Last fall we had the privilege of publishing an adorable children’s book that was long overdue for today’s market. Read on to learn author Sara Crutcher‘s story and how she managed to have such a successful first book!
Heart Picked: Elizabeth’s Adoption Tale is my first book and was published by Mascot Books in November, 2015. This book is dear to my heart as it was inspired by my own adoption story. I was adopted when I was six weeks old and consider adoption to be my greatest blessing. While researching topics for my first book, I discovered that there weren’t any current books on adoption featuring an African-American family. I knew this book could impact the lives of children and families within the adoption community. My hope for the book is that children, especially young African-American girls, will have a confident and positive outlook on being adopted.
Since publishing, I have sold almost my entire order and recently placed my second order of another 1000 books! I am still in shock at the success I have had in such a short time, and am humbled by the unwavering amount of support. I know this would not be possible without first having chosen the right publishing company.
I was introduced to Mascot Books through a family friend who has published several books with Mascot! One of the major reasons that sealed my partnership with Mascot Books was their distribution to Amazon, Books-A-Million and Barnes & Noble. Having a presence in those online bookstores is huge! I think it would have been a big obstacle if I had to approach those bookstores on my own.
My publishing journey took about 10 months. We started with the edit phase, making some tweaks to my initial manuscript. Once we finished the manuscript edits and page layout, it was time to select an illustrator. I wanted bold colors with an animation feel to the illustrations. I was sent three illustrators to choose from including my pick of Romney Vasquez! I had a very clear vision and was adamant about the illustrations for my book, as I knew it would bring my story to life. Romney’s vibrant style and ability to adhere to my direction made him the best choice. I have two other adoption books I am currently working on and I can’t think of any other illustrator I would want to work with other than Romney. I am grateful for his patience and artistic abilities.
Getting the final approval on the book was both exciting and nerve-racking. I looked forward to that moment for so long and when it arrived I was so scared. A friend once told me, “Do not be afraid of success, but embrace it.” I think I am still trying to embrace everything that has happened so far. When the books arrived, I could not believe it! I had seen the PDF for months but the finished copy in my hand was the most amazing experience. I accomplished one of my goals and I will always cherish this experience.
These last four months have been nothing short of amazing! From my first book sale, meeting the many delightful children and families at reading events and even promoting my book with the media, the opportunities have been endless. I am proud of my accomplishments and I hope that my publishing journey can inspire the next author. Here are some tips I have learned along the way:
- Set up a website. – Having your own e-commerce website for people to buy your book will help bring traffic to your site and social media pages. I set up my own website (http://www.heartpickedwithlove.com) via com. Squarespace worked really well for me. I can keep track of pending orders, send tracking numbers once the books have shipped, update and add pictures to various tabs quickly and all payments link to my business checking account (I set up a business as an LLC).
- Set up a business account with com. – If you have a website and ship books yourself, I would recommend setting up a business account with USPS. You can get free priority mail shipping supplies, print labels (at a cheaper price) and if you are shipping books in bulk (2+ books), go to USPS and ask to ship using Media Mail (very cost effective).
- Create Promotion Materials – Prior to my books arriving, I had flyers, business cards, a poster board image of my book cover, and thank-you cards made. Zazzle is great for promotional materials. I get my tote bags from them. The flyers are great to give out at events for people who want to buy the book at a later date or to give out to their friends. With every book I ship out, I always write a thank-you note.
- Know your Target Market – My book is about adoption and features an African-American family. My target audience for marketing the book is the adoption community and African-American families.
- Make a Marketing/PR List – When I determined my target market, I worked with a good friend who works in PR. We researched as many adoption/African American family agencies, magazines, government agencies, blogs, podcasts, publications, TV programs, bookstores, museums, and organizations we could find. I made a list of contact information and sent emails to EVERYONE. Make sure to follow up with people and always search for other areas you can reach your target audience. Get on the phone, send emails, go to places in person to introduce yourself and your book. GRIND!
- Social Media – You can choose which social media accounts you want for your book. I have Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Try to make a personal connection with your followers. If there are social media campaigns that pertain to the topic of your book, post pictures using the hashtag.
- Tap into your own social network – Send an email to family and friends introducing your book and ask them to forward your email to their family and friends and share on their social media pages. I told everyone I met about my book and so did my family and friends. We connected our networks and were able to set up some great things.
- Keep a Calendar – As you start to meet people and secure book signings and speaking engagements, keep a calendar (preferably electronically so you can set reminders) so you can stay organized.
- Offer Discounts for Bulk Orders – This is a good way to sell books in bulk. I usually offer discounts to bookstores and schools between 20-40% off when they order a minimum of 12 (or 24 depending).
- Sign your books – Everyone wants a signed-by-the-author copy of your book. Try to have a standard message, sign, and date it. I usually don’t date books unless someone buys them in person. I added a place on my website at checkout where people can add a name if they want it dedicated to someone.