Business Transformation

How This Children’s Book Publisher Leverages Direct-to-Consumer Marketing to Succeed

What does a publishing company have to do to sell 2 million books in a single year? For Puppy Dogs & Ice Cream, the answer is perhaps unexpected: combine meaningful topics for kids with innovative direct-to-consumer marketing tactics. It’s an unconventional approach, but it’s working — big time.

Puppy Dogs & Ice Cream is a San Diego-based children’s book publisher started by author Jason Kutasi in November 2017. At PDIC, a small but dedicated team of people who focus on “books with a purpose” — in other words, stories that are meaningful and educational, helping children grow into the best versions of themselves.

“The success of Puppy Dogs & Ice Cream came from filling a need,” Kutasi said. “Every family has dozens of books with beautiful art and a great story, but there was a gap in the market. We quickly realized there was an opportunity for us to deliver children’s books which sit between traditional educational content and books with an entertaining story.”

The company launched in November 2017 with 5,000 copies of a single children’s book and sold out of all their inventory that same month – faster than anyone expected. Revenue hit $1.45 million in 2018, and since then, the company has only continued to grow, selling over 1.35 million books in 2020 and on pace to sell 2.25 million books in 2021.

Books With a Purpose

PDIC recognizes that literature plays a huge role in who children grow up to be. That’s why the publisher strives to instill lifelong values and life lessons through its children’s books. Topics commonly highlighted in PDIC titles include emotional learning, loss, gratitude, and more. Parents and other customers can search the website according to categories from story books and activity books to books sorted by specific events, such as holidays. Books can also be sorted by the reader’s age: early readers (ages 0-3), beginners (ages 4-6), or advanced (ages 7-8).

PDIC might take a traditional approach when encouraging kids to read, but the company’s marketing is completely modernized, placing a big focus on ads and digital marketing as the best way to get books into the hands of readers. PDIC garners the majority of its sales through its website, which makes up about 75% of total revenue. Although Amazon accounts for 20% of sales, PDIC doesn’t advertise on the platform, said Kutasi.

“Amazon does have a lot of reach, but those people are in-market already looking for a book,” he said. “We get way more reach and scale with Facebook, Google, YouTube, Pinterest, Snapchat and TikTok than we can get on Amazon.”

The Rewards of Innovation

PDIC’s innovative direct-to-consumer approach has allowed the publisher to reap major rewards. The 1.35+ million books the company sold in 2020 placed PDIC at number 10 in the U.S. in overall children’s book sales that year. PDIC projects over two million unit sales in 2021. The 365,000 five-star ratings the publisher has received seal the deal: PDIC knows what it’s doing when it comes to writing (and marketing) books that appeal to kids.

Kutasi’s background in digital marketing helped him merge his publishing know-how with contemporary digital marketing strategies to take book sales to the next level. He said he thinks of PDIC as a publisher who doesn’t conform to the old rules of the industry.

“We didn’t invent e-commerce, but simply bolted e-commerce onto a vertical – children’s books – that doesn’t have the same margins as most ecomm businesses,” he said. “We make direct-to-consumer work for kids’ books.”

And PDIC’s direct-to-consumer approach doesn’t just benefit customers; it’s better for authors, too – it cuts out the industry middleman and boosts author royalties. This is by design, Kutasi said: PDIC was created with the intent of supporting small independent authors.

“When PDIC publishes an author’s book, the company handles 100% of the marketing and publishing costs involved,” Kutasi said. “That way, once the book is written, all the author has to do is relax.”

Author incomes also go up because PDIC tests each book cover with paid ads to help sell as many books as possible. Authors are even given opportunities to create one-on-one relationships with readers, leading to more sales over time.

More royalties for authors, important life lessons for kids, and a commitment to supporting American business — at Puppy Dogs & Ice Cream, it’s a win-win for everybody. And as the publisher keeps refining its approach, PDIC should only continue to grow.

Puppy Dogs & Ice Cream is a small, independent children’s book publisher based in San Diego, CA. They offer a publishing alternative to the traditional publishing model which benefits authors and customers alike. They have a strong belief in supporting American business, and all of their books are printed in the United States.

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Sophie Ireland
SVP for News and Editorial Director. As CEOWORLD magazine's senior vice president for news and editorial director, Sophie Ireland oversees CEOWORLD magazine's journalism and journalists around the world and across platforms. She leads an award-winning team of journalists and newsroom executives who are committed to excellence, innovation and the highest quality reporting and storytelling. Follow her on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or connect on LinkedIn. Email her at sophie@ceoworld.biz.