In Your Corner: In a Time of Social Distancing, Come Together (Digitally) for Children’s Book Week 2020

If you’re one of the many authors whose lives have been touched by recent events, you might have found that the line “children’s books are much harder to write than you think” has more resonance than ever. Authors, editors, and publishing professionals alike must face up to the peculiar challenges of the genre–which include writing a captivating story, generating eye-popping illustrations, and creating a marketing strategy which will appeal to both the children who make up your primary audience AND the adults who must pay for its purchase–all in a time when everything feels just a little bit harder. Even the biggest event related to children’s books, Children’s Book Week, has had to make accommodations.

CBW2020logo-horiz_Y

Event planners have compromised by preserving the original week of celebrations (May 4-10) and taking them digital, then moving the offline aspects of the program to November 9-15. Join us and tens of thousands of others in celebrating in May by using the hashtag #BookWeek2020atHome and making use of the Children’s Book Week website’s many fun at-home resources for kids and adults.

There are ways to write and publish children’s books which will sell well to folks of all ages, and here we have put together a top six tips list to help you create your own.

  1. Mind your length. As any preschool teacher or children’s librarian can confirm, reading with children is most enjoyable for both parties when the book in question contains just enough text to carry the story along without exhausting their attention.
  2. Pick a timely subject. Picture books are more likely to be picked up by parents, teachers, and librarians on the prowl if they tackle subjects which these adults want to prepare their children to face. Take advantage!
  3. Don’t dumb it down. You heard right—baby talk doesn’t carry as compelling of a story as a book which treats its younger audiences with a rich vocabulary and age-appropriate but sophisticated sentence structure. 
  4. Voice morals carefully, and cleverly. Few will argue against picture books as prime tools for teaching sound decision-making skills, but most of these success stories find clever, quiet ways to do so without alienating readers by being too “preachy.”
  5. Think about those end materials! Many of today’s best picture books include a few pages at the end which include notes for adults on how to make best use of the book in teaching a skill or an idea to young readers. Hint: this is especially useful to parents grappling with becoming educators as a result of stay-home directives.
  6. Humor me. Or rather, humor them! Children have a keen sense of humor, and are particularly sensitive to farce and comedy. Adults are more attuned to situational and other forms of irony. A good picture book will entertain everyone!

In an ideal world, you would be able to focus on the act of writing your picture book, and not have to worry about the complicated minutiae of publishing and marketing your book which you may or may not feel prepared enough to tackle. Luckily, we already live in that world! There are numerous options available if you’d rather trade your limited time and energy for a paid service. These companies offer a comprehensive list of services which they hope you’ll take advantage of as you work to translate your vision to the page. And of course, I’m here for you as well!

You are not alone. ♣︎


Elizabeth

ABOUT ELIZABETH JAVOR: With over 20 years of experience in sales and management, Elizabeth Javor works as the Director of Sales and Marketing for Outskirts Press. The Sales and Marketing departments are composed of knowledgeable publishing consultants, customer service reps and book marketing specialists; together, they all focus on educating authors on the self-publishing process to help them publish the book of their dreams. Whether you are a professional looking to take your career to the next level with platform-driven non-fiction or a novelist seeking fame, fortune, and/or personal fulfillment, Elizabeth Javor can put you on the right path.

In Your Corner: Derailed by COVID-19?

Coronavirus, Covid-19 symptoms

Yeah.

That happened.

For many of us, it’s still happening. Even in those states that are moving into Phase 1 of reopening, there’s a lot left to do and a great deal that must happen before a “new normal” settles into place.

The truth of the matter is that, while some people did find a way to turn lemons into lemonade during this most lemony of seasons, it has still been hard. And it has been hard, specifically, for those in the business of wordcraft. The shutdown has not, for many people, been a nice and relaxing break from “real life,” but rather a stressful and busy time in which we’ve had to master new technologies and new routines while also feeding families and homeschooling kids and filtering social media and grappling with new and shifting work resources. Personality conflicts and tensions both within friendships or work relationships or family groups have ballooned. A librarian friend told me recently that while working from home, her library’s staff were expected to do twice as much as usual with half as many resources, and be able to flip their bedrooms into functional workspaces each morning. And every back-room tension she and her coworkers already had was magnified exponentially by the miscommunications made possible by working remotely. A teacher friend also mentioned a doubled workload; her two young sons were at home and adjusting to taking her direction in their learning, while she was still tasked with designing remote classes and assignments for three different high school English courses. A retired friend, whose home life is markedly less busy, still found himself unable to concentrate on anything other than his own mental and physical health under the COVID-19 restrictions.

Some writers, undoubtedly, will still have produced fantastic and profound works of art during this period of unprecedented disruption. And good for them! That’s fantastic! But many writers (and readers, let’s be honest) can’t settle into the business of words when they’re either so busy or so mentally burnt out as we have been, collectively, over the last six to eight weeks.

And that’s okay, too.

Just as the world turns on its axis and we go through our seasons, our writing lies must also leave room for the occasional tilt or turn. Productivity does not always have to be measured in the number of words written. Sometimes, productivity is a state of mind, of being open and receptive to the world around us without a pen and paper or laptop as the medium of record. If you emerge from the COVID-19 shutdown with just a sense of having survived, you did good and important work. If you emerge with a story or two or an experience you’re still mulling over, that maybe one day will inform a book you write, you did good and important work. If you emerge with nothing at all and a bleak sense of having failed at anything writing-related, we’re here for you.

Ninety-nine percent of writing, regardless of genre, is about paying attention.

There’s been a lot to pay attention to lately. Don’t kick yourself for something you haven’t done or think you failed to do (and you didn’t fail at anything, we promise). The past will keep. Together, we will figure out the next part of our story together. And if there’s any way we can help encourage you here on the blog, or enable you in your writing or book marketing journey, please (please!) let us know in the comments below.

You are not alone. ♣︎


Elizabeth

ABOUT ELIZABETH JAVOR: With over 20 years of experience in sales and management, Elizabeth Javor works as the Director of Sales and Marketing for Outskirts Press. The Sales and Marketing departments are composed of knowledgeable publishing consultants, customer service reps and book marketing specialists; together, they all focus on educating authors on the self-publishing process to help them publish the book of their dreams. Whether you are a professional looking to take your career to the next level with platform-driven non-fiction or a novelist seeking fame, fortune, and/or personal fulfillment, Elizabeth Javor can put you on the right path.

In Your Corner: Get Thy Book to a Bookstore!

Despite the evolution of ebooks and e-readers, as well as other changes within the book publishing industry, a “traditional” bookstore presence should still be a goal for authors who want this. Why? Well, with this brick-and-mortar presence, authors are able to reach readers that are passionate about books. Think about it–people have to leave behind the comforts of their own home to visit a physical bookstore. Most likely, they are there to purchase a book. If your book is on the shelf, yours may just have a chance of going home with them.

Salesman at the checkout in a bookstore

But … how can self-publishing authors work toward getting their books into bookstores like Barnes & Noble and local independent bookstores? Is it a matter of luck? Can we make the cut? What does that even mean?! Well, the good news is that even if you’re not necessarily on a lucky streak, it’s still possible to place your book on the shelves of bookstores. You must, however, have a solid plan in place to do so. You must, for example:

  • … make sure your book is fully returnable. If your book cannot be returned, you are requiring the bookstore to assume a great deal of risk—and many of them simply won’t be interested for that very reason. If they stock 10 copies of your book and only 4 sell over the course of a year and they cannot return the extra copies to you, they lose money. If the books are returnable, though, the store can simply send the books back that don’t sell for you to find better and more successful placements. Think of this return-ability as a type of “insurance” for your book … and as a necessary component of setting up a healthy long-term relationship with the bookstores which will sell not just this one book, but all of your books, present and future.
  • … offer a sufficient trade discount. What’s a sufficient discount? Typically, I recommend discounting your books around 50-55% (or higher) for brick-and-mortar booksellers. Of course this does cut significantly into your profits per book, but a higher retail margin gives the bookstore more incentive to stock your book on their shelves … and sell more books in total. No incentive? No sales.
  • … prove that your book is desirable, and has legs. This is probably the most difficult—though not insurmountable—part of brick-and-mortar sales, as authors often have a biased view of their books. The best indicator of a desirable book isn’t opinion … it’s exponential sales figures! If the amount of books you sell doubles, triples, or quadruples month-after-month, that is something that can work in your favor. If you aren’t a professional marketer, you may want to seek the services of a book marketing consultant. Make sure they are able to help you draft a marketing plan and go forth on planning your publicity.

After you’ve done all of the above, you must put together a proposal to submit to bookstore contacts. But we’ll tackle that in a separate blog post, since it’s a whole other animal unto itself. Stick around next week for my musings on how best to reach out to reach out to the stores, once you have published your book and are on the path towards wrapping up your publicity campaign!

You are not alone. ♣︎


Elizabeth

ABOUT ELIZABETH JAVOR: With over 20 years of experience in sales and management, Elizabeth Javor works as the Director of Sales and Marketing for Outskirts Press. The Sales and Marketing departments are composed of knowledgeable publishing consultants, customer service reps and book marketing specialists; together, they all focus on educating authors on the self-publishing process to help them publish the book of their dreams. Whether you are a professional looking to take your career to the next level with platform-driven non-fiction or a novelist seeking fame, fortune, and/or personal fulfillment, Elizabeth Javor can put you on the right path.

In Your Corner: Finding a Home at Your Local Public Library

Books on shelf

Let’s face it, if there’s one place we go to find out information about books, it’s our local public library. Bookstores just feel like such a commitment sometimes, you know? But at a library, the art of browsing is elevated to an art form, and you can feel free to study the shelving arrangement, the genres, the popular nooks and crannies, the competition, and the various ways and means librarians use to “sell” their books to the public–all without feeling guilty for not buying something! In fact, if you’re “caught” browsing in a library and the librarians find our you’re a local author, you’re far more likely to get hooked into giving a book reading than you are to get shushed or to get side-eye from booksellers who really need to sell a certain number of books a day.

Libraries mean unlimited books and unlimited resources for free. And one of the best resources is the librarians themselves. Your local librarian can provide help with, yes, possibly setting up a book reading event to help you market your book, as well as finding answers to questions on how to have your book stocked in that library and much more. Librarians are an amazing source of help and information!

What are some other ways you can promote your book by using the library?

  • Donate a copy (or several copies) of your book to the library. Be sure to go through the proper donation channels.
  • If your book is geared towards children, give a school library presentation on your book’s subject. School libraries are always looking for new books! Just make sure to reach out through the proper channels (i.e. through the principal and administration, as well as the librarian).
  • Connect with librarians via social networks. Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn are powerful ways to network!
  • Stock promotional materials such as flyers and letters at local libraries. Be sure to include of the essential information about your book such as subject, genre, audience and purchasing information. It’s best to ask if they’d be willing to stock these supplies on their “freebies” counter or in their brochure pocket wall first, just in case they need to check their policies.
  • Ask a librarian to review your book in a local publication. This will bring positive attention to your book and encourage other locals to buy it! You might even be able to get a librarian to review it in your library’s state or regional newsletter, which would encourage other librarians to buy it.

Libraries are a powerful part of your book promotion strategy. Creative marketing tactics can increase your chances of a library stocking your book. They can also lead to great relationships with librarians and readers. The best way to find out what your local library wants is to talk to the librarians. Work on building an honest relationship, and you may just find one your book’s best promoters.

Not sure where to find your local library? Hop on www.publiclibraries.com and search by city, state, or zip code–or you can visit the American Library Association (ALA) at www.ala.org, where you’ll find loads of information on the current state of libraries and how you can get involved, both as a self-publishing author and a lover of books!

You are not alone. ♣︎

Do you have ideas to share? Please don’t hesitate to drop us a line in the comments section, below.

Elizabeth

ABOUT ELIZABETH JAVOR: With over 20 years of experience in sales and management, Elizabeth Javor works as the Director of Sales and Marketing for Outskirts Press. The Sales and Marketing departments are composed of knowledgeable publishing consultants, customer service reps and book marketing specialists; together, they all focus on educating authors on the self-publishing process to help them publish the book of their dreams. Whether you are a professional looking to take your career to the next level with platform-driven non-fiction or a novelist seeking fame, fortune, and/or personal fulfillment, Elizabeth Javor can put you on the right path.

In Your Corner: The Busy Season

Conceptual office table top still life.

It feels like forever since I last posted! And truthfully, since the last of my posts my life has gone through some serious gymnastics. No matter who you are and what you do for work and how you relate to the events in your life, it can be easy to slip into a funk. It’s even possible, when things are really bad, to feel like the victim of circumstances rather than an empowered human being with agency of your own.

Or is that just me?

Let’s just say that the last few weeks have been difficult ones, full and busy and also strangely rewarding in the ways they have forced me to reckon with my own approach to things such as work and play.

Here’s what I have learned, especially as pertains to work.

It’s okay to take a step back sometimes. 

To be perfectly honest, some of us could do with a stern glance or a word of kindly suggestion along these lines, and I was (and still am) one of them. It is so, so very easy to conflate performance–whether at work or elsewhere, but especially at work–with personal value and self-estimation. But life doesn’t always set you up to succeed, and while I’m not going to nudge you along the path to the aforementioned victim-of-circumstance place, I do think that sometimes we need to recognize this fact (that life doesn’t always set us up to succeed) and give ourselves the room to slow down and step back a little bit from the pressures of performance. Self-worth shouldn’t reside in how many spreadsheets you churn out or how many customers you manage to sell on a product; self-worth ought to reside in your love and respect for self, which goes way beyond what happens between 8 am and 6 pm–or whatever hours you keep as a writer and otherwise.

Giving yourself a bit of distance, emotionally or practically by taking a break, can help you refocus and re-envision your relationship to your work. Does your work give you a sense of purpose and value? Great! Does it cross the line into being your primary or only source of self-worth? Break time!

You’ve got to stand up for what you believe in.

Part of the beauty of the business we’re in is that we have the opportunity to tell stories and give voice to those outside of the mainstream publishing market. In a sense, everyone who gets into self-publishing is already doing a bit of standing up and speaking out, just by daring to put words out there in the world, so it seems like a natural fit for those of involved in indie publishing to take it just one or two steps further. Whatever feels comfortable. Or uncomfortable, as the case may sometimes be.

The ethics I have learned on the job over the last few years have set me up really well to question the way things are when those ways and things do not line up with what is good and right. I wouldn’t be who I am today without the power that self-publishing has lent my voice, and the encouragement of some amazing friends and coworkers to make sure that what I want and need isn’t lost in the shuffle. Whether you’re pursuing the publication of a new book or seeking to put some of the distracting white noise of a drama-filled personal environment aside so that you can focus on writing and on self-care, don’t forget that you are worth standing up for, and sometimes the best person to stand up for you is … you. 

No matter what challenges you face this week, I hope you know that …

You are not alone. ♣︎

Do you have ideas to share? Please don’t hesitate to drop us a line in the comments section, and I’ll make sure to feature your thoughts and respond to them in my next post!

Elizabeth

ABOUT ELIZABETH JAVOR: With over 20 years of experience in sales and management, Elizabeth Javor works as the Director of Sales and Marketing for Outskirts Press. The Sales and Marketing departments are composed of knowledgeable publishing consultants, customer service reps and book marketing specialists; together, they all focus on educating authors on the self-publishing process to help them publish the book of their dreams. Whether you are a professional looking to take your career to the next level with platform-driven non-fiction or a novelist seeking fame, fortune, and/or personal fulfillment, Elizabeth Javor can put you on the right path.