SFFMP 26: Self-Publishing and Marketing Tips for Children’s Genre Fiction with Ben Zackheim

Tonight we chatted with Ben Zackheim, middle-grade fantasy author, or “writer of smart books for smart children.” He’s worn a lot of hats in his working life and a few years ago switched from the game industry to self-publishing his own novels. He’s also a teacher at the School of Visual Arts in NYC, where he shows creative people how to market their work. You can say hi to him on Twitter and check out the first book in his Camelot Kids series on Amazon.

Here’s a little of what we talked about tonight:

  • The challenges of marketing middle-grade books
  • How independent publishing differs from film-making and video game creation
  • Working with artists for quality covers and possibly in-book material
  • Thoughts on blogging, social media, and “building a platform”
  • How many people are overlooking local markets in their marketing attempts
  • Utilizing visual artwork to help sell your books (Don’t have any? Commission some for your world and your character.)
  • Costly ads and other marketing schemes that should be avoided
  • Focusing on a series and publishing regularly
  • Is it worth trying to target fans of a popular series by writing something similar?
  • Getting a table at conventions and selling directly to your target audience
  • Amazon ads (and what analytics Amazon shares with authors) — will they be better in the future?



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  • Hmmm. I was very interested to listen to this one because I’m gearing up to launch a middle grade steampunk trilogy. I have worked in theater and television, but I sure as suck don’t have friends in Hollywood. I checked out the sales rank just now for The Camelot Kids books and they are all well in the 600,000 mark – which is significantly less than one book sale per day (and that includes the permafree in the series) and can’t possibly equal any kind of income at all.

    I know that Lindsay’s MG goblin book (which is cool, by the way) didn’t really sell well despite good reviews and so I wonder if, in the end, Middle Grade is just not a place you can go as an Indie?

    • SFFpodcast

      Middle grade is tough when you’re limited to ebooks and PoD. You really need to have hard copies in schools, libraries, and book stores from what I’ve seen and heard. My only MG is a 5-year-old collection of short stories (short stories, collections and otherwise, are always hard to sell), but I was never tempted to go ahead with the novels I’d had planned for those characters, not based on those ebook sales. It would be the kind of thing I would propose to a traditional publisher if I was super passionate about it right now and didn’t have a zillion other projects going.

  • Hi Lindsay,

    Thanks for your response.

    I have no doubt at all that what you say is true. Thing is that I have a feeling some point in the future the independent publishing world is going to outgrow and out perform the traditional publishing model and that it will find a way to put products out to all markets – including MG and children’s.

    Now, is it wise to put in all the work to put out an MG trilogy that is unlikely to sell? No. But is it exciting and fun to put out an MG trilogy because you think, despite everything, that learning from what hasn’t worked so far, you might be able to give it a shot and see sufficient small success to light the way? Maybe not! But I’m not risk averse, I’ve already put quite a lot into this and I have plenty of other more commercially viable projects to follow up with, so I think I might just helldamnit do it any way.

    This first book has been the rounds of agents and has had lots of personal rejections praising the story, the characters and the writing but all suggesting that they don’t think there’s anyone would publish it right now. We know that a big trad. house has to see a big audience to risk its investment. But me and my newly hatched and soon to be fledged Indie Pub ‘Clockwork Press’ ? Well, I can afford to risk the small investment and can be happy with the returns from a small, niche audience. So maybe it could work? I’m going to give it a shot!

    It would be satisfying (and helpful) if I could figure out how to break into the MG market as an Indie. I’m prepared to fail, of course. It wouldn’t be the first time!

    Keep up all the good work, guys – you’re an inspiration!