I am a teacher, and I write books. I am not the only one. Raymond Bean teaches 4th grade in New York City, and has two best selling series with Amazon, Sweet Farts and School is a Nightmare. He teaches 4th and I will be teaching 5th, and judging by pictures we both seem to have the same hairline. But the difference stops there, as he has written two series and is on his way to releasing a third series.
He was nice enough to answer a handful of questions. But it was how we came to connect through James Altucher deserves a mention. James is also a best-selling indie-publisher whose recent Choose Yourself sold over 40,000 copies in it’s first month. Enough to put him on the Wall Street Journal’s best seller’s list, and the New York times for that matter. But because he didn’t sell them in stores the New York Times list doesn’t include his work. That’s a post for another time. (See my review of Choose Yourself. James retweeted my review, and consequently that was the biggest day on my blog so far. There is a lesson there.)
James does a weekly ask me anything through Twitter on Thursday afternoons. Typically I can’t participate because I am in school during that time, but during July my schedule is a little more open. After the success of James’ Choose Yourself and a subsequent post on Tech Crunch about self publishing 3.0, I asked him on Twitter how would his advice differ for selling children’s books. And this is how James replied:
Three things on this:
- James thought I asked a great question.
- I stumped him enough that he passed me off to Raymond Bean.
- I steal James’ idea and interview Raymond myself.
And from there Raymond was nice enough to respond to the tweet and then was nice enough to answer some questions for me.
(I believe this is a very important 21st century skill. We should be teaching our students and children to expand our connections through technology.)
Enough backstory, here are the questions that Ray was nice enough to answer:
1. How long have you wanted to be a writer?
I’ve always written. I remember a pencil box I had in elementary school (probably second grade) that had an elaborate scene of kids having a snowball fight on the cover. I wrote speech bubbles next to each kid.
2. Did you ever send the manuscript for Sweet Farts to agents or publishers before sending it to KDP?
Yes, I sent Sweet Farts out to many publishers and several agents before and after self publishing on Createspace/KDP. Amazon Publishing ultimately picked up the first book and the rest of the series.
3. Did you use any services from Createspace such as editing, cover design, or illustrations?
Createspace does all the services for my indie titles.
4. How long did it take for the book to begin selling well? Was it immediate or did it take a while for mouth-of-mouth to kick in?
It took about three months for sales to kick in. I was lucky because the book seemed to generate a good deal of word of mouth between readers.
5. Where did you get the idea for Sweet Farts?
See the video.
6. What sort of promotion did you do?
I gave away a good deal of free copies. It was way back in 2008. I think I was fortunate because self publishing hadn’t really exploded yet. Once my book started selling on Amazon it pollinated with other popular children’s titles and its discoverability increased dramatically.
7. When did Amazon approach you to sell through their imprint?
I don’t remember exactly, but it was in 2009. I remember googling Amazon Publishing and nothing came up. I took a leap of faith that Amazon would grow its publishing business. I’m glad I did. Today they are growing at an amazing rate and announcing new imprints all the time.
8. What sort of advice would you give to new writers considering self-publishing?
I think the most important thing is to get your work out there where readers can find it. Once it’s available, write more. Self publishing helped me land a fantastic agent and kick start my writing career.
9. What do your students think of your success?
They’re very supportive. I try to use my love of reading/writing to encourage my students to read and write more.
10. Who is your favorite sports team?
I’m a big basketball fan. The Knicks for sure.
Thanks so much to Raymond for taking the time to answer my questions. If you’re a teacher of old elementary school students I would recommend checking out his work.
In spite of basketball being his favorite sport, Raymond’s upcoming book is about baseball. Which is my personal favorite sport. So I will be checking it out.
Any other indie writers I should track down and interview? Leave suggestions in the comments.
Also check out my interview of best-selling children’s author AJ Cosmo.