Welcome back to Alchemy for Authors!
In today’s episode I chat with children’s book writer, Susie Miles.
Susie shares her twenty-year journey towards publishing her first book, including how she pushed through fear and analysis paralysis to do so.
We discuss the perks of self-publishing, and Susie offers some creative tips to market your children’s book.
You don’t want to miss this episode!
You can purchase her book, My Friend, The Light here.
You can listen to Susie’s podcast, Cooking And Convos on your favourite platform, and follow on Instagram: @cookingandconvospodcast
If you enjoyed this episode, please remember to subscribe, rate and review.
You can follow me on Instagram: @jobuerauthor
Join the Alchemy for Authors Facebook Group here.
Download your FREE copy of Manifestation for Authors here.
Find the full transcript of this episode below.
Episode 12: Publishing & Marketing a Children’s Book with Susie Miles
Jo: Hello again. I’m so glad you’re able to join me for another episode of Alchemy for Authors. I found today’s chat so fascinating, and if you’ve ever wondered about the process of writing a children’s picture book or how to market one, I think you’ll really, really going to enjoy listening to today’s guest. But before we dive into the show, I just wanted to remind you that if you’re anything like me and you’re interested in using manifestation and the law of attraction to supercharge your writing life, make sure that you download your FREE copy of my booklet, Manifestation for Authors. Inside, you’ll find tips and tricks to kick your manifesting into top gear to help you move closer to your authorly goals. So you can download it for free from https://www.subscribepage.com/manifestationforauthors. Or you can use the link in the Show Notes or visit my website. When you’re ready, though, grab a drink, find a comfy chair, sit back, and enjoy the show.
Hello, my lovelies. Welcome to another episode of Alchemy for Authors. Today I’m talking with author Susie Miles about her debut children’s book. Susie Miles lives in Northern Virginia. She’s married, has two children who are now in College, and a golden doodle named Henry. Susie has worked in television throughout her career, but recently decided to leave the industry to pursue a new career in podcasting. She’s had a lifelong love of cooking and has recently launched a new podcast, Cooking and Convos. Suzy wrote her first children’s book, My Friend, The Light, in 2021, which had been in her heart for the past 20 years and is now available online at Amazon, Walmart and Barnes and Noble. She’s in the process of writing her second book in the My Friend series.
So welcome, Susie, to the show. So good to have you here.
Susie: Oh, thank you so much for having me. I’m excited.
Jo:So I was having a look at your book on Amazon and everything, and it looks like it’s coming up to its one year publication anniversary. Is that right?
Susie: Yes, absolutely. I published it in March of last year, and it was really about 20 years in the making emotionally.
Jo: Wow. That’s amazing. And so I’m so excited to talk to you because in my circle, I don’t actually know many children’s book authors. But as my day job is in teaching at Elementary, my kids are always asking me if I’m going to write a children’s book. And the idea kind of scares me a little bit because I feel like the book is going to be so small and precise and the language is going to be so specific. But I’m really interested also just to hear about how your journey started out and your interest in wanting to write a children’s book and why it took 20 years to get to publication. Are you able to share a bit about that?
Susie: Sure thing. Well, this has been in my heart, really. It was in my heart for about 20 or so years. It started when I had my first child, and he became a little afraid of the dark and he was getting nervous about going to bed. And so I started thinking about what could calm him down a little bit. And really, at least for our family, all it took was a nightlight. We had a nightlight placed right on his nightstand, and it really helped ease him to sleep. It helped him feel safe, and it helped him sort of just hold on to that. It was sort of like his friend whenever he went to sleep, and we just kept it on all night. And when he woke up, it was there, and it really helped ease him into more of a sound sleep as well. He wasn’t waking up in the middle of the night. So I had a full time job, and I’ve worked full time for many years, and I just never had the time. I probably was scared at the same time, not wanting to write a book. I thought, where would I start? Who would I get to illustrate? And after the years go by, I had another child and went higher up in my field. I just was busy, but I always wanted to write it. And I think as they got closer to high school and then going off to College, I had a bit more time on my hands. I wasn’t frantically making dinners, and although I make dinner, but I wasn’t sort of rushing from my job, coming home and rushing and then taking them to sports activities. So that’s when I actually had the book written down many, many years ago. But I started enhancing it. I worked with a consultant who really helped shape the book. I worked with a friend who was the illustrator, so it really was a patchwork of people helping me along the way.
Jo: That’s amazing. That’s great. I think I read on your website, but it looks like you’ve had some amazing jobs, I think. Have you worked for the Discovery Channel and National Geographic? Is that kind of right?
Jo: Which to any outsider is like, wow, that’s so glamorous. That’s amazing. But then you wrote something, I think, on your website about, and then the pandemic hit, and it made you pivot or have a bit of an epiphany and want to go in a different direction. And I think your podcast, it sounds like your podcast is part of that, too. So are you able to talk about what was it that made you decide to just change directions from the careers that you had to going this creative path with podcasting and writing books and that.
Susie: Sure. Well, I think for a lot of people, once a pandemic hit and those who are fortunate enough not to get sick, they started taking a look, including me, taking a look at their life and realizing, wow, I’m not commuting anymore. I’m not sort of in that frenetic pace of rushing around. And I became just a little bit happier because I had more time for me, I had more time for my health, more time for exercise. And I decided as we were getting closer to potentially going back that I didn’t want to do it. And to be honest, I had been in television a long time and I was in a specific job that I wasn’t so, so fond of. I loved everyone I worked with. I always have loved everyone in the industry. So it wasn’t that. It was just a churning in my soul saying to me often, there has to be a better way, there has to be another avenue to bring more fulfillment. And it took me two years to really think about it. But at the end of last year, 2021, I left my position and I’ve really been very happy ever since. I launched a podcast about a month ago and that has been super exciting and I just needed a little more time to slow down. And once I slowed down, I could think a little bit more and I was a little bit more clear. And I think with the Great Resignation, a lot of people are feeling that way as well.
Jo: Absolutely. I’ve talked to a few authors who have said that about the pandemic, that it did kind of make them pivot or change mindset about things and get more specific or goal oriented about what they wanted to achieve. And I was absolutely one of them. So I wasn’t too happy in the day job that I had at that time. And it was in 2020 that I actually got the confidence or made myself put out my first book.
Susie: Oh, wonderful.
Jo: Yeah. So there’s definitely something about the pandemic that for some of us had that positive kick in the pants that we needed, I think, to start to follow what our soul had been directing us towards for a long time.
Susie: Absolutely. I think as you get older, too, if something is in your heart for so many years and for so long, you get to a point, where at least I did, I said to myself, what is my problem? I’ve got to really get off my, you know what, And do something and do it. And I didn’t want to live a life of regrets and I didn’t want to be at the end of my life saying, Why didn’t I do that? It really didn’t take a huge amount of effort. I just told myself, I’m going to work on this a little bit each day. I’m going to finalize the copy, I’m going to find my illustrator, I’m going to start searching for a consultant, I’m going to make a phone call to that consultant. So every day I just did something little and it really made such a big difference, as opposed to in my mind for 20 years thinking, oh, this is going to be so much work. Can I even do it? Will anyone even like it? But then I think during the pandemic, I just started saying to myself, it doesn’t matter if nobody likes it. This is something I want to do for my life. And it’s been in my heart, and so I’m going to do it. It was just at that point, there were no more questions. It was just a matter of, okay, now what do I do? And I wrote the list down, and I just checked it off each day.
Jo: I love it. I love that. And I can totally resonate with that. That was very similar to how I kind of started writing books as well, because it had been something I talked about forever but haven’t actually done. And then personally, I got to the point where I stopped caring what other people thought and just wanted to do it for me. And then that was the catalyst. But I love how you’re saying that it’s just those little steps and doing those little steps every day that kind of carry you forward to make it a reality. Was there any time along the way when you were taking those little steps in that that you kind of wanted to throw it in and was like, this is just not going to happen. This is just too hard or anything like that?
Susie: I think I felt that way for a while up to the point where I actually started. But certainly when I was working with the illustrator, who was phenomenal, and I loved working with her. But sometimes you have a vision. They have a vision. Or when I’m working with Amazon and trying to work on Amazon ads, there are so many things you have to worry about it. And I wasn’t an expert in any of them, but I found I think the whole time prior to that point, I thought it was too hard and I couldn’t do it. So for me, it took a lot of self talk just talking to myself. What are you worried about? What do you care about what people think? And just doing a little bit. And it was invisible to everyone because I didn’t really tell anyone. This is what I’m doing. I just did it privately, started seeking people out, and it eventually came to fruition.
Jo: That’s wonderful. That is really cool. I love that. And so you said that the illustrator that you worked with was a friend or somebody that you knew.
Susie: She actually was a friend of a friend. I had been walking with a very close friend of the neighborhood, and I had told her about my vision. We were pretty close. And she said, oh, I have the perfect person for you. And the person was perfect. Just absolutely perfect. And the only time I found it difficult was in waiting for the revisions. Otherwise, she was a dreamy woman to work with. She was close to about 75. And even she had a children’s book in her heart that she had been holding on to. And I’m hoping that that gave her the impetus to start her book as well. So it’s interesting, once you talk with more people, a lot of people have stories in their heart and they have a hard time just starting it. But when you’re working closely with someone who’s doing it, it helps motivate you.
Jo: Yes, that’s absolutely true. And the pictures, the illustrations are gorgeous. They’re absolutely gorgeous in the book. Absolutely.
Susie: Thank you so much.
Jo: Yeah. And I agree with you. And I know I’ve read it somewhere and there’s stats for it in that that there’s this huge majority of people in the world that talked about wanting to write a book one day and then this minute amount that actually do it. What do you think allowed you to be one of those few people that actually did it, that took that step and went beyond just talking about it?
Susie: I think for so long, I thought, wow, I have to find a huge publisher. I’m going to have to send out many manuscripts and wait and wait. And then I got introduced to a woman who runs, she’s not a publisher, but she helps new authors get their book published. And I self published the book. But, you know, I didn’t even care because my book is still for sale. You can get it online through Walmart and Barnes and Noble and also Amazon. And to me, that was enough. And I tell you, the best part of all of it was when I finished the book, I gave each of my children a copy of the book for Christmas. And it was the last present they had opened. And to me, it just made it all worth it. It really did.
Jo: That’s amazing. Did they know that you were writing the book or was it a bit of a surprise?
Susie: They knew I was writing it, but they didn’t see the final copy. And so I would just tell them, yeah, it’s coming in a couple of months. And it just was a very special moment that I won’t forget. But I think really what I thought was really difficult. I didn’t go that route of reaching out to Random House or reaching out to the other huge publishers because I know that takes a lot of time. I know that you do get a lot of rejections, but I think through self publishing, maybe I might be seen a little sooner if I can actually get a physical book that I have created to the bigger publishers. So it’s really just a stair step, I think, for me right now.
Jo: Yeah, absolutely. I personally love self publishing. There are so many wonderful books out there written by self published authors or indie authors. And the stigma is slowly starting to drift away from it, which is great because people who are self publishing now we’re still using professional editors, we’re still using those professional illustrators, those professional book cover designers. We’re still using those people that oftentimes worked for the big house publishers at one point. And so the quality is out there, which is just really great. And I think we have a lot more control over things, too, when we go the self publishing route. So I’m a huge advocate for it. I think it’s fantastic.
Susie: And it goes by the process is faster than waiting for approvals. And so to me, that was a lot more attractive at the time because I thought too, wow, I’m selfpublishing. I’m a loser. I was kind of embarrassed about going that route. And so I held off for a little while, but then the urge just got so big that I had to do something with it or else I was afraid I never was.
Jo: Yeah, fair enough. And that was one of the things that I really loved about it, too, is that you can put books out much faster than if you went through a traditional publisher. But you also have that control over who sees your books and for how long they see your books. So you can have your books on Amazon and Barnes and Noble and all of that for years and years and years, for as long as you like. And it’s not at the demands of whether it’s selling or not, to be honest. So it’s not going to get pulled by a publisher or anything like that. So you have a lot more control over it, which is fantastic, really.
Susie: It is fantastic. And you can order as many books as you want for yourself. And if you want to go to schools to do readings or if you want to go to fairs, people love to buy books from independent authors. So I think that that’s also another avenue that people can go. And I’d love to hear your story in publishing, but you probably don’t want to spend the time right now, but I’d love to hear it one day.
Jo: Cool. Thank you. So what is your long term goals? Because I just see again on your website that it looks like you’ve already got an idea for a series or other books similar to the picture book that you’ve just written for My Friend series.
Susie: Yes. I’d like to turn this book into a My Friend series. My next book, I’m in the process of writing My Friend, Henry, and then after that, My Friend, The Teacher, My Friend, The Neighbor, because I think it’s important to bring back community into children’s lives and just know that the neighbor is a good person, their teacher is a good person. And of course they’re good people. But I think it just helps to bring these characters and these people back into children’s lives. I think video games and being on social media and just I don’t know if elementary school children are on social media but there’s just so much that pulls them away from sort of the good nature of teachers, policemen, neighbors. And Henry is my dog. So that’ll be the next book, My Friend, Henry.
Jo: That’s so cool. I was really inspired, actually, because I wasn’t sure if you’d started writing this series or not or if they were just ideas, but the fact that you had them on your website and I’m like, oh, that’s so good, because if you haven’t started writing them, you’ve got that accountability right there.
Susie: Absolutely. And right now I’m juggling the podcast and this and so writing is taking just a step back while I’ve launched the podcast. But it’s really I want to be in both worlds, so I’m going to do my best to juggle both now that I’m not working and I have some time to really dedicate to it.
Jo: Yeah. And that’s fantastic. And so I love the fact, too, that you have just started a podcast because we’re in the same boat there. Mine is very new to the world as well, and also because I write books behind the scenes as well and have a day job. But it’s a lot to juggle. But it’s so neat. I think having those creative outlets, starting the podcast, however, really put me back into the mindset of being a beginner again.
Jo: And that’s both exciting and terrifying and brought up all those very similar feelings to when I was writing my first book and putting it out there. And oh, what are people going to think about this? And are they going to see through me that I’m actually a fake and I don’t know what I’m doing? How are you experiencing that? Because you’ve got your first book out and it’s been out now for a year, which is great. But now you’re also beginning anew with a podcast as well. So how are you finding that journey?
Susie: Well, it’s been a journey that is for sure. I took the class, and that’s where you’ve also participated in the class, and it was tough. I have to say I kind of was shying away from announcing it. My social media skills aren’t the greatest at the moment, but it was such a huge learning curve. And I wouldn’t say it wasn’t embarrassment, it was just shy. Or maybe it is the complex of people are going to find me out or they’re going to think I suck or they’re going to think the content is boring. But I realized, at least in the class, that so many people have so many different ideas for a podcast and, you know, at least I’m doing something that I set my mind out too. And that alone makes me feel good. And it makes me feel good to be in the middle of creativity again, from writing scripts to learning the technical side, which was quite daunting and still is. Yeah. But I feel like the circuitry in my brain is really opened up a bit, and I needed that. I needed something to start learning again. And I think that’s why I also kind of made a step away from my career. It’s just a nice change for me personally.
Jo: Yeah. I have felt that undergoing writing a book, becoming an author, and doing the podcast, in a way, it’s kind of been life changing. I start to think about the world differently. I start to think about myself differently. And there’s an elevation that kind of comes from finally following your dreams and following your heart and doing those things that really bring you passion. And that’s part of what my podcast is about. Alchemy for Authors is really encouraging those people with the inspiration to write in particular, to follow that passion, that it really can enliven your entire life in different ways that you don’t even suspect. And have you found that, too, that following these creative passions of yours with the writing and the podcast that that’s bought just a different energy into your life?
Susie: Oh, completely. I felt like I pushed against the barrier of fear that I think was with me for so long. And because I’ve pushed through it, it’s helped me push through other things as well. It’s like a trickle down effect. So to me, it has changed my life dramatically in the best way possible. The people that I’ve met have been remarkable, and it’s just fun to go on this journey with other like minded people. And so it really has changed my life for the better. And I’m very excited. I wake up excited. My brain is always churning about subject matter and people I can interview and what recipes I could share on my podcast. So I am enjoying the journey. But in the beginning, I was a little hesitant because I didn’t know anything about anything. So that was really tough. But I think, again, it really helped the circuitry of my brain sort of kicking up a notch.
Jo: Yeah, I agree with all of that. Once you start to push through the fear, particularly in the beginning, that fear that surrounds just being a beginner and starting and putting yourself out in front of an audience, it really does just change your life. And I totally agree with you, too. That one of the most amazing parts I think of this journey, has been the people. It is so amazing how many people are out there wanting to help you, wanting to help you succeed and to follow your dreams, and who can just bring that extra motivation to you through their cheerleading and everything to just see you do your podcast, do your writing, do these things that are just so meaningful to you. There are so many amazing people out there, and the connections that can be made by following your dreams is just phenomenal.
Susie: Completely. And I love how the group at large, it’s like we’re all in the same boat and a lot of people are sharing their fears and opening up. And when you see that, then you open up and then you even open up with yourself. I think we all kind of walk around with this armor, so to speak. I’m fine. I’m good. My life is great. It’s all great. It’s not true. I mean, there are a lot of things that aren’t great, but we kind of pretend. So I really love the vulnerability of the group and the vulnerability of this.
Jo: Yes, absolutely. And just so my audience has a bit of understanding here. So when we talk about the group, there was a cohort of people that got together for a podcasting course that we did with Cathy Heller back in October last year. And so some of us have kind of gone off into many groups and things like that. But the support and the cheerleading and that’s going on in these groups is fantastic. So I totally encourage anybody who is starting out on any creative endeavor to find your people find whether it’s a Facebook group or a group that you can meet on Zoom or physical group in your neighborhood or something for writing or any creative endeavor. I feel it is so important to have those people that know what you’re going through that you can be vulnerable with and share your ups and downs that come on this creative journey and.
Susie: Yeah, so important. Absolutely. It’s nice not to feel alone in that way. It really is.
Jo: Well, can you tell us, because it’s quite a bit different than your children’s book, but can you tell us a little bit about your podcast now?
Susie: Sure. Well, the title of my podcast is Cooking and Convos, and those are two things that I absolutely love. I love to cook and I love to have good conversation. So my attempt is to blend the two, and it will be a combination of interviews with other folks who know a lot about food. But the premise of the podcast is to help folks create more ease in their kitchen by me offering tips and recipes that can help them create delicious meals easily and quickly, because I think the dinner hour tends to be a bit stressful for some folks, and some folks don’t even really like cooking, but there are tons of great restaurants.
Jo: That would be me. I’m one of those people that is like dinner time I’m like, oh, my gosh, my gosh, it’s my turn to cook and not my husband’s. And I’m freaking out. So I struggle with that. I love the idea of quick and easy tips and to make it painless.
Susie: In my opinion, the biggest thing, really the biggest tip I could say an offer is just prep in the morning, even prep the night before. I just finished a podcast and giving a recipe for this chicken. And you can prep it in the morning. You can prep the sauce in the morning. You can prep your salad in the morning, then the only thing you have to worry about is your starch, if you even want to starch. So there’s just tons of ways you can make. And I’m not going to say cooking will be fun for those people who don’t really enjoy cooking, but it’ll be easier. And you can look forward to a really good meal with not a ton of ingredients because I’m like everybody else. I don’t want to Cook 15 ingredient meals. It just stresses me out. If I go down and there’s like eight or nine ingredients, I’m like, I’m out. I don’t want to do that. But I love good food and I want to make it simple. So I’ve just created ways to make it simple for myself. And I thought, what the heck? I’ll create a podcast and offer these tips and also bring in other food experts, and we’ll see where it goes.
Jo: I absolutely love that. And I feel like there’s such an audience for that, too. Most of my friends love cooking. My husband doesn’t mind cooking either, thankfully, but we do take turns. I mean, I love food, so I want to be eating the cooking. It’s coming home from work, and what are we going to have for dinner? Do I have the energy to put it all together? So even the idea of prepping some of it in the morning just here is such a great idea.
Susie: Sure. And I know a lot of people say, well, I don’t have time in the morning. I’m trying to get out the door or I just have too many commitments. But I say just wake up like ten minutes earlier because really your prepping doesn’t take a ton of time either. No. Yeah. So I hope to enlighten, but we’ll see how it goes and how it does.
Jo: I think it’s definitely got an audience, and it’s such a fun idea for sure. I know a lot of people that I’m going to recommend your podcast to, because they just love cooking. Have you got any plans then, because you’ve got these two very different creative passions going, you’ve got the children’s book, which has an audience, mums and dads, but really, you’re writing for did you say two to five year olds? I think I read somewhere.
Susie: It’s a good range. Yeah. I think five is at the very tippy top, but yes, pretty much two to five.
Jo: And then you’ve got this cooking passion as well for adults. Do you see yourself one day maybe moving into writing a book or something, if not recipes, but about the simplifying cooking and everything like that, meal prep?
Susie: You know, I have thought about that, but to me at this moment, that’s a bit daunting to think about. But I know myself, I like to continue to grow and never stay static. And so I think maybe that could be a possibility. I’d like to create a podcast that people want to listen to. So I’m trying to build up the audience. That’s a goal of mine and also enhance my social media skills. I know my little I wouldn’t even say rusty because I never really got into it. So I think when you have a podcast, you really have to immerse yourself in that world because otherwise people just won’t hear about the podcast. Yeah, sure. I have a lot of things, a lot of goals for the next year to enhance and work on. And who knows, maybe five years down the road or a few years down the road. I would contemplate writing a book about the ease of the kitchen and the tips I’d like to offer.
Jo: I think that would be amazing. And you could include excerpts from your conversations with the people that you’re interviewing and that. I can just see so much potential for a book like that. I think it would be amazing.
Susie: Oh, thank you. Thank you very much for that encouragement.
Jo: Yeah. So you’ve talked a little bit about wanting to get to the point of using social media, be set to market your podcast and all of that. How have you gone about, so I’m kind of stepping backwards a little bit again, just because I’m curious about this, but how have you gone about marketing your children’s book? Because I see, like on Amazon and that you’ve got reviews, which to me is always just, I’m always in awe of people that get lots of reviews because I find sometimes getting reviews for books can be a little bit like pulling teeth. People are like, oh, yes, I love your book. I love your book. But the five minutes it takes to write a review just falls off their radar a bit. So what have you done to kind of market your book and get it out there in the world?
Susie: Well, I’ve done a couple of little things. I have given the book to a couple of elementary schools in the area. That’s sort of the back end of marketing. But I have created Amazon ads. I haven’t, to be honest, found those so effective. It can be pricey. But I did do that for a few months. I also worked with an illustrator who helped me create it’s called A Plus Content. It’s additional content that you put on Amazon underneath your book, which sort of enhances the book so people can get sort of a snapshot of what the book would be about. So I did that to help create that. I had a free day at one point in the very beginning, I just sent out to everyone, hey, you guys can download my book for free. And if you wouldn’t mind, please give me a review as well. So I did that at the very top. But once I get some more interviews under my belt with the podcast, I like to start again working on the marketing for the book because I did sort of take a little bit of a pause so I can move that along and move that forward. But ultimately, also I would like to attend craft fairs and just have a little booth to bring the copies of my book. There also was a large international book fair in England last year, and there are a lot of authors that sent their books for that, and there’s going to be another one this year. So I’m trying to just put feelers out and touch on certain points and hoping eventually there’ll be more buyers. But I have found it. I don’t know if you found I love to hear your feedback as well. It’s not a lucrative business for someone who’s self publishing. You just have to put a lot of time, a lot of promotion behind it.
Jo: Yeah. So you definitely do at the beginning. And I think it’s very incredibly rare to make a living from one book and your first book. So it can be incredibly lucrative. In fact, from people that I’ve talked with and got into knowing that in different self publishing circles, it can be more lucrative than actually going through a publishing house because you’ve got more control over that marketing and everything. And there are different reasons that people will say that it can be lucrative. But the one that comes out a lot is that the more you write, the more product you have to put out there and to build that name for yourself and everything. So with the first book, it’s definitely tough. And I gambled a little bit away with Amazon ads as well with my first book, which just didn’t really work. But once I had a second book, I started to make a little bit more headway with the Amazon ads, which is really interesting because sometimes it can take quite a few more books and I don’t write in a series or anything like that. They’re very different than picture books. They are novels, but they’re standalone. Because I’ve heard a lot of people say Amazon ads are incredibly difficult. I did some of Brian Cohen’s, I don’t know if you’ve heard of him, but he’s amazing with Amazon ads and does these free kind of challenges intermittently through the year. And I’ve done some of his challenges and learnt a lot that way. But how did you come across learning how to use Amazon ads?
Susie: Well, I worked with a consultant that I worked with to help me get the book on Amazon, and she recommended another individual that was able to help me. And that’s the thing. I think it’s like I had a lot of tentacles out. I couldn’t have done this alone. The consultant helped me. The person who had facilitated my Amazon ads helped me, the illustrator. And then I had another graphic designer recreate the title because the way it originally was designed, it wasn’t as children friendly. So I really worked with all these individuals. And so with Amazon ads. I have been told that you need to publish more books, get a bigger name, and so that is the goal. And I’m so glad it worked for you. That’s awesome. That’s encouraging.
Jo: Yeah. And now I’m not saying it worked with big bucks, but it certainly had more momentum with it once I had a second book and a third book. So it definitely gained momentum. The first one didn’t have much traction at all. So that is interesting to see. I’ve put a halt on Amazon ads at the moment, and when I have a few more books out, then I think I’ll start to actually invest in that. I have a newsletter, though, which really helps the sales of my books. And I do try, I’ve fallen off the wagon a little bit, but I do try to be quite consistent with social media. What I find interesting, though, like these are strategies that I do that I know work for other authors who are in the novel writing business. However, yours is a picture book, so it’s a different thing altogether. Like I saw on Amazon, you’ve got the paperback copy, which is what I think of when I think of picture books. But then it’s also offering a Kindle version.
Susie: Yes, there’s a Kindle version, which is the ebook. And then there’s the hardback. I like the hardback, hardback books if you feel like you’re reading a book. Not that paperback isn’t that way, but it just feels more like an event when you have a hardback book. So I personally like that. But it is more expensive than the paperback, and I think more people buy the paperback, obviously, for that reason.
Jo: I love the idea of picture books and hard covers, though. I do just think they’re so well suited to having that hard cover. Yes. But I find it so hard to get my head around. And I don’t have kids, I work in a school, but I just don’t have the experience. Do you sell many picture books as a Kindle? As an ebook? Because I just can’t quite imagine that.
Susie: I agree. Yeah. I don’t sell a lot via Kindle, that’s for sure. But it helps to sort of be broad. And it was suggested for me to be in sort of all three markets. But you’re right. The picture book and Kindle, it just doesn’t work.
Jo: No, I wouldn’t like that. I think that’s so different between how you and I would market simply because I sell majority of my books in ebook format, and then it would be paperback, whereas you need those hard copies for the children.
Susie: Absolutely. And it’s really the colors and seeing the glow of the night light, it really helps to bring them in. I also created a little video of the book as well, and so I send that out. And for Christmas last year through social media, I sent a link out on Instagram. So if people wanted to buy it, they could just click on the link and then it would go right to Amazon. So that was also another way I tried to promote it, which I think worked. I got a few sales from that, and I was in communication with a lighting company. They build lights. That the shape of the light in my book. And so they have mentioned that they’re interested potentially in doing sort of a combination, selling the light with my book. But that takes many, many months. And I think the next step for me would also be to get in some of the big box stores again, packaging a night light with the book. I’ve looked last year into getting this done internationally, but it’s a very tedious process. But all along I’ve always wanted to sell the book with a night light, and that would just make a lovely little baby shower gift or a birthday gift. And a couple of my friends have bought the book and they bought a night light and they packaged it themselves to people they know for baby showers or like one or two year old birthdays.
Jo: I just love all this. I am just getting so much from this. And I hope the audience’s, too, for those people who are listening, who are on the journey of writing children’s books, there are so many different marketing avenues that haven’t really crossed my mind. But I absolutely love the idea of teaming up with somebody who makes night lights or doing something. Packaging it like that is fantastic. And I love your video that you’ve got for your book. That is so fantastic. And I’ve seen it. I’d totally forgotten. But that a plus segment on Amazon that gosh, they haven’t even really had that out there for indie authors or anybody for that long. It might be maybe six months as we’re recording this, I’m not quite sure, but yes, I saw that we get to go more in depth, and you’ve done a really good job of showcasing your book there and utilizing that avenue, which is really cool.
Susie: Thank you. There are many avenues, and I found the whole process pretty exciting. Whenever I maybe other people feel this way, too. When you’re stepping into something new, yes, you’re nervous, but, boy, like, a whole new world opens up. And I thought to myself, gosh, I just had no idea this was what it took. All the different elements that come together, and it’s fun. It’s fun working on the pieces.
Jo: It really is. And we don’t know the opportunities that are out there until we start moving forward in one direction. And then it’s amazing how many more doors open or creative bursts of insight of all, we could do this or we could do that, just come out. And yeah, it’s such an exciting journey. And I love talking to you about that whole marketing aspect because it is so very different to my own experience because it’s such a different product.
Susie: Sure. I’m learning a lot. Yeah, I am.
Jo: So for myself, writing novels, my main way of kind of engaging with my audience and putting my books out there tend to be through social media and a newsletter list. So I have a newsletter that goes out every two weeks. But I would imagine maybe for you that wouldn’t be as neither social media or newsletter. Are they as conducive, do you think, to picture books?
Susie: Well, I would have to reach out to moms and mom groups because I think the folks that follow me may not necessarily be interested in a children’s book, but they may be interested in the book as a gift at Christmas time. So everybody knows someone who has children or they have their own children. So I think that was the time I needed to market it. But you’re right, it’s not what I would market on a weekly basis or any other basis other than holidays, possibly.
Jo: Yeah. And then, of course, the marketing is to the parents and the grandparents and the people. Yeah. So it’s quite different. I love your idea, though, of getting into schools or kindergartens or if you can get into school libraries or the parent communities, anything like that. That’s such a great avenue. You were talking about big book fairs, and that here in New Zealand, we have Scholastic book fairs. And I think you’ve got Scholastic in the US, too.
Susie: We do as well. And for two years it was down right. Because of the pandemic that was my plan was to be in book fairs, to be at book fairs and participate that way. So now that things are opening up, I think there’ll be more avenues open for me. It’s just there had to be there was sort of a little bit of a pause in being able to be an inperson event.
Jo: Yeah, absolutely. So with your next few books in this series or the My Friend book, are you planning on releasing like one a year or a couple of years?
Susie: That is the plan. I’d like to release one a year. I think to do any more than that. It might be a bit too ambitious. And then at the same time, it might stress me out because I don’t want to over promise and I want to be able to take the time necessary. I’ve already found my illustrator for the second book. He sent me some samples. I had to pay in $50, but he was able to send me samples. And I reached out to several illustrators just to get a sense of who might be a good fit because my old illustrator, she didn’t have time to tackle the second book. So that’s good. So it’s like I can cross that off my list. But right now I have been immersed in podcasting, but I am very hopeful that I can get out at least one a year. I don’t think that should be too difficult. I pretty much know the process. I just have to hunker down and sort of close off my time and really focus on it.
Jo: That’s awesome. So what do you think is the hardest part of your publishing or writing journey? What do you think has been maybe the trickiest part of it? Is it writing the book? Is it going backwards and forwards with the consultant and the illustrator and everybody else?
Susie: I do think it’s the writing part, getting it just right. So the age of the audience I’m targeting is going to be engaged. I think that’s the toughest part. And so it will go to an editor, but it’s just finding a creative, fun way to express what I want to express. So that will take a little bit of time. So I’ve done a lot of rewrites. It’s still not in perfect shape, but I’m almost there. Almost there. Yeah. But I would say the writing for me, that would be the most difficult. The first book, it just flew out of me. I mean, I had written it pretty much many years ago, so I was just sort of finessing what I was writing. But for the future books, it’s a bit different. So it’s taking just a little bit longer. And I want to make sure it’s just right. And I also been told I have a Rhyming scheme in my first book, but I’ve been told if I want the book to go international, to be translated in Spanish, Rhyming doesn’t work. That Rhyming scheme. So now I’m kind of rethinking. Do I want to necessarily rhyme with my other books? So I’m in the middle right now of wanting to just figuring out which direction I should go.
Jo: That is so interesting. I had never considered that, like, for children’s books. I love rhyming books. I absolutely love those that rhyme. But of course, if you’re wanting to market internationally and have it translated into different languages, it’s not necessarily going to work. What’s just not going to work? Right. That part of it.
Susie: Right. I mean, the pictures can be fun and colorful and they don’t have to run necessarily. But that was the beauty of the first book was the rhyming.
Jo: Like I said right at the very beginning of this, I’m just so fascinated by those people that can write picture books in particular, just because it’s been one of those things that has always scared me. I’ve been asked to do because I’ve taught different levels in elementary and middle school in that. And they know that I am an author and that I write, but they’re like, oh, when are you going to write a children’s book? And I feel like I could maybe write a chapter book or something for the middle years, all that. But the idea of writing a picture book and I love picture books, but it kind of terrifies me because it’s such a different way of writing because you’ve got to make sure that that language appeals to that age group who are just learning language. And it’s going to be so succinct and engaging and all of that in such few words that I feel like that’s more hard work than writing a novel in some ways.
Susie: Well, I would think that you, with your experience teaching that it might be easier for you than you think.
Jo: No, I don’t know. It’s one of those things. It’s like that’s a bit scary. Maybe one day. I’m not there yet. I’m enjoying my writing for the adult population at this point, but it’s definitely like I love children’s books. One of my favorite parts of being a teacher is reading to the class and sharing these fantastic kids books that are out there in the world.
Susie: It’s interesting, the variety of books as well in terms of the children’s market. I mean, sometimes when I go to the grocery store, I’ll pick up one of the hard bound little short books, and the first page is caterpillar, next page is worm, and there’s not even a story. It’s like pictures and words only. So I just think there are all kinds of levels of children’s book writing. We’re just trying to figure out your market and what that group likes. There’s a lot of studying that has to go on.
Jo: Yeah. It’s just so interesting. I just love it. So what advice would you have for anybody else who’s wanting to write their first book, particularly a children’s book who wants to do something similar to what you’ve done and take that first step in writing a book? Do you have any advice?
Susie: Well, I would say figure out what your story is and also write, at least even before your story is written, write down all the steps that you’ll need to do. And really, the steps are pretty much on your computer. It’s not like you have to go cut down a tree. You just have to make connections. You have to figure out a lot of different things in terms of the process. If you don’t know what the process is, find a consultant that can help you. If you don’t know how to do it. I think just that alone will help spearhead your progress. So I might say start there. But then when it comes to your story, figure out your market, the age group. I would go to bookstores, pull out the books for that age group, see what books do well and why. Look at those pictures, look at the color of the book, the size of the book. So you could start there, but just do something. I think sometimes there is analysis paralysis that can go on, at least for me, thinking, oh, no, is that word the right word, or should I have this sentence? I think just writing it all down and out, all of your thoughts about the story, and then you can edit and just continue self editing, but get something down versus just always thinking about it in your head. That’s where I think you can become paralyzed. And you’re like, oh, it’s too hard to think about. I’ll do it later. I’ll make dinner and I’ll do it tomorrow morning. And then the morning comes. Let me get my cup of coffee and take a walk. There’s like all these excuses not to do things because it’s hard. We push the hard things off. So I would say if you need help, find someone to help you, and then also just do a little bit of research and start writing. Just write it all down. Write it all out. You can take out and revise because then you can see something on paper and you’ll have something to work with.
Jo: Absolutely. Oh, I love that. That’s fantastic advice. I totally agree with all of that. And great first steps. And you do keep going back to that. Take that first step. Take those little steps. It’s just keeping that momentum. And I think that’s so crucial. That’s awesome.
Susie: Absolutely. I mean, time is going to go by anyway, so just make better use of it.
Jo: Yeah, absolutely. Well, thank you so much. I have had such a blast chatting with you, and I’ve just learnt so much about marketing for children’s books and the children’s book process. And I just love talking with other authors. So this has been so much fun. Thank you so much.
Susie: Well, thank you so much for having me. I do appreciate it. And thank you so much for having me.
Jo: One just final thing because I know there are going to be lots of mums out there listening to this. And so they might be interested in your book and other authors who are on the children writing path as well or people that just love cooking. I know there are a lot of people out there that love cooking and are interested in your podcast. So how can they connect with you? Where can they reach you?
Susie: Sure. Well, if they like to reach out to me about my book, I have two Instagram accounts. My personal Instagram account is @susiemiles88. That’s @susiemiles88. And anything related to my podcast is @cookingandcovospodcast. You can DM me or also they can reach out to me via my website, which is SmilesMediaWorks. And they can send me an email and I’d be happy to respond whatever way they’d like to communicate. I’m very responsive and I’d be glad to get back to them.
Jo: Wonderful. And just of course, again, your book is available at Walmart and Barnes and Noble and Amazon.
Susie: Yes, Barnes and Noble and Walmart online.
Jo: And then, of course, Amazon?
Susie: Amazon perfect.
Jo: And your podcast, all the usual places, Apple and Spotify.
Jo: Wonderful. Well, thank you so much. It’s been fun.
Susie: So much fun.
Jo: All the best with your new books and your new podcast. And yes, I look forward to chatting again. Thanks Susie.
Susie: Thank you. Me too.
Jo: Wow, there was just so much goodness in this episode but here are a few of the takeaways from today’s show.
- Step one in writing anything is to get really clear on what your story is and do your research. So consider who your ideal audience is and look at other books in your field.
- Don’t get held back by analysis paralysis. When beginning any writing project, get those words down and leave the editing until later. Time is going to pass anyway, so make sure you’re using your time to move closer to your goals.
- To avoid overwhelm, break down all the different steps to publishing a book and be consistent with trying to do a little bit every day so that you’re always moving forward with your project.
- Writing and publishing a book is usually a team effort, so look for those editors, illustrators, graphic designers and consultants that best align with your vision.
- Get creative with your marketing strategies and make sure they align with your project. For example, when marketing picture books, attend book fairs, visit schools, consider packaging with a toy or something relating to your book.
So I hope you enjoyed today’s episode. Maybe it even inspired you to try your hand at writing a children’s book or to consider other avenues of marketing. And if you enjoyed this episode, I’d be extremely grateful if you subscribed, rated, reviewed and told a friend. By doing so, you’re ensuring I’m able to keep making more episodes.
And remember, if you’d like more tips and tricks to manifest your dream writing life or author career, you can subscribe to my newsletter and download your free copy of Manifestation for Authors. Just go to www.subscribepage.com/manifestationforauthors.
Until next time, happy writing!