Friday, October 14, 2011

A Very Good Reason to Skip the PhD by Calee M. Lee, my second Guest Post

I'm in the midst of driving my 17 year old son Bear back and forth to his GED exam, so you can image how author/publisher Calee M. Lee's guest blog hits home. Bear wants to be a writer and a novelist and with today's education system actually inhibiting learning on an individual level, he has chosen self-education above traditional. Not that this is entirely what my guest post is about, but it certainly struck a nerve. Calee is proof that not only do you not need a PhD to survive in indie world, taking the time to get one can cost you valuable writing and publishing time. She's made a success at both.

Here's her take on it:

A Very Good Reason to Skip the PhD

By Calee M. Lee

Remember the week that Amanda Hocking signed her major book deal? It was sunny and warm in southern California, and my email inbox was filled with rejection. I’d been a successful copywriter for years, but I was been missing my first love—story. I’d just finished a MA program in English Lit (to get back to reading and writing and talking about stories) and a PhD seemed like the next logical step.
Or not.
Once I realized I would not be attending grad school in the fall, my brain suddenly had a lot more available space. For what, I wasn’t sure, but when a friend posted a link to a Wall Street Journal article and I wound my way through the Internet’s maze of self-publishing blogs, I thought that perhaps I would get back into writing creatively after all.
Initially, my plan was to round up a crew of my playwright buddies, put together a collection of our 10-minute plays, and let the Internet do the rest.  That idea is still on my to-do list, but after thoroughly researching the market, making a number of soon-to-be-repealed proclamations to my husband, and remembering why those 10-year-old writing projects were still locked in drawers—Xist Publishing was born.
When I looked at my Kindle, I saw a list of new books for me, a New Yorker subscription, and a handful of children’s books either without pictures, or with images so poorly formatted that, while my daughter was hungry to get her grubby little hands on my Kindle, they weren’t the sort of thing I was excited to give her.  One afternoon, instead of doing laundry, I began writing a children’s story I’d been telling for years.  I called a friend. He agreed to illustrate it. The Queen and the Cats has been the #1 Christian Children’s Biography since it launched September 14th.
I called more friends and they agreed to let me publish their children’s books. I wrote more books. I spent hours learning InDesign. Books like Secret Agent Josephines ABCs and Caterpillars Dont Check Email went live on Amazon. Rinse. Repeat.
It’s still the Wild West for children’s ebooks and I’m more than curious to see what Amazon’s $79 Kindle and the Color Kindle Fire will do for my business. It’s no surprise that kids are embracing the technology, but ebook sales for children are still lagging behind print and I’ve yet to see a picture book reach the top 100 on the Amazon bestseller list. Of course, that may all change this Christmas or next. The fun part is being along for the ride.
Since there are so few voices in the indie ebook arena that are talking about kids, I’d love to know what the readers here think. Are you writing children’s books? Buying them?
I currently sell about 50% print, 50% ebook on Amazon, but when you figure in our sales of print copies to indie bookstores, ebooks really only take up about 10% of the pie. Any predictions on when that might change?

Calee M. Lee is the author of The Queen and the Cats: A Story of Saint Helena and Caterpillars Dont Check Email and the editor of We Love BUGS: 31 Classic Insect Poems for Kids.  She is the founder of Xist Publishing, producing books for the touchscreen generation.

Xist Publishing:
The Queen and the Cats:
We love BUGS:


  1. Wow thanks for sharing Calee. I think child lit will sky rocket. I have a generic tablet with a kindle app. My kids love it! I think it's just going to get better after Christmas.

  2. Good luck to Bear on his writing career. I think he has it right. I didn't realize I was a writer until I finished my BA in English Lit. But it sounds like Bear is already on his path.

    Plus good luck Calee... Wow... I didn't finish my MA because of my disease. I am always impressed with writers who have a great business mind.

  3. Thanks everybody and Vincent for sharing this! It's been a fun journey and I'm hoping as I release more books (and more authors release more books) the market will grow along with us.