My self publishing journey, would I do it again?
Self publishing seems to be all the rage these days on 3PP. I thought I'd share my own experience where I dived in blind (with a friend) into the whole process and miraculously managed to get a book in the end.
How it started
A friend of mine had written a picture book text and asked me to illustrate it. I said yes, and then spent the next two years illustrating it on the weekends. I had no experience or prior knowledge on how to do a picture book so I did my best. I’ve since learned a lot from SVS and a mentorship, some of my spreads make me cringe now…
The first run
For the first run of books, our goal was to break even, so we printed 500 hardcover copies in China. I designed and built a website to sell the book on. Jeremy, the author, managed to get a radio interview on a popular radio station in New Zealand, and we sold out of all 500 copies within two weeks.
The second run
For the second run, we went with paperback, and decided on 3000 copies, as when you do larger runs the price difference gets less and less the higher you go. We banked on this number as Jeremy had written and recorded a song that would release alongside this edition, with an animated music video. I thought this was an innovative way of selling a book.
Later on, the music video won Best Music Video at the NZ Children's Music Awards. But guess what? The music video basically had zero effect on the sales of the book.
We'd also managed to secure a distributor this time around, so the book was stocked in some stores. A friend of mine has even seen people buying it in store. But even with all of the above, we haven’t sold as many as we’d hoped.
We learned that school visits in New Zealand are pointless
We discovered that in New Zealand, Scholastic has a monopoly where they are the only people who can sell books to schools, so this makes the whole school visit strategy null and void in New Zealand, as you can’t sell anything. So this makes it really hard to self publish in NZ.
Jeremy mostly used social media to promote the book, there were a couple of news articles where he was featured but none of this really moved the needle. There were some high follower Instagram accounts that featured the book too, but as we now know: Instagram is extremely bad for converting to any kind of sale. The only thing you get from Instagram are likes.
We were even featured on Youtube channel by a prominent kids presenter in New Zealand called Suzy Cato.
And kids seem to like the book too:
So how much did we make?
Pretty much nothing. We have enough to pay for the printing of another book, but we’d need to sell the remainder of the current inventory to turn any kind of profit. Would we do it again? Yes, but for the satisfaction I’ve making and releasing something into the world ourselves, not to turn a profit. This will be a hobby for me (one of many).
If anyone’s curious about the printing process, we blogged about it here. We even included the specs and things you need to ask a printer for as all of that stuff was a complete mystery.
R. Fey Realme last edited by R. Fey Realme
@Jason-Crowley Wow thanks for sharing! I'm working on a children's book (author/illust) and I very well might self-publish. I've been leaning towards amazon kdp, but they only do soft cover for under 70 pages.... so your blog might change my mind! I guess I'll see what life brings me in the next bit. I hope to finish the art this year and release it in June next year.
would you do it again? It does seem like an insane amount of legwork to sell it all... and store it all...
kh last edited by
@Jason-Crowley Your illustrations look great!
@R-Fey-Realme Amazon KDP seems like a pretty safe option. Less variables and things to deal with, like how to ship 3000 books, how to get them from the airport, and where to store them. We'll probably use that if we run out of Unicorn books and someone wants them on demand.
I'll likely do another book, just not anytime soon. If I was in a bigger country I think there'd be more opportunity to self publish, New Zealand is just too small I think.
Larue last edited by
Thanks so much for taking the time to share your journey with all of us. It so important for us all to go into ventures like this knowing the outcome may be very different than we hoped. Sometimes a book just needs to find its way into the right hands before taking off. Hope this happens for you!
@Larue Thanks, one day we'll be free of the boxes