Do you have a mission from God to reach readers? Many years have passed since I first wrote some children’s stories I knew came from God. I shared them repeatedly with my four-and six-year-old children, never realizing God had a bigger plan for what he was giving me. My heart leapt every time my son or daughter would ask me, “Please, Momma, read Fast Freddy again!” At that time, I had written three stories they and their friends loved to hear over and over. Little did I know that was the beginning of what would become a mission for God to reach families for Christ through books, an animation series, and a successful podcast for parenting Christian kids. Is God calling you to self-publish?
I asked the Lord to tell me what he wanted me to do with the stories my children loved since I felt the prompting of the Holy Spirit to self-publish. After local Christian elementary teachers encouraged me with, “Oh, my, yes, absolutely, publish these books!” and then being honored with a Benjamin Franklin award for my book Fast Freddy, I asked God, “What do you want me to do next?”
He first answered my prayer by leading me to the Christian Indie Publishing Association (CIPA), at that time headed by Sarah Blome. She had authored an excellent resource Your Guide to Marketing Books in the Christian Marketplace. Sarah’s book was such a blessing, and their resources through CIPA have proven to be invaluable.
All seven of my Sea Kids Series children’s books have won over 25 awards collectively. And if I might brag just a little, I can’t tell you how excited I felt for one of my books to come in second place to a book by the Pope—yes, THE Pope—in the International Book Awards! In 2022, I was incredibly blessed to receive the Jennifer Kennedy Dean Award from the Advance Writers and Speakers Association. And recently I was awarded second place in the Christian Authors Network Marketing Awards for Outstanding Web Presence for my Sea Kids Series. God blesses obedience; I am so grateful!
Publishing today is vastly different from what it was in years past. Now you need to be a marketing expert or hire someone to promote your book. You must have a great website that stands out from the crowd. And you are obliged to attend and speak at conferences. While being on social media is so very important, we are experiencing increasing bias against Christian organizations. I have had several friends lose all of their contacts on social media because they were promoting their Christian faith. This is why having a newsletter and collecting email addresses of those who love your work is so extremely important. You don’t want to lose the people who love what you are sharing with them! CIPA has a very informative article titled “The Care & Feeding of Your Email List Newsletters 101” and a state-of-the-art course on email marketing at CIPA.Podia.com.
Indie publishing can lead to other marketing opportunities such as podcasting. There are currently over 5 million podcasts, and the number is growing! While that may feel discouraging as you get started, remember the Lord equips those He calls. You can build a loyal community through podcasting. It is a great platform to share the wisdom given to you by the Holy Spirit, your website resources, and your books. Podcasting is truly the new pulpit for Christians. God’s word NEVER comes back void (Isaiah 55:11). Your message may reach one person whose life is changed for all eternity and whose influence will impact millions! Spark Media Network is a fantastic organization that can help you with your podcasting. Just like the Christian Indie Publishing Association helped me in my publishing journey, Spark Media Ventures greatly impacted my Raising Christian Kids podcast.
Benefits and Drawbacks of Indie and Traditional Publishing
Let’s talk about the benefits and drawbacks of indie and traditional publishing. When you choose to self-publish, you must be prepared for the reality that you will not have the resources of a traditional publisher backing your book launch. You may not be able to reach a broader audience. Distribution and book marketing success is all on you and your team. This means more work for you, and if you are not very careful, the design, layout, and material quality of your book(s) may suffer. There is also the possibility that YOU could make a mistake that can cost you lots of money. I experienced that one: I was forced to destroy $10,000 of printed books because I failed to doublecheck to be sure my printer was working with my most recent, updated manuscript. So, a word to the wise, if you decide to indie publish, you MUST do your research and due diligence.
The Christian Indie Publishing Association offers many resources that you can tap into. The reason I chose to be an indie publisher was because I wanted control over the illustrations, storyline, and final quality of my product. I have seen poor results in both traditionally published and indie published books. I have seen outstanding quality in both. I am happy that I chose the self-publishing route for my children’s books. I searched for a year and found an illustrator who had worked for Disney, Warner Brothers, and American Greeting Cards. His talent is spectacular, and the brilliant, full-color pages in my books have won numerous illustration awards. I am pleased to know that my storybooks are loved by children and parents alike. Do not lose sight of the reality that children’s books must have illustrations that capture children’s imaginations; the words need to elicit their emotions; and their hearts and minds should be held captive for Christ. I give all the credit to the Lord; I prayed every step of the way and before every decision I made.
I continue to see the benefits of hard work and constant prayer as the Lord guides and leads us at Raising Christian Kids for his glory and honor. We are now a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, and our mission is to “equip and empower parents and caregivers to become the best spiritual leaders for children by providing free and affordable biblical services and resources.” Our vision is to partner with like-minded Christian organizations to create multiple opportunities for all families, regardless of income, to receive the tools they need to educate and empower the next generation of warriors for Christ with an unbreakable faith that lasts a lifetime. This all began with me self-publishing the very stories God gave me to write for my own children. Be faithful to his calling—you never know what doors he planned to open for you!
Traditional Publisher or Self-publishing
If you are deciding between using a traditional publisher or self-publishing, here are a few things should know:
Research and write down the pros and cons of self-publishing versus traditional publishing versus hybrid publishing houses as it relates to your particular circumstances.
- Plan to hire an experienced, qualified editor.
- Learn how to market your book well in both traditional and digital marketing venues.
- Determine what price, cover art, book layout, and material you will use in addition to how many books you will print. A less expensive alternative for you may be a print-on-demand service.
- Become an expert on how to best promote yourself and market your book on social media.
- Research and attend the most relevant conferences where you can promote and sell your book. Expect to promote via “free” giveaways.
- Submit your book(s) for award consideration everywhere that is related to your genre for two important reasons. One, winning an award will greatly increase your credibility as an author. Two, you and your book(s) will be seen and critiqued by people who are important in the industry and who might help you.
- Submit your books for reviews. Pay attention to feedback; you might just learn something very important for your success.
- Seek opportunities to be a guest on a podcast, radio, or television show. If you are an expert in your field, people are always looking for guest speakers. If you are not, but people are listening to you, you can be a valuable guest interviewee. You could join CIPA at the National Religious Broadcasters (NRB) convention (https://christianpublishers.net/trade-shows/) to promote your book to hundreds of Christian media.
This list is just a start. If what you are called to do is bigger than what you think you can do, rely on God and the Holy Spirit’s nudging, and do not be afraid. Step out of the boat like Peter, and walk on the water with Jesus. And don’t ever forget to keep your eyes on the Lord! “I keep my eyes always on the Lord. With him at my right hand I will not be shaken” (Psalm 16:8). I pray you will have much success as you make your decisions. Never cease to seek opportunities to promote the Kingdom and the glory of the King!
About the Author
Lee Ann Mancini is the award-winning author and executive producer of the Sea Kids series, which includes 7 children’s books and 26 animated TV episodes, and host of the award-winning podcast, Raising Christian Kids. She is also an adjunct professor at South Florida Bible College and Theological Seminary. She serves of the boards of several Christian organizations and maintains memberships with several others. She and her husband Guy live in South Florida and are the parents of two adult children.