If you are a first-time author and want to get your new book out there to the market, this article is for you. This article will walk you through the steps on how to publish a children’s book.
The good news is that publishing a children’s book has never been easier. Instead of traditional publishing through a publishing house, these days, you can take control over your book’s creation and publish them with the correct information and a little bit of leg work.
We will walk you through the steps and options to help you get your book from your desk to the children and parents who will love it.
Types of Children’s Books
There are several types of children’s books. Check out the categories below to understand the categories and classifications to understand better the kind of book you are writing.
Regarding self-publishing, children’s picture books are the easiest to approach. The word count is low, so text editing is less strenuous than other types of books. They are also typically short, saving you printing costs if you take the print route.
1. Picture Books
A children’s picture book is typically short and incredibly colorful, following one or a small number of characters through a gentle adventure. Characters generally are very young children, animals, and even pets, such as cats and dogs. Most children’s picture books reach a word count somewhere between 100-1000 words.
2. Chapter Books
Chapter books have far fewer images than a picture book but still contain some. They are typically aimed at readers aged 7 to 10 years old and reach a word count of around 3000 to 10,000 words.
3. Easy Readers
Easy readers vary in reading level but are usually aimed at children aged five to ten years old. The category is broad because the difficulty level varies. These books are generally no more than 2000 or 3000 words in length.
4. Middle-Grade Level
Middle-grade level books typically follow a character the same age as the reader, between 8 and 12. They aim to further the child’s social development and typically follow themes of adventure, friendship, and emotional understanding and growth. It is still a children’s story, but the theme is emerging moral sensibilities and understanding of the world. These books can range anywhere from 20,000 to 40,000 words.
Traditional Publishing vs. Self-Publishing
It is important to know the difference between traditional publishing and self-publishing as a writer. When taking the traditional publishing route, you approach publishing houses that will own the process of sharing your book with the public.
The problem with traditional publishing is that it poses a risk for the publishing house because they cover the costs required, so they are closely looking at success rates and potential risks. They are also unlikely to accept unsolicited manuscripts, so making any contact in the first place can be challenging.
If you are a first-time writer trying to publish your first book, the traditional route can be challenging. They will be much happier to publish for well-known celebrities, politicians, or established writers.
When you take the self-publishing route, you also own all of the royalties for your work. The challenge with self-publishing is the new skills you need to learn. There is less room for mistakes and a lack of professional editing because it is all on you, not a publishing house that can oversee things by their high standards. Time and money are required to start self-publishing, but it pays off when you do it right.
The Benefits of Self-Publishing
Self-publishing is a skill on its own. It is now easier than before for the first time and seasoned children’s book authors to take the self-publishing route and oversee their books creation, publishing, and distribution at each stage of the journey. Some of the most desired benefits of self-publishing include:
- You own the royalties for your work—nobody else can use your book for personal gain without your knowledge or approval. As a self-publisher, you can save up to 70% of your royalties, an awful lot more income than the 5% you might receive when taking the traditional route.
- You have more creative control over the entire process, including the niche you write about. Nobody else can ask you to change or adapt your work—it is all up to you. It means your plot, characters, and themes remain the products of your creative expression and are not squashed by the limits or rules of a publishing house.
- You have the choice to take the independent publishing route. You can hire other professionals to help with your book’s creation, including illustration, character design, and proofreading or editing. You also have the option to take care of these aspects by yourself.
- Reach the market faster than traditional publishing.
- Your timeline is flexible. You do not have deadlines to meet from traditional publishers.
The Disadvantages of Self-Publishing
“The good news about self-publishing is you get to do everything yourself. The bad news about self-publishing is you get to do everything yourself.”Lori Lesko
Though self-publishing is becoming an increasingly popular route for new children’s book writers to follow, there are some challenges you will face that can hinder the process. Some of the most common disadvantages of choosing self-publishing instead of a traditional publishing house or with the aid of a literary agent include:
- All of the marketing responsibility falls on you. It is up to you to launch, promote, and advertise your book on multiple channels. This can be time-consuming, especially if you are not marketing-savvy.
- All financial aspects of your book’s creation, publishing process, and distribution fall on you. That includes paying for a children’s book illustrator (unless you illustrate the book yourself, which still costs time), an editor, and postage if you send individual copies of the book to customers.
- It is more challenging to get bookstores to stock your book when you self-publish than the traditional route. Those bookstores take a much greater risk stocking your book, and unlike a big distributor or publishing house, you probably cannot accept returns. Still, through Amazon KDP or Ingram Spark, you have a much better chance of making a shelf appearance (more on that later.)
“As you start your self-publishing project, you will come across tasks that are outside your experiences as an author. This is to be expected since the only commonality between writing a book, self-publishing the book, and marketing the book is that all these activities involve the same book and the same person.”Hank Quense, sci-fi and self-publishing author
How to Self-Publish a Children’s Book
There are three primary stages of publishing your book: pre-publishing, publishing, and post-publishing. Understanding the components of each stage will help you navigate the overall process. If this is your first time writing a children’s book, the process can seem daunting at first.
Still, just like any other skill, you will improve overtime as you write more books. Again, it might seem daunting at first, but the satisfaction and fulfillment that goes with your book, from a simple idea on paper to a purchased piece of art, may inspire you to create another one.
Pre-publishing is every aspect of your book’s creation that takes place before you begin the publishing process. This includes conceptualizing and writing the book, getting it designed or illustrated, and proofreading or editing your final draft.
Solidify the Idea
Refine your idea and write your first draft. Is your book going to be a picture book or entirely text-based? Picture books are popular among readers under 6, while chapter books are more suitable for children aged 7 to 10. Is it fiction or nonfiction? After identifying your book’s audience, the writing process becomes much easier.
Design and Format Your Book
What will make a parent choose your book over another children’s book writer’s work? Why would a young child pick your book off the shelf? It is all about first impressions. The best way to make a great first impression with a parent or young reader is to get your design the best it can be.
The book’s design, interior and exterior, and format significantly impact how your audience will see the book. Children will not only read this book once—they will leaf through the pictures, the character designs, and admiring the colors, fonts, and even the texture of the pages may be a regular activity for months.
Traditional publishers have formatting guidelines, but it is up to you if you prefer to go solo. In that case, you need to format your manuscript according to the requirements of the software or platform you use. Consider the number of words and pages, the layout, and where the illustration will work best in each part of the book. A formatted manuscript is a key part of creating with Amazon’s KDP.
The editing process usually takes up the bulk of the work from the first, fifth, or tenth draft. In this part of the process, get as much feedback as possible. Reach out to professional writers, friends, and family members to understand what other readers think of your work. The more feedback you get, both positive and negative, the easier it will be to edit your book in a way that maximizes its reach and impact.
The blurb is your pitch to the reader. The section on the back cover lets the reader know what they are in for. Whether they are the children who will read the book or the parents who will buy it, most readers will read the blurb before they buy. As such, this needs to be a short, concise, and compelling paragraph on what the book is about and why they should read it.
Your author page is a short bio about you and your work. On this page, you can also include credits to those who helped you create the book, such as your editor and illustrator.
If you are taking control over the process, you do not get to sit back and let a traditional publisher sift through the tiny details, the admin work needed to get the book out there. There is more labor involved in self-publishing—it is one of its cons. If you have experienced the joy of creating the book, you might find even more joy in taking the reins in the following stages of the process. So, secure your book identifiers as soon as you can. These are:
ISBN – An ISBN (International Standard Book Number) is a unique 13-digit code used to identify your book with others. Every self-published author needs an ISBN. You can buy ISBNs in bulk—a group of 10 typically costs around 180 dollars (18 dollars each).
PCN – Preassigned Control Number. This is only needed for print books, so you do not need to worry about the PCN to publish an e-book or through Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) platform.
Barcode – A barcode is necessary for self-published print books. You can often purchase the barcode with the ISBN, as these two features will work together to help bookstores categories and identify your work.
Copyright – Copyrighting your work is an absolute must. The children’s book market is popular, and as with any art niche, there are copycats out there looking to make a quick buck from your idea. Keep your work safe and in your name, with legal action ready to be taken if someone steals your work by copyrighting your book. The copywriting process is relatively simple. You fill out an online form and pay a fee, after which you will receive a certificate that identifies you as the owner of your work.
3. Post-Publishing (Marketing)
Know the Audience
You need to know your reader. It becomes easier to reach an interested and willing-to-pay audience with a clear sense and idea of your target market.
Know the age range of your readers. When it comes to children’s books, especially young children’s books such as picture books, it is rarely the child who will end up paying for your book. So, know your reader’s age range and preferred themes and genres, including the buyer’s preferences, the young reader’s parent, teacher, relative, or guardian.
The press release is how you let people know about your book. This can take a lot of leg work when you choose to self-publish instead of surrendering control to a publishing house. You need to market yourself and the book by spreading awareness on social media, among friends and family, in different social and professional groups, on television, newspapers, radio, etc. You can also visit schools to share your book.
How to Publish a Children’s Book on Amazon
Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) feature allows first-time children’s book writers to get their work out there and quickly reach a wide audience. With a print-on-demand service with Kindle Direct Publishing, buyers of your book place their order, after which a copy is printed and sent.
KDP is an incredible opportunity for first-time writers to save money. Traditionally, one would need a large volume of printed copies of their book kept in a room or storehouse from which place they would be sent to those who ordered it. The print-on-demand (POD) platform means that no such backlog of printed copies is necessary. Given the other meticulous and, at times, laborious admin work required to get your book off the ground, KDP’s POD feature is a huge relief.
No matter what stage you are in with your children’s book, whether you have just got the idea, finished your first draft, or are ready to share it with the world, keep going. Publishing a children’s book has never been easier, and the same goes for making a nice profit.
Try not to publish for profit alone. Let quality be a top priority. Parents and children alike will appreciate authors who take the time to put love and care into their work. When a parent buys a book for their child, they want that book to positively impact their children’s well-being. They want their children to learn and engage with your work in a way that furthers their emotional and intellectual development. Do not forget this crucial aspect of your creative expression in place of making a quick buck.
So long as you have got high-quality content to share with children all over the world, it is well within your power to do so. You can approach a traditional publisher if you would rather not do the leg work, but that hard work pays off when you execute a lot more creative control with the self-publishing route.
Besides, the more you learn how to micromanage among editors and illustrators, navigate the world of independent publishing, and upskill with your marketing, the easier it will be to continue creating, publishing, and sharing more of your work in the future.