Is the manuscript of your children’s book ready for publishing? If so, you may be wondering how much does it cost to publish a children’s book.
Self-publishing is a low-cost publishing option, one that many new and seasoned authors take advantage of.
It’s much faster than traditional publishing, but upfront costs are involved. As such, it’s wise to know how much you can expect to spend if you choose to self-publish.
If you want your book to succeed and positively impact readers, it’s worth some extra investment. You can cut costs where necessary but don’t skimp on the quality or marketing of your product.
Below we’ll explore the fees self-published authors can expect to pay for the average children’s book, including:
- Editing fees
- Illustration fees
- Design and formatting fees
- Marketing costs
- Printing costs
How much does it cost to publish a children’s book?
Self-publishing means that you, as an author, have complete creative control over your work.
Were you to take the traditional publishing route, whatever publishing company you choose will edit and adapt your manuscript so that it aligns with their themes and policies.
A traditional publisher will offer a book deal that covers editing, design, and illustration costs.
In contrast, as a self-published author, you answer to no one. Your work is your own to create as you wish.
However, the problem with so much creative control is that you must front the book’s creation cost alone.
With self-publishing, unless you take care of editing, design and formatting, and illustrations yourself, you’ll need to hire a professional freelancer to help. Here’s where the costs come in.
On average, self-publishing can cost children’s book writers anywhere between $1,000-$6,000.
That might sound like a lot at first. Still, understand that if you want to make a reasonable profit from your book, you need to invest into it.
Skipping on quality for the sake of cutting costs will backfire. There are tens of thousands of self-published children’s book authors on Amazon, so without the right effort and investment in quality, your book is unlikely to get seen or make an impact.
Costs also depend on the type of children’s book you want to publish.
Picture books, as the name suggests, are image heavy. As such, there are more illustration costs compared to a middle-grade or young adult novel.
Early readers and middle-grade level books contain fewer illustrations than picture books but more text and pages, meaning more costs are required in editing, design, and formatting.
Let’s take a closer look at the potential costs of self-publishing a children’s book.
Children’s books are shorter than the average novel—picture books, in particular, feature minimal text. Early readers and middle-grade books are more word-heavy. Regardless, all require diligent editing.
Unless you edit the entire book yourself, you need to hire a professional editor.
You may want to try it yourself, but we only recommend a DIY approach if you have previous editing experience. Without experience, your best bet is to hire a professional who will make sure your work meets high-quality standards.
Fees vary among editors and the amount of work to be edited so that a standard picture book will cost far less than a chapter book.
Picture book (around 1000 words) editing fees – range anywhere between $100 to $700.
Early reader editing fees – upwards of $400 to $500.
Middle-grade chapter book editing fees – $1000-$1750 depending on word count.
Don’t skimp on illustration costs if you want to publish a children’s picture book.
As mentioned earlier, thousands of children’s picture books are already published online. The market is somewhat saturated, so it’s vital to reach a high standard if you venture into publishing one.
Freelance illustrators can be found on freelance job sites like Upwork and Fiverr. Prices vary. Levels of professionalism also vary so that you may spend more for a top-rated freelancer than someone without such credit.
Regardless, you can expect to spend slightly upwards of $1,000 on illustration for a picture book.
If you want to illustrate an early reader, illustration costs will be significantly lower than that of a picture book. By the hour, you can expect an illustrator to charge somewhere between $15 and $25 per hour.
On Upwork, you can set costs per hour or by the project. Discuss preferred payment options with the illustrator you want to hire.
3. Design and formatting
Design and formatting involve your book’s visual appeal and the reader’s reading experience.
Like illustrations, it’s important that your design and formatting reach a high standard. This aspect of publishing includes your book cover, the blurb, and the layout of the pages.
The layout is vital for young readers who are still learning to focus. A poorly designed and formatted book frustrates the reader and will negatively impact your reputation as a children’s book author.
You can expect to pay between $400 and $1500 to design and layout your book. The cost varies depending on the type of book.
Marketing is absolutely crucial to successfully publish a children’s book and making a profit from your investment.
As mentioned, thousands of children’s books are out there, so you need to make yours stand out. An effective marketing strategy will widen your public reach and persuade the adults who will buy your book for their children that yours is a worthwhile investment.
Costs vary widely among marketers.
You can take care of many marketing aspects yourself by publishing posts on social media, online forums, book groups, and parenting groups.
Still, effective marketing is not a one-time task but an ongoing process, so you may want to hire a professional marketer or marketing team to take over this process for you, but this option will likely cost thousands of dollars.
If you choose to self-publish with an online self-publishing platform such as Amazon KDP or Apple Books, you don’t need to pay for printing costs. Your book will become available online to download in digital format.
Customers can also choose to print a copy of their book with the print-on-demand services offered by these platforms.
If you want to print physical copies of your book, you can expect to pay the following general costs:
On average, children’s authors who want to publish a standard 32-page, color interior children’s book can expect to pay between $15 to $17 for 500 copies or fewer.
The price per book decreases as the number increases. 1000 copies or more may work out somewhere between $5 to $8 per book.
How many pages should a children’s book be?
The term ‘children’s book‘ encompasses three types of books – picture books, early readers, and middle-grade novels.
Each type has a general page and word count.
Picture books are typically 32 pages in length on average. Given that text is minimal in picture books, the average page contains around 10-20 words, making a 32-page book around 300-600 words in length.
Early readers are aimed at kids aged between 5 and 8, averaging 32 to 64 pages. They are more text-heavy than picture books and contain fewer illustrations. 1000-2500 words is a typical word count for early readers.
Middle-grade chapter books
Middle-grade chapter books are aimed at children ages 8 and 12 and serve as a bridge between early readers and young adult (YA) novels.
The average word count for a middle-grade chapter book is broad. Typically, they range from 20,000 to 50,000 words in length and fall between 100 and 200 pages.
Children’s books illustration styles
Across all age ranges of children’s books (picture, early reader, middle grade), there are four main illustration styles. Each type is relevant to the age range.
The four main styles of illustration are:
- Spot illustration
Spot illustrations are found in early readers and sometimes in middle-grade chapter books. They are typically featured on the same page as text.
They enliven an otherwise black and white page of text and usually take up only a quarter of a page or less. Spot illustrations often use a chapter heading but can also be found on the corner of a page or within the body of text.
Regarding costs, spot illustrations are far cheaper than half-page, full-page, and spread.
Half-page illustrations cover half of a single page, while the other half feature text. This type of illustration is typically colorful but simple in design and relates to the part of the story featured on the same page.
As the name suggests, full-page illustrations cover an entire single page.
These illustrations are more detailed and complex than a half-page illustration. There is more ‘story’ happening in the image.
Often, a full-page illustration will show the reader something like a character’s house and the landscape around it, where information about the story is found in the middle, foreground, and background.
Spread illustrations cover two entire pages with one unified image.
Minimal text typically lays over the image.
While spot, half, and full-page illustrations make your book pop, none pop more than a spread.
The array of colors, characters, and scenery on a spread illustration draws the reader’s eye all over the page.
Complemented by well-formatted text, a spread page can make for a memorable and recommendable reading experience.
Of course, spread illustrations require a lot more work on behalf of the artist, which means higher costs. Again, remember that a high-quality book increases positive return-on-investment (ROI).
How to find a children’s book editor
Professional-level freelancers own profiles on sites like Upwork, Fiverr, and Freelancer.
Create an account and post job offers based on your editing, illustration, and design needs to which these freelancers can apply.
Many users also offer pre-outlined services (‘children’s book editor’ or ‘illustration for children’s books), and you can search for these services as packages.
There are more sites for freelancers and clients alike to share job offers and opportunities, so feel free to simply Google your needs and try different job sites.
Self-publishing gives you far more creative control over your work than if you were to hand over the reins to traditional publishers.
Your work becomes available to the public for purchase in less time, and you retain more significant royalties.
These benefits, and more, make self-publishing a smart and lucrative choice, but you’ve got to spend money to make money.
The costs and fees mentioned above are estimates based on averages, and some authors choose to invest more for higher quality work.
Some spend less by taking over aspects of the creative process beyond writing themselves to cut costs.
The choice is yours.