Cracking the most difficult self-publishing category

In 2012, I made a foray into self-publishing with four titles released over the course of the year. While I would like to see my series become commercially successful and have a good following, I did not set out with that specific goal in mind. I wanted to write a fun story that my daughter would enjoy (mission accomplished, see the picture of my award from her below) and I’m happy that several of her friends have also enjoyed the story as well. I’m hoping to get some feedback, in the form of reviews on Amazon, from some of the hundreds of readers who got The Quests of Underice during the free promotion this past week.


Even if I don’t achieve commercial success, I intend to continue this series until it’s done. Honestly, it’s fun to write, and I’ve enjoyed hearing what children think of the story. Plus, the Homeschoolers of Ann Arbor theater class is planning to do a show based on The Quests of Underice. With a fan base like that, how can I not finish the story?

All of that said, I’m also going to simultaneously work on marketing the books and trying to get them in front of more children. Which brings me to the topic of this blog post: I think I am writing for one of the most difficult self-publishing categories. Here’s why:

  • Children aged 8-12 don’t buy their own books. The parents buy the books, though sometimes at the request of the child who may have heard about books from classmates and friends. To some extent, that means that parents are the target for my marketing.

  • Children get the Scholastic book catalog handed to them at school. What a powerful marketing vehicle that must be. A catalog of books, some specially priced, handed out to children in class. I’m assuming that the books in there are all published by Scholastic, though it’s possible that other publishers have struck deals to get in the catalogs.

  • Children this age don’t follow blogs, Twitter, Facebook, email lists. All of the traditional social marketing goodies don’t apply.

  • Children might forget to follow-up on a continuing series. I’m sure that plenty of adults don’t check for new books in a series, so why should children remember (especially without reminders via social media?) That said, I’ve seen my daughter check for new Rainbow Magic books.

In other words, there are unusual considerations when marketing books for children. Most of the success stories I’ve seen in self-publishing have either been mainstream fiction or niche books that target adults. The Internet enables access to a broad audience of adult readers. But not for children’s books. From Barry Parker’s guide on Amazon:

But I will mention that postcards and the internet don’t work really well. You have to get out there in person to sell them; they sell best at school functions, flea markets (where mothers have their kids in tow), and in malls just before Christmas (where you are signing them). So, good luck, I’m sure you’ll enjoy the experience.

For some books, the math works out fine for it to be a commercial venture. Without the amplifying power of the internet (in other words, just having local reach) or a publisher like Scholastic that can reach into schools and libraries well, the math around self-published children’s books does not seem very compelling to me.

It always pays to know what your goals are in a project. My goal for 11 Quests is simple: make a fun fantasy adventure story about the world we live in.

If you have ideas that can help me spread my books far and wide, I’d love to hear from you. See my contact info on the right side of the page.