I’d like to welcome back B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree Gerry Renert today to talk with me about his self-publishing experience. Gerry has been a writer/TV producer for over twenty years. He began his writing career when he was eleven years old (under protest) on the blackboard of Miss Peterson’s sixth grade class. Once out in the real world, he wrote television commercials, which lead to his meeting a TV star who gave him a shot at writing TV sitcoms. Luckily, he ended up writing episodes for two of the highest rated TV series in the history of CBS Television. In 2002, he co-created the animated preschool TV series, ToddWorld, which aired in most countries around the world. The series has won three “Parents Choice” awards, an “iParenting” Award and has been EMMY nominated three times for “Outstanding Animated Children’s Program.” His two picture books in the “Nathan Series” have won “Mom’s Choice” Gold Awards. His first storybook App, “Brave Rooney,” was included in the popular information series, “iPad Kid’s Apps For Dummies. “The second in the series, “Brave Rooney and the Super-Sized Superheroes,” has won a “Mom’s Choice” Gold Award, a Childrens eBook Award (CEBA) and a B.R.A.G Medallion. He’s been a long-standing member of the Writers Guild of America and currently president of his own company, SupperTime Entertainment.
Gerry, when did you decide you were going to self-publish?
Once my children’s stories proved themselves as interactive book apps on iTunes, I knew it would be worth the investment of turning the first two titles into eBooks for Amazon and all the other possible venues. For me, it’s all about the story and characters and when people responded to these aspects positively on iTunes, I felt the confidence to bring my books into other formats.
What has your experience been like along the way?
The physical publishing part has been the easiest aspect. Of course, you need to work with a savvy enough book designer who has good knowledge of translating your books into whatever graphic formats are needed. The rest is all about marketing which is never easy.
What are some of the challenges you have faced?
Marketing. Marketing. Marketing. Prior to writing kid’s books, I was a Creative Director at a large Los Angeles Advertising agency. Having worked on many Fortune 500 brands, I felt I knew most everything you needed to know about marketing anything. Unfortunately, I forgot that while working in advertising, I had the luxury of working with the client’s money. With my books, I had to be extremely judicious in how I spent my pennies. And with so much competition, I realized breaking-through was much more difficult than I imagined.
What have you learned in this industry?
I’ve learned that self-publishing is a very difficult industry but highly rewarding if you’re successful at it. I’m lucky in the fact I ‘m a partner in a kid’s entertainment company, SupperTime Entertainment, which creates and produces kid’s animated TV, in addition to kid’s books, so I have some experience in reaching moms. My partner comes from publishing where she was an editor for a Penguin imprint. She’s been an invaluable asset in helping me edit and launch my latest book series.
What are the do’s and don’ts of self-publishing?
Although some of the one-stop-shopping places (i.e.editing, printing, distribution) sound attractive, I’d recommend staying away from them and devote the initial energy into finding the right graphic artist/designer to work with and doing as many of the other services you can on your own. Once your book is published, I’d do some PR, starting with self-initiated local PR and, if you can afford it, hire someone with national consumer PR experience. If your book is a children’s book, you’d want a PR person who’s well connected with the top Parenting sites and Mommy Bloggers.
What advice would you give to a writer who is considering the self-publishing route?
Getting the etitle onto Amazon is not difficult but, as I mentioned above, getting enough awareness is always challenging. If you’d like to go the print route, there are several good print-on-demand operations, and I’d recommend printing enough copies for authors to do local readings at schools, libraries, etc. Distribution into bookstores is something you’ll need a rep for. I’d also advise them to be prepared to spend an indefinite amount of time on contacting reviewers and, of course, marketing.
What are the promotional techniques you use via social media and how much time a week do you spend promoting your work?
I’m always updating my FB page with award notices, news stories that are related to my book themes and any kind of positive chatter that is supportive. I’ve paid for several FB ads, but haven’t found they generate enough activity to warrant the ad. I have two twitter accounts – one for my name and another for the lead character in the book series. I tweet out news stories that would be important to moms, regarding building self-esteem for kids, improving diet, etc. Unfortunately, I don’t devote the necessary time to social media and spend probably 20 minutes a week on this.
What are the different sites you use to promote your book?
Parenthood.com, Mom’s Magazine, LA Parent, Friday Night Books, Mom’s Favorite Stuff, Dad Does It All, Mami2Mommy. I also write guest blogs for writing advisors like Jane Friedman
Where do you see this industry in five to ten years?
I see the industry growing as the traditional trade publishers continue to focus on name authors and name brands, making it almost impossible for first time authors to get published.
If something can be improved upon in this industry, what do you think it should be?
I think the “one-stop-shopping” places should be more transparent. I find a lot of “bait and switch” offers where you’re offered all their services for one price, but as you get into it you find out the services and costs are much more a la carte.
How long have you been an indie author?
Buying links to Brave Rooney and the Super-Sized Superheroes.
Or buy the interactive version (MY PARTICULAR FAVORITE) via this link: itunes