We set up our company in the Autumn of 2018. The company is Books and Games and the name neatly describes what we do. We create and produce books and games for children. Our main focus is picture book publishing.

We aim to take a range of our picture book texts alongside two fully illustrated picture books and a character series to market. We are looking at getting published in the traditional manner, but we are also looking at self-publishing too. We plan to diarise much of our journey and we hope our blogs will help others who are also pursuing this line of activity.

Our backgrounds are in digital, sales & marketing and design. This means in some respects we are lucky, as we already have many of the skills and much of the experience required to publish and promote books. However, we didn’t have any experience in the book publishing industry before we entered it last year.

We have found that the book publishing industry is a difficult industry to navigate, even for us with all our experience! If you don’t have the existing skill-set and expertise that we have, we can imagine it could be a very frustrating and demoralising place for writers and illustrators to be, no matter how talented they are!

We therefore thought it would be useful for other writers and illustrators, if we started to diarise our experiences of the industry and put together hints and tips in our blog section. This is our very first blog post doing just that.

There is a great deal to learn if you are an aspiring picture book author or illustrator and we ourselves are still learning. However, we have already found out some interesting tips and below we have listed five of these.

  1. Twitter seems to be the primary source of social media used by those in the book publishing industry. Whilst people do use other channels like Linkedin and Facebook, Twitter is undoubtedly where it is at as far as the book publishing sector is concerned. This is definitely the social media platform to use to find all the latest news and info about what is going on and it is one of the good ways to promote yourself and your books too.
  • Picture book publishing is a very competitive market. You need to be different or have a USP (unique selling point) that is going to interest publishers and press if you are following the traditional route. Similarly, your USP will need to capture the attention of book bloggers and press when self-publishing. Whatever route you are following, some way you need to get your book read and adored by the right people at the right time, so that they want to promote you. In later blogs we will give hints and tips on how to give yourself the best chance to do this. For now, the biggest tip we can give is – “keep going and don’t get disheartened as it’s likely to be a long old ride!”
  • There are lots of events about picture book publishing for budding authors and illustrators to go to, but do your research before you start booking yourself onto the latest courses and conferences. These events generally cost money and that will soon start adding up! Planning your diary ahead of time for the months coming and selecting events carefully is important. Choosing the right ones to go to will be time well spent and money well saved. There are also a lot of free events that can be useful to go to and we will talk more about this in coming blogs.
  • Don’t be scared of mixing with other writers or illustrators on social media or at events. Yes the industry is competitive. Yes you could be talking to a main competitor, but the chances are you won’t be! There are a lot of different styles of writing and illustration and a wealth of stories waiting to be told. You are more likely to gain knowledge, make friends and learn more about the industry by mixing with people in the same boat as you. This is important – especially as much of your time is likely to be spent in solitude, due to the nature of the work you do.
  • You will probably need an agent! The picture book industry is very much a closed shop and you are highly likely to need an agent to get in. Even the best sales people would find it hard to infiltrate this industry! In fact, many book publishers will not accept “unsolicited approaches” – i.e. you have to have an agent to even be allowed to send them a submission. Annoying as it is, this seems to be the way in which the bulk of the industry works. Trying to fit a square peg into a round hole is unlikely to cut it! So our advice would be to research the most appropriate agents for you and to start submitting to them. However, a word of warning is don’t do this until you are sure your manuscript is ready to be submitted or until you have researched their submission guidelines properly. Also, you need to set your expectations realistically. Don’t expect that getting a response from agents will be a quick process. Generally, the agents will have long turnaround times (2-3 months is probably a good average estimate). We will provide more info on trying to get an agent and how to stand out from the crowd in, what is, a very crowded market in later blogs.

You can follow us on Twitter too – here we try and post interesting information daily about the book publishing industry and about the importance of digital marketing in book publishing @ukbooksandgames