Become a Writer Today

Could You Write a Children's Book? With John Mashni

May 31, 2021 Bryan Collins Season 2
Become a Writer Today
Could You Write a Children's Book? With John Mashni
Chapters
Become a Writer Today
Could You Write a Children's Book? With John Mashni
May 31, 2021 Season 2
Bryan Collins

I know many authors who've thought about it, but few who have done it... written a children's book.

As the parent of three children, it's certainly something that I have considered. One man who has leapt into children's fiction is John Mashni. He's recently written and published CinderToot, which is a take on the tale of Cinderella.

Having read the book, I surprised myself by laughing out loud as it's hilarious, and the illustrations that accompany it are superb.

In this episode, John, who runs his own legal practice, explains why he chose to write a children's book in the first place and how writing it taught him some valuable parenting lessons.

 
In this episode, we discuss: 

  • The premise of the book and why John decided to write it
  • What to include in a children's book
  • How long the editing and illustrations took
  • Describing illustrations to an illustrator 
  • How John is marketing the book
  • Can anyone write a children's book?

Resources:


Support the show (https://www.patreon.com/becomeawritertoday)

Show Notes Transcript

I know many authors who've thought about it, but few who have done it... written a children's book.

As the parent of three children, it's certainly something that I have considered. One man who has leapt into children's fiction is John Mashni. He's recently written and published CinderToot, which is a take on the tale of Cinderella.

Having read the book, I surprised myself by laughing out loud as it's hilarious, and the illustrations that accompany it are superb.

In this episode, John, who runs his own legal practice, explains why he chose to write a children's book in the first place and how writing it taught him some valuable parenting lessons.

 
In this episode, we discuss: 

  • The premise of the book and why John decided to write it
  • What to include in a children's book
  • How long the editing and illustrations took
  • Describing illustrations to an illustrator 
  • How John is marketing the book
  • Can anyone write a children's book?

Resources:


Support the show (https://www.patreon.com/becomeawritertoday)

John: I said, “How I wrote a children’s book in 15 minutes a day.” That was my mentality when I started and I stuck to it for the most part. It really didn’t take like huge chunks of time. It just took little small chunks of time.

Introduction: Welcome to the Become a Writer Today Podcast with Bryan Collins. Here, you’ll find practical advice and interviews for all kinds of writers.

Bryan: Could you write a children’s book? Hi, there. My name is Bryan Collins and welcome to the Become a Writer Today Podcast. One man who thinks so is John Mashni and he’s recently written and published the children’s book, the CinderToot, and it riffs on the tale of Cinderella. 

John sent me a copy of his children’s book a few weeks ago via Slack and I was just amazed by, firstly, the illustrations in the book and, secondly, how funny it is. And he also sent me along an article explaining why he wrote a children’s book in the first place and I was struck by how it’s helping him spend more time with the kids and also teach him valuable parenting lessons. I don’t want to give too much away because John gets into a lot of the reasons for writing a children’s book in this week’s interview, but that said, I was also interested in talking to John because I’m in the middle of writing a parenting book, which I’ve talked about before on the Become a Writer Today Podcast. 

Right now, I’ve got the edits back from my editor and it’s always difficult getting edits back from an editor. In fact, I was talking to one person recently who described editorial feedback as kind of like a radioactive draft and she suggested you put your manuscript aside for a few days when you get your notes from your editor and then sit down and work through the edits one by one. 

And I thought that was good feedback because, even though I’m all for reducing the parenting book that I’m writing down, it’s still difficult to take stuff out that I’ve spent a lot of time writing and putting into the book because I have a lot of stories in the parenting book and my editor had suggested that some of the stories aren’t quite as relevant to parenting as I thought they were.  So I’ll probably need to take a few of those out and put in more takeaways for the reader because I guess it’s a balancing act between, you know, using stories to keep the attention of readers versus actually having points and takeaways that readers can use, particularly if you’re writing nonfiction because I think these days, nonfiction is a little bit more prescriptive than it used to be, partly thanks to blogging.

Now, when I was talking to John about his children’s book, I was also surprised by the amount of editorial feedback children’s authors have to go through, because if you think about it, a children’s book isn’t actually that long. Most children’s books are only a couple of hundred or maybe a thousand words long. 

As somebody who’s got three kids, the actual real part of the children’s book or the bit that might even take longer to create is the illustrations, or so I thought, but John explained to me in this week’s interview how children’s authors have to say more with less and how to have to capture the attention of kids, because, let’s face it, kids won’t spend a lot of time reading something, you know, that’s boring or not engaging.

John runs his own legal practice and he’s also produced films so I was really curious about why he decided to write a children’s book in the first place and his reasons really got me thinking that maybe, you know, that’s something that I could do too because I’ve got three kids, I have a 2-year-old son, my daughter is 10, and a 15-year-old.

The 15-year-old might have gone past the point of children’s books, but I still spend a lot of time reading books to our 2-year-old son and teaching my daughter to read is something that I talk about in my parenting book. I recently caught up with John and I started by asking him to explain what the CinderToot is all about and you should hang on to hear the premise because it’s definitely one of the more original premises I’ve found in a children’s book.

But before we go over to this week’s interview with John, if you enjoy the show, you can become a Patreon for just a couple of dollars a month. I’ll give you discounts on my books, on my writing courses, and also on writing software. 

Or you can leave a short review on iTunes, Overcast, or Stitcher or wherever you’re listening or simply hit the Star button, because more of your support, more reviews, and more ratings will help more people find the show and it will also help me record and publish more episodes because I really do want to increase the amount of episodes publishing of the Become a Writer Today show each month. I’ve had more time to work on it over the past while and I’m enjoying recording all of the episodes.

Now, with that said, let’s go over to this week’s interview with John and we started by getting into the premise for his children’s book, the CinderToot.

Interview

Bryan: John, I wanted to talk to you today because you’ve done something that I’ve thought about and I know other writers think about but I don’t know many writers who actually do it, which is to write a children’s book. Welcome to the show.

John: Oh, great. Thank you. Thank you so much for having me.

Bryan: So, your children’s book came out recently and I believe you wrote it with your kids and it has a very interesting premise, which the title kind of gives away. It’s called CinderToot. Could you explain to readers what it’s about?

John: Yes, it’s somewhat embarrassing every time I have to explain it but it’s basically the story of Cinderella except when the clock strikes midnight and she has to leave the ball, she’s running down the steps of the castle, she loses her slipper, of course, but when she bends over, she picks up her slipper but instead of dropping it and leaving it, she passes gas. She toots, right? She farts. 

And then she runs away and instead of the prince finding the slipper and going around the kingdom asking all the maidens to try on this, you know, glass slipper, all the prince has to recognize his true love is the smell of her toot and so he has to go around the kingdom asking all the maidens to essentially, you know, fart to find the smell of his true love. 

I guess — I know it’s silly but it’s actually such a fun story and I probably told it to my kids about a hundred times and I had no intention of turning it into a children’s book but my kids told one of my best friends and he heard about it without me really, you know, sanctioning that and then he said, “You have to publish this. This is hilarious.” That’s essentially the beginning of it.

Bryan: Yeah. They say every story needs an inciting incident. That’s definitely one of the more creative ones I’ve heard about. So did you actually come up with this premise yourself when you were reading to your kids?

John:  So, what happened is, yeah, yeah, I’m embarrassed to say that too but, yes. Essentially what happened was I was talking to my kids, putting them to sleep at night, you know, as all parents do and I just said, “Guys, why wouldn’t the prince recognize Cinderella before he put the shoe on?” Like it just made no sense to me and I was just kind of teasing my kids, like fairy tales don’t make sense, right? And I said, “Well, like do you need to actually put the shoe on the girl before you know who it is?” Right? And then it turned into me just kind of coming up with something funny off the cuff and that’s how really CinderToot was born, me telling a funny story to my kid, trying to make my kids laugh, and then eventually go to sleep.

Bryan: And had you told the story to them a lot before you actually decided to turn it into a book?

John: Yeah, they asked for it every night for about three months, and it actually changed quite a bit. So, the story that’s in the book is I think the best and the funniest version, but there were many iterations. It actually started originally with how — and, again, embarrassing to say this, but how my wife and I met, right? And so we were all — every family member was originally a character in the story and then it gradually kind of, you know, morphed into a more traditional telling of the Cinderella tale and, honestly, I did 13 different drafts so I took it very seriously. I hired multiple editors and we went through multiple versions of the story and, actually, my favorite part was cut, right? 

You know, it’s very difficult for me to chop it but it was the right move but, essentially, went through a very rigorous editing process and now I think it’s very tight, very fun, very silly, and just this very joy-bringing story.

Bryan: So what does a children’s book have to include? Because you mentioned some bits were taken out. 

John: So, well, I think, you know, it was very educational for me. I went to film school 20 years ago so I love creating, I love writing, and I really had no idea what to do. Like I just had this story that I thought was funny and I didn’t know anything else. It just so happened that, gosh, maybe three or four years ago now, I took an online course and one of the people in the course had just released a book called How to Self-Publish Your Own Children’s Book. Her name is Eevi and she’s phenomenal. And so I actually bought her book because it’s kind of my, you know, operating procedure is, hey, someone I know wrote a book, I’m just gonna buy it. That’s almost always what I do. But I thought I’ll never read this book but I want to support her so I bought the book.

Bryan: Did you know her personally or you had heard of her online?

John: I just messaged her online, we were in a similar course and so just had a relationship, definitely, but I’ve never met her in person still to this day, even though I’ve had multiple phone conversations and e-mail, there are probably more than she likes. But, essentially, I read that book and I really started to learn what goes into creating the children’s book, right?
 
And one of the craziest things was I am a lawyer, I do intellectual property law, I do entertainment law, and, years ago, this might be five or six years ago, someone came to me and I had reviewed many book publishing contracts but I’ve never reviewed a book publishing contract for a children’s book and someone said, “Hey, can you review this publishing contract?” and I said of course, but it really surprised me when I read the whole contract and then, instead of like, you know, a novel or a non-fiction book where you separately link or separately reference the book manuscript, the entire children’s book manuscript was attached as Exhibit A and it was two pages and it was literally like two paragraphs, right? It was very short. 

At that point, I remember thinking, “Oh, my gosh, I could write a children’s book. This is like so short. This would take me like half an hour, right? I could, you know, knock this out.” Certainly, there’s a lot more work but that really gave me some belief in terms of, well, what are you actually writing? What are you actually creating?

Bryan: So, I mean, a couple of things came to mind to me when you said that. I’m sure it takes a lot longer than half an hour to get a good story down because — wasn’t it Ernest Hemingway or someone who said that it’s very easy to write a couple of pages but it’s very difficult to write something that’s quite so short and succinct?

John: Yes. Yes.

Bryan: Kind of paraphrasing them there but —

John: Well, no, it’s like — I think it is the Mark Twain quote that said, you know, I wrote a long letter because I didn’t know —

Bryan: Oh, that’s the quote I’m thinking of, yeah.

John: It’s such a true statement, right? You know, for me, absolutely, and, in fact, I go through and detail the time — I wrote an article on Medium, if anyone wants to know exactly like the time that it took me. I mentioned to you earlier I have a free e-mail course on how to write a children’s book where I go even more in-depth into exactly how long it took me. One interesting thing for me is I am a practising lawyer, I have four kids, I have multiple other businesses, investments, I teach at the university and law school, I’ve produced movies. So, I really don’t have any free time at all. Like I just need to sleep, eat, and work out when I can, right?

Bryan: Yeah.

John: But what I told myself years ago when I started writing online was I’m going to carve out 15 minutes a day. When the time came and I said, “Hey, I want to write a children’s book,” I said, “I’m gonna take my 15 minutes a day that I write and that’s the time that I’m gonna reserve to create this children’s book.” And the article that I wrote and in that free course, which is all free, I mean, I’m happy to share it with anybody, I said, “How I wrote a children’s book in 15 minutes a day.” That was my mentality when I started and I stuck to it for the most part. It really didn’t take like huge chunks of time. It just took little small chunks of time, and that’s how CinderToot was born.

Bryan: Yeah, I’m all for the 15 minutes a day approach, particularly for somebody who is writing on the side if they have a job. That’s what I used to do, because I find, firstly, you tend to go a bit longer than 15 minutes because you kind of get into a creative —

John: Yeah.

Bryan: — state, and then, secondly, even if you just do 15 minutes, five days a week, like that adds up quite quickly with your word count so you will get there. So that’s the approach I recommend, rather than trying to write for five hours on Saturday ’cause you feel guilty.

John: That’s right, and there’s no way, you’ll always have interruptions, you will have, you know, it’ll take you a little bit to get started. You know, if you just start with very small chunks, your brain learns. It’s like that muscle — the muscle idea, right? Where it’s like, you know I only have 15 minutes. 

When I sit down, as soon as I start typing, I only have 15 minutes so I have to get something on the paper or I’m just — it’s not going to happen today. And I think that’s the difference when you have only that set amount of time is you just have this skill that develops to be able to sit down, think, you know, brain dump, get stuff out there. The other thing with the 15 minutes a day is it forced me to build a team. Like I couldn’t do everything myself. And that’s I think the real secret of using these small chunks of time is that I had to get other people to help me. And I’m not just saying like asking for help, I’m saying like paying people, right? So I hired two different editors. I hired an illustrator who — I think Kate, the illustrator of my book, is phenomenal. I think her sense of humor —

Bryan: Yeah, the illustrations are excellent. They really are.

John: It’s beautiful. In fact, my wife said, “I think your story is fine. I love the pictures,” right? It’s like, okay, that’s, you know, I get it, I get it. But I think what — the way that you do something like this in a short period of time is you start off with the concept and really the blueprint, which for a children’s book is the script or the manuscript, right? Is the first draft. And then once you get that first draft, now you can start engaging people. Now you can hire an editor or two editors, right? 

Different types. You can get an illustrator involved and then that illustrator can start doing sketches, right? If you are an illustrator, then obviously you don’t hire one but, for me, I’m not so I needed someone to do it. Similarly, even with the layout, right? And even with the marketing, frankly, right? You got to engage a team, you can’t do everything yourself. And it all starts with doing the part that you can do, whatever that is. For me, it was the silly idea in a first draft and then building that team around you that can fill in all the gaps and people who are very skilled in the areas that you’re not.

Bryan: It sounds like you applied some of your skills that you’ve picked up from your businesses that you’re involved with and teaching.

John: That’s exactly right. Yeah. I mean, if you ask me the advice that I give to my clients and to myself in terms of investing, building businesses, it’s the exact same thing, right? Figure out what you’re good at and then build a team. That’s it. You’ll figure out who you need on your team, and then go find the team and then that’s how you build a business or how you successfully invest or do anything else.

Bryan: Yeah, good advice. So, just to go back to the writing process again because I’m really curious about this. So, normally, when I write nonfiction, you know, with the last — I’m writing a parenting book at the moment and I got a development editor and a proofreader. What editors do you get for a children’s book?

John: So, okay, I have an initial editor that just gave general big picture ideas, right? And gave me comments on the story itself, like big picture, right? And it’s similar — I think it’d be pretty much a development editor, developmental editor, right? Then you have, with CinderToot, I did one pass there and then I hired a different editor who’s phenomenal and she worked for, I think, Disney publishing and I think she made it funnier, right? And took out all the parts that weren’t as funny so I think that she made a big difference.

And we went I think three passes with her so there was a developmental pass and then two kind of like more line passes, I can’t remember what it was called but essentially like looking at the word, you know, word choices, right? And once we got the actual story down in the development, then we started to look at, you know, specific words. And then there was a whole pass where like an art pass, where she actually went in and made suggestions on the art descriptions and the artwork and broke it down by page so I didn’t even do that. She helped me do that.

I mean, I gave input and I said, “No, I think we got to have a —” you know, I said — like so if you’ve read CinderToot, there’s a page — and this is one of the first things we thought of, there’s a two-page spread of all of the different maidens and smells, right? So it’s very funny and the kids loved it and the kids really made me put that in so that was my choice. I said, “No, we got to have this page.

There’s very little word, very little text on those pages,” but that was a direction that I had. I said, “No, we gotta do this.” But the editor came in and said art suggestion and really that made me realize the first time I wrote a children’s book, I wasn’t thinking about how the art interacted necessarily with the text.

Now, when I wrote the sequel to CinderToot, children of CinderToot, I was thinking how does the artwork comment and enhance the fun and the humor in the text? So I can even write something that’s not funny by itself but when you have an art, you know, description or art comment that says, “No, here’s what you actually see,” right? Then this is funny. So you say like the kids snuck out of the castle but then you show like the guard character who’s the same guard character from CinderToot, the guard character is like asleep or playing video games or something, right? So it’s like you have different opportunities for humor and fun with that art working. So I think that’s how the editor really made a big difference in the different types of editing.

Bryan: So are you actually writing direction for the illustrator about what they need to —

John: That’s right, yeah. And I didn’t realize that when I wrote CinderToot. I did not think about it that way. But now I’m kind of learning, well, that’s a really good source of humor and having worked with an illustrator, the illustrator can bring so much, especially if they have a really good sense of humor. Like Kate. I feel like my sense of humor and Kate’s is like in line, right? A little bit, like she makes beautiful pictures but then she’s not afraid to have the little silliness in there, right? I think if you read the book, there’s things you’ll see over time that we put in there that you wouldn’t necessarily even see, you know, the first or second time you read the book.

Bryan: So, did the editing take long and also did the illustrations take long?

John: That’s a good question. I think it takes about, for me, by the time you go back and forth, two to three months to edit. And I’ve just started the editing process on the sequel. Still, it’s very difficult the first time you open the document with the revisions because it’s like you know — like I know the editor is going to tell me like, “You gotta cut this,” or I knew she was going to say the book’s too long, I knew she was going to say certain things, and it’s always that moment of like, okay, brace yourself, get ready to take the criticism. But still, it’s all in making it better, right? So, for editing, I think it was a couple months and then the illustrations, it’s about a, you know, 3-, 4-, 5-month process by the time you go back and forth.

Bryan: Yeah, I can imagine that would take the longest. Yeah.

John: Because there’s first an initial sketches where she’ll do sketches based on the art description, right? That I’ve given to her. And then I approve the sketches. It’s very kind of collaborative, at least for me and Kate, like, for instance, there’s a scene and, again, it’s silly to talk about, but there’s a scene where, at the end of the book, you know, Ella, you know, she’s trapped and she has to like essentially toot her way out of the upstairs room and I just said, “We need way more gas,” because she just had this little stream and I said, “We need way more gas, like this is it.” It was the first illustration that I saw but, again, like there’s that collaboration. 

Bryan: Yeah.

John: And then you’re not even done then because then you got to do the layout, add the text, right? Do that final proofreading, proof editing, to make sure there’s no typos, and then work on the cover too. So it’s like there’s a lot of different pieces in building the book, right? It’s not just like you wrote it or even you just got the illustrations. There’s putting everything together.

Bryan: So you mentioned you didn’t have a background in illustration so when you were given the sketches and the initial concepts, what steps did you take to figure out if they were working and also to provide feedback to the designer, to Kate?

John: Yeah, I don’t have like training, I’m not, you know, someone that can draw or sketch things. I do consider myself like a storyteller filmmaker, right? So I went to film school, produced movies, I looked at it, I’ve always liked comic books. So I looked at it like, “Hey, I can give comments,” and then from my own experience reading children’s books, right? To my own kids. I think the kids, reading it to the kids and showing it to the kids, that gave me a lot of context to understand and give comments. And, honestly, I think once you see the illustrations in this book, it’s this tension between very funny and very gross in a way or kind of like, you know, silly, and that’s what I wanted.
 
I wanted it to be funny. I wanted it to be beautiful, but I also wanted it to take the story seriously and not a book that was just a one-joke book, right? So if you’re making a fart book, right? To be blunt about it, it’s a fart book, but I didn’t want it to just be a one-joke book. I wanted there to be a lot of humor, I wanted parents to have fun reading it, I wanted kids to just fall off the bed and laugh and just have so much fun reading the book but I also added some things in there that are maybe a little bit different, like the copyright page, right? Is silly and fun and has jokes in it, where, as a lawyer, I’ve written all these copyright pages and I finally said, “One day, I’m gonna write a different one for myself,” right? That has some humor in it. 

And then, similarly, even on my bio or even in some of the marketing pieces, marketing content, you know, in the back, I tried to add a little bit more to the text than just, you know, here’s the children’s book.

Bryan: Yeah, I’m just looking at your copyright page, I think I missed the joke the first time around.

John: It’s my favorite page.

Bryan: Yeah, there’s a line that says, “Any similarities to actual events will be awesome.” Very clever.

John: And I call it out too because very early on in the process, my sister said, “John, you need to make a scratch-and-sniff version,” and I said, “That is genius. That is genius.” So I put in there, I said, “I would love to make a scratch-and-sniff version but I got to sell a lot of copies first before we, you know, can spend the money to do that.” 

So just having fun with it. I mean, it’s — the book, to me, you know, was worked on right in the middle of the pandemic. When this March of 2020 hit, I had had the book completely edited and I was just about to hire an illustrator and I had a realization, I said, “I can’t work on something this silly when the world is going through this crazy pandemic,” and a couple months went by and what happened was I — it was about midnight one night, everyone in my house was asleep, and I found the printed manuscript that I just printed off one day and I started reading it, it was past midnight and everyone was asleep, and I started reading my own book that I hadn’t read in a couple months and I started laughing out loud, like I just was having so much fun reading it and I still laugh when I read it. 

And I had this realization in the middle of the night that, you know, this book brings joy to people. It really does, if you read it with your kids or just read it yourself, and that’s what the world needs right now, some joy. People were very stressed. It was tense, right? If you think about like the summer of 2020, there’s so many unknowns with —

Bryan: Yeah.

John: — you know, the pandemic. And that’s what prompted me to say, “I’m gonna do it. I think this book brings joy. I’m going to sell joy to people, about 30 minutes of joy,” and that’s what convinced me to just jump in and do it and do it with my kids, do it with my wife, have fun with it, and it’s honestly been one of the best things I’ve ever done in my life in terms of professional project.

Bryan: You mentioned about selling the book. So, how do you sell a book like this at the moment?

John: You mean just in general like the marketing of it?

Bryan: Yeah, if you could maybe like what are you doing to promote the book?

John: Actually, that’s something that’s kind of you don’t think about initially or at least a lot of people don’t think about because you think, “Oh, I just wanna write one,” right? Or, “I just wanna publish one.” And I intentionally self-published. I did not want — I didn’t want to spend the time to get a publisher. 

And especially since I’ve reviewed many, many publishing contracts in my legal career, I realized, you know, you don’t get that much of a royalty, the publisher really controls things, and, you know, you don’t always know if they’re a good publisher or, you know, how much money are you going to make and all those kinds of things. 

So I intentionally self-published because I have a marketing background and I was willing to do the work from a marketing perspective and so I broke it down into really two phases — or three phases, sorry. There was a pre-launch, right? Where you’re getting ready to launch, you’re not — the book’s not done but you’re getting people ready, telling a select group of people about it, you’re building a launch team, right?

Bryan: Yeah.

John: There was the actual launch, where you have a launch team, you have, for me, I had a Facebook group ready to go, people that were excited about the book, people that I gave early access to the book, I gave them copies of the pictures or the illustrations so they could see beforehand, hopefully get them excited, and it was about a hundred people that were in this Facebook group. And then you figure the post-launch, right? 

That’s the third kind of stage. And so I had a strategy for each of those stages and I’m in the post-launch now and actually one of the strategies for post-launch is write another book, right? That’s really one of the things that people tell you and that’s what Eevi told me and that’s what I would tell anybody is write another book.

Bryan: But to go back to your 100 beta readers or early readers, were these followers of your work online or were they friends and family or —

John: All of the above so I sent out an e-mail to my list. You know, I have few — several thousand people on an e-mail list that follow my writing. I said, you know, because I don’t typically write, you know, my writing is more based on reinvention, right? Leadership, business, things like that. I sent an e-mail and said, “If you’re interested in my children’s book, you know, here it is but here’s a separate, you know, list you can join and here’s a Facebook group if you wanna join,” and I got about a hundred people, friends, family, people from my e-mail list. It’s higher now, actually, quite a bit higher. That was the start. And then, within that list, I found about 15 or so people who agreed to buy the book on the first day and write a review, good or bad, just —

Bryan: Yeah.

John: — reviews and that really made a big difference, right? So I had, you know, actually, I had reviews before I even knew the book was out so this just shows you like how much, you know, I didn’t know at the time but I didn’t even know on Amazon that as soon as you hit like Publish and then there’s a time period but Amazon doesn’t tell you when the book’s live so I thought that I would get like an e-mail then I would have to push another button. 

Well, a friend of mine texted me, he’s like, “I just bought your book,” and I thought how did you buy the book? It’s not even out yet. And so reviews were popping up and then a woman put a message in the Facebook group, “I just bought it. I wrote a review and it’s hilarious,” and all this stuff and then all of these reviews were coming out and I didn’t even think — I did not even think the book was out yet. So, anyway, things you learn as you do it.

Bryan: And you’re using ads just for the post-launch phase?

John: So I do Amazon ads. I experimented with Facebook ads too, and I’m always experimenting so it’s been interesting to see what works, what doesn’t work. Another reason why I wanted to self-publish is I could really benefit and test the Amazon ads.

Bryan: Yeah. I’ve had good luck and success with Amazon ads but I’d be curious if they worked for a children’s book.

John: Well, it’s interesting, right? There’s a lot of competition for children’s books, right? There is —

Bryan: Yeah.

John: — and even fart books, right? So, similar types of, you know, toot books, fart books, whatever you want to call it, came out about the same time as CinderToot and I saw them and I thought, “Oh, my goodness,” you know? And I started tracking them and comparing like what are they doing? What, you know, what can I do better next time?

Bryan: So you mentioned you’re writing a sequel?

John: The sequel is written. It’s getting edited right now. 

Bryan: Yeah.

John: Bryan, I have about 15 books, children’s books outlined.

Bryan: Wow, that’s a lot. So you’re doubling down?

John: I think it’s so fun. I think it’s so fun.

Bryan: Yeah.

John: I really do. And what’s interesting is too I’ve involved my kids so my kids love it. They come up with the stories. Every story that I will write a children’s book about is a story that I’ve told my kids and that they liked, that they loved. And I go to the kids and I say, “What’s our next book?” Right? And they said, “Children of CinderToot.” 

There’s a great — my version of Rapunzel, by the way, is going to be amazing. That was the next book the kids wanted to come out. And then I have a Santa story that’s going to be incredible and then actually two Santa stories, I’m going to see if I can get that Santa story out by this Christmas and then the next Christmas, we’ll get the next Santa story out. But there’s just so many fun ideas that we have had as a family that I’m also using as a way to teach my kids. You said you’re writing a parenting book, I think that’s awesome.

Bryan: Yeah.

John: This is a way I’m teaching my kids how to start a business. We talked about the process, we talked about who we’re going to hire, we talked about what’s the price of the book going to be. We decided, as a family, we’re going to give away a percentage of all the money and we’re going to pick who we’re going to give it to. The kids, right? It’s got to be organizations that help kids that are my kids’ ages and the kids picked three of them and we got to write checks right off the top, gross money in the door, we’re writing checks, we’re going to give the money away. So, it’s a way to teach the kids how to be responsible, be entrepreneurs, how to execute, how to have fun, how to really enjoy what they’re doing. 

There’s so many amazing benefits. And, you know, to me, like the actual financial benefits are — certainly we’re trying to make money but the financial benefits are not the greatest benefits at all.

Bryan: Yeah. I hadn’t considered any of those benefits. Can anyone write a children’s book based on what your experience was?

John: I think absolutely. I mean, if you really wanted to do it, that’s why I said I created this free e-mail course, goes through my exact process, I tell you some things I thought about that I really never shared with anybody and that I didn’t learn from any children’s book course. I mean, I’ve taken multiple courses, lots of different courses online but I share my approach.

Like, for example, one of the books I read really convinced me that I had to have a children’s book that I could share or give a pitch, right, or elevator pitch, “In 30 seconds, describe the book,” and someone would know whether they wanted to read it or wanted to buy it or not. And that was something that I really wanted for my books, right? So, here’s the story and like we said at the beginning, right? Cinderella story, except we changed something silly, right?

And I picked that up from Ryan Holiday in his book, Perennial Seller, right? I really wanted it to be able to spread, right? And that’s something I talked about in my course is how I thought about the book. And what you’ll see, if you pay attention, over the next one to two years, the books that come out, they all have something where if you describe — if I describe it to you, you’re going to want to pick it up or you’re not — or you’re just — you’re going to be repulsed, right? But, either way, it’s going to evoke a strong reaction and you’re either going to love it or be like, “Okay, I’m out. This John guy is super weird.”

Bryan: Yeah, I get — yeah, as well as the title even, CinderToot, sums it up.

John: Yeah.

Bryan: So where can people take your course or buy CinderToot?

John: So, cindertoot.com, right? There’s links to everything on cindertoot.com and then if you want the free course, cindertoot.com, there’s a link or go to cindertoot.com/freecourse. It’s also on Amazon so you can go right to Amazon too. 

Cindertoot.com has some extra resources, some pictures, some links to my articles, and you can subscribe. If you want the course, great; if you don’t want the course but just want updates when the next books come out, you can subscribe to a list and I will give everybody updates. The easiest way is go to Amazon or go to cindertoot.com. If you want the free course, there’s a link, cindertoot.com/freecourse. And there’s a bunch of other fun stuff. 

What you’ll find too, I’m redoing my personal site so once that’s up, there will actually be some fun secret areas of my own website that are tied into CinderToot so I love puzzles, I love games and so all of my books are going to have some weird fun things about them. So, just pointing that out. I refuse to reveal all the secrets, right? You’re going to have to find them on your own but that’s the kind of stuff I love and I hope kids love that too.

Bryan: And is the book in print stores as well, just out of curiosity?

John: No, just Amazon.

Bryan: Amazon? Okay. Okay.

John: Yep. I think, in time, I’ll look at different distribution options and, actually, that’s on my to-do list. I want to get the next couple books written and then as those are getting illustrated, then I can work on the more, you know, marketing and distribution angles.

Bryan: It was really nice to talk to you, John.

John: Oh, my gosh. Well, thank you for having an interest and so much fun. It’s been the most fun thing that I’ve ever done professionally is writing this book and working on the future books. So, thanks for being curious about it.

Outro

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