Answers For An Unpublished Chidren's Book Author

Call it laziness, but rather than writing a post today, I'm just going to paste in my side of a correspondence with an unpublished children's book author, with a few facts changed to protect the guilty. I think it's useful, because unlike many correspondents, she didn't simply change her wording and ask the same question over and over again. The challenge is to figure out the questions I'm responding to.

(In Response to Question #1)

So you are focused on subsidy publishers, who charge to publish a book? The odds of your ever earning back the money you spend are low if you go that route. Have you tried submitting the book to the regular trade publishers? Trade publishers pay you and sell books, rather than the other way around.

(In Response to Question #2)

None of the subsidy publishers get your books on store shelves, whether you pay them or not. The only way your book will end up on store shelves is if you sign with a trade publisher who promotes it, or you promote the heck out of it yourself.

(In Response to Question #3)

My own objection to Publisher X is based on their contract which takes the rights from the author for a fixed period of time and their control over the pricing, not their performance, which is essentially identical with that of the other large subsidy presses.

(In Response to Question #4)

So you should invest in a book about subsidy publishers if you're set on that route. Try The Fine Print of Self-Publishing: The Contracts & Services of 48 Major Self-Publishing Companies--Analyzed, Ranked & Exposed by Mark Levine.

(In Response to Question #5)

I avoid telling people what to do, but I can tell you that you haven't done anything wrong yet if you haven't signed any contracts, or checks. If you're doing this in the dream sense, like buying a lottery ticket and hoping you win at publishing, it may be worth a few hundred dollars to you to pay a subsidy press to publish the book. But it won't sell unless you work hard at marketing it, and there's plenty of competition. If you feel the book is really publication quality, I would invest your efforts in trying to find a legitimate trade publisher.

Second E-mail

(In Response to Question #1)

Who was that? In any case, they aren't a traditional publisher by definition since they asked for $3,000. I can't put this any stronger. Traditional publishers pay authors and do not solicit or accept payments from authors. Most traditional publishers pay an advance on royalties upon contract signing as well.

(In Response to Question #2)

Oh, X is an expensive subsidy press, not sure who told you they were traditional. I hope you aren't believing every advertisement you read on the Internet.

(In Response to Question #3)

It sounds like you are going about this at random, which won't work. For starters, buy a copy of Children's Writer's & Illustrator's Market 2008 by Alice Pope. This is the main reference for authors trying to sell children's books. It lists all of the publishers, their submission guidelines, and their specific interests. You must follow the guidelines or they will ignore you. You might try my friend Aaron Shepard's short book The Business of Writing for Children as well. Most importantly, slow down, study up on the subject, and understand that having written a book is only the first step, and often the easiest step, on the path to becoming a published writer. If you rush, you'll just throw away your money and end up feeling like an idiot.

Third E-mail

(In Response to Question #1)

Reading author's manuscripts and giving an opinion isn't something I've ever been willing to do, and I'm not going to start now:-) I'd also warn you against people who offer to read the manuscript for a fee.

(In Response to Question #2)

I don't understand the desperation aspect. After you study up on how to propose a book to real trade publishers, create a list of those who might be interested, send out 10 query letters a week for a year and get nothing but rejections, it might be time to feel desperate. As near as I can tell, you haven't even started to fight yet.

BTW, if you want opinions, the best thing to do is find and join a local writers group. Ask at your library if they know of any.



Buckley said...

I *think* I am able to fill in the questions, and the answers make sense. A vanity press never seemed to be a good deal.

I'm a Hallmark artist and my wife and I are in the early stages of writing a children's book. We've Children's Writer's & Illustrator's Market 2008 on order from Amazon.

Let me ask a question:

I deal with printers in Asia on a daily basis as part of my job, and we've gotten some surprisingly economical book quotes from several overseas printers. So (and here's the question) if I *can* afford to print my own book, and I know *how* to get it done, is the problem of distribution still so daunting that it overshadows these advantages?

If CWIM covers this more thoroughly than you could, then just tell me to read it when it arrives. : )

Kansas City, USA
ps.. found you through Google.

Morris Rosenthal said...


I don't think CWIM covers it at all, that's more the type of question covered by Dan Poynter's "Self Publishing" as he focuses on offset based operations.

While distribution can be trying, many children's book publishers I've talked to feel they don't have a choice, because POD doesn't give them the flexibility in paper, covers and cut sizes, nor the profit margin needed on color children's books to make it sensible.