Updated: Jun 9
Welcome to our latest Author Success Story!
When it comes to publishing your first book, at some point, we've all thought to ourselves, "I just wish I knew someone who's done it, so I could ask them questions and see what it's really like!" Well, wish no more!
Julia Inserro is the author of more than ten children's books!
Julia is a mother of three littles who provide her with daily inspirations and just a “few” frustrations. She's traveled the world and has lived in five different countries with Egypt as one of her favorites. Julia is eternally grateful to her supportive husband and the cats who share her desk space. She has authored ten children's books and can't see stopping anytime soon and admits that she often writes and edits while sitting in a minivan.
If you'd like to explore and/or purchase her books, click HERE!
AHA: Hi Julia! 10 books! Impressive! What inspired you to become a published author?
Julia: I’ve always loved reading and writing. I remember wandering through the children’s section in bookstores in my 20s, before I had kids, dreaming of the day I might write my own book. Then the real inspiration came after I had my own kids. We were living overseas, far away from family, and my mother pointed out that the moon she saw in America was the same one we saw on the other side of the world and it sparked the idea for Nonni’s Moon. With my husband’s encouragement, I wrote up the first draft and started on the journey to fulfill my life’s dream of becoming a children’s book author.
AHA: Deciding whether to pursue traditional publishing or self-publishing is a big decision. Why did you choose to self-publish?
Julia: After I had written the first draft of Nonni’s Moon, I started researching what to do next. I researched publishing houses first and sent the manuscript off to one in particular that I thought would be a good fit. Within two months they had written me back a very nice rejection letter. I moped for a few days and then looked at my other options and decided to try to self-publish. I dove into it with both feet. I read books and articles and found helpful people through Facebook groups. I hired people along the way to help me and with their advice and guidance I learned a lot; everything from web design to marketing to layout and book design.
AHA: The cost of hiring all those freelancers can really add up. How did you fund your first project?
Julia: I funded it myself. My husband fully supported me and we discussed all the expenses as they came up and agreed together on what to do.
AHA: Did you have any background or experience with writing?
Julia: I’ve always loved writing. I was the associate editor of our high school newspaper and always enjoyed writing research papers in college and grad school. I worked in private intelligence and would write lengthy status reports for clients and then I kept a blog for several years while we were living overseas. I also wrote articles for online parenting magazines.
AHA: What is something you wish you would have known before you started?
Julia: I wish I had fully understood the idea that once the book was published it was really only the beginning. Children’s books are unlike any other genre. They can have decades of life. There are themes and formats and trends that come and go, but if you write a really good book, it can be read for generations. Granted, if I had really understood that when I started it might’ve felt too daunting. So, maybe it’s good that I didn’t realize that.
AHA: Longevity is definitely the goal! Speaking of which, how long did it take you to publish your first book?
Julia: It was January 2018 when I took a weekend and went to a local hotel to work on my first draft of Nonni’s Moon. I literally brought tape and scissors so I could cut out sentences and play with the layout. (As you can tell, I really had no idea what I was doing.) But luckily, I was able to find very knowledgeable people along my path. One of them was my illustrator, Lucy Smith. She was immeasurably helpful and Nonni’s Moon would not have been the success it is without her knowledge and skill. I released Nonni’s Moon eight months later, in August 2018.
AHA: How did you measure success with Nonni's Moon? Has that benchmark changed with your newer books?
Julia: As I was publishing my first book, one of the authors in a Facebook group said her goal was to sell a thousand copies in the first month. I had no idea whether that was a reasonable goal, but I latched onto it. I didn’t tell anyone, though. I kept it to myself. But I’m proud to say that I achieved that goal and sold 1,000 copies within 30 days.
Since then, I haven’t set goals like that. The publishing process is a marathon, but so is the post-publishing stage. For me, it’s not about selling 1,000 books in 30 days anymore. It’s about writing good books that sell consistently. It’s also about selling books to strangers, reaching out to readers beyond your friends and family. I want to write stories that spark imagination and encourage kindness. I’m in it for the long-haul.
AHA: Looking back at that "long-haul," has the publishing process been easier or harder than you anticipated? In what ways?
Julia: In the beginning, there were lots of moments of frustration and angst. I was learning so many new things all at the same time that it felt insurmountable at times. But after a few tears, I just focused on what I could do in that moment, piece by piece, and eventually I got there. Publishing is not a sprint, it’s definitely a marathon.
It’s good to know the current trends of the industry. Right now, picture books can have as few as 300-400 words, so being able to write concisely and purposefully really helps. If you want to write picture books, you need to know that the industry standard is 32 pages, which includes the title page and the dedication, and the copyright page. Knowing things like that really helps and there are a lot of very helpful books and blogs and Facebook groups out there.
AHA: If you could give one piece of advice to someone hoping to self-publish, what would it be?
Julia: Pay for an editor! Seriously, finding a good editor who challenges you is gold. As nice as it is to have someone tell you your work is perfect and doesn’t need any edits, that won’t help you become a better writer. Editors who help you hone your work and improve your product are worth the money.
As a reader, when I come across typos or awkward writing, it immediately turns me off. It tells me the author didn’t care enough about their product to put out their best work. Then, building on the need for an editor, as a published author you also need to be open to criticism and comments. You don’t have to bend to everything, but you do have to consider it. You’ll never find readers or critics who agree on everything, but you can always learn by listening to them.
AHA: What marketing strategies have been the most effective for you?
Julia: I have found that trying lots of different marketing opportunities will provide different results; and it constantly changes. If you’re selling on Amazon, you really need to use Amazon ads to be able to weed through the millions of books out there to find your readers. Other options are Facebook ads or Instagram ads, reaching out to influencers, local media and in-person events. You can get really creative and it’s best to approach marketing with the same type of enthusiasm you have for creating the book. Be creative and have fun with it.
Julia's Stats: (From her upcoming release, Badgie and Ming and the Angry Tent)
Badgie and Ming and the Angry Tent
POD or offset print run?
POD and then an offset print run in June
Paperback and hardback
Total Investment: (All amounts are rough estimates provided by the author and should not be considered 100% accurate or used as estimates for your own project. Do your own research!)
$2,000-$3,000 for illustrations $100 for editing $9,000-$20,000 for hardback print runs of 3,000-10,000 books + marketing costs
Total number of books sold to date:
Counting paperback and hardbacks for all 8 titles that are already released, I’ve sold over 28,500 books. I have at least three new titles coming out in 2022.
Inspired by Julia's story?
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