As one of the top kidlit writing websites, one that appears first in numerous Google searches, with thousands of followers, thousands of daily hits…
…I’m here to tell you that this platform doesn’t necessarily yield book sales. It yields emails from writers asking how to self-publish.
Listen, I’m not bashing those who want to be their own children’s publisher. Everyone dreams of being an author, don’t they? There are some projects that are close to people’s hearts. Stories they want to share, to inspire others. And everyone has to start somewhere. A lot of people seem to start with me.
But why me? I have no experience in self-publishing. Zero. I don’t know the first thing about it and I’d be lost if I tried to do it myself!
Here are my top 5 reasons for choosing NOT to self-publish picture books:
- You prefer the professional backing of a traditional publisher, from production to distribution to promotion.
- You aren’t an illustrator. You want a publisher who can attract top-notch illustrative talent.
- You realize how difficult it is to sell a book to the public, to bookstores, to libraries, to schools…and could not do it alone.
- You welcome input from the creative team and find it invaluable for making your book the best it can possibly be.
- You prefer advances over expenses.
These are my personal reasons. Your mileage may vary, but I’m guessing that many traditionally-published authors feel similarly.
Here are my top 5 reasons to choose self-publishing:
- The story you want to tell—you MUST tell—isn’t commercial enough to secure a traditional publisher, or it is in an experimental or non-standard format.
- You prefer artistic autonomy.
- You have capital available to invest in quality contractors to help you with the entire process, from production to distribution to promotion.
- You have an established platform/audience via which to promote and sell the book.
- You enjoy taking risks. You thrive on it!
If you really want the low-down on self-publishing children’s books, Kidlit411 has put together a marvelous resource list. Also read Chuck Wendig (stop calling it “self-publishing” and get your boomcake on). Check out Will Terry and Dar Hosta, two successful independent author-illustrators.
Me, I’m probably the worst source of information on self-publishing. Unless you’re reading this post. Then I’m okay.
And maybe I’m a better source when it comes to giving advice to on-a-whim-don’t-wanna-do-this-for-a-living writers. Here’s a conversation I tend to have once a week:
“You know, I wrote a little story like Goodnight Moon last year. Now I need to find an agent, right?”
“Oh, that’s great, but I’m going to be completely and brutally honest with you here: it’s not something you’ll want to do unless your heart is set on it as a career.”
“Yes, really. It takes years to land an agent. And then, sometimes, years to find a publisher, if you even find one at all.”
“Well, I just wanted to have a hard copy for the kids. Maybe I should try Snapfish?”
“Yes, absolutely. Snapfish is wonderful.”
P.S. I also recommend Storybird, Bueller.