Carole P. Roman is back to share details on how she created her successful kids book series. Book of the Week authors Carole and her son, Michael Phillip Cash, have built a successful family enterprise with their self-published books by following their instincts, leaving no stone unturned in their marketing efforts, and consistent, persistent cultivation of their targeted audience. They have generously agreed to share their experiences in this and prior installments of our Notes from the Field.
A Pirate's Life for Me
When I started with my first book, I never expected have it grow into a series. I picked pirates because I like them and that's what I play with the kids...not to mention, I've been married to one for forty years, lol.
I tracked our sales, comparing my book to the trending books at the time. Once I explored Amazon's best seller's ranks, I realized all the high-performing books were part of kids book series. I knocked off Pepper Parrot Problem with Patience. This one earned a Five Star from Foreword Reviews. Then came Stuck in the Doldrums, and realized I was developing a theme. Book One was about imagination, Two, reaching out if you have a problem, Three, playing nicely with others. I thought that was it until my daughter-in-law announced she was pregnant. I wanted to include the new baby, so stranger-danger was addressed in Strangers on the High Seas. After that came another book or two because it tickled me, and then the next grandkid had to have a book too. These books were a critical success, but not a financial one. They remained in the low ratings, and the cost of producing them outweighed the profit. The cultural books (my second kids book series), on the other hand, were selling briskly.
"Tell Me More..."
That second series was inspired by my past experience as a social studies teacher. I wanted to do a series introducing customs and culture to the Pre-K and elementary set. I know how to silence a rowdy room, what captures their interest. Through my own travels, I've learned stuff that will make students stop what they are doing and say, "tell me more".
Each book contains ten items that interest children, putting them in the shoes of the kids they're reading about. The books needed to be evergreen and grow with the times. "What your name might be", was the first thing that caught parents. Kids right away identified with the gender neutral children in the book. We talk about food, what you would call your parents, where you might take a visitor, and other interesting facts. In order to create instant momentum, I launched the series once I had the first five books lined up. Happily, it worked! Parents, teachers, and kids loved them. The reviews were uniformly great, even when there were errors (which I corrected right away).
I never thought about age groups or grade levels, the books are meant to be flexible for 4-8, or even older. The occasional complaints about it being too hard or too easy, filtered through, but sales were steady and awards started coming in. I test drive all the books on my grandchildren. If they don't understand something, I tweak it. That's my scientific secret. When I started my kids book series I didn't know then about sites where you can identify the grade level. Recently I completed my first early reader book. When I tested it on one of these sites it came in at exactly the grade level I was targeting. (I've included a list of those reading level tests at the end of this post.)
Kids Book Series 3 - History is Neat!
My next series, aimed at an older reading bracket, I did for me. With a degree in history, my head was crammed with historical information. I wanted to see if I could hit the same mark as I had with my world culture books with a history-themed series.They were less expensive to make, so the profit would be larger. We are in the second year and they seem to be catching on. Approval from key homeschool sites and the awards help promote the books.
Marketing My Kids Book Series
Julie Gerber, my social marketing manager, was a homeschool parent. She knew exactly where to look for advertising. We sent out review copies to get the ball rolling and articles about the series started flying all over the internet. Parents enjoy the series on many different levels. I connected to sites like the Children's Book Review, Reader's Views Kids, Buncee, and Multicultural blogs doing frequent giveaways. I was a regular on Storytellers Campfire Radio so often, they gave me my own monthly show. Besides entering the books for awards, we send them to Kirkus and Foreword Review, two very important conduits to librarians. Authors balk at the cost of paid reviews, but those two sites got my books into the hands of educators and school libraries everywhere. They are also displayed at various trade shows, with Al Galasso and NABE or the Foreword Review, as well as some foreign book fairs. To date, there's been enough foreign interest for a literary agency to take me on. Sylvia Hayse now represents me overseas.
I found multiple and inexpensive parenting magazines like Story Monsters Ink, Bookopolis, and 5 Minutes for Mom, where I constantly run ads. Just finished book 22 in my world culture series and am taking on a new genre next month. Can't see wait to see how that goes.
Resources: (the following readability tests can be found here: http://www.hoagiesgifted.org/reading_levels.htm )
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Award winning author Carole P. Roman started writing as a dare from one of her sons. Her nonfiction series, "If You Were Me and Lived in..." combines her teaching past with her love of customs and culture around the world. She has expanded her non-fiction culture series to include historical times periods. Roman lives on Long Island with her husband and near her children. If you’d like more information on Carole P. Roman, check out her websites: