Self-Published Children’s Books That Made It Big — Stranger in the Woods








Very few people realize that the bestselling-series of books: Stranger in the Woods, Lost in the Woods, First Snow in the Woods, etc. are self-published books. Even though the husband/wife team of Carl Sams and Jean Stoick had produced several successful books on wildlife, they couldn’t find a publisher who wanted to publish their first children’s story, A Stranger in the Woods. Publishers “weren’t encouraging,” Sams said, “They told us that children’s books with photographs simply didn’t sell.”

But the pair was convinced they were on to something with their story of wildlife’s reaction to encountering a snowman in the woods. Furthermore, they’d yearned for more control over production of their books and self-publishing certainly offered that. They refused to accept the publishers’ gloomy predictions and committed to self-publish and print 20,000 copies of Stranger in the Woods.

Sams and Stoick sometimes had to work around Mother Nature to get the final photographs for the book, which required enough snow to build a snowman and cold temperatures to keep him fresh. And they worked around their existing commitments, often driving to art shows with one of them driving and the other working on the laptop. In November 2001, they finally had their book in their hands and ready for sale.

While they knew little about book promotion and distribution, Sams and Stoick did have a loyal customer base. For years they regularly toured art shows and had many faithful customers of their photographic prints. Their customers also loved the story of Stranger in the Woods. Sams said he would display the book’s layout and customers immediately wanted to buy it. He would eventually pre-sell 250 copies from proof copies.

Sams and Stoick approached publishing with the same dedication and thoroughness that made them great photographers. They joined publishing associations and studied the information and advice carefully. They also teamed up with non-profit conservancy organizations, donating a portion of their profits toward the conservation of Michigan’s wild places, which provided a lot of free publicity. And they continued to promote their books and their work at art shows.

With self-published book sales in the millions, Sams and Stoick proved wrong the notion that children’s books with photographs didn’t sell. Their success continues to inspire other creative people to believe in their own work and whether people respond to it, rather than an expert’s opinion.

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