Carla King interviews Tiffany Obeng on how to write nonfiction books for children aged 4-8.
Nonfiction Authors Podcast | September 6, 2023, 10:00 am PT / 1:00 pm ET
“Only 13% of children’s literature in 2023 feature black characters. As you have seen from our website that is far behind books that feature animals, which is at 40 something percent and behind books that feature white characters. So I wanted to be able to make relatable content for our children or black children.”
About Tiffany Obeng
Tiffany Obeng is a lawyer and author of several educational and inspiring children’s picture books. Tiffany creates books featuring Black children and families in spaces where they have historically been absent. Her books also feature Black child characters in normal everyday situations. In this way, all children are normalized, humanized, and the world can be made a safer place for them. Her books include popular kids’ career books Andrew Learns about Lawyers and Andrew Learns about Engineers; season book Spencer Knows Spring and honesty book Scout’s Honor. To learn more about Tiffany and her books, you can visit her at SugarCookieBooks.com.
Nonfiction Authors Podcast: Tiffany Obeng
Got feedback on our podcast? Want us to consider a guest or topic? Please let us know on our feedback form here.
Show Notes <h2>
- Sugar Cookie Books on Facebook
- Sugar Cookie Books on Instagram
- Sugar Cookie Books on Pinterest
- Sugar Cookie Books on Teachers Pay Teachers
- Books published by Tiffany Obeng of Sugar Cookie Books
- Sugar Cookie Books Merch Store
In this episode…
- The mission and purpose behind Tiffany’s books.
- How to choose topics for your nonfiction children’s books.
- Competitive and comparable analysis with children’s books.
- Formatting guidelines for the 4-8 year old age group.
- How to find an illustrator for your children’s book.
- Important notes to have ready for a potential illustrator.
- Different types of illustrations.
- The importance of word count in nonfiction children’s books.
- How to market nonfiction children’s books to parents, caregivers, and teachers.
- The definition of an activity author and how they can partner with nonfiction children’s book authors.
Hello, and welcome to the Nonfiction Authors Podcast. I’m Carla King, your host, and before we start, I’d like to invite you to go to the Freebies tab at nonfictionauthorsassociation.com to check out our free reports. We developed these reports to help you figure out things like ISBNs, distribution, optimizing book sales on Amazon, generating book reviews, growing your email list, and we provide checklists on things like publishing and book launches.
Now, stay tuned for this week’s guest.
[00:00:35] Carla King: Today we’re talking with Tiffany Obeng about how to write nonfiction books for children aged 4-8. This podcast is brought to you by the Nonfiction Authors Association, a supportive community where writers connect, exchange ideas, and learn how to write, publish, promote, and profit with nonfiction books.
Subscribe on your favorite podcast app and visit our website to find transcripts, show notes, and links to all our episodes. Explore our membership options and download free reports, search the archives, and get answers to your writing and publishing questions.
Now I’d like to introduce our guest. Tiffany Obeng is a lawyer and author of several educational and inspiring children’s picture books. Tiffany creates books featuring black children and families in spaces where they have historically been absent. Her books also feature black child characters in normal everyday situations.
In this way, all children are normalized, humanized, and the world can be made a safer place for them. Her books include popular kids’ career books, Andrew Learns About Lawyers and Andrew Learns About Engineers, season book Spencer Knows Spring, and honesty book Scouts Honor. To learn more about Tiffany and her books, you can visit her website at sugarcookiebooks.com. Welcome to the podcast, Tiffany.
[00:02:01] Tiffany Obeng: Thank you. Happy to be here.
[00:02:04] Carla King: Thank you for being here. And I was just so intrigued by all of your nonfiction children’s books. Your first book is Andrew Learns About Lawyers. Now, I think I know the answer, but I’m going to ask you. What inspired you to write this book? And then, why do you think nonfiction books for children are so important?
[00:02:25] Tiffany Obeng: So I was inspired to write Andrew Learns about Lawyers because–as you’re guessing–I am a lawyer myself, and so I have a son and that’s the series. He’s the namesake of the series. So my son’s name is Andrew, and I just wanted to be able to explain to him–and for other lawyer parents–to be able to explain to their children what they do all day. And then, also, I wanted to be able to equip the child with knowledge on–what does a lawyer do? So when they’re told or suggested that they may be a good lawyer, they can actually know what that means. I always shared this backstory of– when I was young, I was told that I was going to be a lawyer. My mom was always like, ‘Oh, you should be a lawyer.’ Teachers I would encounter were like, ‘You should be a lawyer.’
But I didn’t meet a lawyer until I was in the 11th grade. So although I was on the path to becoming a lawyer, I didn’t know what that really meant. And so I’m like, ‘That is way too late to find out what it means to be a lawyer.’ And so, I just wanted to be able to equip kids with the knowledge so they could answer the questions of, ‘What do you want to do when you grow up?,’ with some type of background.
[00:03:34] Carla King: So you had a mission to educate children and especially black children. So could you talk about diversity, word choice, and conscious language, which we’ve been talking a lot at the Nonfiction Authors Association lately?
[00:03:48] Tiffany Obeng: My books do feature all of those features. Black main characters, as you said. So children and their families. And so the point in doing that is because–as you’ve also mentioned–to normalize our kids. So right now–2023 statistic–black child characters only account for 13% of all of children’s literature. Only 13% of children’s literature in 2023 feature black characters. As you have seen from our website that is far behind books that feature animals, which is at 40 something percent and behind books that feature white characters. So I wanted to be able to make relatable content for our children or black children.
A lot of the misconception is that black children don’t read, don’t wanna read, and there are reading gaps. But if we can create content that maybe they can relate to, want to engage with, then that could possibly help fix that. And then the wider impact of creating content that features black children and family is to, I don’t know, I guess emphasize or encourage empathy and understanding for other people.
We read books that feature other characters all the time, so why think anything of it? And we shouldn’t. So why can’t we read books that feature our kids as well?
Also, it’s the idea of, “If you can see it, then you can be it.” If this black child can see himself, or see a black lawyer, or see a black teacher, or see a black engineer, then they know that it is possible.
It is something that they can achieve. So it’s just one of the many, many reasons why I feature black children, and I’m also just writing from my own experience. One thing that I will say, as we continue, is that–being a children’s book author, you should have some type of knowledge of your target audience.
And so I’m a mother to–he’s now seven, but at the time when I started writing, he was four. So, just growing up with him, and understanding what he’s interested in, and how to explain things to him, and what he’s experiencing and what I would want him to know about are a lot of things that inspire my content.
Seeing that he inspires a lot of my content, then a lot of my books feature our conversations or our dealings. And so it’s going to feature a black child–like black family, black mother–because it’s really a lot of motivation for my son.
[00:06:13] Carla King: Do you think as your child grows up, you’ll be writing books for, you know, 10 to 12 year olds, and then 14 to 16 year olds?
[00:06:21] Tiffany Obeng: That’s what I wonder as well. Because I’m like, ‘As he gets older, if he still serves as a huge inspiration, will my writing grow with him?’ And I don’t know the answer yet, but I’m not close to it. I do have a daughter who’s two, so maybe she’ll take up the torch of being the inspiration for my children’s books.
[00:06:42] Carla King: Got it. Got it. Well, do you have any ideas about how other nonfiction authors can choose the best topics to write about, especially for children?
[00:06:54] Tiffany Obeng: Yeah. You may see–or I don’t know if anyone ever thought about it–but a lot of children’s book authors–and this is me supposing or estimating. But the authors that I know, they usually have said, ‘Oh, I’ve become a children’s book author because I’ve had a child.’ Or, ‘I’d become a children’s book author because I’m a teacher and I don’t see the books that I want to teach or read to the children.’
So I know that my story–my voyage into becoming an author, a children’s book author–was my son. Becoming a parent and just seeing what’s going on. And we’re reading every day. So I think that’s because we have an insight to what kids are reading, what they’re interested in, and that’s a big key to being a nonfiction children’s book author–being able to choose age appropriate topics–topics that are going to interest them–especially that age group–and knowing how to present that content, which is nonfiction in a way that they will want to learn and engage with it.
So you may see a lot of STEM books right now, because STEM is a very popular and important concept, and that’s what kids are kind of leaning toward. Or I don’t know if it’s sports or nature, but everything is so STEM related. Just being able to present the information correctly and simply. So that’s one of my skills that people have said I had, and I’m just going to accept their praises. But one of my skills as a children’s nonfiction author is being able to present complex information in a way that the child can understand and digest.
You don’t have to dumb it down, but you have to write with words that are appropriate for their age, and grade level, and reading level. So, that is a style that you would want to practice and kind of hone if you want to be a nonfiction children’s book author.
[00:08:46] Carla King: Because you are a mother and you saw a gap in black characters–in children’s books and maybe also about how to be a lawyer? Like, what does a lawyer do? You already knew that was a gap. I think a lot of authors jump into writing about a topic without really knowing if there’s a gap or not, and what gap they might fill. And we recommend that they do comparative analysis. Did you do that or did you skip that?
[00:09:16] Tiffany Obeng: So honestly, when I first jumped into publishing in August 2020, I did not. I was just checking off a bucket list item. But after I published my second book, that’s when I started doing comparative analysis.
So yes, you’re right. You have to see–what do people want or children want? Or parents want? Really, the parents and educators for children’s books. What do they want? What is missing, and how can I fill that gap? So yes, after publishing my second book–from 3-20–the third book to the twentieth book, I do the research.
Of course, a couple of books do come out because it’s a project. ‘This will be cute, I’ll just get it out.’ But more than likely, 98% of my books have gone through a research and comparative analysis.
[00:10:01] Carla King: Yeah, I mean, like competitive, comparable. You know, I always say that people don’t want to buy one children’s book. They buy a lot of children’s books, so it’s more comparable than competitive. Right?
[00:10:13] Tiffany Obeng: That’s true. Yeah. I like how you said that.
[00:10:14] Carla King: A lot of people are also confused about the formats for the different age groups. Like little kids have 8×8, I think 32 page books, right? So what are the guidelines of a book for a 4-8 year old market?
[00:10:29] Tiffany Obeng: So the 4-8 year old–for the size or trim size, popular trim sizes are 8.5×8.5. So that’s the square. Or you’ll see a lot of 8×10. Especially with independent authors like myself, our trim size options are limited, so the popular trim sizes that we choose with KDP and IngramSpark is the 8.5×8.5 and 8×10.
Those are the larger books. People do choose different books. For example, I wanted an early reader feel to a couple of my books–like Early Reader, ‘I’m learning to read by myself.’ And those tend to be a little smaller, almost like the size of a Dr. Seuss book. Traditional book. So that may be another trend size. That’s like a 6×9. But I try to–because I know some independent authors say, ‘Oh, well, you know, I’m gonna do it my way,’ –I try to stick with what traditional publishers do, so it can be comparable or competitive with those. I am particular about watching my 32 page count. I try not to go too far beyond that or be too short. So you have to have at least 24 pages. And if you’re doing a toddler–so preschool, three to four years old, maybe even five–you can do the 24 page. But I try to have all my books be at least 32.
[00:11:57] Carla King: Yeah. And about the images–do you draw this? Or how did you find an illustrator? How did those come?
[00:12:03] Tiffany Obeng: That’s the beauty of being a children’s book author–picture book author–is that we get to work with illustrators to bring our words to visual life and make it all colorful and vibrant and engaging. So yeah, I find illustrators to work with. I have 20 books, but I do have two series in those books. And for those series, I worked with the same illustrator. So I knew from the beginning when I was working, well, not really, but when I figured out that Andrew Learns About was going to be a series, I was like, ‘Hey, I want you to be able to work with me every time I put out an Andrew Learns About book.’
And then the seasons book. Of course, there’s four seasons, so I needed my person to be able to work with me for all four seasons. And I just play with different illustrator styles. Like I have a book and I was like, ‘I wonder how watercolor would look?’ So I found a watercolor artist and played with that. I was like, ‘I wonder–how does cartoon comic style work?’ So I found an artist who could do that. So yes, I find and work with illustrators.
Some illustrators are more versed in children’s picture books than others. Some are just like, ‘I just draw, and you have to find someone else to type it and edit. I’ll just give you your images.’ And some are more inclusive, so they’re like, ‘Yes, I’ll give you your images and I’ll also be able to format it and make sure everything is right.’ I love those one-stop shop illustrators. But of course there are more. So it just depends on your budget. So when you work with an illustrator, again, sometimes they can’t take your words…
And let me back up. When I first started, I thought you just give them your manuscript and they come up with beautiful images. No. So you should have in your mind illustrator notes. Like, what do you want them to draw? That is very helpful.
So when you’re working with an illustrator, especially if it’s your first time, you’re going to want to have illustrator notes. Is it going to be a spread? Is it going to be a one page, single page illustration? Is it going to be a spot illustration? Is it going to be a mix of illustrations? You have to know that. You have to know your trim sizes and if you can give them examples. Which–I see you thinking.
[00:14:15] Carla King: You threw out some terms there. So you said, ‘A spread, a spot. In a single page.’ Can you just tell us what those are?
[00:14:22] Tiffany Obeng: Yeah, and a lot of–believe it or not–authors do not know that there’s differences and they actually save costs. Because a lot of questions I’m asked–being that I have 20 books in two and a half years–are, ‘How did you do that?’
Especially considering the cost of illustrations. And I’m like, you have to go to different types of illustrations. So spot illustration is where you will see a lot of white background on a page, and it may just be a literal spot of illustration. So it’s maybe the character and maybe the character could be doing something, but it’s going to be on the white page.
The full spread illustrations are when it covers two pages–so fully covered. And it’s covering two pages, and it’s the same image just stretched across two pages.
And then the single page is literally just the single page. So the single colored page.
Those are the popular styles of illustrations.
The double page can sometimes save you money. Illustrators will say, ‘Well, that’s two pages, so I’m going to charge you for each page.’ Sometimes illustrators will say, ‘Oh, but I’ll count that as one large illustration.’ So they’ll just charge you a lower cost for that. Spot illustrations, of course, are going to be the cheapest, because it’s the simplest to do as far as–you don’t have to put all the background on there.
Also the different types of styles. So if you get a person who does comic or cartoon styles, and that may be a reason why you see a lot of children’s books, especially from independent authors, that have the comic or cartoon style, cause it tends to be a little cheaper than getting watercolor paint, crayon styles and things like that.
So just knowing how to budget your book and really save money and help you make your writing a reality.
[00:16:08] Carla King: Cool. Well, is that because the comic style maybe is digital art rather than, you know, hand-drawn art, do you think?
[00:16:16] Tiffany Obeng: Possibly. But I know I get sketches from my comic cartoon ones, so I really don’t know how they’re able to charge cheaper rates for that stuff.
[00:16:26] Carla King: Yeah. Uh, that’d be interesting. Maybe I’ll have to talk to one of your illustrators.
[00:16:32] Tiffany Obeng: Yea. Like, how are you charging so much cheaper than others?
[00:16:34] Carla King: Yeah. So how do you find an illustrator? There’s so many places to look. How do you dig out the right ones to hire and how much do you pay them and all that?
[00:16:45] Tiffany Obeng: So the pay is going to range, and that’s an argument amongst all authors. Your book is not worth unless you pay $20,000 or something like that. So I’m not going to get into how much specifically to pay, but if you can find illustrators that have been recommended–so say you’re looking in a book, and especially if you’re looking at an independent author’s book, a lot of times they’re working with independent illustrators.
So that’s someone that’s not in the agency, they’re not booked, so you don’t have to go through booking and they’re going to be more expensive as well. So if you see their illustrator and you’re like, ‘I like this illustrator,’ you can ask the author, ‘Hey, where’d you get your illustrator?’ A lot of places that we find illustrators is behands.net.
We also find them through Instagram searching the hashtags #illustrators, #childrensbookillustrators. We also find them on Facebook in different author and illustrator groups. We also find them on gig sites such as Upwork and Fiverr. I think that’s a good amount of places to find them.
[00:17:47] Carla King: That’s enough. Yeah. I mean, you’d probably find too many. Exactly. Well, the ones you’ve worked with, are they on any one site in particular or are they various?
[00:17:57] Tiffany Obeng: They’ll be on other sites, but I like to work with them through Fiverr because I like the built-in protections for my money and my product.
So if I find an illustrator through Facebook or something like that, I’ll ask them, ‘Are you on Fiverr?’ And this can work for Upwork as well, or, ‘Are you on Upwork?’ And if they say yes, I like to work through there. I know it’s fees associated for me and for them, but I like the protection because I hear a lot of horror stories from authors who are like, ‘My illustrator ghosted me,’ or, ‘I gave them money and I got no work.’ No. Fivver and Upwork, they put our money into an escrow or retainer, and they do not deliver it to the illustrator until they have completed the project. And if you have any issues with the illustrator, you can resolve them and get your money back.
So, Fiverr and Upwork probably get a lot of heat because they’re like, ‘Oh my gosh, they’re undercutting really real artists.’ But for me, I like the protection of my money.
[00:18:57] Carla King: Yeah, I agree. I use Fiverr Pros for a lot of weird PHP problems on my website or something like that. I feel really good about that. So what is the range of cost for an illustration?
[00:19:16] Tiffany Obeng: Again, it can depend. It’s just really varied and that’s why I’m like, I don’t really wanna say this.
[00:19:21] Carla King: All right. Good. And then, you write all the texts. What are the text guidelines? Like how many words? And sentences and language and word choice and all of that.
[00:19:34] Tiffany Obeng: Yeah. So the word count will probably be between– or should be between–300 and no more than 1000. That’s high end. So with the 4-8 range you’re going to usually have shorter sentences. So that means that you shouldn’t even have that many words if you have shorter sentences and only 32 pages. And that’s assuming every single page has text on it.
Because if you think back to children’s books–sometimes a page has text, sometimes the morning page doesn’t. You want to be very conscious of word count and stick to a standard in traditional, because that also goes into their attention span. So if they’re a younger audience, they’re going to lose interest.
I remember I was reading one of my most popular books, and you mentioned them and you learned about engineers and it’s a good book. I mean, people say it’s a really good book, but I was reading it and the kid was sitting and he was ready to get back to playing. So I did a bridge. One of the pages is like, ‘And that’s only the beginning,’ even though I was like two pages away from being done.
[00:20:37] Carla King: Do you wish you had written that shorter?
[00:20:40] Tiffany Obeng: No, no, no, no. It’s a great length, but I’m just saying, with that book being a great length–the standard 32 pages probably. 400-500 words if that. I haven’t done a word count on it in a while. And for him to be like, ‘Oh my gosh.’ And it really only has two sentences per spread.
[00:20:59] Carla King: So two sentences per spread. So one on the left page and one on the right page, and then the illustration and then…
[00:21:05] Tiffany Obeng: Right. So you see it’s really short. So that just goes to show, yes, Dr. Seuss is atypical because people like to say, ‘Well, Dr. Seuss did it.’ Yes. Dr. Seuss does have a 60 plus page book, or many of those.
[00:21:20] Carla King: Yeah. And they rhyme. I mean, do you ever rhyme? Or do you not?
[00:21:26] Tiffany Obeng: Yes. So I rhyme in my children’s book about careers. So Andrew Learns about Lawyers is a rhyming book.
And one of the reasons I chose to rhyme–actually, it just kind of came. But the reason I was happy that that series rhymes is that one–it’s a way to keep children engaged. It flows if you know how to rhyme. Everybody can’t rhyme. They think they can, but they can’t. And I’m not trying to dog anyone. I just want to put that as a disclaimer. Yes, it sounds really easy to rhyme, but it’s not. But it helps engage the reader, especially for that age group, and it can present the information in a way that they want to receive it. So I really like that also rhyming has been found to improve reading skills as well.
Another book that rhymes is Black Boy Hair Joy. And I’m turning because I’m like, ‘Oh, my book’s up there,’ but they’re not. Black Boy Hair Joy is a rhyming book as well. I would almost probably write all my books and rhyme, but I really try hard not to.
[00:22:29] Carla King: Oh, nice. Yeah. Poetry’s fun. So let’s move on to marketing. So how do you market your book to parents? I know there’s different audiences, they’re all gonna be read to kids, but you really have to market to the parents and to the caregivers and the teachers. How do you do that?
[00:22:47] Tiffany Obeng: One of my primary selling sources is Amazon, the online retailer. And so with that, I try to optimize what they call–or what I call– the back office, which is where you input all the metadata for your books. So I really research. We’ve talked about research before. So I research the title to then make sure it’s a good title–optimized title. And if it’s not, that’s fine.
But at least with my subtitle, I want it to be an optimized title subtitle. Keywords are so important for Amazon in categories, so I do a lot of research trying to make sure I’m setting up my book for visibility so it can be discovered. Also, book description. I write book descriptions for other children’s book authors, because I believe that I write really good book descriptions, and those who hire me agree. So having a book description that also has keywords, or just written in a way that your potential buyer would say, ‘Hey, that is the book I want.’ So when I write a book description, I do, again, research.
And that research involves looking at my comparable books, especially the traditional ones and the ones that are really popular with that theme. So if I’m doing career books and I want to look at the career books that are doing really well, then I want to see– ‘Well, what are the people saying about this? Why does this career book do so well?’ And I take that information that I’ve gotten from other customers and their reviews because those are people I’m trying to target.
And that becomes my book description for the most part. Like Scouts Honor, which is a kid’s book about lying and telling the truth. So when I was creating that book, I said, ‘Well, what did people like about the Berenstain Bears lying book?’ I can’t remember the name of that book. I think it’s called The Golden Rule, but I can’t remember.
One of the things that they liked or did not like was, they’re like, ‘Oh, it has a story, but I wish they just focused more on the value or the importance of telling the truth.’ Okay, I’ll do that. And it becomes a part of my book description. Like, ‘Oh, it’s direct, it’s simple, and it focuses or tells why telling the truth is important and da da da da.’
Another way I market my books is by having a website. So again, it could be discovered. I try to have a large digital footprint without having to manage a lot of my digital footprint. So I manage my website, I manage my social media– Instagram and Facebook. But I don’t have a YouTube and I don’t want to create a YouTube. But I’ve partnered with–or I work with–an activity author.
So it’s this author who does crafts that go along with our books, and she puts them on YouTube. And so when someone searches for a book, then hopefully my book would pop up. So that’s getting that digital footprint. I also have a Pinterest. So I use a Pinterest manager that I found off Fiverr. And I have her create or update my thumbnails or whatever they’re supposed to be. They’re called, I have heard, Create that, and Just boards and pinned is what it’s called. And it just sits there. And I get so much traffic, especially during or around international–what is that day called? It’s a lawyer day. It’s either Love Your Lawyer Day or Be Kind To Your Lawyer Day. But I get a lot of hits to my website because they come from Pinterest, because my book is over there and they see it, or my blog post is over there and they see it.
So I use Pinterest, and I also have a teacher’s pin. Because, like you said, teachers are a part of my audience. So to expand my footprint and to say, ‘Hey teachers, this is the way you can use my book for your class. ‘I have content created that I sell on Pinterest–I mean on Teachers Pay Teachers. So that’s some of the ways I market. I think I covered all my corners.
[00:26:44] Carla King: Yeah. I mean, I love that you said that you really dig deep on the reader reviews of comparable books, because a lot of authors skip that process, right? And they look at the book description and the metadata, the keywords and all of that. But it is–you’re right–it is the reader reviews that can help your book rise to the top. So I love that you compartmentalize your time to do that super, super important research that helps you write the book, but then you hire out–like you said, you had a Pinterest manager that you found on Fiverr who can deal with that? Because you’re spending time with that important stuff, which is the research and the writing.
[00:27:29] Tiffany Obeng: Yes, yes, yes. And I’ve got to do more, or learn to do more delegation. I was telling my husband, I was like,’ I’m going to have to find a assistant of some sort.’ Because, it’s–like you said, to focus more on the creating process and things that–I don’t want to say are more important–but that can really use my time and I don’t have to.
[00:27:46] Carla King: Right. I mean, there’s some things only the author can do. And then, I mean, there are more and more author assistants popping up to help us. So that’s great news.
[00:27:55] Tiffany Obeng: Oh, I like that.
[00:27:55] Carla King: Yeah. Go to the Nonfiction Authors Association website. There’s a lot of resources, so you can find people there. Yes.
[00:28:03] Tiffany Obeng: Oh my gosh. Okay. Okay.
[00:28:05] Carla King: Okay. I got to put my plug in. Alright, and then one more question about your website. Your website points your books to Amazon or Barnes and Noble or wherever, but you also have products that you sell.
[00:28:21] Tiffany Obeng: Yes.
[00:28:21] Carla King: What do you sell? And how do you sell them?
[00:28:24] Tiffany Obeng: So, I created companion book merch, if you will. So it consists of shirts, let me see my shirt.
[00:28:31] Carla King: Oh, okay. For YouTube. Oh, that’s great. Okay. Otherwise, go to sugarcookiebooks.com and see them?
[00:28:40] Tiffany Obeng: Yes. So this is an adult size, so this is a special order, but I have them for kids and toddlers, the Be Curious Like Andrew shirts.
And then I also have I Can Be Anything merchandise because again, my flagship products are career books, and just inspiring kids to be anything they want tobe. Every single one of those books end with You Can Be Anything You Want To Be. So I have stickers that say I Can Be Anything.
I have puzzles from the career books. One of the puzzles says Reading Will Take You Places. And it has one of the illustrations where the kids are traveling–it’s from Andrew Learns about Actors. And it was showing that actors go all over the world sometimes for their TV and films. So puzzles, shirts for kids and toddlers, pillows.
I have pillows on there that use some beautiful characters. And again, a couple of the pillows have, I am, I can, I will. So it’s like an affirmation. I have posters on there. I have a couple of other things, but I recently created greeting cards. I wish I had my stuff around me. I just had an event. All my stuff was put away. I created greeting cards. Oh wait, it’s actually right here. Hold on guys.
[00:29:49] Carla King: I’ll have to go to our YouTube channel to see these. Just search for Nonfiction Authors Podcast on the YouTube channel. I love this. Oh, they’re greeting cards! And where do you print these?
[00:30:01] Tiffany Obeng: For the greeting cards, I used, what is it? It’s just some online printing company. But for the merchandise in the shop, I use printful.com. So just like we have IngramSpark and KDP for our print on demand books, Printful also offers print on demand services for merchandise. So that way I don’t have to keep all my merchandise in my house.
[00:30:27] Carla King: Nice. Yeah, so it’s print on demand. That’s cool. Is that another? Oh, that’s the pillow. So yeah, it’s just print on demand.
[00:30:37] Tiffany Obeng: Yes.
[00:30:37] Carla King: And it gets sent to the customer.
[00:30:39] Tiffany Obeng: Yes. That’s exactly right.
[00:30:40] Carla King: So that’s for the puzzle and for the shirts. And the pillows, and…
[00:30:46] Tiffany Obeng: Yes. And posters and notebooks. Yeah.
[00:30:50] Carla King: Nice. Yeah. Great. Do you find that you’re making a significant amount of money on those products?
[00:30:58] Tiffany Obeng: On the merchandise? Not exactly. So the merchandise was created just to have, again, like a little bit more of a footprint, and options available when I’m in person. The pillows sell really well and the puzzles. But I don’t take t-shirts out there because that means I’ll have to have inventory to take the T-shirts. So the t-shirts sell from the site. So I have had t-shirt sales from the site. I think I just probably have to work on a little bit more marketing for traffic purposes.
One of the downsides I will say about having a print on demand service for merchandise is that you end up having to charge more than you really would probably prefer to charge. And I know it’s a premium product or whatever, but if I could bring my price point down, I think that would also help.
[00:31:48] Carla King: Right, and as you said, when you are speaking or appearing at a show or something, these can be pretty lucrative. Because people are going to those kinds of things like burning $20 bills, you know, or burning through their pockets. And, it also serves as good marketing, I would think.
[00:32:06] Tiffany Obeng: Yes, that’s exactly right. So I had a flier booklet that featured all my books on it, but then it became too expensive. It was like four pages. And I was like, ‘I have to be able to reduce these print costs.’
So I created a one page–well, two pages–flier, front and back, and it has all 20 of my books on the front. And now it has the merchandise, it has the Teacher Pay Teachers on there and it has the YouTube on there. So now you can get more outreach. So when I’m at a vendor event and someone buys my products, I stick that thing in their bag so they can see what else I have to offer.
[00:32:43] Carla King: Can you repeat that? Teachers Pay Teachers? What is that?
[00:32:47] Tiffany Obeng: Oh, Teachers Pay Teachers is a marketplace where teachers go to buy or download worksheets. I put worksheet packets on there that are companions to my books. So I have a Winnie Loves Winter Companion packet where they can do Winnie Loves Winter related activities. So that is just a place where teachers go to purchase things for class.
[00:33:13] Carla King: Interesting. Well, a lot of people are going to want to research that, because we all want to help serve teachers. And they’re a very good market.
Well, I think we could talk for another half an hour. Tiffany, you really have a lot going on with 20 books in three years now, so. Wow. Now that’s amazing. Tell us finally, what are you doing next, and now, and where can we connect with you on the internet and socials?
[00:33:41] Tiffany Obeng: So I am on a creator break. I do have my next Andrew book drafted, but I haven’t sent it to illustration because I know once it’s illustrated I’m going to want to put it out, but I’m just tired right now. So I’ve been doing a lot of speaking engagements and a lot of vending so I can make more of a presence and connection in my hometown, which is Houston, Texas.
You can find me at sugarcookiebooks.com. My socials are @sugarcookiebooks. Again, my Teachers Pay Teachers is https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Store/Sugar-Cookie-Books. Pretty much Sugar Cookie Books.
[00:34:16] Carla King: That’s a great name. And you can read the story about why sugar cookie books on the website. It’s really cute.
[00:34:22] Tiffany Obeng: Thank you.
[00:34:23] Carla King: Well, thank you Tiffany Obeng for being on the podcast. We really appreciate all the information that you shared with us.
[00:34:29] Tiffany Obeng: Thank you.
[00:34:31] Carla King: And thank you to our nonfiction author listeners and the professionals, like author assistants, who help you succeed. Remember, keep writing and publishing. The world needs your experience and your expertise.
Quotes from our guest
“Only 13% of children’s literature in 2023 feature black characters. As you have seen from our website that is far behind books that feature animals, which is at 40 something percent and behind books that feature white characters. So I wanted to be able to make relatable content for our children or black children.”
“When I first started, I thought you just give them your manuscript and they come up with beautiful images. No. So you should have in your mind illustrator notes. Like, what do you want them to draw? That is very helpful.”
“…A reason why you see a lot of children’s books, especially from independent authors, that have the comic or cartoon style, cause it tends to be a little cheaper than getting watercolor paint, crayon styles and things like that.”
“Fivver and Upwork, they put our money into an escrow or retainer, and they do not deliver it to the illustrator until they have completed the project. And if you have any issues with the illustrator, you can resolve them and get your money back.”
“Keywords are so important for Amazon in categories, so I do a lot of research trying to make sure I’m setting up my book for visibility so it can be discovered.”