Publishing an Illustrated Middle Grade Book
by Adam Lesh
Wonderland, first book in the Storyworlds series
A Trip Down The Rabbit Hole – Self-publishing my illustrated middle grade book
Thanks, Steve, for the opportunity to share a bit of my journey on your site.
I started down this road several years ago by submitting my middle grade book to a ton of literary agents, but was unanimously rejected. The most common feedback I received, on the rare occasion there was feedback at all, was that my concept did not fit any of the current children’s book categories (picture book, chapter book, novel, etc.).
This was, in fact, good news because I thought I had found an underserved niche in the market (a gap between chapter books and novels).
Unfortunately, that translated into a belief on the agents’ part that they couldn’t sell my illustrated middle grade novel.
I had considered self-publishing, but at the time print was too expensive and the eBook market was far too small. The concept of self-publishing reared its (as it turned out) not-so-ugly head again last year, when I noticed an explosion of available, easy-to-find, self-published novels for the Kindle.
It seems that at least 30-40% of Amazon’s suggestions were self-published. (Webmaster's note: i.e. the books Amazon lists on another book's page, under headings like Frequently Bought Together and Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought.) Admittedly, these were not kids' books, but the idea of self-publishing now seemed more promising nonetheless.
I’m a researcher by nature. When I buy something new, I read many reviews - often contradictory - trying to distill the best from them and make an informed choice.
I approached self-publishing my book the same way and found many more articles, blog entries and books on the subject than I expected. It seemed a whole cottage industry had popped up while my book had been sitting in a (virtual) drawer.
I started to get excited.
Self-publishing my illustrated middle grades book
I dove in. I found lots of advice - some good, some not-so-much, a bunch of success stories and plenty of less-than-success stories - but the common theme seemed to be that self-publishing wasn’t that expensive, and it can be fun, so why not? There was so little to lose.
I decided to take the plunge, and it has turned out to be a wonderful (pun-intended – my first book is called Wonderland
Check out Adam's illustrated middle grade novel, "Wonderland"
It’s been a blast working with my artist, Colleen Madden (which does make it a bit more expensive for me than the average self-published eBook author, since I am shelling out for about 30 black-and-white interior illustrations along with the usual color cover), creating my website, blogging, nurturing my tiny online fan base (currently consisting mostly of a few of my good friends, but growing slowly), participating on Goodreads and learning all about formatting eBooks, especially with those pesky illustrations.
You can read more details about all these steps of the process in my blog on my site.
The biggest challenge, as was clear from the beginning and what I am just working on now, is marketing.
With rare exception, books do not market themselves. Since many of the traditional print marketing avenues (book signings, promotional giveaways at bookstores, etc.) don’t work for eBook-only authors, you have to be aggressive about advertising online, joining online book communities, working your Facebook page and Twitter feeds, and more.
So, what’s the worst case scenario? I’m out a few bucks and I’ve had a tremendous learning experience. No regrets.
As of this writing, I’ve posted the first chapter of Wonderland
, the first book in The Storyworlds
series, in both .mobi and .epub formats on my site, and I finally have the entire novel available for the Kindle on Amazon.
I love feedback, so feel free to criticize, praise or ask questions to your heart’s content, and, since I assume you’re reading this with the thought of publishing your own children’s book, best of luck to you!