Bestselling child nutrition author Annabel Karmel is to leave publisher Ebury and self-publish her next title, Baby-Led Weaning Recipe Book.
Karmel’s 1991 début, The Complete Baby & Toddler Meal Planner was inspired by her son Nicholas who was a fussy eater, was rejected by 15 publishing houses and "countless" literary agents before it was represented by a book packager and sold to Simon & Schuster in the US at Frankfurt Book Fair, who then went on to order 25,000 copies. It was later sold to Ebury in the UK.
To date, she has sold 1.93 million books, for £19.6m, through Nielsen BookScan UK, with The New Complete Baby & Toddler Planner her top seller (339,646 copies). The author told The Bookseller she was self-publishing as “an experiment” and remains on good terms with Ebury, which she did not rule out returning to at a later date, adding: “I will see how it goes.”
Karmel has attracted 4.3m users a year to her her website www.annabelkarmel.com and said she was well-placed to tap into her "loyal mum" audience. She has also has a weekly average social reach of 1 million, which she considers a "powerful" platform to promote her books, on top of her experience after 25 years experience in publishing. Karmel also has a range of baby food she sells to supermarkets, with good connections in retail.
“I sell my food into supermarkets, we know the brand better than anybody else, and so we are the best-placed to help sell and market a book," she said.
“We have a platform visited by 4.3m people so we were doing a lot of the marketing in terms of reaching people anyway, and I thought, is it worth it for what we get at the end of it? There needs to be a commercial end to it, I just want to see what it would be like, to invest in my own book. It is something I have thought about doing for a long time. When I started producing food, I thought ‘how am I going to compete against Boots, M&S? I never thought I could do that but I found a way."
However, she criticised the low royalties paid by legacy publishers, particularly for digital sales, where the typical rate is 25%. “I feel that the cost of producing the e-book is quite low, but the author only gets a 25% royalty,” she said. “Publishers could pay the author more—that is one area they could be more generous. [Authors] might just give up publishing otherwise, if they cannot afford to feed themselves. I feel authors don’t get a fair deal.”
Baby-Led Weaning Recipe Book, which encourages a flexible approach to weaning, is scheduled for publication on 25th May. Karmel will publish digitally through Amazon’s KDP platform and has set up her own imprint, Pindock Publishing. She has hired freelance editing, design, marketing and sales help, and will print the book in Italy. Karmel said her long-time agency, Curtis Brown, will still get a cut.
Karmel has already secured a “robust order” from Asda for the title, with another from Tesco in the pipeline, but she is keen for bookshops to stock it too.
“This is something I’ve been thinking about for some time... books are very close to my heart. They are my first passion,” she said.
A spokesperson for Ebury said: "Annabel and her Ebury team mutually decided that this particular book should be self-published. We wish Annabel success with the book and look forward to continuing working with her in the future."