Ron Pramschufer: This is Ron Pramschufer, and welcome to Publishing Basic Radio, where, weekly, we try to help you navigate the self-publishing minefield. Before we get into our main topic, I read a statement that I think I saw on the web site that thousands of people have written children’s picture books that will never be published. Nothing’s wrong with the books; many are very good, but the barriers are too high. Just what are these barriers that these authors face?
Dan Poynter: Well, the cost of printing; we’re talking somewhere between $10,000.00 and $30,000.00 for the printing, depending on quantity, and, of course, print is a quantity game; then there’s the time to print because it takes several weeks; well, months to print because most of the color work is done offshore, and then you’ve got a large inventory that you have to maintain and ship from, and, of course, once you put ink on paper, it’s very, very permanent. It can’t change, so those are the major challenges.
Ron Pramschufer: Okay, now what’s the difference, say, between the challenge faced by a children’s book author and one faced by an author of a regular trade book?
Dan Poynter: Well, you know, regular trade book; the markup is often better, and the cost of produce is often lower. The last time I checked the figures, the average children’s picture book was going for $14.51, $5.00 more if you put a jacket on it; well, that’s $19.50, which is pretty expensive, and a soft-cover book, if you can believe this, is going for $7.34 on the average, which means you’ve got to print one heck of a large quantity to get your price; now, remember that your printing cost has to be marked up a minimum of eight times, so you’re gonna have to print an awful lot of books to get your price down to where you can afford to sell a soft-cover book for $7.34.
Ron Pramschufer: Yeah, it’s funny; I tell people – I talk to them all the time; I print millions of soft-cover children’s books, but I put them through larger publishers, and they ask, well, how can they do it? I say, well, just print 100,000 copies. I say with a 32-page children’s book soft cover for 100,000 copies is like .30 cents, and that’s why they can do $2.95, $4.95, $7.34. I mean, here, you come in with what you think is a high order of 1,000, and you’re paying almost as much unit cost as what these other places on retailing them for.
Dan Poynter: Right, and right now, your listeners are thinking that’s great; well, I’ll just get a publisher and I can print 100,000. The reality is the big publishers are only thinking on celebrity. They’re only thinking on people that have following because they know that those people are branded and are gonna sell a certain number of books. That’s why they’re doing great literature like Madonna’s children’s book and the book that was written by Paris Hilton’s dog.
Ron Pramschufer: Right. Now, if you had to pull a number out of the air, how big is this children’s book market?
Dan Poynter: Near as we can tell, it’s about $2 billion a year, and the children’s picture books are about half a billion a year.
Ron Pramschufer: Wow! So it’s huge?
Dan Poynter: Very, very large.
Ron Pramschufer: But, it’s very hard to get in, or it’s serious. You can – like you say, you can get into the black-and-white market for $1,000.00, and you’re in. This is more serious money.
Dan Poynter: Much more serious, and you also have to realize that it’s not just a question of coming up with the money and producing the book; then you’ve gotta get out and promote the book. You’ve got to sell the book, and quite frankly, children’s book authors, like some other authors, will produce the book, and then get distracted and go off to something else; maybe another children’s book, and they just don’t let people know that the book is available.
Ron Pramschufer: Have you noticed any common traits between children’s books and children’s book authors who succeed?
Dan Poynter: Yes. I will tell you one or two stories. The first one, I read in Publishers Weekly about six months ago about a gentleman by the name of Patrick Carman. He had a children’s book, Trilogy, the Land of Elyon . He was going out doing readings in schools, and he stressing literacy. He sold 10,000 copies on his own. A rep from Scholastic heard about him and contacted a literary agent to go find this guy. We want him, and the agent found him, and Scholastic made a six-figure, pre-emptive offer, and currently, he’s out on tour with his two daughters.
What’s the point here? They didn’t just buy this book. They bought Patrick Carmen because he was out there doing something.
Ron Pramschufer: Okay, so given what you know about the market, what would be the best advice you could give anyone who’s considering writing a children’s book?
Dan Poynter: Well, you have to get out there and promote the book, and the challenge is that most writers are introverts, and a lot of us introverts; we like to stay home and write and we don’t really like going out and doing autograph parties or radio and TV interviews. We wanna just be uninterrupted, stay home and write, and so it’s a challenge, and we have to recognize that getting out and promoting our books is not only good for the book, but it’s good personal self‑development. It’s good for us as well.
So, you just have to get out there and let people know the book exists. Now, there are ways that you can promote the book without going out of the house. You could send out review copies; you could send out articles and news releases; you can send out email announcements to all your friends and ask them to pass them on. Those are inexpensive things that you can do to promote your book without going out of the house.
Ron Pramschufer: All right, now, you seem to have a whole new approach to children’s books, and this one sounds like a winner. Now, you don’t know me from the man on the moon; I call you today, and I say, “I really wanna do a children’s book, but I really don’t have any money.” What do I do?
Dan Poynter: Well, I do know you because you’re a printer, so now we’re going to talk about not printing, but you knew that when you asked me to do this show because you knew that this a great way to help people, and it’s a great entry, and it’s gonna bring in more printing eventually for you, but in my travels, I use PowerPoint in my presentations, and I’ve gotten to know PowerPoint very well, and I understand all possibilities with PowerPoint, so I thought why not apply these to children’s books? Instead of printing a children’s book, why don’t you put your children’s book on disc? Why don’t you do it in PowerPoint? You can replicate those discs and sell the disc for .30 cents a piece. That really gets your cost down.
Now, once your cost is so low, you can test your children’s book out on parents and teachers and kids, get feedback, go back and tweak it. If you wanna go out and do seminars, mini-shows and bookstores for kids, you can get feedback, you can project it there, and you can get feedback and go back and tweak it.
I do, probably, five presentations a week all over the world, and I’m going to Austin tomorrow, and when I come back, I constantly tweak my PowerPoint presentation. They just get better and better and better, and it’s been going on for years, and you can do that with a PowerPoint E-book, and you can’t do that with a P‑book, a printed book, because you can’t take ink off paper, at least not very inexpensively.
Ron Pramschufer: Yeah, that’s my old saying. I can’t take it off once I put in on.
Dan Poynter: So, let’s look at some of the costs here. It’ll cost, in low quantities; a printed book is gonna cost you $2.50 or $3.00 each, even more if you print a very small quantity. Your investment is going to be $10,000.00 to $30,000.00. It’s gonna take two months to get in printed. You’re gonna have at least 3,000 in inventory, and you can’t make changes, but with an E-book, it costs you .30 cents to produce. Your investment is practically nothing. The time to manufacture is minutes. Your inventory is whatever you want; a couple of this, and you can make changes anytime you want to. There’s just no comparison.
Ron Pramschufer: Okay, just happened to have a daughter, who’s a second-grade teacher, who wrote her first children’s book, who’ve I’ve been like trying my best to help her, and one of the largest or one of the biggest obstacles I’ve found with the illustrated children’s book is the illustrator. How do you handle the initial illustration work and the editing that goes – and children’s book editing seems to be going completely different than trade book editing.
Dan Poynter: Well, I’ve got the answer for that, and you certainly found a challenge. In a children’s book, the writer gets half and the illustrator gets half. Now, you’re getting half what you thought you were getting. Okay. The PowerPoint presentation; you get your photographs or your drawings or your cartoons or whatever from web sites like ClipArt.com. You just subscribe, and you type in a name, and up pops all these possibilities. You can get animations from AnimationFactory.com. You can get videos from various web sites out there, and it’s just a copy/paste, just like you do in Microsoft Word; then you can go in and add audios.
For example, let’s say you have an elephant. You click on the elephant – there we go! You hear that? And now, we have this annoying pig! (Laughter) You know, things like I click on the fire truck.
Ron Pramschufer: Okay, so you got the interactive part. One of the biggest problems I see with self-published books is they aren’t very professionally done. Okay, the first thing in this entry level, which is great; okay, you have very, very little money, even on a black-and-white book; you can lay that in Microsoft Word and convert it to PDF and make some covers that you’ve put together with clip art and call it a book, but it only looks like a book. It’s still – it’s not properly edited; it’s not properly designed; it’s not properly; maybe it’s properly printed.
Obviously, the big publishing companies have these interactive CD’s, and they have for years, right? They look different from a professional standpoint than what you’re probably going to produce yourself, so the first step is just go ahead and do it. You say, “Get it out there;” you know, just like ice hockey. Get the puck down the ice.
Dan Poynter: That’s right. The reason is it’s easier to edit than it is to create, so you’ve already written your children’s book; you’ve kind of got a good idea what you’re doing; put it into PowerPoint; then go back and look at it and start cleaning it up and adding to it, and then you can put in your illustrations, your animations, your videos, your audios, your hyperlinks and so on.
Ron Pramschufer: Okay, now what – one thing you say as far as like all clip art, and I get asked this from time to time. People go out searching on the Internet, and they see an image and they pull it off and that’s it. They use it.
Dan Poynter: And they’re probably violating somebody’s copyright.
Ron Pramschufer: Absolutely. That’s what I’m looking for.
Dan Poynter: Like if you go to a site like ClipArt.com, they’ve got six million images there. You just type in the word “lion” and it pops up 243 lions, and you take your choice, and these are copyright‑free. Now, they do ask that you mention that you got the art from ClipArt.com, so you should put that on your copyright, but it is copyright-free, and by the way, that clip art that comes with Microsoft Word; it’s not for commercial use. A lot of people use that in their office, but it’s not for commercial use. You can’t resell it, like put it in a book.
Ron Pramschufer: Oh, I didn’t realize that. All right, so we all learned something.
Dan Poynter: People don’t realize that, but it’s not copyright-free.
Ron Pramschufer: Yeah, and there’s different ones – I subscribe to different services, Photos.com, and there’s a bunch of them out there. How many people do you know that have all done this or been pretty happy with it?
Dan Poynter: Well, I only know a handful, and they’re extremely happy with it.
Ron Pramschufer: All right, Dan. Well, it was awful nice having you on here today.
Dan Poynter: It’s been an honor and a pleasure. See you soon.
Ron Pramschufer: Take care now, Dan. For Publishing Basics Radio, this is Ron Pramschufer. See you next week.
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