Sunday, June 14, 2020

Board Book Self Publishing FAQ

I've had a handful of people reach out to me asking for advice on self publishing a board book. I do not claim to be an expert on the subject, but here are my answers to come of the common questions.

Q: Should I Make a Board Book? 

I would not expect to make a profit by self-publishing unless you have an established audience or a strong niche connection. It is very hard to get large retailers to carry self-published books, and self-published books are difficult to market. I have written and self-published four books and only Goodnight Server Room made money.

If you are not confident you can hit the sales needed to cover the cost of board book printing, consider using print on demand services (e.g., Lulu, CreateSpace) as an alternative. They can't do board books at a sustainable margin, but if you don't expect more than 500 sales, using them to print paperback books is likely the only viable path for self-publishing.

Q: If you did your project again, would you still do a board book?

Yes! I would absolutely make it a board book again; I think kids in the 2-3 age range engage better with books with which they can freely interact.

Q: Did KickStarter work as you hoped?

Yes. The things that helped me most were 1) I was speaking to a niche audience and 2) I was filling a space that had few other offerings. KickStarter didn't cover all the manufacturing costs, but it covered a good chunk of them. KickStarter's funding model (only funding your project if you hit your goal) also works well because backers get a safety net on their commitment.

When you do your KickStarter, make *sure* you have catchy, polished artwork.

Q: Are you satisfied with the books you ordered from China?

Yes. The quality is indistinguishable from American-printed books.

Q: Do you sell more books on Amazon or Etsy? 

I sell more on Amazon, but the profit margin is better on Etsy, because Etsy takes a much smaller cut of each sale.

Q: Any guidance you have for me on sales goals (how many books you sold in your first year..)

For Goodnight Server Room, I sold approximately 700 books in the first year and about 500 books over the following two years. If I recall correctly, I broke even about 16 months after starting the project.

For my other book projects, I have not broken even (my other projects haven't found a niche audience, as mentioned above).

Q: Assuming you're storing the books yourself before distribution: could you estimate the volume of 2,000 freshly printed board books?

I received ~20 boxes of 96 books each for a total volume of approximately half a cubic meter. The total weight was about 300Kg.

Q: Can you share any insights on what percentage of your orders came from outside the US?

Approximately 5% of the KickStarter orders were from outside of the U.S., primarily from Canada and Europe. Most of the subsequent orders have been from the U.S., though I got a burst of international orders when @SwiftOnSecurity tweeted about it.

Q: Do I need an ISBN and a barcode?

International Standard Book Number (ISBN) is a unique identifier for your book. In my experience, most retailers require both an ISBN and a barcode to sell a book. For Goodnight Server Room I purchased both through Bowker.