If you’ve always wanted to publish a children’s book but never knew how to get started, we’ve got you covered.
In this article, we’ll walk you through the straightforward steps on how to self publish a children’s book for the world to see.
Self-publishing a children’s book is a brilliant endeavor, especially if you have an idea for a series. Self-publishing can be lucrative when you approach it from the right angle, and some self-published authors even earn six figures from their work.
Don’t expect huge profits from the get-go – this is an increasingly saturated market, so it takes extra effort to get your book to stand out from the rest. As such, you must have a genuine passion for writing children’s books (or at least an idea you’re passionate about) and aren’t solely attempting to publish for profit.
Below, we’ll walk you through the steps to creating your very first self-published book for children and how to optimize it for greater reach.
How to self-publish a children’s book in 7 steps
Below are the basic steps involved in self-publishing children’s books. After the list, we’ll dive further into the requirements for each step.
- Decide on the type of book (picture book, early reader, middle grade?)
- Write your manuscript
- Edit and proofread your manuscript
- Format and design
Let’s divide the above list into three main parts – pre-publishing, publishing, and post-publishing.
Pre-publishing covers the first five steps – a type of book, manuscript, editing, proofreading, illustration, and format/design. Post-publishing refers to your marketing strategy once the book has been published.
Decide on the book type
The first step in publishing a children’s book is deciding what type of book you want to create. There are several types of children’s books and related target readers.
Picture books are aimed at a different age group than early readers and require a different style, format, and use of illustration.
Do you want to write a children’s picture book with minimal text or a text-heavy middle-grade short novel? An early reader or YA novel?
You may not know your target audience yet and want to work on your idea, and that’s fine, but learn about target audiences and keep them in mind during the writing process.
Write your manuscript
Once you know the type of book you want to write, it’s time to start writing. One of the most appealing aspects of self-publishing is that authors get to work on their own time.
There are no meetings, updates, or deadlines hanging over your head as there would be from a traditional publishing company. You must spend your time wisely and take as much time as possible to write the best version of your book.
Edit and proofread
Once your manuscript is in its final draft, it’s time to review it again with editing and proofreading. Given that you’re in charge of the book’s publishing and not a traditional publisher, the editing and proofreading responsibilities fall on you.
A traditional publisher would have in-house editors and proofreaders to diligently assess and edit your text for grammar, coherency, and engagement. As a self-publisher, you must oversee this part of the process yourself.
It’s wise to hire a professional editor to work on your manuscript. You can do it yourself, but if your editing and proofreading skills aren’t up to scratch, you’re taking a significant risk by going solo.
Freelance editors and proofreaders are a low-cost option for this part of the work and offer a sense of security and professionalism around your special passion project.
Illustrations are incredibly important in children’s books. For example, picture books are image-heavy and rely on those images to tell the story.
Aimed at kids aged six and under, these books have minimal text – usually fewer than 1000 words – and are vibrant and colorful for impact.
Early readers also include images but rely less on images than on picture books. They are aimed at kids aged 6-8 and can vary from 2000 to 5000 words on average.
Whichever book type you choose to write, those images must be of high quality if there are images. The illustrated world of your book is a hook for many children and parents alike, so it’s wise to invest time and money into the book’s illustration.
Again, as per the beauty of self-publishing, you have full creative control over your book’s illustrations.
You don’t need to check in or run ideas by a publishing house gatekeeper. Still, full creative control means full responsibility.
If you’ve got drawing or painting skills, you can try your hand at creating your illustrations. However, if your skills aren’t up to scratch or you’d instead collaborate than work alone, find a freelance children’s book illustrator to help.
Format and design
Consider your reader’s attention span. Formatting is essential for any book, no matter what age the reader is, but the format of a children’s book is fundamental.
Children’s picture books and early readers require an attention-grabbing format that makes it easy for the young reader to follow the story.
Formatting is putting together your text and illustrations for an appealing picture book that looks good and makes sense.
Creating a mock-up of your book and playing with different formats is wise. You can even begin this process before your illustrations are ready. Leave empty well-sized spaces where graphics should go and gain insight into the necessary or most relevant image.
You can also hire a professional freelancer to format your book for you. It may be a good idea to hire a single source to format along with edit and proofread to keep costs low, but that’s entirely up to you.
Design is a significant factor in a children’s book’s success.
Consider that it is often not a child who chooses such a book but a parent. Appeal to parents’ ideas and preferences around preferred content for their children’s books.
Animal books are incredibly popular, as are those about space, the sea, and school.
Design your book’s cover (including the formatted text that goes along with it) with child/parent appeal in mind. Research and analyze popular illustration styles, topics, and even base colors to improve your chance of making sales.
Now that you’ve written, edited, proofread, illustrated, formatted, and designed your book, it’s ready for submission!
Once you’re ready to publish, all you need to do is find an online self-publishing platform.
The process is similar across different platforms, but for this article, we’ll look at the publishing process on Amazon’s KDP.
First things first, create a KDP account. Next, fill in all the necessary details. The process is straightforward – you need to follow the steps. The points you’ll need include:
- Book title and subtitle
- Author name (and contributors, if relevant)
- Book description. Get this right. This is a sales pitch for parents looking for books for their children. Check out similar books and analyze their description – what makes them stand out from others? Does it make your book seem exciting and appealing?
- Verify publishing rights
- Select relevant keywords. Keywords make it easy for your target audience to find your book against the backdrop of thousands of other titles in the genre.
- Select up to two categories
- Select the appropriate age range
- Upload your book and hit publish!
Once you’ve uploaded your manuscript and hit publish, your book is ready to go. It takes up to 72 hours to go live on Amazon.
Once your book is live, your work is not yet over.
If you approach a traditional publishing house, they will cover the marketing aspects of your book for you. However, you must cover this step yourself since you’re going solo.
The keywords and description you included with your book will do some marketing for you, but it’s wise to bolster your strategy with social media posts, library and school visits, and ads.
KDP offers authors a 90-day exclusivity option, whereby your book is available for free on Amazon and only for 90 days.
You may dislike that 90-day free period because you want to start making a profit, but free books are popular for download and can improve your public reach.
How much does it cost to publish a children’s book?
Self-publishing costs vary depending on the type of book.
It’s possible to cover every aspect of the creation and publishing process by yourself without having to spend a cent, but such a task is incredibly time-consuming. If you have the time, feel free, but if you don’t, you can invest in professional freelancers to help.
If you task yourself solely with writing the manuscript and hire freelancers for editing, proofreading, and other pre-publishing steps, you can expect to invest somewhere between $1000 to $6000. This may sound pricey, but you’re paying for quality.
Quality is more than a worthy investment in the saturated children’s online book market.
Illustrators, editors, and designers can dedicate focused time to your wants and needs, so it’s best not to skimp. Find professional freelancers and discuss your ideas with them.
They may be able to offer guidance and insight you didn’t have before. Take time to find freelancers you connect with well, rather than the cheapest option.
How Long Does it Take to Self-Publish a Children’s Book?
As a self-publishing children’s book author, you don’t have to meet deadlines when writing your manuscript.
You can take all the time in the world to write and draft your manuscript so that you’re happy with it, rather than rushing to meet a deadline to maintain your working relationship with a publishing company but ending up with a finished product you don’t love.
On the publishing timeline, let’s begin from the moment your manuscript is ready.
When you log in or sign up to KDP, filling in relevant details may take only a few minutes.
However, it is smart to invest time and energy into researching relevant and effective keywords, taglines, and description ideas. These are part of your sales pitch and make all the difference to a potential purchaser.
When you publish on Amazon KDP, your book will be live on Amazon’s bookstore within 24 to 72 hours. That 72-hour window also applies to many other self-publishing platforms, such as Apple Books, Kobo Writing Life, and Barnes and Noble Press.
If you’ve got a fun idea for children’s literature, whether a picture book or book series, consider publishing it.
Thanks to Amazon KDP and other self-publishing platforms, it’s never been easier for children’s book authors to get their work published.
Self-publishing books is a great way to make some passive income for your creative work and, in some cases, can return significant profits on your initial investment.