Thursday, December 5, 2013

Publishing “In-Between” – Opportunities Abound! A Guest Post By Julie Hedlund

Julie Hedlund

I am confident that every member of SCBWI loves writing and/or illustrating above most, if not all, other activities. At the same time, I suspect the vast majority of people who join SCBWI do not do so solely for the love of writing and illustrating. They join because they want to be published.

But what does it mean to be published these days? Let’s take a brief look at what’s happened to the publishing industry over the past few years. The “traditional” model, where an author submits a manuscript to a publisher who “acquires” it, pays the author an advance and then the author earns royalties if s/he earns out the advance, still exists. In fact, traditional children’s publishing is thriving, especially when compared to other genres.

Several years ago, publishing began to change in a big way as new technologies, such as e-readers and tablets, emerged which enabled authors to self-publish and distribute their own work much more economically than had been possible in the past. We started seeing many discussions about “self” versus “traditional” publishing. These discussions have been useful, but what tends to get lost is that other opportunities to publish exist, opportunities that blend the best of both the self and traditional publishing worlds.

My first book, A TROOP IS A GROUP OF MONKEYS, was published first as an interactive storybook app for the iPad and is now available in print. Most people, upon hearing the book was published digitally, assumed it was self-published. Not so. My publisher, Little Bahalia, acquired the manuscript with the intention of publishing it first as an app. The publisher edited the manuscript, hired and art directed the illustrator, produced the app, and published it to the iTunes store. The only thing “non-traditional” about this publishing deal was the format.


My next book, MY LOVE FOR YOU IS THE SUN, will also be published by Little Bahalia in fall 2014 as a print picture book. This time, the approach we took was a bigger departure from conventional publishing. I ran a campaign (ongoing) to fund the initial costs associated with producing, publishing, and printing the book via Kickstarter. Little Bahalia, however, is still in the “publisher” role and I am still in the “author” role. In other words, Little Bahalia decided they wanted to publish the book under their name with the goal of eventually earning a profit from sales of the book. I’m not simply paying them for their publishing services, which is akin to self-publishing.

In this model, I will provide the funds to Little Bahalia to publish the book, through the first-run printing, via the funds I raise on Kickstarter. In a “reverse advance” model, Little Bahalia earns out those fees via book sales. Once they earn back the fees, the royalty structure returns to a traditional model of the publisher receiving their share, the author, the illustrator, and in this case my agent, receive their shares.

Why does my agent earn her commission? Because she helped me both develop and negotiate the contracts required to make this deal work. Freelance editor and publishing professional Emma Dryden wrote a fantastic guest post on this topic on my blog a couple of weeks ago about what is now being called “hybrid publishing,” or the “in-between” for those atmospheric writers out there.

What’s even more interesting is that in the span of time I’ve been running the Kickstarter campaign for my book, two other well-published (traditionally), agented authors have announced their own projects that fall outside the exact realm of “traditional” publishing.

Author/illustrator Katie Davis’ picture book, LITTLE CHICKEN’S BIG DAY, was published by Simon & Schuster in 2011. She and her husband wanted to write and illustrate a sequel titled LITTLE CHICKEN’S BIG CHRISTMAS, but as a self-published ebook this time. Katie’s agent consulted with S&S, got the go-ahead, and Katie published the book to the Kindle store in time for the holiday season. 

Ann Whitford Paul, of WRITING PICTURE BOOKS fame, and illustrator Nancy Hayashi recently self-published a print picture book called ‘TWAS THE LATE NIGHT OF CHRISTMAS because, as Ann said, “our book is not easily classified.” The book is a parody of Clement C. Moore’s famous poem but with a more adult slant, from the perspective of an exhausted mother in the post-Christmas chaos.

What these three books all have in common is that they didn’t easily fit today’s market parameters for traditionally published picture books. Mine because it is a bedtime poem rather than a character-driven book with a narrative arc. Katie wanted to experiment with publishing an ebook with a fast time-to-market. Ann’s was written as much for adults as for children. Yet, each book has found an audience. 

Does the existence of non-conventional publishing options make membership in SCBWI less relevant? On the contrary, I think it makes SCBWI membership even more important. Why? Because the first thing we need to do before publishing is make sure we have a fantastic book to offer, and SCBWI is the master of teaching craft.

Secondly, more publishers and agents themselves will be thinking about new and alternative ways to publish, and those opportunities will be presented to SCBWI members as they become available.

Last, but certainly not least, the connections made within SCBWI are invaluable. I met my publisher at a regional SCBWI conference. I met the illustrator for MY LOVE FOR YOU IS THE SUN, Susan Eaddy, at the SCBWI booth at the Bologna Book Fair in 2012. In fact, I first pitched my agent Erzsi Deak at that same booth. I met the host of this very blog, Mr. Lee Wind, at the 2010 SCBWI Winter conference in New York.

Gather those contacts, serve them well, and keep them close. Some of them may lead you to traditional publishing contracts. Others may lead you to an “in-between.” Either way, it’s our audience, the children, who benefit by having more books made available to them in many formats and voices.

Julie Hedlund is a Children’s author. She’s had two books published as interactive storybook apps for the iPad by Little Bahalia Publishing -- A TROOP IS A GROUP OF MONKEYS and A SHIVER OF SHARKS. A print version of TROOP was released in fall 2013.

Julie is the creator of Julie Hedlund’s Template for Storybook App Proposals and the founder and host of the 12 x 12 picture book writing challenge, with more than 500 members. She is a monthly contributor on Katie Davis’ Brain Burps About Books children’s literature podcast, and a PAL member of SCBWI.


Carol Grannick said...

Wonderful and comprehensive post, Julie. As always, you are so generous with information and ideas!

Robyn Campbell said...

It's amazing to see these already published authors venturing into the waters. But after watching you and Katie, I say anything goes. But Julie, I think that I (a person without the name Julie Hedlund or Katie Davis) would probably have a different experience with this.

Becky Fyfe said...

I love the evolution that has been occurring within the publishing process. The more options available to all of us, the better it will be for the world of books.

Becky Fyfe said...

And I have to agree with Robyn that part of the reason your campaign was such a success was because you are already well-known within the industry. But I am so pleased that your campaign WAS a success! :)

Joanna said...

I think you are using your marketing skills, guts, creativity, connections, platform and entrepreneur spirit to pull off something for exciting, Julie. Thanks for such a comprehensive post. This could be an interesting option for other small presses.

Stacy S. Jensen said...

I love to read about more opportunities available to writers and illustrators. Like with any business venture, I think one needs to evaluate what works best. I'm glad the new and hybrid options are becoming more acceptable. Options are nice.

anne rockwell said...

Terrific post. Julie. These new publishing worlds are very confusing, and from just starting to established we all need help. Thank you.

Teresa Robeson said...

I applaud your writing business savvy in addition to your writing skills, Julie! Even though I am not certain that it'll work for me (partly due to what Robyn said, and partly due to my lack of business savvy), I appreciate reading all the different venues that writers take to get their books out into the world these days. Times they are a-changing, and I enjoy keeping up with the news even if I don't keep up with the trends personally.

Sandie said...

I think we are fortunate to be in an era where you get to select which media/platform you want your work to be published. You can go traditional, self-published, digital, social media, etc. The sky is the limit.
Educating and updating the writers/illustrators the "how to's" is another step because they do not teach you this in school.
If you look at the music industry, what a shock it was for them to switch from plastic records>cassettes>CD>DVD>iTunes, etc. The publishing world has their turn. Staying current with the new changes will move anyone forward.

Julie, you are a mover and shaker in this business, and I appreciate your posts and your tips. Thanks!

Hannah Holt said...

Thanks for taking us behind the scenes of your new venture (and adventure!). And thanks for sharing what others are doing as well. I'm sure many new options will be available for authors in the future as well. You are on the cutting edge. Onward! Best wishes, Julie!

Laurie J. Edwards said...

Thanks for an informative post, Julie. I've enjoyed watching your project evolve from the ground up & also watched Katie's with interest. It's exciting to see authors, illustrators, and publishers exploring new routes to getting books to market. One thing that is important in this ever-changing market is to be sure the books that go out are well-edited, because our readers deserve the very best.

Lee Wind, M.Ed. said...

it's a good point to compare publishing to the music industry. I think everyone's concerned they're going to end up investing in what turns out to be the 8-track cassette (remember those?) But interestingly, there's a movement I've been seeing of audiophiles going back to vinyl. Not instead of downloading digital tracks, but more the "yes, and..." concept. Digital AND special analog records...
And maybe we'll see the same with books. Digital AND special physical books.
And thanks to everyone for your comments so far!

tinamcho said...

It's incredible to watch you do these cool innovations in publishing, Julie!

Sarah Towle said...

Great article, Julie. So refreshing! Thanks for speaking out for "Hybrid Authors" everywhere, and for showing us how it's done. All best!

Julie Hedlund said...

I'm going to try to address some of these comments as i get time. For starters - Robyn you raise a great point, and I'm going to give the same answer here as I did in our Facebook group.

It would be more difficult, but most definitely NOT impossible, for someone without a huge platform to have success with crowdfunding. I've learned a lot about crowdfunding in the past few weeks, and the size of your network matters far less than the engagement or quality of it.

Also, I came to children's writing off of a 10-year career in electronic payments and banking. I did not know ONE PERSON in children's writing when I attended my first regional SCBWI conference. I guess that's why I'm so passionate about the opportunities that come for authors who also build platforms. I'm my own case study - LOL. In other words, ANYONE can do this. I'm not saying it's easy or doesn't involve a lot of hard work, but truly ANYONE can.

Ann Jacobus said...

Thanks, Lee and Julie, for a very informative post and a look at innovative, creative developments in our ever-changing industry.

Julie Hedlund said...

Laurie - I absolutely agree that books published by any means need to be edited, vetted and be market-ready. Self-publishing and/or hybrid publishing is NOT a short cut, just a different means to the same end.

I also agree with Lee that there will always be paper books, side by side with new formats that exist today and are yet to come. Storytelling is woven into our consciousness and humans, so our jobs are always safe! :-)

Laurisa White Reyes said...

This was very interesting. Thanks for posting.

Janie said...

Love your out of the box thinking!
Thank you for the post! Continued success!

Kelli said...

Julie, I so admire your gumption to go for it and make it happen. I know you've worked long and hard on this project. I love that you found a way to make it happen and that you are helping others in the process in the Brave New World of Publishing in the 21st Century.

J said...

I have been keeping an eye on your Kickstarter campaign and that whole strategy of partnering-with-publisher-but-raising-the-money with great interest. I have a story that has a very small market and hence no hope of traditional publication, but I really think that through campaigning and networking within that small market I could raise the funds to do something similar. A couple people mentioned that your examples of success are from well-known, previously published authors, but I think that IF a writer can identify a niche market and really get the word out among those folks, the 'name' factor won't matter so much. Some stories won't have such a specific market, but for those that do, I think it could be a really smart way to go.