As Chris Eboch, I’ve been publishing children’s books since 1999, when my first novel, The Well of Sacrifice was released. Two years ago, I started writing romantic suspense for adults under the name Kris Bock. For various reasons, I decide to self-publish those books. (I won’t explain why here, but I’ve blogged about it before.)
While self-publishing seemed like a good choice for Kris Bock, romantic suspense writer, things aren’t quite so simple for Chris Eboch, children’s book writer. Young adult novels – aimed at teenagers with crossover potential for adult readership – have had indie success (Amanda Hocking sound familiar?). However, I haven’t heard of any breakout books for authors writing for middle grade kids.
For one thing, print is still king for kids. Younger kids are less likely to have their own e-readers, though that is changing as parents get the latest version and give their hand-me-downs to the kids. Some schools are also transitioning toward giving upper elementary and middle school children laptops or e-readers for classroom use. As more children get access to e-readers and get into the habit of using them, electronic book sales will grow. (And as color readers get cheaper, even younger children who primarily read illustrated books will join the trend.)
Jeremy Greenfield of Digital Book World has written about e-books for children a lot; find some links to his post here: The Future of Children’s Books.
Another challenge for indie writers is reaching children. Children’s book publishing has long depended largely on school and library sales. Librarians and teachers often read review journals for guidance. Plus, schools are limited in how they can order books for the classroom. (Although some teachers use their own money for classroom books.)
Illustrated books face additional challenges. Hiring a talented illustrator is expensive. Print on demand costs skyrocket for books with color interior illustrations. Even with novels, children’s books are more likely to need illustrated covers rather than cheaper covers using stock photography.
That’s not to say children’s book writers aren’t interested in indie publishing. I’ve heard a lot of curiosity, and some authors are diving in. After all, it’s better to be ahead of the wave than behind it.
Teachers Say Yes, Publishers Say No
I had a middle grade mystery set in ancient Egypt. The story had gotten great feedback from publishers, along with either “Historical fiction isn’t selling well” or “We already have an Egypt book.” And yet several teachers told me they wished I’d get the book published, so they could use in the classroom.
I sensed a market that publishers weren’t recognizing. And I had a manuscript I loved that wasn’t doing anything but sitting on my computer.
I traded a manuscript critique for professional proofreading and another critique for fully illustrated cover art and design from artist Lois Bradley. I know enough about design to do the interior layout for print on demand myself. Within two months of making the decision, I brought out The Eyes of Pharaoh in POD and e-book versions.
The Well of Sacrifice, an adventure set in ninth-century Mayan Guatemala, is used in many schools when they teach the Maya in fourth grade. I’ve done school visits or had other contact with some of those teachers, so I let them know about the new book. One e-mailed back that she’d ordered six copies for her lit circles. Most teachers still want print books for the classroom. That may be one reason why print on demand has sold substantially better than the e-book for The Eyes of Pharaoh (330 print copies versus 67 e-books in 2012).
If teachers find that The Eyes of Pharaoh works well in the classroom, they’ll tell others, so this book could gain popularity slowly, by word of mouth. Plus, many kids love ancient Egypt. If they go looking for books on the subject, they might find mine. There are a few other Egypt novels out there (though not as many as publishers imply), but the niche isn’t as crowded as, say, fantasy novels. It would probably be harder to gain attention for a self-published book that had more competition, from an unknown author.
Tomorrow, I’ll be back with a discussion of bringing books back in print, what the future holds, who should – and probably shouldn’t – self-publish, plus resources.
Haunted: The Ghost Miner’s Treasure ebook is discounted to 99 cents today through Friday at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Smashwords.
Jon and Tania are traveling with the ghost hunter TV show again, this time to the Superstition Mountains of Arizona, where the ghost of an old miner is still looking for his lost mine. The siblings want to help him move on—but to help him resolve the problem keeping him here, they’ll have to find the mine. And even then, the old ghost may be having too much fun to leave! It’s a good thing Tania can see and talk to him, because the kids will need his help to survive the rigors of a mule train through the desert, a flash flood, and a suspicious treasure hunter who wants the gold mine for himself.