TBOWT 037 – An Interview with Mark Wayne Adams: An Award-winning Author, Illustrator, Publisher, Promoter and Speaker
February 6, 2014
Today’s episode features an interview with best-selling children’s author Mark Wayne Adams. Mark has illustrated or written 37 children’s books. His books and illustrations have won numerous awards.
Mark is also a publisher, speaker, and book marketing expert. Today we get to pick Mark’s brain and find out how he sells so many books, makes so many appearances at schools, conferences and civic events and get his take on the state of self—publishing and distribution today!
A Selection of Books written or illustrated
by Mark Wayne Adams
Let’s get right to the questions.
Peggy: Hello, Mark. You are a prolific writer and illustrator and you have written or illustrated 37 children’s books. I happen to know that your goal is to illustrate and or write 50 books by the time you are 50. That is just a couple of years away. What’s your secret to getting so much done in such a short period of time? What does a typical day in the working life of Mark Wayne Adams look like?
Mark: I’m not certain there is a secret. We all have a pace to our lives. I believe realistic goal setting is key. I keep an ongoing list of goals. Some of the goals are long term and some short term. When I get distracted or need reminding of who I want to become, I use these lists. I draw very quickly because I trained to be an animator. Animators draw hundreds of illustrations a day. As a children’s book illustrator, I decided one to five pictures a day meant I’d complete an illustrated picture book every thirty days. Six years later, working about six hours a day, five days a week, eight months a year, I’ve illustrated almost forty picture books.
What does a typical workday look like now? I’m not only an illustrator, but also publisher, author, president elect for FAPA (Florida Authors & Publishers Association), Readers’ Favorite illustration award judge, and a public speaker. A typical illustration day is drawing by the pool from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m., when my kids arrive home. The writing happens all the time. I use my iPhone or iPad to write using applications like Notes, Pages, or A Novel Idea. I then export my notes and inspired writing once a week into a word document. I find this is more effective than searching for the best time to write.
Peggy: Your books and illustrations have won multiple awards. Can you give our author’s any tips on what it takes to bring home the prize when it comes to book awards? How do you find new awards and how important is it to the success of a book to win an award?
Mark: The most important thing is to know your competition. I research the winners over the previous two years, and what reviewers are saying about them. These winners are my competition. I don’t promote my books by saying, “I did this project under $500!” I seek professional illustrations, graphic design, and editing for all my projects. These three elements help make any story shine. I seek out awards that are regional and national for beginning authors. I live in Florida. FAPA (Florida Association of Publishers and Authors) President’s Book Award is a both a local and a national award. New authors in Florida are encouraged to enter under the regional award. For more exposure, I also encourage entering the national level for a few dollars more. Award-winning books are a much easier sell than non-recognized books.
Peggy: As an illustrator, what in your opinion is the most important thing to keep in mind when you are hiring an illustrator or evaluating illustrations for a book? What about book covers for children’s books … or any book for that matter … as an artist, what are the most important elements of a great book cover?
Mark: I recommend a professional illustrator. They are defined as an artist who can create a cohesive sequence of art that tells a story. The Graphic Artist Guild Handbook of Pricing and Ethical Guidelines is a resource for any author, publisher, or illustrator. The handbook includes standard industry pricing, contracts, and terminology. The most important elements in any cover are how well it reads. Can the book title be read from across the store. The visual cover elements must feature the main character or the topic being covered. In contrast, the book cover must also read well as an icon on a smart phone or the web.
Peggy: Mark you give more talks to schools than any author I know. For those authors out there who want to speak to schools, what is the best way to approach a school administrator or librarian about doing a presentation? Once you have the opportunity to speak at a school or library, how do you leverage a school appearance into multiple book sales? Is there a process?
Mark: The pocketbook questions! Great, you are not the first to ask the question. I have a new book which is ready for release in 2014 called AIM Kit: The Author & Illustrator Media Kit. The book covers how, when and who to contact at a school and the marketing materials needed to capture sales. I could do a full hour session on this, and will be at the Business of Writing Summit. I recommend contacting the media specialist, art instructor (as an illustrator speaker), reading specialist, gifted teacher, PTA/PTO’s, and the principal. Always in this order, so that everyone is informed on what I will bring to the school. There is a process for creating multiple sales. I’ll touch on one today. Keep orders simple. I don’t sign books on the day of the event. Socialize as much as possible at the school. Listen, ask questions, shake hands, and spend time with people. Authors are the superstar living the dream life, even though most of us still mow our own yards. To students and staff, the author’s input, time, and attention inspires them to write, read, draw, or chase their dream. I’d buy anything you were selling if you were my friend and mentor.
Peggy: I want you to take off your author’s hat right now and put on your publisher’s hat. You sell a lot of books and many of them are hard cover books. In terms of distribution, what is the best way to get books into the hands of retailers? Where else do you sell books? Book Fairs? Conferences? Where else have you had success?
Mark: Treat publishing like a business. I don’t push retail store sales. Amazon is the largest book retailer. Open an Amazon account and you’re reaching the largest consumer audience. Retailers (bookstores, gift shops, etc.) take a percentage of the list price from 30 percent up to fifty percent. Be aware that you make half as much on your product in those locations. I sell products directly at book festivals, schools, through my website, and running promotions. Like the one I have now on our www.BestFairyBooks.com site. Anyone listening can use the coupon code: VALENTINE to receive $3.00 OFF any book on our site.
Diversity in distribution is a must. Not every consumer shops for your product in the same way. Be prepared. Wearing a publisher hat means your books aren’t babies, they are products.
Peggy: When it comes to book marketing, what do you think is the number one strategy to increase books sales and build the author platform?
Mark: Peggy, I’m trying to save my best secrets for the Business of Writing Summit. Being social is the number one strategy. As an illustrator I could stay home all day drawing and making money. I sell books when I illustrate in public. I seell books setting at restaurants and drawing. I sell books by participating in interviews. I sell books whenever and wherever I can.
Tweeting, Facebook, book festivals, and public speaking all sell books. This also raises awareness of my brand, creates a following of my series, and allows people to make a connection with a friend and mentor. I don’t look at selling books as my job. My job is to inspire others through the time I spend with them and the products I create.
Peggy: You will be speaking at the 2014 Business of Writing Summit. Can you briefly share with our listeners an overview of what you will be talking about?
Mark: I’ll gladly share. We’ve touched on a few topics here. My keynote address at the Business of Writing Summit will cover marketing techniques that can be used across all genres. I’ll talk about effortless marketing, selling services beyond the product. The session will not only be informative but also highly entertaining. I will also be speaking in one of several sessions being offered at the summit. Attendees are encouraged to get a more personalized learning experience then.
Peggy: What’s next for Mark Wayne Adams? How can our listeners connect with you Mark?
Mark: Next … I can’t believe all the great things! I have 3 new books, Polly and Her Pigtails, Franny’s Rescue, and Johari’s Joy, which just received a silver medal in the Mom’s Choice Awards. I’m currently illustrating Parts of Speech Parade, Frozen Floppies, and The Freckle Fairy, which is the fifth book in the award-winning Best Fairy Books series. Those three books I’m publishing for other authors by May. I’m also releasing my first of six novels in the Bothers & Sisters series, Spanish print and eBook versions of the award-winning Nicholas, That’s Ridiculous! and Jilli, That’s Silly!, and the AIM Kit: Authors & Illustrators Marketing Kit before the summit in July. I also have numerous speaking events as well. After saying this, I think the rest of my year will be spent promoting.
You can learn more about services, events, and awards at www.markwayneadams.com or down load the Mark Wayne Adams app on iTunes and Android devices. Visit our bookstore at www.bestfairybooks.com to receive $3 OFF using the coupon code: VALENTINE. Follow me on Twitter @markwayneadams for instant publishing updates.
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Coming August 1-2, 2014
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