Children’s Book Publishing
Many years ago British author and publisher Helen Exley told me that publishers make the most money on the titles they don’t publish! The books they don’t produce, promote and distribute!
I do understand. There are many considerations: trends, topics, themes, markets, demographics, economics, etc., not to mention company focus, mission and capacity. But we also know that sometimes, even future blockbusters are overlooked by key publishing houses, leaving editorial banging their heads and asking what were we thinking.
When, after spending six weeks reviewing my small children’s picture book for distribution, Greenleaf Book Group’s Justin Branch asked for a telephone conference and I knew the answer would be “sorry, but no.”
I was not surprised. I have some publishing “cred,” a little “know-how,” and I want this company to get it right because they represent some of my other titles. Founded in 1997 by Clint Greenleaf, I was fortunate to be one of the first clients who needed distribution. I am grateful to be with a company that has grown and flourished in the ever-difficult publishing environment. My rejection was, however, a reality check, a reminder of what will or will not do well in the impacted children’s book market. An affirmation of the advice I share alongside editor Gail Kearns, when we counsel and guide clients through the book shepherding process as the To Press & Beyond team.
“Too many words,” Justin reminded me in our phone call. Like many of the authors Gail and I work with, I detest parting with a single word. No excuses. There it is if you want your book to sell. Today less is more. Children’s pictures books are 24 or 32 pages long, they should be about 700 words or less, checked for age appropriateness, well illustrated and well designed. They should be standard trim sizes, hard cover and ideally retail for $10 -$15 (my title was smaller and priced too high). Bookstores opt for titles from known authors with good track records and prefer to carry favorites like Dr. Seuss and Clifford, etc. to new unknown authors.
For the single book author or the small press, these requirements are brutal, but with good editing and design along with creative marketing strategies, especially if the title in question addresses a concept or an issue that affects children, success is possible. As publishing guru Dan Poynter reminds us, most books don’t sell in the bookstores.
Some of the recent children’s titles To Press & Beyond has been able to support include: Courageous Gilbert the Groundhog, Night Buddies Go Sky High, Moosey Ate My Peas and the Liv on Life series of children’s books.
As for my title…well, Flossie Flies Home represents a special message for girls: how to be assertive, not drop out of school, focus on your studies and not get pregnant! A hard concept to share with young girls but Flossie, a honeybee, gives it her best buzz: As Girls Inc. ® would say Flossie learns how to become Strong, Smart and Bold®. We will have to see how she sells so hold onto your bonnet…you never know there could be a winner in there!