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Self-publishing a Children's book…It is not quite as easy as A… B…. C!

Well, I’ve done it! My first #childrensbook ‘Disgusting Justin’ is finally out there. A fabulously #funny #kidsbook about #friendship, #farts, and #fails. As I write this blog, I am happy as a pig in muck, grinning like a Cheshire cat or any other metaphor you might like to envisage!

However, behind the smiles, fist pumps and high fives (myself mainly!), there has been a lot of hard graft, knock backs and perseverance. Over the last few months, I have been the author, project manager, legal contract writer, HR (had to have a word with myself on numerous occasions for blatant procrastination!), marketing / IT team (built my own website – which I enjoyed about as much as an enema!), and Chief Problem Solver… Thankfully that is one of my strengths.

No one told me it was going to be such a rollercoaster of emotions, which include but are not limited to; joy, self-doubt, frustration, anger, a bit more frustration, excitement…. Quickly followed by more frustration and a pinch more self-doubt, ending up with euphoria and pride…. Until you realise that you now need to do the hard part…. Sell your book.

Here are a few #self-publishing #pitfalls, positives, and nuggets of advice to look out for if you are embarking on your journey as a budding #author:

1. Your treasured #manuscript…. Prepare to get it shredded!


You have worked hard on your #story, you have built up your character arc, their strengths and weaknesses and you have made it rhyme (in my case) … all in all you are feeling happy about the world as your manuscript is done…


No. Nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo! It’s not done. It is far from done – (Unless you really have aced it, then well done you and go get them tiger!). So, what next?


Well, you send it to a proper manuscript reader. When I say proper (I mean it in the Mancunian sense!) I mean someone who is not going to spare your feelings, but someone who is going to tell you that your baby is ugly… and why that first born is ugly… The good news is, unlike ugly babies… you can actually change your manuscript, once you have cried in the corner and licked your wounds for an appropriate time.


Turns out, my ugly baby didn’t rhyme after all. Its rhythm and meter were out. My character arc was not strong enough, his fears were not clear enough and he did not suffer enough to create the need for change. And…. The ending was a bit shit.


Many edits later, you can then feel happy about the world again as your baby is now a cute, bonnie bouncing … errrrrrm …. manuscript. Massive thanks to Leonie Tyle for her brutal honesty and thoughtful advice. I am very grateful indeed!


2. Finding the right #illustrator.


I spent many hours trawling through the internet looking at Illustrators. There were many choices from more economical graduate designers to top drawer #illustrators. You will know what and who you want when you see it, so take your time and research!

The problem is, once you start looking at the top drawer, it is very difficult not to let your imagine run wild. When you see how good someone is at there craft, you can visualise how they can bring you book to life. I was absolutely blown away by how good Lesley Vamos @stripeddesigns was. I knew she would cost more, but like everything in life, you get what you pay for. Not only did she bring the manuscript to life beautifully, capturing the character and his friends so perfectly, Lesley also explained the #publishing process, technical jargon and put up with a lot of stupid questions. A true professional. Thanks Lesley, I will be eternally grateful.


3. Your website. Build or buy!


It depends on your budget. I spent more in areas like #illustration so had less budget to spend on building websites. Therefore, I decided to build my own. Never will I ever take a marketing team for granted again! I cannot begin to tell you how much time flittered away as I disappeared down wonderful rabbit holes, which made me feel like I would have fitted in at the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party…. And nearly ended up with my PC being launched on multiple occasions! It was not the website platform’s fault…. In fact I would highly recommend Wix.com as it was very intuitive… but you can faff and tinker like only a faffytinkerpants would. If you have the technical skills, the patience then build. If you don’t… buy (if you have the budget to!).


4. Pulling your book together… Copywriting, typesetting etc.… etc.… etc.…

I have learnt a whole new language through this process! As it was my first time, I decided to go through a self-publishing agency… and when I finally navigated all the scammers and charlatans out there, I found a very helpful self-publishing house call Greenhill Publishing, based South Australia. They have put up with endless dumb questions and helped me coordinate everything to deliver the project on time and in full. They even dealt with Covid impacted supply chains to resolve unexpected issues and help me hit my timeline. Thanks Greenhill publishing!


5. Marketing, Marketing, Marketing.


The marketing of B2B industrial / commercial service offerings is slightly different to that of marketing a children’s book. And whilst the fundamentals of frequency and reach hold, the tactics and strategies are very different.


Even though I have a background in marketing, getting your first born book noticed (when you are not a celebrity / famous comedian) is a daunting task. You have built your website and written your blurbs, planned for your launch, enlisted family and friends, and reached out to old colleagues and networks for your launch… Good news…. A rush of activity. People who know you are intrigued by what you have done…. Buy your books. Sales… Yes! But then… cue the crickets! It goes all quiet on the western front. You have to dig deep and find opportunities like:


· Selling books in clubs you or your kids are part of.

· Live readings at schools or events you can wangle through your network.

· Go to book fairs.

· Walking into #bookstores to try and convince them to sell your book… and then walking out again with your tail between your legs, as most cannot be bothered dealing with self-publishers as we are ‘too much hassle’!


All of these tactics are great (apart from the bookstore rejection bit, which sucks!), and help you sell books…. But they don’t get the engine ticking over like #digitalmarketing.


So, cue your social media accounts... (hash tag, hash tag hash tag), #influencers and #reviewers (and yes, you have to keep on reminding your friends and family a.k.a. your launch team, to leave reviews for you!) to get your SEO up, beat the Amazon and Google algorithms and get eyeballs you have never seen, looking at your book… and hopefully buying it!


The only way your book will succeed is if you can get it in the hands of more people outside of your immediate network and create content to in turn create some form of buzz… and that is where I am at now…. So, stay tuned for more nuggets as I navigate this next assault course… which may include a little bit of guerilla marketing!


For more info, please visit my website, www.justinfrankpublishing.com.au.

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