Today we’d like to introduce you to Joey and Melanie Acker.
So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
My wife, Melanie, and I met and started dating shortly after I graduated from high school. We both wanted to get married as soon as possible so one evening on a date at Red Lobster we attempted to plan out our future at 19 and 20 years old. I had no aspirations of going to college as I was a musician and songwriter at the time. However, we were (and still are) very much in love! We wanted to rush, get married, and start a family as soon as we could.
We came to the conclusion that she would continue on her career path to be a teacher and I would also pursue a degree in hopes of becoming a kindergarten teacher. We both loved working with children and also spoke of one day opening our own daycare together. Much of our decision came from wanting careers where we would be able to spend the most time together throughout our lives while raising a family.
We worked at daycares together and had many of the same classes as we went through college. Both of us then graduated and worked at two of the same elementary schools together. Melanie became a kindergarten teacher and I a K-6 P.E. teacher. During Christmas time Melanie’s students always thought she was an elf! She wrote a story about it with aspirations of one day turning it into a children’s book.
Ten years have gone by, and I continue to work at an elementary school as a P.E. teacher while Melanie has embarked on different career paths within education. We have a son (11) and a daughter (8) that also keeps us on our toes! This past summer, I finished my grad classes and earned my Masters in Educational Administration.
Melanie’s job required her to work during part of the summer. Being so used to having a college workload I needed something to do so I put that focus into revisiting our notion of writing children’s books. Being the frugal (not cheap) man that I am, I decided I would learn the ins and outs of self-publishing and illustrating myself. When I was in elementary school, my dream was to be an animator for Disney.
As I grew older, I did not take any art classes in school, but continued in drawing – especially the doodling that got me through college lectures! During the summer, I learned all I could about illustrating, writing, self-publishing, file format, printers, distribution, marketing, branding, ISBN, and copyright. Melanie and I sat down and talked it out as we went over her story, ‘My Teacher is an Elf.’
Our goal was to write children’s books that could be engaging for teachers and students in the classroom along with making children smile. With our goal and first story written out, I bought an iPad Pro, learned the ins and outs, and did all of the illustrations and text on it. Shortly after we had officially published our first book! Within that summer we also wrote ‘My P.E. Teacher is a Ninja’ based on my experiences as a P.E. teacher.
Within three months our books being published, My Teacher is an Elf, reached #1 Best Selling in one category in paperback and Best Selling New Release in the kindle version in another category on Amazon. We never imagined how much success the books had so soon! We also had the opportunity to read at a Reading Night at the school that I attended as a child along with donating copies of our books to the school library.
This was a very special experience as it was the first time we were able to read our books aloud to others and see their reactions. We have been very fortunate and blessed with the amount of support, response, and attention these books have received. We currently have three books published in this series and many more on the way! We are excited about what the future holds and have had a blast these last three months!
Has it been a smooth road?
We’ll call it a smooth road with a couple of detours along the way. We both try to be patient and always keep things in perspective as we believe God has a much better plan and timing than we ever will. This can be hard at times since we are both the first born in our families and want to control everything (this also makes for a most interesting and never dull moment marriage), ha!
Since we do work in education, we always tried to start our books in the summers when we were off, but always had some big event happen. First came baby 1, Melanie job change, baby 2, Melanie job change, Melanie grad school, move to another house, Melanie job change, Melanie had thyroid surgery, and a small amount of papillary cancer was found, and finally Joey grad school. Did I forget to mention the Melanie job change between surgery and grad school??
Yes, the cancer event is definitely the biggest detour we had. We were told she had thyroid cancer after surgery to remove part of her thyroid. The results caught us off guard for sure, but Melanie has had her fair share of health issues over the years. You would never know because of her great poise and strength, plus she is always so darn beautiful and presentable! She is genuinely the toughest person I know and definitely a superwoman! I, on the other hand, have not been to a doctor for myself since middle school.
Maybe we will write a book for children getting over their fear of the doctor while forcing myself to face them in the process… or perhaps not… Nonetheless, we are extremely grateful that her cancer was not severe. We do not know if it is completely gone at this point, but we choose to focus on the positive while keeping her health in check. So after all that we took advantage of me being out of grad school at the end of this past summer to work on the books. Here we are 3-4 months later!
We’d love to hear more about your business.
It’s funny to think of this as a business as we really just wanted to set out to accomplish writing and publishing a book! At this point, we still see it as a hobby, but realize that as we continue, it may turn into something more with the success the books have had.
We do not consider ourselves specialists by any means. As I said, we were both really surprised by the reception of the books! We are the most proud of seeing the pictures, videos, and stories from our young readers enjoying something that we created together.
I think what sets us apart is that we are a husband and wife team that are very different as individuals but share a common goal and somehow make books together that work…
We also run an Instagram account at @ackerbooks where you can see just how different and random we are! We like to share not only stories and pictures about our books and readers but just our own daily randomness, as well. For some crazy reason people keep watching.
Where do you see your industry going over the next 5-10 years? Any big shifts, changes, trends, etc?
I had already seen some awesome indie authors, illustrators, and books when I was doing my research into self-publishing. I think in the next 5-10 years we will see a great deal of more self-publishers with the internet, print on demand companies, and aspiring authors wanting to spread their creativity.
I think we are going to see a lot of really great work come from this movement since traditional publishing has become such a hard market to get into unless you have some pretty solid connections. Self-publishing has also become much more financially profitable than it used to be with it now being a competitive market and having the tools to advertise and market yourself.
With that said, I think self-publishing is very accessible and affordable (especially if you can illustrate) at this point in time. However, I would not be surprised if print on demand services become more strict and/or expensive as more and more people go the self-publishing route.
The friends and contacts I have made through social media in the self-publishing world have been a great benefit and inspiration to both us.
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/ackerbooks/
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/joeyandmelaniebooks/
- Twitter: https://twitter.com/ackerbooks