How to publish a children’s book yourself

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At GetYourBookIllustrations we’re committed to helping children’s book authors getting started and winning, especially when it comes to providing beautiful, affordable illustration services.

So, in the spirit of helping authors, here’s an article to help you publish your children’s book!

Kids’ books appear to be shorter and simpler (a debatable statement!). However, the process of publishing them is certainly not shorter and simpler.

It can be daunting to learn all the steps of how to publish a children’s book yourself. It involves hard work and extensive research into the field.

Let’s simplify it!

When publishing your own children’s book, some suggestions to do before publishing:

  • Work with a professional editor
  • Know your market – what age group, target, etc.
  • Get feedback from readers
  • Join children’s writing communities
  • Hire a book designer
  • Decide on a printer and distributor
  • Establish costings to publish a children’s book
  • Develop your children’s book marketing plan

Let’s get right into understanding how to publish a children’s book yourself…

Know the market

Realize that the field of kids’ books is competitive. There are many writers who have the same goal of writing successful books that will impact children.

Therefore, it is essential to research the kids’ book market.

You should be familiar with the kind of books that are on the shelves and compare them with what you’re interested in writing. You should also identify the books about your topic that are selling well for your age group.

It’s good if your book or idea is similar to existing books that are doing well. That means there is a market. That said, still aim for a unique spin on the topic, something that makes your book not just another ABC, or unicorn, or whatever it may be, book.

It is imperative to ensure that your book sets itself apart from other books.

Kids’ books happen to be the only type of book that is not marketed to its target audience. Kids don’t purchase the books, adults do.

This makes writing and publishing a children’s book more difficult compared to other books. You have to write and publish (and market) a book that sparks the parents’ imagination, as well as the child’s.

In your marketing, you need to show parents that their kids will love your book, or learn from it, or be better for having read it.

A few good examples:

The Mindful Mantra Series by Laurie Wright.

These help kids learn to handle difficult emotions and provide the tools for lifelong confidence. Kids enjoy them, and it’s a win-win for the child and the parent.

Wonky: A Robotics Club Story by Darcy Pattison

A fun book that introduces kids to thinking outside the box and working together.

According to Corban by Marcy Pusey

A captivating book about a little boy’s imagination.

Many stories have a moral lesson, such as protecting the environment and being kind.

Get feedback from readers

When working on self-publishing a kids’ book, it is essential to establish how well your book is received by children and adults.

You can even get one round of feedback before paying for illustrations and editing. That way you can see if your manuscript has a good reception before investing money into the next steps.

You should also get feedback on your final book before publishing.

One way to achieve this is by giving copies to parents and teachers to read to kids and asking for their feedback.

It’s also beneficial to get beta readers in your book’s target demographic. They can offer critical input required to strengthen the story.

A professional sensitivity reader can also help. This is someone who uses their experience to review books for racism, cultural or gender bias, or stereotypes.

After getting the feedback, the author and publisher should analyze it and decide on the ideas that feel right to implement.

Join children’s writing communities

Getting help from others in your industry that have already successfully published is one of the fastest ways to succeed.

There are different writing and self-publishing communities that thrive online, in the form of social networks (e.g. FB groups), blogs and forums.

The secret with online communities is joining one that has writers in your genre and is uplifting and helpful.

We have a fun, supportive Facebook community for self-publishing authors. You are very welcome to join us! Click here to see or join the group.

A good online community is NaNoWriMo, where you can get support from others who are on the same journey as you.

Another example is the Absolute Write Water Cooler. This is a community for self-publishers and budding authors. One can pose a query to the community, or search the many threads that cover all aspects of the writing journey.

Other online communities that serve the same purpose are SCBWI, Alliance of Independent Authors, KBoards, Critique Circle, Writing Subreddits and John Kremer’s Book Marketing Network.

For any questions about book illustrations, reach out to GetYourBookIllustrations. We’re happy to help.

Work with a professional editor

Before you think, “I don’t have money for a professional editor!” don’t worry, this doesn’t have to be expensive.

Good self-editing, beta readers and critiques from other writers can substantially cut down your editing costs. You can get help with all three of these areas in writing communities.

For books for younger children, with low word counts, editing can be very affordable. If your book is for older children or teens, with a higher word count, doing the steps mentioned above will go a long way to lowering costs.

First and foremost, you’re looking to make your book more readable to the readers that matter.

No matter how good a writer you are, it’s still best to work with a professional editor. An editor elevates your manuscript to the next level.

As mentioned, it is crucial to self-edit it as much as you can before handing your work to the editor. This saves money. Professional editing and self-editing complement each other.

Download a great manual for self-editing on Wandering Words Media’s site. It can help you fix errors in your manuscript and save a bunch of money (because the editor won’t need to fix them!).

Combining your powers as an author with those of a professional editor can spark magic. The right editor will take your rough (or maybe not-so-rough) work and make it shine.

Authors infuse their writing voice into their manuscripts. A good editor can pick up on the author’s tone and the atmosphere of the writing and amplify them.

Professional editing is guaranteed to increase your chances of publishing a successful children’s book because your book will be of higher quality and will be taken more seriously by readers—and they’ll enjoy it more!

Editors we recommend:

Marcy Pusey for:

Picture book critiques

Non-picture book editing

Heidi Fiedler

Picture books, chapter books, middle grade, nonfiction for kids and novelty books

Wandering Words Media

Young Adult

Hire a book designer

One of the scariest steps of self-publishing a picture book can be the design step. Book design comprises the graphic design of the back and front cover, as well as the layout and typographic design of each page.

I’ve seen a lot of self-publishing authors skimp on this step, and that is a mistake. A beautiful story, even with great illustrations, can end up being undone by a poor cover or bad interior design.

It is possible to DIY this step, but you have to be confident you know what you’re doing and have a GREAT eye for design. Else you could ruin all your hard work.

If not, hire a good book designer who can ensure that the design of your book will attract readers. This guarantees that your book gives a professional impression and doesn’t distract readers from enjoying your work.

As a result, you are likely to make more sales.

A professional designer should be able to identify the tone of your book and get your illustrations, words, and typography to work together to create a professional, good-looking, easy-to-read book.

GetYourBookIllustrations also offers cover and book design services.

Decide on a printer and a distributor

For the physical copies of your book, there are two steps.

  1. Printing
  2. Distribution

Printing is just what you’d expect: Getting the words (and pictures) onto the pages of your book. Well, and binding it with a cover!

Distribution is the activity of getting your book(s) set up with wholesalers and promoting and selling your book(s) to retail buyers and consumers.

These can be divided into two categories:

  • Print on demand
  • Bulk/Offset printing

These are ways of printing, but they also affect your distribution (and more).

Print on demand vs. offset

Start by researching the pros and cons of both and deciding which one is right for you.

Offset printing is a specific method of printing, but for our current purposes all you need to understand is that it means printing in bulk. In several ways it is less convenient than print on demand, but is much cheaper per book and has higher print quality.

Even though the quality is not as good as offset, a lot of picture book authors do use POD. If you have a picture book with detailed illustrations, and you want to do POD, you may want to order one copy of your book and see if you’re happy with the quality.

If not, you may prefer to go with offset. But do your research well before deciding, because offset comes with a lot of extra work, like having to organize warehousing, shipping and distribution.

Here is a brief article that compares POD (print on demand) and offset.

Offset

If you go with offset, you’ll need to choose a printer and distributors (unless you’ll be your own distributor, but be aware that’s a huge job).

The Independent Author’s Publishing Collective is one of the best printing services. They offer quality offset printing at the best prices. They also offer warehousing and shipping.

Draft2Digital and PublishDrive are good companies to help with distribution.

Some factors you should consider when looking for the right offset printer are price, image quality, size, speed of delivery and their level of service.

Print on demand

It is also possible and efficient to self-publish a children’s book through Amazon KDP. They will print and ship your paperback on demand. (That is, as someone orders it, they print a copy and ship it.)

IngramSpark is the other big POD company.

Here is an article about the most effective method to self-publish while getting the best distribution (with POD).

Other good print on demand providers are Blurb and BookBaby.

You can learn more about POD here.

eBook distribution

For eBook distribution you can go exclusively with Amazon (Kindle), or go “wide”, which means having your book on different sites, like:

  • Kobo
  • Apple Books
  • Barnes & Noble
  • Google Play

You can read a good article about ebook distribution here.

Tip: If you have an illustrated book, use the Kindle Kids’ Book Creator to create the eBook version. This tool makes it easy to prepare your book for publishing in Kindle format.

Establishing costings to publish a children’s book

While it can vary a lot, here is some info to help you get an idea of the cost to create and publish a children’s book.

In the table below, the “good range” is what I would suggest as the range for indie authors to aim for. It shows the low-end of pricing, but in a range where you can get quality if you choose the right pros to work with.

Costs to Publish a Children’s Book
Step Low Price Good range High Price
Editing $200 $450-$750 $2,000
Illustrations $450 $1,250-$3,500 $10,000+
Cover $100 $150-$250 $1,500
Book Design $125 $200-$400 $5,000
Total $875 $2,050-$4,900 $18,500+

The table only shows costs that more or less everyone publishing a children’s book would have. There are other costs you should also budget for.

A breakdown:

Editing ranges between $200 and $2,000 depending on the extent of the editing, the number of words, and the quality of writing.

Illustration can be between $450 (spot illustrations) and $10,000+, depending on the amount and size of illustrations, and the illustrator’s pricing.

For example, if you want to get a full page illustration on each second page (for a 28-page picture book) that would cost $1,330 with GetYourBookIllustrations. Or if you want a gorgeous book with 14 double-page spread illustrations, that is $2,450.

A book cover can vary from $100 to $1,500. This also depends on if you get a custom illustration done for the cover.

Book design (sometimes called book layout) is the full design of your book cover and interior. It includes placement of all your text and illustrations, front and back pages, typefaces and so on.

Exactly as the name says, this is the design of the book. For picture books, or any book with a lot of images, this is a needed step. The price ranges between $125 and $5,000.

Formatting is less extensive than book design and deals with your text, like typefaces, paragraph and line breaks, indents and spaces.

Book design includes formatting by default. If your book has few, or no, images, you are more likely to only need formatting. Formatting costs between $100 and $2,500.

Other costs: POD may carry no upfront costs, but, for instance, uploading your book to IngamSpark is $49.

If you plan to print offset, you’ll need to budget for that (starting from $1000+)

Promo and marketing is most variable and can be anything from $50 (or $0) and $10,000+.

There can be other costs, like purchasing your ISBN.

Factor in a few more unseen costs to leave some leeway with your budget.

Invest in a quality book because it increases the chances of success for your book. Get the best services you can for your budget.

Develop your children’s book marketing plan

Your self-published children’s books won’t sell unless you have a plan to let the world know all about them.

Here are a few free or cheap ways to market:

Book readings

One way to promote your children’s book easily is reading your book to children at the local library and bookstore story times.

To prepare for the activity, you can put out posters and flyers.

Inform the local newspaper about the event to reach a larger audience.

At bookstore readings, sign copies of your book when people buy it.

Visit schools

You can also do school visits. At these visits, don’t only read your book, but find ways to make it interactive. Have slides or coloring sheets, or have a quiz or a game. Kids can even act out your book. This will get the kids involved and excited.

Some schools also have annual author events, which can be significant to market your book.

Apart from being able to charge for your visit, with permission from the school, you can sell copies of your book while doing a classroom talk.

You can also do things like giving out free signed bookmarks that kids are likely to share with parents.

Tip: If you’re going to sell at your visit, use a pre-order form. This way you will know how many books to bring and can write a personalized note and sign each one beforehand. And you’ll sell more copies.

Put info about your book(s) on the pre-order form and make it easy to fill in and send back to the school.

Aligning your book with a charity or cause

Another way to get your book known is to align it with a cause, like recycling or a charity. Donating copies or proceeds of your book to a kids’ charity can make your book more memorable to parents.

Other ideas

Here is an article with plenty of other great ideas for you to market your books.

Feeling more confident now in knowing how to publish a children’s book yourself?

To successfully publish a book yourself, you need to have a compelling story, incorporate amazing art, know your audience, and market well.

Using all the steps above will have you much closer to your goal of getting your book into your audience’s hands.

If you need any help or advice with the illustration step of self-publishing, you are in the right place. We’re always happy to chat and answer questions!

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