Posted in Demystifying publishing

Demystifying Publishing Part 2 with @readwithriver: Which is better for Authors Traditional or Self Publishing? A Cakefographic

So you’ve invented a great cake recipe (story) and you want to share it with the world and ideally make a little coin too. You have two major options, sell your recipe to a Bakery (a traditional publishing house) or sell it yourself, homemade (self-publishing.) Your friends and family all love your recipes (writing) and are encouraging you to make the leap and get yourself out there. Which option is best for you? Well, that really depends to be totally honest on what it is you want to get out of it.

Production! The baking and decorating of the actual cake!

BAKERY (Traditional Publishing)Homemade (Self-Publishing)
Whole team of editors that specialize in each step of the editing process to refine your manuscript! They may have ideas you don’t like and compromises are made.
There are several types of editors that work in a house, structural, line, copy, proof and, production editors.
You are your own editor, or you hire a freelance editor,
ideally multiple editors to ensure the best quality.
There are a number of companies that offer freelance editing services.
Contracts and works with professional illustratorYou contract and work with illustrator at your own expense. You may want to hire an illustrator to do a small commission first of one page, before committing to the whole book, to ensure quality, but also that they can deliver on time.
Team for lay out, cover design and, printing. Cover design is separate from the illustrator.If you are printing a whole run yourself (as opposed to print on demand services like Amazon where they take a cut of the profit) then the printer often offers lay out design services for a fee (expect that fee to be over $1,000) If you wish to order a sample of your book before committing to a print run, a sample single copy will probably cost about $300. And then people order print runs in numbers of about 500, 1,000, or 2,000 copies at a time. Which you’ll have to store somewhere.
Will meet house standards and conform to house brand on every level. A traditionally published book is a team effort and a team product. The standards of your book will be whatever you set them at, but every single choice, from the binding to the paper type to the set of the font is going to be your choice.

Marketing and Distribution: Awareness of product, and where/how it is sold.

Bakery (Traditional Publishing House)Homemade (self-Publishing)
After printing and binding your book, publishers have warehouses where they store your books before shipping them off to retailers.Either you find a place to store your books (I hope you have a big cellar) or you do Print on Demand services where the profit margin is much lower, and you have less control over the quality of the final product.
If you only sell E-copies of your book then it’s much easier you can avoid a lot of this. But if it’s a picture book, you’re going to have a limited audience, people generally do not buy E-Books for children.
Your new book will be sold and marketed in all of the major stores that sell books, Costco, pharmacies, airports, grocery stores, major bookstore chains, independent bookstores, library wholesalers, and online retailers like Amazon.
Publishers also arrange for marketing within these stores for your book.
You will need to find accounts (stores) to take your book stock and sell your books. Call up libraries, library wholesalers, go to indie bookstores and talk to the owner, book fairs, craft fairs.
The internet is your friend here, there are many options for selling your book online.
Marketing includes online paid advertisement as well as in store co-op placement for visibility. Some things you might not realize are paid marketing in fact are, those tables in the bookstore with the “picks” are not genuine recommendations usually, they’re in-store co-op placement. They have been pre-arranged with the publisher for discounts.
Online marketing can look like featured books on the homepage of Amazon or Indigo.
Marketing is paid advertisement and paid placement. Awareness is key, if people aren’t aware of your book no one is going to buy it.

Money Money Money: Making a book costs a lot of money

Bakery (Traditionally Published)Home Made (Self-Published)
Pays author an advance on sales. After that advance is earned out the author receives royalties that can vary between 7-15%. If the author has an agent then that agent usually takes 15% commission on their royalties and advance. Author retains 100% profit or up to 75% when using services like Amazon.
E-royalties for digital sales are a standard 25% this is a very good deal for publishers over time because they only pay for the base costs of creating the book, editing, lay out etc. Eventually those costs are covered and they don’t have to worry about PBB costs (paper, binding, printing,) shipping costs, the e-copies just continue to rake in revenue. A lot of authors do not like this!Successful Self-Published authors of adult novels (and there are many authors who are very successful selling e-books on Amazon) will try to retain their electronic rights when publishers try to buy their books. So that means they will sell the publisher only the print rights or co-edition rights (translations) but keep their full rights to their e-copies which continue to exist on Amazon.
Publisher takes on all the financial risks. If the book fails, the publisher suffers, the author walks away with their advance (but their sales history in tatters, recovering from a flop of a book is even harder than getting a first book published.)Author takes on the complete financial risk for everything, and you’re looking at total investment of $10-15,000 to do book that is comparable to a trade published book.
Kick Starter and other crowd funding options are also possible, anyway you slice this cake, you’re going to be doing a lot of jobs you’ve never considered.

Publicity: Publicity is Buzz created around a book that is FREE (not a paid ad)

Bakery (Traditionally Published)Homemade (Self-Published)
Have connections to traditional media, Industry magazines, Newspapers, TV shows. Cold call traditional media, local newspapers, etc.
Have a network of reviewers and influencers.You need to develop a relationship with reviewers and influencers (a professional one.) Publicists at traditional houses have databases of influencers who they have cultivated a working relationship with overtime. When looking for influencers you may want to send your book to, check their highlights for their policies around accepting self-published submissions, it’s usually laid out clearly for you, and if you don’t follow them, you won’t get a response.
Make sure you have set aside a budget for physical review copies, influencers will not feature self published e-books.
set up tours for authors.You can arrange your own tours! Libraries, independent bookstores, local fairs or events, schools. There’s even a website where authors who are available for school visits can put their information in.
They have a professional reputation which gives them authority in finding publicity opportunities. Build an engaged social media following. No short cuts. It’s not about the number up top but the number who care enough to actually buy your book and leave reviews on places like Amazon and Good reads. Fake followers will not buy real books.
launch party set uplaunch party!

Quality Control: Standards are key

Bakery (Traditional Publishing House)Homemade (Self-Publishing)
Standards vary from house to house, but there is a house style, there are expectations.
Remember that not all publishers are the same, some are tiny operations and some are gigantic worldwide corporations, so expectations will vary.
Bigger doesn’t always mean better, in fact some of the smaller publishers are known for taking the time out to produce much higher quality work, for example Enchanted Lion, Flying Eye, are both smaller publishers who produce top notch work.
You’re setting the standards of quality here. However at the end of the day quality may come down to how much you’re willing to spend, and a little bit of luck in choosing the right thing if this is totally new to you.
the first time you bake a cake, it’s not always a great cake. There’s a learning curve here.
That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it, just to be kind to yourself if it’s not what you imagined.
Mistakes can still be made.
I’ve seen plenty of boring crappy books made by traditional publishers.
Mistakes can be made, however self-published authors can be fastidious and take proofing very seriously. If anything they have an emotional connection to the work that will drive them to check five hundred times, that you may not always have with a traditional team.
Entire teams of people checking it at every step of the way to ensure that it meets the standards of quality of the publisher. You’re responsible for checking every step of the way, from little things like margins, to space between the lines. It helps to find multiple opinions and when possible print samples BEFORE committing to anything.

Homemade Options: If you’re going to do it yourself, do you have to do it all by yourself?

Type of Self-PublishingDescription
Fly SoloFrom editing, to lay out, to printing, to storing, shipping, marketing, publicity, you are responsible for all of it. It’s entirely yours.
AmazonYou do all of the editing, lay out, illustrations etc. When you are done you upload a PDF to Amazon and sell through their service. You will receive between 35% to 70% royalties depending on the price of your book and which of their programs you use.
For adult E-Books this can be very successful.
Their print books are absolutely awful quality however so it’s much harder to do this with print picture books and have them look half decent. I have seen a couple that were so good in content that they overcame the terrible quality but they’re incredibly rare.
This is the best option if you don’t want to spend any money at all, if you just want to put a story out there, and have it out there, you can do this for free, and if any of them sell, you will get a cut.
Pay to Play (sometimes called “Vanity Press.”)Companies that print your book for a price (you pay them.)
They vary in price, quality and services provided.
Some offer full services that a traditional publisher provides, they hook you up with an illustrator (often not a very good one) and they do lay out, get it printed, some of these services even take on the marketing for you and approach influencers on behalf of their clients for reviews.
CAUTION: There is a huge variety of reliability with these companies, they can be incredibly predatory, some will take your money, then print your book on Amazon. I’ve heard of people who got their books missing pages. DO NOT jump into the kitchen with the first company advertised to you on Google. You might be swindled.
Check for reviews, check for product quality (order other books they’ve produced), find authors who’ve worked with them and reach out to ask about their experiences. It’s a lot of money to flush down the toilet.

Other Considerations: Errant thoughts

On Hiring Illustrators

If you’re going to do a picture book, the illustrations are almost more important than the actual words. People can forgive meh writing in a picture book, but they absolutely cannot forgive bad pictures. So be wary of hiring random people on Craig’s list that promise to illustrate your book for a thousand dollars. There are a few artists out there who churn out self-pub books like a factory, they take the money, give what’s basically clip art, then move on to the next one. The result is not professional quality by any stretch of the imagination.

A really excellent illustrator might charge about $10K, if it’s a full 32 page picture book, and then after you’ve sold that amount they will likely require that you split royalties with them going forward. Unless you negotiate to pay them outright.

You might be able to find promising illustrators who will work for less, consider college art students who are new to the game.

Making the leap from Self-Pub to Traditional

There are many authors who are unable to find traditional publishers to take their Mansucripts, so they self-publish it. If it does really well, then publishers buy the rights and re-release it. A few examples of picture books and authors that started out self published and were then picked up are:

“Race Cars” by Jenny Devenny which was picked up by Quarto and further edited by Charnaie Gordon.

Dr. Cara Florance whose self-published Biology picture book was discovered by Chris Ferrie of the Baby University book series, after a social media post. She now writes for the “Baby University” book series, and has her own book series called “Baby Medical School.”

“Hey, Boy” by Benjamin Strouse and Jennifer Phelan was also self-published, then picked up by Simon & Schuster.

So if you want to be traditionally published, it’s not impossible to start your path with self-publishing and then make that leap.

Where do you make more money?

So if you’re only selling e-books, then conceivably you could make a lot more money. However, it’s more complex than just the percentage of the money you make per book. It’s about how many books you’ll be able to sell overall, that requires marketing, publicity, etc. A traditional publisher has the means and connections to distribute widely for you, world wide even.

Additionally if you’re selling print copies, traditional publishers have the ability and the set up to keep production costs down, print larger print runs, and have the distribution network to sell at every store. You may only make 7% royalties on one book, but if you’re printing your own books by yourself in a run of only say a thousand books, then you’re only going to make a your larger percentage of profit on a very small number of books. If your Publisher can sell fifty thousand copies, and you can only sell maybe five thousand, where is the better deal for you?

At the end of the day, do what feels right for you. It just matters how the cake turns out.

Posted in #Librarian Fight Club

Where are all the Fat People in Picture Books?


“Denial of Treatment to Obese Patients—the Wrong Policy on Personal Responsibility for Health

Eating Disorder Statistics /

“Glorifying Fatness, Really?: Why writing about fatness can be downright difficult”

Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health “Obesity Prevention Source”

Posted in #Librarian Fight Club

It’s Not as Simple as Animal Books Vs. “Diversity

Sources for this Post:

Lucy & James Catchpole

“Data on books by and about Black, Indigenous and People of Color published for children and teens compiled by the Cooperative Children’s Book Center, School of Education, University of Wisconsin-Madison.”

Book Riot

Larsen, N. Lee, K., & Ganea P.. “Do storybooks with anthropomorphized animal characters promote prosocial behaviours in young children?” Dev Sci. 2018 May; 21 (3): e 12590 2

*C. Burke & J. Copenhaver. “Animals as People in Children’s Literature ” Language Arts Vol 81, N.3 Jan. 2004, P. 205-213 .

Posted in Uncategorized

Lucy Catchpole is way too cool to hang out with me

It is a Saturday night, I am fairly certain. Not that it matters anymore because time has lost all meaning.

This is a test. A test of strength, a test of fortitude, a test, of website building capacity.

Will this blog post work? Who knows? Perhaps if the heavens a line and the fates bestow their good fortune on me.

Some parting wisdom for this night, a chicken in the pot is better than an egg in the basket.

Posted in Uncategorized

Catchpole Zoom Party

What Happened to You? Launch Party!

Time: Apr 6, 2021 03:00 PM Eastern Time (US and Canada)

Join us tomorrow for a little Bookstagram gathering!  We are excited to all see each other face to face.  

I hope you enjoyed “What Happened to You?” as much as I did, and so that we can keep track of posts (for resharing etc.) tag the authors in any posts, @thecatchpoles and the publisher @faberchildrens  

Thank you Thank you Thank you! 


Posted in #Librarian Fight Club

Dear Artists, Creators &, Writers, Please Please Please Stop Saying “I Don’t Do it For the Money”

High up on my list of things that upset me is the phrase often used by creatives “I don’t do this for the money.” 

I’m not sure exactly when art went from being seen as the work of a highly skilled paid craftsperson, to being a quasi spiritual pilgrimage to be endured only by destitute geniuses with wicked cool hair.  But somewhere along the line, that happened, and the creative community has never recovered.

It’s really the most insidious idea that we’ve all embraced without question. One that we’ve been fed by a patriarchal capitalist society that actively feeds off of the unpaid and underpaid labour of it’s creatives. That to truly be an artist of substance, we should do it entirely for free. And on an even deeper level, that artistic work, just isn’t worth money.

There are so many consequences of this. For example, why are most children’s books made by white women? A huge part is that writers and illustrators of most children’s books make almost no money from it, so generally the only people who can afford to devote their lives to it, are white ladies who are already financially secure. To be able to say “I don’t do it for the money” is a privilege and by perpetuating this as acceptable, we are complicit in shutting people who cannot work for free out of the arts.

So if you’re someone who likes to proudly say “I don’t do this for the money” especially when receiving a negative review, I would kindly ask you to please cease and desist for the well being of the entire creative community.  Encouraging each other to value our time, and our work, is necessary if we ever want the rest of society to value us as well.  By pushing for a shift in values, we work towards change and better conditions for artists in the future.

 And if you’re someone who unfollows and abandons creators who monetize their work; rather than getting angry about them “selling out,” maybe closely examine why you feel this anger? And consider supporting their efforts to make a living.

Posted in #Librarian Fight Club

We Need Books About Losers #LibrarianFightClub

Everybody loves a winner, and when it comes to the stories we enjoy, all we see are stories of winners. On the surface I guess it makes sense, we invest our emotions in a character, and we follow their journey, through every obstacle and failure, in the end, we want to be uplifted mostly. We want to see that win, we want to glorify it.  And yes that applies to picture books. 

But what does it mean to lose then? If the only stories worth telling in our society, are stories of winners? Accepting defeat isn’t just a reflection of the moment, but accepting an inferior identity and some people, clearly, just can’t handle it.

The more I think about it, the more nefarious the whole thing becomes, the ‘chosen one’, the ‘hero’s myth’, it’s all wrapped up in patriarchal white supremacy.  There is only room for one person at the top.  

White men see themselves as the heroes of their own stories, and so it’s not over until they win.  Because isn’t that how the stories go?

      There are so many pieces of this narrative that we need to change, in every book, and honestly I think including BIPOC representation in the stories that are coming out just scratches just the surface.  Because clearly, the narrative and values themselves need to change.  

   One facet of this is accepting a loser’s journey as equally valid, being able to accept loss gracefully, to not be the chosen one, and to still be decent and gracious has value. 

  Many reviewers have been asked to recommend books about losing graciously recently, and I just plum can’t think of a single one, can you?


Posted in Uncategorized

Is Hellofresh Worth It?: A totally honest, not at all sponsored, not even a little bit, not even a free bread roll, review of HelloFresh.

I never thought I would be someone to do a meal kit subscription, because I am a fairly capable cook.  But being stuck in a pandemic, and not actually going to grocery stores to wander around and come up with new meal ideas has gotten us in the most terrible food rut.

So after doing a series of stories asking for meal kit subscription advice and recommendations, I decided to try out Hello Fresh.  Over the last month we have received three deliveries, total of nine meals and I have decided we will not be continuing with it.  But, under the right circumstances I think it certainly has some merits.

What I wanted to get out of it: I wanted to spice up our meal routine, I wanted to learn some new skills, I wanted my toddler who loves to cook to have a great time with it, and I wanted it all delivered conveniently.

Did it deliver those things? Yes. We tried new things. I learned a few things I would do again. My toddler had a blast, she loves doing the HelloFresh boxes. And, it was all conveniently delivered.

So why am I not continuing with it?

  1. It’s just too expensive. It works out to be almost $150 for three meals (4 portions) with the delivery, and it was not enough for leftovers, I can buy enough food for a whole week if I bought just the groceries myself.
  2. My kids didn’t like most of the meals.  They were pretty hit and miss with my picky kids.
  3. It wasn’t particularly filling.  Even with four portions for our family of four (and our two kids under 5 barely eating) I ended up having to make an extra carb dish every time because it just wasn’t enough for us.
  4. There is just so much packaging!
  5. By the time we got to making the third meal, the salad or herbs were all wilted.
  6. It was actually quite a bit of work, preparing the meals with my kids and then having them refuse to eat them, making them something else, then having to clean it all up. It ended up being way more effort than an average meal.

I personally actually enjoyed most of the recipes quite a lot.  Of the nine recipes we would make five of them again I think. We all particularly enjoyed the Mexican inspired dishes. 

The best things we got out of this were

  1. It was a fantastic experience for my toddler.  It was exciting for her, the box arrived, and then following the card, and her learning. A chance for her to work on life skills, on reading, on following procedures, fantastic. Honestly that was the best part of the whole thing, and if we do order another meal kit, it will 100% be for this reason alone.
  2. My husband actually made a couple of the meals himself, and he doesn’t cook at all.  So it was actually a wonderful break for me to have him be able to get into the kitchen and make something not from the freezer, and he came out of it with some new skills!

So do I recommend you try HelloFresh?

Yes if you feel like you’re stuck in a rut, I actually think it shakes things up.  But for us personally as a family, it isn’t something sustainable long term.

Check out the reels below of my 2.5 year old Willow doing a couple of the HelloFresh meals. She really did have a fabulous time with it. Educational value alone on this was great.