A monthly column by Anthony D. Fredericks
Last month we addressed some of the positive aspects of self-publishing your children’s book (you can check it out here). This month’s column will examine some of the “negatives.” Let’s take a look.
Self-published books are taken less seriously. Unfortunately, self-published books are not taken as seriously as traditional ones. Far too many people in the book industry consider self-published books to be a low-grade option for authors who can’t get their books published the traditional way. There’s a lot of junk being written and self-published every day, and the more that gets published, the more people will discount your work as being legitimate and good. At times, this seems like an uphill battle, and it often is, simply due to the reality that self-publishing opens the doors for anybody and everybody with a computer to get their words into print.
Up-front costs. Depending on the type of book you want to produce, there are often some up-front costs to self-publishing. If you want a quality product you may need to hire your own editor, proofreader, book layout designer, illustrator, and/or cover designer. And, don’t forget publicity and promotion costs. These services can add up quickly! Also consider printing costs if you choose to produce physical books over (or in addition to) e-books. I have recently seen prices for these various services ranging from a low of $1,500 to a high of $15,300.
Low profits. Many authors have the mistaken idea that if they can “just get my book published” they’ll make trainloads of money, retire to some Caribbean resort, and bask in financial sunrises for the rest of their lives. Here are some hard facts:
- According to Bowker (September 2016), more than 700,000 e-books were self-published in the United States in the previous year. Those books, in addition to the 13 million previously published e-books still available, are competing for the reading public’s money.
- The average self-published author can expect to sell approximately fifty to one hundred copies of their book over the lifetime of the title. (Yes, you read those numbers correctly!) If your book is priced so that you make a profit of $2.00 on each one sold, that would give you a total overall profit of between $100.00 and $200.00.
Self-published children’s books are not purchased by librarians. One of the largest audiences for your children’s book is school and public librarians. These folks have considerable influence over whether a book will be successful. One of the critical criteria that helps librarians determine which books to buy is whether or not a book has garnered any awards, prizes, or commendations. There are many different awards that children’s books compete for every year. Librarians rely on these awards to determine the few books they will purchase each year from the more than six thousand titles released each year. Self-published books, since they do not come from well-established traditional publishers, are seldom (if ever) considered for these awards. Without the awards, librarians won’t purchase your book.
Publicity and promotion are time consuming. Take it from someone who has self-published a few titles, publicity and promotion will consume large quantities of your time (and a sizable chunk of your wallet), leaving you precious little time for writing new books. Getting some positive reviews of your self-published book from family and friends is relatively easy (particularly if your book is posted on Amazon.com). However, bringing that book to the attention of a buying public takes lots of time and dedication . . . and it’s a process that never stops. Publicity and promotion are 24/7 jobs requiring attention, devotion, and dedication over an extended period of time.
You can get scammed. There are a lot of folks out there who are well aware of how desperate some authors are to get their books into print. And they are willing to quickly separate you from your hard-earned money with all manner of promises and guarantees that are nothing more than smoke and mirrors. Be careful . . . be very careful about who you enlist to assist with the self-publishing process.
NEXT MONTH: This column changes its name and expands its scope.
Tony is an award-winning writer of more than 50 children’s books, including the 2018 CBC/NSTA Outstanding Science Trade Book Tall Tall Tree (https://amzn.to/2JCeMJZ). He is also the author of the e-book Writing Children’s Books: 701 Creative Prompts for Stories Kids Will Love (https://amzn.to/2FMITxt) [“. . . one of the best guides that I have found with prompts for creative children’s book ideas.” – Amazon 5-star review].