost to self publishers.
There are lot of options within each step to publication. For example, funding can come from your own pocket or you can crowdsource the funding. If you don’t feel confident marketing or creating an author website there are services available that can help you along or take over that step of the process.
With a lack of diversity in children’s publishing, both in stories and within authors and illustrators, and with resistance from the traditional publishing industry to take chances on diverse authors and stories, self publishing is increasingly more important for getting these authors published. It can fill the demand for diversity by getting those books and authors into kids’ hands even when big publishing houses won’t. Stories with smaller audiences can also more easily target and reach specific audiences without the pressure of needing to appeal to a best seller list. Once you’ve self published it’s possible that you or your book will be picked up by a traditional publisher. It’s also possible to keep trying to publish through traditional channels while self publishing other books. A well made self published book won’t ruin your credibility and, if you are successful enough, might even make you more attractive to publishers.
Of course self publishing comes with its own downsides and is not an excuse for bad writing, poor design, and generally bad quality (which has happened all too frequently, giving self publishing a bad rep). There isn’t a marketing, design, or editorial team behind you taking on the bulk of the work. Authors and illustrators need to call on experts in these fields to ensure top quality in their work as they would at a traditional publishing house. But weighed against the traditional publishing industry and all the positives, self publishing is a viable and possibly better route to getting your book out there.
After attending a conference on diversity last year, I became really excited about self publishing and its many possibilities. So one of the reasons that I am writing this is to announce, drum roll please, we are bringing a wonderful new course to the Academy right here. Jed Alexander, who successfully self published an exquisite picture book with Kickstarter crowdfunding, raised more than his goal and received all sorts of accolades before it was picked up by an independent press. Together we brainstormed and worked hard to come up with something new and exciting for anyone interested in this needed field or who might be interested in starting their own press. And just to give you a taste of what an indie published book can look like, here’s a beautifully created book by former student Dianne Burch who will be sharing her experiences in the course. You can find out more about her and her partner's press here http://worldofpawsabilities.com/
With people like SCBWI co-founder Steve Mooser self-publishing (click here to see his fun book) and many other traditionally published folks embracing the DIY ethos of self or indie publishing, I believe that we are witnessing a new self publishing paradigm that has the potential to do a ton of good and shake up the industry. To which I say, about time!
Mira Reisberg is the Director of the Children's Book Academy and has worn many hats in the industry, helping many people get traditionally published. She is really excited about this new adventure helping authors and illustrators get more wonderfully crafted books into children's hands through self-publishing or becoming an indie publisher.
Mondays with Mandy or Mira consists of Mandy Yates and Mira Reisberg. Mira is the founder of the Children's Book Academy and was so impressed with Mandy when she was a student in one of the interactive courses, that she invited Mandy to share the blog. Mandy has as an MFA in creative writing from Spalding University and has been published multiple times in Highlights Magazine. We hope you enjoy and find our offerings helpful.
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