The Next Stage
by Lp Camozzi
(Montreal, Quebec, Canada)
Spice Kapita had dancing feet early on!
The next stage: what I learned from my first book and how I'm applying it to my second.
Having already reported on my first book, here are some further thoughts based on the release of my 2nd, Spice Kapita: That Dancin’ Guy – again illustrated by my daughter.
Read Lp's post about that first book.
Spice is the story of a young boy who wanted to become a dancer from the day he was in his Jolly Jumper. As a young boy, Spice proceeds to travel the world of dance via an amazing dance step machine.
As he travels and experiences dances around the world, he learns life lessons. When he returns home as a young man, he discovers ballet, and "Spice soon became what he so sought. A ballet star that none forgot."
Pasta Pazoo has pretty much sold out its original print run. It also helped me win numerous business contracts (I am a self employed ad copywriter), since I would often give it away to prospective clients who had kids.
Spice Kapita was a 5 year production process – from first draft to final printed copies. It is a 36 page (4 more than normal picture books), large format, full colour, hard cover book, versus the smaller 16 page Pasta Pazoo.
My production costs were more than double my first book, based on the use of a superior designer, more editorial input, higher resolution scans and higher per unit printing costs. I printed 2000 copies, which, by the way, is what many publishers in Canada will print to test the 1st edition waters.
I have pretty much covered my production costs after one year of marketing the book. My gross margin is anywhere from 33%-75% per copy, depending on which channel I go through.
To date I have marketed it on my website, at dance trade shows, Christmas bazaars, and most recently on a music tour of the U.S.
I am doing the tour to introduce my music to America and help pre-promote the fact that I will have another book coming out in the Fall of 2013 – via an established publisher in Toronto. I am writing this article from San Francisco, where I was thrilled to get a warm reception at the central library yesterday - where they have children’s books in 60 languages for the growing ethnic mix in the city.
So what have I learned this time?
1. Like a lot of 2nd albums, your second book may not get as good a ride from literary critics as your first, not that good reviews on my first book made that much of a difference. I was, after all, self published.
2. Educators are worth sending review copies to via PDF. I have had very good results with this and am using those reviews to build my Spice brand in the school library environment.
3. Start shopping for a customs broker early in the game. I think I paid too much by not shopping.
4. Make sure you have a printer expert on the ground where you live to help review your press proofs from your offshore printer – in this case China. I used one of the largest picture book printers in the world, and despite their very professional efforts we simply were not happy with the press proofs. My daughter’s brilliant colours were flat despite expensive scans, etc. A local printer friend recommended a paper stock change and voila – a spectacular book.
5. Self publishing is not a new or shameful thing anymore. People accept it for what it is and will at least look at your book before slagging it.
6. I did not plan it this way, but I am generating some strong interest in niche segments. I just received a large order (by Canadian standards) from a First Nations school board – thanks to having paid close attention to detail in discussing native dance as part of Spice’s educational travels. I have also recently signed an agreement with someone who is going to bring Spice to the North American dance studio business in a big way this year. Niches work!
7. Retail book marketing is in a terrible state, but there are some signs that the indie bookstore is making a bit of a comeback – albeit limited to one or two stores even in major cities. That will never generate volume for the self publisher, since it is still a consignment game.
8. If I get a chance to talk to people individually about my story, I can sell it about 30% of the time – signed of course. I need to get on YouTube and do this – once I have a more reliable and cheaper distribution method. Shipping costs are outrageous in Canada.
So what’s next?
Well, as I mentioned, I have been picked up by a publisher – possibly helped by the fact that I self published two books first. Though the third book is a totally different concept.
I am excited about this... except for the money part. I will get paid about $0.50 a book that they sell – compared to my minimum 33% margin on self published material. But they do have reach, contacts, distribution and reputation.
In the meantime, I have three more books in development – one of which is sitting with “my publisher.” We shall see what comes of my third book before I commit these increasingly unique works to the traditional channel – or make a life commitment to self publishing online!
Check out Spice Kapita.