I’ve seen his work and heard him speak about book marketing, and can highly recommend him as both an illustrator and a children’s book publisher if you’re in the market for one. He was also recently installed as the President of the Florida Authors and Publishers Association.
I had the pleasure of meeting Mark at The Business of Writing International Summit and absolutely love the enthusiasm and energy he brings to everything that he does. Mark was inspired to chase his entrepreneurial dream in the 3rd grade, selling drawings to classmates. To hear him tell the story, you had to admire his gumption!
Here we are now years later, and 3rd grade is far behind him. In this interview, he shares a bit about how he got his start as an author (not simply an illustrator), and some of the techniques that have worked well for him in marketing his books.
Tara: What motivated you to write a book?
Mark: At the age of thirty-three, I decided to write a story for my librarian mother. In 2004, she celebrated her twenty-year anniversary working for the Hopkins County Branch Library. To honor her commitment, I wrote and illustrated “Miss Mary’s Missing Book Bag” to honor her and the library’s Story Hour children.
Tara: What publishing options did you consider?
Mark: I chose independent publishing. In 2004, I worked for Sprint Print, Inc., a commercial printing company in Western Kentucky. Craig Winstead, Sprint Print’s owner, inspired me to publish my first book independently. My first book was saddle-stitch bound. The body of the book was sixteen pages on 80 lb gloss paper. The cover was 100 lb gloss cover weight.
Tara: Why did you settle on the option you chose?
Mark: At the time, I didn’t understand the construction and uses of picture books, which should be the deciding factor on binding and paper-selection. Instead, price was the deciding factor. Saddle-stitched books were the most cost effective for me. They were also lightweight.
Tara: How easy was it to get your book done?
Mark: I trained as an animator, so I draw quickly. The book took only 4 weeks from story to printed book. In hindsight, I would have taken more time. Speed isn’t always good when publishing a book.
Tara: How did you distribute the book after publication?
Mark: I had no experience. My main distribution efforts were: newspapers, book signings, and school visits.
Tara: How are you marketing and promoting your book?
Mark: “Miss Mary’s Missing Book Bag” is not my best-selling book. The book is now promoted on my website as one of 40 picture books I’ve illustrated. We sometimes get a request for the book, but I don’t promote it as my finest work.
Tara: What’s working best for you to generate sales? Are there things you’d recommend avoiding?
Mark: My best sales come from elementary school visits and festivals. My events have me traveling approximately four months every year. As an independent author, illustrator and publisher, I receive the highest percentage of income from direct sales.
I recommend before participating in any events, attendees should consider:
- Number of attendees vs. the number of authors. If the authors out number the attendees at an event, consider attending another event.
- Register early to receive a festival discount. It’s easier to recoup the registration deposit and be more profitable.
- Consecutively attend festivals. Attendees will seek out repeat vendors, authors and publishers. Those connections are great when a book is a series.
Tara: Which social network do you use the most and why?
Mark: My favorite is Twitter. 140 characters and my communication is done. I also use LinkedIn, Pinterest and Facebook. I use these because they work together. My posts can be reposted from LinkedIn to Twitter. Also copying a post and sharing on multiple platforms allows my followers to use the social media of their choice.
Tara: If you had one piece of advice for someone thinking about writing a book, what would it be?
Mark: Don’t wait! The best time to publish a book is now. There are multiple formats, new genres, and a growing audience of readers. To become a well known author, get the first book out of the way. The first book will not make you successful, but it will be the springboard to an author’s success.
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