When I first decided to self publish my book, there seemed to be very few resources available for children’s picture books. Self-publishing novels for adults or older kid-readers is a process too, but there are very specific challenges that come up for children’s authors, most apparent is the need for illustrations. Children also overwhelmingly prefer print books, which adds to the cost and challenge of production and distribution.
For this series, I will talk about what I learned in the process of self-publishing a children’s book. I will share the resources I found, and also talk about some of the mistakes I made that hopefully you can learn from. I hope that this can be a resource for others who want to publish their work. I will mention organizations, groups, and other bloggers that can offer helpful information. I wish I had all of this when I first started. If you find this helpful, please pay it forward and share with those who might also benefit.
First, let’s talk about the difference between Self-Publishing and Traditional Publishing.
This is how it works (a very brief and general overview):
Write a book! (yay!)
Edit book (and edit, and edit…)
Research agents or editors
Write Query letter and send to agents (be ready to submit up to 50 or more different agencies or publishers)
Land an agent or Publisher (Sweet!)
If you submit and get accepted by an agent, the agent will do the work of submitting your manuscript to publishers. They will be able to negotiate your publishing contract and generally have relationships with publishers that can be helpful in getting your work out there and getting the best contract. There are some publishers that do not accept unsolicited manuscripts (that means manuscripts that don’t come through an agent. However, there are still plenty of publishers, especially independent and small presses, that accept unsolicited manuscripts. You can submit directly to the publisher and if accepted, they will offer you a publishing contract.
Special consideration for picture books: If you are a writer and do not illustrate, ONLY SEND THE WRITTEN MANUSCRIPT. Most publishers will want to use their own illustrator and will match you up with someone if they decide to publish your book. If you are the author and illustrator, you will need to submit a dummy that includes a few samples of the illustrations, not the entire book.
Editor at publishing company will work with you on further edits/suggestions
Once your contract has been accepted, it could take up to two years before the book actually makes it to store shelves.
Don’t have to worry about distribution and marketing*
You can concentrate mostly on the creative work and less on the business side
With an agent, may get a better publishing deal
Leg up in the marketplace
Payment with advance and/or royalties
Work with professionals who know the ins and outs of the industry
No upfront costs to you
More natural access to festivals and places to promote your book
The time it takes to submit and deal, as well as time it takes to get book published
Difficult for niche genres or topics
Most authors are still required to do a lot of their own marketing
Smaller share of royalties
This is how it works (a very brief and general overview)
Note: I’ll use a picture book since that’s what I did. If you don’t have pictures you can disregard some of this, but you’ll still need artwork for your cover design.
Write a book! (yay!)
and edit, and edit, and edit…you may decide to hire an editor, definitely recommended if it’s a longer book. Even with picture books, it’s a good idea to workshop the manuscript, and edit work through multiple drafts.
Figure out the size and style of book:
hardcover or paperback, layout, portrait, square? Case laminate, book jacket? Paper quality: gloss, matte, weight, etc. It’s a good idea to look at industry standard sizes. You want your book to look as close to traditionally published books as possible.
Find an illustrator
pay that illustrator, and work with them to do inside illustrations and cover design.
Hire designer to do the print layout (if you can find an illustrator who is also a designer this is a plus!)
Make sure to include copyright page
Copyright and library of congress registration
Buy ISBN and Bar codes
Decide on Printer
on demand printing- like createspace or Ingram Spark (low upfront cost, but more per book)
Off-set print run- Large upfront cost, but cheaper per book, often need to buy in large quantities 500 to 1,000 minimum.
Figure out distribution
Will you sell books online? Ship them out yourself? Use a distributor like Amazon or a warehouse that also does fulfillment?
How will you market and advertise your book? Online? Local book stores? Book festivals?
Larger share of profits
Can be good for niche projects especially if you know the audience
Often faster than traditional publishing
Don’t have to go through gatekeepers (agents, editors, publishers)
Need to know the business as well as the creative side
Lots of initial set-up and details to take care of in order to get the book ready for publication
All of the marketing and distribution falls on you
So there you go,
an extremely basic rundown of the process of traditional vs. self-publishing and some of the pros and cons of each. I will be going into some of these topics in detail for further posts, including finding and working with an illustrator, printing, funding your self-published project, so stay tuned for that! Some of the main reasons I decided to self-publish was for the creative control and the desire to learn more about the industry. My book was a very personal project, and I had a very clear vision of how I wanted it to turn out. Once I found the right illustrator, I couldn’t imagine doing the project without her. It would not have been the same book. I loved being able to talk about aspects of the illustrations and work closely with her, which you often have no say in with traditional publishing. My entrepreneurial spirit also really resonated with the idea of carving out a niche for myself and being at the helm of my project. I was interested in learning about all the aspects that go into creating a book, and even if I eventually end up doing traditional publishing as well (which I also aspire to) my experience with self-publishing will be a great resource.
What did I miss? What should I add to the list of pros and cons?
If you found this post helpful, please pay it forward and share with others!