Hello from London where we’re all patiently waiting for the warm weather to return! I hope you’re staying safe during this very challenging time. Aside from not seeing friends and family nearly as often as I’d like, it’s been pretty much ‘business as usual’ working at home here – well, apart from my husband working on the floor above me; the cat is now extra happy!
I’ve been busy over the last few months, working on a new picture book The Tell-Me Tree, as well as on translation and foreign rights projects for The Secret Lake – on which more below.
As with so many of my stories, The Tell-Me Tree was a long time in the making, with the initial inspiration sparked after I spotted a face in the trunk of a London Plane tree close to where I live. Thereafter it took three years to come up with the final tale as I waited for the next spark! You can read the full ‘backstory’ over on my author website here. My great friend Anne Swift’s pen and ink drawings are as beautiful as ever, and Rachel Lawston (an ALLi partner member) has done another sterling job on the layouts!
In brief, The Tell-Me Tree is a picture book and activity book for ages 4-8 that gently encourages children to share how they’re feeling – whether happy, sad or somewhere in between – through conversation, writing and drawing, with friends, family or trusted grown-ups. The tone is intentionally positive and there are links at the end to download posters and templates to help children draw their own Tell-Me Tree, and to other activities that encourage conversation about feelings. There are also links for grown-ups seeking further guidance on opening up conversations if needed.
Publishing niggles – take note
It took 10 days for my colour proofs (printed in Poland) to arrive. I can’t speak for the US but if you’re in Europe you might want to be bear this timeline in mind if you’re bringing out a book any time soon. That said, a friend has recently received her literary fiction novel proofs from KDP within a matter of days. It’s possible the delays are unique to colour picture books and unrelated to the pandemic, I’m not sure.
Also, take care inside the KDP Dashboard as the set-up screen for print books seems to have subtly changed. How recent this is I’m not sure but Amazon now automatically presents a pre-ticked green checkbox with text that at first glance implies you’ve ordered proofs already. What they actually want you to do is to click on the text to place your proof order, at which point everything goes on hold. The confusion meant I hit the wrong button and my book went live instead of going into hold, so I had to leave it quietly on sale on Amazon for two weeks while awaiting the proofs! Happily no one noticed it there, and – happily too – the proof copies looked fabulous with just a couple of minor corrections to make. So even though the publish date shows June, it was actually July!
Using Kindle Kids’ Book Creator for the eBook
Below are a couple of screenshots from the fixed layout Kindle interior – built with Amazon’s free Kindle Kids’ Book Creator software. This includes ‘tap activated’ pop-up text boxes that can be used where the original text may be difficult to read on a smaller screen. As a reading experience it feels a bit clunky to start with but you soon get the hang of it. (Pinch and zoom does not work with this format.) You get to choose whether or not to include the pop-up boxes, which you create yourself. They are easy to do and I would always recommend them.
The eBook works on a Kindle Fire and most tablets and smartphones, but not on a Kindle Paperwhite. Personally I’m not a huge fan of the sideways slide function used to move through the story (I prefer that page-turn feel you get with ePubs) but, again, you get used to it.
Most importantly, this software has come on leaps and bounds since the first time I tried it four years ago. And whereas for The Christmas Tree Wish last year I uploaded all page spreads separately (just to be on the safe side), this time around I uploaded the print-ready PDF in one go and went from there. The instructions are very clear and it worked perfectly.
In short, if you have a colour picture book that needs to stay in a fixed layout format, this is a cost efficient self-serve solution that gives you another format to advertise. For the record, over 95% of my picture book sales are still in print, but the additional format adds extra marketing opportunities, including ‘free days’ if you’re in KDP Select.
The Secret Lake
It’s been a whirlwind 12 months for The Secret Lake. It’s a year since I published the audiobook and in that time it’s sold almost 4,000 copies. This has come as a very pleasant surprise and I think is due to word of mouth on the back of the paperback sales – we can’t advertise audiobooks on Amazon and I wasn’t really sure where to start beyond a few initial tweets. In the coming year I may experiment with FB ads but my experience continues to be that they eat my money whenever I dip my toe in! I’m aware of a few audiobook marketing sites, but I’m not sure how apt they are for children’s books.
Prints sales, translations and foreign rights
Meanwhile, print sales of The Secret Lake in English now have exceeded 200,000 worldwide – beyond my wildest dreams! In addition I’ve sold translation rights to Russia, Turkey, The Czech Republic and Albania and have contracts in negotiation in two more territories.
I’ve learned a huge amount about contracts during these negotiations and have been able to put on my ‘plain English business copywriting hat’ more than once to simplify some of the flowery language used in the draft contracts I’ve been sent. Each time it gets easier.
I’ve also recently commissioned translation of The Secret Lake into German, working with the translator I used for The Christmas Tree Wish, whom I found through one of the German literary translation associations. To complete the team, I have a German children’s book editor lined up, found through Reedsy (though, as it turns out she was already on my research list!), and a proofreader recommended by the editor.
These new ventures are all part of the evolving world of self-publishing that is giving us more chances than ever to spread our wings. I shall be adding detail about them – and more details on Amazon Advertising – in an updated edition of How to Self-publish and Market a Children’s Book which I hope to bring out in the autumn. I am pleased to say that pretty much all of the information in the current book holds true, but it will be good to add to it 24 months on. (For those of you who have the current book, I will provide an overview of the new additions in the linked dropbox folder.)
I will of course keep you updated about the timings for How to Self-publish and Market a Children’s Book as we get to autumn. Meanwhile, if you have young children or are a teacher, librarian or health professional and decide to buy a copy of The Tell-Me Tree please do let me know what you think. And if you could find a moment to write a short review online that would be wonderful!
- Click here to read my blog post about the background to The Tell-Me Tree on my author website
- Click here or below to view or buy The Tell-Me Tree on Amazon
The Tell-Me Tree should be available to order from non-Amazon stores and high street bookshops by the end of next week (17th July).
Stay safe, Karen