How to make a living as a kids’ book author?

My custom, every year, is to take the week of my birthday, the first of February, off, and to spend that vacation, after a couple of days sleeping and playing vidya, analyzing how the previous year went and deciding what I want to try with the next year.

My version of New Years resolutions, as it were.

I can’t actually do that this time round. See, I’ve worked at the same retail establishment for 15 years, so for the last several years, I acquired Paid Time Off at a frightening rate. But last year, I quit, and was unemployed for several months. Then I applied for my old job back and got it — but not with my 15 years of accumulated raises and benefits.

I did get three days off in a row this week, which was intended to be spent recording audio for a digital pop-up book. But life circumstances in the month between when I requested the time off, and when the time off occurred meant I was not ready to record. Indeed, I did not accomplish anything on the pop-up book really at all. So I’ve rested and prayed and pondered, and I’ve decided I’ve given up on paper kids’ books too soon. This year, minus January, but plus January of next year (as though the year started February), I’m going to produce a new kids’ book each month. And while I do that, the question I’ll explore is: is there a way for me to make a living producing illustrated children’s books?

Models

The following is what I have gathered listening to more knowledgeable men chew the fat. I have not researched it. I am probably very wrong. Consider it a starting point.

I am told that when Mark Twain wrote, book sales paid no royalties. An author became an author not to make money off his books, but off of speaking tours. And indeed, to this day speaking tours is a legitimate business model. Scott Adams makes a killing off of Dilbert. But he made even more money when he started giving speeches.

The pulp authors of yore made a living cranking out tons of text that was distributed on cheap paper in corner stores until World War propaganda mills ate up all the pulp. In the aftermath, the modern publishing industry was established. The mostly commie, mostly deviant gurus of modern literature established themselves as gatekeepers of the narrative.

One reason I have not even looked into getting a traditional publisher for my kids’ books is I want to have characters strike down demon-infested zombie hordes with the name of Jesus. I expect Christian publishers to turn up their noses at the action, horror, imprecise pulp theology, and general sense of fun. I expect secular publishers to turn up their noses at books that present Christianity as true and effective, and Christians as anything other than fools and hypocrites.

The internet busted the pulp model back open. Instead of cheap paper, you can sell books on cheap electrons. In particular, authors can make a decent living writing to market for Amazon. And, at the moment, I publish all my books via Amazon’s Print On Demand services.

There are some fears that Amazon will ultimately turn and censor anyone who is not in agreement with the Bay Area Thought Police. They have already shown signs of doing so. But, notably, they also quickly come to heel whenever they try it on someone with a history of actually fighting back. When SJWs get a random conservative’s book pulled, it’s gone. When they get one of Vox Day’s books pulled, it’s back in a couple of days. I’m less concerned about the Bay Area Thought Police, then, and more about the business model.

There are two flaws with the Kindle Pulp Revolution that have nothing to do with ideology. First is that kids’ books don’t do well digitally. Parents want to hand their kids paper books. Parents that do give their kids tablets and computers are entertaining them with Netflix and Youtube, not with books. Print on Demand, of necessity, costs more than batch printing. My books, of necessity, cost twice as much as their trad pub equivalents.

Second is Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited subscription model has dealt the ebook market what most small publishers, among them men far more skilled in economics than I, a death blow. This model is dying. A new model will be needed.

Explorations

Is there a kids’ book equivalent of writing to market? Can I look at genres, find one that’s doing well, but where I can excel, and blow it wide open? I don’t know yet. I also don’t know whether I am constitutionally capable of writing to market. I’ve never tried. I certainly consider it a worthy craft, but I have learned of late that, contrary to my lifelong insistence that art is work and you just have to put in the work, it does not do to ignore the Muses.

Can I do better producing my books via other printers? Are there publishers willing to work with me? What forms of marketing can I engage in, and how useful will they be to me? These are all things that remain untested. In the next several months, I need to begin testing them.

And to test them, I need to make more books.

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