What I learned from a writer’s class is that children’s picture books are harder to write than it seems like they should be!
The Kissing Hand
The classic, A Kissing Hand, was the most touching of the books I found when I researched prize-winning picture books for a class assignment. It is a classic, published in 1993 about Chester Raccoon who did not want to start school. His mother gave him the most unusual going away memento that any loving mother could give.
Blue sky and 75 degrees made today a tourist-magazine perfect day to look for Cal’s Used Bookstore, located with great difficulty at 5240 Westside Road in Redding, CA back behind rows of what looked like Storage Wars.
While it isn’t Powell’s Used Books in Portland, Oregon, owner, Carl, filled several rooms with many genres of used books, and seemed knowledgeable about them all. He walked me through the romance section, saving me hours of tedious looking.
It was hard to compare the numbers of books in both the new and the used bookstores. What is interesting about a used bookstore is which books come back to be resold, and how long they stay on the shelf. Carl arranged his books in alphabetical order, but highlighted more authors, by setting the books on a little shelf (or book) and piling them up, spine showing.
He pointed out authors that sold well, so I bought four books at $3.50 each. He told me that books by J.R. Ward flew off the shelf faster than any others, and so he only had a few of her books. I bought her book, Envy, published in 2001. She is a #1 NY Best Selling Author. Paranormal romance currently sells well.
Traditional romance books by Debbie Macomber, author of Back on Blossom Street published in 2007, come back into the store by droves.
Robyn Carr sets her stories in local venues, which draws readers in this area to her books.
Carl showed me where to find children’s books, then left me to enjoy them by myself. I found VERY few fiction picture books. Early readers and early teen books prevailed. Cal’s stocked mostly non-fiction science and social science children’s picture books. Of the fiction books available, one earned the Caldecott Honor, John Henry by Julius Lester, pictures by Jerry Pinkney, published in 1994. -mint condition. I’m guessing that it is around 2,000 words, which makes it almost 4 times as long as The Australian Writer’s Centre suggested length for picture books. This book cost me $4.50, and is $14.36 at Amazon. However, I might never have bought it at Amazon because there are so many choices, whereas, it was the only Caldecott Award winning book at Cal’s.
The other book I purchased, Duck for President by Doreen Cronin, illustrated by Betsy Lewin, who also wrote Click Clack Moo, Cows that Type which is a Caldecott Award winner, and one of my favorite books. It still had it’s $0.98 price tag on the spine and I paid $3.50 for it. 🙂
My analysis of the situation is that once people purchase picture books, they either wear them out, hand them down, or keep them until they have grandchildren. Most do not come back for resale unless they are not very good. On the other hand, people reuse paperback books. These sold for $3.50, about the same price as the hardback copies of the children’s books, almost half of their retail value, $7.19 paperback or $5.38 Kindle. I learned that authors do not get any more than name recognition from the sale of used books.