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- author Jackie French

Thursday 15 September 2022

Guest Post: Kristy Nita Brown on Independent Publishing

My name is Kristy Nita Brown. I write junior fiction chapter books about small characters who do big things. In July, I independently released my debut junior fiction chapter book, Looking for Lily

I had a specific publisher in mind when I wrote Looking for Lily. Unfortunately, I found out (very late in the writing process) that this publishing company doesn’t accept unsolicited manuscripts. I pitched Looking for Lily to a couple of other publishers via Kid Lit Vic and slush piles, but in my heart, I knew Looking for Lily wasn’t a good fit for them. 

During this time, I was devouring every episode of The Penn Podcast, a weekly podcast dedicated to independent book publishing. Soon, I thought seriously that I could do it - I can independently publish! I was excited to choose my illustrator and be hands on during the production process. And, after working on Looking for Lily for four years (writing, completing manuscript assessments, re-writing and editing), I couldn’t put it away in a draw like so many authors before me and after me. I took a deep breath and reminded myself, I have a background in marketing and releasing music – I can do this! 

This is when the real work started; hours and hours of research, emailing, cold calling, and learning. I spent the next six months working with an illustrator to get the cover and 47 internal illustrations right. Then, as deadlines passed, I looked for a printer. Importantly, I wanted a printer who cared about the environment as much as I do, and there was absolutely no way I was printing offshore. I received quotes from printers around Australia, but in the end, I found an offset printer (using ethically sourced paper) five minutes down the road from my house! How lucky! 

Next, I set up national distribution with John Reed Books via the Australian Society of Authors (ASA) relationship. This is available to all members, and it allowed Looking for Lily to be listed on TitlePage and other book ordering programs, something I couldn’t do myself. Then I set up my ISBN and registered Looking for Lily with the National Library of Australia. As I got closer to my release date, I pulled together a package of tools to market my book. This included a website, database, e-newsletter, social networking, a VLOG, a press release, sample chapters, a book trailer!

Then I set up a pre-order on my website (collecting money via Stripe) and hounded my family and friends to purchase Looking for Lily. I ended up selling almost 100 copies before I released my book, and I received 100% of the profits. Wow! 

After my release date, I targeted independent bookstores around Australia, sending them lovely emails and sample chapters, hoping they would stock Looking for Lily. I also followed every bookstore on social media and contacted them this way too, making sure they received my email. A tip; when bookstores ordered your stock, show them love. I linked to bookstores on my website who ordered stock and made special video posts across social media. Once I finished contacting bookstores, I targeted primary schools. The emails I sent were simple, because the administration staff are very busy. I told them I’d won second place in the 2022 CYA Writes and Illustrators Competition and how Looking for Lily is 100% WA made, with author, illustrator, editor and printer located locally. I told them about the setting being the Great Southern Region of WA and the characters being highly researched flora and fauna of this region. 

I included quick dot points; things like the theme of Looking for Lily being friendship, survival and hope, and the topics including land clearing and the environment. I also included target demographic, page count and links to purchase. Another tip; primary schools purchase through Booktopia, Dymocks or Angus & Robertson. I also added my experiences as a teacher and my availability for school visits at the bottom. 

Another marketing strategy I employed was targeting podcasters. I’m a confident speaker with a cheeky sense of humour, so podcasts are a good fit for me. And with a wealth of publishing knowledge, I offered new information, advice and tips for authors. It worked! I locked in three podcasts in a relatively short amount of time. 

Now, as I continue my self-publishing journey (it has been less than a month since my book was released), I continue to target schools and bookstores a second time and as key events approach (e.g. book week and Christmas). I learned from others who independently published before me … I only ordered a small first edition print run of 500 books. Overall, my book hasn’t been that hard to sell. The children who have read it tell me they love it! (We think you might, too. Ed.)

Discover more about Kristy via her website. Connect with her on Instagram