There is something special about helping a child to develop a passion for reading. There is perhaps no great gift that you can give the world than that. If you enjoy writing, this could turn into a passion of yours. If so, it is time to learn how to self-publish children’s books so that you can get noticed and on the pathway to success.
There is more to the process than simply publishing your book. That is the end game. To get there, you must first plan the book that you are going to write and then see it all the way through until the time it gets in front of your intended audience. This can be a daunting but ultimately rewarding experience. The following guide should help you to get there.
How To Take Your Book From an Idea to a Reality
Before you can become a successful children’s book author, you need to develop an idea that you have spinning around in your head. No amount of self-publishing will do you any good if the product is not appealing to your audience. The following steps will help you as you set out to write a fun and entertaining book that will resonate with children.
Develop a Plan
As with any major project, you should consider 80% of writing a children’s book to be planning. Only 20% of it is the actual execution. As such, you will need a solid and well thought out plan if you are going to self-publish a children’s book.
Here are some things that you should be planning right from the beginning:
- A target audience (age, gender, etc.) – This is very important. You want to know who you will be writing for, as this will help you retain focus as you develop the storyline and consider the other components that go into making a popular book.
- What type of characters fit the expectations of your audience – Take into account your target audience, determine what type of characters they will identify the most. You might consider make-believe or real people, the age and gender of the character, racial components, and so much more.
- Consider the layout – How do you want your book to look? What type of illustrations will you be using? Consider the typeface and any other stylistic components in this part of the planning process as well.
Have a proper plan in place at the beginning will help you immensely as you sit down to do the actual writing.
Conduct Thorough Research
This is where you really start getting down to work. If this is your first children’s book, you will want to go to the library and go through as many examples as you can get your hands on. Learn how introductions and conclusions are written. Find out how many illustrations are used and how they are incorporated with the text.
You will want to research how characters are developed and the various styles used by the most successful authors. While you do not want to simply recreate what has already been done, you want to have a good feeling of what is expected of you. Then, you will set out to do your own creative work.
This is also when you need to research the requirements for self-publishing a children’s book on the platform that you are considering. Here are some of the things that you should be looking for.
- Page dimensions
- Formatting and typestyles
- Page limitations
- Other specifications
Take lots of notes throughout the research process and make sure they are organized. If you are not sure if something is relevant to the book you are trying to write, jot it down anyway. It is better to have access to the notes later than to wonder what information you have neglected to store away for later use.
Go Ahead and Write Your Initial Draft
This is when the fun begins. You will want to begin by separating your storyline into different pages. Based on the research you have conducted, start to map out your illustrations.
Remember that you are a writer. If you are not comfortable drawing the illustrations, we will cover that in a later step. For now, all you need to do is map out where each illustration will go. They can be completed at a later time. Remember to be as detailed as possible during this stage.
Don’t Be Afraid to Delegate Certain Non-Writing Tasks
There is much more to writing a children’s book than simply putting words down on a page. You will have illustrations to create. When the book is finished, you need to have it edited. These are not all things that you have to do on your own. Feel free to delegate the duties in order to ensure that the book is as polished as you would like it to be.
If you are operating under a budget, you can look to either hire an art student or offer to trade services with another professional. Getting creative is a way to get to the point that you can successfully self-publish your first children’s book.
Elicit Plenty of Feedback Along the Way
Feedback is key to your success. Make sure you ask others to give you feedback related to your illustrations. Do they make sense in the context of the text you have written? Does the story make sense, and does it convey its intended purpose? You will want to get feedback from the following people:
Take Some Time Now to Evaluate Where You Are
Before you publish your book, it is important to assess where you are in the process. Take the feedback you have been given and make any necessary modifications that you need. Make sure that you have everything type-set correctly in order to meet the requirements of the publishing platform that you plan on using.
Prepare the Final Manuscript
This is a vital part of the publishing process. It would be best if you had a checklist of items required for the platform you are using. If you have done your planning, preparing your final manuscript for publication should be a breeze.
Make Requests for Personal Reviews
Self-publishing means that you do not have a book publisher’s backing behind you to market your work. That is ok, but you will want to have some reviews under your belt to get noticed online.
You will want to send out copies of your book to community members and ask them to write honest reviews for you online. Ask them to post answers to the following questions in their reviews:
- What was your favorite part of the book?
- What did your children like best about the book?
- How effective were the illustrations?
- What other comments do you have about the book?
The more verified reviews you have posted online, the more likely you will get noticed. This is going to be critical as you start to self-publish your work.
Now It’s Time to Publish
Once you are sure that everything is ready to go, it is time to publish. Before you do that, make sure of the following:
- It has been thoroughly edited – Make sure every word has been checked and double-checked. You do not want any potentially embarrassing mistakes here.
- Illustrations have been vetted – Again, remember that this is a children’s book. Ensure that none of your pictures can be taken the wrong way and that they all convey their intended meaning.
- Check the layout – Make sure everything is formatted correctly. You do not want to waste time by having everything sent back to you because of a formatting error.
- Write your bio
- Set the price
Once you have done all of these items, you are ready to self-publish your children’s book.
Taking Your Finished Book and Getting it Published
What we have discussed to this point is how to set about writing your first children’s book. However, there are some steps to the process that we should delve into a bit further. This involves focusing on your actual manuscript and ensuring that it is ready for mass publication. Here are some steps to help you get started.
Getting a Proper Critique is a Must
What you need is an unbiased critique of your book. This means that you need to go to people you know will not be afraid to tell their honest opinion. Joining groups for this is a great way to accomplish your purpose. There is a manuscript group on Facebook, for example, that will allow you to receive critiques in exchange for you reading other manuscripts.
If you decide to use rhyming or regional accents in your book, then it is helpful to solicit individuals from outside your region to read it. This will help ensure that your intended meaning comes through. These are mistakes that you might otherwise never have caught on your own or if only people in your circle of influence read your draft.
You Will Need a Professional Editor
While part of the self-published process is to ensure that your book is well written and will be received by your audience, you also need to make sure it is written properly. This is particularly true for children’s books, where the primary goal is literacy. No matter how good of an editor you yourself might be, this is an area where you will want to consider contracting the work out.
A skilled editor not only catches mistakes in grammar and mechanics but can also help you polish your writing. A professional editor can offer suggestions related to the following:
- Word choice
- Illustration use
If you have the budget, you will want to spend some money on your editor. This is how your children’s book can really become stellar and make a splash on the self-publishing market.
The Layout is Critical
This is an important part of this self-publishing guide. Like most authors today, you will want to publish your children’s book in an electronic and print-based version. That makes the layout even more critical.
Let’s begin with printing your book. You need to decide on a printer before you begin to develop your illustrations. The reason is that your drawings’ color scheme may bleed through the pages depending on how you decide to print the book. Besides, some printers will only offer certain page sizes for your book, so you need to keep that in mind.
It is also important to remember that children’s books, at an average of 24 to 32 pages, are much smaller than their adult counterparts. You need to select a printer that can bind together that few pages. This will also impact the thickness of the paper that you can use.
Designing a book is not easy. This is where you might want to hire a professional. This is especially valuable for e-books. The more colorful and brilliantly laid out your book is, the more appealing it will be to children. You also want a printed version that is easy for parents to hold as they read to their children.
These are just a few of your book’s stylistic components that will be important as you self-publish. Remember that a children’s book is only partly about the words. A great deal of your success will be largely dependent on the overall presentation.
Get a Proper ISBN and Barcode for Your Book
Now we get into the proprietary part of self-publishing your children’s book. You must protect your intellectual property, which begins with getting a proper ISBN and barcode for your book. This is also how you set the price of your book and make it easy to be sold on a variety of different platforms.
Since you are self-publishing your book, you will want to purchase your ISBN directly from the source. This is a service provided by Bowker. If you buy it from any other source, then that location will be listed as the publisher, which you do not want.
You will want to buy:
- An ISBN for each version of the book – This will cost you roughly $125. It is possible to get one for free, but keep in mind that the ISBN provider will then be listed as the publisher.
- A barcode – Each barcode is going to cost about $25. This is how stores and online outlets charge their customers. You will need a separate barcode for softcover and hardcover versions of your book.
It is possible to buy both your ISBN and barcode well before you publish your book. This allows you to be prepared, but you just want to keep in mind that you need to be sure of the price that you wish to charge for the book.
When it comes to your barcodes, location does matter. Make sure that you do not place it too near the edge or spine of the book. This can make it harder to scan. Make sure that you have the right image design on your computer to place within the book itself. It should be clear so that it is scannable when printed.
Get a Library of Congress Control Number
Contrary to what many people might have you believe, libraries still hold an important place in society. You will want to consider doing what you can to get your book into the library system where you are and potentially elsewhere. To do that, you need to have a Library of Congress Control Number. Without it, libraries will find it difficult to locate your children’s book.
Some self-publishing platforms will help you secure this number for a small fee. However, it is quite easy to get the number on your own, and it does not cost anything. Before getting this number, you will need to have your ISBN already bought and paid for.
To get your Library of Congress Control Number, you will need to apply for a Preassigned Control Number. You can do this online at the website of The Library of Congress. During normal times, you will receive your number via email in about a week. That is all there is to it.
Make Sure You Have a Cataloging in Publication Block
Another aspect of the self-publishing process is to include a Cataloging in Publication Block. This will be located on your title page. Doing so will make your children’s book more appealing to libraries, which is the end goal here. This block provides some bibliographical data about your book that helps libraries know where to shelve it.
You cannot get this publication block via The Library of Congress when you publish your own book. To get this done, you will need to hire an outside firm that will do it for you. Plan on spending between $80 and $120 to get it done right.
Get Your Book Copyrighted
Copyrighting your children’s book is an essential part of the self-publishing process. Failing to do this can result in someone stealing your work. As soon as your book is finished, you will want to register the copyright for your book. This is usually done as soon as you received your first printed copy.
You will register your copyright directly with the US Copyright Office. In addition, you will want to submit two of the best copies that you can directly to the Library of Congress. Keep in mind that the books will not be returned to you. You can look on the Internet for the Copyright Office’s current address for The Library of Congress.
Some Helpful Advice as You Start Writing
If you want to be successful as a self-published children’s book author, then it is important to write material that is appealing to your audience. The final part of this guide serves as a reminder of how important the writing process is to your eventual popularity.
What Format is Best?
You are going to need to decide between an e-book or a soft/hardcover version. In actuality, you should consider both formats. While e-books still have not caught on with many younger children and their parents, it is an area that is growing. You will want to position yourself to capture the segment of the market as well.
As you get started, giving away e-books in exchange for reviews is much cheaper for you. However, you will want printed books to appeal to parents and young children who still prefer this type of medium. Keep both formats in mind as you start to write your book.
Remember That Children Are Your Audience
Writing for children requires a shift in your mindset. Every word and action need to be geared for children. This is why writing for children requires a different approach than writing for adults. Just because people tell you that you are a great blogger, for example, does not mean you can turn that same passion into writing children’s books.
You will want to consider the various stages of childhood development as you set out to write a children’s book. Think about topics and genres of relevance to your chosen age group, and then go from there. While you want to take parents’ feelings into account, they are not the people you need to appeal to the most.
Give the Book a Narrow Focus
There are different types of children’s books. You will want to narrow your focus accordingly and work hard to perfect your ability to write a compelling book in that area. Some of your choices include the following:
- A Board Book – This book appeals to young children, has virtually no words, and is heavy on illustrations and pop-outs.
- A Young Picture Book – You will be writing this book for children between two and five years of age. You are looking at about 32 pages of text, with a total word count of between 200 and 400 words. There should be an illustration on every page.
- A Trade Picture Book – These books appeal most to children between four and eight years of age, and they have a word count of between 400 and 800 words. You are looking at more than 32 pages in total, with an illustration on every page.
- A Picture Story Book – Now, you are looking at a book with between 1,000 and 3,000 words. It will appeal to children between 6 and 10 years of age and have more than 32 pages in total. You will still want to have an illustration on every page.
- A Chapter Book – This type of book will contain between 3,000 and 10,000 words of text comprised of more than 32 pages. You will write this with children six and ten years of age in mind and have an illustration on most pages.
- A Middle-Grade Book – This type of children’s book will consist of about 80 pages and contain between 15,000 and 40,000 words of text. You will want to have about 12 illustrations spread throughout the book.
This information should help you decide where you want your focus to be. Take a look at what is expected of you, and then determine where you think your gifts lie at this time. You can always change your approach later if something is not working out for you.
Become Familiar with Your Audience
Writing a children’s book is unique in that you have to appeal to two types of audiences. On the one hand, your book will not be a best-seller if it does not directly appeal to children. At the same time, parents and teachers need to get behind your book.
Keep in mind that the main demographic group purchasing children’s books happens to be females between the ages of 30 and 44. This is the group you want to talk to and get feedback on your ideas before you even start writing.
Make Sure These Important Elements Are Accounted For
No matter what type of children’s book you set out to write, you will want to make sure the following five elements are taken into consideration.
- Characters who are not easily forgotten
- A story that contains action or a hook
- Dialogue that makes sense and is realistic
- An age-appropriate storyline
- The ability for children to instantly recall the story
If you can properly implement each of these five elements into your self-published children’s book, then you will be well on your way to success as an author.
Give the Book a Proper Title
Make sure that you give a great deal of thought to your title. This is how your book is going to have some staying power. Make sure that the title is not already taken and that it is unique and creative. In addition, make sure that children understand that title and can easily say it themselves.
Following the information in this guide should help you on the path to self-publishing a children’s book. Remember to be patient, stay the course, and be confident in your abilities. While your first book may not be a best-seller, keep your eye on the goal and work towards accomplishing the objectives you have set out for yourself.