Pondering Self-Publishing

Saturday, September 27, 2008.

Today we stray from our standard format for an unplanned and extremely rambly chat about our observations of and unqualified opinions about self-publishing children’s books.

Books mentioned:

For self-publishing and small publishing featured on JustOneMoreBook!, click here.


Comment by Nancy

September 28, 2008 @ 1:33 am

Great topic. I also think there is a big difference between books that are self-published with POD companies and those that are independently published. Quality comes to mind*** there are limitations with POD services. Also, I know what you’re talking about with the magic ponies…
I would say about 1 in 500 self-published books have potential. Nevertheless, people who have a creative impulse and love children’s books can get their ideas in print. And that can be a satisfying experience for both adults and children.

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September 29, 2008 @ 2:37 am

[…] The crew at Just One More Book have a really interesting discussion on independent/self-published […]

Comment by Andy

September 29, 2008 @ 11:42 am

In your humble opinion, what might you change?… Love to have you guys take a look at this dummy…

Comment by Amy Wachspress

September 29, 2008 @ 12:46 pm

Interesting discussion about indie publishing. Andrea really hit the nail on the head when she made the point that writing the book is just the beginning and such a small part of the process; and that the real challenge is letting people know that the book is out there. That’s enormous, even for the big fish in the mainstream publishing biz. Getting the word out. Almost everyone who discovers my self-published book (The Call to Shakabaz) has a terrific time with it and I’m proud to say I have sold over 1,200 copies. Only 7% of all the books published sell over 1,000 copies so this is a big accomplishment for a really really tiny little fish like me. But the work continues endlessly and ongoing — getting the word out. I hope authors who are thinking of self-publishing listen to your podcast and take heed!
Keep at the good work, you guys.

Comment by Karl Schroeder

September 29, 2008 @ 3:56 pm

Great discussion. You guys hit on several critical elements in producing a quality self-published book. There are so many publishing options available now — information is critical.

There are several turn-key POD options available now like Outskirts Press, Inc. which allow authors to contract editors, illustrators, marketing services, even reviewer information, and distribution all under one roof.

Amy — congratulations on your work. Publishing does not stop when the writing is done. Even the best content out there will have a hard time generating sales. Readers will need to learn about the book and about how to get it.

Comment by Phil Davis

September 29, 2008 @ 6:52 pm

Book quality is a big disadvantage with many POD publishers. But it is not always the POD company’s fault. I run a digital printing company and we work with many Independent authors. Some books come out so great I can’t believe we printed it. Other books do not come out looking so great. The primary difference is the graphic design. As costly as independent publishing is, I highly recommend authors work with graphic designers who have experience designing books. It really makes all the difference. Afterall, if you choose to use LuLu or Wordclay, those PODs are going to print what you send them. If you work with a local printer who specializes in book printing, that printer should consult with you on the design or even offer design services. It is not that expensive to have a professional designer work on your book. $500 is a good ball park figure. And a good design is worth every penny.

Comment by jenny sue kostecki-shaw

September 30, 2008 @ 4:05 pm

Such a great episode and discussion. So many important points have been made in the podcast and comments. From seeing some friends go through the process of self-publishing, I’d say (again and again), just slow down. Don’t be in such a hurry to get your book ‘out there’ because rushing it will make the book suffer, and you only have ‘one shot’ in releasing your book. Some sigh at how long publishers take at releasing a book, but with my first book, I’ve seen how important that time is to making it a successful package. I would also recommend that when you make your very first ‘dummy’ (to read to kids + get feedback), just make simple b&w sketches and integrate the text–not as an after thought–but as an integral part from the very beginning. This process of reading it out loud to kids will also help you edit your story and pictures to the most essential. At least, that process has helped me so much. We’re always learning…Thanks for sharing!

Comment by Amy Wachspress

September 30, 2008 @ 4:43 pm

Jenny is so right on the mark! I thought my book was done done done when I started to prepare to publish it and then I did SO MUCH more work on it and postponed the release date. Also, I read the entire book out loud to a sixth-grade class in manuscript/draft. I visited that classroom twice a week for 10 weeks until we got all the way through. Nothing tells an author which parts of a children’s novel move slowly better than reading it aloud to children. Talk about crickets chirping in the dead spots!

Comment by Terry

October 3, 2008 @ 1:42 pm

Great show. I know y’all say you aren’t experts about books, but you are an expert audience. It takes a special person to be able to look at the author in the mirror and get an honest answer. It is about patience; separating yourself from the work; and separating professional suggestions from personal attack. The rule of three applies to editing, too. If three groups/people tell you the same thing needs to be changed … it does. Your observation about the saturation of a topic is so true. When I was the Sr. Editor for a publishing company, my job was to read every manuscript and provide a detailed review. My first research stop was a major bookseller to gauge the level of saturation and to point out, as Mark does, that you need to be able to distinguish your book from the others in your crowd. I’d love to chat more and compare notes …

Comment by Just One More Book!!

October 3, 2008 @ 1:44 pm

Thanks for weighing in, all.
This topic may call for a skype panel discussion…

Comment by Lee Wind

October 3, 2008 @ 2:25 pm

Andrea! Mark! I feel like I just had coffee with you guys! I loved this discussion, and wanted to chime in a few times:

1. YES, being part of a writers group where you can get honest and kind opinions on what’s working and what could be clarified/improved is crucial for a writer!

2. With topics that mainstream publishers are reluctant to dive into, there’s an opportunity to really appeal to a niche market. There was a self-published success story about a picture book called “Snow”


that the author sold at supermarkets all across Texas – it was VERY local, but I recall hearing him say he’s done really well with it.

3. For kids books with GLBTQ content, it’s exciting to see that there’s less self-published books today as the major publishing houses are joining in – or maybe I need to say there are more books with Gay content coming from “mainstream” publishing houses. (And by Gay content I mean children’s books where the child has either GLBTQ parents (like “And Tango Makes Three” published by Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers) or has a sense of “otherness” (like in “The Boy Who Cried Fabulous” published by Tricycle Press)

Here’s a theory: I think for any minority, there’s a path: self-publish to part of the “mainstream” – ultimately, people want their kids to be able to see reflections of themselves and their families, and if there are no African American kid characters, or Asian kid Characters, or physically challenged kid characters, or kid characters with two dads in books that the mainstream publishers are putting out, there will probably be some self-published titles to fill in that gap.

I’d say that if you’re set and determined to self-publish, you should have a well-defined niche audience and a plan to get info about the book (and the book) to them.

Just my thoughts,


Comment by Heidi Estrin

October 22, 2008 @ 9:44 am

Sorry to join the discussion late, but I only just listened to this Extremely Important Episode. I am SO glad to hear you address this topic, Andrea & Mark, and also very impressed with how gentle and sensitive you were with it. I know the topic of self-publishing pushes lots of peoples’ negative buttons, especially amongst reviewers.

Working within the minority niche of Judaic kidlit, I see lots of well-intentioned self-published books written by folks who think that if their grandchildren enjoy it, that’s the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval. THANK YOU for pointing out that authors need to get outside opinions. I also think they need to let somebody else read their book to these unrelated children, because you want the reader response to be based on the story, not on the power of the author’s personality or excitement level.

Thank you also for urging potential authors to read widely, both to absorb good style and to become aware of what’s already out there. I actually find it insulting when a new author claims to have published their book “because there are no good books out there for kids” on their topic … when in reality, they just aren’t aware of the good books already in existence. It shows a lack of respect for the readers and for the kidlit world.

You also made a brief mention of agenda-driven books. This is one of the main things I’d ask self-publishing authors to be aware of: if your agenda is showing, the kids will notice, and NOT in a good way. Nobody likes to be lectured to.

I probably should have taken Andrea’s excellent advice about cutting out half your words, and done that with this post! So I’ll just step off my soapbox now.

Oh wait, one more thing… I want to urge new authors NOT to write in rhyme! I find it distracts authors from focusing on their storytelling, because they’re so busy trying to force rhymes to fit. Please please please, focus on your story’s internal logic instead!

OK, I’m done now.


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January 7, 2009 @ 9:50 pm

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October 4, 2009 @ 9:57 am

[…] two months, Mark and Andrea have had some wonderful interviews (this one with Jon Scieszka), some tips and tricks (Pondering Self Publishing) and the always-terrific book reviews. We highly recommend that you sign […]

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March 31, 2010 @ 4:07 pm

[…] I finally had a chance to listen to Mark and Andrea’s discussion Pondering Self Publishing over at Just One More Book. Whether you are someone who write or illustrates books for children, or […]

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