'The best books, reviewed with insight and charm, but without compromise.'
- author Jackie French

Saturday 4 April 2009

How to Self-Publish a Children's Book, Phase I


Is my story really marketable?

When I first started thinking about self-publishing my children’s picture books here in Beijing, the thought passed through my mind and almost instantly my head was swamped with an enormous ocean and there was that original, ambitious thought, bobbing in the centre of that ocean – a teensy speck amongst the galloping waves.

A little bit overwhelming. Especially in a place where English is a by-product and red tape binds every move you make.

Where to start? How what when where who?

Why never entered the picture, which is at least a good thing.

So, first things first. I’ve written and edited countless manuscripts and I have to say there is not much more valuable than the opinion of someone you respect. So I’ve asked some people I respect to read my manuscript and, lucky for me, I’ve had some great feedback.

But the thing is – these are adults and seeing as though it’s a kids’ book I want to publish, there’s probably no greater test audience than – er… kids.

So, I selected my test audience wisely, ie: no “YesKids” who would laud it even if the book stank like a plate of fresh-cut durian. Or children under the age of two who are still so enamored with the experience of living, they’d provide a captive audience to a goldfish bowl.

And, lucky for me, the test audience reaction was also good.

Feeling confidenter and confidenter.

After all, it seems to me it would be quite important to publish a book that kids would actually enjoy.

So now I’m onto researching the market. The target market. I’m not going to print this book in Mandarin (for now), so my only target market is the English-speaking expat community in China and in my home country (and hopefully some other countries in the future… JK Rowling, watch out).

As for the kids I’m aiming the book at – it’s definitely the 0-6 range, but I’m sure older kids and adults will love it, too – it’s just that kinda story. I’m beyond excited about this… there’s not much like it on the market (if anything at all) and if you’re also keen to publish a storybook yourself, make sure you’re onto something that will really stand out from the plethora of books already available to kids. If you can do this, you really can’t lose. And there’s not much like having the opportunity to entrance children with your work. Not much at all.

Even though I’m living in China, I’m going to publish the book in Australia, and this is actually quite easy to do.

First I had to locate the approved provider of ISBNs (International Standard Book Numbers) in Australia, whom I contacted by email. Within days, I received a freshly-baked batch of 10 ISBNs. What the hey – if I buy a pack of 10, it may just jinx me into storming the market and putting out a book series. Dream of dreams.

Next I got myself some barcodes – also by email and after some extensive Googling for the right company. I gave them an ISBN number from my batch and voilĂ ! I now have an ISBN’d barcode for the back of my book.

So, the next step was advertising for an illustrator and I did this online. Honestly, I was shocked with the mass response. Out of that batch of talent, I have chosen a very clever fellow who lives in Canada, of all places. Hey – the world is so teensy now, I’m sure we can make this work. Eeeep.

Will it work? You’ll soon find out.

Oh, and before I forget – when advertising for an illustrator for my book, a woman from a printing company approached me by email – a total cold-call – and introduced herself. The company has provided an excellent quote (so cheap to print in China!!) and they are set to go, so I suppose I had better get this book, umm… sorted!

Amazing how things fall into place when you know something is right.

And when you just don’t give up. Stand by, budding book writers… I’ll fill you in on the next phase as soon as I work it out myself!

First published on the City Weekend Beijing website.