Award-winning children’s book author takes the industry by storm with her new independent publishing company Books & Things Publishing that prioritizes creating inclusive books with diverse characters.
Her works include The Holly-Day After (2021), Bubble Sea (2023), Mr. Maloof (Winner in the 2022 International Book Awards for Children’s Fiction, and the 2022 Global Book Awards for Children’s Early Learning) and her newest release Truth Tales: The Air Fair-He (2023).
McKinnon, an HBCU graduate, studied journalism at Howard University and although she mostly focused on writing news stories, she knew that creative writing was her passion.
In 2020, she created a vision board that manifested her publishing debut The Holly-Day After, a Christmas book that celebrates holiday traditions with melanated characters.
While she originally started Books & Things Publishing to release her own books, she saw opportunities to expand her platform by offering author coaching, editing services, book launch packages, and publishing services to other indie authors.
Through her journey, McKinnon developed new skills that were necessary for navigating the children’s books industry, such as understanding the different levels of illustrations and working with other companies. She learned that the publishing journey is not as linear as she initially thought.
“There are so many ways to get things done. I enjoy learning all the ways people have built up to success,” she says.
Still early in its journey, Books and Things Publishing is slated to have released five books by the end of its first year in business. With the enlisted help of an editor, an animator, and a book designer, McKinnon’s small but mighty publishing company stresses the importance of representation.
“We only publish diverse voices. For children’s books, I am looking for people in the stories, not animals. That’s a big hurdle as a lot of children’s books have talking animals. I believe if my purpose is for children to see themselves in books, the books I publish must have people as main characters.”
Like most entrepreneurs, McKinnon admits her biggest surprises and setbacks were financial. According to McKinnon, publishing one children’s book can cost anywhere ranging between $600-$6,000.
“Authors already make so little and I didn’t wrap my head around how to handle that. In the beginning, I was nervous telling people what I charged. Now I’ve realized I wasn’t charging enough.”
Another challenge for McKinnon was finding ways to reach new people.
“Sometimes with social media, it seems like you hit the same 20 people time and time again. Trying to stay creative and catch new readers will always be the biggest hustle.” As for what’s next for Books & Things Publishing, McKinnon has been booked and busy with her upcoming releases: Yalanna’s Extra Butterfly by Tatyerra Mikell and Kiara’s Invisible Crown by Latoya & Taylor Baldwin.
Her latest release Truth Tales: The Air Fair-He
is McKinnon and co-author’s Marissa Kearney
first middle-grade graphic chapter book about an average 9-year-old kid from around the way who unveils the “dazzling” truth about what happens after you lose a tooth.
“This book is for the culture!” McKinnon proclaims.
She leaves us with a quote from the very melanated Santa Claus character in The Holly-Day After, “The traditions we start today can live on forever.”
RAE SCOTT IS THE AUTHOR OF THE INTERNATIONAL AND BEST BOOK AWARD WINNING FINALIST, THROUGH BLOOD AND BECOMING AND THE CONTENT CREATOR BEHIND @POETRAEBOOKS VOTED 2023 BOOK CONTENT CREATOR OF THE YEAR IN THE ALL WAYS BLACK AWARDS.
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