Stephanie Berger chose hybrid publishing, and believes there are pros and cons to the approach. Read about what she has learned through the process.
1. Tell me briefly about your latest book – what is it about and what motivated you to write it?
The Happiest Birthday Ever is inspired by my 40th birthday when I did 40 random acts of kindness around town in one day. I knew that people would have as just as much fun as I did, they just needed the idea to get them started. I especially wanted to inspire kids and let them experience that giving is even more fun than receiving. I wanted the book to be realistic where the readers could visualize themselves participating in a similar birthday celebration. So I wrote about a boy turning seven years old and he and his friends do seven random acts of kindness as his birthday party. It may be a different spin on birthday parties, but most of all, it inspires kids that spreading kindness is a lot more fun than they ever imagined.
2. How have your sales been?
My sales were great at first. Especially when I would do an author visit at a school, my pre-order sales for the book were great, until COVID-19 hit. My school visits were cancelled and my school orders are non-existent. Online sales have also come to a halt.
3. You’ve chosen self-publishing. How have you liked it so far? Talk about some of the positives and negatives you’ve encountered.
I chose to go with a hybrid publisher. This is my first book and I wanted a one stop shop with the resources to guide me through the process, edit, design layout and illustrations. I knew going into it that I would be paying for these services whether it be with the publisher I chose or finding independent contractors to help me with the process. I paid an upfront amount of money to cover these services and I liked that they don’t keep a royalty until I recoup 100% of those fees. I also liked that they wrote a press release which gave me visibility on an out of state news channel and helped me sell over 50 books in the United Kingdom. I would not have been able to do that on my own.
The biggest negative is that I did not get to set the price of my book and it is priced higher than I would have liked. I also do not have the ability to set up marketing on Amazon as self-published authors do.
I was forewarned that you stay far away from any publisher that charges you in advance to publish your book. Other authors said they won’t sell your book for you. I knew going into this project that I would be responsible for marketing and selling my book. I feel like those that self-publish have to do their own marketing and selling, too. Having a publisher backing my book has given me access to large big box stores online that would not be listing my book if I did this all on my own.
4. What sort of networking have you done as an author, and what have been the results?
The first thing I tried was local craft/vendor events, but I only broke even at those. I also use Instagram, Pinterest and Facebook for social networking.
5. Talk a little about the sort of marketing techniques you’ve used to sell your books. Which ones have been most successful?
My best form of marketing was the segment I did on Good Day Sacramento in February 2020. Otherwise, sending home Author Visit pre-order forms prior to my school visits have been my only other successful marketing tool.
6. Are there any marketing or networking techniques you’ve intentionally avoided or discontinued, and if so, why?
I have avoided any marketing techniques that would be an additional monetary expense.
7. What are the most important things you’ve learned about publishing that you didn’t know when you started out?
I have learned that publishing with a hybrid publisher takes 12 full months. I didn’t expect it to take that long. I also thought I would get to set the price of my book and I didn’t think I would be restricted from doing marketing on Amazon.
8. If you could do one thing differently in publishing your books, what would it be?
I would like to pursue the traditional publishing route.
9. New authors face the challenge of getting their books into the hands of readers. What advice do you have for an author just starting out?
Getting your book into the hands of readers is a challenge. My advice would be to know your target audience. The Happiest Birthday Ever is geared for ages 5 – 7. So getting into the schools is my best avenue for getting the book into the hands of children.
10. What other projects are you currently working on?
I have plenty of ideas for future books. I just want to recoup my initial investment before I start on book #2.
11. If you could market your brand – not just one particular book, but your overall brand of writing – in one sentence, what would it be?
Inspiring kids that doing random acts of kindness is fun with “Spread Kindness Books.”
12. How can readers learn more about your books?