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[Got a killer hustle for y’all today! My man Tim Johnson has created, and sold, thousands of copies of children’s books around the world… Hope you enjoy!]
I’ve always had a keen interest in learning foreign languages. Maybe it started with my mother teaching me silly French songs growing up or my interest in Japanese karate. At any rate, I mustered up some cash selling brownies, doing bottle drives and other odd jobs until I was able to participate in an exchange program at age 16.
I spent 5 weeks with a family in Tokyo soaking in as much language and culture as I could. Friendships are a very powerful platform for building good language skills. I found myself gravitating toward children’s books for learning language and determined that it was a great way for me to learn. Slow, simple and fun.
Finding the gap
As the years went on and I continued studying Japanese, I realized that there aren’t really many dual language books on the market, and even fewer that touted themselves as an effective language learning tool. There was my gap! With twin boys on the way, I had my inspiration and target audience already established!
I had started a website (TheLanguageBear.com)that was intended to sell dual language books, and it earned a very small income through Amazon affiliate sales. But it was enough to convince me there was a market for such books and it gave me a platform that was already mildly established. Having some working knowledge of the rising self-publishing industry, I decided it was my time to publish a book.
Understanding the Potential
After thinking through this opportunity a bit further, it seemed like children’s book publishing was a good niche to get into. First, the barrier to entry is higher than self-publishing other books due to the illustrations. That means competition is not as stiff. The opportunity to stand out from the crowd is powerful because of the uniqueness of each book; the illustration style, story, book size and cover will, by nature, make this book different than any other book on the market.
Additionally, I believe that the prevalence of children’s books will remain in paperback for quite some time. Children enjoy flipping pages, and parents prefer not to have their children playing with tablets. There is no obvious reason to transition children’s books to a digital industry yet.
Also, children’s books are very easy and quick to read and review, which means that I would be able to find mom-bloggers and other relevant blogs who would accept a free copy of the book and write a review, essentially acting as a sales channel for me. People are much more willing to spend 5 minutes reading a children’s book, rather than 5 hours reading and reviewing a novel. (EDITOR’S NOTE: This is so true. We get pitched literally every day to review books and it’s just not possible to check ’em all out)
Bringing the Book to Life
Having a vague idea that I might want to publish a book, I took a few hours and put down a variety of plots. It’s a children’s book so of course writing the whole book (500 words) took very little time. With a little editing, I was happy enough with the story to find someone to illustrate the first page of the book.
I reached out to a few companies online and a few independent illustrators and found the most cost effective way to “kick the tires” in the world of illustration. I commissioned 3-5 different people on Fiverr.com to illustrate page one. After some patience and some failed attempts, I found someone who made the book really come to life. The character, the colors, everything exceeded my expectations.
Now there was no going back, I knew I would make this happen. I’ve since developed a great working relationship with this illustrator who I’d originally hired for $5!! I’ve given him several books to illustrate and between him and the translators I pay just less that $500 for all the material I need for each title! And yes, translating a 500-word story in simple sentences is quite inexpensive.
Making it Happen
Knowing very little other than the fact that it was possible, I spent a great deal of time researching, crunching numbers, talking to printers, agents, and other authors about self-publishing. In the end I decided that print on demand would be the best solution for me, but in order to establish myself and build a little buzz, I started a Kickstarter campaign to get some cash under my belt and hire the right people to illustrate and translate my first book into 10 languages.
Getting it into print involved a steep learning curve and a lot of attention to detail. I approved the proof (after a couple revisions) about six months into the project, and a few days later it was available on Amazon! After that it was a matter or getting reviews, increasing traffic, and giving away free copies of the book.
Slowly the books gained momentum and I decided that after making several hundred dollars a month on the first one, that it would be worth the effort and money to get more books published. Publishing books in a series is a great way to help Amazon shoppers find your other books. Amazon automatically suggests similar books to shoppers so the marketing effort became easier with every publication. With 6 titles in 10 translations each that gives me 60 Amazon listing pages too!
I’m currently making just over $1,000/mo without lifting a finger! I’ll continue putting out new titles under the proven assumption that each title only increases that number.
Putting Systems in Place
Now that I have gone through the process several times, failed many times, and figured out better ways of doing things, I would say my process is very streamlined and optimized. My translators, illustrator, and proofreaders are all established, and I can simply send them files via email. My publication process is always the same and I have virtual assistants help me with this process as well.
Nowadays, it takes me about 1-2 hours to come up with a worthy manuscript and finalize it. It takes another hour to make notes for my illustrator describing what I want, an hour to come up with a book description and create the listing details, and about one hour per translation to paste in the proofread foreign language copy, format it and get it submitted to Amazon.
The whole process still takes a couple months, but as you can see, a large part of the process is automated or outsourced, which takes the majority of the work off my plate completely. If you remember, I have twin baby boys so this was not by choice, but by necessity. I could have chosen not to take on this endeavor in the first place, but I chose instead to make it mandatory that I proceed. That way I would simply do what was necessary to accommodate everything that needed to be done.
People ask me how I have so much time to get everything done, and it’s simply a matter of making a sequence of appropriate decisions toward your goal.
** Want to Publish Your Own Children’s Books? **
Tim just launched a full video course for aspiring children’s authors and authorpreneurs, and today he’s giving all Budgets Are Sexy readers
free access to it (promo now over). This course costs $40 for everyone else, and he approaches it by treating book publishing like product development in order to create successful products from the onset. So grab it while you can!
- Visit his Udemy page: Self-Publish Your Children’s Book – From Start to Finish
- UPDATE: That link there will now get you the course for only $20 instead of $40 – 50% off! It’s not free like it used to be when we originally posted this, but it’s still better than $40! :)
Thanks so much for sharing and hooking us up Tim – really kind of you :) And congrats on all your success!! If you ever want to brainstorm “Bosley Learns About Money,” you just let me know ;) I heard a cool name for a guest character could be J. Money?
Tim Johnson published his first children’s book in 2011, and now has over 50 titles on Amazon with thousands of copies sold worldwide. For more information about Tim’s children’s book series, visit: TheLanguageBear.com.
Liked this? Check out our entire series of side hustles – we’ve got over 50 of them!