Self-Publishing a Children’s Picture Book 20: Hardcovers and CreateSpace Publishers

Self-Publishing a Children’s Picture Book 20: Hardcovers and CreateSpace Publishers

People who purchase children’s picture books often want hardcover editions because they make nice gifts and keepsakes. And, let’s face it — kids don’t always handle books with care, so a hardcover book holds up better than a paperback.  We kept that fact in mind as we searched for a publishing company for our children’s picture book, “The Great PJ Elf Chase.” We decided not to choose a publishing company unless they offered a hardcover option.

CreateSpace is the publishing company we selected, and although they do offer a hardcover edition, it seems to be their best-kept secret. We found out through phone calls and a thorough investigation. The drawback is that only the author can order hardcover copies from CreateSpace. They don’t put the hardcover option on Amazon or in expanded distribution, as they do with paperbacks and kindle versions. Rumor has it that might change — I sure hope it does, because it would be much easier to have other sales options with our hardcover books. We’re holding out hope.

Since we have our own website, we were able to work around the issue. We just sell our hardcover books on our website. We also take them, along with paperbacks, to venues, such as school visits and trade shows.

We are happy with the quality of the hardcover book from CreateSpace. We put it up against several other traditionally-published children’s books, and it fares well. The book title and author’s name typically have to be printed on the binding of a book before it’s placed in a bookstore. CreateSpace does that for hardcover books, as you can see in this image.  They also issue an ISBN number.

Hardcover books are considerably expensive at CreateSpace compared to paperbacks. We had to pay a one-time setup fee of approximately $100 to have our book printed in hardcover version. We have a 40-page full color 8 x 10 inch book with 18 full illustrations and artwork on every page. Our paperback is shipped to our door for about $4.50, including shipping, but the hardcover version is about $13.50 with shipping.

All in all, we’re excited to see our book in print in hardcover!

Self-Publishing a Children’s Picture Book 19: Reflecting on Our First Christmas Selling Season

Self-Publishing a Children’s Picture Book 19: Reflecting on Our First Christmas Selling Season

Ahhhh….Christmas is over. We’ve taken a break from marketing our book, and it’s time to sit back and reflect on what we accomplished during the past couple months.

I’ll start by saying that our book wasn’t in print until the end of October, which resulted in a  late start for the 2013 Christmas selling season. This did limit our options. Nonetheless, we sold hundreds of books in that short time period — not bad for a couple of novices!

We started by going to a book show in Colorado. You can read about our experience in this blog post.

It is very exciting to walk into a bookstore and see The Great PJ Elf Chase on the shelf, as it is in this picture taken at “The Tattered Cover” bookstore in Denver.

cropped pj elf book on shelf at tattered cover (2)

Having our own website set up ahead of time was definitely a plus for sales. Not only could interested persons go to the website to buy the book, but they could also find more information about the authors and the process of self-publishing a children’s picture book. Many of the sales on our website came from family, friends and word of mouth. The support was overwhelming, and we are thankful. Our publisher, CreateSpace (CS), also sets up a web page for its authors, but since they don’t sell hardcover versions of books, we needed to focus our energy on our own website. TheGreatPJEfChase.com is the only place online where customers can buy a hardcover version of the book. We do all the packing, shipping and invoicing.

We sold a respectable amount of paperbacks on Amazon as well. It was exciting to see books being sold every day on Amazon; however, it was frustrating not knowing who bought them! The only information we received is whether the purchaser lived in the U.S., England or another country. Yes, we did get a handful of orders from other countries. The major advantage to selling on Amazon is that they do all the work — packing, mailing, receipts, and so on. We just go to our CS link to see how many books we’ve sold each day. The royalties are paid on a monthly basis.

We contacted book stores in Colorado, Utah and Nevada, and were pleased that our book landed on the shelves of ten stores. We are in the process of following up to see how well they fared. In some cases, we sold the books to the store owners outright. In others instances, we placed the books in the store on a consignment basis. Each venue had its own preference and guidelines. Although this wasn’t as profitable as other methods, we felt the bookstore exposure was an asset.

Our book was reviewed online a few times. You can read some of those reviews here. We also purchased a promotional spot on the LeRue Press radio show, “Book Hound,” in Reno, NV. For $35, we received 6 book “mentions” on air. Additionally, articles about our book appeared in a nationally-syndicated column and in two newspapers. The Great PJ Elf Chase will also be mentioned in our universities’ correspondence to their alumni members. We plan to expand our reach next season, as it’s great to get cheap or free advertisements!

The recurring theme of this self-publishing journey is that we learn something new every step of the way. Writing the book is only half the battle. Marketing is the other half. We are pleased with our results this year, but we’re going to use the knowledge we’ve gained to make bigger, better strides for Christmas, 2014.

If you are someone who now has The Great PJ Elf Chase: A Christmas Eve Tradition on your bookshelf, we appreciate your support.

 

 

Self-Publishing a Children’s Picture Book 18: Designing a Companion Coloring and Activity Book

Self-Publishing a Children’s Picture Book 18: Designing a Companion Coloring and Activity Book

Since we had a book show scheduled right after we received our paperback books – and our hardcovers weren’t yet ready – we decided that it would be smart to have a second product to sell. We thought “The Great PJ Elf Chase Coloring and Activity Book” might fit the bill, so we set out to design it.

Since they had published our picture book, CreateSpace was who we first approached to produce our coloring and activity book. They quoted us a price of thousands of dollars to produce the book; this was cost prohibitive for the amount of money we would be able to recoup.

We enlisted the help of a friend and talented graphic designer, Jessica Zeigler. She was able to take the black and white sketches of our illustrations and translate them into coloring pages. She also pulled out portions of certain illustrations and enlarged them. Using a local printer, we were able to get our coloring book production cost down to $1,000, from the initial concept to 250 books-in-hand.

When we designed our book cover, we were presented with two options. To save money, we decided to use the “discarded” option as the cover for our coloring book. We wanted it to be similar to the book, but distinguishable in some way.

We perused other coloring and activity books and most seemed to include activities such as word searches, mazes and word scrambles, so we took our cue from that. In addition to our 19 coloring pages, we designed 16 activities to include in our book. Pages such as “Help the Elf Escape the Maze,” “Draw a Picture of Your Favorite Christmas Decoration” and “Finish the Picture of Santa” added another dimension to our companion book.

If we print more coloring and activity books, we will make some adjustments, but all-in-all, we are happy with this addition to our products for “The Great PJ Elf Chase.”

 

 

Self-Publishing a Children’s Picture Book 17: Our First Book Show

Self-Publishing a Children’s Picture Book 17: Our First Book Show

We decided to participate in the “Colorado Country Christmas Gift Show” in Denver. Although the cost of renting a space was high, we were told that thousands of people visit the venue each year, so it seemed like a worthwhile endeavor. We hoped many of the customers would want to buy our book, “The Great PJ Elf Chase.”

Once again, we entered into a world of learning the do’s and don’ts of publishing and marketing. As my husband always says, “Keep it simple.” Wish I had put that into practice. Thinking back on how we decorated our space at first, we must’ve pictured ourselves in one of Macy’s store windows! We had a corner booth flanked by two tables. We put three risers on one table and two risers on the other. We bought the cutest elves we could find at Hobby Lobby. We brought a little lighted Christmas tree from home and had plenty of netting and décor to make our tables more attractive. We didn’t realize that all those adorable accoutrements would sabotage our purpose.

Our first clue that we had overdone the décor was when a lady walked up and asked how much the elves were. She didn’t realize we were selling books. Okay, then…the books have obviously gotten lost in the shuffle. Not good. Off came 75% of the decorations. A pair of elves and the Christmas tree – which we could actually have done without – were the only surviving decorations. We have a large banner on a stand that depicts the cover of our book. We displayed it behind the booth. In retrospect, this – and some sturdy books stands – was really all we needed.

We also quickly realized that we had boxed ourselves in – people couldn’t see us over the risers…and we couldn’t see them, so that was a definite detriment when trying to engage patrons. So, right in the middle of the show, we pulled off the top layer of risers. At least people could see us now. Or could they? We stood back to evaluate and realized that there was no need for any risers at all….so, you guessed it….off with the second layer. We were down to tables only, and it was much more inviting. They did look nice with the green table coverings and white skirts. All the netting was tossed as well. Clean and simple became our new mantra.

The exciting part of the event was witnessing the reaction of the children to our book. They delighted in trying to find the hidden elves. Not a child went by who didn’t want to stop and take a look. We sold lots of books, but we didn’t feel it justified or paid for the booth costs or the long days (10 hours on Friday and Saturday and 8 hours on Sunday).

It was also nice to interact with the customers and hear about their family traditions. They enjoyed the fact that two sisters had written about their own family tradition. We also had a book giveaway, so we were able to collect email addresses for our contact list.

Lessons learned: For future shows, we’ll choose ones that are one-to-two days in length – and don’t have an expensive booth charge. We will skip the cute decorations and concentrate on displaying books and doing author signings. We always told our students that you never stop learning….I guess we were right.

 

 

 

Self-Publishing a Children’s Book 16: Marketing

Self-Publishing a Children’s Book 16: Marketing

Now the hard work begins. Writing the book, designing the interior and cover…all of that was so much fun. But Marketing? If we don’t get ourselves up-to-date with the best practices, all of this has really been nothing more than a cute little project.

Our first step is to get our social media outlets onboard. You can now visit us at Facebook.com/TheGreatPJElfChase; Twitter.com/GreatPJElfChase; Pinterest.com/GreatPJElfChase; and Google+. Phew! This is a lot to keep up with and it’s tough to get the hang of what is too much or too little in the world of social media.

Our next step is to blanket our local areas. We’ve approached bookstores, toy stores, clothing stores, Christmas stores…you get the picture! We’ve had good luck getting our book into several stores already. We have decided not to worry about the percentage of profit we give up to have our book in those stores. The main thing is that this book is getting into the hands of readers.

The time, effort, and money we’ve given to our website has been completely worth it in our minds. This website really is our first point of contact for so many potential buyers of our story. If our website did not look professional, we probably would not get that initial meeting with the store owner. Thank you, Jessica Zeigler!

We’ve used the services of Vistaprint for business cards, large signs for shows, flyers, book bags, and stickers. They are reasonable and do really great work. They even sent us 100 free flyers when there was an error in something we purchased. We ordered bookmarks and Santa hats for all of our personal appearances and for our pre-orders. But not from Vistaprint. They do not sell bookmarks. We had to find a place online to order those.

We are scheduled to a be a vendor at the Colorado Country Christmas Gift Show. This is a huge event with an expected 25,000 attendees. You know we will blog about this in the very near future! If you are in Denver, come and see us at the Denver Mart, November 8-10th.

We have an exciting day planned on November 19th at a local school in Littleton, CO. We can’t wait to see all of the kids reading our new book!

We are off and running!