Thursday, October 10, 2013

Cold Calling and Emailing

So after lots of sales through the people and networks I already know it was time to take the leap into unknown territory. That's right COLD CALLING!!! and COLD EMAILING. This was one of the most daunting experiences of my life. I have come out on the other side full of confidence and empowerment.

I decided a good place to start was libraries. They buy books constantly and always need new and exciting books for their readers. I found a list of all the libraries in New Zealand and their contact details. I created a script so I could hit the call with professionalism and to conquer my nerves. The aim of the call was to get their email address and send them some ordering information. Here is the script so you can see how I went about this.

Ring Ringggggggg

Hello, I’m after the person in charge of buying books for your children’s department.


My name is Amy Burrell and I am an author illustrator from Wellington. I have just published a hardcover children’s picture book called ‘Catch that Fly!’ and am now doing a ring around libraries to offer you the chance to buy a copy.

Have you heard of it?

The story is about the all important family dinner. The characters work together to keep their family dinner ritual perfect without an uninvited guest! THE FLY

So I have a special bonus for libraries where on purchasing a copy of the book you also receive a fun kit with activities and colouring pages as well as a poster to hang up in the library.

So there are two ways you can purchase the book I have a library page on the website where you pay via credit card or you can just order through me directly via phone or email and I will send you out an invoice once I have shipped the books.

So what I need form you is your email address and I can send you some info.

Wrap it up.

My first call was horrible I was so nervous I was actually shaking on the end of the phone, I stuttered a few times and probably sounded like a complete idiot. I managed to keep a conversation going and get their email address. After about five phone calls I started to get the hang of it all. I started actually having conversations with the person on the other end of the line. The better the conversation the more likely they were to buy the book. Most of my sales came from people I spoke to for more than the standard script. I ended up with a pretty good conversion rate of around 40%. Not bad odds really.

One of the problems I en-counted was that the person I needed to speak with wasn't there. I started to email the library email address and ask the following:

I am trying to track down the person responsible for the XXXXXXX Libraries collection development and book buying. Can you give me their name and contact details? Your help would be most appreciated.

Kind regards
Amy Burrell

This had around an 80% reply rate and allowed me to say to the person I was contacting that I received their details from someone within the company. They were a lot more accepting of the email and what I was offering. I sent them the following:

I have recently written and illustrated a hard cover children’s book which has proved very popular throughout Wellington Libraries, schools and retailers. I would love it to be available for the children of blabla to read.

Whats the book about?
I grew up on a dairy farm just out of Wellington and I spent my childhood watching my mum chase fly’s around the house. They would make her soooooo mad. So I took this memory and turned it into a story about the ritual of a family dinner and the fun around mealtimes and food.

I have attached the new title information to this email and for more information about the book visit the website:

To order copies just email me back at this address and I will ship your order and send you an invoice.
I can also email through a fun kit which includes colouring sheets, posters and author information for your libraries promotions.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Kind regards

Amy Burrell

This had a pretty good conversion rate with around 30-40% of people I contacted purchasing the book. I think there are a few factors that contributed to my success that need to be mentioned. New Zealand is a small country and less and less books are produced here so as soon as you say you are a New Zealand author they are interested in what you have to offer. So make sure you find a way to be relevant and relate to the person you are selling to. They want to connect with you and your work.

Give them a specific deal or add on that will give them an incentive to order through you rather than a distributor. I had a few libraries say they only order through a distributor, I asked who that was then made sure they stocked my book. This lead to a few sales but I get more profit if they order directly through me.

Next mission selling to pre-schools!! Watch this space:)

Monday, April 15, 2013

Layout of a Children's Book

When do you create the page layout for your children's book? 
Laying out your book is quite often left until the very end of the process when you start to think about printing options however it should be considered quite early on as it is a major part of the creative process. The way your book and story flows is very reliant on the graphic design of the pages. By getting on top of this early you can direct your illustrator more successfully and end up with the text and images working together on every page.

I think the perfect time to start thinking about your layout is when your story is written and you are starting to make up little dummy books to finalize your pagination. This allows you to get creative with each spread, figure out what pages need illustrations and which pages can be purely text.

Before you start make sure you know what size your book is going to be exactly. If you are unsure contact the printer you have decided to use and ask them what there standard printing sizes are. A lot of printers will be more than happy to supply you with a template or some print specifications to work to.

There are two options for creating a layout for your book, DIY or hire a professional graphic designer. There are pros and cons to each which I will discuss.

Doing it yourself is always the cheaper option however it comes at a cost. Graphic Designers are very highly trained professionals who know how typography and graphics work. By doing it yourself you are at risk of creating a book that looks completely amateurish and self published. This can make your book that much harder to sell. However I understand that some people don't have to budget for this so I will run through the way you should go about it.

Typography is very important in the overall aesthetic of your book so choose wisely. Don't use more than two typefaces in your entire book, this is important in keeping your design consistent. Don't just use a typeface that came with Microsoft Word, explore type libraries and websites for something that suits your book, especially for the cover. The page copy will need to be a typeface specifically designed for young children learning to read. If you use a typeface that doesn't aid literacy you are jeopardising  your chances at getting your book into schools.

See my post: Typography for Early Readers

Margins and Grids

If your illustrations or graphics are going to go right to the edge of the page you will need to add bleed to your layout. Most printers have specific bleed sizes they want you to stick to so check with them first but 3-5 mm is pretty standard. Your pages will be trimmed anywhere between the bleed line and the page edge so your illustrations must continue to the bleed line. This is just because paper shifts during the printing process and can be up to 3mm out, so bleed makes sure this is not noticeable in your artwork.

Set yourself margins around the edges of your page. These should be the same on every page of the book. Your text should never run outside of these margins. The bigger your margins the more space your layout will have to breath and the better it will look. Consistency is key.

Hire a Professional Graphic designer
Your other option is to hire a professional graphic designer. Like anything the price ranges however there are many options that are quite reasonable. Freelance designers are what you are after not agencies, if you call up a graphic design agency and ask them to layout your book you will be paying thousands. However freelancers work for themselves and often need small jobs like book layouts to keep them busy between large contracts and jobs. There are many websites which allow you to post your job and designers will bid on it and then you choose who you would like to complete the job, it can be very affordable. Be specific about what you want, look at loads of children's books and choose some you like and attach these to your brief. This way the designer will be able to see your expectation.

A good one I use is and I am sure there are many more.

Post any questions you have about book layout and I will do a follow up article to answer them.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Author School Visit

Making contact
Having a few readings under my belt I was fairly confident I would be fine talking in front of 100 kids. I don't know whether I would have gone through with it if it was my first one. The school had bought one of my books for their library and the school librarian contacted me via email requesting that I come and speak at their assembly. The reason for her contacting me was that I was actually a pupil of there's once upon a time. This also put me at ease knowing the place and the people meant I would have a bit to talk about.

I did a lot of research on how to get the most out of a school visit. One of the main pieces of advice I found was to send them some information and activities to do leading up to your visit. This gets all the children familiar with your book and who you are. It also adds a lot of hype and makes it more fun for both them and you as the visitor. I sent through some colouring in pages, activity pages and posters to put up in the classroom. I also made a competition of the colouring pages with A3 signed colour prints from the book as prizes. When the children entered the hall for their assembly they all greeted me 'Hello Amy Burrell' all wanting to talk to me, it was great. I felt like a celebrity.

I pre arranged with the school to use their projector to plug in my iPad. This was great as I just used a .pdf of the book and everyone could see it massive behind me as I was reading. As I started to read I told the kids to read along if they wanted. Little did I realise that the whole school knew my story word for word even the 5 year olds. So I ended up reading my story with 100 children reading it along with me. It was so magical and really touching. I had an equally rewarding visit at a daycare centre where I read the story to around 30 2-4 year olds. I was sitting on a chair up the front and as I read they got closer and closer until the were practically sitting on my lap. They just get so much out of having a special guest come to read to them.

As I was allotted a 20-30 minute slot in the assembly I had to do more than just read my story. I ended up showing the kids some of my illustration work and photos of when I went to their school. I also requested a whiteboard and picked 2 volunteers to come up the front while I drew a cartoon of them. While drawing I talked them through how I create my characters and how to draw a face. This was a huge hit and I had the whole school laughing at the great characters. The school was also able to print the images off the whiteboard and I signed them and gave them to the kids.

I thought about giving away a copy of the book however I then decided signed prints was a bit more special and could potentially create another sale. I planned to judge the colouring in competition at the visit however this was not possible as there were 100 of them. I took them home with me and judged them, then posted them back to the school.

Media Release
Read here
I used this visit as an opportunity to create a bit of publicity. I emailed the local newspaper and told them about the visit. They sent a reporter along and she wrote an article and put it in the paper. She also gave me a contact of the owner of the local bookstore who I contacted and sold 5 books to. She published a note saying available at that store in the article. This was great however I have had some feedback from people saying they have gone into the store and asked about the book and the staff didn't know anything about it. I have tried to contact the owner several times and am having trouble getting hold of him. Not a good look for me:( From now on I will be quite selective over who stocks my book and the conditions.

This visit didn't actually create that many direct sales I think I sold one copy to one of the teachers and that's it. However the article in the paper got me the 5 sales to the bookstore and I have had another 3 who contacted my parents for a copy because of the article. I think this was a worthwhile marketing stint however I have a lot of room for improvement with converting it to sales.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Marketing through Facebook

Over my first two weeks of marketing the book Facebook has been my biggest sales tool. It has generated many sales and put the word out to all my friends that the book is here and available. Many of my Facebook friends were already aware that I was creating a book as I often post links to this blog. I have also had many friends write their own posts about my book which then informed all their friends. I also think this could be a good way to continuously update people and remind them about the book and how it’s going.

Once I was happy with the website and my books had arrived I simply set up a product page on Facebook and invited all my friends. I then put a post on my wall with a link to the website and invited them to comment and give me feedback. I had an overwhelming response. I got 18 comments on the post and 40 likes. The page got 24 likes and the actual website now has 112 likes. I think this is not only good for letting people know about the book but it also means everyone that enters my website sees my likes and automatically gains more respect for the book.

Sales have been going really well, at the moment I am only selling books through the website and to people in person where ever I go. I am working at setting up more channels however it's a work in progress. Stay tuned and don’t forget to like this blog:)

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Creating a Book Website

Before my books arrived I started creating a website so I could start to sell them asap. Having a website for your book has many purposes all of which should be decided upon before creating the site. I decided I wanted a site with: online purchasing, a blog, an about me, contact info and a subscription newsletter. I want anyone who signs into the site to either buy the book or sign up to the newsletter. By doing this I am collecting not only sales but also potential sales. I can build a list of people I know are interested in my books and use this to sell future books and products. With this in mind I did a bit of research on what website options were the best for this type of site. I needed to have alot of control over the site as I will be constantly updating it and creating new promotions. I decided to go with a content management system that I have used before called Wordpress with a PayPal button that links to my account and allows people to pay safely through the site.

Domain name
Before setting up my site I had to purchase a domain name ( These are pretty cheap and are available through many companies online you just need to google it.

Next I needed hosting. Hosting is where your website is stored on the Internet and should be purchased from a trustworthy source. I have tried free hosting before only to have my sight completely disappear and never return (not fun). Hosting can be purchased from the same company you buy the domain name from sometimes, so figure out a company that can give you both. It can make it much easier to manage. I used iPage which also allowed me to easily create a Wordpress site straight from my hosting dashboard. This saved me a lot of time and hassle trying to figure out which information to enter into Wordpress to get my domain and hosting connected to it. I found them reasonably priced and they have instant customer service on the help desk which is quite good when trying to get it all sorted. So make sure you suss these things out beofre signing up, you want instant access to help so you are not stuck waiting for days for the help desk to email you back if you run into trouble.

Once both my domain and hosting were purchased I just used the link on my hosting dashboard to set up a wordpress site. Wordpress is free and very easy to use. It is just like using facebook except you have a lot more control. You choose a template that suits your book and then alter it using all the tools and options. I used Photoshop to create a lot of the graphics to the correct sizes however I'm sure you could easily do this in 'Microsoft Picture Manager' if your not a Photoshop user. The Wordpress template I used tells you the sizes in Pixels that you should make the main images. Just a tip, Wordpress offers free blogs through however you will have limited features on this and I'm not sure weather you can sell stuff through the free sites. is the more professional site where you have your own hosting and domain and create more of a website with an blog attached.

To add the shop feature to the site I used PayPal. All I had to do was set up an account then create my buttons and paste the html code into my Wordpress shop page. This is such an easy way to have people purchase your book as they can pay by credit card and add there shipping information. I also set up a few pages that are not visible to the public on the site for special purchases, like wholesalers and people I sell to on the spot, this allows people to pay quickly and easily.

I used a Wordpress plugin called G-Lock which allows me to collect people email subscriptions. It has automatic email templates that go to the customer when they sign up making sure they legally opt in. I am finding it very user friendly and am hoping it will help me build my list.

So check it out:

I hope this short rundown of my websites gives everyone some ideas and inspiration to create one of their own. I would love some feedback so feel free to comment or flick me questions.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Printing a Book

As most of you know I have been waiting for my books to arrive from the printers in China. Well! They are finally here, a whole pallet of them, 1000 copies sitting in my living room. It is a great feeling having my project complete and the finished book in my hands however at the same time it is quite terrifying haha. I now start on a completely different phase of creating a book and that is sales and marketing however that's a whole new set of posts. So lets talk more about the printing.

Finding a printer
Your book is complete and you are ready to place your first order of books and start sharing them with the world. The first thing you need to do is find a printer. This is somewhat harder than it sounds. I was quite keen to go with a printer in New Zealand however after inspecting a lot of books in the book stores I discovered that most books were in fact printed in China. I thought I would check it out anyway. So I emailed 10 different printers some from China some from New Zealand. I only received 5 emails back. The couple I got back from printers in New Zealand were quite ridiculous they were 5 times the cost of getting it done in China which meant I would not make any profit. So I ended up using a printer in China, I went with the company that was emailing me back the most and able to meet my requirements. It has been a tricky process and I have taken a few more risks than I would have liked however it has paid off and I have the books and am very pleased with the result.

Finishing options
I wanted my book to have a very professional finish and be well suited to Libraries and schools. Because of the nature of my readers I ordered hard cover with 157gsm pages. I decided on a Spot UV gloss with matte lamination for the cover. These things didn't add too much to the price as I was ordering 1000 copies. There are so many options when it comes to printing and finishing if you are not familiar with these just go into your local professional printers and ask them lots of different questions. Also have a look at the different finishes of the books in books shops. I feel like all this stuff adds a lot to the professionalism of your book.

As I ordered my books from China I ended up paying through PayPal. This worked really well as I was able to make payments that they could see at their end quickly and keep the whole process moving. I was very paranoid about sending money to a far away land and never seeing any books but the process kept me at ease most of the time. I paid for a draft copy to be sent by air so I could make sure everything was correct. I made some small changes to the files before going a head with the 1000 copies. Sadly they used my original file for the inner pages of the book which means my changes are not made on the printed copies. I am not too bumbed though as they were only minor and I am probably the only one who knows, notices or cares. The company I used asked for a 60% deposit before starting the printing then the rest of the balance before they ship. I was sent photos of the books before I paid the balance, the company were also emailing me on a daily basis. I never once spoke to them in person although all correspondence was done in English I felt I would be better understood through email. If you are worried about the legitimacy of the company give them a call for your own peace of mind.

I was given a choice of either air freight or sea freight. Because of the major cost difference I went with sea. I am not certain as to weather I would choose this option second time round. It took over two months for the whole process and a lot of it was not even when the books were on the ship. There was about a week in between when the prints were ready and when they were loaded onto the ship. Then at my end in New Zealand they spent about 1-2weeks coming from Auckland to Wellington and then being called on for a customs check. It was a very long process which I am quite keen to streamline a bit more next time.

Extra charges
The cost of printing and shipping were not the only costs I encountered when importing the books. Once the books made it to New Zealand I had to pay the logistics company for all their services as well as GST. These charges were close to half the cost of the printing and freight, just something to be aware of.

Things I learnt
Give the printer a date that you need the books by. I think that because I didn't give them a specific date my job was bumped down the cue a lot for more urgent jobs.
Get a pdf visual of the job sent to you before they go ahead with the final printing. This would have helped me with the wrong file being used.
Try to pre arrange a logistics company for your import matters. I ended up being allocated one because I didn't have one arranged already. I have a feeling I paid more doing it this way. Having one pre arranged would also allow you to get a quote before hand.

Another option is to:
Publish your book with CreateSpace: get high royalties, low book prices, and expanded distribution.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Using an Editor, Proof Reader

One of the most important things that every author should do is have their work looked over by a professional editor and proof reader. This is not something you want to skip as you have invested so much time and money into your work. It would be heart breaking to get your books back from the printer and then spot a mistake.

Before sending my final files off to the printer I sent a .pdf file of the book laid out and a word document of the story to an editor for one last check over. I didn’t know any editors myself so I just googled it. I ended up going with a service provided by a company in Canada. The pricing was generated on a per word basis so it ended up only costing me $11 which seems crazily cheap. They offered a speedy service for a few extra dollars which meant I got in back within 24 hours. The feedback the editor provided was to a very high standard and she solved problems in my rhymes that I had been struggling with for weeks.

This service was not only worthwhile for the actual feedback but also having a complete outsider look over my work was great. It gave me a little more peace of mind to have a professional from the other side of the world compliment and support my work. There is quite a big difference paying a professional for this service than relying on your relatives and friends who did well in English at school. Professional editors have an eye for spotting inconsistencies and problems within your book as a whole. The editor I used even pointed out a few small things in my illustrations that could improve the story.

So to sum this post up I am very happy with my first experience of using a professional editor and I strongly recommend it.

P.S. You might notice a few changes to my blog! It's had a well overdue makeover. This is all part of the preparation for the arrival of my books which are currently at the printers in China. They are set to arrive on the 20th June. I have a lot of work to do before this so there will be lots of blog updates coming your way.