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.
2/2/2015 02:26:16 am
Oh fantastic. I'm definitely passing this on. Sometimes the only way people can get published in small countries like the one I'm in is through self-publishing. I know a few people who might be interested in this.
2/2/2015 10:12:55 am
Thank you Johnell, that would be wonderful!
2/2/2015 02:40:20 am
I'm currently enrolled in the CBA's Chapter Book Alchemist course, and getting a volume of valuable information from it. The courses Mira puts together are high value, high quality, and taught be people who really want to mentor new writers and help them produce their best work. This new class on self-publishing promises to be an eye opener for those who want to learn more about it.
2/2/2015 10:14:22 am
Heather, thank you for the awesome testimonial Yes this course is going to be super helpful and lots of fun! Am currently doing interviews with indie publishers and it's fascinating.
2/2/2015 02:55:47 am
Thank you, Mira! I agree. It's about time for great authors to polish and hone and get their stuff out there when it's ready. With all of the conglomerates narrowing the field, there are not as many options for new writers to get new ideas going, but it's great to know that there are more options.
Nice post. I too am currently enrolled in the awesome Chapter Book Alchemist class with Mira. Self-publishing is more of a challenge because you may have to outsoruce stuff - like the art or layout or other stuff you can't do yourself. But it is VERY hard to find agents & publishers when you're an unknown entity...
2/2/2015 10:30:27 am
Thank you Yvona. Yes we will be teaching folks how to find quality illustrators and designers and editors to make their books look and read beautifully.
2/2/2015 09:03:05 am
Thanks for sharing this information. I've often felt the stigma of self-publishing to be much too strong. Of course, there are examples of low-quality "vanity" published books, but there are also gems out there. In almost every other industry, entrepreneurship and a small-business model are admired and respected - and it seems a shame that self-publishing has not been given the same respect in this day and age. I love reading that well-known, successful, and talented authors and illustrators are seizing more control and setting an example for how high-quality self-published books can be. What a game-changer!
2/2/2015 10:34:29 am
Katey, what a lovely response. Yes we are witnessing a paradigm shift in response to how traditional publishing is responding to new authors and out of print books. It's fascinating and great to be part of a new wave of helping others make high-quality books through non-traditional means to get into kids hands. SCBWI now has an award for indie published books, which is great and will help bring respectability.
2/3/2015 09:11:55 pm
Very interesting course, Mira! If you're going to self-publish, you have to do it right! High quality is the key. I'm sure this class will fill up fast.
2/7/2015 10:18:10 pm
Thank you Angela. That's the goal of the course.
2/3/2015 11:32:37 pm
I'm curious about sources for editorial guidance that are available to self publishers.
2/7/2015 10:17:28 pm
We will have plenty of those :)
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We are so excited to be mixing things up at CBA, beginning with some delicious additions to the Blogfish. Meet our awesome bloggers!!
Here's our lineup:
1st Mondays begin with awesome multi-published former student Shirin Shamsi who will be focusing on Muslim and cultural kidlit.
2nd Mondays will feature super smart Melissa Stoller whose career is taking off with several new books.
3rd Mondays will feature Bryan Patrick Avery, published writer, man of mystery, and professional magician among other things.
4th Mondays will feature STEM, STEAM & SEL obsessed author Kourtney LaFavre sharing delightfully dorky, quirky, and fun info.
And 5th Mondays we'll be taking a break